Don’t Mess with the Old Buck: AEW Dynamite Recap

Or: The Impending Return of the TV-14 Deathmatch

Two weeks ago, the so-called “forbidden door” was kicked open by the arrival of NJPW-based journeyman KENTA, making the lightly collaborative talent exchange between AEW and Impact far more interesting. KENTA’s AEW debut was held in the midst of wild dives and literal potatoes; fighting alongside onetime Bullet Club member Kenny Omega against Lance Archer and holder of a title KENTA has held the contract for a match against for nearly a year, Jon Moxley. My colleagues here at Fanfyte have voiced their opinions on the new working relationship, but being the Libra I am, I’m cautiously taking a wait-and-see approach, not believing anything—especially the rumors about Kazuchika Okada being interested in working AEW and Impact—until I see it. I’ll react accordingly when things start happening.

Elsewhere on the show, Sammy Guevara left the Inner Circle, meaning our hopes for a Le Sex Gods reunion are sadly dashed; Darby Allin and Joey Janela wrestled an unexpectedly great match (before the former was dragged through the parking lot in his own body bag); Lee Johnson proved he could be much more than the Nightmare Family’s diversity hire; PAC made Dolph Ziggler’s brother look like Nicky from the Spirit Squad; Extremely highly functioning alcoholic “Hangman” Adam Page outsmarted Big Money Matt Hardy at the bar; and Layla Hirsch continued to prove her worth in a losing effort to Thunder Rosa in the opening match of the women’s #1 contender tournament.

With Revolution two and a half weeks away and what feels like precious few matches getting substantial build, my hope was that last night’s episode would pick up the ball AEW’s dropped lately, which is creating interesting stories to build their pay-per-view matches. That’s still in progress, but let’s see where we’re at after Dynamite!

AEW

“Hangman” Adam Page & Matt Hardy def. TH2

The show opened with the Hangman amped up, followed by his new business partner(?) Matt Hardy. Jack Evans and Angelico got the jump on their opponents before the bell rang, but Hangman easily dispatched both members. I had a few reservations about what Page was going to do after breaking up with the Dark Order before their relationship even started, but last week’s segment where Page turned the contract table on Hardy provided a lot of intrigue, as well as the awkward run-in with his old (almost) crew. 

I’ve always liked TH2 as performers; Jack Evans has been the foremost practitioner in the genre of “flippy white dudes” long before that became in vogue, and Angelico is a singularly talented submission wrestler who uses his Stretch Armstrong reach to strike the fuck out of his opponents. Hangman carried most of the match here, taking a little punishment and dishing out way more. Late in the match, Hardy tagged himself in, went for the Side Effect, and got caught up in a barrage of tag team moves from TH2. After an attempted Angelico-assisted 450 splash, Hangman hit a double Buckshot Lariat, Hardy hit a Twist of Fate, and that was it for the match.

Grade: An okay match obviously deployed to get to the segment which comes after.

AEW

After the match, Hardy divulged his 30% deal to Page and the audience, but there’s a game afoot! Hangman revealed the contract he slipped out of his jacket pocket. Jaxon Duvall brought out some balloons and Hardy’s contract, which states it’s actually a match contract—and if Hardy loses, all of his earnings from this quarter will go to Page! Hardy challenged Hangman to put something on the line: the same stakes offered to him. Hangman accepted, and it is officially a money match! Jaxon Deville hit Hangman from behind, revealing himself as Isiah Kassidy, and Hardy offered $3700 for TH2 to beat down Page. But the Dark Order came out to even the score, with -1 directing the troops. 

Seems like a certain love story isn’t over after all.

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez interviewed the Inner Circle, who were in their very first title shot. Ortiz said it’s out of fear, and those fears were totally founded. MJF directed his ire toward Sammy, but Jericho stopped him, saying everyone knew Max drove Sammy out of the Inner Circle. Jericho said he used Max and Sammy’s hatred for one another to push them, to make them better, but Sammy didn’t become better, he just left. And now he’s dead to Jericho. But that’s not the point of tonight, tonight’s point is Santana & Ortiz bringing gold back to the Inner Circle.

