Rock the Mic: AEW Dynamite Recap and Review

Or: Popcorn Guy in the Arn Anderson Spot

As we inch closer and closer to next week’s Blood & Guts match—and, by proxy, next month’s Double or Nothing—developments have been cropping up in the world of AEW as these major events congeal. Take last week’s episode of Dynamite for instance:

  • MJF proved that he actually could cut a compelling heel promo! Instead of the whole “fat people are dumb and dumb people are fat and don’t get me started on poor people” crutch under his arm in order to get heat, Max broke down the myth of Jericho with the precision of a fillet knife. Also, “When you were 25, you were curtain-jerking on Worldwide” is the wrestling equivalent of “Back in ‘88, when I was pushin’ weight / You was a ballerina, I got them pictures, I seen ‘ya.”
  • Dr. Britt Baker didn’t quite formally challenge Hikaru Shida, but did display that she very well may be the next challenger for her AEW Women’s World Championship. It was over a year ago where Shida busted up Dr. Baker’s nasal cavity, and this title match, over a year in the making, has all the hallmarks of being one of AEW’s very best matches.
  • Darby Allin continues to doggedly defend his TNT Championship every week (after a couple months of sparse defenses), narrowly defeating Jungle Boy in last week’s great main event.
  • Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley are on the warpath looking for the Young Bucks (and Kingston is dead set on beating either Matt or Nick down for a pair of their Dior Jordan 1s), which is likely going to lead to an AEW World Tag Team Championship match between Mox & King and the Bucks, which will definitely also be a banger.
AEW

Brian Cage def. “Hangman” Adam Page

As Hangman made his way to the ring, Team Taz blindsided him and kicked his ass before he could even get to the stage steps. Of course the Dark Order came out to even the odds on behalf of their friend. Character-wise, both of these dudes are in transition; Cage in that awkward period where he’s having conflict with a member of his group but hasn’t kicked his ass yet, and Page ambling along, winning matches of little to mild consequence with the Dark Order chilling in the cut. 

The first half of the match found Page getting pummeled by Cage, starting with a hard powerbomb on the platform between the ring and the stage. It has been a while since Hangman has been dominated by another competitor, and he sells the beating from Cage exactly as he should. (It shouldn’t be difficult to sell getting beaten up by someone who looks like Brian Cage, but some people aren’t good at it!) Hangman made a gutsy comeback, highlighted by his moonsault to the floor. But Cage manhandled Page on the counter to the Buckshot Lariat, and ended up winning the match with the Drill Claw.

Segment: The Elite (which I guess includes Gallows and Anderson now), decide to stunt in what I think is a Rolls Royce SUV limo and brag about their wins while Kenny cut an okay promo on Mox & Kingston. A horn seemed to interrupt the promo, but it was just Michael Nakazawa missing with the horn in the limo. Kenny sent his first goon at Kingston, Nakazawa himself, in a match for tonight. As Kenny continues to find his voice as the heel champion of AEW—and Impact, and AAA—Omega leaning into the idea of being a final boss of sorts seems true to the video game nerd he has always been. He’s not all the way there yet, but this iteration is a damn sight better than his half-assed comedy work from a few weeks ago.

AEW

The Young Bucks def. Matt & Mike Sydal

There’s something comedic and fun about the brother tandem of Matt and Mike Sydal; the wrestler who embodies the *reads Astro Poets once* meme and his brother who has no clue what he’s talking about but tries to follow his lead anyway. Matt and Nick Jackson came out (with Don Callis) in some sweet-looking leather jackets with fur collars—something they probably won’t admit they bit off Seth Rollins circa 2020. Any sneakerhead who reads this column should get at me on Twitter or something, because I don’t recognize their shoes this week.

In spite of the flashy antics of their characters, Nick and Matt Jackson have wrestling as heels down pat. They’re not necessarily the unbelievable asshole linchpins of PWG circa 2011, but they’re at least as obnoxious and unlikable and fun to watch as they were in Ring of Honor. They’re making quick tags (a heel tag team wrestling trope in AEW, to be sure), they’re undercutting their opponents at every turn, and they play to the crowd but not excessively. You know, like they actually want to win the match. When the show came back from commercial, Nick was laid out and his older brother switched places with him, with Rick Knox not even noticing even though he’s known the Bucks for nearly 15 years. 

The Sydal Brothers made a short-lived comeback, with Matt getting his shit in on both Jacksons and enlisting Mike to hit a Double Meteora on them. Matt Jackson narrowly avoided a top rope move from Matt Sydal, sending the latter stumbling off the turnbuckle. Mike Sydal received a low blow from Matt Jackson and a BTE Trigger as the Young Bucks gained the victory and received cold spray from their “lackey” Brandon Cutler. (Hey, we’re approaching Month 15 of this pandemic; you gotta get employment where you can find it, man.) 

