New Year’s Smash Night 2: AEW Dynamite Recap

The headline-grabbing development from last week’s Dynamite special was Gallows and Anderson storming AEW to continue their reunion with someone they had little on-screen interaction with their first time around. (Those who remember know Kenny Omega only stepped up to lead Bullet Club on the Good Brothers’ outgoing night, when Kenny and the Young Bucks attacked AJ Styles behind their backs and formally founded the Elite.) But now, somehow, Kenny and the Good Brothers are old friends, and the Bucks helped get the band back together after months of playing hokey pokey with character alignment.

It all makes very little sense, but people were excited!

Earlier in last week’s show, SCU pledged to have the Bucks’ back after announcing their next loss will be their final loss as a team. Mox cashed in on his promise to bring hell to Kenny Omega before the beatdown that reunited the erstwhile Bullet Club members. Elsewhere, Wardlow got his first big win in AEW over Jake Hager, Hikaru Shida conquered her fears to defeat Abadon, and Snoop Dogg went for a top rope splash far less impressive than his Doggystyle hoodie. (Seriously, Snoop. Merch that shit!) Oh, and before the main event angle, Omega and Rey Fenix had an early Match of the Year contender.

With the Elite in action, surely we’ll get a closer glimpse at the confounding and somewhat underwhelming Not Bullet Club reunion, right? … Right??

AEW

PAC def. Eddie Kingston

The only detriment to this sure to be awesome match is that Kingston and PAC didn’t have even more mic time to sell it. The latter wastes no time getting things started, with a brisk walk and a dropkick before his pyro even finished going off. PAC dominates the early part of the match, starching Kingston with pump kicks and a huge top rope missile dropkick. After a brief upper hand, Kingston sends PAC to the outside for some eye gouging, courtesy of the immaculate nails of the Bunny. Kingston’s dirty fighting is little match for a superhuman like PAC, who regroups after a slingshot German suplex. Kingston hits his picture-perfect backdrop driver for two. He also sells PAC’s blitzkrieg like a motherfucker, which is exacerbated as the match rolls on.

The story of this match is excellent as Kingston, knowing he’s unlikely to go hold-for-hold with PAC, just takes a fucking beating; welcomes it, really. PAC, seemingly tired of beating Kingston to a pulp, hits the Black Arrow for the win.

Grade: Not a competitive match at all, but in the best way. As we will see later in the night, not every match has to be competitive in order to be compelling.

After the match, Lance Archer runs Kingston and his family off and then gets in PAC’s face, likely teasing a future confrontation.

AEW

Miro def. Chuck Taylor

I’m not too big on servant/butler/young boy stipulations, but I’m willing to give AEW the benefit of a doubt, as I feel there are few wrestling companies worldwide who do character work better than All Elite Wrestling. Sometimes the company whiffs hard, but when they hit the mark, it’s more often than not very satisfying. Plus, people who only know Chuck through AEW have little idea of the weird charisma solo Chuck possesses.

Chuck gets the advantage early on, as Miro turns his back during his entrance taunt, obviously not taking his opponent seriously. Chuck takes it to the outside and takes Miro to the woodshed. After a star-making turn in the Parking Lot Brawl, it appears as though Chuck is starting to embrace his brawling prowess, which is a fun look for him, as AEW has plenty of sensational technicians and high fliers.

Miro eventually takes the driver’s seat, muscling Chuck around with a huge Samoan Drop, thrust kick, and Game Over.

Grade: A perfectly serviceable match which will hopefully lead to a month of good character work and a banger Miro/Orange Cassidy match.

Backstage Interview: Dasha interviews Matt Hardy and Private Party, and Hardy insists he speaks first, saying things are going great. After fronting about how bright their futures are with Hardy at their side, Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy start to squabble with Hardy over the 30% management fee. Hardy rips into them says they were nothing before he took a shine to them, and the only way they’re going to make it to the top is if they do exactly what he says.

