After a successful Full Gear pay per view that effectively reset the board for All Elite Wrestling, this week’s episode of Dynamite took the airwaves to do more of that work, offering teases at the future, surprise returns, and a number of matches that had could have justified a spot on Full Gear, but wouldn’t have fit on that overstuffed show. There’s nothing fancy or introspective to say about Dynamite up top, other than that it’s nice to have a quarterly reminder that some wrestling stories can end, be pushed aside for a moment, or changed up without booking the same match every week until the payoff is gruel. There was a real sense of finality in the follow-up to several of Full Gear’s matches, some nice twists to ongoing angles, and a Penta El 0M/Rey Fenix main event that absolutely did not go the way I expected it to. Let’s get into it.
Brian Cage def. Matt Sydal
Y’all know that I love me some Taz, but since he and his crew have been mired in the fairly thankless project of complaining about not getting their due and chasing down a prospect to join the team, the man’s promos, usually a strength of AEW programming, feel like Xeroxed copies of promos from a month ago. Until he starts talking about the challenge Matt Sydal represents to his FTW World Heavyweight Champion Brian Cage, it’s all “Darby this” and “Cody that.” The extra element that he adds to the match is on commentary though, where he deftly builds Sydal by noting exactly how he’s pressing his advantage over Cage, and slides into Bobby Heenan mode by panicking about how Cage is doing and begging Ricky Starks to do something. Speed vs. Strength is something AEW has to do a lot because of the composition of his roster, but there was a nice rhythm to this one, as Cage kept going for and missing his big strikes and throws, allowing Sydal to gain the advantage until, at last, Cage’s power paid off, catching a flying Sydal in vertical suplex position to hit the Drill Claw for the win and allowing Taz to breathe a sigh of relief, a legitimately impressive display of power. After the match, Ricky Starks crowed about how Team Taz was officially ranked and was going to be chasing the TNT Championship, but again, I’ve seen this chase and heard this promo plenty by now, and it being as solid as it usually is is no reason to point it out.
Grade: A good opening match, but the focus on the TNT Championship means that neither Team Taz nor Sydal gain anything from it beyond a solid exhibition.
What’s next for Cody Rhodes?
Alright, y’all. Cody Rhodes, of course, needs to address the crowd after losing the TNT Championship to Darby Allin. He congratulates him, says he’s not seeking a rematch, and kind of limply floats the idea of avenging his loss to MJF, only to be interrupted by Jade Cargill, making her pro wrestling debut with less than a year’s worth of training under her belt. Like Lex Luger, she is The Total Package. She’s very flirty with Cody until she gets to the part where Cody calls himself the giant killer, which is something he shouldn’t say because there’s nothing giant about him—hold for the big “OHHHHH” about Cody’s junk. She intimates that Cody has woken up a real giant, someone who isn’t afraid to go by one name, and oh my goodness, it’s (probably) Shaq. All of this brings out Brandi, who is on fire from jump, screaming stuff like “WHO TOLD YOU THIS WAS OPEN MIC NIGHT?” Jade pats her butt like a football coach, so AEW officials have to break it up. This distraction allows Team Taz to assault Cody, but since Darby Allin is just sitting in the stands with the AUX cord in hand, his music plays and he fends everybody off with his thumbtack jacket.
This was, as they say, a hot mess. Maybe the prospect of Shaq vs. Cody does something for you? Maybe the prospect of Brandi defending her man against the insults of someone very new to wrestling does? Maybe Team Taz vs. Darby Allin and Cody Rhodes is your jam? If so, rad. But, boy, there was a wild awkwardness to this segment that felt very un-Cody, and the notion of Shaq wrestling a significant match has loomed large over this great sport for over a decade, which was already well after Shaq’s athletic prime. I love freakshow professional wrestling angles far more than I should, and I love watching on-the-job learning more than most, but this feels like a hard detour into the kind of territory AEW swore it wouldn’t get into, so until something great comes out of this segment, it’s kind of a wash for me.
Promo: Alex Marvez asks Jon Moxley about his upcoming match against Kenny Omega. Not only did Mox not quit in his match against Eddie Kingston, he’ll never quit, no matter the challenge. Omega’s a big one though, not someone many people beat once let alone twice. He thinks he’s special enough to beat Omega twice.
