Sting Is Alive? AEW Dynamite Recap and Review

After Monday’s Women’s Eliminator Tournament Special left me a little deflated, I found myself dreading the prospect of this week’s dynamite. Once you make a claim like “Dynamite can trim enough fat to fit a second women’s match on the show,” you’re kinda stuck looking for that fat. It’s not a fun way to watch wrestling, but as it turns out, the stuff I would have cut wasn’t entirely fun, either.

While I appreciate how good AEW’s production team is at dynamic hype videos and pre-tape interviews, this week’s slate only served to highlight that there’s really only one storyline as interesting or important as the Women’s Eliminator Tournament, that being the one where two men will blow each other up in an effort to win the AEW Championship. Despite that, there’s currently only one women’s match scheduled for AEW’s upcoming PPV.

It makes me sad, y’all, especially when the women’s division is capable of cranking out the best matches on any given Dynamite, as it did last night. Especially when Dynamite’s purpose is building up the midcard matches on an upcoming show. I’d like to be more positive about this episode of Dynamite—it wasn’t a blow-away classic, but it was an easily digestible two hours where the wrestling was good and the aforementioned build was solid—but at this point, it feels like being positive detracts from something that’s been bothering me about this company since its inception. But hey, a show happened, and I’d like to talk about it, too.

AEW

Jon Moxley def. Ryan Nemeth

I’m glad to see Nemeth get a prolonged shot on AEW television, but Mox shouldn’t be wrestling squash matches anymore. The function of a squash match is to instruct or remind the audience about a wrestler’s specific skillset, but Mox has been too dominant for too long, and three minutes against the Hollywood Hunk isn’t going to learn us anything new.

The match was functionally an excuse for Mox to grab a mic and respond to Omega challenging him to an exploding barbed wire death match at Revolution. When he posed the question “what images do the words exploding barbed wire death match stir in your mind” I was like “oh ho ho, let me tell you, Jon Moxley,” and then he was like “vintage Japanese wrestling magazines” and I was like “YEAH PRETTY MUCH, BUD.” He didn’t know that when he said he’d crawl through barbed wire and landmines for his title that someone would take it literally, but he’s stoked and can’t wait. Me, I’m a little concerned because there’s a decided difference between “exploding barbed wire” and “barbed wire ropes and landmines outside the ring,” but if a very rich wrestling company decides to go the Fire Pro Wrestling route because it can’t figure out how to attach bombs to barbed wire, I guess I’ll settle.

Promo: Fenix and Lance Archer were backstage, doing more build for their ladder match qualifier than any woman in the Women’s Championship Eliminator has done for that tournament. They brawled as a consequence of Fenix calling Archer the worst partner he’s ever had.

Pre-tape: The Young Bucks showed Mama and Papa Buck the AEW production truck that has their faces on it. The Parents Buck were very proud of their sons and wanted to take a picture with their boys. Mama Buck took the picture and did not get one of her own. Nice, boys.

AEW

Brian Cage and Ricky Starks def. Varsity Blonds

A pretty stock tag team match. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that the match was a formality, a set-up for the segment that followed. The Blonds are in that stage of their AEW careers where they can put up a good fight, but aren’t going to win against top tier talent. I don’t think they’ve quite found what they’re looking when it comes to gimmicks. Their team name is a tribute to Brian Pillman Jr.’s father’s Hollywood Blonds team with Steve Austin, but the Hollywood Blonds had a legitimately great gimmick and sense of themselves in that gimmick, and the Varsity Blonds are just guys. That’s something that develops over time, but it would add something to their obvious losses.

THE SCORPION DEATH DROP

After the match, a moody video featuring Sting dragging a body bag behind his midlife crisis muscle car played for the benefit of Starks and Cage. Within said body bag? Darby Allin, if the color saturation of the video didn’t tip you off. Sting’s music hit, and he walked out onto the ramp dragging a body bag behind him. Was Darby in the bag? Nope, it was Taz’s son Hook!

That bit of misdirection allowed Darby Allin to zipline to the ring from the upper bowl of Daily’s Place, the way his spiritual dad used to do in the 90s, before attacking Cage and Starks with his skateboard. Sting got revenge on Brian Cage, hitting a Stinger Splash and, finally, at last, a Scorpion Death Drop.

In previous AEW coverage, I predicted that Sting hitting the Scorpion Death Drop would make me cry. Well, my mom texted me right as Sting set Cage up for the move, and the text read “Sting is still alive?” so despite how amped I was to see it, I wound up laughing instead. Still, this was great, and while I’m looking forward to a definitive end to this feud, they’ve built to it extremely well.

Pre-tape: Tony conducted a backstage interview with Miro, Kip, and Penelope. Despite it being Kip and Penelope’s wedding that was ruined, Miro was the focus. He called Orange Cassidy a walking Xanax and planted the image of Chuck Taylor polishing his kettlebells in my mind—the kind of thing I wish we saw when Chuck was Miro’s butler.