AEW

AEW Women’s World Championship #1 Contender’s Eliminator Tournament: Riho def. Serena Deeb

RIho’s 11-month absence from AEW programming has been unfortunate—the division finally started to grow, only without the first AEW Women’s World Champion. Oh, the matches COVID has robbed us of! But her return to the United States rectifies that wrong. The match started with some savvy chain wrestling—a good approach nearly turning into an AEW match trope—with the slight build of Deeb still managing to overpower Riho. But Riho displayed her resiliency early when Deeb knocked her down with a shoulder tackle, which she effortlessly bridged out of. You know the cliché about when something isn’t broke: Deeb utilized this when she caught Riho’s Tiger Feint Kick turning it into a catapult into the bottom rope. 

During the break, Deeb’s knee was giving her trouble, but she shook it off. Deeb went for some inventive pinning attempts, which Riho managed to slip out of. Riho got Deeb into the corner and fired off some shots, but Deeb returned them. Deeb reversed a Northern Lights suplex with a wrenching front chancery, caught her opponent off of a dive, and worked the knee, finishing with a Dragon Screw leg whip from the corner. Riho hit the Tiger Feint Kick and a diving foot stomp to Deeb’s back as she regained her bearings in the ropes. A brutal diving foot stomp from Riho couldn’t get the job done. After a series of pin attempts, Riho cinched in a Gedo Clutch and won.

Grade: A good match that ascended to pretty great by the end with a volley of fantastic spots to reach the finish line. It was a great return for Riho.

Segment: Jade and Shaq trained for their match in two weeks by playing basketball. Shaq ultimately didn’t do much but looked like a grizzled tough guy. Who knows where this match will rate on the scale from bad to terrible, but they’ve been building it up as well as they can. Neither Shaq nor Jade have any real in-ring bonafides, so they have to highlight their presence and athletic prowess in other areas. It makes sense.

Orange Cassidy def. Luther

To start the match, Luther pushed Chuck off the apron and Serpentico dove on him. Luther hit a powerbomb for two, then ripped Cassidy’s tee off. As Orange powerbombed Luther off the apron, Chuck hit Serpentico with an Awful Waffle in the ring while referee Bryce Remsberg’s attention was divided. Cassidy hit an Orange Punch on Luther and that’s all she wrote.

Grade: n/a, and that’s all I got to say.

AEW

Team Taz Addresses The Goth-Leaning Superfriends

As Team Taz came to the ring, Excalibur noted that the crew had been fined for their actions against Darby last week. Taz called out Sting in advance of the advertisement that Sting was going to call out Team Taz. The snow fell and Sting walked slowly toward the ring, bat in hand. Taz said that Sting better keep that bat in hand, but Sting removed the bat and took off his coat. He then went after each member of Team Taz, which didn’t go well for him once the numbers caught up. Brian Cage welcomed a chorus of boos after powerbombing a 61-year-old man. 

Backstage Segment: Eddie Kingston said he requested his match because he had three demons to deal with, his three opponents tonight. Lance Archer had been in his business since he won the Casino Battle Royale without defeating him, and he didn’t even want Fenix in his group, just his brother. He said Mox, his old friend, was the demon he needed to conquer the most. He can’t get rid of him with pills, drinking, or women; he has to get rid of him by beating him. 

Segment: Kenny Omega and Don Callis were at Kidspark along with Michael Nakazawa, and he talked about his friends the Young Bucks, saying he’d read excerpts from their book. A kid asked if they’re in love, but Kenny blew it off. He read the part where NJPW’s business went through the roof when Kenny took on Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom. Then Kenny had to go, but offered up Michael Nakazawa to play with the kids, who beat him up. I just have this feeling that Kenny is much funnier in his head than he is to the rest of us, and with the benefit of hindsight, most of the good stuff he was involved in on Being the Elite was definitely not his idea. Of course he’s the champ, so he’s getting more creative leeway to give his character some range, but this ain’t it.

AEW

AEW World Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks (c) def. Santana & Ortiz

Mama and Papa Buck were ringside as the Bucks entered the arena. After Nick and Matt hugged their parents, they get a little mouthy with Santana & Ortiz before the match started and the latter team got the early advantage. In my opinion, Santana & Ortiz should have been champions at least a year ago, especially with the disjointed story beats and wishy-washy character alignment of the Bucks since last summer. Omega, Callis, and the Good Brothers were watching on a monitor backstage. After a little specious interference, the entire Inner Circle was ejected from ringside as Santana & Ortiz continued to dominate the Bucks in the early going.

