You may not know this from Fanfyte VCR or any of the non-COVID-19 related wrestling coverage I’ve done during These Uncertain Times, but I feel like my enjoyment of professional wrestling—current American professional wrestling at least—is at an inflection point. WWE isn’t just bad—they’re an active blight on American culture. AEW is dealing with its own problems—booking towards a War Games cage match, they suddenly found themselves without any major, ongoing storylines and have been presenting shows more consistent with the vibe of 1997-era WCW Saturday Night than their normal shows. None of it feels important. None of it should be happening. And, like when a young, impressionable Colette Arrand went to a Raw where Triple H and Kane had a casket match because Kane may or may not have had sex with a corpse, I could feel every moment of empty arena wrestling sapping away my will to watch something I’ve been obsessed with for 28 years.
But then Hunktears sent me this video:
And, in watching it, I remembered that wrestling fan be anything—Chris Jericho shouting about TV tapings in Gainesville, Georgia over a match I won’t remember tomorrow, or a beautiful, breathing Michelangelo statue of a man evaluating a bunch of bananas.
And that’s how I decided to look at this week’s AEW Dynamite—not for the goodness or badness of its matches and promos, not for it’s ongoing storylines, not based on whether or not it should be happening. All I want to know is whether or not anything on this show was better than Hiroshi Tanahashi deciding which banana to eat with his protein drink. The answer will probably not surprise you.
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Promo: AEW Dynamite does cold opens like Star Trek now, and immediately forces me to reckon that Cody Rhodes has a gaming chair that bears the logo he decided to get tattooed on his neck. He also talks to Arn Anderson the way Solid Snake talks to his friends? He also also seems to think that the best way to study his opponents is to watch matches of theirs on four screens simultaneously rather than one at a time? It’s a good promo about how TNT believes so strongly in AEW that they commissioned a championship that I hope is just the circular TNT logo on a leather strap, but it does nothing to allay my worries that Cody is a cornball who thinks being a cornball is cool. I’m gonna need him to tone down the four monitor rig he’s working with, if nothing else.
Darby Allin def. Sammy Guevara
I feel like I’m all alone in the world when I say that, of all the young wrestlers on AEW’s roster, Sammy Guevara has the most potential. I didn’t think much of him on the indies, but I love him in AEW, where he’s a supremely cocky twink spoiler capable of ruining anybody’s night, and he’s a natural foil for Darby Allin, a skateboarding Babadook. These two start out similarly to their match at Revolution, hitting a big spot before the bell rings where Sammy suspends a ladder between the guardrail and the ring apron before hitting a splash. The ladder is not like the ones you see in WWE, which are all tall enough to have some give/are gimmicked if anyone is going through them. They hit hard—the kind of spot you wish a crowd was around to see. After that, the story of this match is about how much Darby Allin loves fucking with Sammy’s feet. He works a ton of ankle locks, takes Sammy’s boot off, bites the foot, headbutts the foot—a real shrimper’s delight. Sammy sells his ankle/foot injury well, even on a springboard cutter, but it’s ultimately to no avail, as Darby catches him in his Last Supper pin hold and gets the three, moving forward in the TNT Championship tournament.
Was this better than Tanahashi looking at bananas: Better? No. Equal? Not quite. Hiroshi Tanahashi looking at bananas is a new paradigm for professional wrestling, so while this was a good match, it will ultimately be swept into the sea. Tanahashi looking at bananas is forever.
Promo: Broken Matt Hardy wants to have a match with Chris Jericho at the Hardy Compound. I have to be honest with y’all—of the 300 gimmicks Matt Hardy has had, Broken Matt Hardy is by far the worst, and whatever happened in the world of professional wrestling where this became his default is something I wish we could take back. The fact that we’re on take three of this iteration of Matt makes me sad, because he’s a capable worker and a good promo. He proves that he’s a good promo by turning into Regular Matt Hardy during this segment—him wanting a match against Jericho makes a lot more sense when you consider his friendship with the Bucks and the fact that Matt was never taken seriously enough to be a threat to guys like Jericho in the past, but he has that opportunity now. But nah, we’re gonna get dilapidated boats and mythic groundskeepers and sentient drones again and we’re gonna pretend that it’s good again because that’s the nightmare realm we engineered for ourselves, this petty thing for me to hate and everything else.
Kenny Omega def. Alan Angels
Another thing I apparently care about is the function and purpose of squash matches, because while it’s cool for Alan Angels that he got to hang in there with Kenny Omega for a few minutes, watching babyface Kenny wreck a local unknown just does nothing for me? It’s like—Hulk Hogan didn’t appear on Wrestling Challenge to fuck up one of the Mulkey brothers, you know? Kenny Omega is too big and too good for a tune-up match, and he kind of looks like a dickhead for needing multiple V-Triggers to put away a guy who probably hasn’t taken a ton of V-Triggers in his three year career.
Was this better than Tanahashi looking at bananas: Absolutely not.
Promo: We get a special look at Scorpio Sky. Scorpio Sky has been on television almost every week for eight months, so I don’t think a special look at him is exactly necessary, but we got that special look, and it was absolutely a thing that happened.
Promo: Dustin Rhodes calls his brother on a landline so he can be put dramatically on speakerphone. He kind of explains why he’s putting his career on the line against Kip Sabian, but despite his being a very good promo there’s absolutely nothing he can say about that wild-ass idea that’d make it make sense. Where’s the heat between he and Sabian? Where’s the chorus of people asking whether or not Dustin can still go? I know that you’ve got to do something to give some weight to a Kip Sabian match, but maybe not this?
