53 weeks ago, the landscape of American professional wrestling underwent a paradigm shift with the TNT debut of AEW Dynamite. It has been a fun ride so far, even when most of the year has been a huge trash fire (outside and inside the world of professional wrestling). Although I get paid to do so half the time, I’ve dutifully watched the show every week— even through its pandemic doldrums— which is more than I can say for basically any other weekly wrestling program available.
Last week, since Chris Jericho’s anniversary date in the business coincides with the premiere date of Dynamite, he (and AEW) celebrated thirty years as a wrestler with what Colette precisely referred to as a deep cut (in a tag match with Dr. Luther on the opposing team) and hitting a clown flush with a Judas Effect while MJF continues to suck up to him; Cody won back his TNT Championship in an exceptional dog collar match; big Will Hobbs had a great showing in his loss against Brian Cage for the FTW Championship; Kenny Omega seemed a little shook by “Hangman” Adam Page’s inclusion in the number-one contender’s tournament; and Big Swole had a banger of a match against Serena Deeb to set up her AEW World Women’s Championship match.
AEW World Tag Team Championship Match: FTR def. Best Friends
First up is the traditional 60-minute time limit match for the AEW World Tag Team Championships. Best Friends have been on a roll since their wild brawl with Santana & Ortiz, but they’ve been a longtime favorite of mine (being, as I’ve mentioned, a PWG stan since back in the day) and have been deepening their in-ring game lately. FTR have been ballyhooed as saviors of tag team wrestling since moving up the ranks of NXT. And both teams are laying their shit in tonight.
They’re leaning into their arm drags; they’re chopping each other onto their knees; even a drop toe hold looks devastating in the early moments of this match. FTR, as usual, channel Arn and Tully in Jim Crockett Promotions, baiting the fans while engaging their deeply efficient style. The sparse crowd, after FTR jaw-jacks with them through out the match swells with Best Friends chants. Jim Ross calls Trent a racehorse while he trades chops with Dax Harwood. FTR have been taking it to the skies more in latter day matches, as commentary speculates they’re taking shots at the Young Bucks.
Chuck gets the hot tag and cleans house like a fire. Tully gets involved, and Chuck gets distracted by wanting to get his hands on him, and gets hit from behind. Trent hits a running knee strike hard and only gets a two-count. He settles for knocking Dash Wheeler on his ass. Dax gets frustrated after an FTR double-team and a nice Saito Suplex doesn’t get the job done.
The match hits a crescendo as everyone DDT’s each other in chaotic succession. Best Friends hit Strong Zero, but Wheeler interrupts the count. Trent and Dash make their way out to Kip’s arcade cabinet— which the show teased him and Penelope Ford playing in the open of the episode— and Trent crushes it after a missed spear. Kip is dejected and sends Penelope to grab Miro presumably. A battered Trent tries to fight off both members of FTR, slipping out of Goodnight Express. Chuck goes for the comeback as Harwood misses a belt shot from behind. Harwood knocks the referee out of the way as he reverses a waistlock, just as Wheeler hits Chuck with the belt and FTR gets the pin.
Grade: I enjoyed it! I like FTR’s style as I’ve noted before, and most of the time, they adapt to their opponents very well. This was no exception.
After the match, Miro kicks Best Friends’ collective ass.
“The Best Man” Miro & Kip Sabian def. Sean Maluta & Lee Johnson
Miro starts the match by giving Sean Maluta a hard shot. I love how Kip pairing with Miro is wholly an advantage for Kip, as he is in this tag team with someone so talented and … effective. Kip being an opportunist has only been a small part of his character thus far, but with Miro, this trait is much more pronounced. Miro steamrolls Maluta without even breaking a sweat. He taunts Lee Johnson for good measure and then knocks him off the apron with one punch. Kip gets tagged in, hits a splash, and tags out. Miro slaps on Game Over for the win.
Grade: A pretty fantastic showcase for Miro. Lee Johnson not even getting tagged in was a wonderful aspect of the match.
After the match, Kip gets on the mic and runs down Best Friends for breaking Kip’s arcade cabinet (named Alan). Miro threatens “Good Friends”— his best intentional misnaming since “Bob Roode”— and says it’s game over for them.
Backstage Segment: Lance Archer is beating the shit out of Mox backstage.
Announcer’s Desk Segment: The brackets for the number-one contender’s tournament are revealed. For the most part, it looks like an easy walk to the finals for both Hangman and Kenny, but Fenix vs. Penta in the first round is an interesting setup. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Kenny vs. Hangman is a lock for the finals, but I suppose you never know; a curveball might be thrown.
I’ve got a very bold prediction for the future of the AEW World Championship. Maybe I’ll share it here soon.
