All Elite Wrestling has gone and become the undisputed hottest thing in pro wrestling again, and it’s all off the back of one man: “The Invisible Hand” Don Callis.
I’m being a little facetious, of course. The true star of the show is new AEW World Champion Kenny Omega, while behind the scenes Tony Khan, Scott D’Amore, and the rest of the AEW and Impact crews are also doing a great job selling the importance of this storyline. But after hearing Don Callis talk for two nights in a row about how his setting-up of the original Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 was the inspiration for AEW’s inception, I may be starting to buy into what he’s selling.
Wednesday night’s Dynamite card had 9 segments announced ahead of its airing, and in lieu of dream matches, the name of the game this week was promos. The AEW roster had a lot of explaining to do after the previous week, with heel turns to be addressed and legends’ goals to be announced.
So, with Dark Order, Abadon, and TH2 shenanigans on display, the future of the Inner Circle in jeopardy, and the fun dynamic between Orange Cassidy and MJF in the main event, there was a lot to be excited about before Dynamite began.
Did the show live up to the hype? Let’s talk about it.
First things first
Huzzah! You’ve been duped into reading a partial Impact Wrestling review as well. Don’t worry — this part won’t take too long.
This week’s AEW programming actually began on Tuesday night and I’m not talking about the always exciting AEW Dark. Impact Wrestling pulled double duty on Tuesday as they simultaneously hyped up their Saturday PPV, Final Resolution, as well as the audience’s interest for Kenny Omega and Don Callis’s first speaking engagement after Omega’s championship victory over Jon Moxley from last week’s Dynamite.
Omega and Callis’ address on Impact was more or less an extended version of what we got on Dynamite, with more time to let their new heel dynamic breathe. The bullet points were similar: Invisible Hand, Golden Sheik, 27 years of planning, etc.
The key differences on Dynamite were three-fold. First, Omega came out of the HEEL TUNNEL! I’m not sure how much everyone else cares about that, but seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders enter from stage left and Omega enter from stage right made me jump out of my seat. Second, Omega threw in the line, “We’re just getting started,” a callback to Being the Elite moments from the months around Dynamite’s TNT debut.
The third and biggest point, was that Kenny Omega has been putting on an act for the past year and a half of AEW. Omega supposedly didn’t cash in his “hire my friends and family” check like the rest of the EVPs (looking at Brandon Cutler and Dustin Rhodes; ignoring Michael Nakazawa), and he instead saved it for Full Gear, where he got Don Callis invited.
According to the Wednesday promo, Omega has been two-faced this entire time, and while I was taken aback by it while hearing it live, it does actually check out. Kenny has been really cocky during matches. He’s been adamant that he’s a singles wrestling star, even when holding the Tag Team Championships. As soon as he lost those belts, he became this ultra conceited douche who feeds Justin Roberts his accolades each week.
Maybe it’s not too crazy. Maybe I’ve just been blind.
Moxley took the night off, which he deserves after holding this company down for as long as he did, but I still very much anticipate seeing how Mox reacts to the end of his title reign. It’ll likely look like a one-man version of that one 2014 episode of SmackDown where The Shield destroyed everyone.
The Rest of the Show
The other character with the most storyline progression on Wednesday night was one Maxwell Jacob Friedman, who appeared in the Inner Circle’s big Ultimatum segment while also fighting in the main event to try and retain his Dynamite Diamond Ring over Orange Cassidy.
In the Inner Circle Ultimatum, we got a good status report of where the guys are with one another right now. The biggest problem up to this point was that Ortiz and Sammy Guevara weren’t fans of MJF, while MJF implies that he loves them all but still actively antagonizes Guevara. Ortiz has lightened up on MJF and actively likes Wardlow; Jericho and Santana have always been all right with the new additions; and Wardlow and Hager’s beef is more comedic than genuinely tense.
This leaves future top babyface Sammy Guevara, who gave the team a new ultimatum: if one more screwy thing happens, he’s walking away from the Inner Circle. It’s a response that makes sense, while also creating the strongest tension the group has ever felt. Like Jericho has always said, the Inner Circle don’t fight and don’t hit each other with their own moves. Now, though, they’re one bit of foul play away from losing an original member, and the only question is how long it’ll be before MJF (or potentially Jericho) makes that happen.
The main event between MJF and Orange Cassidy did dash my hopes of getting a year of Orange not caring about his shiny jewelry, but it was still a great match between two guys who always deliver. MJF was able to bring out the fabled Intense Orange by attacking him before the bell and injuring his hand, and it was interesting seeing two wrestlers go in there and be equally matched not because of strength, but because of smarts.
