By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Chris Jericho vs. Nick Gage in a No Rules match: I am not a death match fan, but my eyes were glued to the television during the match and even throughout the picture-in-picture break. Jericho is a true master when it comes to creating a buzz. In this case, he put himself in what is sure to be one of the most talked about television matches in a long time. Love the match or hate it, Jericho deserves credit for working a true death match rather than a toned down version. Gage has a unique charisma even when working in front of a crowd that clearly wasn’t as familiar with him as a GCW crowd would be. It’s been a huge week for him between this match and the Matt Cardona match he had for GCW over the weekend. It would have been a disaster for Gage if he had come in and lost a watered down hardcore match on national television. But Jericho went all in on the death match style and Gage’s popularity will only grow despite him taking the loss.
CM Punk tease: It’s finally happening. And if it’s not, then this becomes a Mega Miss. But with the announcement of a show in Chicago at United Center just weeks from now followed by Darby Allin dropping “the best in the world” line in the very next segment, AEW did everything but officially announce that Punk is All Elite. This is huge. I hope that Punk has rediscovered his passion for pro wrestling and this is more than just a cash grab for him. If he shows even half as much enthusiasm for his pro wrestling return as he did for his MMA training and fights, then this run should be something special.
Lance Archer vs. Hikuleo for the IWPG U.S. Championship: A Minor Hit for a fairly one-sided win for Archer. There was nothing particularly memorable about the match, but they kept it fairly short and it featured the surprise appearance of King Haku, who looked terrific, especially considering his age and his long history in pro wrestling. Hikuleo has big long term upside, but he’s still a work in progress.
Thunder Rosa vs. Julia Hart: A showcase win for Rosa over the green Hart. The match was fine for what it was. But that J-U-L-I-A cheer that the Varsity Blonds did in the pre-tape was Spirit Squad corny. The difference is that the Spirit Squad were heels who were trying to be obnoxious, whereas the Blonds are babyfaces who felt about as uncool as they could get while doing that cheer.
FTR vs. Santana and Ortiz: The match was entertaining until Cash Wheeler suffered the unfortunate arm injury. Here’s wishing him the best. Dax Harwood, Santana, and Ortiz deserve a lot of credit for coming up with a good finish on the fly, especially with heel Harwood going over despite being in a handicap situation. I hope we get a rematch once Wheeler is healthy.
Overall Show: Dynamite has recreated the feeling of the Monday Night Wars in that you have to watch every week because you never know who might show up next. But it’s more than that. WWE has its formula and rarely strays from it, whereas AEW isn’t afraid to go outside the box. Too many wannabe rival promotions have come off as WWE Lite. Whether it’s featuring an extremely violent death match, working with other promotions, featuring a wide variety of in-ring styles, showcasing young and exciting talent, etc., AEW is paving its own way rather than making the mistake of trying to beat WWE at its own game.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Hangman Page and Dark Order vs. The Elite in an elimination match: The stakes were high and the company did a really good job of setting the table for this match. Dark Order typically doesn’t do much for me, but in this case they built up the match to feel like a showdown with some significant stipulations. The Elite doing their basketball bit ruined the big fight vibe that the build generated. I can see why some fans would enjoy this more than I did because there were some comedic moments and a lot of wild spots. But the comedy just felt out of place and self-indulgent.
Christian Cage, Jungle Boy, and Luchasaurus vs. Angelico, Marq Quen, and Isiah Kassidy: What happened to Private Party? They were the young team with all the buzz when AEW first started and they were given the upset win over the Young Bucks in the tournament to crown the first AEW Tag Champions. The buzz about the duo is all but gone since those early days of the company. That said, the right team went over in what felt like a rushed match. The post match angle with The Blade hitting Cage with brass knuckles was a groaner. Blade is essentially Shawn Spears only with brass knuckles rather than chairs.