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Photo courtesy of AEW
The go-home show before a major pay-per-view event is a tricky bit of business, capable of befuddling even the most creative people in the industry. Not only do you have to fill two hours with entertaining television, but it’s your last chance to focus people’s attention on the event you want them to reach into their wallets just a few days later.
The question you have to ask after it is all over is a simple one—did anything fans saw make them more excited about paying actual money for a televised wrestling card?
I suspect, after Wednesday’s Dynamite, that answer is almost certainly no.
But, even if it wasn’t the greatest sales tool for the pay-per-view, Dynamite still had plenty of stellar moments. Unfortunately, there were just as many rocket ships that failed to launch.
We’ll break it down together and you can tell me what you think in the comments.
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This wasn’t the best night for Chuck Taylor and Trent against Santana and Ortiz. Not only did the Best Friends fail to get revenge for Trent’s mom’s minivan, but they looked a little rough around the edges trying to carry what is traditionally a work-rate heavy opening segment on Dynamite.
All the trappings were there, including an amazing Jenga-style stack of chairs that Chuck built mid-match. That he was the architect of his own demise, eventually getting tossed into his own torture device was a metaphor, I guess, for this match.
The bar has been set very high for the first match of the night on TNT—and, as much as I love them, they didn’t reach that level.
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The Elite are not okay.
Not only was “Hangman” Adam Page unceremoniously removed from the super-group last week, but his team with Kenny Omega seems to be hanging by a very thin string. They’ve been dominant champions for months—but somehow that hasn’t been enough to make either man happy.
This is a friendship and an athletic partnership that remains balanced on very precarious ground.
Waiting to take advantage are FTR, the former NXT tag champs looking to make it big in AEW after floundering on the WWE’s main roster. You’d think, with their opponents struggling, these two would be clear winners. But they weren’t able to deliver a clean promo to sell the big match and looked shockingly small compared to Omega (who is certainly no giant).
This match has the most intrigue of anything on the pay-per-view this weekend. But you wouldn’t know it from their Dynamite segment.
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Cheated out of a shot at tag team gold last week, the Young Bucks were all business here. If the announcers telling you this over and over wasn’t enough to convince you, their faces told the story. Both Matt and Nick Jackson spent ten minutes mean-mugging the camera to let everyone know that, finally, they were taking this stuff seriously.
To me, the Young Bucks will work best as smarmy, sarcastic heels. There isn’t enough time in the day to practice mean faces in the mirror in hopes of intimidating a single soul—so, hopefully, that plan gets tossed soon.
But the idea of a Young Bucks team that is pursuing greatness for themselves and not worried about anyone’s feelings or the state of their friendships?
Sign me up.
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Photo courtesy of AEW
On the independent circuit for Game Changer Wrestling, Joey Janela is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world. He’s multi-faceted, able to transition from hardcore violence to technical mastery with nary a missed step.
Last year we saw glimpses of that in AEW. I remember watching him jump off a ladder onto Jon Moxley and match Kenny Omega move for move and thinking AEW had a future star on their hands.
Somewhere along the way, however, the Janela train swerved right off the tracks and hasn’t been able to find its way to the station. He’s become an undercard tag team wrestler, the kind of guy you bring out to get squashed by stars like Chris Jericho.
Last year, he pushed the biggest names in the company to the brink. This year, he was the background noise, a human meat sack to be punctured so his blood could be used to taunt Orange Cassidy.
Personally, I was hoping for more. I know Janela is capable of it.
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If anyone had doubts about Thunder Rosa’s ability to compete at an elite level, she snatched them up, stomped them into the ground, then set the entire heap of your concerns on fire.
Her match with Serena Deeb was one of the best women’s matches the company has presented on television all year.
Rosa has transformed over the last few years into a truly excellent performer. While she can do the intricate spots that the rest of the roster tries (and often fails to execute) her true gift is her intensity and crispness.
She looks like she’s trying to hurt her opponent, not get the crowd to pop or chant her name. This may not seem like a big deal—but seeing is believing. And Thunder Rosa made a lot of believers on Wednesday night.
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Britt Baker has done a tremendous job keeping her character in the fans’ consciousness while waiting for an unfortunate injury to heal. Not only has she been a consistently funny presence on Dynamite nearly weekly, Baker has also managed to make the most of that television time. Instead of doing schtick, she’s built a compelling feud with Big Swole, turning one star into two in the process.
That’s how wrestling is supposed to be done. And, not so shockingly, it’s worked. Despite Baker’s physical limitations, they have a simmering rivalry now in desperate need of a blowoff.
And it’s coming, finally, at All Out.
Unfortunately, the match won’t be featured on the main broadcast. Instead, it will be shown for free on YouTube during the Buy In show.
The two women did the work to create a story that people care about. They deserve to be on the big show. And, while it sucks they won’t get the reward they likely anticipated, the solution is clear—go out, kill it and make them regret ever disrespecting your work and ability to make the audience care.
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“This is terrible television,” Jon Moxley said at one point as he beat up a suspiciously buff lawyer in what felt like an endless wrestling match to close Dynamite.
Kudos to Moxley for the self awareness—unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to buy forgiveness.
The segment was, indeed, awful, the kind of forced funny that is apparently endemic in the industry. That kind of stuff worked for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin when a roaring crowd encouraged him to fight the man. Here, we barely know the antagonist and Moxley doesn’t appear to face any institutional opposition.
If he’s cosplay Austin, the story is missing its Vince McMahon. What Moxley is rebelling against is, as ever, unclear.
MJF and Wardlow tried to pull the quarter-hour from the abyss with an inevitable beatdown that left Moxley laying in a puddle of his own blood. What might have been a shocking sight was dulled by the fact that it occurred in roughly the same spot Jericho had taunted a bloodied Janela less than an hour earlier.
Whether there can be too much of a good thing is in the eye of the beholder. But this feud has struggled from the jump.
There is an election motif but no vote. There is a match, but without Moxley’s most potent move. And then there is Wardlow—am I the only one more interested in Moxley versus Wardlow at this point? The big man, at least, has been presented as Moxley’s physical equal.