By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Cody’s show opening speech/promo: A good mix of Cody addressing the real life situation with a positive message before his character took over and addressed the storyline issues within The Elite. The portion that focused on Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, and Hangman Page putting their differences aside was also well done.
Brodie Lee revealed as The Exalted One: A strong payoff to what turned out to be a fun mystery. Here’s hoping this is the run that the former Luke Harper deserves. The hard work starts now. The mystery over the the identity of the Exalted One kept the Dark Order afloat. Now that it’s over, Lee has the tough assignment of being the face of a faction of wrestlers that have struggled to get over.
Cody, Hangman Page, and Matt Jackson vs. Santana, Ortiz, and Jake Hager: The highlight of the night was Sammy Guevara singing “Judas” prior to the match. Rock on, Sammy! Yes, the match suffered from not having a live crowd present and probably went longer than it needed to go given the circumstances, but it also benefitted from having something at stake in the form of the advantage in the Blood & Guts match. Sure, most fans know the usual formula of giving the advantage to the heel team, but it still made things a little more interesting to have something on the line.
Matt Hardy’s surprise debut: Chris Jericho was fun on commentary during the main event and his gloating promo forbidding fans from attending future events was a riot. I was starting to wonder if Jericho’s rant was going to close the show right before Vanguard 1 made a surprise appearance. I assume it was intentional, but Jon Moxley talking about the Blood & Guts match over the last couple of weeks left me assuming that he would replace Nick Jackson in the match. So it was a cool surprise when Hardy showed up at the end of the night and was revealed as Nick’s actual replacement.
Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix vs. Chuck Taylor and Trent: Putting aside the debate over whether it’s even a good idea to actually hold pro wrestling matches at this time, it was nice to see a full length live match again. Both teams worked a quality match and it was logical to put over Penta and Fenix given that they just formed the Death Triangle faction with Pac.
Overall show: Normally, we compare AEW to NXT due to their head-to-head battles on Wednesday nights. It’s not really fair this week because of NXT’s format. But I must say that Dynamite blew away the Smackdown and Raw shows held at the WWE Performance Center. The small touch of having some wrestlers at ringside making noise during the matches went a long way. I got a kick out of the storyline that the heels were betting on the matches, which also gave the selfish heel characters a reason to be invested in the matches. The format shift also led to a bit more mic work than usual, which I enjoyed. This was a good edition of Dynamite under any circumstances, not just due to the circumstances. I will get into some Misses below. AEW did its damndest to run a standard type of show and thus I will do my job by reviewing it as just that. But I also want to acknowledge how much I respect the difficulty of delivering a show or even a match without a live crowd present. Here’s a tip of the cap to everyone in every company who has been working through these tough conditions.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Penelope Ford vs. Riho vs. Kris Statlander vs. Hikaru Shida in a four-way: There was more good than bad as far as the in-ring work was concerned. The women’s division has been a sore spot for AEW more often than not, which makes it a baffling call to go with a four-way match rather than keeping things simple with singles matches. Still, this would have fallen into the “in the middle” category had it not been for the repeated Kip Sabian interference right in front of the referee pushing it into the Miss section. The referee was made to look incompetent for allowing it rather than ejecting him.
The Butcher and The Blade vs. Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus: This match suffered more than the others from the lack of a live crowd. The Jurassic Express is always over in a big way with the AEW fans, and they were definitely missed in this match against a Butcher and Blade team that hasn’t really caught on. More than anything, this match felt like it overstayed its welcome.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...