By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite (Episode 173)
Fresno, California at Save Mart Center
Aired live January 18, 2023 on TBS
[Hour One] The show opened with a memorial graphic for the late Jay Briscoe… The Dynamite opening aired and then pyro shot off on the stage. Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and Taz were on commentary, and Justin Roberts was the ring announcer…
Powell’s POV: My apologies for starting this review on delay. I’m about ten minutes behind and hope to catch up during commercial breaks, but that’s often easier said than done during Dynamite.
1. Orange Cassidy vs. Jay Lethal for the AEW All-Atlantic Championship. Jeff Jarrett, Sonjay Dutt, and Satnam Singh walked from the concourse down to ringside and stood behind the barricade. Danhausen showed up and checked their tickets. Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor showed up and took seats behind the heels.
Lethal hit his Lethal Combination finisher, but Cassidy rolled to ringside to avoid being pinned. There was commotion at ringside with the wrestlers in the crowd. Danhausen stole Jeff Jarrett’s guitar. Lethal chased him into the ring. Danhausen slipped out of the ring and then Cassidy rolled up Lethal for a two count. Cassidy followed up with the Orange Punch and scored the pin…
Orange Cassidy defeated Jay Lethal to retain the AEW All-Atlantic Championship.
After the match, Beretta and Taylor checked on Cassidy. Singh grabbed them by the throat, but Dutt talked them down. Jarrett wound up to hit Cassidy with a guitar, but Dutt stopped him. Excalibur said Dutt was trying to preserve his job. Cassidy gave light leg kicks to Dutt, who had to be held back by his allies before the heels left the ring…
Powell’s POV: A lot of campiness in the opener to go along with some good in-ring work.
A brief video package aired on the TNT Championship match, which will main event the show… Excalibur hyped the match as well…
2. “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson (w/Brandon Cutler) vs. “Top Flight” Darius Martin and Dante Martin. Nick pointed to the sky while standing on the stage, presumably in tribute to Jay Briscoe. Excalibur pointed out that the Bucks had not competed in a traditional tag team match since they lost the AEW Tag Team Titles at Fyter Fest in July. The Bucks were in offensive control heading into an early picture-in-picture break. [C]
Dante, who had been isolated, dove to make a tag, but Nick pulled Darius off the apron to stop it. The Bucks continued to work over Dante with Nick performing a top rope splash while Matt simultaneously performed a standing moonsault, which led to a two count. Dante rallied with a head-scissors takedown on Matt and then made the hot tag.
Darius worked over Matt and put him down with a clothesline. Darius followed up with a standing Spanish Fly and then got up and hit Nick with a suicide dive on the floor. Darius went up top and performed a crossbody block on Matt for a near fall. Nick tagged in and caught Darius with a superkick, but Dante tagged in. The Bucks set up for a signature spot, but the Top Flight duo broke it up.
Darius tagged in and then Dante dove onto Nick on the floor. Top Flight hit a powerbomb and nosedive combo on Matt and had the pin, but Nick returned to break it up. The crowd applauded the action. Nick hit a facebuster on Darius and then moonsaulted onto Dante on the floor. Nick performed a Destroyer on Darius and got a near fall. A “this is awesome” chant broke out.
Matt kissed the “Jay” armband that he and Nick wore. The Bucks hit a Doomsday Device on Darius and had the pin, but Dante returned to break it up. Dante sent both Bucks to ringside and then performed a springboard leap into a double superkick from the Bucks. The Bucks returned to the ring and went for a BTE Trigger on Darius, who ducked. Darius rolled up Matt and scored the pin…
“Top Flight” Darius Martin and Dante Martin defeated “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson in 12:30.
The broadcast team hyped The Acclaimed and Billy Gunn for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A fun match with a good outcome. Excalibur did an effective job of telling the story that the Bucks hadn’t worked traditional tag team matches since July and were beaten up coming out of the best of seven series for the AEW Trios Titles. Yes, it gives the Bucks a bit of an out for losing, but that’s not a negative and I like the storytelling.
Austin Gunn and Colten Gunn made their entrance. They said the fans forget that they made The Acclaimed popular and last week was the last time that they will embarrass them. The Acclaimed’s entrance music played. Max Caster, Anthony Bowens, and Billy Gunn came out. The Gunns protested.
