BLOOD & GUTS: AEW Dynamite Recap and Review

It has been nearly 14 months since the announcement of the first Blood & Guts match between the (then-fracturing) Elite and the (then-dominant) Inner Circle. If you’ve been following Dynamite through the year of pandemic wrestling, you’ve known for a while that match was wisely aborted for the health and safety of everyone involved. If you’ve been following these recaps specifically, you know I’ve been joking all this time about Blood & Guts being the RC Cola version of the vaunted WarGames match, of which WWE owns the name and the licensing rights to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”

Last night, for better or worse, the match finally came to fruition, though with a group of different faces on the opposite side of Chris Jericho and his crew.

After raising suspicion from pretty much everybody by joining the Inner Circle, MJF rolled with AEW’s main heel stable for four months and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, turned on the faction to form his own group, the Pinnacle. His (secretly more compelling) bodyguard Wardlow naturally went along with him, and Shawn Spears, FTR, and their manager Tully Blanchard joined them to form a generational update on the Four Horsemen. As with most generational updates, the Pinnacle pales in comparison—though Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler do a fine job of Arn & Tully-style tag wrestling, and Wardlow may not be as recklessly awesome as Barry Windham in his prime but is almost as fun to watch—but if you’ve ever actually wanted a version of peak-era Four Horsemen to lose, they fit the bill perfectly. “Cool heels” they are not. Except Wardlow, obviously.

It’s doubtful Blood & Guts will serve as the violent blowoff in the rivalry of these two groups with egos big enough to hide all of Jacksonville under a dark shadow; it’s more likely the Inner Circle/Pinnacle rivalry is just getting started. An interesting way to kick off a blood feud, to be sure.

Also of note, promoted for last night’s episode: The long-awaited match between Cody Rhodes and QT Marshall, the Mega (Violent) Powers of Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston taking on Kenny Omega and—*checks notes furiously*—Michael Nakazawa, and a four-way match between the Acclaimed, SCU, Jurassic Express, and Varsity Blondes for a shot at the Young Bucks’ tag team titles next week.

Preceding the episode, a parental advisory warning appeared, meaning unlike the WWE-sanctioned WarGames, we’re actually going to get some blood like the old days!

AEW

Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston def. Kenny Omega & Michael Nakazawa

Don Callis interrupted Justin Roberts during the ring introductions, in which he stated that Kenny Omega was unable to compete (though the commentary team said repeatedly he was in the building), and therefore Nakazawa would compete alone against two of the most sadistic dudes in AEW. But then Omega jumped Mox and Kingston both from behind, hitting them in the back of their heads with the AEW World Championship. A pretty solid heel move, just as solid as making your tag team partner wrestle in his work clothes. Mox and Kingston work effectively as a tag team because they just take turns pummeling their opponents with hard strikes. Nakazawa hit Kingston with a low blow while Paul Turner wasn’t looking fairly early in the match, which was probably the only way he and Kenny were going to get the advantage.

Kenny went to chop Kingston and he just shook them off, emphasizing his badassery. Kingston managed to give the hot tag to Mox, who effectively stomped a mudhole in Nakazawa and no-sold his clothesline. Omega half-heartedly tried to reenter the ring to save Nakazawa, who was in an equally half-hearted bulldog choke by Mox. Nakazawa got creamed with a Half & Half/lariat combination (pun intended). 

After the match, the Young Bucks—dressed in what Tony Schiavone referred to as “somebody’s curtain”—came out to taunt Mox and Kingston, and then the Good Brothers jumped them from behind. And as you can imagine, Kingston and Mox succumb to a four-on-two beatdown (including a barefoot superkick from Matt Jackson). Kenny returned to the ring with Brandon Cutler on camera duty and hit Kingston with a One-Winged Angel. 

AEW

Cody Rhodes def. QT Marshall

QT Marshall has been doing the lord’s work over the past month and a half, so while I do, surprisingly enough, want Cody to whip his ass, I also don’t really, because Marshall has been so fun to watch, a part of me roots for him! (Plus, there’s no more boring finish for an AEW match than lolcodywins.) Cody started the match very quickly, as this is a GRUDGE MATCH, but when he went to strike Marshall with his weightlifting belt, Marshall beat him to the punch by getting a shot with his own belt (with the fucking awesome insignia of “Cody Killer”). Marshall just showed out last night, tossing suplexes and dominating the match for the first time in AEW. 

Marshall traded shots with Arn Anderson, who ground his ear on the ringpost before a handful of referees came out and assisted Arn to the back. After having his arms held back by a “fan”/AEW contracted talent at ringside while Cody levied punches, Marshall begged off before regaining the advantage, throwing ugly (in the greatest possible way) crossfaces during the picture-in-picture break. Marshall and Cody traded shots until Cody sunset flipped off of the apron and somehow Marshall’s trunks were pulled down for a second. Marshall caught Cody on a moonsault and hit him with a CrossRhodes, but only got the two-count. 