MJF is a cheater, so going for an Eddie Guerrero move with Jericho’s bat was inevitable. One thing MJF didn’t count on, however, was that his opponent was a sloth, so Orange didn’t catch the bat, instead reversing the lie, cheat, and steal by tossing the bat back just before the ref turned around. It was a great moment that really showcased the two well-thought-through characters. And for the Best Friends to be able to go run to the back and grab a whole army of babyfaces just to counter the Inner Circle was also amazing, and it made them all feel like more fleshed out good guys.
It is a shame that Miro, whose lariat to Cassidy ended the match, doesn’t have as great of a character at the moment. I’m really interested in this feud ending just so we can see more of what his character looks like in AEW. I was promised a Bulgarian Mr. Perfect, but right now, he’s just a very handsome big man whose friend is getting married soon. Oh, and he likes to play video games.
Elsewhere in the show, the Dark Order — my new favorite stable in the wake of the New Day’s end — got mixed results in their triple threat of recruitment plays. While Anna Jay’s slowburn of turning Tay Conti to the Dark side wasn’t addressed, we did get a lovely update on the Hangman front, as the Silver and Reynolds showed up in tiny cowboy hats to: A) make me choke on my taco dinner, and B) fill the two empty slots on Hangman’s team for next week’s 6-man tag with “Hardy Party.”
The third and by far least impressive recruitment effort for the Dark Order was their attempt to gain Dustin Rhodes, which almost seemed more like a roast session. Evil Uno calling Dustin the third most important Rhodes in AEW, then asking him to join the team as number 7 (or Se7en) was a bold play, Cotton, and it did not work out.
The dopest bit of the show for me was having Hikaru Shida come out and face Abadon for the third time, the previous two happening on Dark earlier this year and on Dynamite two weeks ago.
Shida was Abadon’s first opponent, and while Shida did beat her, she screamed her way through it and didn’t make it out without getting a blood lick mark on her face. Now, Abadon is back and seemingly stronger, and while Shida knows deep down that she’s just a woman who can be kneed in the face just like anyone else, Abadon’s still absolutely terrifying just to look at, let alone be in the ring with.
Hikaru Shida is brave not because she isn’t scared of Abadon, but because she’s very scared of Abadon, and despite that still ran in headfirst to save Tesha Price. Watching Abadon go down to a kendo stick shot then sit up to scare off the AEW Women’s Champion makes both of them look strong in their own ways, and I’m very interested to see where they go next.
The opening bout between the Young Bucks and the Hybrid 2 was a fun, fast-paced match to kick the show off. I love watching Jack Evans fly because it never looks effortless, and it really sells the high-risk-high-reward nature of his style. And while the Bucks were trying to out-speed Evans, they didn’t even realize that Angelico was absolutely ready to tear apart Matt’s leg.
But the bigger picture was in the attacks on and by The Acclaimed, who were at ringside as they typically are. After their 1.1 million viewer debut, though, they’ve received a reversed target on their back from the Jackson brothers, who threw TH2 at them mid-match. Afterward, when they tried to get revenge, SCU interfered once more, setting up a rivalry for the up and coming tag team that allows them to work their way up to the tag champs, even if it’s a non-title match like TH2 got.
This show didn’t give us everything we could want, but it certainly gave us reasons to come back.
Kenny Omega didn’t do anything crazy tonight, but he addressed last week, he made a pit stop before his world tour continues through AAA on Saturday, and Jon Moxley is waiting in the wings for revenge.
Sting didn’t answer any questions at all, but he did stir up some tension with Cody. Darby Allin smiled when asked about him during his therapy session. The whole segment went off pretty well, and Sting’s promise of being a prominent figure in AEW gives old school Sting fans a reason to keep coming back.
And Shaq is here. I don’t know why Shaq is here.
Don’t get me wrong. I get why Shaq is really here, and Schiavonne even said it all during his intro: he’s a host on Inside the NBA, and he’s the star of TNT’s Shaq Life.
But why is Shaq, the character, toying with Cody outside of “just having a little fun?” Why is he watching Jade Cargill so closely aside from going way back with her? These are questions that have answers in them, but the reason why they’re still questions is because Cargill straight-up antagonized Cody using Shaq’s name.
What we do have is interesting though, as the dynamic between these two mob boss-like figures in Shaq and Cargill could be leading somewhere great. Shaq watches from afar and disavows Cargill’s dirty deeds, while Cargill creates an army of heels in the women’s division that’s already comprised of herself, Vickie Guerrero, Nyla Rose, and now Ivelisse and Diamante.
So while I still have questions about Shaq’s involvement, I’m excited to come back next week to figure out what this army of Jade’s is set out to do next. And that’s a great feeling.
I love a show that is stacked going in and gives you tons of reason to come back afterward, and while there wasn’t a particular segment that gets an A or A+ out of me (I cared a lot more about the Omega/Callis promo on Impact, though the main event and opener were both really great), I still think it was a well above average show.
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