Week to week, it’s kind of difficult to figure out a way to contextualize an episode of AEW Dynamite. We’re long past the point where there’s something novel about there being another wrestling show on a major broadcast network, and everyone has decided to push the potential consequences of wrestling during a pandemic where proximity is a major factor of spread out of our minds. The world is falling apart or rebuilding depending on what Twitter accounts you follow, rendering the trials and travails of ripped bros in their undies the mere distraction it’s hellbent on being.
We can forget all of that for two hours, but I’m still struggling with the utter meaninglessness of wrestling right now, its storylines and angles and plans out of joint due to availability, willingness to work through the danger, or, in the case of AEW’s War Games match, it not being the right time to run something more ambitious than a show filled with promos and squash matches. AEW has, in my estimation, done the most given the limitations of this moment in history, debuting major signings and making unlikely stars out of wrestlers who’d been toiling on the indies for years before getting a shot, but everything still feels very slapdash and “let’s put on a show!” in a way I hoped it’d grow out of by now, but that it and its competition feel utterly satisfied with. That said, this was the most Wrestling Show feeling wrestling show I’ve seen in a minute, every match having clear, defined stakes, its angles and promos largely purposeful. If that seems like faint praise, it’s not—creatives across the spectrum are struggling to make meaning right now, and doing so in this atmosphere is something of an achievement. How big of an achievement was it? Like, a medium one. But still!
FTR def. The Butcher and the Blade
When FTR rolled to the ring in their cool old man truck for the benefit of, like, Mr. Ass and QT Marshall, I rolled my eyes real goddamn hard, and then I remembered that I was watching a match with dudes named Butcher, Blade, Dax, and Cash and wanted to perish from this earth. So it was to my great surprise that I actually enjoyed this match despite how disjointed it often was. Like, I find the “we’re old school guys who care about the rules of tag team wrestling” thing tiresome when old men do it on podcasts, so when young guys do it as a gimmick I’m left a little wanting, and given that this is nominally a heel vs. heel match you wound up with this weird situation where FTR were playing babyface for most of it. If FTR’s old school gimmick ends up including them running through a bunch of 1980s tag team finishers I am gonna get real tired of their shtick real fast, but aside from flubbing the Power and Glory superplex/splash double team, this was an enjoyable ride.
Grade: Any match where Chris Jericho rambles about trucker speed is gonna be okay by me.
Promo: FTR are gonna talk, which is not something I enjoy. They’re interrupted by the Young Bucks, whose talking I enjoy less. Before any of them can say much of anything, the Butcher and the Blade crash the party, which is doubly crashed by the British guys who work at different niche interest stores at the mall. Omega and Page put in an appearance, too, Page in a resplendent western shirt that makes me regret selling my collection of them. That AEW tag team division, it’s hot!
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Promo: Speaking of that hot AEW tag team division, QT Marshall and Dustin Rhodes have a tag team title shot next week. You’d think that’d be the best thing that ever happened to ol’ QT, but Allie is his girlfriend now, and they’re serious enough that he bought her a Nightmare Family track jacket, which neither actual rhodes standing with him seem appreciative of. Dustin is like “get your head right, man,” and QT is like “I’m married, but this is my new girlfriend,” and I’m not entirely sure that rankings system is actually, you know, useful to determining a goddamn thing.
Penelope Ford and Nyla Rose def. Hikaru Shida and Kris Statlander
Speaking of hot divisions that are actually kind of a letdown, here’s this tag match. It’s none of their faults, but it feels like the only woman with an angle in AEW is Britt Baker, and the rest is sorted out by “competition,” which would be great if there was something more to grasp onto. This was good, actually one of Penelope Ford’s better matches in AEW to this point, but if the idea here is that three of the women in this match are jockeying for a shot at Shida, Nyla Rose probably shouldn’t be cool with Ford getting the actual pin. Rose’s guillotine knee continues to be spectacular, and it’s kind of wild watching someone her size hop up to the top rope in one jump.
Grade: Any wrestling match with a billion references to Mr. Wrestling 2 is going to be alright by me.
"You don't need a doctor's notice to skate here. You're clear!" – @tonyhawk.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) June 11, 2020
Promo: DARBY ALLIN IS HANGING OUT WITH TONY HAWK. He’s not medically cleared to wrestle, but he doesn’t need a doctor’s order to SKATE AT TONY’S PARK. He sets up a ladder and tries to drop in off of it, and of course this doesn’t work. He eats shit a buuuunch. Then he hits it while wearing his coat, rides back, and high fives Tony Hawk. That was the best 60 seconds in wrestling history.