Caster asked if the fans came to hear the Gunns or to hear him freestyle. Caster had the mic the Gunns were using cut and then delivered his rap, which included lines at the expense of the Guns. The last line was completely censored.
The Acclaimed entered the ring and fought with the Gunns. Billy stepped in and pulled the teams apart. Billy took the mic and said they would sit down next week and hash things out between the teams. Billy said he had two words – family therapy…
Backstage, Renee Paquette interviewed Hangman Page, who said Jon Moxley took his word from him when he knocked him out because he’d promised to take the title from him. Page said he felt like he got his word back when he beat Moxley last week. Paquette said Moxley told her that Page pushes him to be the better version of himself and he both despises and cherishes Page.
Page recalled Moxley joking about knocking him out. Page said he told him he would knock him out and he did. He said that if Moxley had something else to say to his face he could. Paquette asked Page where he goes from here. Page said he has some tough conversations he would like to have and he intends to mend fences.
Once they wrapped up the interview, Page asked how Moxley was doing. Paquette said Moxley has been hurting for ten years and would brush himself off and get back up again. Page considered asking Paquette to tell Moxley something, but thought better of it…
Entrances for the next match took place with members of Jericho Appreciation Society coming out to “Judas”…
3. Ricky Starks vs. Jake Hager (w/Angelo Parker, Matt Menard). Chris Jericho sat in on commentary for the match. Hager wore his purple hat. Starks ended up with it and did a slide under the bottom rope and then darted back toward Hager, who put him down with a big boot heading into a PIP break. [C]
Parker and Menard took cheap shots at Starks during the break. They also set up a table at ringside. Coming out of the break, Starks performed a crossbody block and a clothesline on Hager. Starks put Hager down with a tornado DDT and covered him for a two count. Parker and Menard climbed onto the apron. Starks knocked Mendard down. Parker held Starks, who slipped away when Hager tried to hit him with a cheap shot. Starks speared Hager and pinned him…
Ricky Starks defeated Jake Hager.
After the match, Jericho, Daniel Garcia, and Sammy Guevara ran to the ring. Starks escaped the ring and entered the crowd where he taunted the heels and celebrated his win…
Powell’s POV: The expected win for Starks. I was hoping to get a Starks promo tonight to wash away the bad taste that Starks left with his mic work last week, but the night is still young.
An Adam Cole video package aired. It featured footage of him talking about how he’d been fantasizing about getting back in front of the crowd again. He said he would run AEW and nothing would stand in his way…
Excalibur hyped Bryan Danielson vs. Bandido for after the break… [C]
Tony Schiavone interviewed Chris Jericho, Daniel Garcia, and Sammy Guevara on the backstage interview set. Jericho said Starks had been insulting, mocking, evading, and beating them. Jericho said it would end because he had a match made where he will team with Guevara to face Starks and Action Andretti.
Garcia spoke up and said he has a match with Andretti on Friday and wants to get his hands on Starks by teaming with Jericho. Guevara was all for it and said that Garcia could take his place if he beats Andretti on Friday. Guevara also presented Garcia with new leather gear and awkwardly hugged him…
4. Bryan Danielson vs. Bandido. Both entrances were televised and both men shook hands prior to the match. Both wrestlers and referee Aubrey Edwards wore “Jay” armbands. Bandido had a lot of tape on his neck and shoulders.
[Hour Two] Bandido put Danielson in a surfboard, which Danielson escaped. A “this is awesome” chant broke out after some back and forth action. Bandido performed a suicide dive on Danielson. Back in the ring, Bandido went for a springboard move, but Danielson caught him with a kick heading into a PIP break. [C]
Danielson and Bandido traded chops. Danielson backed Bandido into the corner and threw kicks at him. Bandido came back with a superkick and then performed a corkscrew dive from the top rope. Bandido held up Danielson for a vertical suplex. It looked like Bandido was about to lose Danielson, but then he powered him up and held him there before performing the suplex. Damn.
Bandido went up top and did the Eddie Guerrero shimmy before going for a frog splash, only to have Danielson put his knees up. Danielson put Bandido in the LeBell Lock. Bandido reached for the ropes. Danielson hooked that hand, but then Bandido used his foot to reach the ropes to break the hold.
