By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Dynamite (Episode 203)
Duluth, Georgia at Gas South Arena
Aired live August 23, 2023 on TBS
[Hour One] A Terry Funk memorial graphic opened the show… Excalibur, Taz, and Tony Schiavone were on commentary…
Entrances for the opening six-man tag match took place… Kenny Omega and “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson entered first and then met their opponents Juice Robinson, Colten Gunn, and Austin Gunn at ringside and brawled with them. Jay White was with the Bullet Club Gold members. Robinson had Nick Jackson in the ring and wound up to hit him with a chair, but referee Rick Knox took it away. Robinson punched out the referee.
Excalibur said the match was thrown out. The brawling continued. White worked over Omega with chops in the ring. Omega came back with a V-Trigger. White set up for another, but Konosuke Takeshita had entered the ring and turned him inside out with a clothesline. The Bullet Club Gold members wrapped a cable around Nick’s neck.
“FTR” Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler made their entrance and fought with the Bullet Club Gold members. Inside the ring, Takeshita jawed at Omega and then blasted him with elbow strikes. Omega dazed Takeshita with a V-Trigger. Omega set up for his One Winged Angel finisher, but Takeshita slipped away and dove to ringside…
Powell’s POV: A spirited brawl. Omega and the Bucks are facing White, Takeshita, and Robinson at Sunday’s All In and they really needed this to heat things up.
AEW World Champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman took part in a sit-down interview conducted by Renee Paquette. She asked what having 80,000 fans in attendance means to him. He said he would be chubbed and talked about how he loves people chanting his name. He encouraged the fans to make this the loudest main event in the history of sports.
MJF said that if they did, he would buy them all a pint. Paquette wondered if he was serious. MJF told her no, he would make “that mark Tony Khan” do it, then asked if that could be edited out. MJF spoke of headlining the biggest show and said he was standing on the shoulders of giants such as Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Dusty Rhodes, John Cena, The Rock, Undertaker, Triple H, and Stone Cold. He said if he wins, he might become a giant himself. MJF said there’s a lot of pressure, but it’s pressure he’s ready for.
Paqutte said there are a lot of questions about his friendship with Adam Cole. She played footage on a monitor behind them that showed some of their rocky moments (but not Cole acting like he was on the verge of attacking him last week). MJF said he’s never had a genuine friend before. He said that’s not being funny or trying to work fans, it’s real.
MJF said Cole has made him a better person. He said he’s shown him that he can trust and let his guard down. MJF said they are brothers and brothers fight. He said they will hug it out. He said he understands why the fans would have hesitation when it comes to trusting him.
MJF told fans to think about the worst thing they’ve ever done and said he’s probably done it twice. He invited fans to be vulnerable with him and go on the journey with him. He promised they would be rewarded and said it’s the first promise he intends to keep. He said he might be a scumbag, but he’s your scumbag. Paquette wished him luck in the All In main event. MJF said he can’t wait to have the match with his best friend…
Powell’s POV: A great segment. MJF comes off so happy that one fan can watch his mic work and find his character to be sincere, while another fan can see the same promo and believe that he’s over the top happy and disingenuous.
Jon Moxley made his entrance. Excalibur hyped Moxley vs. Rey Fenix and said the other Stadium Stampede entrants were banned from ringside. They went to a picture-in-picture break… [C] Rey Fenix made his entrance coming out of the break…
1. Jon Moxley vs. Rey Fenix (w/Alex Abrahantes). Excalibur announced that a Stadium Stampede download would be available for the AEW Fight Forever video game starting tomorrow. The match spilled over to ringside. Moxley put Fenix in a sleeper, then released it and tried to tear at his mask. Moxley stomped Fenix on the bottom of the ramp. Back in the ring, Moxley turned Fenix inside out with a clothesline and covered him for a two count heading into a PIP break. [C]
Fenix battled back and dropped Moxley with a kick, then hit him with a top rope frog splash for a close near fall. Moxley regrouped and then drilled Fenix with repeated elbows to the face. Fenix caught Moxley in an inside cradle for another near fall. Fenix went for a springboard move, but Moxley caught him with an elbow strike before they collided, which left both men down.