Mid-interview, Tony received a note from Chuck in the old “will you date me, y/n/maybe, circle one” format, which Miro read literally, even pronouncing “xoxo.” He invited Chuck back under his tutelage and promised to make him a real man in exchange for polished kettlebells and other services.

AEW

Jake Hager def. Brandon Cutler

Given how my brain keeps wandering to “this could have been a women’s match territory” during down moments of the show, I was never the right audience for a competitive squash between the least compelling member of the Inner Circle and a dungeon master.

The point, like the previous two matches, was to set-up the segment that followed. After the bell, Hager and the rest of the Inner Circle beat Cutler up, prompting the Bucks to come to the rescue. They called out Jericho and MJF, who were backstage with a bloodied Papa Buck. They threw him into the truck with Matt and Nick’s faces twice, once for each son, and bailed. Papa Buck has a very powerful “The Miz’s Dad, But Self-Aware” vibe to him, so I was mostly like “that’s what you get for not letting your wife into the picture.”

AEW

Hangman Page def. Isiah Kassidy

I liked this match a lot! I like most matches that realize that a secondary finisher can finish a match, which is what happened here! I’m not at all sold on Big Money Matt—he has the same problem that most of AEW’s managers do, which is that they spent so much time functioning as featured talent that his transition to a support role has a learning curve—but I liked the moment in the match where Hardy’s distraction led to Page’s pals John Silver and Alex Reynolds successfully lobbying for Hardy’s removal from the match.

Kassidy is an effective heel, which isn’t an easy thing to do as a high flyer, and is even harder to do when your heel turn was predicated upon a shaky angle and a nebulous understanding of he and Marq Quen as true babyfaces. The heel turn has made him work more deliberately, and it was kind of neat to see classic strategy like working Page’s lariat arm collide with an admitted lack of mastery over submission moves. Page, for his part, never slows down. I love him because he wrestles every match like it’s the most important one on the card, and this was no exceptions. He had two extremely nice sequences here, catching a moving Kassidy with a rolling DVD at one point, and countering a springboard Destroyer attempt with a Deadeye for the win.

After the match, Hardy lambasted Page for choosing the Dark Order over him and promised to hurt every member of the stable for Page’s choice. To make good on it, he threw V through a table to the horror of Silver and Reynolds.

Pre-tape: Alex Marvez walked in on a woodworking class, where Kenny Omega was building a “Moxley Extermination Chamber.” I’m just upset that they showed Kenny golfing instead of constructing a gusset plate board.

AEW

AEW Women’s Championship Eliminator: Nyla Rose def. Britt Baker

A BANGER, FOLKS. This match faced a real challenge, as Baker and Rose are the two most established heels in AEW’s women’s division, and neither one seemed like a good fit for the role of de facto babyface. I was wrong, as Nyla Rose slipped into that role convincingly, to the extent that it’s worth wondering if Rose can turn face full-time. This week also made a convincing argument that Rose works best as a solo act, though I think my thoughts on that matter have a lot to do with AEW not giving the Rose/Vickie Guerrero unit enough time to gel.

I was completely faked out by the false finish that kicked off the back half of the match, as interference from Rebel, the referee not doing anything about it, and some shenanigans with an exposed turnbuckle had me convinced that Baker was going to cheat in ways that should have gotten her disqualified in full view of the referee en route to victory. Then Rose powered out of Lockjaw, kept powering out of Lockjaw.

At that point, it was a matter of who’d throw their best shot at the right time. Baker’s thrust kicks felt like they had more oomph. Rose desperately landing a straight punch to Baker’s jaw was satisfying. The false finishes were excellent, particularly Baker’s kickout of Rose’s penultimate Beast Bomb. Baker went for one superkick too many, ate a second Beast Bomb for it, and got eliminated. I wouldn’t call this the best match of the tournament, but it was the first that had the right amount of desperation for something of its scope and ambition, and is maybe the millionth argument in favor of more regularly featuring these women on television. SORRY TO BE A BROKEN RECORD, BUT IT’S TRUE.

Face of the Revolution Qualifier Match: Lance Archer def. Fenix

I hate ladder matches, and I hate them even more the more people there are in them, so there is no getting me in the mood for a scramble ladder match on a show that is promising bombs and barbed wire. Fenix and Archer is an interesting enough match on paper, but given that they’re at the top of the AEW pecking order and next week’s qualifying match between 10 and Max Castor is pitched more towards the middle, I’d like to know how we got here, specifically.

I’m not Lance Archer’s biggest fan, but I get what he’s doing and can see what others see in him. When someone like Fenix is pinballing around for him? It works. That’s what happened here. I think Tony was overselling the greatness of this match a notch or seven, as it didn’t really go past second gear for me. There wasn’t any extra heat on what the two brought to the notion of qualifying for this ladder match, no special resiliency or determination to not be put down, like the match it followed. But if they want to do a 30-minute epic in the future, this match proves that they can. A solid main event on a solid show.

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Colette Arrand

Colette Arrand is a minor transsexual poet and nu-metal enthusiast.

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