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AEW 'Dynamite Homecoming' review: Malakai Black nearly retires Cody Rhodes
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AEW ‘Dynamite Homecoming’ review: Malakai Black nearly retires Cody Rhodes

Cody got crushed in Daily’s Place once again, and this time, ‘the horse’ might stay put down.

AEW Dynamite returned to Jacksonville, Florida, for the first time in five weeks to bring us the second Homecoming event. Whereas Homecoming 2020 was predicated on the idea of the Elite finally righting their win-loss records and figuring out their stability as a unit, this year sees them in a much different position. Some of them are champions, having long since shed their strings of big-time losses. Others are still finding themselves in the losing column, taking those losses as hard as ever.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly wrestling podcast, PTW!

And for one former member of the Elite, last night’s loss was so bad that he tried to announce his retirement.

This was a very emotional episode, and it supplemented some of its more heart-wrenching moments with fun tag matches, interpromotional warfare, and the incredible entrance of Malakai Black.

Take off your boots and come on in as we dive into another week’s edition of AEW Dynamite!

Chris Jericho def. Juventud Guerrera

This match was very weird, and that starts on a conceptual level. When MJF announced last week that Jericho could only win by hitting a move from the top rope, I thought 1) that this only meant he had to hit a maneuver from the top rope, not pin with it, and 2) that this was the rule for Juvi as well. If MJF doesn’t want to fight Jericho, then a match against a luchador where the win condition is simply “land a splash from the top rope” is a pretty sneaky way to go about it.

But, no: Jericho could only pin Guerrera after hitting an axe handle or something, meanwhile Juvi could try and pin Jericho after a superkick or any other move. It makes more SENSE as a match, but I feel like the crowd was a little confused until Jericho finally went for a pin that didn’t count.

Anyway, the match was “fine.” The draw was simply seeing Guerrera again, and he had a nice enough showing, including hitting a springboard move to the outside onto Jericho. A later spot where Jericho reversed a top rope move of Juvi’s and turned it into the Walls of Jericho (meaning he could, somehow, win with a submission from the top) was also inventive.

“Inventive” is really the best I can give this match, though.; Neither man is in their prime, but as far as the veteran mind goes, the finish of Jericho hitting a Judas Effect, not being able to pin Juvi, then going for a diving Judas Effect for the 3-count was really fun and made up for the slow, kind of awkward rest of the match.

After the bell, Wardlow murdered Jericho as MJF announced that Wardlow is the 4th labor. MJF then announced that he would be at ringside, leading JR to say that MJF was guest ref, which no one corrected until a graphic contradicted him over an hour later.

Promo Break: Lucha Bros, Dark Order

Dasha was scheduled to interview Death Triangle, but Andrade El Idolo and Chavo Guerrero reversed their tactic from last week by canceling PAC’s transportation instead of Penta and Fenix’s. Andrade wanted to be thanked for the limo ride last week, but the Brothers and Alex Abrahantes said they weren’t grateful, they don’t work for anyone, and they will never work for Andrade.

After this, Tony Schiavone asks Dark Order how they feel about losing their tag title shots, and while John Silver tries to answer, Hangman walks in to apologize. They try to downplay the loss, but Hangman says he needs to fix things with the Elite on his own, even if he loves the boys. Some of the Dark Order guys try and argue, but Evil Uno says they need to give Hangman space.

I’m totally not crying because of a wrestling stable! Totally.

Allin, Mox, & Kingston def. 2.0 & Daniel Garcia

The team formerly known as EverRise and 3.0 (and now going by their real names of *checks notes* “Matt and Jeff”) aligned themselves with Dark talent and future prospect Daniel Garcia to challenge the three baddest dudes in AEW.

The three baddest dudes in AEW ran through them like a hot knife through butter.

It wasn’t as easy as I make it out to be; for an extended period of the match, 2.0 and Garcia cornered Kingston and kept him from making further tags to his team, which garnered boos despite Mox and Kingston doing the same thing earlier AND cheating while doing so (those little scamps). Kingston attempting a hot tag after the break only to get kicked in the calf hard by Garcia was a particularly great moment for the debuting trio.

But, alas, their luck ran out as Moxley dragged Garcia out of the ring and destroyed him, finally allowing Kingston to tag out. After a few big moves from the babyface team and some nice interactions between Sting and both teams, Kingston took out Jeff Parker with his Uraken and Mox and Darby finished off Garcia with a Paradigm Shift and Coffin Drop.

