By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
MJF and CM Punk: The best segment of the year. Granted, it’s only February, but this was special. MJF showed his range by dropping his usual insult comic heel approach in favor of telling an emotional story about being subjected to antisemitism in high school and then tying it in perfectly with meeting Punk and feeling abandoned after Punk left the business. As much as I love MJF as a heel, he is going to draw a fortune as a babyface when the time is right. But this isn’t the time. MJF made Punk and viewers feel pity for him, and it’s sure to make them hate his character more than ever if he reveals that it was all a ruse. I am looking forward to the next chapter and the dog collar match more than anything else in pro wrestling right now.
Eddie Kingston and Chris Jericho: Another strong exchange. Both men threw some big verbal punches that helped bring a sense of realism to the segment. But I could have done without Jericho telling the story of when he recognized Kingston’s babyface potential. It seemed like Jericho was trying to keep it real, but his use of the word babyface took me out of the moment. Nevertheless, both men really sold me on their pay-per-view match at a time when my interest in their slow developing feud had faded.
Hangman Page and Adam Cole: Page did a better job with the “story time” bit than Cole has done in years. I enjoyed the segment and I am looking forward to their match, but their feud doesn’t feel main event compared to some of the other big matches on the AEW Revolution card.
Bryan Danielson vs. Daniel Garcia: While this is Hit worthy from a match quality standpoint, it was a questionable choice for the main event slot on Dynamite. AEW continues to tell viewers how great Garcia is. And while he is excellent in the ring and has major upside, the company never backs it up through the television booking. Garcia has taken several high profile television losses, and he has yet to actually win a singles match on Dynamite or Rampage. So while I can appreciate the match and I really look forward to Garcia joining Danielson’s faction, this just didn’t feel like a big television main event, so I could totally understand why the live crowd was slow to invest in it. The post match angle with Danielson and Jon Moxley was simple and effective.
Ricky Starks vs. 10 in a Face of the Revolution ladder match qualifier: A soft Hit for the right guy going over. I’m hoping that 10’s losses over the last two weeks will lead to him ditching the Dark Order and his terrible gimmick. Starks earning a spot in the ladder match is interesting in that it gives Team Taz a big advantage because Powerhouse Hobbs previously qualified for the match.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Pacing: Dynamite is a good show that would be even better if they would simply slow down and let some of these segment register with the audience instead of just racing on the next thing. There’s just too much happening and I often feel like I’m watching a two-hour show that crams in three hours worth of material. On a related note, I hope they have an oxygen mask under the broadcast table when Excalibur has to plug Rampage, Dynamite, and pay-per-view matches at such a ridiculous pace. It’s great practice if Excalibur ever wants to find work as voiceover actor who reads the long list of side effects at the end of pharmaceutical ads, but there’s just no way that most viewers are going to remember even half of what he’s throwing at them.
Tag Team Battle Royale for a spot in the Triple Threat match for the AEW Tag Titles at AEW Revolution: Do we really need back to back tag team battle royales just to get to the predictable Triple Threat of Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus defending the tag titles against Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly and the Young Bucks? I guess Tony Khan felt obligated to do something to explain why two teams that are not ranked in the top five are getting this title shot. Sure, they could surprise us by having another team win next week, but seeing is believing.
Malakai Black and Brody King vs. Pac and Penta El Zero Miedo: Good in-ring action, but this feud continues to be a mess. The live crowds seem to like everyone involved and therefore react to moves rather than rooting for the babyfaces. It’s been an issue with Black since he arrived in AEW, and the addition of the popular Buddy Matthews to the faction isn’t going to help matters. I wish Black was as focused on drawing heat as he was adding character layers that sail over the heads of the vast majority of viewers. There was just too much happening in this match with Penta and Alex Abrahantes debuting new looks, Matthews arriving, and viewers are still getting to know King. And why did lights go out for Matthews to stop Black from using the shovel as a weapon? This was more about creating a swerve than telling a logical story. On the bright side, House of Black and Death Triangle are sure to have some incredible matches once Rey Fenix returns.
Jade Cargill vs. The Bunny for the TBS Championship: I’m not really sure why The Bunny was in this match or why she was given as much offense as she had. I’m shocked that they didn’t have a babyface push Cargill in one of her rare competitive matches. The post match angle with Tay Conti showing up and essentially declaring herself next in line for a title shot felt flat, and it didn’t help that Cargill quickly left her lying. Cargill and Conti should have a quality match, but the road they took to get to it is off to an awkward start.
Keith Lee: Lee had the hot debut match, went on his honeymoon last week, and then barely got to speak during his first promo segment. I realize they were trying to create issues between him and Team Taz heading into the ladder match, but I was hoping for more of a mission statement from Lee.
Sometimes AEW is like a toddler throwing all their favourite colours at a piece of paper, whereas WWE is like watching a man in a suit slowly painting a wall beige. Neither are perfect art, but at least one of them gives you hope for the future.