AEW

The Inner Circle Present Their New Year’s Resolutions

I know you just want the gist of what AEW’s tightest group of buddies goals are for the year, so here they are:

  • Jake Hager: “CHAMPIONSHIPS, YEAH!!!”
  • MJF: Continuing strengthening the bonds found in the Inner Circle, and to eliminate fat people. (This is what bugs me about when people say Max is a prodigy and will likely be the best heel of his generation. His reliance on cheap heat is grating, but more importantly, it’s boring.)
  • Ortiz: Stepping his cooking game up.
  • Jericho: He and MJF winning the AEW Tag Team Championships.

Santana stops the resolutions by having a bone to pick with Jericho’s prediction, saying when Jericho brought him and Ortiz into the Inner Circle, they were supposed to be the group’s only tag team. Sammy steps in with some tag team slut-shaming and notes he’s upset Le Sex Gods aren’t a thing anymore. (Him and me both.) Jericho tries to restore camaraderie in the group, noting that they are all sexy hooligans. He says any combination of them could win tag team gold, and calls for a three-way tag match to see who will be the official tag team of the Inner Circle.

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez stands with the Dark Order, asking Evil Uno what’s next for the group. Uno says they have to preserve Brodie’s name by being better people, and in order to get on the right track, they’re going to team with “Hangman” Adam Page. They ask when he is going to officially make a decision on his allegiance to the group, and after they suggest next week after their match is as good a time as any, Hangman agrees.

Backstage Interview: Dasha speaks to the Elite and Don Callis before their match, where they speak in generalities and almost agree to doing the Elite entrance before Callis suggests the two entities go out separately. Kenny is heeling it out during his entrance in a one-winged black leather jacket (an elementary “I just turned heel move,” but I do have to admit the single wing is a nice touch). To a healthy spate of boos, Callis introduces Kenny’s partners, the … Good Brothers! The Bucks are filmed backstage looking pissed.

AEW

Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers def. Danny Limelight and Varsity Blondes

Gallows and Anderson beat up Varsity Blondes on the outside as Omega and Limelight trade moves in the ring. The match eventually hones its focus in between the ropes, as the babyface team trade quick tags. Gallows kicks Limelight in the back followed by a Kotaro Krusher by Kenny in order to gain their team the advantage. I’m pretty nonplussed by this ongoing storyline crossover, as Gallows and Anderson were the third-best tag team in their era in Bullet Club and haven’t done much in the way of big time matches or character moments since leaving WWE (or even while they were there for that matter). Limelight hits a beautiful springboard hurricanrana. Commentary mentions how Omega is carrying the team tonight and I would say he’s been carrying the time since it was introduced a month ago. But as I mention this, a Magic Killer gets the job done for the Elite? The New Elite? The Sub-Elite?

Grade: This match might have been a dud without Danny Limelight, whose offense and selling were both pretty outstanding.

After the match, Mox comes down to face Omega and the Good Brothers. He tries to fight off all three men, then Rey Fenix and Penta come through to help. The locker room nearly empties to get these guys off of each other. Out come the Bucks to try to convince Mox to chill, which starts a small argument, and then Penta and Fenix superkick the Bucks. Omega and Callis sneak away in the chaos of the melee.

AEW

Dr. Britt Baker Presents “The Waiting Room!”

“The Waiting Room,” after being a Dark highlight for the past number of weeks finally comes to the main show. Reba (Rebel) kills it on the introduction, and Dr. Baker tells the studio audience to check under their seats for a surprise, which is… nothing. Dr. Baker gets in a few good shots at Cody’s choice in company and his neck tattoo; the good doc is in rare form here. Reba (Rebel) welcomes Cody with a sparkler, which is absolutely hilarious. Dr. Baker relentlessly throws shade as Cody stands there looking confused, and then she introduces Jade Cargill before Cody can even get a word in.

Jade is looking jacked as fuck and talks about how nobody cares that Brandi is pregnant. She wants a challenge and she will be ready to beat that ass when Brandi returns, but for now, where is her competition? Jade slaps Cody, which brings Red Velvet out. They trade slaps, which provokes a pull-apart featuring damn near the entire women’s locker room.

Thunder Rosa calls out Dr. Baker and says they have a match scheduled for Beach Break on February 3rd, and Dr. Baker is beside herself, admonishing Tony Khan for telling her personally they wouldn’t have to face each other.