Both men got to their knees and traded elbow strikes. They got to their feet and exchanged chops. Moxley got the better of it and backed Fenix into a corner, but Fenix caught him with a kick. Fenix went up top and was cut off by a Moxley punch. Moxley joined Fenix on the ropes, raked his back, and went for a superplex that was stuffed.
Moxley bit the face of Fenix and then performed an Avalanche Death Rider for a close near fall. Moxley shot up and applied a sleeper. Fenix sat up and then faded. The referee called for the bell.
Jon Moxley beat Rey Fenix in 13:40.
After the match, Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta hit the ring. Castagnoli held Fenix while Yuta prepared to hit Fenix with a crowbar. Eddie Kingston and Penta El Zero Miedo came out. Ortiz stood in front of them with a loaded sock. Santana made his entrance and then he and Ortiz left Kingston and Penta lying. The production team cut back to barely catch part of Yuta hitting Fenix with the crowbar.
Orange Cassidy, Trent Beretta, and Chuck Taylor came out, causing the Blackpool Combat Club, Santana, and Ortiz to held to ringside. Fenix laid on the mat and was eventually stretchered out.
The broadcast team was shown at ringside (rather than their usual spot on the stage). Excalibur spoke in a somber voice about Fenix and then worked in a plug for their daily fantasy sports partner… [C]
Powell’s POV: A really hot match followed by an angle designed to write out Fenix, who is reportedly unable to make the trip to London due to a visa issue. I’m guessing they are going with a five-on-five match rather than the advertised six-on-six, but we’ll see if they add wrestlers to both sides. Either way, it’s great to see Santana back after all this time, and presumably teaming with Ortiz again. They were underutilized prior to Santana’s injury, and I hope that changes this time around.
The somber voice broadcast team continued while footage was shown of Rey Fenix being loaded into an ambulance in the backstage area. They replayed the missed crowbar strike. Penta and Abrahantes hopped in the back of the ambulance with Fenix. Paquette tried to speak with Kingston, who asked if she saw what her husband did. Paqutte hung her head low and said she saw it. Kingston said he would fix it at Wembley…
Footage aired from earlier in the day of Paqutte interviewing Sammy Guevara. She asked him why he went out to help Chris Jericho last week. Daniel Garcia, Matt Menard, and Angelo Parker showed up. Menard asked what Guevara was doing. He said Jericho was going to join the Don Callis Family and would have had it not been for the painting. Menard said Callis is exactly who they thought he was.
Guevara said he knows how Jericho. Parker said they didn’t want Guevara to be blinded. Parker said it’s always Sammy who is there for his friend, then asked if Sammy’s friend would be there for him. Menard and Parker walked away. Garcia stopped and gave a long look at Guevara and then walked away…
Tony Schiavone stood in the ring with a contract signing table and security. Schiavone introduced Will Ospreay, who came out with Don Callis. Schiavone introduced Chris Jericho, who was accompanied by Sammy Guevara. Schiavone said they had extra security due to how volatile things had become.
Callis said everyone wants to know why he did what he did last week. Callis said it can be summed up in four words. “Will By God Ospreay,” Callis said. Callis explained that the only thing better than having Jericho in his family would be ending the career of the greatest of all-time.
Callis said he had to make Ospreay a special offer, which was Jericho’s head on a platter at Wembley Stadium. Callis said he chose money over friendship by choosing Ospreay over Jericho. Callis recalled Jericho nearly dying in England a couple years ago. Callis said he would be in Ospreay’s corner on Sunday to make sure that job is done once and for all.
Ospreay took the mic and asked Jericho if he was taking the match seriously or if it was a vanity project so that he could say his band played at Wembley Stadium. Ospreay said the match will be in the biggest venue in the UK and will change his life.