Through some evasion and a superkick, Nick finally got the hot tag to Matt, whose comeback was cut off before anything too bonkers happened. They traded quick tags and tossed off innovative tag team moves before Santana and Ortiz got the better of the Bucks when Santana hit a Falcon Arrow from the top rope. Ortiz locked in a Koji Clutch on Nick as Matt struggled in vain to break it up, finally succeeding with a flying elbow drop. The Bucks hit a Doomsday Device and a double superkick for two. They signaled for a BTE Trigger and missed, clashing knees. Santana and Ortiz hit the Street Sweeper, but the pin was broken up. Santana and Ortiz powerbombed Matt into the ringside crowd, but Nick got a quick inside cradle for the three.

Grade: It felt like both teams were kinda going through the motions in this match, severely lacking the spark they’ve shown in matches against each other in the past.

After the match, the Inner Circle came out to beat down the Bucks while Kenny, Callis, and the Good Brothers stood around deliberating, with Kenny saying they had to go out there. Ultimately, the Good Brothers took their time going out to the ring to save their “friends.” Jericho argued with Papa Buck and the Old Buck pushed Jericho, causing MJF to swear at him as the group walked away. It feels like this is telegraphing the Good Brothers cheatingt the Bucks out of the Tag Team Championships at Revolution, and the image of Jericho and Max putting on their submission holds on Matt and Nick is a forbidding one.

Segment: Brandi Rhodes decided to do her own gender reveal party, and Cody came to the ring along with her to find out the gender of their child. I’m not going to launch into a tirade about how unnecessary gender reveal parties are—who really fucking cares? It’s a person!—but they’re having a girl, for anyone interested.

AEW

FTR def. Matt and Mike Sydal

The match started off fast-paced and flippy, which is to be expected from a match with not only one but two Sydals! FTR gained control and did what they do; the taunting and the double teaming and the hard strikes. For the most part, it was a pretty perfunctory FTR match; when they deign to change up their formula they shine, but sometimes they settle into a certain gear. The Sydals got their shit in, but the elder Sydal got blasted with an uppercut before eventually succumbing to the Big Rig. 

Grade: A pretty ho-hum match, to be honest. I really enjoy FTR’s matches, but it feels as though going through the motions was kind of a theme last.

After the match, FTR went to give Mike Sydal a haircut and the arena went black. Then all three members of Jurassic Express appeared and beat down FTR. I’m about ready for this feud to end; I thought this to myself as Excalibur noted that it was far from over.

Backstage Segment: Mox went in on Eddie Kingston, noting his complaints even though he’s the only person who actually cares about Kingston. Then he went in on KENTA and threatened to break his neck. And he’s still determined to get his AEW World Championship back from Kenny Omega. 

AEW

Jon Moxley, Lance Archer, & Rey Fenix def. Eddie Kingston, the Butcher, & the Blade

The good guy team in tonight’s main event came in from the parking lot in solidarity with Mox never entering from the backstage area. A brawl on the outside kicked things off, with Kingston naturally going after Mox, as what they have will never truly be finished. The Blade started the match in earnest with Mox but quickly tagged in the Butcher. Kingston and his fam made extremely quick tags to grind Mox down, showing their chemistry early. Mox tagged in Archer, who cleared out the other team and worked on the Blade. Mox, Archer, and Fenix employed quick tags as well, trying to gain the advantage they hadn’t had since the beginning of the match.

Eddie Kingston constantly antagonizing Mox was the clear highlight of the match, giving him the finger after breaking up pins and yelling at him from the apron. Fenix got the hot tag and took on the whole team with his dazzling offensive repertoire, bringing the energy of the match up several notches. I know people say this all the time, but there’s no one better than Fenix at raising people’s eyebrows by doing wrestling moves. The “final scene of The Departed spot” led to Kingston and Mox eyeballing each other and taking each other on, until Fenix nailed him with a kick to the face, followed by a pounce from Archer. Mox got the bulldog choke in but it was broken up. Archer hit a cannonball senton on most of the people at ringside as Mox and Kingston continued to slug it out in the ring. Kingston hit the spinning backfist, but Mox hitt the Paradigm Shift for the win.

Grade: Another fifteen minute match where only the final two or three minutes were exciting. Par for the course this evening.

After the match, the Good Brothers beat Mox down, which brought out Omega. He cut a promo about a “late Valentine’s Day gift” from Tony Khan: A contract for a rematch between Mox and Kenny. But Kenny got to name the stipulation: An exploding barbed wire death match. Mox got a headbutt in even while being held by the Good Brothers, which inspired Omega to hit two V-Triggers and stand over his prone body with his crew as the show came to a close.

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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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