MJF Makes His “Huge Announcement”
Max makes his way to the ring, Wardlow in tow like always. MJF thinks the fans are jealous of him because of what he has accomplished over the past year. He invites Chris Jericho to attend this purported huge announcement, and Jericho does join, flanked by the Inner Circle like always. The Inner Circle members are wearing their jackets and it appears as though Sammy Guevara finally got his, but he’s carrying his, probably because he got it two weeks late. Jericho basically forces Sammy to put on his jacket, and it looks like it’s three sizes too big. (Sammy still paying his karmic debt, obviously.)
After minutes of tomfoolery, Jericho wants Max to cut the shit. Max says, “The two biggest minute-to-minute draws are looking at each other, eye to eye…” He compares the two of them to predators and says they should team up. After a couple tries, Max says he wants to “maybe, possibly, etc.” join the Inner Circle. The rest of the group are vehemently against the idea, even Ortiz, who takes the mic to say so. Jericho then invites Max to a steak dinner Wednesday, and Max accepts. Jericho basically asking Max out on a date but making it seem like macho posturing was a pretty funny touch.
Segment: Tony Schiavone is getting a massage with his good friend Dr. Britt Baker. Dr. Baker is getting a full skincare treatment as Tony interviews her. Dr. Baker says, “Adversity causes some to break and others to break records. My comeback match [which isn’t until next week] is being written in the record books as we speak.” Reba (Rebel) comes crashing in with the display paper listing The Rules of Being a Role Model. Rule #5, apparently bequeathed to Dr. Baker from J.R.: “Be the baddest bitch on the block.” She discovers Tony is naked under his towel and her and Reba (Rebel) go into a frenzy. And then they wax Tony’s chest, which is pretty fun.
TNT Championship Match: Orange Cassidy vs. Cody (c) goes to a time-limit draw.
Cody is back to blonde, it appears. I hope Big Match Black makes a return one day.
After Cody threatened to engage with a collar-and elbow tie-up with Cassidy on Twitter ahead of this match, I’ve been personally looking forward to it. I just want Orange to engage in some basic-ass chain wrestling just to shut his haters up! Cody’s John Cena U.S. Championship Open Challenge-ass first reign with the TNT title was as successful as the reign it has garnered immediate and steadfast comparisons to; those matches were mostly really good stuff. I find his Cool Boss character a little off— presenting himself in all his slick, corporate splendor but wanting to be the prestige hero—but his matches this year have almost entirely have been great.
Darby Allin watches from the 300 section. Arn Anderson is studying his Waffle House menu. Cody teases forcing a hit on Orange and finally goes for the collar-and-elbow but misses. Cassidy puts his hands in his pockets after teasing a test of strength and Cody slaps the aviator shades off his face. But then they do lock up. Twice! Cody goes for a waistlock, Orange puts both hands in his pockets and kicks Cody off with both feet. Cody often feels flabbergasted by the genius of Orange Cassidy, but eventually gets the upper hand.
Cody gets knocked into the crowd, where the Dark Order (minus Brodie Lee) are watching the show. They all have a staredown, and John Silver comes in from behind to hit Cody with the belt. Cassidy takes it from Silver and Silver gets kicked out of the ringside area. For a split second, it seemed as though Cass was considering braining Cody with the title. But he passes it to Arn and gets back into the ring. It is revealed Darby Allin will be challenging for the TNT Championship at Full Gear.
Our Cool Boss continues to dominate— subsequent to a few brief comebacks by Orange— and starts to show off a little, which we know Arn hates. Cody is a little more aggressive than usual at various points in the match, a character trait which occasionally shows up when he’s facing someone he doesn’t think is on his level (he similarly lost focus in matches with Sonny Kiss and WARHORSE). Cassidy hits a huge diving DDT for a two-count. He nails a Michinoku Driver and gets another two-count. As the clock winds down, Orange struggles to break free from the Figure Four. Finally, the ropes are reached, but Cody makes Paul Turner physically separate him and Orange’s legs.
Cassidy hits a Beach Break on the apron and struggles to get Cody in the ring before the count reaches ten, but he makes it in time. Cody kicks out of another Beach Break with seconds remaining. Orange ducks out of the Crossrhodes and secures a cradle, but time runs out as Paul Turner is counting.
Grade: As the fans boo, I have to say I’m a fan of time limit draws. I think it’s kinda weird when fans don’t accept it as a finish, because it builds up both characters, as nobody won!
Backstage Interview: Lance Archer and Jake “the Snake” Roberts are speaking with Alex Marvez, but before Jake gets too many words in, Mox is there trying to get to Archer. Referees and security are separating the two as Archer lays one of them out.
Ringside Interview: Matt Hardy is being interviewed at ringside, his family along with him, and says he’s fully cleared to return. Immediately after, there’s a video of Sammy burning Hardy merch and talking about how their feud won’t be over until Sammy puts Hardy out of AEW for good. He reveals himself as the person who attacked Matt Hardy from behind, even though it was no big mystery. That every time he gets cleared, Sammy will be there to put him back on the shelf until he can’t get cleared anymore.
