Back to Nordstrom Rack: AEW Dynamite Recap and Review

Or: Where Your Sneakers At??

In a change of pace from contextualizing the previous week’s episode of Dynamite (like I’ve done for the past few weeks), let’s just quickly run down the highlights before discussing last night’s show:

  • The Young Bucks traded in their colorful, fringe-covered boots for matching pairs of Dior Jordan 1s and beaded headbands, had a pretty great match with Rey Fenix and PAC, and only won because they committed the dirtiest trick you can pull on a luchador: unmasking him during the match.
  • In the main event, Matt Hardy and Darby Allin had a pretty wild brawl for the TNT Championship, but thankfully unlike parts of last year where things turned so wild, people legitimately feared for Hardy’s safety.
  • On their way to AEW’s first-ever Not a WarGames Blood & Guts match, Chris Jericho defeated Dax Harwood with help from Mike Tyson, who turned the dial back to 1988 by knocking out Harwood’s partner Cash Wheeler.
  • Christian Cage turned down a spot in Team Taz, but couldn’t help but accept an ass-beating by Powerhouse Hobbs.
  • Jade Cargill looked like a million bucks—no difficult feat there—in her win over Red Velvet and Anthony Ogogo won by referee stoppage by punching a dude in the stomach

Although on a fundamental level I couldn’t give less a shit about keeping abreast of the ratings, I do believe AEW’s rating success last week has just as much to do with the show being pretty compelling these past couple of months as it does the show being unopposed by the direct competition of NXT. With last night’s show stacked on the pre-promotion end—particularly announcements of Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston returning to the show for the first time since the Bucks superkicked the shit out of Mox, Hikaru Shida defending her AEW Women’s World Championship against Tay Conti, and Darby Allin defending the TNT Championship against Jungle Boy—the momentum continues for Dynamite, which I’ve gotta admit has been delivering some very good television lately. 

AEW

“Hangman” Adam Page def. Ricky Starks

In his pre-taped promo, Starks noted a key point in the in-ring career of Hangman; he always comes up short when the pressure is on. Page showed great poise in the opening moments of last night’s match, though; being loosely affiliated with the Dark Order has earned him the sort of confidence he needs to potentially earn another shot at the AEW World Championship. Starks might be the best all-around talent in Team Taz, but he’s come up short in big situations too (namely his TNT Championship match against Darby Allin). 

Here in their first one-on-one meeting, both competitors show their technical sides and even some sly innovation (check out Hangman’s pumphandle suplex with the bridging pin), which feels a lot like Page showing one of AEW’s most versatile wrestlers he’s more than one of the heaviest hands in the company. For much of the match, Starks damn-near wrestled on one leg, as his ankled seemed to be bothering him. Still didn’t stop Starks from muscling Page up and stuffing him with a powerbomb. After a fallaway slam off the top rope, Page gained full control of the match. Starks ducked the Buckshot Lariat and hit Page with the spear for two. After Page flipped out of a Roshambo, he locked Starks in a bulldog choke/ankle lock combination for the submission win.

After the match, Taz told Hangman he got lucky and that he should watch his back, seconds before Hook hit him with a chop block. After he and Starks beat him down for a second, Brian Cage came out and set him up for the powerbomb before the Dark Order came to Hangman’s rescue. In the months after the loss of Brodie Lee, Hangman’s alliance with the group seems a little on the directionless side. That’s not necessarily a detriment—as people, we don’t always have major developments happening in our relationships; sometimes we’re just ambling along, seeing where life takes us next.

AEW

Penta El Cero Miedo def. Trent?

Last week I remarked about every member of the Best Friends crew coming out to “Where is My Mind?” and Tony Khan getting his money’s worth licensing the song, but last night Trent? came out to the original Best Friends entrance theme, which proved my prediction wrong. Orange Cassidy is wearing darker denim even though the weather’s warmer. Alex Abrehantes still seems to be hanging around Penta, and I don’t understand the pairing at all except that Abrahantes is fluent in both English and Spanish. He just seems too nice to be the mouthpiece for Penta El Cero Miedo, known to break arms and drop people on their heads. Does Penta owe Alex money?

