Last Week’s Notable Happenings on AEW Dynamite:
- In addition to more or less admitting he vanity Google searches himself, Our Cool Republican Boss Cody Rhodes introduced the son of an enforcer.
- Michael Nakazawa made his directorial debut, a mildly funny propaganda video “exposing” the “conspiracy” against AEW World Champion Kenny Omega.
- Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky challenged Darby Allin to a 2-on-1 handicap match and because Darby’s lack of caution borders on clinical insanity, he accepted.
- PAC very begrudgingly teamed with Eddie Kingston (along with his Death Triangle stablemate Penta El Cero Miedo) to defeat the Young Bucks and Brandon Cutler in a trios match. The Jackson Brothers’ sneaker game continued to stay on a high level.
- In the main event, “Hangman” Adam Page once again gained a W over Team Taz due to the friction between Ricky Starks and Brian Cage.
MMA Cage Fight: Jake Hager def. Wardlow
As I mentioned a couple weeks back, I very much enjoy the idea of wrestlers having signature matches. Even though Jake Hager’s pro wrestling matches (dating back years at this point) are often middling at best, I can’t take away the fact that he’s undefeated in mixed martial arts. The introduction of shoot fighting to AEW makes total sense here, as Wardlow wanting to beat Hager at his own game is very appropriate for their rivalry. The gif of Wardlow’s knockout knee strike on Dark: Elevation was the most I’ve watched the show since its premiere.
I was a little apprehensive about how they were going to work a shoot fight (shades of the Lion’s Den, which has aged ever-so-slightly better than I thought), but I immediately started paying more attention when Hager popped Wardlow in the nose and walked out of position like a badass. (Props to Aubrey Edwards looking equally badass in her turn as MMA ref.) Wardlow answered back with a huge strike toward the end of the first round; the Superman Punch with seconds left didn’t do much for me until Hager sold it like a drunk asshole in a bar fight.
I can’t say I was necessarily too keen on Wardlow using wrestling moves in general (especially the hurricanrana), but I also understand the story they were trying to tell with him being more versed in the pro wrestling style. Taz was clutch on commentary here; the “three-man booth with the occasional fourth guest” format occasionally elicits too much talking but it was a perfect fit here given Taz’s knowledge of shoot fighting. Hager eventually won with the head and arm triangle choke (the submission which has brought him great fortune in Bellator). All in all, the match was an interesting diversion from AEW’s template presentation, but fell a little short of warranting repeated viewings.
After the match, Hager attempted to show Wardlow some hard-earned respect but as soon as he extended his hand, corner man Shawn Spears knocked him down and helped Wardlow beat down Chris Jericho. Not too long after, MJF made his way into the ring to put the odds in the Pinnacle’s favor, putting Jericho’s injured arm in the Salt of the Earth and punching out Dean Malenko when he came in to break it up. (Commentary hit the “health issues” button a little too freely, but what can you do?) All this hullabaloo was punctuated by Sammy Guevara evening things up and chasing off the Inner Circle’s rivals. This is wrestling, after all; of course there are gonna be post-match run-ins.
Backstage Segment: Frankie Kazarian—on a serious revenge trip after the Young Bucks seemingly retired Christopher Daniels—kicked a few bars from scripture to launch a pretty great promo that deeply emphasized his recently emergent “Elite Hunter” character. Kaz served up some serious overly austere vigilante vibes, but the promo was so good it even made Eddie Kingston grin (maybe the highest compliment a modern wrestling promo could be offered). The promo was punctuated by Kingston getting a sentence in and Penta hitting us with the catchphrase at the end, driving home the point nothing else really needed to be said.
Backstage Segment: Brian Cage has been thinking about leaving Team Taz because Ricky Starks continues to show his ass and Taz is tired of it. He also has something to prove when it comes to Hangman Page, so he challenged the anxious millennial cowboy to face Powerhouse Hobbs in a 1-on-1 match since he and Preston Vance took advantage of Hobbs getting left on his own last week. If you’re reading this column right now chances are you read it every week, so you already know how fucking jazzed I am about this match.
Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky def. Darby Allin
Page and Sky’s Men of the Year presentation can scan as goofy at times, but it’s in matches like this where they show they have enough of an edge to be a compelling heel team. It most certainly helps that the history between Page and Darby has been brought up routinely. The big league wrestling mentality of “nothing matters before you come here” is played out, and there’s a lot you can do with wrestlers who have prior history as rivals.