A short time later, Bandido went for his 21 Plex finisher, but Danielson landed on his feet. Danielson took Bandido down with a drop toe hold, but Bandido countered into a pin for a near fall. Danielson came back and hit Bandido with a flying knee off the apron.
Danielson went up top and was cut off by Bandido, who then joined him on the ropes. Both men fought for position. Bandido performed his fallaway slam into a moonsault, which drew holy shit chants. Bandido hit his 21 Plex finisher and got a near fall.
Both men traded shots in the middle of the ring. Danielson took Bandido down and set up for a submission hold. Bandido powered him up, but Danielson rolled through. Bandido avoided a Danielson backslide attempt, but then ran into a running knee, which led to Danielson getting the three count…
Bryan Danielson defeated Bandido.
After the match, MJF appeared on the big screen and said he’s aware of that Danielson and the fans say he’s not worthy of his position in the company. He said people have forgotten who he is and how he became AEW World Champion. MJF said Danielson has only been dealing with Masked Max, who likes to keep things light and have some fun. MJF said the closer they get to the Iron Man match, the more his mask will slip off. MJF said Danielson shouldn’t want that. MJF said Danielson thinks of himelf as a dragon, but not even a dragon is a match for the man behind the mask…
Powell’s POV: A strong match. Much like last week’s Danielson vs. Konosuke Takeshita match, this would have been even better had the company not introduced the stipulation that Danielson has to win all of his matches in order to get a title match against MJF. They did a nice job with the near falls in both matches and yet it was hard not to assume that Danielson would go over. I hate to grumble about such a good match, but I could have done without Danielson kicking out of Bandido’s finisher this early in Bandido’s run with the company. Again, though, this really was a really good match and I like the more sinister MJF we saw in the post match promo.
A video package showed Saraya, Toni Storm, and Hikaru Shida backstage. Storm said the AEW girls don’t know what she and Saraya know. Saraya told Shida to stay in the back… Excalibur hyped Storm vs. Willow Nightingale for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Storm came off heelish, as did Saraya for telling Shida to stay in the back, so I assume that we’re getting some type of heel ex-WWE wrestlers versus AEW Originals feud. I guess that would make Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker the babyfaces, which would be logical, particularly given the babyface reactions that Hayter has been getting.
Excalibur announced Bryan Danielson will face Brian Cage on next week’s Dynamite…
Renee Paquette tried to interview Brian Cage and Prince Nana in the backstage area, but MJF showed up. MJF had a wad of cash in an envelope and said it was more money than either man had seen in their entire lives. MJF said he didn’t care if Cage won or lost, as long as he broke Danielson’s arm. Cage said they could probably work that out. MJF slapped Cage, who grabbed him by the throat. Nana called Cage down by bringing up the money. MJF said that was hate coming from Cage, which he’s found is the best motivator…
Powell’s POV: Cage has taken too many losses on AEW television for viewers to think of him as a threat to beat Danielson during this stretch, so I like the added hook of MJF paying him to break the arm of Danielson.
5. Toni Storm (w/Saraya) vs. Willow Nightingale. Nightingale did an early cartwheel. Storm offered a handshake, but then slapped Willow when she tried to accept. Storm worked over Nightingale at ringside while Hikaru Shida walked down the ramp with a kendo stick in hand heading into a PIP break. [C]
Shida stood next to Saraya in Storm’s corner. Late in the match, Willow lowered the straps on her gear and performed a cannonball on Storm in the corner and then covered her for a two count. Saraya climbed onto the apron and distracted Willow, and then Storm rolled her up and held the tights while getting the pin.
Toni Storm beat Willow Nightingale in 7:30.
After the match, Saraya attacked Willow. Saraya and Storm put the boots to Willow while Shida watched from the corner. Ruby Soho ran out, causing Saraya and Storm to duck to ringside. Soho checked on Willow while the heels mocked her from the floor…
Powell’s POV: I was waiting for Soho to turn on Willow to join the former WWE crew. I wonder if that’s still to come. Hey, believe it or not, I caught up following my late start.