There is a Lottery in the Ring for the Four-Way #1 Contender’s Match Wednesday
Here are the participants:
- Private Party
- John Silver and Alex Reynolds of the Dark Order
- The Butcher and the Blade
- The Young Bucks
Seems like the Bucks are on a collision course to that “dream” match with FTR, an encounter people have been waiting on for years. Tony is looking a little apprehensive, but the Bucks tell him they’re not here to superkick him, they’re here to superkick everybody else. And so the superkicks fly, and the Bucks trash the lottery which gives way to a brawl. They’re standing tall in the ring with Private Party, Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen get superkicks for their trouble.
AEW World Women’s Championship Match: Hikaru Shida (c) def. Big Swole
Hikaru Shida has been a great champion, but I’ve been shouting that Big Swole should be AEW World Women’s Champion since she was unsigned and wrestling on Dark. Shida and Swole start with a handshake and Swole gets a facelock on, to which Shida counters into a facelock of her own, to which Swole counters into a wristlock. Lots of savvy counterwrestling in the opening minutes of this match. Shida keeps up with Swole’s power game, somehow miraculously, but gets shoved into the cameraman as the show goes to a commercial break.
They bring the fight to the outside for a few and Shida displays her toughness. Back in the ring, she counters Swole’s crucifix into a big Samoan Drop. Swole misses Dirty Dancing and Shida hits her with a Straightjacket German Suplex. Swole goes for Dirty Dancing again, hits it, but Shida grabs the rope. Eventually, Shida hits Tamashii for the win.
Grade: Swole is a perennial top contender, so a little build up would have been nice, but the match itself was very, very good as it was.
Before the commercial, Eddie Kingston, Fenix, and Pentagon come to the announcer’s table for the main event.
Highlight Package: Apparently, there is a feud brewing between Shawn Spears and Scorpio Sky, with Spears saying Sky stole his moment and he pledges to take it back from him.
No Disqualification AEW World Championship Match: Jon Moxley (c) def. Lance Archer
Jon Moxley’s reign as the AEW World Champion has been remarkable, but not just in the context of the matches. He has had punishing encounters with some of the biggest and toughest challengers the company has to offer (including but not limited to Jake Hager, Brodie Lee, and Brian Cage), but more importantly than that, he has given us a long reign from the perspective of the grouchy, fatalistic world champion. Usually world championships are a symbol of honor and prestige (like with Dusty Rhodes) or a status symbol or a bigger payday (Ric Flair), or the simple distinction of being the top star in professional wrestling (virtually every other champion ever). Mox does relish in being the top of the food chain, but realizes the top of the food chain oftentimes gets hunted for sport. Mox perfectly encapsulates the weary world champion who knows longevity as world champion is a miracle not many men can perform, and he may be on borrowed time.
A member of the production team gets smashed through a plate glass display by Archer. The match starts before Justin Roberts’ ring announcements. Mox gets a Paradigm Shift on Archer immediately but only gets a two-count. It doesn’t take long for the match to leave the ring. J.R. gets a little snippy and Kingston puts him in his place (and later puts Tony in his). Mox and Archer go back into the ring and nearly immediately back out, with Archer hitting a somersault senton off the apron.
Mox, of course, spends a good portion of the match getting battered by Archer as Jake excitedly looks on. Tables are being set up and chairs are being used in this No DQ match. Mox goes for a kneebar and Archer makes it to the ropes, but he’s reminded by referee Bryce Remsburg of the lack of rules in this match, so Archer eventually breaks the hold by crawling to the ground. Eventually, the trash can comes into play, and Archer nails Mox with it. Soon, they’re out on the apron, where Mox hits a low blow and a Paradigm Shift off the apron and onto the tables.
Inside the ring, Mox hits another Paradigm Shift and Archer kicks out! Mox goes for the Bulldog Choke and really lays it in, but Archer breaks the hold by making it to his feet. Archer hits a DDT and hits a Blackout on Mox. but Mox counters it into a crucifix and gets the three-count!
Grade: Maybe not quite as good as his match with Brodie Lee at Double or Nothing, but one of Archer’s better matches in my opinion. Exciting stuff.
After the match, Archer tries to continue the fight with Mox, but Kingston, Fenix, and Penta run him off. Kingston grabs a mic, regaling stories of him and Mox drinking together in Philly. He asks Fenix to bring Mox his title as he tells Mox although he didn’t submit to the Bulldog Choke, he’s proud of Mox and he knew Mox could do it. He says he wants to raise Mox’s hand, but instead hits the backfist and locks in a rear naked choke. He taunts with the title to close out this week’s episode.