This was a really good “character” week for AEW’s roster.
On one end, there are the “good guys.” Hangman Adam Page’s interaction with the Dark Order on the way to the bar was brief but felt so compelling as everyone on the screen was incredibly loveable. And though Sammy Guevara is just entering his new role as a face, he’s already on a straight path toward gathering crowd support.
And to counter Sammy Guevara, there’s MJF, a character who I hate with all of my soul for all of the right reasons. He’s so smarmy, and watching him manipulate everyone around him is just as compelling a story as hoping the Dark Order and Hangman find peace. I want to see guys like MJF and Kenny Omega get their faces kicked in because they’re just so hateable.
There was a lot — a LOT — of good wrestling this week, but my big takeaway has been that the roster feels like it has so many defined characters. Even if The Acclaimed and MJF/Jericho are all heels, it made sense why they fought and how they fought. Even if no one in the main event actively liked anyone else in it, it made sense why the teams were aligned the way they were and why they tried their best to work together.
This isn’t a brand new revelation (in fact, I’ve spoken about it in at least one review in the past), but I always think it’s nice to be reminded of how great the character work is in AEW since it’s often overshadowed by the in-ring stuff.
I guess this is what happens when you let a creative writing major review a wrestling show.
Time for more bad takes about beefcakes! Let’s suicide dive right into this week’s episode of AEW Dynamite!
Darby Allin def. Joey Janela to retain the TNT Championship
In a match between two of my personal favorite guys in AEW, Darby Allin and Joey Janela both killed it in their opening match over the TNT Championship. They really laid into one another, and it really felt like a match between two guys who are really comfortable together in the ring.
The two stories going into this match were the Dynamite story — that Team Taz were planning on getting involved in this match — and the Road To Dynamite story — where Darby and Joey’s career trajectories have completely flipped. Darby’s star-making performance with Cody at Full Gear 2019 was on a show where Joey Janela was in the main event; then, at Fight for the Fallen, they both suffered their first loss in a tag match together. Since then, Darby has thrived, whereas Joey has lost his spark (a similar story to what Joey had about forgetting the “Bad Boy” at GCW’s Fight Forever).
The most memorable spot of the match was Janela hitting a brain/gourdbuster on Darby on the apron, but of course, Darby won the match after singling out Joey’s arm and hitting an arm-trapped Coffin Drop.
It was a fun match overall. Not sure it’s one you need to seek out, but if you’re a fan of either man, it’s certainly a good time.
Sammy Guevara confronts MJF
After a standard (read: really good) Moxley promo, we cut to Sammy Guevara in the reverse position of MJF, now playing the cameraman-bully and bringing the audience into the Inner Circle locker room. Last week, we saw MJF use a moment alone to talk to the bulk of the Inner Circle, but this week saw Guevara kick everyone out of the room except MJF and the camera guy.
Guevara got played during this segment, as MJF manipulated him into saying that Guevara himself hates Chris Jericho and wants to take over the Inner Circle. After realizing he was being recorded, he smashed MJF’s phone, punched him in the gut, and seemingly broke 38 of his ribs (ask MJF, not me).
Even with a smashed phone, though, it was interesting to see what MJF could do with the dirt he dug up. Little did we know, it would all come to a head before show’s end.
Lee Johnson & Cody Rhodes def. Peter Avalon & Cezar Bononi
You can look at the names in the match and tell it wasn’t a spectacle or anything, but it was always going to be a solid match. Rhodes and Avalon both took turns making Lee Johnson look awesome during this match, which was pretty much designed to be his coming out party, and Bononi looked like quite the monster here as well.
The big story of this one is that not only did Johnson get his first win, but he got the pinfall himself over Dark rival “Pretty” Peter Avalon. It was a good night to be Lee, as he got to show off how cool and flippy he is, got his first win, and got to cut a promo where he promptly put over the Nightmare Family more than himself.
Cody’s raising them right.
PAC def. Ryan Nemeth
If you close your eyes and imagine a match between PAC and Dolph Ziggler, you’ve 100% envisioned the same match that happened last night. Not just in terms of looks—Ryan Nemeth has the exact same move set as his brother, save for the Zig Zag and superkick (as far as we know).
It was an alright match. PAC knocked Nemeth out, hit him with the Black Arrow, then Brutalized him. Good for PAC’s win-loss record. Moving on.
Real quick, though, there was a promo right here that followed up on Kip and Penelope’s wedding. Nothing happened in it aside from more threats to put all three Best Friends in the hospital, but just know that the plot thread was not dropped.
MJF & Chris Jericho def. The Acclaimed
There was a moment where Jericho went for a Lionsault and Max Caster threw a boombox at his head. That was the hardest I’ve laughed at wrestling in a little bit.