The match was good but pretty much what you’d expect from Penta vs. Trent: Penta’s hard chops and general sadism, Trent’s gutsy comebacks and smart counters, Orange Cassidy sorta-kinda caring around his friend’s match. Trent hit a tornado DDT which almost knocked the Batman ears off Penta’s mask; Penta nailed a backstabber out of the corner that made my body sore. (Might just be lingering effects from getting vaccinated, but whatever.) Trent nailed a piledriver on the apron, which looked gnarly. Alex got on the mic to get SUE HEAT, scurried in the ring and was about to get hit by Orange Cassidy, but Penta nailed Cass in the back of the head with a superkick. A mic shot from Abrahantes and a Package Piledriver earned Penta the win.

The Pinnacle Sat Down with Jim Ross

Ross started his interview by acknowledging Chris Jericho’s great promo with the Inner Circle backing him, asking for MJF’s thoughts about the things Jericho said last week. Max replied by throwing Ross’ description of “the Immortal Promo” back in his face before starting in on Jericho. He boasts about rocking Burberry flannel since he was on The Rosie O’Donnell Show (not true, by the way: he was rocking what looked to be a bootleg Ralph Lauren Chaps button-down). Max mentioned it was springtime and Wardlow presented him with a silk Burberry scarf from Tully Blanchard (“at home drawing up plays for Blood & Guts”)—someone had a celebratory shopping spree at Nordstrom Rack now that the mall-adjacent strip malls are opening back up! 

Max ceded the mic time to Wardlow, who noted Jericho stumbling and bumbling on his words whenever Wardlow’s name left his lips. “Because the moment Wardlow came out of your mouth, you knew you were doing something wrong.”

Continued Max: “Chris Jericho, the first ever AEW World Champion, the most charismatic man in professional wrestling for decades, the GOAT. The man who’s been leading this industry, Jim, for years. That is, until now. Now, you stand in front of a bunch of B’s so you look like an A, you wrestle a bunch of A’s so you don’t look like a B, and when it comes to elevating the talent around you, Christopher, I’m gonna have to give you a big, fat F.” He savagely and smartly broke down what he—and I guess, a lot of nerds who watch wrestling—called “the Jericho Rub.” Max noted he’s one of the few people who has outsmarted Jericho in his illustrious 30-year career. He vehemently asserted he’s not just great for 25, he’s great period. “When you were 25, you were curtain-jerking on [WCW] Worldwide! Me, I’m a top guy, and I’m hanging around top guys!” Max finds it to be hilarious Jericho would say he should prove he’s better than Brandon Cutler or Michael Nakazawa, when he’s beaten Chris Jericho.

“The one thing you got right in your so-called Immortal Promo is that I am a mark. But I’m not a mark for you, I’m a mark for your spot.”

For the first time since Dynamite’s maiden broadcast, I actually found myself impressed by an MJF promo. He’s never been quite as clever, he’s never broken down his opponents and critics and their arguments so articulately, he’s never sounded quite as confident as an honest-to-god top level heel. Maybe the basis of nearly every wrestler in AEW belonging to a group is the idea that everyone’s got a little more confidence when they have a crew backing them. This interview did a lot toward establishing the Pinnacle as a threat to the Inner Circle.

AEW

AEW Women’s World Championship Match: Hikaru Shida (c) def. Tay Conti

Shida and Conti are very similar competitors in that they’re both quick and strike-heavy on offense. Commentary brought up an interesting point where they said Shida has been unstoppable in the pandemic era, but she wants to still be champion when fans start filling arenas again, which is something she has yet to experience. The match starts out with a bow but quickly devolves into hard strikes and Shida tangling into Conti as not to get thrown by the black belt judoka. Shida looked particularly inspired by Conti’s challenge; she moved a little faster, the strikes looked a little harder, she was on the floor dropping a stalling brainbuster.

Shida dominated a good portion of the match and even exhibited a slight mean streak; it was a nice reaction to the challenge of Tay Conti and the mounting pressures of being champion of a division finally starting to find its footing. Conti hit three continuous judo throws followed by a German suplex with the sort of ease of a veteran. She also hit a dope senton splash with Shida laid across the top rope. The last third of the match was a see-saw battle, with Shida hitting a headbutt to stop the volley of strikes and then hitting the Witch’s Shot across the top turnbuckle. Conti hit the Tay-KO, but only got a two count. After a hard backbreaker, Shida nailed the Kitana to regain her championship. 