Excalibur announced the following matches and segments for Friday’s AEW Rampage: Daniel Garcia vs. Action Andretti, Eddie Kingston speaks, Brian Cage vs. Willie Mack, Jade Cargill and Leila Grey in tag team action, and “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry vs. Ethan Page..
A brief video aired with Ethan Page and Stokely Hathaway talking about Page’s match with Perry. Page said he would get payback for Perry tapping out Lee Moriarty… Excalibur hyped Danielson vs. Cage for next week’s Dynamite and said that more matches will be announced on Rampage… [C]
Konosuke Takeshita was interviewed by Paquette, who asked him how he felt after last week’s match with Bryan Danielson. Takeshita said he doesn’t trust MJF. He spoke in Japanese. Paquette asked him what that meant. Takeshita said MJF is an asshole…
Kushida made his entrance for the main event. Kevin Knight and The DKC walked out with Kushida. The broadcast team identified them by name and said they are from New Japan Pro Wrestling’s L.A. Dojo. Darby Allin made his entrance and then Sting walked out behind him…
6. Darby Allin (w/Sting) vs. Kushida (w/Kevin Knight, The DKC) for the TNT Championship. Justin Roberts delivered in-ring introductions and both wrestlers received favorable reactions from the live crowd. With Kushdia down on the floor, Allin went up top and performed an early cannonball off the apron onto Knight and DKC, who were checking on Kushida. Moments later, Kushida grabbed Allin’s arm and drove it into the ringside mat heading into a PIP break. [C]
Kushida targeted the left shoulder of Allin while the broadcast team noted that he was setting up Allin for the Hoverboard Lock. Allin went over the top of Kushida and hit him with a cutter on the apron. Allin hit Kushida with forearms and set him in a seated position on a chair.
Allin went up top and dove at Kushida, who kicked the chair aside and then caught Allin in an armbar on the floor. Kushida had to break the hold to avoid the countout. Allin also beat the count by getting back onto the apron. Kushida got Allin on the top rope and wrenched him over by the left arm so that he flipped and landed on the mat.
Kushida went for the Hoverboard Lock, but Allin was able to hook his fingers together with his other hand. Sting picked up a towel. When Knight and DKC approached, Sting tossed the towel into the crowd. Allin got to his knees. Kusdhia rolled him over and then set up for a move, but Allin slammed him to the mat and applied the Last Supper hold while getting the three count.
Darby Allin defeated Kushida in 13:40 to retain the TNT Championship.
The broadcast team narrated highlights from the match. Allin got to his feet and offered his hand to Kushida, who shook it while indicating that he wanted one more match. Kushida raised Allin’s arm and bowed before hugging him. “We are missing you, Jay Briscoe,” Excalibur said. “You are in our hearts and minds”…
Powell’s POV: For those hoping for more of a tribute to Jay Briscoe tonight, Tony Khan announced via social media that the company is filming a tribute special tonight that will be available for free on the HonorClub streaming platform.
The main event was well worked with Kushida relentlessly targeting the left shoulder before Allin caught him in the Last Supper at the end. The broadcast team framed it as a dream match and I’m sure it was for some viewers, though I really with AEW had brought Kushida in sooner and built him up with a few quality wins before going to this match, as there’s surely part of the crowd who knows Kushida best from his hot and cold run in NXT.
Overall, this was good show with another enthusiastic west coast crowd. It’s been fun to see these recent AEW shows have such a great atmosphere like they did prior to the pandemic. I will have more to say about the show in my weekly same night audio review for Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons). Let me know what you thought of Dynamite by grading it below.
Every opponent for Darby Allin as champion has taken him longer to beat than Samoa Joe. That’s stupid.
Can’t wait to see if the Jericho segment killed the ratings again.
I am SO impressed with Willow Nightingale. She always comes in to a subdued reaction, but always manages to get the crowd behind her as her matches go along. I hope Britt Baker won’t go out of her way to undermine her the way she has the rest of the women’s division.
I agree they need to build up Willow Nightingale to be one of the top babyfaces. I think she can popular with the crowd like Jamie Hayter. I like the sudden heel turns with Saraya and Toni Storm because I’ve been begging for Toni to turn heel as it could make her character interesting. I do wonder if Ruby turns on Willow next.
And eventually Athena too because she was in WWE as well obviously..
Maybe Mercedes Mone??