By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Jon Moxley’s return: An excellent return promo. Moxley addressed his absence in a way that fired up the live crowd and left viewers anxious to see what’s coming up next. Moxley never looked like he was in rough shape before he entered a rehab program, and yet it was remarkable to see how much healthier he looked last night. It was great to see him back and, more importantly, he appears to be in a much better place than he was before he took time away. Best of luck to him and his family going forward.
Cody Rhodes speaks: Cody’s latest promo was self indulgent and in dire need of an editor. But it was also the most talked about segment coming out of Dynamite. While I’d like to see him trim the fat, I’m happy that he’s speaking in front of live crowds again. Whether you think he’s sincere in his repeated claim that he won’t turn heel or you believe this is all part of some elaborate heel turn, whatever he’s doing makes for compelling television. So while the needless references to AEW current events that don’t involve his character and the self-created drama that he’s supposedly working without a contract are big turnoffs, I’m all for watching him hold court in what feels like an ongoing attempt to win back the fans who have turned against him even if I suspect that he’s turning off his detractors even more with his self-indulgent tendencies. Either way, his passionate promo segments feel must see regardless of whether you are hate watching or pulling for the guy.
Adam Cole and Britt Baker vs. Orange Cassidy and Kris Statlander: A fun mixed tag match. Cole and Baker are being established as a power couple, so they had to win their first match as a team. But I really liked the way that they set up the need for a singles match between Cole and Cassidy by having Cassidy accidentally knock Baker off the apron and through a table on the floor.
Sting and Darby Allin vs. “The Acclaimed” Max Caster and Anthony Bowens: A formula match in that it felt fairly obvious that Allin was going to come back after the pre-match injury angle. I wasn’t surprised to see the babyfaces win, but I would not have complained if the heels had actually stole a win just to create the need for a rematch. And yet while it wasn’t flawless, the popular babyface duo going over made for a feel-good ending to Dynamite.
CM Punk vs. Shawn Spears: This is exactly what it needed to be with Punk bouncing back from being dominated by Wardlow with an 11-second victory over Spears. I also loved the MJF backstage promo where he apologized to Wardlow before informing him that he was docking his pay, on his birthday no less.
Serena Deeb vs. Skye Blue: This was a simple and effective spotlight win for Deeb and a good follow-up to the way she took out Hikaru Shida last week.
Malakai Black and Brody King vs. “The Varsity Blonds” Brian Pillman Jr. and Griff Garrison: Another spotlight match with the new-to-AEW team of Black and King winning quickly and decisively. We’re still left wondering whether Julia Hart will join the House of Black, and whether Pillman will get his mojo back now that he’s apparently leery of performing springboard moves.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Lance Archer vs. Frankie Kazarian: The match went longer than it needed to. I can understand the idea of not having respected veteran Kazarian take a lopsided squash match loss, but that’s what the situation called for, and they easily could have booked another wrestler in his place. Perhaps the approach they took could have worked had they done more to establish that Kazarian is tight with Hangman Page, so that Archer slowly punishing Kazarian would have come off as him trying to get under the skin of Page. Instead, the man who appears to be next in line for a shot at the AEW Championship worked a forgettable match and followed that up by being cleared from the ring by Page in a post match angle. None of this made Archer look like a real threat to Page.
Cody made a rod for his own back as soon as he came out by saying “People backstage have been telling me to hold on to this promo”. He might as well have come out and said “When I was workshopping my promo script the other day…” His insincerity is so off-putting even when his delivery is really good. The “people” were actually right, he really should have held off doing this promo, because having this on the same show as the excellent Moxley promo really made Cody look bad.
Myself and my friends didn’t think Darby was going to come back out, we thought someone else (a surprise debut maybe?) was going to save the day. Still, good show.