After the match, SCU came out, with Frankie Kazarian describing the Bucks’ fashion decisions as questionable and reminding everyone the team’s next loss will be their last. Christopher Daniels uses a lot of name calling while mentioning they’re the #1 ranked contenders in the tag team division, but it’s bittersweet because they will no longer be wrestling their friends in the spirit of competition. A silver lining is that they can kick the asses of the entitled, annoying twerps they are now.

Segment: Jade found herself commenting on managers trying to get a cut of “Jade’s pie,” but she herself is a boss and, quote, “that bitch.” So they better come correct.

AEW

Orange Cassidy def. Penta el Cero Miedo

Orange Cassidy was wearing darker colors even though the weather is getting warmer. Penta was wearing a fucking cool samurai helmet, which still doesn’t even out the cool points he loses by allowing Alex Abrahantes to accompany him to the ring and translate his promos. 

The match started with Penta blocking Cassidy putting his hands in his pockets and repeatedly doing the Cero Miedo taunt. And then he went for the removal of his right glove; in addition to being one of the most brutal and fascinating wrestlers in AEW, he knows his tropes. Orange tossed his shades to Trent, missing his toss by a mile while Trent pretended he tried to catch them. Cassidy showed his impressive lucha libre bonafides to elude Penta’s brutality, but ended up getting caught on a dive and thrown into the apron for good measure. 

During the picture-in-picture break, Penta dominated Cassidy while simultaneously taunting Trent. Hard chest chops, hard kicks to the legs. One thing about Orange’s comebacks that is super interesting is how he’ll burst into offense out of nowhere—but this time Penta stopped him before he could really get going. Penta went for the armbreaker, but Orange managed to get his hand in his pocket and Penta lost it. The two competitors battled with thrust kicks, and Cassidy went for the Orange Punch and caught a superkick. Penta hit a Destroyer and went for the Package Piledriver but got hit with Beach Break. After a thrust kick which almost knocked Cassidy’s head into the stands, he mounted a dynamic comeback before Abrahantes got on the mic. Eventually, Orange took hold of the mic, nailed Penta with a mic-assisted Orange Punch, and picked up the win.

Segment: Tony Schiavone interviewed his best friend, Dr. Britt Baker, who said she never lies. She’s queen of merch, demo projections, and the rankings. She’s closing in on Shida, and I’m far from the only person stupid stoked to see that match.

AEW

The Pinnacle & the Inner Circle Parlay for the Blood & Guts Advantage

The Pinnacle sauntered to the ring with a security detail, and the Inner Circle one-upped them by having their security detail as a randomly assorted motorcycle club. Schiavone explained the rules of WarGames and got his mic snatched from him by Shawn Spears. He said there will be no coin toss because the Pinnacle was lured into this match, and laid into Sammy Guevara for not having wrestled in however long, to which Sammy pointed out Spears’ failures in the wrestling industry to date. Sammy volunteered to be the first entrant for the Inner Circle in the match, saying he’d even start the match with the popcorn guy.

Cash Wheeler called out Santana & Ortiz, saying they better not bring this iteration of their team into Blood & Guts—the “soft, complacent Jericho lap dogs.” Dax went into “talking about the opponent’s family heat,” and Santana retorted by saying he and Ortiz have been locked up and FTR have no idea what they’re getting into. Max grabbed the mic and again astutely pointed out Jericho’s worth to AEW and acknowledged the pressure he faces as the company’s most recognizable star. And he’s feeling the pressure, he’s feeling the fatigue, and Max is going to take the heavy burden that is the crown off of his head and take over at the top guy. Jericho scoffed at the idea of Max being able to take a spot like he took that trust fund money. He brought up the fact that, yeah, he curtain-jerked Worldwide, but he was also a worldwide star, headlining arenas in Mexico, Japan, Germany, and the United States. Jericho put over the other members of the Inner Circle strong, pointing out why each of them are in the group and he is not. He exclaimed, “We are Blood & Guts!”

I think Blood & Guts getting postponed by over a year was the best thing that could have happened to the match, because now they have two groups with real history and real issues with each other in one of wrestling’s most historically violent matches. 

Michael Nakazawa vs. Eddie Kingston?

Kingston came out and dispensed with the sports entertainment bullshit. He said he wasn’t fighting Nakazawa; that he has a problem with Kenny and he will settle it with Kenny. Kenny came out and basically said he’s the one who runs the show, so Kingston gets the goons first. Nakazawa attacked Kingston with the clipboard, but Kingston made easy work of him and slipped Nak’s leg between the body of the chair, threatening to break his ankle. Kenny said Nak knew what he signed up for. Brandon Cutler briefly entered the fray, but Mox came out to beat him down. They get Kenny in a compromising position with the chair and said they’d break his ankle. Don Callis brokered a deal sprung from Mox’s idea, where Mox and Kingston will take on Omega and Nakazawa next week. 

