Just Singin’ Them Post-War Blues: AEW Dynamite Recap and Review

Or: How Takeout Helped Me Feel Okay About My Expired Friendships

Chris Jericho might have bragged about running NXT off of Wednesday nights, but we know that was just posturing, as most of us know AEW was slotted midweek to begin with so they wouldn’t be perennially preempted by NBA games. But you know, “We Won the War” is good for headlines and such. Any way you slice it, last week might have marked the end of AEW’s 18-month counterprogramming intensive, running their flagship show against WWE’s equally critically acclaimed “alternative” brand, but they made sure to make it feel more like a beginning. 

After being wishy-washy about whether or not they were going to join Kenny Omega since he walked out on his friendship with “Hangman” Adam Page in November, the Young Bucks stopped their fence-sitting and made a statement by superkicking Jon Moxley and group-hugging their erstwhile Bullet Club buddies Omega, Gallows, and Anderson to close last week’s show. After weeks of radio silence and a surprise takeback of their Daily’s Place dressing room, the Inner Circle laid down the gauntlet and challenged MJF’s new stable the Pinnacle to the wisely aborted Blood & Guts match they were supposed to have against the Elite a year ago. 

Mike Tyson is back in the AEW fold, but whereas we last saw him flexing in Jericho’s face trying to intimidate him, he’s aligned with his former longtime rival because Max Friedman and his Pinnacle associates are total assholes. (His explanation was basically, “It makes no sense given how long we’ve known each other,” marking one of the few times in pro wrestling having a long memory has led to forgiveness. Where is Henry Cejudo when you need him??) Kris Statlander’s back, Lance Archer continues to cut in on Sting’s mic time, Taz is trying to recruit Christian Cage, and—*triple checks last week’s notes*—QT Marshall is damn near the best heel on the show. Like I said, lots of things happened last week!

The promotion leading up to last night’s show was highlighted by news of Statlander’s first match back from injury, Jade Cargill and Red Velvet going one on one, Jericho taking on Dax Harwood (or is it Axl Rose?) with Tyson as the special guest enforcer—shades of Wrestlemania 14, only with an opposite turn?—and the Young Bucks taking on Rey Fenix and PAC for the World Tag Team Championships. 

The show opened with the Young Bucks trying to justify why they superkicked Mox, saying they chose friendship and because Mox pushed them over the edge. Matt admitted Don Callis was right about the team losing their own edge, asserting they allowed other people to take control of AEW’s narrative and that of their own accomplishments. The Young Bucks teased showing the world the old Young Bucks, until they started snipping their tassels and promising a new Young Bucks.

Segment: MJF interrupted Mike Tyson’s message, saying he wasn’t born when Mike was poppin’ but his dad says he was a big deal, and then proceeded to pitch to Tyson and offer him a blank check while insulting him in the process. Tyson tore up the blank check, ate it, and spit it out at Max. When I ate paper in elementary school, I didn’t look anywhere near as intimidating. Apparently Tyson can’t be swayed!

AEW World Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks (c) def. Death Triangle (Rey Fenix & PAC)

I couldn’t in full confidence say the Jackson Brothers—coming out in new outfits and accompanied by Don Callis—were going to lose their tag titles, now that they have a new look, a new attitude, and Callis in their corner. And All Japan main event streamers were included in their entrance! When this match was announced, I was all in (pun intended) on PAC and Fenix taking these titles. But one thing I’ve learned about wrestling and in life is never bet against reinvention. It makes everything you do fresh, it restores a sense of confidence that might have been lost. Word to the beads on their headbands.

As various tag teams looked on from the seats, Matt and Nick introduced a more fundamentally structured game plan while Callis was calling Space Flying Tiger Drops in the booth. PAC and Fenix showed some very impressive tandem moves, including one where Matt’s foot was held by either member of the team while the other kicked him in the back and ended with a double thrust kick to the face. Nick wrecked Fenix and played to the camera, smiling and showing off his Dior Jordan 1s. (For their part, the crowd chanted they were fake.) PAC cleaned up brutally on the hot tag, rivaling Jackson the younger as possibly the best comeback in tag wrestling. After starching Matt with kicks, Nick pulled PAC out of the ring to avoid further damage. It’s amazing how a heel turn simply means wrestling smarter.

The Bucks hit stereo apron powerbombs (shout out to Kevin Steen) and continued to dominate the match. They also brought out old heelish favorites, like the big and unnecessary buildup to the back rake. Later in the match Matt mocked his babyface fire-up as a taunt. They’re not quite the smarmy, atomic jerks they were in PWG in 2010-2013, but that’s mostly due to the maturity they’ve gained after a decade of championships and tournament trophies and executive titles. More than anything, the Bucks wrestle like a veteran tag team. A decade ago they were lightning in a bottle; now they are rightfully—fucking finally—taking their spot as the most successful tag team of their generation.