Ospreay said he has a wife and a four-year-old stepson. He said the day before he faces Jericho, he’s working an independent show because he’s trying to raise money to put his kid through school. Ospreay said that after he beats Jericho at pro wrestling’s biggest event, he’ll be the only man to say he’s beaten Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, and Jericho in two months.
Ospreay said that goes very well for him. He looked into the camera and said that in six months, his contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling will expire. Ospreay said he’s the best wrestler in the world. He said he’s better than The Elite, Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, and Jericho. Ospreay said he respects Jericho’s legacy, but it’s all rocket fuel for him and his future. Ospreay signed the contract.
Jericho removed his jacket and picked up a microphone. Jericho congratulated Ospreay on the things he’s accomplished over the last few months, but he said he might not have accomplished those things if it wasn’t for him. Jericho said that five years ago, the pundits were predicting that Ospreay would be in a wheelchair like his hero Dynamite Kid.
Jericho said he got Ospreay’s number and told him to tone it down or he would never become one of the top stars in the business. Jericho said Ospreay listened to him and now they are meeting at Wembley Stadium. Jericho said their match was supposed to happen at the Tokyo Dome in 2021, but it didn’t happen due to the lockdown.
Jericho said there’s no lockdown now. Jericho said it’s not a vanity project for him. He said it’s bigger than any WrestleMania or the Tokyo Dome. Jericho said it’s bigger than anything. He said the match means more to him than anyone because Ospreay is coming from the bottom while Jericho is coming at it from the top of the mountain, which everyone tries to knock him off.
Jericho said he has to be the best Jericho he can be to beat Ospreay, just as Ospreay needs to be the best Ospreay to beat him. Jericho played up Ospreay’s family being in the front row at Wembley and told him to prove that he can beat Jericho. He told Ospreay not to regret that he called him and kept him from being in a wheelchair.
Ospreay knocked the microphone out of Jericho’s hand and jawed at him. Jericho slapped Ospreay and then security stepped in and kept the wrestlers apart… [C]
Powell’s POV: A fantastic segment with tremendous intensity from both men. I was lukewarm on the match going into this and they made me want to see it on one segment.
Renee Paquette’s sit-down interview with Adam Cole was shown. She showed him highlights Cole and MJF having fun. Cole spoke about how his confidence was at an all-time low when he came back from his injury. He said his friendship with MJF reminded him of who the real Adam Cole is and said he would love MJF forever for that.
Paquette asked him what winning the AEW World Championship would mean to him. Cole said becoming AEW World Champion means you are the best pro wrester in the world. He said he needs to win the match and he will.
[Hour Two] Paquette showed Cole footage of when he told Roderick Strong that he was just playing along with MJF, and then additional footage that pertained to Strong was shown, including when Cole shoved MJF, only to then hug him.
Paquette asked how it feels to have so many people questioning his friendship with MJF. Cole said he was done. He couldn’t understand why some people can’t process the idea of two people being friends. Cole looked into the camera and said he would say it only one time – “There are no issues between me and Mox.” Cole thanked Paquette and stormed off the interview set…
Powell’s POV: Another strong segment. The fact that they replayed Cole telling Strong that he was just playing along with MJF was interesting. Nothing I saw from Cole or MJF tonight makes me question my belief that Cole is setting up MJF and will be reforming The Kingdom. Again, though, MJF’s history is sure to make others believe this will be another one of his “devil” moments. I’m really looking forward to whatever the payoff is.
2. Darby Allin and Nick Wayne vs. Swerve Strickland and AR Fox (w/Prince Nana) in a tornado match. Wayne’s mother was shown in the crowd. Fox wore the blood covered shirt from when he and Swerve attacked Wayne in his garage. The heels jumped out to a fast start. Wayne hit a double Wayne’s World onto both opponents on the floor. Allin followed up with a Coffin drop onto Swerve and Fox on the floor heading into a PIP break. [C]
Allin was seated on a chair on the floor. Swerve hit him with a double stomp. Wayne was shown bleeding from the nose while using the ropes to pull himself up. Fox threw a kick at Wayne, who caught his foot, but Swerve blasted Wayne with a kick. Fox hit a corkscrew brainbuster for a near fall. Swerve and Fox followed up with two more near falls and showed frustration.