Darby started the match off quickly but the numbers advantage eventually came into play, with Sky and Page dominating long stretches of the contest. After urging Darby to tag a partner who was very literally not there, Page got hit with a Scorpion Death Drop, which was a great Father’s Day shoutout. Although Darby Allin is always presented like he has a death wish, he’s also a deceptively canny wrestler, tying Page’s feet together and offering a pretty substantial feeling that he might actually be able to win this match. Darby hit a Coffin Drop on Sky but Page pulled him off before Rick Knox could count three and then found a tool box to cut himself free. (Normally, I would circle conveniently placed in red pen here but of all things people should be able to find under the ring, a toolbox is probably number one.) After cutting the zip ties, Page threw Darby headfirst into the ringpost, and the thud was so audible it made Jim Ross indignantly concerned for Darby’s well-being.
For the record, his indignance sounds way better as legitimate concern than when he’s snapping back at his critics and haters on his podcast. It felt real.
After a little more fighting and biting his way out of an insurmountable challenge, the numbers advantage led to Page hitting Ego’s Edge and securing the victory.
Orange Cassidy def. Cezar Bononi
After weeks and weeks and weeks of not really getting what the Wingmen’s deal is supposed to be, this week’s episode showed me the way very clearly: Men’s fashion magazine staffers—but not for a top-tier publication like GQ, more like Details or something—laid off during quarantine. They’re out here picking fights with Orange Cassidy over his fashion sense and doing silly shit like spray-tanning him under duress at ringside. The ironic thing about all of this is that JD Drake actually looked more stylish wearing that little league coach’s jacket! Now he looks like the one dude at the redneck bar who is certain he’s going to get laid tonight and goes home alone yet again.
Not much to write home about here: Bononi looked promising, there was a lot of interference (including Drake getting booped by Kris Statlander leading to him getting Orange Punched out of his shoes), Orange wrestleed in Ryan Nemeth’s jacket, and he naturally won this fun little placeholder match while he awaits his next meaningful feud. Peter Avalon holding Bononi while he cried out against an unjust god after the match was one of those jokes that made me smile but didn’t quite make me laugh.
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez attempted to get a word with Jungle Boy before being rudely interrupted by Kenny Omega and Don Callis. For people who feel as though “The Cleaner” has been missing for years, Omega has had cheesy 80s movie bully energy for virtually his entire career and he put it on full display here. Kenny challenged Jungle Boy to a fight right there and when it was rebuffed in favor of beating him next week and taking his championship, Omega offered a free shot. When Jungle Boy nearly took it, Michael Nakazawa hit him in the back with a briefcase, he and Omega got a few licks in, and he and Callis took off in the golf cart, leaving Jungle Jack Perry to get his shot in on Nakazawa.
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez once again attempted to get the scoop, this time with “Big Money” Matt Hardy, and once again got interrupted. Christian Cage tried to get at Hardy for all the shit he’s been talking, but in a great instance of pun-based storytelling, Hardy, the Bunny, and Private Party locked him behind an equipment cage. How do I get Marvez’s job? As much as I love being reasonably compensated for my thoughts on the show, I’d much rather get paid handsomely to be interrupted all the time. I do it for free most Thanksgivings!
Cody Rhodes & Brock Anderson def. QT Marshall & Aaron Solow
I feel as though a lot of people don’t really have an opinion on the Factory, but I like them! Even though Our Cool Republican Boss made sure he ate their lunch, their existence as a group with big potential led by QT Marshall—who has been righteous in his disdain for Cody getting to play the cool executive while Marshall basically trained AEW’s entire rookie class—has made for a solid team. Brock Anderson looked good in his debut match; a little off on the timing but that will come with experience. He has great speed and intensity and his offense this week looked believable. I think I’ve worn out my criticisms of the Cody Rhodes character, but as a wrestler he did a great job keeping everything together here. As the match got thick, Anderson caught Solow in a deep flash pin for the surprise victory. A feelgood moment between father and son was captured on camera after the match.
Segment: In one of his better promos since coming to AEW, Jake Roberts explained how difficult his job of managing Lance Archer has become. Though he veered into Jerry Lawler-esque/Henny Youngman-esque territory (“The reason he’s not a doctor is because he has no damn patience!”), Roberts did a solid and succinct job of articulating the renewed fury and motivation of his client. Archer roared and stormed off and Roberts abruptly signed off, like when you’re on the phone and your pit bull busts out of the screen door to attack your neighbor’s Boston terrier.