They did the Tombstone Piledriver switch-off spot, with Cody nailing the move for two. Marshall managed to kick out of CrossRhodes, which sounded like it shocked the crowd. To the sounds of “QT sucks” chants, Cody helped Marshall up, to which he got flipped off; Cody then slapped on the Figure Four for the win.

lolcodywins.

After the match, Anthony Ogogo nailed Cody with the bolo punch and covered him in the Union Jack. Somewhere, Morrissey is considering getting into wrestling.

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez interviewed Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page, where the former called Sting a mosquito who feeds on the blood of this company. Page skipped talking about his and Darby Allin’s in-ring history and preferred to talk about Darby’s medical history (the knot in his forehead and the metal plate in his elbow are courtesy of their brutal EVOLVE matches).

Darby came through and tried to take on both Scorp and Page by himself. Of course, the numbers advantage caught up to him, eventually throwing Darby down half a flight of steps. The combo of Scorpio Sky and “All Ego” Ethan Page seemed kind of thrown together at first, but as the weeks go by, they become a more and more compelling pairing as ruthless heels willing to do or say anything to get attention.

AEW

Dr. Britt Baker, DMD def. Julia Hart

It’s official: the good doctor will be taking on Hikaru Shida for the AEW World Women’s Championship at Double or Nothing. Here, Dr. Baker made short work of Hart, hitting her with a stiff Air Raid Crash, pulling her up from the count, and putting on Lockjaw for the submission win. 

Segment: Taz broke down the holes in Christian’s game, which is a great use of his skill set. 

AEW

Four Way Tag Team Match to Determine Who Will Face the Young Bucks for the AEW World Tag Team Championships Next Week: SCU def. the Varsity Blondes, Jurassic Express, and the Acclaimed

The Acclaimed came out first, and Max Caster had some pretty great bars about sending Varsity Blondes to Dark Side of the Ring, Christopher Daniels to retirement, and Luchasaurus to the fossil bin of Jacksonville’s local museum. Caster also made reference to the “Young Cucks” (“Yeah, I said it!”). 

Max Caster Battle Rap Rating: An unprecedented 4.5 Mics!

As with most multi-man tags, there’s no real narrative to the match, just four teams getting their shit in and buying time until the Blood & Guts match. I do have to say I’m pretty impressed by the improvement of the younger teams and the continued skill of the veteran combinations — though I still think Jungle Boy would be way better served by finally embarking on a singles career. The Acclaimed in particular looked like future tag team champs in fleeting bursts here. Brian Pillman Jr. hit an impressive springboard lariat. SCU hit a Best Moonsault Ever-assisted piledriver on Pillman for the win.

This feels like a good story for SCU to go out on; to lose their final match as a tag team to the champions, who happen to be Daniels and Kazarian’s friends and rivals for over a decade. 

Segment: Mox cut a good promo on Yuji Nagata(!!!), which was mainly along the lines of Mox feeling like Nagata didn’t show proper respect. 

Ringside Interview: Tony brought out Kenny to announce his opponent for Double or Nothing, who made Nakazawa carry his secondary belts (maybe the closest Nak will ever get to so much gold). Omega did his best to hype the crowd before shooting down Blood & Guts and bragging about all of the titles he’s won. Tony announces the competitors for an Eliminator match next week to determine Kenny’s next challenger: PAC and Orange Cassidy. Kenny cut a promo on PAC, and said Tony might as well just announce him vs. PAC at Double or Nothing. 

Orange strode out and the crowd nearly went crazy; Kenny acted like he had no idea who Orange Cassidy was and erupted into laughter. He broke down Cassidy’s popularity, saying people love him because they can be like him, but they hate Omega because they can’t. He accused Orange of gimmick infringement for wearing shades indoors like George Michael wasn’t a thing back in the day. He also asked if Orange’s Ray Bans cost $800-$1000, which is much like Lucille Bluth asking what a banana costs, $10? Omega basically says Orange is a gimmick who can’t lace his boots, and kissed off by saying “See you in the funnies,” which is absolutely the dorkiest thing someone could possibly say to end a conversation with someone they have so much contempt for.

Ringside Interview: Miro snatched the mic from Tony, and said he warned every champion in AEW, producing a contract for a TNT Championship match against Darby Allin. Tony read the clause where if Darby is unable to compete, he will forfeit the title. Said Miro, “We’ll see what happens when the man who doesn’t mind dying faces the man who doesn’t mind killing him.” 

