By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite Hits
Orange Cassidy vs. Swerve Strickland for the AEW International Title: Another strong title defense for Cassidy. It felt like it was time for a title change and Strickland seemed like a great candidate to be the new champion, so his nearfalls were truly suspenseful. I’m surprised they opted to keep the belt on Cassidy. His hard work along with the belt’s name change have turned what was a joke of a title into something that feels meaningful. But all good things must come to an end and he’s about six weeks away from looking like a mummy if they continue to tell the story of his body breaking down due to his schedule. I hope they have a good end game in mind.
MJF and Adam Cole: A mixed bag. It was a bad idea for MJF to draw attention to Cole’s ordinary physique, and even worse to have Cole essentially accuse the company’s world champion of using performance enhancing drugs. The segment landed in the Hit section because they played off of one another well and it felt like a big showdown moment to see them share the same ring. On a related topic, AEW has to get better at hyping upcoming matches. The announcement of MJF facing Cole for the first time on next week’s Dynamite was buried in the middle of Excalibur speed reading through lineups for four different shows. They didn’t make it feel special, and they just assumed that every viewer knows what an elimination match is. So many people have pointed out the flawed approach Excalibur going into auctioneer mode to promote matches and yet they just keep doing it. Worse yet, now he has to include the weekly Collision lineup on top of Rampage and next week’s Dynamite. It’s impressive that Excalibur is able to cram it all in, but it’s just not an effective way to actually sell viewers on upcoming matches.
Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, and Wheeler Yuta vs. Rocky Romero, Trent Beretta, and Chuck Taylor: Another strong win for the Blackpool Combat Club. I enjoyed seeing the babyfaces beat BCC to the punch by jumping them at ringside (I just wish we didn’t see so many matches start this way). Bryan Danielson sitting in on commentary continues to be entertaining. My only concern about BCC is that they come off a little too cool and Yuta is the only one who seems to strive for consistent heat.
Kris Statlander vs. Anna Jay for the TBS Title: A decisive win for the new champion. Both of her title defenses have felt like they’ve went a little longer than they needed to, but Statlander is still off to a good start. By the way, is there a reason why we haven’t heard from Taya Valkyrie? It was fine to show her hate watching Statlander’s first title defense last week, but it felt like we should have heard her explain why she’s so angry this week.
Konosuke Takeshita vs. Damon Ace: There’s only so much one can learn from a 90-second squash match, but I did come away feeling good about Takeshita in his heel role. He got over due to being a charismatic babyface while having some excellent matches and I simply hadn’t seen him work as a heel before. The early returns are very encouraging in that that he looks right at home in this new role in terms of his facial expressions and demeanor. Unfortunately, the Don Callis post match promo was a total repeat that offered nothing new.
AEW Dynamite Misses
Tony Khan’s AEW Collision first match announcement: First off, they are really running the Khan announcement gimmick into the ground. They’d be better off having Tony Schiavone or someone else handle the smaller announcements and save Khan’s on-air appearances for truly major announcements. I’d actually hire commissioner type who has more on-air experience to make the major announcements, but I digress. The bigger issue is that there was nothing to the announcement. Khan simply announced a random six-man tag team match with the only thing special about it being the return of CM Punk. Where’s the creativity? Why not have Samoa Joe or Jay White confront Khan or FTR, go off on Punk, and demand to be part of his return match? Give us an angle. Give us a hook on top of Punk’s return. Give this match an actual purpose. Sure, they still have next week’s show to do something, but they gave themselves less than two weeks to promote the match and wasted the first week on a throwaway announcement. The best thing I can say about the way they handled this is that they didn’t have Excalibur announce the match while he read through 142 other upcoming matches.
Jack Perry and Hook vs. Dralistico and Preston Vance in a Texas Tornado match: Everyone involved worked hard, but I sat there throughout the match struggling to even remember why these teams were having such a violent brawl. This felt too bloody and over the top for a throwaway mid-card tag team match.
Jay White vs. Ricky Starks: If someone had told you when White debuted on April 5 that he’d main event Dynamite in a match against Ricky Starks two months later, you surely would have expected it to feel bigger than this match did. The live crowd was lively throughout most of the show, but they were understandably flat for this match. White’s first two months since officially signing with the company have been about as underwhelming as it gets from a creative standpoint. Starks has shown high end upside and the company has simply failed to push him consistently. The ring work was fine, but this match actually felt out of place in the main event slot due to the poor booking of both men that led up to it.