The Wedding Planner’s Retribution: AEW Dynamite Recap and Review

Or: The Arrogance of Blind Patriotism

Of course, the big story coming out of last week’s Dynamite was Blood & Guts (and a 50-year-old man falling 10 feet into a crash pad), but a lot of moving parts for last night’s absolutely stacked episode were put into motion as well. A match to determine Kenny Omega’s challenger for Double or Nothing between PAC and Orange Cassidy was announced, which gave Omega the opportunity to accuse Orange of gimmick infringement (quite possibly showing AEW’s hand regarding their top title match on Memorial Day Weekend). Miro let us in on his contract for a TNT Championship match against Darby Allin … not too long after Darby was literally thrown down a flight of concrete stairs and apparently fucked up his shoulder. SCU won the opportunity to face the Young Bucks for the tag team championships—and remember Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels have said their tag team will end after their next loss. 

And let’s not forget last night’s true main event, NAGATA VS. MOX. I feel as though the term “dream match” has devolved into cliche, but Yuji Nagata—a stalwart, beloved wrestler; as real as it gets as far as veterans go—returning to TNT after nearly 23 years feels like a big fucking deal! In the hallway of forbidden doors, the one where Jon Moxley gets to face every dope wrestler in NJPW is by far the best one. If that’s what was all that came out of the whole “forbidden door” concept, I would be fully satisfied. I just wish they would use his all-time banger NJPW entrance theme. (For another website, I said it sounds like Black Mountain covering the Melvins, and I stand by that comparison.)

The only downside to such a packed night (and such a huge match last week) is that it could overshadow Double or Nothing itself, but I have faith AEW is pacing their storytelling exactly the way they want. And if not, I’ll use this space to mercilessly dissect it from a critical standpoint like I always do!

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Match: Jon Moxley def. Yuji Nagata

It was absolutely heartwarming to see Ren Narita—who has spent the entirety of the pandemic on American excursion—seconding Nagata. Equally heartwarming to hear Mox being played out to “Wild Thing,” staple of every boomer with a Thunderbird’s garage kegger. (Tony Khan has made good on his promise to bring music licensing to mainstream pro wrestling!) My kingdom for a Mox/Onita deathmatch for the “Wild Thing” licensing rights!

The match didn’t start off with any frills, as expected; Mox and Nagata went right after each other from the word go, spilling out to the ring early and finding Nagata narrowly beating a ten-count. This match was especially interesting because in 20 years, I could totally see Mox in the Nagata role as the “universally beloved tough old bastard who by some way of miracle is still wrestling.” The match was hard-hitting as fuck with quite a few cleverly placed spots (like the sliding lariat for the quick pinning attempt after Mox got kicked into the ropes).

Mox was clearly having a great time here; you can tell by the way he sold Nagata’s kicks and suplexes. Not after long, Mox invited Nagata for some of those famous forearm shots and they slugged it out in the ring for a spell. Mox gave Nagata the double bird salute before receiving a stiff kick from Nagata; thankfully only getting a two count. Nagata got the armbreaker in and entered his famous fugue state, but Mox made the ropes. A Paradigm Shift on Nagata sealed the win for Mox.

After the match, Mox bowed in respect for Nagata and Nagata did the same.

Backstage Interview: The Inner Circle offered a synopsis of Blood & Guts’ aftermath; not just Jericho getting thrown off the cage, but Santana being detained for stabbing Max with a fork. Sammy Guevara noted the conflict between the Inner Circle and the Pinnacle will never ever be over, and Jake Hager said that MJF and his crew failed in their mission to take them out. They demanded a rematch, otherwise the Pinnacle’s so-called “coronation” will be more like a funeral.

Our Cool Boss Lets Us Know His Pay-Per-View Plans

Cody started by noting patriotism is old hat, that it’s not cool to be proud of being an American, which elicited a few half-hearted “USA” chants. You know where this is going: Cody went in on Anthony Ogogo and his (boilerplate) hatred of this country, but he has a visa courtesy of the American government, he works for an American company. (My fears of QT Marshall getting put on the back burner after performing the miracle of being a good enough heel to make me want to see Cody win came to life tonight. Now it’s back to being nonplussed by Our Cool Boss.)

Cody’s promo was alright in the sense of noting the division of ideals being fought for every day in this country, but also leaned on some pretty well-worn American tropes—including “my beautiful biracial child.” This has got to be some sort of potential footage for that Senate run he keeps half-joking about. Rhodes announced that Double or Nothing will be attended in full capacity (which sparked some insane post-COVID body horror for me), and formally challenged Ogogo to a match at the pay-per-view, saying he will not be facing the American Nightmare, he will be “the American Dream” Cody Rhodes.

I applaud Cody for doing his best to sell this angle, but while we’re talking about 2021—still reeling after the unprecedented coverage of police killing unarmed Black people for several consecutive years, still reeling after a full four-year term of the most deliriously, dangerously craven and ignorant presidency America has ever seen—aren’t half-assed nationalistic angles a little passé? Hasn’t the false ideal of American exceptionalism already been dragged into a blinding spotlight as a tool of imperialism? Maybe what we need is a British hero to punch Cody’s insides into mashed potatoes. I’ll fly a Union Jack outside of my house, I don’t give a fuck.