Swerve and Fox hit a double kick in the corner and then Fox went for a 450 splash that Wayne avoided. Swerve mugged for the camera, not realizing his partner’s move missed. Wayne hooked Fox into a pin and got the three count while Allin prevented Fox from breaking it up.
Darby Allin and Nick Wayne defeated Swerve Strickland and AR Fox in a tornado tag match in roughly 10:00.
After the match, Swerve laughed and then said it’s so disappointing. Swerve said by disappointing, he meant Fox. Swerve asked Fox why he’s such a loser. He said it was all a test. Swerve said he couldn’t trust Fox in this match and he damn sure couldn’t trust him in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley.
Swerve told Nana to handle his light work. Nana fired Fox from the Mogul Embassy. Brian Cage hit the ring and clotheslined Fox. Cage followed up by performing his Drill Claw finisher on Fox.
Allin and Wayne returned with Sting, causing the heels to leave. Allin told Fox that he wouldn’t be there without him. He said no matter what Fox did to him, he would always credit him for helping him make it to this point. Allin told Fox to shake his hand, which he did, and then they hugged. Allin said Swerve is dumber than he thought. He asked him who he had for Sunday. Swerve and Nana laughed on the stage.
Christian Cage and Luchasaurus walked onto the stage. Cage said no one should be surprised because the true greatest are always two steps ahead. Cage asked Sting and Allin if they were going to introduce him to their little friend. Cage said he heard about Wayne and his story.
Cage said he understood that Wayne has a father who is dead. Cage said he also understood that Wayne’s father was a pro wrestler. Cage said he never heard of Buddy Wayne, meaning he must not have been very good. Cage said that with a talentless hack for a father, at least Nick doesn’t have much to live up to.
Cage said that he’d steer clear of Wembley if he were Nick, because he’d hate for him to have deja vu by watching the coffin door close on someone he loves for the second time in his young life. A loud “asshole” chant broke out. Cage said that if Nick plays his cards right, he’d be there to mentor him. He said every fatherless child needs a true mentor, and there’s no better mentor than the TNT Champion. Excalibur reminded viewers that Luchasaurus is the actual TNT Champion…
Powell’s POV: Holy shit, Cage hits hard. And if Nick and his mother don’t have a problem with it, then neither do I. I’m guessing Fox also can’t make the trip to London for some reason. I like the way they handled it by having Darby echo what he’s said about Fox even after Fox turned on him. The only problem is that I don’t think they actually said what the new match is, but I’m sure they’ll clear that up.
Renee Paquette conducted a sit-down interview with “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and “FTR” Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler on a backstage set. She said FTR has come to the aid of the Bucks three times recently and wondered why. Wheeler said it’s not because they are buddies, it’s because they need to find out who the best team is with no excuses.
Paquette asked if this is the most important match in the Bucks’ career. Matt said they didn’t know if they could get 10,000 people for the first All In, and said this was eight times over. Matt said it’s the understatement of the century to say it’s the biggest match of their career. Nick said he thinks he and his brother are made men and it’s more important for FTR to cement their legacy.
Wheeler and Harwood said it is the biggest match of their career. Harwood said it’s big for AEW to have 80,000 fans, but he said this one is personal. Harwood said having the AEW Tag Titles allows you to say you’re the best tag team, but this goes beyond that. He spoke about cementing their legacy and not wanting to face his family and tell them that they came up short.
