By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Adam Cole vs. Dax Harwood in an Owen Hart tournament match: An enjoyable opening match for the show and the tournament. Harwood continued his streak of strong matches despite making a first round exit. Cole’s tribute to Shawn Michaels was a great heel move considering who the tournament is named after. Perhaps my favorite thing about the match is that the company didn’t take the easy way out by booking a cheap finish. In fact, there was no one at ringside and there wasn’t even any post match drama for a change. Harwood took a clean loss and yet he didn’t lose any momentum in the process. By the way, it would be a crime if FTR isn’t booked for the Double Or Nothing pay-per-view after all of their recent great work.
CM Punk vs. John Silver: Page made the heelish comments last week, and Punk played the geographical heel this week. This surely confused some casual viewers, but Punk heeling on the Long Island fans is already a guilty pleasure. I’m sure a lot of viewers were left in the dark regarding Punk’s New York Islanders jersey gag. As a big NHL fan, I got a big kick out of it, though the broadcast team really should have been clued in so that they could have explained it to the television audience. Punk established himself as a heel in Long Island the last time AEW ran there. So this time he came out wearing an Islanders jersey, which had to make fans in attendance wonder if this was an attempt to win them over. Instead, he turned around and revealed that he was wearing the jersey of John Tavares, the former Islanders captain who opted to leave the team to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2018, making him public enemy number one for jilted Islanders fans. As someone who knows the story, I thought this was hilarious. The actual match was entertaining aside from the Buckshot Lariat looking awful. Still, I enjoyed the way that Punk performed the finisher to get under the skin of Hangman Page, and their tense post match segment was well done.
MJF and Wardlow contract signing for Double Or Nothing: Long Island serving as AEW’s version of Bizarro World continued with the live crowd’s adoration for hometown boy MJF. The Dark Side of the Ring spoof was awesome. I laughed at the simple explanation of MJF paying big money as the reason that Chris Jericho agreed to be a pro-MJF narrator. The segment was excellent with MJF giving the fans plenty to root for while also staying true to his heel persona by showing fear once Wardlow attacked the security guards. The build to their match has been fantastic and this was their best segment yet.
Darby Allin vs. Jeff Hardy in an Owen Hart tournament match: Pure insanity to the point that I almost feel guilty for putting it in the Hit section. Allin’s dive onto the ringside chairs spot was a combination of breathtaking and disturbing. It makes you wonder if there’s any sort of big spot approval process or if the wrestlers are just allowed to do whatever they please in AEW. And if there actually is an approval process, then I can’t even imagine what has been rejected out of safety concerns. The outcome of the match was the only real surprise of the night. It seems like they are building to the Hardys vs. Young Bucks for Double Or Nothing. And while they can still get to that match if Jeff bows out of the tournament in the semifinals, I am still surprised that they didn’t have Allin advance to the next round. No complaints, though, as Allin’s character will be just fine, and it’s nice that the first round wasn’t completely predictable.
Tony Nese vs. Danhausen: Nese made quick work of Danhausen to pick up a rare win and some good heat. The Hit is mostly about the crowd’s reaction to Hook shaking hands with Danhausen to set up the debut of Hookhausen at the pay-per-view. The Danhausen schtick isn’t for everybody, but it’s clearly pleasing the AEW base audience given the reactions he gets in the building. And while AEW has been guilty of focusing too heavily on the fans they have rather than attempting to add new fans, there’s nothing wrong with pleasing the fans you have with a fun undercard program.
Blackpool Combat Club join the fight against Jericho Appreciation Society: This has been my least favorite of the feuds getting the most television time. Chris Jericho threw a fireball at Eddie Kingston and yet the JAS faction still come off like pest heels. Things took a positive turn with the numbers game finally swinging in the direction of the babyfaces. Are they building to a Blood & Guts match? On a side note, AEW production had two weeks to figure out that the slow-motion version of Jericho throwing the fireball at Kingston looks terrible because it shows the fireball shooting over Kingston’s head. The fireball looks fine in normal speed, but I have no idea why they would actually use that slow motion shot.
Ricky Starks vs. Jungle Boy for the FTW Championship: AEW has too many titles. The fun of seeing the FTW Championship wore off for this viewer roughly a week after it was reintroduced. So I can’t say that I really cared about who would end up walking away with an unofficial belt that doesn’t actually mean anything. But I did enjoy watching Starks and Jungle Boy work together. The distraction finish involving Swerve Strickland was my least favorite finish of the night, but it appeared to help set up a three-way for the AEW Tag Titles at the pay-per-view.
Toni Storm vs. Jamie Hayter in an Owen Hart tournament match: I can’t really give this a Hit or a Miss. My area was hit by storms around the mid-point of this match. I wanted to give this match a second look, but it’s not on the AEW YouTube page, and I haven’t had any luck getting the show to replay on the TBS app. I saw the first half of the match and was able to see the finish. I missed too much in between to be able to rate this fairly, but I liked what I saw for the most part.
AEW Dynamite Misses
None: This was a big step up from the two previous episodes. I have been looking forward to the Owen Hart Cup tournaments in part because it forces AEW to have more meaningful singles matches on television. It made for a better show pace and it felt like everything had a purpose beyond some sense of obligation to get as many people on the show as possible. This was a fun episode that left me looking forward to seeing how the rest of the tournaments play out and to the Double Or Nothing pay-per-view.