Best Friends and Orange Cassidy def. Santana, Ortiz, and Jake Hager
Best Friends have a tag title match coming up, but tonight it’s all about the beef between Orange Cassidy. I’m gonna skip past everything that happens in the match here except noting Jim Ross claiming that he met a bull of the woods once and that his “fat body ran as fast as it could,” not because of anything that’s wrong with the match, but because it’s a set-up for the post match Inner Circle beatdown of Chuck, Trent, and Orange. It’s ridiculous, y’all. Like, I’ve seen a lot of things in wrestling, but I’ve never seen anyone get beaten with a big bag of fruit before. Twenty pounds! They kept going on about it being twenty pounds of BLOOD ORANGES, because of the pun that results when you make Orange Cassidy bleed.
I am obsessed with the bag of oranges though, because you know what? If someone hit me with a 20 pound bag of oranges, it’d hurt like hell. And Orange was getting hit hard enough with the bag of oranges that they were dripping all over the place. A wild, stupid scene. A small blessing. I’m impressed not only with the gall of deciding “yeah, a bag of oranges is my weapon,” but with how the Inner Circle has avoided becoming a tired act by raising acts that aren’t The Elite up the card in ways that are tailored to their opposition. They’re one of the most smartly booked acts on television right now as a result.
Grade: Blood Orange Cassidy, get it?
Promo: MJF cuts and MJF promo about how good he is at promos, and Mr. Ass isn’t having any of it. MJF is offended that the Ass Man doesn’t take him seriously, so next week they’re going to have a match, Mr. Ass’ revenge upon the world for not winning the Dynamite Diamond Ring.
Sammy Guevara def. Colt Cabana
All of Colt Cabana’s matches are essentially about leverage and how his opponents respond to the basic fundamentals of wrestling. Cabana’s matches of late have been about how he’s prone to small errors that screw his whole thing up. So far as that angle goes, this was well-executed, and the right person got the win. Sammy eats a lot of pins without that being his thing, and Colt eats a lot of pins because it is his thing. After the match, the entire Dark Order, led by Brodie Lee, helped Colt to his feet. He looked just as confused about it this week as he did last week.
Grade: Totally fine. Wrestling!
Promo: Sammy stays in the ring to tell everyone that he’s the greatest, but here’s Matt Hardy, doing that thing where middle aged dudes are like “You remind me of a young me,” which, unlike when he did it with Private Party, is not received well. So Matt cycles through a bunch of his personas and it’s basically agonizing.
Promo: Joey Janela is drinking alone at a bar, which is probably because of the whole social distancing thing and not at all because he’s sad about losing his matches. Drunk, he leaves the bar and is picked up by Sonny Kiss. Maybe they’re gonna team? We get a “to be continued,” so maybe Sonny’s just giving him a ride.
Promo: Colt Cabana goes into the Dark Order’s locker room. Will we get Colt Cabana Dark? Time will tell.
Promo: Jon Moxley cuts his Jon Moxley promo in a parking lot. Like, Mox is a good promo, but the content is pretty much the same. You’re gonna have to kill him to take his title, etc. Taz, also in the parking lot, has had it up to here with that attitude, and his being there allows Brian Cage to sneak up and attack Mox. Cage looks like a weirdo in normal clothes, but man, every parking lot brawl involving a car is the same damn thing: one guy swings a metal object at the other and breaks a window instead, one guy slams the other guy on the roof, one guy goes through a windshield at the hands of the other guy. It’s real paint by numbers shit, the breath of fresh air being Taz trying to get Cage to stop because he’s sent his message, only for Cage to disobey and throw Mox through the windshield anyhow.
TNT Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) def. Marq Quen
Gonna be blunt here: I think the way they’re booking the TNT Championship around Cody’s insecurities about not being seen as a great wrestler is the wrong way to go about this. When John Cena did an open challenge series, it was about giving people who normally didn’t get wouldn’t wrestle John Cena the biggest opportunity of their careers, and it ruled because it allowed us to see other dimensions of Cena as a wrestler and the WWE’s crop of midcard talent as actual, serious talent. Here, it’s Cody wrestling like a total asshole, this time in a seemingly random match-up against a tag team specialist.
It’s disappointing because while AEW isn’t new anymore, many of its wrestlers are, and while this would have been a great time to put over Quen and talk about the importance of this match to his career and what a victory would mean for him, this is basically an extended squash match where Cody works over his injured leg. Quen gets a fair amount of spectacular offense in, keeping Cody off balance, but yeah—the ways in which undercard wrestlers keep established big guns like Cody on their toes are only as interesting as the story they give to the undercard wrestler, and Jungle Boy was dealt a much better card in that respect. Quen’s valiant effort doesn’t get the same celebration that Jungle Boy’s does, as Jake Hager hits the ring and wrecks a bunch of stuff until Private Party and Matt Hardy intervene. The normal AEW schmozz happens, Cody gives Hager a title shot at Fyter Fest, and we’re out.