Late in the match, PAC hit a Blue Thunder Bomb and came dangerously close to winning the championships. Same when he held Matt Jackson in the German suplex position for a long time and hit it after Fenix ran across the ropes and kicked him in the face. Nick reversed a monkey flip into a ricochet Destroyer. The teams hit dueling poison hurricanranas on the floor before sending the crowd into a tailspin. PAC hit the Back Arrow, but Nick pushed Fenix into the pin to break up the count. Nick hit a low blow on PAC and superkicked Fenix before unmasking him; the Jackson brothers hit a double superkick on him for the win. 

As the Bucks won, every team in the crowd looked nonplussed as their music played and they celebrated with Callis. So as Kenny Omega settles deeper into midcard comedic heel antics with Callis at his side, the Bucks actually step up their game and display a long-dormant desire for success. Who knew?

Backstage Interview: “Hangman” Adam Page was asked by Alex Marvez about the new attitude of the Elite, to which Hangman spoke on John Silver’s shoulder and went to get egg rolls. (Are we surprised Hangman is totally avoidant when it comes to discussing his former friends’ business?) And then, Silver did a little rehab work to the delight of everyone. Imagine how hungry dude is gonna be when he’s fully healed!

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez asked about Jericho and Tyson suddenly being friends. Jericho broke it down, saying he made amends with the people he’s soured, and Tyson proved to be a class act by forgiving him. Tyson promised to be fair and impartial during Jericho’s match with Dax Harwood. 

Jade Cargill def. Red Velvet

Jim Ross opined that Jade Cargill may be the highest-paid rookie AEW has signed yet, and I’m guessing if your debut match had you tagging with Shaq, you have the network gods smiling down on you with blessings of extra dollars in your direct deposit. The match started fast and brutally, with Velvet going after Cargill and the latter hitting a knee strike flush. Cargill taunted Kilynn King at ringside and fallaway slammed Velvet right into her and other ringside attendees. As Velvet tried to beat the count to get back inside, Cargill counted her abs; aside from presence—which I have noted a few times—Cargill simply has qualities as a wrestler that can’t be taught. Plenty justification for that inflated rookie salary.

This match was fast-paced and contained the sort of hard-hitting offense you anticipate from wrestlers who supposedly hate each other but don’t always get. Red Velvet looked gutsy and fearless, while Jade sold very well when she was down, but ultimately served some brutal strikes and won the match.

Segment: Tony Schiavone interviewed his friend Dr. Britt Baker, who offered a thorough breakdown of the rankings, noting Red Velvet just lost, meaning she’s climbing those standings. And before long, she will become the rightful women’s champion. Those are her words paraphrased, but they are also mine as well. I respect the doctor and I think Shida’s days are numbered.

Anthony Ogogo def. Cole Carter

The match barely got started before Ogogo flattened Carter with a gut punch and the referee called it. I like the idea of a boxer making it happen in wrestling with his boxing prowess; I feel as though in the past, it has been just an accoutrement for a middling wrestler. I want to see Ogogo continue to knock motherfuckers out or basically make their kidneys no longer functional with one punch. He’s got a good thing going!

Segment: Miro has been waiting for Kip Sabian, so he can smooth things over, but Kip hasn’t been anywhere to be found since Arcade Anarchy. So as the song goes, he’s moving on. And he has issued a warning to any champion in the company: they are officially on notice.

Chris Jericho def. Dax Harwood

I’m still figuring out how I feel about the Pinnacle, who are basically a generational update of the Four Horsemen, right down to the music. They have an Arn & Tully, they surely have a Barry Windham equivalent in Wardlow, but they have no Flair. (MJF is promising, sure, but he’s far from the world-traveled, savvy veteran Ric was in 1985.) And no jet flying/wheelin’ and dealin’ or dramatic Southern-ass rock music is going to distinguish them as a real force in AEW. Aubrey Edwards let Tully and Cash Wheeler know only one of them was allowed at ringside, so Tully and his Grand Ole Opry Dark jacket made his way to the back. 

Jericho picked up a chair early and Tyson took it away, making good on his promise that he would make sure the game was played fair. Then Tyson took Floyd the Bat away from Dax so he couldn’t use it. The match devolved into a brawl very quickly, as they spent a few of the opening moments of the match firing off punches in the stands. After more minutes of brawling, Jericho picked up the camera and shot footage of Harwood flipping him the bird. Dax and Tyson had a brief exchange of words before the commercial break and hit Jericho with a baseball slide during it.

I don’t know if it was made to be obvious, but it certainly was obvious that Dax wrestled as a tag team wrestler in a singles match. I won’t say he exactly looked lost in the match, but there was a feeling of Harwood being half-savvy about what to do against a veteran singles wrestler. Even with Cash Wheeler getting involved on occasion while staying out of Tyson’s way, Harwood looked overmatched. Which I’m sure is part of the point, since his opponent was the first-ever AEW World Champion (and, you know, one of the most decorated wrestlers of all-time). After Harwood missed the diving headbutt, Jericho placed Dax in the Liontamer; Wheeler knocked Jericho over the head and Edwards didn’t see it. But both Tyson and Sammy Guevara did, the latter pummelling Wheeler. 