AEW

FTR def. Jurassic Express

I have to admit that I kinda love the combo of Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt; in a perfect world, they could use their combined quickness and innovation to win matches. But Luchasaurus is quite obviously the draw of the team, given his size and look.

Marko starts the match and uses that quickness to elude FTR’s double team. As some order is restored, Marko slaps the taste out of Dax Harwood’s mouth, but FTR quickly gain the advantage. Jurassic Express go into overdrive with the sudden high-flying attacks, giving the match a refreshingly different vibe than the Jungle Boy/Luchasaurus combo. Wheeler puts on an excruciating Gory Special before Marko escapes and Jungle Jack Perry gets the hot tag. Eventually, Harwood reverses a Sliced Bread from Marko and destroys him with a lariat. As Marko tries to reenter the ring, Tully pushes him into the ring post. A (newly renamed) Big Rig wins the match for FTR.

Grade: As is almost always the case, I enjoyed this match more than any Jurassic Express match featuring Luchasaurus. Maybe it’s time to move him to the singles division?

AEW

NWA Women’s World Championship Match: Serena Deeb (c) def. Tay Conti

I’ve always felt Tay Conti had potential well beyond what was shown in NXT, and I’m curious to see what she can do in a semi-main event title match here. The veteran Serena Deeb comes out of the collar and elbow with an arm lock and the two competitors chain wrestle their way to a stalemate. And then another. There’s some pretty dazzling mat and submission wrestling here, and it speaks to Conti’s fundamental skills that Deeb can’t clinch a sustained advantage. The match picks up a little in high impact moves, but stays pretty grounded throughout (including via a nice Stretch Muffler by Deeb). Deeb eventually wins with a double-arm capture flapjack.

Grade: Pretty great stuff, easily one of the better matches of the night.

AEW

TNT Championship Match: Darby Allin (c) def. Brian Cage

Brian Cage and Darby Allin have been in each other’s orbit for months, as the announcers and highlight packages throughout the night have emphasized. There have been broken ladders and body bags filled with thumbtacks; there has been much enmity between Darby and Team Taz. Last week’s weigh-in was a joke at the expense of Allin, highlighting the 100-pound weight advantage of his adversary. (Definitely the best use of a weigh-in segment I can remember in wrestling.) But of course, you can’t measure heart and a dangerous indifference to pain and mortal danger.

Darby throws his whole body at Cage to start, but Cage then catches him on a dive and suplexes him on the outside. Seconds later, Cage threw Darby all the way from the ring and through the timekeeper’s table. Cage spends the next few minutes continuing to muscle a very busted open Darby around.

After every throw, referee Paul Turner checks on Darby to make sure he can continue. Cage pummels him with crossface shots. After Cage goes to pose, Darby tries to jump on his back with a flurry of punches and gets stuffed quickly. This beatdown is easily as cringeworthy as Darby’s non-wrestling stunts, which speaks to his strengths as a performer in the context of wrestling. Cage hits an F5 and Darby kicks out at one. A trio of powerbombs flatten Darby, and he flips Cage the bird in retort. Cage throws Darby onto the ramp and Jim Ross calls to stop the damn match. If you looked at Darby and then looked at Brian Cage, you’d expect this match to go exactly the way it’s going, which is sometimes an impeccable storytelling conceit.

Darby continually kicks out early to escape every pin, highlighting his inhuman resiliency. He escapes being throw onto the rearranged steel steps, and Cage ends up falling onto them, followed by an emphatic Coffin Drop. Darby bites his way out of a bear hug, and uses his belt to tie Cage’s legs together. Starks attempts to intervene, but is interrupted by Sting — who, due to time constraints, doesn’t get the pomp and circumstance of his usual “stepping up as the equalizer” spot. A top-rope crucifix bomb earns Darby the win.

Grade: Outstanding. Darby’s extreme disadvantage in weight was a major feature of the match, and he ended up winning in a way that was entirely believable. The bulk of this match reminded me of the times in WCW where Cactus Jack was pummeled by Vader, instantly putting to rest any idea that he enjoys pain. With Darby’s reputation among fans as kind of a pain freak, I felt the same way as Cage manhandled Darby.

The show ends with Sting standing over a reeling Darby and then the two of them facing down Team Taz, looking on from the stage as fake snow falls from the sky.

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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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