After the match, Dr. Britt Baker came out to display AEW’s ranking system, which shows Dr. Baker as AEW’s #1 ranked contender for the Women’s World Championship.

Segment: Miro says he hates unresolved business after another week with Kip Sabian nowhere to be found; unresolved business eats away at him, which is why he came to AEW. He repeats his assertion that any champion in AEW has a problem in him, whether they have a “slimy Impact mouth” or “emo face paint.” 

Tony Schiavone Interviewed the Inner Circle

Jericho is a babyface now, so of course he pandered to the crowd about them singing “Judas.” He spoke to the very first Blood & Guts match, the most violent match AEW will see, one which will result in a trail of tears right to front door the Pinnacle’s dressing room. He shouted out his newfound friend Mike Tyson catching Cash Wheeler with that right hook and joked about his jaw being wired shut, which caused Jake Hager to throw around plastic straws and threaten to make the Pinnacle suck their own meat through a straw for a month. (I hope to god the innuendo was intentionally unintentional; Hager as the guy in the Inner Circle who unwittingly says the most inappropriate things could actually work for his character.) 

Jericho accused Max of never saying anything of pertinence, of being all style and no substance in his promo style—which I feel might have been true before tonight’s promo—right before he made fun of Wardlow’s immaculate eyebrows. Santana respectfully interrupted Jericho and noted Max had been talking all sorts of wild shit but then waited until he had a crew to step to them, which doesn’t sit well with someone really from the streets. Santana said as he looked directly at the camera, “We saw the color of y’all blood, but May 5th, we’re gonna see the size of y’all heart.” Every time he cuts a promo, you can hear in his voice this is real for him, it’s so easy to believe what he’s saying as real. I’ve been saying for over a year that this dude was never a heel!

Again criticizing the delivery of Max’s words, Jericho notes Max doesn’t have any conviction behind them (again, go back and watch his promo earlier), making fun of his high school theater kid upbringing. He sings a little half-hearted show tune and then gets serious, saying Blood & Guts will be a crash course in pure violence and god better own the Pinnacle’s soul.

AEW

QT Marshall def. Billy Gunn

There’s a saying in wrestling which explains the nature of a great heel: their actions have to be supported by a kernel of truth. QT forming his own faction under the nose of Cody with a bunch of Nightmare Factory trainees was borne out of the need to wriggle from under Cody’s shadow, which would have never happened if Marshall just asked Our Cool Boss for the chance to forge his own path. At the same token, I actually would like to see Cody kick this guy’s ass—which, if you have followed my recaps, is unprecedented—and that’s why QT Marshall is arguably AEW’s best heel at the present moment.

The match started in a hurry, as Gunn threw punches at all the members of the Factory as soon as they came out of the entrance tunnel to gain the early advantage. Of course the Factory got into a brawl with the Gunn Club, leading Marshall and Gunn to go head-up, one-on-one. In the story of the match, Marshall was clearly outmatched by the much, much bigger veteran, which was instantly offset by Ogogo’s gut punch and a Diamond Cutter by Marshall for the win. 

As Marshall went to attack Gunn with a wooden chair, Dustin Rhodes came out with a bull rope to even the odds and serve QT a well-deserved beating. Nick Comoroto stepped up to Dustin, who tried to hit Comoroto with a chair and did no damage. By this time, referees swarmed the ring to break things up.

The Elite Broadcast Live from Their Trailer

Brandon Cutler, the Elite’s new personal videographer, stood behind the camera as Don Callis talked about how much he loves history. And as a student of history, he’s hard-pressed to find a similar assemblage of talent as the folks lounging in this black trailer (which apparently includes Michael Nakazawa, good on him!). The Bucks are dressed totally obnoxiously (which got a good laugh out of me), the Good Brothers are dressed like they’re about to shotgun an 18-pack of Coors Light and go fishing (obnoxious in a different way), and Nakazawa is still wearing his AEW polo, lanyard, and headset.

Matt Jackson took credit on behalf of the Elite for NJPW’s business going up, for the “world famous t-shirt being sold in retail stores in America,” and for the very existence of All Elite Wrestling. They taunted Mox and Kingston for a quick second before Kenny got serious and a honking horn interrupted him (“We’re live pal,” joked Nick). It was revealed that Mox was behind the wheel of a BIG ASS CHEVY TRUCK with Kingston riding shotgun. Mox rammed right into the Elite’s trailer and the two friends looked inside, only for their enemies to have escaped and disappeared with the quickness. So Mox decided to break the window of the trailer in lieu of breaking the Elite’s faces. Kingston shouted about not being able to find the Bucks’ Dior Jordan 1s. 