AEW

Blood & Guts Match: The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana & Ortiz) vs. the Pinnacle (MJF, Wardlow, Shawn Spears, & FTR)

I’m not going to be one of those asshole millennial dudes who assume everybody who watches wrestling now watched it during the 80s and 90s, so here is a quick synopsis of Blood & Guts’ rules:

  • Two competitors start off the fight for what the graphic said would be for five minutes, but definitely wasn’t
  • Another competitor (from the Pinnacle, which was established last week) enters the match (again, supposedly for five minutes but definitely not)
  • Every two minutes thereafter, a competitor from each team enters the match
  • The match does not start officially until all competitors have entered the ring
  • The match can only be won by submission or surrender

The Inner Circle came out wearing “prison issue coveralls” (with Ortiz’s being labeled from Rikers Island, nice for anyone with first-, second-, or thirdhand experience with the New York City penal system) while the Pinnacle were all wearing white (a nice subversion of white being the color of good guys). Santana & Ortiz brought out the Big Match Corpse Paint for the match, so there’s a chance we might be in for some shit here! 

Sammy and Dax started off the match; Dax hit a spinebuster and tried to pin Sammy, which elicited a round of boos from the crowd. The cage is very tall, which takes some of the claustrophobia of vintage WarGames matches away from this match. After fighting all around the “chain-link fence,” Dax was busted open by the time Spears entered (after what was definitely not five minutes) with a chair in hand. Sammy later got nailed with a Spears chair shot (still his specialty, I suppose). Ortiz came in like a house on fire, taking on both competing Pinnacle members by himself, throwing chairs into faces. As Sammy and Spears balanced on the top ropes of the two rings, Ortiz threw a chair at Spears’ back, followed by a Spanish Fly from Sammy.

Cash Wheeler entered the match and the Pinnacle firmly gained the advantage, hitting a Gory Special on Ortiz and letting him go right on the side of the cage. Santana eventually entered the match after, clearing out the Pinnacle for his team and arguably getting the biggest pop of anyone who has entered the match so far. There’s a lot of punching and grinding faces into the chain link fence (and a lot of blood), so this is very much a vintage WarGames-style match. Wardlow was next to enter, but it was during the break, so the television audience were deprived of the inevitable “oohs” that swell when Wardlow usually enters a match. As soon as the show came back from break, Wardlow threw Sammy into the far end of the chain link fence. Jake Hager was the next to enter, typically cleaning house; he put Spears in an ankle lock and Spears deliberately tapped like Gregory Hines because the match has yet to officially start.

MJF entered the match next, to a chorus of boos and “asshole” chants. He barely did anything before playing to the crowd (naturally). By this point, Wheeler registered on the Muta Scale as Jericho waited impatiently to be let in. Eventually he was let in and the match officially started with both teams in opposite rings in a line formation before charging each other. Jericho started hitting home runs with Floyd the Bat. Shawn Spears tried to escape but Jericho choked him on the structure’s riser.

During the break, FTR pulled up the thin layer of padding on the ring, which backfired on them when they were hit with a spiked piledriver on the wood. Sammy hit a Van Terminator on Spears (with Ortiz holding the chair). Santana stabbed a bloody MJF with a fork(!) while Jericho choked out Wardlow with a bat. After the Pinnacle were beat down for several minutes, Wardlow mounted a short comeback before being quintuple-teamed by the Inner Circle.

At this point, there is no feasible way to critically engage with a match like this; it’s just a huge fucking brawl. That’s not a detriment whatsoever; what is a true WarGames-style match but a fight? NXT makes their WarGames matches extremely choreographed so that there’s a narrative to follow, but most WarGames matches are dudes beating the shit out of each other. 

During the final break, Tully attacked Bryce Remsburg and opened the cage door, where MJF tried to escape to the top of the cage and Jericho followed him. Max begged off to no avail, and got locked in the Walls of Jericho before hitting Jericho with the low blow and locking in the Salt of the Earth armbar. Max stomped on and bit Jericho’s arm repeatedly, going for the hold multiple times. Then he pulled out the Dynamite Diamond Ring and clocked Jericho with it. Max looked down off the top of the cage to the stage and went to throw Jericho off it, telling the Inner Circle if they didn’t surrender, he’d do it. Sammy surrendered on behalf of the team, which gave the Pinnacle the win.

A very bloody MJF celebrated and then pushed Jericho off the top of the cage anyway. The Inner Circle yelled for medical assistance as they checked on their leader. Of course where Jericho landed looked extremely gimmicked, but for the purposes of the story, what a fucking despicable thing for a character to do. Max’s final words to Jericho were, “Thank you.”

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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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