A Place Behind the Waffle House: AEW Dynamite Recap

Shout out to 125th and Lennox!

In the midst of a barrage of maddeningly unnecessary empty arena shows (sorry to continue beating a proverbial dead horse), last week’s Dynamite was mostly an unexpected highlight. Hikaru Shida and Dr. Britt Baker had an awesome match, the opening round for the TNT Championship getting underway gave the show some cohesion, and Chris Jericho jumped the line in one stride to become the best color commentator in wrestling today. With an AEW World Championship match being hyped as this week’s main event, the journey continues.

Lance Archer def. Colt Cabana

Lance Archer’s march to the TNT Championship Tournament finals begins with another opening monologue from Jake “the Snake Roberts” about how his client was exiled from the American wrestling scene, “forced” to make his money in Japan, and now he’s back, he’s hungry, and he’s angry. Roberts thinks a star who looks like Archer will be all the rage at the Turner office mixers.

After the show introduction by our new favorite commentary team, Colt Cabana earnestly explains his motivations going into the tournament. As a veteran of two decades, Colt felt saddled with low expectations coming into AEW and managed to begin to exceed them and expose himself to a wider audience in the process. Lance Archer is coming in to the company with huge buzz, but what about Colt? He’s been wrestling at a high level all over the world, internationally beloved for not just his charisma and humor, but his skill and savvy as well. “[Archer] is a big, bad dude, I’ve wrestled against big, bad dudes, and I have won against big, bad dudes,” says Colt.

Subsequent to mowing down another conveniently placed ringside employee, Archer barnstorms Colt and spends most of the match dominating. Jericho says, “Colt likes to be a little bit goofy sometimes, and he needs to leave that sort of stuff in the back or else Archer is going to take it out on his ass,” but Cabana also manages to elude Archer’s offense in sly ways. Jericho acknowledges he is smart, but smart can only get you so far when a huge motherfucker is beating you down.

Colt gets a decent comeback (complete with Flying Asshole) and a Bionic Elbow in, but Archer puts him on his back and catches him with a Blackout from out of the corner.

Even at a glance, it’s easy to tell Archer has the easiest bracket in this whole shit. I think there’s a chance we could see a surprise on the other side—Darby Allin has already gotten one surprise win over Cody—but most signs are pointing to Archer vs. the younger Rhodes brother in the finals.

Grade: Yeah.

Segment: Dr. Baker is in her office holding a seminar, divulging her rules for being a role model. The very idea makes me think of our current landscape of classes happening exclusively on video chat; the fact this aesthetic decision makes me groan audibly at first makes me feel like it’s perfect. Rule #1 is Always Fight Fair, a rule Dr. Baker says Hikaru Shida didn’t follow when she made her a bloody mess. But Dr. Baker manages to win, even without the enthusiastic support of her “admiring, dedicated fans.” The whole thing is delightfully disingenuous.

Dr. Britt Baker def. Cassandra Golden

Dr. Baker, with her new rival Hikaru Shida in the “crowd,” provides an early exclamation point in the match with a superkick. Turning heel has served as a creative breakthrough for Dr. Baker. She goes from being the earmarked face of the division—plastered all over AEW’s promotional material even though she’s only had a sniff at the championship—and sneered at by certain fans because of it to being a sandwich wielding spiritual successor of Jericho in 1998. Dr. Baker wins very quickly with a curb stomp on the ropes.

Grade: Yeah.

Segment: The Bubbly Bunch!! The members of the Inner Circle are on a group video chat talking shit about Team Elite, remarking on the looming mayhem of the delayed Totally Not a WarGames Match. Santana wins the Best Dressed award of the episode with his ensemble here, with Puerto Rican flag Dr. Seuss hat and Zubaz. Santana and Ortiz get a great Spanish Harlem reference (I’m a sucker for localized humor), Jericho remarks on the sexiness of Sammy Guevara (“Muy sexy,” replies Sammy), and Jake Hager is weirdly enough sitting by his pool fully clothed and along with his kids, also fully clothed.

Sammy Guevara def. Suge D

Chris Jericho made Suge D a star when he made his Pineapple Pete quip (how quickly you get new shit up on Pro Wrestling Tees is a big indicator of such things), and now Suge is facing off against the Spanish God Sammy Guevara. The charisma in that ring might as well be producing gamma rays. While Sammy rudely gains the advantage, his mentor sings his praises and divulges teaching secrets. A couple vicious knees to the face and Guevara gets the win.

Grade: Yeah.

Sammy gets on the mic and “spoils” his opening round match against Darby Allin by saying he’ll beat the shit out of him (we’re getting a series record of s-bombs in this episode, and yet Chuck Taylor still hasn’t gotten to say the word on TV yet). Sammy attacks Suge and that brings Darby out to back him down.

Kip Sabian def. Chuck Taylor

The power couple of AEW (according to Jericho) comes out for the match as Jericho voices his dislike for Orange Cassidy (“I don’t like his … laissez faire vibe.” “Who wears a shirt of themselves? Who does that?”). Sabian is a very talented wrestler situated on the better half of standard contemporary indie wrestling white boys and Chuck is secretly very good in an 80’s territories sort of way. Chuck does basic stuff so well and he is so good at adding character to every move (not to mention his offbeat sense of humor). Jericho names a move the “Chuck E. Cheese,” and Taylor almost gets the win from a Liger Bomb (good lord, that kickout was close). Orange Cassidy mimics a Penelope Ford tease and Jimmy Havoc pulls him off the apron and DDTs the only Big Cass I acknowledge at ringside. Ford hits a flying headscissors on Chuck and Sabian rolls him up for the win.

Grade: That ever-present space between Meh and Yeah. 

Shawn Spears def. Justin Law

Spears toys with Law repeatedly before Law almost gets a pin. The rest of the match is academic. One in the win column for Spears.

Grade: Meh. (The match served its purpose, but when the “purpose” is getting Spears a statement enhancement win over losing to Cody last week, it might have been better served as a promo or something. At least a funny bit about a global pandemic suspending his search for a tag team partner.)

AEW Championship Match: Jon Moxley (c) def. Jake Hager

It was a good decision to tape this match from Daily’s Place, as the atmosphere makes it look more like the decision was intentional. After weeks of watching elaborate light setups in gyms and dudes fighting through offices and weight rooms, the cavernous arena devoid of bodies in the stands serves as a far better visual.

The match starts out with some intense groundwork, exactly the kind of thing I wanted to get a taste of. The problem with Jake’s matches before was that he was heralded as a shoot fighting bad ass but wrestled the same bland style he had been using for about a decade. While concurrently upon leaving WWE, Mox updated his style to appear as a brawler who gained a little technique from MMA training in his home of Las Vegas, on a journey of sorts to live up to the ever-present Terry Funk influence.

The match moves to outside of the ring, beyond the barricades, to which JR rightly asks why there are barricades in a match with no people in attendance. Mox hooks in a Figure Four leglock around a handrail in Section 103, smartly utilizing the environment. What this Big Time Empty Arena Match lacks standing among the greatest of its form is the levity of its predecessors. It was a good match, but would have served better as a regular wrestling match? I feel as though if an empty arena match has been hyped for weeks, it maybe should have been a wild brawl instead of … just a good match. I thought these dudes hated each other?

Grade: Yeah.

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Martin Douglas

Martin Douglas is an essayist, critic, and journalist specializing in the fields of music and pro wrestling. He has resided in Tacoma, WA for over two decades, but give him twenty minutes and he can locate the best spot for chicken and waffles in any American city.

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