By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
MJF promo: MJF won Double Or Nothing weekend. A new AEW World Champion was crowned, there was a wild Anarchy in the Arena match, new faces debuted, and tournament winners were crowned. Meanwhile, MJF was powerbombed ten times and pinned by Wardlow in the show’s opening match. On paper, that looks like a burial, yet in reality MJF was the main topic of conversion of pro wrestling fans before, during, and after the event. Was it a work from the start? Did it start as a shoot and become a work? If it was a work from the start, his locker room peers weren’t told, which could lead to some internal disharmony, but that’s a problem for another day. MJF followed up his Double Or Nothing weekend with the most scathing, intriguing, and downright entertaining promo since CM Punk sat on the stage on WWE Raw eleven years ago this month. Name another wrestler who could be given his comeuppance in the form of an all out squash match and come out the other side stronger and more relevant than ever in his very next television appearance just a few days later. No matter how it started or where things go from here, his turnaround from Double Or Nothing to Dynamite is next level greatness. I get that some fans are cringing over the worked shoot aspects of this storyline. I don’t want to see it become a common approach in AEW or anywhere else, but it’s not something the company ha done before and the buzz that this has generated for MJF and the company can’t be ignored. AEW has great wrestlers having good to great matches on a regular basis, and Tony Khan has signed a slew of big name free agents. It’s only gotten the company so far. They needed an attention grabbing angle and this was it. Yes, the angle plays best to the die-hard fans, but it strikes me as something that is compelling enough that it will drive fans who don’t understand all of the finer details to seek them out. There are some intriguing storyline directions that this could take. MJF could come out of this as a babyface who ends up being joined by other AEW originals in a battle against some of the free agents that Khan has signed. For instance, they could reveal that MJF has been in the ear of Hangman Page, which would explain why Page’s character felt that he needed to save AEW from CM Punk. And while some are concerned that this story could backfire by unintentionally making MJF a babyface while Tony Khan and the company come off looking like the villains, have a little faith in MJF. If he is supposed to be the heel in this saga, then there’s no current wrestler I have more faith in when it comes to his ability to turn the fans against him. As always, the follow-up is truly the key. Only time will tell whether this leads to bigger and better things for the company, but the potential is there for this to be something special.
Jon Moxley vs. Daniel Garcia: As much as I question the idea of putting Garcia in the main event slot of the company’s first show in Los Angeles, it really was a strong back and forth battle. Garcia is a terrific young talent and I have no doubt that we’re not far away from him not feeling like he belongs in main event singles match, but we’re just not there yet. But while I feel the company would have been better off going with a main event involving two true stars for their Los Angeles debut, the match itself was a Hit from a quality standpoint. It will be interesting to see which top wrestler finally makes Garcia by putting him over clean in a high profile match. It may even be Chris Jericho, assuming Garcia isn’t given that elusive big match win before he eventually breaks away from the Jericho Appreciation Society.
Toni Storm and Ruby Soho vs. Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter: A strong tag match involving some of the top wrestlers the women division has to offer. As always, Baker got her heat back, this time via the post match attack with the Owen Hart tournament title belt. Speaking of which, it was a nice prize for the tournament win, but now the belts need be put in the trophy case until next year. AEW has way too many title belts and the last thing they need is two ceremonial belts appearing regularly on their shows.
Miro vs. Johnny Elite: Finally, The Redeemer has returned. Miro found great success with that character before his extended leave from the company. It was good to see him pick up where he left off with a dominant win over the former John Morrison.
Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, Christian Cage, Matt Hardy, and Darby Allin vs. The Young Bucks, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Hikuleo: Aside from the scare of Hikuleo landing on his head at ringside, this was the free for all spot-fest that looked fun on paper and delivered in execution. The Bucks bounced back from their loss to the Hardys at Double Or Nothing with a pinfall win over one of the AEW Tag Team Champions.
AEW Dynamite Misses
CM Punk and FTR vs. Max Caster and Gunn Club: It was a rough outing for Punk, who slipped on the top rope when he first tagged into the match and then came up short when he tossed on of the Gunns in the direction of Billy Gunn. Despite the flaws, Punk got the live crowd behind him again by acknowledging his mistakes and expressing his desire to get better in a post match promo. The appearance of Hiroshi Tanahashi set up a match with Punk for the Forbidden Door event. AEW is running out of time to properly establish the Japanese talent to fans who don’t follow NJPW, but this is an absolute dream match to those who do. On a side note, I don’t know how long Anthony Bowens will be sidelined, but I really hope that he and Caster will get a big babyface push once he’s healthy. The Acclaimed are over big with live crowds despite being heels who lose the bulk of their television matches. Meanwhile, the Gunns are coming along nicely as an obnoxious pest heel duo that the fans enjoy taunting.
Wardlow: The quick squash win over JD Drake was more of the same, which is a good thing in the case of Wardlow. The post match angle with Mark Sterling and the security guards seems to give Wardlow a reason to keep delivering crowd pleasing powerbombs on security guards. At the same time, it felt underwhelming for Wardlow to finally beat MJF only to move into a storyline with Mark Sterling. Perhaps Sterling will end up managing a new rival for Wardlow, but this currently feels like a step down for Wardlow when he’s fresh off the biggest win of his career.