The Pinnacle approached the ring but the Inner Circle came right out behind them, starting a ringside brawl. Tyson knocked Wheeler out when he tried to hit Jericho with Floyd. Jericho hit a Judas Effect flush for the win.

After the match, Jericho made Tyson an ancillary member of the Inner Circle. This is probably gonna end well!

Backstage Segment: The Not Bullet Club kicked Marvez out of an interview opportunity, and Callis cut a promo about the Young Bucks—sporting leather hats and gaudy earrings, presumably in homage to Shawn Michaels’ early days as a heel—and how their coming back to the fold was just the beginning. Kenny made a promise that they’re going to continue doing things their way, because that’s where the success comes. Matt Jackson let the world know the best tag team in the world is back. The Bucks teased superkicking the camera, but Callis ended up doing it.

Kris Statlander def. Amber Nova

Statlander came out to “Where is My Mind,” which tells me Tony Khan is gonna get his money’s worth having this song licensed. Statlander started the match booping referee Paul Turner and throwing some impressive arm drags against Nova, native of Hilton Head Island, SC. (A very beautiful place where I have spent plenty of childhood vacations, if you’re looking for a post-vaccine vacation spot.) Statlander predictably muscled Nova around and tossed around some flipping sentons for good measure. Statlander dumped Nova on her head and that’s all she wrote. A great spotlight match for Statlander, who looks great having not wrestled in 10 months!

Backstage Interview: Dasha interviewed Taz, asking if he had heard from Christian Cage yet. Ricky Starks interrupted and ran his mouth, to which Taz said it might be best for him to fall back while Cage is being recruited. Brian Cage (no relation, ha) opined it was a good idea, to which Taz said Brian should also fall back. Taz promised Christian Cage would be a member of Team Taz by the end of the night.

Christian Cage is Ready to Out-Work Everyone, But Will Talk First!

Tony Schiavone asked Cage what’s on his mind. Cage wanted to execute his open contract and he’s ready, but Team Taz came out, and Taz seemed like an angry Tinder date who got ghosted. Christian vehemently rejected the invitation and threw out a short joke for good measure. Taz retorted by saying, “If I stood on my wallet, I’d be ten feet tall,” and Christian joked, “That bingo hall money?” Powerhouse Hobbs squabbled with Cage inside the ring for a bit, and after Hook provided the distraction, Hobbs laid Christian out. With all the fuckery going on in Team Taz and Brian Cage and Ricky Starks being all messy, Powerhouse Hobbs might be a good look to lead the group into the future. Hobbs as the heavy, Taz as the voice, Hook as the kid who looks like every white boy in Tacoma who has ever jumped into a rap cypher. 

Falls Count Anywhere Match for the TNT Championship: Darby Allin (c) def. Matt Hardy

Matt Hardy’s collective seems kinda hodgepodge, but I suppose that’s more of the idea of money always bringing together a motley crew of capitalists. Hardy insisted on doing this on his own, so he was surprisingly unaccompanied to the ring. Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page were seen hanging out in the rafters and presumably laughing at Darby’s aesthetic. 

Hardy started the match with a chair and Darby avoided the initial shot, but got caught with the edge of the chair after a middle rope coffin drop. In the beginning moments of the match, Hardy tore Darby up with the chair, causing a couple abrasions and leaving most of his back red. Hardy continued with the chair shots, working smartly and methodically against his recklessly impulsive opponent. Hardy dominated the first half of the match, and one of Darby’s greatest strengths is his selling, which makes him an incredibly sympathetic character. (This is what I think people mean when they compare Darby to Matt’s brother Jeff.) 

Then out came the HFO, who hit Darby in the face with a trash can, followed by the Dark Order to even things out, and Sting, who took on both members of Private Party by himself. The brawl broke up into two segments: Darby vs. Hardy, and various members of different factions and affiliations brawling with each other. Lance Archer, followed by Page and Sky, came out, with the former chasing off the latter. This is a real clusterfuck, and I’m not sure I mean that in a good way! Archer hit a Blackout on Isiah Kassidy right in front of Sting’s face, which looked a lot like a challenge. Sting eventually tossed Darby his bat, and Hardy backpedaled before hitting him with a low blow. Hardy hit a Twist of Fate on Darby with his head lodged in the chair, but Darby kicked out. 

They brawled to the back, knocking a monitor off a table in Gorilla, and Hardy set up a ladder and set Darby up on the table. Hardy hit a leg drop through Darby, through the table, but Darby kicked out yet again. Back out on the stage, Hardy taunted Darby and went to powerbomb Darby off the stage, but Darby hit a low blow of his own and grabbed Sting’s bat. Darby struck Hardy repeatedly with the bat, trashed the monitors, and choked Hardy out with it. He laid Hardy out on the announcer’s table and hit a Coffin Drop from a decent height. Of course he scored the three count and won the match. 

Another title match down for Darby Allin, the face of TNT, in a wild brawl with a lot of excess. Seems appropriate, really.

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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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