It was a heel vs. heel affair, so we got tons of shenanigans throughout. Caster’s boombox toss was balanced out by Hager pushing Caster off of the top rope and into a Judas Effect. MJF wearing the DDP rib tape meant that we got the abdominal stretch being sold like death. Bowens showed off some cool powerhouse moves on both men.
It was a really fun time, and Caster and Bowens both looked really good last night.
Of course, the real story of this match was the pre-match interview and the post-match argument. MJF tried to use the earlier segment between himself and Guevara to sow discontent between Jericho and his former tag partner, but after the match, Guevara put an end to it all.
Sammy Guevara quit the Inner Circle.
It was a big move to see the end of a journey that started on episode 1 of Dynamite, but after seeing Guevara have the agency to leave of his own accord, plus the satisfying moment of Guevara exiting through the face tunnel, I’m excited to see what happens next with him.
Hangman and Matt Hardy go to the bar
Earlier in the night, Matt Hardy offered to pay for Hangman’s drinks, so the two headed to the bar—though not before an awkward run-in with the Dark Order, where Silver tried his best to make things feel normal between the two parties (he failed) and Anna Jay stared daggers at the cowboy.
During their drinking segment, Hardy tried to coerce a drunk Hangman into signing a contract with him, but while Hardy talked to the cameraman about making this whole thing legally binding, Hangman switched Hardy’s carny contract with one he had inside his jean jacket.
We never figured out what Hangman did sign, but I’m interested in seeing where it goes. I love Hangman having this Bugs Bunny-like addition to his character.
Team Taz are criminals
Tony Schiavone talked to Sting, then Team Taz arrived. But before you scroll past this section, do know that something happened tonight! Team Taz learns from the legends, as just like Tully Blanchard, he had his boys kidnap a small man.
Instead of binding and gagging Darby, though, they put him in a body bag, tied the body bag to the back of their truck, and sped off on a road trip toward “FTW World.”
Part of me hopes that we get some weird, psycho Disney World vignette next week, but most of me just hopes they gimmicked that body bag, because otherwise — yikes. I normally wouldn’t have to worry about that, but this is Darby.
Thunder Rosa def. Leyla Hirsch
Round 1 of the Women’s Championship Eliminator Tournament is underway, and we kicked off with what would obviously be a banger of a match.
The story here is that Leyla is a great technician but kept going for the moonsault because she CAN. The first moonsault landed on Rosa’s knees, and the second landed her flat on the mat, but she recovered with multiple attempts at arm bars. By the last attempt, though, she’d weakened herself up so much that Rosa easily picked her up and was able to hit her Fire Thunder Driver.
You know, Leyla, there’s a manager in AEW who can teach you to keep yourself grounded. Just don’t punk out on him like that hoodlum Darby Allin.
The first of my predictions for this Women’s Tournament has already come true! Keep an eye out for an upcoming article here on the site where we not only go over the bracket, but also do profiles on each of the women on the Japanese side of the bracket!
Kenny Omega & KENTA def. Lance Archer & Jon Moxley
Even if you come from New Japan, there’s definitely a specific AEW style when it comes to frenzied brawls, and you’re going to have to conform. KENTA knows that now that he’s been smacked over the head with a sack of potatoes while inside the Daily’s Place kitchen.
If you’ve seen the Santana & Ortiz vs. the Young Bucks or Butcher & Blade vs. the Young Bucks, or even just Moxley attacking Omega during the first episode of Dynamite (also featuring the Young Bucks), you’ve seen an AEW tag team brawl like this one before, only this one added a new element to the mix: all-around star power.
Every time Moxley and Omega are in the ring together, it feels important. Last night was their fifth ever match together, and as the two clear top stars of AEW, it’s just so nice to see their paths cross. And with NJPW star KENTA making his in-ring debut for AEW, that added to the gravitas of the match.
So where does that leave Lance Archer? The “Moose” role.
Much like Omega’s interactions with Moose at IMPACT Wrestling’s Hard to Kill, every moment anyone in the match was faced with Lance Archer made the Murderhawk Monster feel like a huge threat.
There’s the aforementioned potatoes spot. There’s the moment where he chokeslammed Omega through Avalon’s sex bed. There’s the moment where KENTA just kept hitting backfists on Archer to no avail. There’s the double chokeslam that could only be blocked by a double dick kick.
And, of course, there’s the finale, where Omega could only hit the One Winged Angel with assistance from Gallows & Anderson.
This match fits great in the collection of amazing Dynamite main events from this year, and if this keeps up, 2021 could be an amazing year for AEW’s weekly show.
Last night wasn’t perfect—I instantly forgot about the second two matches as soon as they were over—but its highs were high and its lows weren’t too low. I’ll absolutely take a show like last night’s Dynamite any day of the week.
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