Andrade El Idolo Tries to Help Jim Ross Learn to Pronounce His Name
In a short but sweet sitdown interview, Andrade El Idolo explained to J.R.—presumably in the latter’s sparsely furnished Jacksonville Beach condo—why he’s in AEW (he’s a superstar who wants championships, duh) and his affiliation with Vickie Guerrero (they both have extensive experience with notable wrestling families). Andrade looked like a million bucks—drink in hand, a suit game Matt Hardy should really take notes from—and promised a big surprise. *cue everyone raising their eyebrows and frantically searching Thea Trinidad’s Twitter*
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez—surprisingly enough, not rudely interrupted this time—interviewed “Hangman” Adam Page along with the Dark Order in their dressing room, starting out with asking Hangman if he’s up for the Powerhouse Hobbs challenge introduced by Taz. Of course he accepted, but he’s more enthusiastic about his good friends and his cold beer, which I can certainly relate to after 16 months in the house. Marvez then asked for Hangman’s thoughts on Jungle Boy challenging Kenny Omega next week for the AEW Championship and after a flicker of tightening up, Hangman changed the subject completely, offering an update on John Silver’s shoulder, 10 recording the pinfall on Powerhouse Hobbs, and congratulating Evil Uno for a good effort in his loss to Miro for the TNT Championship.
The segment ended with Uno being hoisted on the shoulders of his Dark Order brethren, and not much resolved in the way of Hangman clamming up whenever he hears the name Kenny Omega.
Penelope Ford def. Julia Hart
The Varsity Blondes’ presentation is coming together week by week; now they have letterman jackets and a member who used to be a competitive cheerleader. (Big props to Tony Schiavone, everybody’s favorite supportive grandpa, who notes the difficulty of competitive cheerleading.) Penelope Ford was alone because Kip Sabian is still on the injured reserve list, but offered a good showing leading a very inexperienced wrestler to a pretty good match. There were spots a wrestler of Hart’s limited experience probably shouldn’t have tried, like that corner spot ending with Ford’s sunset flip counter, but by and large she did a good job! The match ended with Ford locking in a bridging Indian Deathlock for the submission win and holding it way after the bell rang to end the match.
After Ford’s win, Miro came out asking Ford for Sabian’s whereabouts and claimed to be a gentleman before throwing Griff Garrison smooth the fuck out of the ring. Brian Pillman Jr. wasn’t as easy to take out, as he and Miro engaged in a pull apart brawl that looked like it had more than a couple stiff shots. Pull apart brawls should definitely look like you and the person you’re being pulled apart from are actively trying to beat the shit out of each other, which happens way less than you might think.
Backstage Interview: Tony interviewed his friend Dr. Britt Baker, which quickly got interrupted by Vickie Guerrero. Vickie spoke about Dr. Baker finding her happy place by eating cheeseburgers—same, yall; big fucking same—as well as Tony Khan owing her a favor for bringing in Andrade El Idolo, which means we’re having ourselves an old-fashioned tag team match next week, playa! No challenge here, just a message: It will be Dr. Baker and Reba (Rebel) vs. Nyla Rose and Guerrero next week. After Vickie left, Dr. Baker and Reba (Rebel) laughed it off and went about their business.
Segment: FTR and Santana & Ortiz explored their rivalry in this great highlight package. Both teams discussed their hardscrabble beginnings—the hard-nosed North Carolina boys not having running water and living in cars; Santana speaking of being brought up on the streets of New York, watching his mother suffer from abuse, and robbing and dealing drugs in his path to tag team glory. Unsurprisingly, Santana doubled down on why he and Ortiz should have been babyfaces since they first stormed AEW Dead Presidents style, and this package went a long way to show both the vast differences and the stark similarities between these disparate tag teams. Real talk, this has been the Inner Circle vs. Pinnacle match to check for since the beginning.
Backstage Segment: The Jade Brand is growing, “Smart” Mark Sterling is not yet doing pro bono work for the cause because Cargill is still undefeated, and Jade continues to be “that bitch.” The sponsorships are pouring in!
Matt Jackson & the Good Brothers def. Frankie Kazarian, Penta El Cero Miedo, & Eddie Kingston
I might as well get down to brass tax here: Most of AEW’s multi-man tag matches—including trios encounters, which can be very powerful when done correctly—have been clusterfuck spotfests. I will say that due to their vast experience in tag team wrestling, the Good Brothers and the elder Jackson brother make for a seamless tandem, wrestling smartly and smoothly until things go off the rails (like they often do in these sorts of matches). In the end, Nick Jackson came from out of nowhere, let loose on Penta with some of the cold spray, and led to Karl Anderson scoring the win with a diving neckbreaker.
This week’s episode ended with the Elite victorious on the ramp and Brandon Culter in his dopey tracksuit spraying cold spray on Matt’s aching shoulder.