Backstage Interview: Taz spoke on Cage’s win over Hangman, and threatened Christian Cage for not answering his call. Which brought out Christian, who broke down the dynamic of Team Taz, led by a shell of a competitor. Christian welcomed the challenge of Team Taz being sent to him one by one, as he’s dying to teach them a lesson: They’re all talented competitors who could do better without Taz.

AEW

Kris Statlander def. Penelope Ford

The match started with Ford and Statlander slugging it out, along with some impressive power moves from the latter before Ford used her craftiness to gain the advantage. Statlander faked a dive to the outside and booped Ford before pummeling her. The match devolved into a slugfest before Statlander gained the clear advantage, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with her power game. The advantage swung back and forth for much of the final half of the match, a real seesaw of momentum until Statlander hit the Big Bang Theory for the win.

After the match, Ford got booped again, adding insult to injury.

AEW

The Factory def. The Nightmare Family

The Factory entered Daily’s Place from the Nightmare Family’s bus, an indelible “fuck you” which will do nothing to dissuade me from my belief that QT Marshall might be the best heel in AEW. He just continually finds new ways to simultaneously one-up Cody Rhodes and his crew and subtly prove he’s not quite on their level (Cody’s former “assistant” having access to his bus makes total fucking sense. “Make it make sense” is an approach more wrestlers should have at the forefront of their minds at all times.) 

The Nightmare Fam got the quick jump on the Factory, but the momentum didn’t last long. Billy Gunn’s ribs were taped up from the Anthony Ogogo punch from last week, which is another marvel of the Factory, the fact that a rudimentary move in boxing could be used as a devastating pro wrestling finisher. Marshall did the “suck it chant” to Lee Johnson, which made me cackle at how good he is. For his part, Johnson got the hot tag and cleaned house, further cementing himself as the Nightmare Family’s young gun to watch. Especially when he hit that beautiful corkscrew over the top rope. Unfortunately, that momentum wouldn’t last long, as Ogogo landed that gut punch on Johnson and Gunn, leading Marshall to pin Johnson for the win.

Austin and Colton Gunn came out to give Marshall a beating and sent him away, which started a brawl between the Factory and the Family. QT tried to escape to the bus, but Cody came out of the bus to fight Marshall. QT ended up on the top of the bus along with Cody; after the brawl, Cody put QT in the Figure Four and Marshall tapped, as Jim Ross would say, “like a drunk man.” 

In the match announcements for next week, a bombshell was also delivered: Mox will defend his IWGP U.S. Championship against Yuji Nagata on Dynamite on May 12th! The idea of Kenny vs. Ospreay? *BARF NOISE* This is that real shit, and I can’t wait.

Segment: Kip went to settle things with Miro, but Miro just kicked his ass, screaming, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??” Miro then slammed the door into Kip’s hand and as Sabian whimpered, Miro hugged him closely and said, “I forgive you.” 

AEW

TNT Championship Match: Darby Allin def. Preston “10” Vance

I’m digging the idea of the TNT Championship match getting the main event slot on so many Dynamite episodes; it’s such an easy way to elevate both the title and Darby as one of AEW’s top stars. This is not a “secondary championship,” every title means something here—I know, I know; “What about the women’s title?” They’re working on it.

Darby challenged Vance as the man handpicked by Brodie Lee to join the Dark Order, and by the time the match got into full swing, he could barely fight off Vance’s power. 10 looked very impressive in his challenge to Darby, cleverly (and not shockingly) using his size and power advantage to muscle Allin around for most of the match. Hard punches, stalling vertical suplexes, just tossing the wiry skate punk champion around. Darby stumbled around the ring, nearly helpless, as Vance continued to manhandle him, only slipping out of it for a brief second by countering a gorilla press into a crossbody pin attempt. But 10 continued the attack, just beating Darby down. Darby slipped into a backpack Stunner and managed to lock in a Fujiwara armbar, keeping hold of it as 10 tried to escape and stomped his hand after he reached the ropes. 

I forgot Sting was even at ringside until 10 stared him down while catching his breath. Darby continued to work on Vance’s hand and managed to dive onto him and Alan Angels after 10 slipped out of the ring. Sting backed down the entire Dark Order without a bat, and Ethan Page ran in and slammed Darby’s head against the ring post while nobody was looking, blowing a kiss and running away. 10 nearly folded Darby in half with a wheelbarrow slingshot German Suplex. Darby tore at his mask to get out of the bearhug and pinned Vance while in the Full Nelson, ala Bret Hart at Wrestlemania VIII and Survivor Series 1996. 

After the match, Vance showed respect to Darby as Allin took the Brodie armband off and displayed it for the cameras to see. Ethan Page came back to the ring and Darby noticed, but not before Scorpio Sky jumped him from behind. The show ended with Scorp locking a heel hook on Sting while Page made Darby watch — before Vance and Lance Archer chased them off.

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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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