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AEW’s pandemic era ends with a spectacular future-bound sendoff

Pro Wrestling

AEW’s pandemic era ends with a spectacular future-bound sendoff

AEW Dynamite’s 61-week streak in Daily’s Place ends with a few last major memories.

Prior to the United States’ lockdown in March of 2020, AEW’s claim to fame was arguably their crowd support. There are always hotbeds of hardcore fans where other promotions can go to get a quick electric show on the books, but with AEW Dynamite, it felt like every week was in Chicago, even when they were in the historically silent Corpus Christi.

As we’re all well aware, though, the COVID-19 pandemic did hit five months into AEW’s TV run. From the cramped studio in Georgia to a locked-down Daily’s Place with a crowd of extras, AEW had to adjust. Their storytelling stayed mostly strong, and they didn’t hold back on surprises and debuts, but there were certainly events and characters that Tony Khan and crew were holding back on until the crowd was back in full.

Last night, the crowd was back in full.

It’s not the first show with full attendance this year and Lord knows it won’t be the last, but this final episode in Daily’s Place prior to Road Rager in Miami gives us a chance to look back on the surprising good times of pandemic era AEW while also ending on a note that prepares us for the bright future AEW has teed up.

So, hop on the top rope and dive over the barricade with me as we dive into this week’s episode of AEW Dynamite!

Kingston & Penta def. The Young Bucks in an Eliminator Match

Full disclosure: I had to rewatch this entire match — and Jungle Boy vs Jack Evans — because I was so distracted by the Jacksons’ new facial hair the first time.

After Penta and Kingston’s entrance, the Young Bucks came out not only with Brandon Cutler in tow, but with a bushy mustache and a Fu Manchu on Matt and Nick, respectively. On commentary, Chris Jericho referred to it as mind games, and the mental part of this match started strong as the Young Bucks anticipated a pre-match attack from their opponents and narrowly evaded it before returning to the ring and brawling them head-on.

This match was a wild one to kick off the show as all of them — but Kingston especially — were going all out with moves to the outside and huge hot tags. The Young Bucks’ biggest problem was that, though this tandem had never beaten the Bucks before, Penta certainly has, and Kingston just took them to their limit with Moxley at Double or Nothing. For Kingston’s part, the Mad King reversed a lot of Young Bucks offense and was able to withstand a lot of their signature moves by kicking out at one or simply not going down at all.

For Penta’s part, he took out both Young Bucks so efficiently off of a hot tag that his sequence-ending Code Red’s 2.999 count near-fall sent the crowd spiraling into a “That was three!” count.

Fortunately for Kingston and his former best friend, the two still got their three-count as Penta tricked Cutler into spraying cold spray into the eyes of Matt Jackson. Frankie Kazarian came out and bodied Cutler with a fierce clothesline while Penta and Kingston both hit their finishers on Matt to win the match and become the first team (or competitors at all) to win an eliminator match over the champions in AEW.

Promo Break: Jurassic Express & Ethan Page

Short one here as Jungle Boy and Christian Cage address the loss on Saturday Night Dynamite. Cage says he believes Jungle Jack will be champ one day, and during this speech, Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt arrive to thank Christian for having their friend’s back. Christian understands and also reveals that he is a quarter Kosmoceratops on his mother’s side.

We love Christian. He’s definitely not turning heel.

Next, we got Ethan Page laying down the law for his coffin match with Darby Allin, but Sting comes out with a coffin on wheels. After a quick black-and-white Darby video where he burned up the very coffin he arrived in, Darby hopped out of it (with the efficiency of someone who does this a lot, mind you) and attacked Ethan, gouging his eyes while Sky tried and failed to stop it. In response, Ethan Page called off the match and told Darby that Darby cannot attack him the week before their match, and if Darby behaves, he might see him at Fyter Fest.

Jungle Boy def. Jack Evans

This match was weirdly booked exactly like your typical Dynamite women’s match. There’s a clear winner, so while both people will get a lot of offense in, one will be hitting a lot of their signature moves throughout the encounter and then quickly win once we come back from commercial break.

This was Jungle Boy’s match, and he made AEW history last night by becoming the first competitor to hit 50 wins in AEW — astonishing for someone who was on a losing streak upon debuting.

Jack Evans and Jungle Boy both did some cool flips, as typical of two lucha-based gringos, but above all else, Jungle Boy was going for the Snare Trap, which he locked in on his second try to score a victory.

Matt Hardy tried to jump Jungle Boy after the match, but Christian Cage backed him down to further hostilities leading into their own match in a few weeks. It’s funny; though Jericho explicitly mentioned early last year that he never wants a singles match with Matt Hardy in AEW because it eats up younger stars’ time, I don’t feel that way about this match with Christian. It’s being built up well and includes a lot of the roster.

Promo Break: MJF, Andrade, Omega

MJF says that next week, he and Jericho will meet up to discuss the terms of their potential rematch from Full Gear. As for tonight, Sammy Guevara might prove he’s the future — but only because MJF is the now.

Andrade El Idolo explains to Marvez that he had an announcement but we never got it because of Matt…Something. Though Marvez explains his last name is Sydal, Andrade still challenges Matt Something to a match next week in Miami. That match is going to rule, gang.

Finally, the big one. Kenny Omega (sporting Dax Harwood’s facial hair) told Tony Schiavone that he’s already beaten all types in this company between Mox, Fenix, PAC, Cassidy, and Jungle Boy. He’s ready to take some time off because no one’s worth it now, but out come the Dark Order to lay down a challenge: they may not have great singles records, but they have a friend who does.