Orange Cassidy def. Jimmy Havoc
During this contest, Chris Jericho says of Jimmy Havoc, “He’s got a big feud brewing against Luther on Dark,” and that will be the funniest thing anybody in wrestling says all year. I’m gonna be super blunt here and say that I think Jimmy Havoc is one of the worst wrestlers in a major promotion. At one point here he hit a Rainmaker so soft that I laughed about as hard as I did at the line about Luther. Orange Cassidy, on the other hand, is an angel. He’s not wrestling in front of a crowd, so he’s not doing topes with his hands in his pockets. He’s smart! He and Best Friends are also unfortunately mere platforms for other crews to debut against (Dark Order first, DEATH TRIANGLE second), so mall goth Jimmy Havoc gets some help from the clerk at the Hollister across from Hot Topic, and now Jimmy and Kip Sabian are a team. This breaks down kinda ugly, as Penelope Ford mucks up a dive before Orange gets the win, but yeah. Havoc and Sabian. What a reward for living. What a time to be alive.
Was this better than Tanahashi looking at bananas: Oranges are theoretically a kind of fruit the Ace of the Universe could gaze upon, but alas, he spurned them in favor of the banana, so no.
Promo: MJF does a These Uncertain Times thing, but the issue is not a pandemic, but a hangnail so bad that it’s become life-threatening. It’s a good promo, but I was kind of distracted by the sound of his microphone brushing against his scarf.
Wardlow def. Jason Lee
Wardlow is actually a power guy who needs a platform to establish his power, so him throwing around a Local Talent made sense. He really throws Jason Lee around. Like, a lot. In every conceivable fashion. Tony Schiavone at one point references Taz because a lot of those throws are suplexes, but Taz is a shortman and Wardlow is a tallman, and there’s a lot of difference between getting thrown around by a short orange barrel of a man and a dude you could insert into a GIF of Vince McMahon getting progressively sexually aroused by beef.
Was this better than Tanahashi looking at bananas: Nope.
Promo: Some dude is at a computer, which is a very popular thing for dudes in wrestling to be doing right now. He’s also drinking a whole-ass bottle of liquor while surfing the web, where he finds the Dark Order’s website. I fucking love the Dark Order’s website because it looks like the landing page for a webring about Evanescence and Lacuna Coil and its copyright is 2019 despite the fucking eternity we’ve spent in 2020. Anyhow, this dude was a football player, so my best guess is that former NXT superstar Tino Sabbatelli is the newest recruit of the Dark Order, as he has an immediate audience with Brodie Lee. The guy takes the mask, of course.
Brodie Lee def. Justin Law
Y’all, I love Brodie Lee, but I just got done seeing a big dude wreck a little dude, and variety is the spice of life. What fascinated me most about this match were the rope marks on Justin Law’s back. Like, I know I’ve seen that before, but I spent the whole match wondering if that’s why wrestlers tan so goddamn much, or if Justin’s back just wasn’t used to the kind of ropes AEW was using. Real fascinating stuff.
Was this better than Tanahashi looking at bananas: Tana could have looked at one banana and it would have been better.
Promo: The Best Friends confirm that they will have the match I’m already dreading.
Promo: Chris Jericho presents the second installment of the Bubbly Bunch, where everybody tries to make Sammy Guevara feel better about losing, which Sammy unfairly does a lot of. Jake Hager’s “Sadness is for ugly people” line is immediately the best thing he’s ever said. Jericho tries to cheer everybody up by offering a bottle of hand sanitizer to the person who flim flams the best. Again Jake Hager steals the show by dancing like a large man from Oklahoma bred for combat, but Sammy busts out a bunch of flips and crushes everybody, hurting Chris Jericho’s feelings.
Promo: We’re hyping up the main event now. Dustin Rhodes says “cee-ment” like a cartoon Texan and I love him for it. Kip says that Dustin is in the prime of his career at 51 years old, which is only true if you’re unfamiliar with the brief window before Hulk Hogan ruined WCW, but he is extremely good. Kip says he’s not in his prime yet, which is also true. Dustin is serious about the retirement thing, so let’s just get to the match.
Dustin Rhodes def. Kip Sabian
Look. Saying “I will retire if I lose to this guy who I have no beef with” is pretty much a way of saying “I will be winning this match.” In the universe where Dustin Rhodes loses to Kip Sabian, this is the most underwhelming retirement angle in professional wrestling. They try to hype this up as Dustin being out of a job if he loses, but his brother and sister-in-law are executives with the company, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. If you book a retirement match, it has to have credulity or it has no stakes. This had no stakes. It’s also not a very good match that gets worse when Penelope and Brandi get involved, because if there’s one thing I’m truly tired of when it comes to AEW’s booking, it’s the way Brandi ends up interfering in a lot of Dustin and Cody’s matches. Like, I get that they tried to give her her own thing and it fell apart super quickly, but I could also go for a serious Rhodes family match that doesn’t have a chase spot involving her? Like, especially when retirement is on the line?
Was this better than Tanahashi looking at bananas: If Hiroshi Tanahashi retired from looking at bananas after this video, I would cry real tears. If Dustin Rhodes had retired from wrestling after this match, I would have been very angry. I would rather cry about the emotional arc of professional wrestling than be upset by it.