By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Lance Archer vs. Dustin Rhodes in a TNT Title tournament semifinal match: My favorite match of the night on both shows. Rhodes did a tremendous job of selling for Archer and a little color goes a long way when it’s done in small doses. My concern going into the show was that a lengthy match might take away from Archer’s monster heel persona and simply overstay its welcome in the empty venue setting, but this was laid out really well, never lost my attention, and Archer looked like more of a badass than ever despite the match going over twenty minutes.
Cody vs. Darby Allin in a TNT Title tournament semifinal match: A good match with a bit of an odd finish in that Allin hit his Coffin Drop only to be immediately hooked into a pin by Cody. I get the idea that the Coffin Drop takes a lot out of Allin just as Rob Van Dam sells rib pain after hitting his frogsplash finisher, but it came off like it didn’t have any affect on the person who took the move. Still, it was an enjoyable semifinal match and I like that Allin is still searching for that elusive win over Cody.
Jon Moxley promo: A good promo that effectively hyped AEW Dynamite returning live next week. Moxley was witty and came off like a real leader of the brand without undercutting the rebellious nature of his character.
Britt Baker: Baker’s latest dental office skit was really good. I was surprised to see Rebel pop up in AEW and it will be interesting to see how she fits in going forward. Baker has really found her groove as a heel personality. I get a kick out of the way she torments Tony Schiavone and I hope it continues to be part of the act, but hopefully she can direct some of her creative insults to people she will actually get in the ring with.
Brodie Lee vs. Marko Stunt: The pre-match promo with Stunt talking about people questioning whether he belongs in AEW set him up as a guy who has something to prove. Lee destroying him in a few minutes was logical and leaves Stunt’s character in a position where he’s trying to justify his spot. In reality, he’s been a really good role player for AEW. He’s been a fun underdog in the popular Jurassic Express trio, and he’s been excellent in matches like this where his heel opponents look like monsters while destroying him.
Wardlow vs. Musa: Another squash match win for Wardlow, which is exactly what he should be doing right now. I’ve written this before about Wardlow matches and it continues to apply.
Shawn Spears vs. Baron Black: It’s hard to tell whether Spears is racking up wins because the company intends to do more with him as a singles heel or if these wins are a product of AEW trying to fill time with a skeleton crew at these tapings. I hope to see more of Spears as a singles act because his search for a tag team partner has been underwhelming and AEW already has a loaded tag division.
Overall show: The bookend semifinal tournament matches both felt meaningful and anchored a good episode of Dynamite. AEW’s skeleton crew did a really nice job at these tapings. They converted QT Marshall’s gym into a better than passable setting for television, and they filled a lot of television time in an entertaining way despite having such a small pool of talent. I can’t say enough about how much of a difference it makes to have small cheering sections on opposite sides of the ring. It’s baffling that WWE and even Impact Wrestling have declined to take a similar approach at their respective tapings.
AEW Dynamite Misses
“Best Friends” Chuck Taylor and Trent vs. Jimmy Havoc and Kip Sabian in a no DQ, no count-out match: This was a Hit as far as match quality given how hard everyone worked, but the lack of character development for all four wrestlers left me feeling numb to the hardcore style match. There was a lot of talent in this match. Hopefully AEW gets around to building these characters in a way that makes me care about their well worked matches.
Cute comedy from the heels: I can’t possibly give the Manitoba Melee a Miss because it was really fun and had a lot of great cameos (Duff McKagan and The Incredible Hulk together at last). In fact, I found this bit funnier and more creative than most of the skits on the Saturday Night Live stay at home editions. This is simply a way to acknowledge my concern that the Inner Circle’s recent comedy bits are too endearing for a top heel faction. Has an AEW babyface done anything on Dynamite that even comes close to being as fun as The Bubbly Bunch videos? It’s all made for good television and that’s not easy to pull off during this (nearly) empty venue era, but hopefully the Inner Circle will revert to heat seeking mode with the return to live television next week. On a side note, I will really miss hearing Chris Jericho on commentary every week. He was outstanding in this role and I suspect that he would run away with year-end broadcast team member awards if he did this on a weekly basis. It’s also because of Jericho that I have faith that he and the rest of the heel faction will flip the switch and start going for heat again as the Double Or Nothing pay-per-view approaches.