AEW

AEW World Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks (c) def. SCU

Week after week, the Young Bucks are slowly turning into the tag team I’ve been wanting them to be since AEW’s inception; they’re snotty, obnoxious assholes who exclusively wrestle in Jordans and wear dangly earrings. In their monumental initial heel run, they took everything their critics didn’t like about them and spammed it repeatedly in their faces. Here, they embrace being probably the highest-paid tag team in the world by a wide margin while deepening their game, proving they actually can wrestle instead of just performing acrobatic spots and throwing that in their critics’ faces. Not too long ago, it seemed as though a tag team title match between these two teams might have been a reluctant, weepy love story of a match (a la Michaels vs. Flair at WrestleMania 24). This was the match it rightfully should have been.

The Bucks and SCU have faced each other dozens of times, and being as such, their match was filled with subtle callbacks and familiar spots. That’s not to say it wasn’t good; these two teams together never once had a bad match. The encounter escalated when Nick Jackson busted Daniels open by superkicking him into the ring post and busting him wide open (and then taking a moment to laugh about it after). The Jackson brothers picked up a sense of urgency when they realized they were basically wrestling a handicap match against Kazarian. Even then, Kaz nearly eked out a win, but Doc Gallows (in a … tie-dye t-shirt and a leather bucket hat?) was there to distract Rick Knox. Kaz persevered, hitting a Styles Clash for the near fall. Daniels somehow made his way back into the match, only to get speared and beat down by the elder Jackson. 

Callis on commentary bemoaned Daniels bleeding all over Jackson’s shoes, which the commentary team referred to as sociopathic, but I’ve seen bad things happen to people who had the bad fortune of bleeding on somebody’s Jordans in the hood.

With Daniels’ blood all over him, Matt mocked the Michaels/Flair finish with a superkick, but only could keep him down for a two-count. Daniels slipped on his first attempt for a Best Moonsault Ever, made the second, and still got a two-count. Shenanigans like the cold spray were involved, but the BTE Trigger was what finally sealed the deal. 

During the break, Daniels and Kazarian embraced for the final time as a tag team. Their decade-long run as a tag team has come to an end. Later that evening, Daniels alluded to retirement on Twitter.

Backstage Incident: Mox and Kingston stormed the Elite’s dressing room and started throwing shit around, while Tony Schiavone bemoaned the general destruction of property but encouraged this one instance of it. It might be time for the Young Bucks to answer the call. 

Interview: Dasha interviewed Christian Cage about Taz, saying he has an open contract and intends to challenge any member of Team Taz that is able to step up. Before he could talk about being in the Casino Battle Royale, Matt Sydal interrupted, saying he is the one who took that open challenge, and that he’ll go on to win the Casino Battle Royal at Double or Nothing.

AEW

#1 Contender’s Match: Orange Cassidy vs. PAC wrestle to a double count-out

Orange started the match by putting his sunglasses on PAC, to which PAC (rather predictably) smashed the fuck out of them with his bare hands. PAC went to rush Orange but ended up getting caught in the Beach Break! (He was only down long enough for a two-count, though.) Once Cassidy hit a dive to the outside, he pulled out a spare pair of shades. Brilliant. 

There’s a good reason why this Revolution rematch is what will decide who will face Omega at Double or Nothing; while Cass’ lethargy has made him one of the most beloved characters in all of pro wrestling, PAC is one of the art form’s greatest talents because he’s such a fucking try-hard. PAC puts more effort into his stomps than most wrestlers put into even their most elaborate finishing moves. PAC naturally dominated the lion’s share of this match, using his unreal blend of speed, power, and agility to grind Orange into low pulp. PAC’s first attempt at a Black Arrow was thwarted by a slow roll, as was his second, followed by a smile and a thumbs up. An enraged PAC lost focus long enough for Cassidy to gain a momentary advantage before PAC stuffed him with a kick and a high stack Liger Bomb. 

While Orange was attended to by the ringside doctor, Don Callis came out to berate PAC while Omega nailed the Bastard in the back of the head with the AEW World Championship. Aubrey Edwards counted both competitors out, and Omega and Callis celebrated having Memorial Day Weekend off. Tony came to the stage to announce a triple threat match between himself and the two competitors who were just counted out. Omega and Callis were appropriately apoplectic. 

Backstage Segment: The Young Bucks and the Good Brothers complained about their locker room getting trashed. (Gallows’ shirt says “Good Brother Summer,” which sounds like White Boy Summer in the seventh circle of hell, where every day is a boat party on a lake of fire and the only thing to drink is warm Coors Light.) Matt Jackson ran down SCU, challenged the Varsity Blondes to a title match next week, and finally threw down the gauntlet for Kingston and Mox at Double or Nothing. 

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez spoke to “Hangman” Adam Page and the Dark Order about Page’s loss to Brian Cage. Dark Order’s unabashed friend-crush on Hangman is one of the more feelgood things on the show, but I’m also glad the dynamic is only delivered to us in short segments like this. Hangman knew who was calling the shots (Taz), so he challenged Cage to a rematch—one on one—at Double or Nothing. I’m totally cool with running that one back!