This was a house show main event kind of match, and you can never go wrong with those. Can’t wait to see more of Lee, Parker, and Garcia on the supplemental AEW shows.

After this, Brian Cage cut a bad promo about how he didn’t need Taz. Ricky Starks cut an okay promo, proving he needs Taz less (though that wasn’t the point).

Promo Break: The Elite

In the greatest display of athleticism that the Elite have ever shown (which says a lot), the gang continued their basketball motif from last week by spinning the ball on their fingers (Karl), sinking a shot from behind the goal (Nick), and sinking two clean shots before missing on purpose (Kenny), all while cutting a great promo.

Kenny and the Bucks reveled in not having to face Hangman, Stu, and Uno, but since Anderson got pinned by Uno last week and Gallows got eliminated fighting Stu on the outside, the Good Brothers challenged them to an Impact Tag Championship match next week. As for the original Elite, Matt said that there’s no one left for them to beat and that they can now hang their jerseys from the rafters, and Kenny called for Cutler to cut the ropes off their basketball goal.

This segment also got the biggest laugh of the night for me as Matt audibly said, “Tell ‘em, Kenny!” and passed the ball over, only for Cutler to catch it and start cutting 0.3 seconds of a FIRE promo until the Elite shut him down.

One day, Brandon.

Christian Cage def. The Blade

Christian and the Blade had pretty good chemistry since their styles are similarly non-flashy, but as solid as their wrestling was, the true story was wondering how long it would take for Allie and the Blade to bust out the brass knuckles.

For the first piece of that puzzle, the Bunny actually got taken out of the match halfway through as her opponent for later on in the night, Leyla Hirsch, came out and brawled into the back with her. Christian capitalized with a reverse DDT, but it only got a 2-count.

The match stayed pretty even after that, but after Blade realized his normal moves (e.g. his gutbuster onto the top rope) weren’t keeping Christian down, he “tried to remove the top turnbuckle.” The ref went to stop Blade and refastened the turnbuckle, allowing Blade to giddily go for his brass knucks.

Blade got speared before he could use his powerful punch, meaning Christian got one final win before, as announced later on in the night, he became the #1 contender for the AEW Championship.

Promo Break: Santana & Ortiz, Baker & Velvet, Chavo & Andrade

Santana & Ortiz basically announced that their series with FTR isn’t over and Dax Harwood seconded this notion, but the REAL reason I highlight this segment is because they showed a clip of Cash Wheeler’s arm getting caught in the turnbuckle last week. The clear pulling of skin that they showed there is the single grossest thing I’ve seen in AEW thus far.

Next, Tony Schiavone’s in-ring interview with Britt Baker was interrupted by Red Velvet, which pissed off the totally unbiased Schiavone. Baker says she already beat “Red” last time they fought in Jacksonville, but Velvet says that 1) that doesn’t matter since Red Velvet was basically a young lion, and 2) Velvet is 22-4 now and on a 7-match streak. Baker says that she’ll give Velvet the match she wants on the debut episode of Rampage next Friday, and then she beats Velvet with Rebel’s crutch.

Finally, Chavo tells Andrade that, even if the Lucha Bros won’t work for him, Fuego Del Sol will! Chavo tells Fuego to shine Andrade’s shoes, which isn’t what Fuego signed up for. So, Andrade kills Fuego like he’s Kingpin from the Netflix Daredevil series.

The Elite attack Hangman

The last promo in this string saw Schiavone try to interview Hangman since he missed him earlier, but the Elite came out before Hangman could address his dark exodus. Hangman actually welcomes them because the next thing he has to say, he wants to say it to them.

Kenny takes over from there, telling Hangman that he gets it: Hangman wants friends, and he wants to get close to the AEW Championship. Hangman “CLEARLY” wants to rejoin the Elite, but Omega says that the Elite is in a better place now than they ever were with the cowboy. “No losers allowed,” he decrees while Cutler and Nakazawa side-eye each other.

Hangman slaps Omega, but he’s quickly jumped on by the Elite and hit with a Magic Killer. The Dark Order tries to save the day, but Uno and Grayson get out there first and stop them from interfering in Hangman’s business, in theory allowing Hangman to fight back himself but really letting the Young Bucks hit three BTE Triggers on him.

Kazarian comes for the save but is also dispatched of, and this last straw broke Kenny. He tells Hangman he’s feeling sentimental, so he showed Hangman the title “he can never have” one last time before bonking him with it.