Bunkhouse Match: Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall def. The Butcher and The Blade
Before the match, Tony Schiavone was pressed to describe a bunkhouse match, but never really got the chance to do so. A bunkhouse is the building where cowboys sleep. Cowboys are, I guess, notorious for getting into fights. Therefore, in southern wrestling promotions that are heavy on Texans, it sometimes makes sense to put two opposing parties in the ring for a match where they’ll do cowboy things to each other. Having seen one, you get the point, but that’s why there was a bunch of hay and fences and stuff hanging around at ringside. The Bunkhouse Match is something of a tradition in wrestling, a main event several NWA tours in the 1980s, all of which were won by Dusty Rhodes. So here you have his son Dustin walking into his family’s turf, dressed in bunkhouse attire and ready to go to war on behalf of his friend QT Marshall, still nursing his wounds after the Butcher, the Blade, and the Bunny took advantage of him.
This match was a banger, a straight up brawl that had less in common with Dusty’s version of this kind of match (which was a battle royal) than it does with a plethora of hidden gems on WCW pay per view offerings from 1993-1996 or so, two brawling tag teams punching, kicking, and bleeding on each other throughout the arena, complete with a special set built so far away from the ring that it’s pretty conspicuous in its presence. This one match did more to elevate Marshall, Blade, and Butcher in my eyes than months of programming, Butcher in particular. The match also makes a compelling argument for Dustin Rhodes to put away the bodysuit and get some new gear, because my dude is looking shredded. This should be the end of this feud, there’s nowhere for it to go after a bloody brawl on national television, but damn, what an unexpectedly pleasant ride.
Grade: I am cautiously excited for the next QT Marshall match I see. That’s success.
MJF’s Induction Into the Inner Circle
MJF and the Inner Circle got two segments this week, so I’ll cover both of them here. First, Chris Jericho, moving his hands in a very presidential fashion at the in-ring podium, introduces the original crew of the Inner Circle. Sammy Guevara is not among them. MJF comes out next, pretending to cry. His “I’ve been in this business for five years and started with nothing but a small, $1,000,000 loan from my dad” thing was great. He says that he’s written a poem for the occasion, but he’s just reading Drake lyrics. Ortiz calls him out on it and says that Max doesn’t belong in the Inner Circle, but Jericho says it’s on him—he made the challenge, he lost, and Max is in … so make it work, because the group is stronger with the extra brains and brawn the two represent. Max tries to smooth everything over by dropping balloons and confetti for Jericho’s belated birthday (the wind blows all of that away) and gives everybody tickets to Las Vegas. Later, while the gang chopped it up with Alex Marvez, Sammy Guevara showed up, upset because he got an email from Max telling him to meet everybody at the beach. MJF claims there was a second email sent updating the location to the venue, everybody in the group got one, but Sammy insists that he did not. It’s fine, as Max also has a ticket for him. Next week we’ll see everybody in Vegas, which I hope is just a room in Daily’s Place that looks like a Catholic Church Vegas Night, because the only thing that sounds worse than traveling to wrestle right now is traveling for the sake of a 10 minute angle on a wrestling show. That said? This was a good segment. It’s clear that Max is going to be a cancer in the Inner Circle, and that he’s starting things by putting a wedge between Jericho and the young future face of the company he hand picked for his team. Based on last week’s brief glimpse of the two of them in tag team action, a singles match between MJF and Guevara should be excellent.
Promo: Alex Marvez gets an interview with the Young Bucks, who he shies away from because they superkicked him a few weeks ago. He asks what’s next, and Matt says it’s Top Flight, who he knew they had to wrestle after seeing 30 seconds of a music video about them. Matt Jackson booking the tag team division like an indie wrestling promoter would be the best character development of 2020, y’all.
