By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Opening Segment featuring The Elite: This was a strong mic performance from Adam Cole, and I liked the underpinning logic that both ReDRagon and The Young Bucks wouldn’t abandon their own ambitions simply because they are part of a faction. Both teams seeking tag team gold makes sense, as does the natural conflict that would arise from it. This situation seems ripe for a returning Kenny Omega to set off the powder keg. I’m indifferent about Cole and Britt Baker extending their relationship on screen. It could be fun in small doses, but I wouldn’t want to see their identity as a couple displace either of their individual characters.
CM Punk vs. Wardlow: Hit and miss for me. This falls in the Hit section because it was encouraging to see Wardlow display a dominant performance in the ring despite facing one of the wrestlers the company has very carefully protected. The finish also protected Wardlow quite a bit, and furthered his escalating feud with MJF. Both men have a reason to continue their pursuit of MJF. I’m just not sure why MJF didn’t seize the opportunity to hit Wardlow and cause a DQ after all those powerbombs, mirroring what Punk did last week. That could have put a blemish on Punk’s record, and saved Wardlow from taking a preposterous roll up loss.
Powerhouse Hobbs vs Dante Martin: A Hit for match quality. Hobbs and Martin work well together and definitely have a better match in them when the booking is more conducive to it.
Hangman Page’s promo and Lance Archer’s return: Adam Page has been very impressive on the microphone since his return from paternity leave, and this was no exception. He has the rare quality of being a strong babyface that can relate to fans without pandering, and also delivers rebuttals to heels without deconstructing the parts of their character that fans love to hate. Lance Archer’s return was also very enjoyable. It’s nice to see him healthy after a scary neck injury, and his feud with Hangman should make for a fun TV program while Hangman awaits his next PPV opponent.
Serena Deeb vs. Hikaru Shida: This was exactly what it needed to be in order to extend the program. Deeb is my favorite style of heel. She’s vicious, takes no prisoners in the ring, and does exactly what she says she’s going to do, even if she has to take a few shortcuts to get there. It sets her apart from the other heels in the division and establishes a strong identity for her character. Now that Deeb has temporarily sidelined Shida, perhaps it’s time to focus on tormenting her less experienced friends to further twist the knife in the wound.
Sammy Guevara vs. Daniel Garcia for the Interim TNT Championship: There was no reason to believe Daniel Garcia would win, but the match was very enjoyable regardless because of how well these two work together. Garcia continues to show a ton of promise, and Guevara has established himself as a guy who can deliver in big match situations. I’d like to see this one again after Garcia gets some wins under his belt and the outcome doesn’t seem so predictable.
Brody King arrives: This felt like a long time coming, but it’s great to see Brody King paired up with Malakai Black, as they seem like such a natural duo. I’m hoping this can ground the Black character a bit, and will hopefully be the catalyst for further developing his somewhat nonsensical character.
AEW Dynamite Misses
MJF’s Feuds: Does every MJF feud have to follow the same formula of him standing up various henchmen and obstacles in front of his opponents before they eventually get to him? Whether it’s Cody, Darby, Punk, or Jericho, the model hasn’t changed. I think it would add a ton to his presentation just to see him pick up some decisive wins on television occasionally. The formula works on the strength of his charisma, but it could use a shake up.
The Acclaimed vs. Bear Country: This match didn’t feel like it needed to exist. It was just a conduit to get Darby and Sting in front of the live crowd, and I don’t think the audience knew who to root for while it was happening. I think this might have worked better as an angle if they had just had Caster and Bowens address Sting and Darby with a promo.
Matt Hardy vs. Penta El Zero Miedo: There wasn’t much of a match here, and once again this felt like it existed primarily to set up the angle that brought out Brody King. I put this on the miss list so I could lodge a formal complaint about AEW abusing the “lights off” gimmick too much, and how it feels like it’s reached the point of diminished returns.
Chris Jericho and Eddie Kingston: This feud is going in circles without either guy making a very strong case for their motivation behind their hostility to one another. This program desperately needs a head to head promo where they both tear into each other and firmly establish the line in the sand between them. Then the drama around where the supporting characters around them fall will become a lot more interesting.
Dan Lambert: I would have preferred Hangman Page to cut a mission statement type promo about the future of his title reign after defeating Bryan Danielson, rather than Dan Lambert bloviating about insider terms and whether or not Hangman is an insult to other Cowboy themed wrestling gimmicks. This felt like filler until Lance Archer showed up, and it didn’t feel like one portion of the segment was connected to the other.
Repetitive Moments: It has to be noted that just about every interview and match on this show was interrupted by some form of interference from a third party. This pattern has extended for a while now on Dynamite and it makes segments less enjoyable as a result.
Leyla Hirsch, Red Velvet, and Kris Statlander interview: This segment came across really poorly, with all three women failing to make an impression with their personalities or promo skills. I think it’s an excellent example of how AEW needs writers, producers, and maybe even some acting coaches to help along talent that are struggling with character and promo work. It does both the talent and the audience a disservice to leave this kind of impression with a TV segment.