We here at AIPT hate the Elite. No further questions at this time.

Miro def. Lee Johnson to retain the TNT Championship

Miro ate Johnson’s lunch for the first half of the match, and he almost beat Johnson with a Game Over before he could really get any offense in, only Johnson was able to grab the ropes and slide out of the ring.

Miro didn’t let this shake him, but he did get shook by a DDT reversal that Johnson hit when Miro tried to belly-and-belly him. Miro tried to no-sell it, but he slowly fell to a knee, allowing Johnson to hit him with four superkicks and struggle to get a fifth one in followed by a frog splash for a rare two-count on Miro.

This all looked pretty good for Johnson, but one superkick from Miro ended Lee’s run, and Johnson soon passed out upon being locked in the Game Over. After the match, Miro hugged an unconscious Lee and told him he forgave him.

After this, it was announced that Rampage will feature a 4-man commentary booth of Excalibur, Taz, Chris Jericho, and Mark Henry. Christian Cage also said he’s going to be there in some capacity, likely related to Omega.

Leyla Hirsch def. The Bunny

Rather than take up Christian’s offer to join her at ringside, Leyla aligned herself with the Best Friends while Allie entered with the HFO. The two women started wailing on each other instantly, but Leyla got the better of Allie early on by singling out the arm and going for a tope suicida.

Everyone came out for this one as NWA Women’s Champion Kamille watched at ringside to see who her next challenger would be, meanwhile Nyla Rose watched on from ringside, drawing the ire of one Kris Statlander.

Leyla went for her springboard moonsault to Allie but overshot it, so Allie got up and superkicked her, then capitalized with an Allie Valley Driver. This didn’t finish Leyla, which broke Allie, but things only got worse for the Bunny as Leyla finally locked in an armbar. Allie did well to try and fight it off, but once Leyla broke Allie’s monkey grip, Allie instantly tapped.

Kamille — who is already a notably tall woman — entered the ring and faced off with Leyla in what could have been a funny visual but ended up making Leyla look really “legit” as she smiled up at the NWA World Women’s Champion.

After this, AEW’s other tall, buff lady, Jade Cargill, announced that she’s back from her marketing tour and will make her in-ring return on next Monday’s Elevation.

Four storylines progressed on one show? A throughline between two matches? A debut? If you include the continuing Diamante vs Big Swole storyline happening on Dark, this has been a great week booking-wise for AEW’s women’s division.

Malakai Black def. Cody Rhodes

Malakai Black’s entrance is absolutely a sight to behold, and his general presentation is unparalleled in AEW thus far. He sat in the corner stoically as Cody Rhodes made his way to the ring, gave his weight belt to a little girl in the front row, and generally played crowd hero.

After a quick grapple attempt, Black kicked Cody hard in his inner thigh and absolutely ruined his night. Cody’s defense quickly decreased, and Black tried to finish Cody with a kneebar, but Cody had enough fight in him to try and turn it into a figure four. Black saw this and responded appropriately: he dug his thumb deep into Cody’s eye.

Black kept trying for Cody’s leg, but his real advantage came when Cody went for a top rope move and Black kicked him in the face, sending Cody off the turnbuckle and through the timekeeper’s table.

Cody beat the 10-count, but as soon as he got to his feet, Black hit him with a Black Mass and, with a bored expression, pinned Cody with one foot.

It wasn’t even 9:53 yet.

After Black left, Schiavone tried to interview Cody, and Cody got jarred so bad that he started reflecting on his career. As he mentioned in the media call on Tuesday, Cody is tired, but he can at least take pride in the fact that he’s help set up AEW as a place for new people like Black to show up and, apparently, pass him by.

Cody started to take off his boots and leave them in the ring — attempting to retire at 36 — but before he could take off his second boot, Black came back to the ring and took him down with the crutch that Cody kept refusing. It looks like Black isn’t done with Cody, even after saying that it was time to put this old horse down.

Black is a month older than Cody, by the way.

The crowd didn’t really buy into the fake retirement and commentary didn’t do a great job selling it, but as far as debuts go, Malakai Black:

  • Entered with a dope attire and with licensed music by Amerna,
  • Beat a main event star,
  • Beat a main event star so badly that he tried to retire,
  • And didn’t let said main event star retire. He even got a free boot.

Black is going to be a real force going forward in AEW, and coming to this realization was a great note to end Dynamite: Homecoming on.

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