Shawn Spears def. Scorpio Sky
At one point during this match, Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone found themselves in agreement that Spears and Sky deserved more time on Dynamite. About a minute or so after that, I found myself writing notes about how there was now red carpet around the ring, which I kind of liked. It’s not that Ross and Schiavone are wrong—while I’ve hardly raved about either wrestler, Spears and Sky are both extremely talented wrestlers—it’s just that despite how often I’m told that both wrestlers are good and deserve to do great things, I’m rarely given reason to believe these claims. Good Wrestler and Loaded Glove Wrestler are not characters I can get behind in 2020, the former because there are too many of them, the later because it sucked during its prime, before instant replay and DVR and YouTube shows existed to show every referee to make a wrestler take off his glove before the match. They try to play with that notion, as Bryce Remsberg checks it before, during, and after the match, but if you know it’s a two part weapon, why not ban the part that he can’t hide in his wrestling panties? Why do you have to put me through a match where a looping, overhand punch is the finish? Why? Whyyyyyy?
Promo: Dasha is supposed to interview Kenny Omega, but he’s leaving the venue so it’s Alex Marvez who chases him down. Omega cuts a good promo about how him facing Mox on December 2 isn’t a surprise to him, and that the way he sees it, losing an unsanctioned match isn’t losing at all—he and Moxley are 0-0 in regular wrestling matches, and Omega’s ready to reclaim all of the attention and praise Mox stole from him.
Tay Conti def. Red Velvet
Oh hey, a women’s match on Dynamite that has several overarching story threads! Oh … hey … a women’s match on Dynamite that gets about seven or eight minutes and doesn’t much advance any of them. Conti and Velvet are accompanied to the ring by Anna Jay and Brandi Rhodes respectively, but Brandi had to deal with Jade Cargill earlier and isn’t much for mixing batter with her friend or chopping it up with Jay, her rival, so this is an exhibition that’s driven, in parts, by Jay’s ongoing pitch to Conti that she should join the Dark Order. I really like Conti—her grappling, her striking, and her more traditional wrestling mesh together very well for someone who doesn’t have a ton of experience in wrestling. Red Velvet is also quite good, but hits a little lighter when it’s her turn to lead a sequence. This was an alright match, something that hints at the potential of Conti and Velvet. That said? It’s another week where the one women’s segment on the card leaves me exasperated, wondering what’s stopping AEW from getting its act together and doing something real with the talent they’ve assembled.
Grade: Through no fault of Conti or Velvet, this match was more frustrating than it was fun.
Penta El 0M def. Rey Fenix
Eddie Kingston is on commentary for this one, which he starts by addressing the crowd. He knows he said “I quit,” and that’s just something he’s going to have to live with. He’s a leader of violent men and women, and here’s two of them, Penta and Fenix. King is, as always, incredible on commentary, and now he and his group have been around long enough for Tony Schiavone to interrogate Kingston on the subject of the developing beef between the Lucha Brothers. Kingston blows it off, all the while talking about Penta as his best friend, the best luchador, and so on, until Penta rips off half of Fenix’s mask. Tony is OUTRAGED at this, having called a lot of luchadors in the 1990s, but King tells him to get over it. When Fenix rips at Penta’s mask? King wants Fenix DQed.
Neither of AEW’s Penta/Fenix singles matches have followed the template one would assume, but the reason for that is that they’re storyline matches that weren’t obviously booked as such. Fenix beat Penta in the tournament, was subbed out for Penta by Kingston the week after, and now have cause to wrestle each other without the hesitation that marked that first match, all while a gleeful Kingston roots for Penta to destroy Fenix. Normally when you miss something like this, it’s evidence of bad booking, but when I got hit with it when Penta went for the mask, everything snapped into place and accentuated weeks of prior programming. Is the match an all-time banger? No, but its purpose is for Kingston to bring out the animal in Penta El 0M, to make him as angry and vicious as possible. He succeeded, as Penta’s finish here is a package piledriver on the apron, a destroyer on the floor, and a package piledriver in the ring.
Grade: An intriguing step forward for two of AEW’s best wrestlers, a timely revitalization of both acts if they’re not moving forward as a tag team.
After the match, Kingston took to the microphone again to hype up Penta as the real boss of the family, literally kicking a downed Fenix out like trash while calling him dead weight. That’s the cue for Pac to make his return to television. He doesn’t say much beyond Kingston making a huge mistake, and staff and referees keep the two from swinging at each other, but that’s a match I want to see, with stakes I honestly care about. Will Pac be able to heal Death Triangle? Will Eddie Kingston succeed in breaking up the Lucha Brothers for the sake of his family? I can’t wait to find out.