Matt mockingly impersonated Harwood. Matt said that when he and Nick hang up their boots, people will give them their flowers and say they were the best tag team in wrestling. Matt said people will say FTR are the team that the Bucks named on their YouTube show. Harwood said they are the foundation now, and they will crack the Bucks’ foundation… [C]
Powell’s POV: They got across the basics, but it never reached a level of intensity that will make this stand out on a night filled with so many segments that were simply better.
A video package aired with Toni Storm announcing she and Saraya will face Hikaru Shida and Britt Baker on Friday’s AEW Rampage. Baker and Shida also had brief comments…
Ruby Soho made her entrance and was accompanied onto the stage by Toni Storm, who kissed her head and then headed to the back. A pre-taped promo aired with Soho talking about how one of her best friends will be bringing the AEW Women’s Championship home to The Outcasts. Soho warned Kris Statlander that she is coming after her TBS Championship.
Skye Blue made her entrance and she also had a pre-tape. She recalled that she and Hikaru Shida beat Soho. Her promo was cut short because she and Soho started brawling…
3. Ruby Soho vs. Skye Blue. After some back and forth action, Blue hit Soho with a crossbody block off the apron. Blue threw Soho back in the ring heading into a PIP break. [C] There was a series of back and forth pin attempts that resulted in two counts.
Blue hit a weak kick that Soho sold while Excalibur labeled it a glancing blow. Blue hit Skyefall for a near fall. Soho stuffed the Code Blue and threw a knee strike. Blue came right back with a kick. Soho hit No Future and Destination Unknown before scoring the pin…
Ruby Soho beat Skye Blue in roughly 7:00.
Renee Paquette interviewed Roderick Strong, who was accompanied by Matt Taven and Mike Bennett on the backstage interview set. Strong said that by the end of All In, we would find out who the real MJF and real Adam Cole are…
The video package from AEW Collision that featured the House of Black putting Billy Gunn’s boots in a trash compactor was replayed…
“The Acclaimed” Max Caster and Anthony Bowens headed to the ring without entrance music. Bowens took a mic and said no more fun time with The Acclaimed. He said they were still standing and called for the House of Black to come out.
The lights went out and then the House of Black’s Malakai Black, Brody King, Buddy Matthews, and Julia Hart made their entrance. The HOB wrestlers stood on the apron and then the male wrestlers entered the ring and roughed up Caster and Bowens. The fans chanted for Billy Gunn. King set up to use a chain, but he stopped when he heard entrance music.
Billy Gunn made his entrance to The Acclaimed theme song. Gunn walked out in street clothes. The House of Black wrestlers exited the ring. Gunn checked on Caster and Bowens. Gunn grabbed a mic and told the House of Black to hold on.
Gunn said HOB wanted his attention and they had it. Gunn said that after they beat him for the second time, he unlaced his boots and left them in the ring. He said he did the two hardest things he’s ever had to do in his life by walking out on Caster and Bowens, and his own career.
Gunn said they attacked Caster and Bowens and then took his boots and tried to destroy his boots. Gunn said he’s made wrestling history and is a Hall of Famer, but House of Black pissed all over it. Gunn said one more time, all or nothing, he would take everything from HOB at All In. Gunn announced HOB vs. The Acclaimed. He said “that fun loving Daddy Ass” can’t make the trip. Gunn said there’s a guy he never thought we’d see again. Gunn said there’s a Badass coming to London and his name is “Badass” Billy Gunn…
Powell’s POV: This Billy Gunn saga hasn’t done much for me and I can’t even say that I’m looking forward to another AEW Trios Title match between these teams. That said, I’m sure London will go apeshit for The Acclaimed.
