By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Tony Khan acquires ROH: An advertised major announcement from Tony Khan that was actually delivered by Tony Khan. This was a notable improvement over a wrestler showing up or someone else making the announcement rather than Khan. More importantly, the announcement lived up to the hype, at least for this viewer. As always, when promotions hype major announcements or mystery partners, the imaginations of viewers start to run wild. So while the ROH announcement worked for me, there are surely some viewers who felt like it was a letdown, but I suspect that the majority of AEW viewers were satisfied. The announcement raises dozens of questions that still need to be answered. The deal gives AEW a deeper video library, which can only help if they launch their own streaming service or make them more attractive to a potential streaming partner. Only time will tell whether AEW positions ROH as a second major brand or if they make it a farm system. My bet is on the latter, but it could create jobs and even save the jobs of some of the wrestlers who haven’t been making the cut for Dynamite or Rampage appearances due to all of the talent acquisitions that Khan has made. It is worth noting that the timing of the announcement is questionable. Yes, the latest major announcement tease likely led to more viewers for Dynamite’s go-home show for Revolution, but it also overshadowed the pay-per-view hype. Is there a reason aside from trying to put more eyeballs on the go-home show that this announcement wasn’t saved until after the pay-per-view? Either way, it’s an exciting deal and it will be fun to see what Khan has in mind for the ROH brand going forward.
CM Punk and MJF: Punk is back in full force as one of the best talkers in the game. The recent “Will you be my Valentine?” promo was terrific, and he followed that up with another gem that made his character seem introspective and caring. While some viewers have complained that they felt Punk looked too gullible, he did show some apprehension before he reciprocated when MJF hugged him, and his willingness to forgive MJF was set up perfectly by the line that he’s trying to be the good guy. It would have been hypocritical for his character to lay out some of the heinous things that he’s done during his career only to completely reject a seemingly vulnerable MJF. Meanwhile, MJF taking lines from a classic Punk promo was really well done in that it rewarded the hardcore fans who caught it, and yet still made perfect sense to those who never saw or simply forgot that Punk promo. Much like Punk’s recent Valentine promo, it worked on both levels. As much as I enjoyed this segment, I did come away wondering why the MJF character would go through so much work just to fool Punk for one week. Sure, he got to give Punk a big beatdown days before their dog collar match, but you’d think that his diabolical plan would have actually helped him win the match rather than infuriate Punk beforehand.
Wardlow vs. Cezar Bononi: The match was more of the same with Wardlow using his powerbomb symphony to destroy Bononi quickly. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But the real fun was Wardlow stopping Shawn Spears from taking his usual post match liberties on a fallen opponent. Wardlow finally intervened by stopping Spears from using his chair, and it led to some really good storytelling through facial expressions. Spears looked pissed for a moment, only to back down like a cowardly heel when Wardlow glared at him. And then there was the added touch of Spears looking back at the chair as he was leaving the ring, only for Wardlow to show that he was watching him. The backstage follow-up with MJF slapping Wardlow across the face while Spears smirked in the background was great. Wardlow’s babyface run should be big.
Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels: A good professional wrestling match. As simple as that may read, it’s intended to be high praise for these two ring generals. It played in perfectly with the ROH announcement, and I loved the way that Danielson flipped the switch once the match was over by going right back into heel mode.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Tag Team Casino Battle Royale: Two tag team battle royals in back to back weeks was overkill, especially when it felt painfully obvious that the teams of The Young Bucks and Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish would advance to the Triple Threat for the AEW Tag Titles. It was great to see Darius Martin back and positioned strongly in his return from ACL surgery. This was the more entertaining of the two battle royals, but it also went on forever because it featured too many teams, and it was even more predictable than the first battle royal.
“Hangman” Adam Page, John Silver, and Alex Reynolds vs. Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish: The Page vs. Cole feud just hasn’t gotten out of second gear. The match was fine and they put some heat on Cole afterward. But I don’t think Tony Khan did this title feud any favors by booking Cole take the recent unsanctioned match loss to Orange Cassidy. I’m also over seeing Page pal around with the Dark Order. Heck, I’m over the Dark Order, period. Cole lost a lot of momentum late in his NXT run because he had done everything there was to do. He got the change of scenery that he needed by signing with AEW, but the peak of his AEW run is still when arrived as a pay-per-view surprise. It hasn’t been all bad and I’m sure he and Page will have a hell of a match on Sunday, but they just haven’t built up enough momentum for Cole’s character heading into the match to make this feel as big as it should.
Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter vs Thunder Rosa and Mercedes Martinez: I like the idea of Rosa pinning Baker to drive home the idea that she has the number of the AEW Women’s Champion. This was not a bad match, it just felt a little flat. For that matter, the Baker vs. Rosa feud was placed on the back burner for too long. The one year anniversary of their lights out match is in two weeks, and they just didn’t do enough between then and now to keep the feud fresh in the minds of viewers. I am looking forward to their match, but instead of feeling epic due to the near one-year wait, it feels like they would have been better off having the match months ago.