AEW

The Pinnacle’s Coronation (For What, I Have No Idea)

MJF claimed to be the Demo God after taking Jericho’s crown, as well as the King of AEW and the Greatest of All-Time. (That’s not exactly how regicide works, but whatever.) I was ready to say Max might finally be stepping into his own before he referenced “mouthbreathing poors,” so he’s still not quite as good as he thinks he is. I gotta admit, this promo wasn’t really anything to write home about. Max said some words, Tully said some words (although he made a good point: “surrender is surrender”) and then unveiled watches for the group (more Horsemen tropes, of course). 

Then, a horn started blaring, which was revealed as the Inner Circle on an ATV pulling a trailer of some sort, labeled “A Little Bit of the Bubbly.” After Max said some words about Jericho never coming back, there he was, Jericho in the trailer challenging them again. After the challenge for a rematch was rebuffed again, Sammy gave the Pinnacle a champagne bath. An irate MJF answered the challenge and issued one of his own: Stadium Stampede! He also upped the ante; if the Inner Circle lose to the Pinnacle again at Double or Nothing, they must break up. 

The champagne bath might be the clearest instance of AEW rehashing wrestling tropes of yesteryear. There’s a huge difference between Tony Khan bringing Memphis-ass wrestling concepts into today’s wrestling landscape, but “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s beer bath is one of the most remembered moments in the last 25 years of WWE, something that company never shies away from replaying when they’re feeling nostalgic for their most popular work. As part of a generation obsessed with media, I feel like there are so many potentially cool ideas pro wrestling hasn’t tried yet, and for a company who pats themselves on the back for being an alternative to WWE, why would they possibly blatantly rehash an image WWE would never let us forget?

Jim Ross Interviews Dr. Britt Baker

They jumped right into the interview, where Jim Ross asked about the event last year where Hikaru Shida broke Dr. Baker’s nose. She replied that the match motivated her to become, in Ross’ words, “the baddest bitch on the block.” Throughout the interview, Dr. Baker maintained she has been the face of AEW’s women’s division, “the heart, the soul, the pulse. When something has a pulse, you don’t need a machine to keep it alive.” It wasn’t Dr. Baker’s most compelling interview to be sure, but a decent spotlight for her ahead of what I’m hoping will be a women’s championship win.

Thunder Rosa def. Jazmin Allure

While commentary spent most of the match talking about Dr. Baker, Rosa trucked through Allure. This seemed like a clear setup to a(n AEW World Women’s Championship) match with Dr. Britt Baker? Just putting that out into the universe. *whispers* It should main event All Out or Full Gear, just saying.

Backstage Segment: Tony interviewed Jade Cargill about Mark Sterling’s proposal on Dark: Elevation. She basically said she’s listening to management offers, but she handles her own business. 

AEW

TNT Championship Match: Miro def. Darby Allin (c)

Darby drove around his hometown of Seattle after being asked about his shoulder (“I don’t have time to think about that”), and went into the rather dingy house he said he grew up in. Darby cut a very good promo on Miro, talking about Miro’s reference to the glass ceiling when he came into AEW without having done anything since except play video games and plan weddings. 

Before Darby entered the ring, Miro went into full beatdown mode, throwing him all over the ring before Darby could even get his jacket off. After whipping him into the guard rail, Miro asked the camera, “AM I UNDERWHELMING? AM I UNDERWHELMING?” It’s not really an astute observation to say Miro dominated the match; he willed the crowd to continue cheering for Darby while suplexing him clear over the rail. Paul Turner spent a good portion of the match emphatically asking Darby if he was able to start the match. When the bell rang, Miro hit his huge thrust kick and laid Darby out, but only for two. Darby tried valiantly to get Miro off his feet and after several moves, managed to do so with a truly reckless dive. On offense, Darby is at his very best when he’s literally throwing himself at his opponents like this, because it’s believable. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that he really is willing to kill himself to win a match, to keep his title. Miro caught Darby on the Coffin Drop and suplexed him yet again. Scorpio Sky chop blocked Sting during the break, so there’s that.

This was basically the prototypical match between Darby and a power wrestler as an opponent (with the added wrinkle being his shoulder injury from last week’s incident with Ethan Page), but there’s a reason why it works so well. Darby’s not just “good at selling,” he makes viewers truly believe his opponents are fucking him up. It’s kind of like Cactus Jack’s style, only Darby rarely is evenly matched in size against his opponent, so it’s way easy to watch him getting beaten up and get lost in the story. Late in the match, Miro focused on Darby’s arm and shoulder, sadistically throwing him shoulder-first into the turnbuckles and directly into the ring ropes. Sting looked legitimately concerned and offered a fist bump in solidarity. Then Darby picked up the speed, but got caught in the Coffin Drop again. In the closing moments, Miro quickly locked in Game Over, pulled Darby back in an excruciating position, and Paul Turner called it, awarding Miro the championship. 

As the show closed, Lance Archer came after Miro as Jake Roberts held him back.

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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, 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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