Excalibur announced the following matches for Saturday’s AEW Collision: Jay White, Swerve Strickland, Luchasaurus, and Brian Cage vs. CM Punk, Sting, Darby Allin, and a mystery person with Samoa Joe on commentary, Orange Cassidy, Penta El Zero Miedo, and Eddie Kingston vs. Kip Sabian, The Butcher, and The Blade, Jack Perry will retire the FTW Title, and “we will hear from the AEW stars in London”…
Excalibur ran through the lineup for AEW All In. The Stadium Stampede match is now five-on-five rather than the previously listed six-on-six, and it will be Christian Cage teaming with Swerve Strickland to face Sting and Darby Allin in a coffin match…
Excalibur also hyped the two matches advertised for AEW All Out. Finally, he hyped Aussie Open vs. The Hardys as the show’s main event…
Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy made their entrance… [C]
Powell’s POV: The CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe match is still advertised. Tony Khan seemed really upset when he spoke about the lineup changes, which left Wade Keller and I wondering on Wade’s podcast if Punk had suffered another injury. I’m happy to see that’s not the case.
4. “Aussie Open” Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis vs. Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy for the ROH Tag Team Titles. The Aussie Open entrance was televised after the break. Aussie Open attacked the Hardys and the referee rewarded them for it by calling for the opening bell. They cut to an early PIP break. [C]
Excalibur said Tony Khan (drink) informed him that they would stick with the action if it ran past the top of the hour. Matt superplexed Fletcher and then Jeff performed a second rope splash. Jeff had the pin, but Davis ran in and broke it up.
The Hardys set up for a double superplex on Davis, but Fletcher broke it up and powerbombed Matt. Davis held up Jeff and then Fletcher kicked him. Davis powered up Jeff and then Fletcher hit him with a cutter from the ropes, which led to Davis pinning Jeff.
“Aussie Open” Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis defeated Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy in 8:05 to retain the ROH Tag Team Titles.
[Overrun] Afterward, the Aussie Open duo delivered a promo and said there would be no double clothesline or kangaroo kick. MJF and Adam Cole made their entrance to their mashed up theme songs. MJF and Cole entered the ring and went face to face with Aussie Open while the broadcast team hyped their match for the All In pre-show.
MJF and Cole turned to leave, but Aussie Open pulled them back and a brawl broke out. Aussie Open put the boots to MJF and Cole. Fletcher and Davis set up for a double clothesline on Cole, but MJF climbed on the back of Davis. Cole put Fletcher and then Davis down with pump kicks. MJF and Cole circled the ring and then pointed at one another and simultaneously called for a double clothesline. They went for one on Davis, who escaped the ring. Fletcher was still in the corner.
MJF set up for a Kangaroo Kick, but Davis returned and hit MJF from behind. MJF got up and put Fletcher down with a shot. MJF held Fletcher. Cole went for a kick, but Fletcher moved and MJF caught Cole’s foot. MJF released Cole’s foot and they went face to face. MJF picked up his title belt and held it up while staring at Cole, who offered him a handshake.
MJF shouldered his way past Cole. MJF reached in his pocket and pulled out his Dynamite Diamond Ring and put it on his right hand. MJF put it back in his pocket and hugged Cole. Their theme played. MJF went to the ropes and posed while Cole looked up at him. MJF dropped down and played to the crowd, and then he and Cole both posed on the ropes to close the show…
Powell’s POV: Of course I will have a live review of AEW All In on Sunday beginning with the pre-show. Now that we have that out of the way, I believe the overrun went seven minutes, which is longer than usual. Aussie Open beating the Hardys would have meant more had the Hardys hadn’t just lost to the Young Bucks on Dynamite. That said, I loved the post match angle. I was worried they were going to make this about Aussie Open, but they did a great job of using them to set up the awkward moment with MJF and Cole. There were some good teases before we got what may be the final hug between MJF and Cole on Dynamite. Great stuff.
Overall, there were some excellent go-home style segments on this episode. I loved the push for MJF vs. Cole, and the Jericho and Ospreay contract signing in particular. In hindsight, I’m not sure why Tony Khan seemed as down as he was about the All In lineup changes unless there are actually more to come via AEW Collision. It sucks for the talent who can’t make the trip, but I don’t think AEW will miss out on any pay-per-view buys as a result of those changes. I will have more to say in my weekly same night audio review of AEW Dynamite for Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons). Let me know what you thought of the show by grading it below.
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