By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
CM Punk: Another strong segment with another hot crowd. Punk did a great job of putting over Darby Allin’s reckless abandon, heart, and unique charisma while taking the fair jab at his former employer by remarking that Allin might not be someone else’s idea of what a pro wrestler should be. I loved the way that Punk retired the voice of the voiceless name by putting over AEW while telling the fans that there are people backstage who are listening to them. The impromptu tease for Bryan Danielson following the “yes” chants was great.
Chris Jericho and MJF: A good, logical segment with Jericho having to put his AEW in-ring career on the line to convince MJF to give him one more match.
Varsity Blonds vs. Lucha Brothers in an AEW Tag Title Eliminator tournament match: I incorrectly assumed that this match would either open or close the show. It was an enjoyable fast-paced tag match with the expected result of Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fenix advancing to the finals of the tournament. The post match angle was worrisome when it looked like Penta and Fenix would be upset with Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy, who were pushed into the Lucha Brothers by the Young Bucks. Fortunately, they got it right with the two teams joining forces to rough up the Bucks.
Jon Moxley, Darby Allin and Eddie Kingston vs. JD Drake, Ryan Nemeth, and Cezar Bononi: I wasn’t crazy about Moxley teaming with anyone other than Kingston after that hot promo last week where he called out several wrestlers and made it seem like he was back in lone wolf mode. But the match accomplished what it needed to in terms of getting Moxley’s star power on the show and giving Allin a win. I am surprised that they didn’t go with an Allin win over a more high profile opponent. The Daniel Garcia post match attack on Allin sets up what should be a fun match, but it’s not like any casual viewers who are watching for Punk are going to be any more impressed by Allin beating Gacia than they are with him pinning one of The Wingmen. On a side note, while I’m sure I’ll enjoy the match once the bell rings, the announcement of Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima at All Out was a big letdown.
Dan Lambert, Ethan Page, and Scorpio Sky: A nice bounce back week for Lambert. After talking a mile a minute in front of the live crowd last week, he toned it down a notch and delivered a strong promo that featured plenty of good jabs at AEW viewers while also explaining his alliance with Page and Sky. I’m not sure that Page and Sky really need a mouthpiece, but Lambert is a terrific talker and this could be a fun act.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Overall Show: AEW has been doing so many things right and they had so much momentum coming into this show. So I was truly surprised by how underwhelming Dynamite was this week. There were some good segments and they did feature a lot of star power throughout the night, but this was an underwhelming episode, especially considering that it was the first night that Punk was truly advertised for an AEW show. On a night when I expected AEW to put its best foot forward, they delivered my least favorite episode in recent memory.
Malakai Black vs. Brock Anderson: There was nothing wrong with the match aside from the fact that it didn’t feel like it belonged in the main event segment. I really could have done without Arn Anderson blocking Black’s now unnamed Black Mass kick even if he was taken out by a second kick. I am a huge fan of Arn’s work over the years, but should a long retired legend really be the first person to block the finishing kick of the new killer heel? I thought we might see Cody Rhodes return at the end of this segment once it was placed in the main event slot. I’m high on Lee Johnson’s upside, but he’s not a star yet and thus it felt flat for him and Black to close the show with their staredown.
Orange Cassidy vs. Matt Hardy: AEW strayed from its usual formula of opening the show with a hot match. This was more of a slow paced match with a lot of early comedy. I actually did enjoy the match even if it did go a minute or two longer than it needed to. It would have made the Hit section had it been slotted elsewhere on the card. I just felt that it was a poor choice for the opening slot on a night when there were presumably plenty of new viewers watching Dynamite for the first time due to CM Punk’s debut. If nothing else, at least they didn’t go overboard by having each wrestler’s sidekicks at ringside for this match. The spot where Cassidy appeared to overshoot the cross body block and landed on Hardy’s face was yet another unfortunate break for Hardy in AEW.
Jamie Hayter vs. Red Velvet: A rough match. Velvet had a clunky run of the ropes at one point and that moonsault that completely missed Hayter looked terrible. I’m not sure if Hayter was supposed to move or if Velvet just missed the mark, but it was a really rough spot. I hope they do a second take of this match somewhere down the road because both women are talented and I have no doubt that they could produce a much better match than they had last night.
Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn and Colten Gunn vs. QT Marshall, Nick Comoroto and Aaron Solow: It felt like AEW Dark invaded Dynamite. The finish was surprising with Marshall taking the pin rather than getting a spotlight win heading into his match against Paul Wight at All Out. I guess the idea is that we’re supposed to look forward to seeing Marshall getting his ass kicked by Wight rather than simply seeing him lose a match. This may would have felt out of place on Dynamite any week, but it was a really strange call to feature it on Punk’s first night on the show.