This feels to me like it’s leading to a fucking shredder of a tag team title match.

AEW

Christian Cage def. Powerhouse Hobbs

One thing I love about AEW’s utilization of their managers with commentary experience is how frequently they drop into the booth. Of course a four-person booth is a little too much, but the variety of voices most certainly helps the show, and in this case the commentary doesn’t sound too cluttered. Taz speaks to the upside of Powerhouse Hobbs; an upside I’ve alluded to here many times. Christian tried to outsmart Hobbs until Hobbs caught him on the floor with a clothesline to the back of the head. The match was taken to ringside where Hobbs beat Christian down severely and sent him back into the ring to dominate the match. Hobbs straight up muscled his way out of the Killswitch and stood on Christian on the way to an averted Vader Bomb. Christian showed his resiliency after a huge spinebuster by Hobbs by kicking out and managing to follow it up with a frog splash. Hobbs was given a lot of points in the match to shine—which will never be complained about by me—but Christian eventually won with a surprise Killswitch.

Ricky Starks limped out to help Hobbs up and made meaningful eye contact with Christian, which of course means there will eventually be a match between them (which is likely gonna whip hard). 

Segment: Jade Cargill said every manager in the company is lining up to sign her, followed by praise from Matt Hardy and Vickie Guerrero, and Cargill saying she doesn’t exactly need a manager, but for the right price, she’ll allow someone to help guide her career. Not gonna lie; a storyline development like this kinda makes me wish the former Stokely Hathaway was in AEW! That would be such a dope combo.

AEW

TNT Championship Match: Darby Allin (c) def. Jungle Boy

The challenger for the TNT Championship due to fan vote on social media, Jungle Boy has been low key tearing it up for the past several months in the rare occasions he’s been placed in singles settings. I might even go as far as saying Jurassic Express limits Jungle Jack Perry’s potential, as he is so obviously one of the company’s future stars. I feel the matchup here was between competitors with subtle similarities (very close in size, speed, and agility) but way different philosophical approaches to the game. They’re both technically sound (Darby in a deceptive way, Jungle Boy almost showing off his casual brilliance in that field) and could feasibly win this match with a quick flash pin. Darby seems to have the edge in the killer instinct department, as he noted in a great promo on Dark last night, willing to do anything it takes to win.

The initial respect for each other’s game was there in the opening moments of the match, as signified by the classic collar-and-elbow tie-up, locked and nearly impenetrable. As the match progressed, there was some macho shoving; that competitive streak where each wrestler wants to show the other they’re better. During the picture-in-picture, Jungle Boy hit Darby with a hard back elbow, to which Darby leaned back like he was doing the limbo, and Jungle Boy had to push him down to the mat in order to get a pinning attempt on him. 

After the match hit the halfway point, the match kicked up a gear, trading shots and suplexes and moves nearly getting the pin. Jungle Boy hit what looked like a botched poison rana which was more like a body scissors slam, and then he went hard with the suicide dives. Darby made a comeback and hit a Coffin Drop onto the apron, to which Luchasaurus pushed Jungle Boy back into the ring. Sting confronted Luchasaurus about it and they engaged in fisticuffs, leaving Jungle Jack and Darby to finish this match by themselves. Jungle Boy nailed a brainbuster and managed to lock in the Snare Trap, which Darby escaped by reaching the ropes. Jungle Boy then locked in the surfboard and the Snare Trap a second time, which led Darby to gouge the eyes to escape. Darby managed to cinch in the Last Supper for the pin; a surprise flash pin at that!

After the match, Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page attacked Jungle Boy and Darby Allin, to which Lance Archer came in to run them off along with Sting.

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Martin Douglas

The unofficial poet laureate of Tacoma, WA, Martin Douglas is an essayist, critic, and journalist specializing in the fields of music (KEXP.org, Bandcamp Daily, Pitchfork) and pro wrestling (Seattle Weekly, quite a few online zines). He's also a hip-hop beatmaker, fiction writer, disposable camera photographer, and all-around renaissance man.

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