Omega tells them that, if they’re talking about who they think they are, their friend wouldn’t appreciate them speaking on his behalf. That friend also doesn’t have the guts to face Omega. Since he’s not here, goodbye and goodnight. Bang.

Guys. GUYS.

We’re on the road to Omega vs Hangman again. I’m so giddy about this one.

Miro def. Brian Pillman Jr. to retain the TNT Championship

This match started a lot like Jungle Boy vs Jack Evans in that Miro (who has new, scary theme music) spent the pre-commercial portion beating the hell out of Pillman with no remorse and no retaliation. But, as Jericho explained on commentary, this was Pillman’s first match with a full crowd, and as a pure babyface, it was going to affect things.

After the break, Pillman finally hit Jericho’s springboard dropkick on Miro to get an edge, then his own suicide dropkick to the outside, much to the crowd’s pleasure. He then hit an Air Pillman clothesline on Miro — a move that’s pinned many a Dark competitor — but only got a 1-count. Not letting this discourage him, he went for a second Air Pillman, and he even anticipated Miro’s attempted reversal and changed course to hit two quick superkicks.

Then, Miro hit one roundhouse kick. Pillman was already dead, but Miro picked him up again just to hit a superkick for fun, followed by a Game Over. Pillman passed out before long, and Miro retained his championship.

Pillman’s been looking great these last few weeks. I’m so excited to see him, Griff, and Julia grow from here.

Promo Break: Hangman & Team Taz

Omega was right: Hangman was Big Mad.

Hangman tried to yell at the Dark Order for setting up this match, but instead of saying something like, “You were a jobber in Ring of Honor,” they defuse him with kindness. They believe in Hangman even if he doesn’t, and they know he can beat Kenny Omega.

Team Taz, meanwhile, is in flames. Taz left Cage and Starks at home and instead gave an update with just Hook (!) and Hobbs. Families fight, so to let the boys blow off some steam, Brian Cage and a freshly cleared Ricky Starks will battle over the FTW Championship on July 14th.

I don’t know what’s more interesting: Taz successfully screwing Cage out of the title or Taz failing to do so while Cage walks around with the belt. Either way, I’m interested to see how this unit implodes.

Dr. Baker & Rebel def. Nyla Rose & Vickie Guerrero

Quick side note: Watching Britt Baker enter with her championship after seeing Miro, the Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega do the same earlier made me realize that all of the belts are in great hands right now.

As for this match, it started as a game of “who can beat up Rebel the best.” The answer, obviously, was Nyla Rose, who stomped a mudhole in Rebel before tagging in Vickie. Only thing is, Vickie still isn’t a wrestler, so Rebel was able to fight her way back in pretty easily. Rebel tried to tag in Britt, but the champ was comfortable watching from outside — that is, until Vickie tagged Nyla back in.

Britt eventually entered the match once she and Rebel had the advantage, but Nyla did end up getting the best of Britt as well, only missing out on a pinfall victory because Rebel broke up the pin (and, unfortunately, looks to have legitimately injured her leg in the process). Nyla — outside of character — ushered Rebel to safety, then tagged Vickie in and went to the top rope. Britt saw this, pushed Vickie into Nyla so she’d tumble to the ground, then quickly made Vickie tap with the Lockjaw.

Nyla wasn’t done with Baker, though, as she and Vickie put the champ through a table to send the crowd home happy.

I’m pretty okay with this build and am genuinely excited to see Nyla act as more of a tweener (like the women’s division’s more successful Lance Archer), but more than those things, I just wish Rebel the best of luck in her recovery. Freak accidents like that are a shame.

After this, Hager, Santana, and Ortiz called out the Pinnacle. Hager has never shown more emotion in a promo.

MJF def. Sammy Guevara

This is genuinely one of my favorite Dynamite matches ever.

The first ever meeting between these two and the first Dynamite main event between two “Pillars” (MJF, Guevara, Allin, and Jungle Boy), these two brought their A-game with MJF showing off more of his oft-hidden high-flier side and Guevara showing more intensity in his offense than usual.

These two hate each other, but rather than just tearing one another’s hair out, they got cocky and tried to out-do each other, leading to moments like a pair of Ric Flair struts, Guevara diving over the barricade onto MJF, and crucially a top-rope tombstone piledriver from MJF.

Though Guevara’s neck was obviously screwed up here, MJF destroyed his own knee, and when he learned that this move only got him a 2-count on Guevara, it caused MJF more agony than anyone. He fought the rest of the match with one bad leg, while Guevara slowly recovered, knocked him down with a superkick, and hit a beautiful 630 to become only the second man in AEW to beat MJF.

Only MJF kicked out.

On a kayfabe level, it was so deflating to see that Guevara couldn’t put MJF down there, but on a match level, it ruled so hard. But for the Pinnacle, that move was the last straw.

Shawn Spears came out to interfere, but Jericho hopped off commentary to stop it. Wardlow attacked Jericho from behind, though, and distracted the ref by yeeting the poor man off the stage. All the while, Spears bonked Guevara in the head with a chair.

By the time the ref turned back around, it was all over. MJF beat Guevara by the skin of his teeth, and though some may dispute the interference finish, I think it leaves room for so many more matches in the future.

After this, we end the show with a beautiful montage of AEW during their time in Daily’s Place. It was heartwarming to see, and it ended this all-around great show on a lovely note. As JR said, “There’s nothing like a live WWE Dynamite.”

No, that’s not a typo.

Thank you, AEW. See you around, Daily’s Place.

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