AEW has felt very all over the place in recent weeks. I’ve found myself going into each segment with no idea what to expect in terms of quality due to almost every current storyline having both outstanding and terrible moments in them.

This week’s episode of Dynamite sadly continues this trend. Once again there were some incredible moments in this show mixed in with some downright awful stuff, resulting in an overall good yet not great show.

With all the real-life CM Punk drama and upcoming roster split looming over this entire promotion, it feels difficult to really commit to AEW television right now. Here’s hoping that come June we can see a more focused product, but only time will tell. Anyway, on with the review.

International Championship: Orange Cassidy Vs Bandito

This opener was arguably the highlight of the night, much the same way that Cassidy has become the highlight of the entire promotion during this International title reign. This match had everything; high speed offense, comedy and, most importantly, stakes. The drama down the closing stretch felt legit and by the end it was believable that these two guys would find a mutual respect for each other.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We then go backstage to hear from Adam Cole following last week’s cringe-inducing beatdown of Britt Baker. Cole did well here but Cassidy and Bandito, now hilariously wearing sunglasses, stole the segment with their confusion that the interview was for them. Cassidy dropping the “oh” and walking off afterwards was genuinely hilarious. Comedy is so difficult to nail in wrestling in 2023 but Cassidy is doing a stellar job.

Jeff Jarrett Vs Dax Harwood

This was a fun old school match that unfortunately never reached the heights of being great. Not to sound too much like the dinosaurs of wrestling (Cornette & co, not Luchasaurus) but it was nice to see a match loaded with lots of hip tosses and arm drags as opposed to Canadian destroyers and 450’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff, but it’s nice to get back to basics once in a while and that’s exactly what this match was.

Sadly it was slightly let down by Jarrett struggling to keep up with the pace and a screwy finish that maybe would have been acceptable had we not had so many of them already in recent months on AEW television. Not to mention the amount we had just in this episode! Though, watching Double J celebrate with one half of the tag titles was arguably worth the pain. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I can’t get enough of this man in 2023.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A real feel good moment came next as Tony Khan announced that this year’s Owen Hart Cup will take place over AEW’s tour of Canada, with the final taking place in Owen’s hometown of Calgary. There were so many parts of this announcement that reminded me why AEW is still the baby face promotion. All the respect TK clearly has for Dr Martha Hart, the location of the tournament, and even having the announcement follow straight on from a Jeff Jarrett win. All of this is heartwarming stuff and even got me thinking, I wonder if they could temporarily have Jarrett turn face for a run in this tournament? I’d definitely be down for that.

Jarrett & Owen in WWF 1999

Wardlow Vs Ariel Levy

This is just what Wardlow needed. Back to basics with a fun squash. It might be a good idea to go back to this for a few more weeks just to remind people of why they liked Wardlow in the first place. Great stuff here but it’s a real indictment on AEW’s booking of Wardlow that they’ve had to go back to this.

I’m not going to give a star rating as it was just a squash match. Next up we had Arn Anderson telling the Florida crowd that he wants to see Wardlow get dirty and made some references to NFL drafts and franchises that probably connected better with an American audience than myself. Either way I quite like Arn with Wardlow, I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes, especially with the involvement of Christian and Luchasaurus.

‘Four Pillars Tournament Final’ Sammy Guevara Vs Darby Allin

An awful promo backstage with Sammy and MJF proceeded this match that put me in a bad mood before this thing could even get going. This entire four pillar feud is very close to losing me at this point. After last week’s disaster, I couldn’t possibly think any less of MJF’s three challengers and the more I see MJF interact with them, the more I think less of him as a champion.

Having said that, this match was a lot of fun. Admittedly I’d have probably been way more into the chaos if I was also into the story, but that shouldn’t take away from what these two achieved here. Sammy’s beautiful 630 dive through a table was a great callback to the first time these two clashed in AEW, and Darby getting bloodied up looked cool as hell. Annoyingly I was dragged straight back out of the match and back to the reality of this crappy story with a Eddie Guerrero inspired finish that just didn’t land for me. It made the referee look stupid and ended a great match on a sour note.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

After the match, MJF reminded us why he’ll be just fine after this story is done with, telling Darby Allin to “use your tears to play with yourself while you listen to My Chemical Romance”. This got a massive laugh out of me. MJF is so far ahead of the other three guys on the mic, it’s ridiculous.

Afterwards Tony Schiavone took great pleasure informing MJF that Tony Khan has made a tag match next week between the four pillars and if Jack Perry & Darby Allin win, they’re into the World title match at the PPV. *Sigh*. Why are we doing this? We all know this is leading to a 4-way so why go through all these pointless matches to get there? It makes the ‘four pillars tournament’ feel like a waste of time and makes me feel like a mug for tuning in to watch in the first place. It really feels like AEW have dropped the ball with this story. I’m sure the actual match will be great on the night, but every guy involved feels less important than they did before this feud began. Schiavone calling MJF a prick was great though, more of that please.

Then we had Adam Cole in the ring calling out Chris Jericho. This all led to Jericho sending out the J.A.S to beat down Cole. What followed was nothing short of tremendous. Cassidy and Bandito, having briefly interacted with Cole earlier in the night, did what any great baby face would do and tried to make the save despite inevitably failing due to the numbers advantage. To everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY’S surprise, Roderick Strong then hit the ring fully accompanied with Killswitch Engage entrance music and a huge pop! This was a genuinely shocking debut that AEW have done wonders to keep quiet. It also makes all the sense in the world due to Strong and Cole’s history together. All in all, this was a fantastic segment and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

QTV then happened. The less said about this the better. It’s been utter garbage since day one, just get rid.

TBS title: Jade Cargill Vs Taya Valkyrie

Once again, another fun match is ruined by an awful finish. The days of AEW having mostly clean finishes feels long gone at this point.

This one got a bit messy in parts but the fun of watching these two rivals finally go at it outweighed any weird moments. That was until the end when Taya went for the Road to Valhalla finisher, which she was banned from using, then got rolled up when she realised she wasn’t allowed to do it. This was so stupid. Why did Taya agree to this in the first place? Why is the dominant Jade Cargill needing to have this stipulation included? Then why did Taya forget about it mid match?! To make matters worse, the execution of the pin was slow and clunky. Why these two women couldn’t just have a straight up one on one with Cargill overcoming a great opponent I’ll never know. This entire feud has been needlessly overcomplicated and benefited nobody.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Kenny Omega & Konosuke Takeshita Vs The Butcher and The Blade

I was buzzing when I realised this was the main event, that was until I looked at the time and noticed it was only being given fifteen minutes including entrances. There was just no way this main event could live up to its potential with the time permitted, even less so when you take into account that it also had to go through a picture in picture break and squeeze in a post-match angle.

We saw glimpses of how good this match could be but it was just never really given a chance to reach those highs.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After the match we had Bryan Danielson, who was excellent on commentary by the way, get on the mic to question why Takeshita is hanging around with The Elite. This led to the BCC attacking the Elite followed by a tug-of-war between the two factions fighting over Takeshita. This achieved the desired effect of making him look like a star before the BCC cut the legs from underneath him. This feud has had a few stutters, but overall it’s one of the hottest angles on the show and is giving fans more of a reason to tune in every week than the World title story is, that’s for sure.

Overall this was a fun show that was held up by another incredible Orange Cassidy title defense, a genuinely shocking and well executed debut of Roddy Strong, and a strong enough close with BCC Vs The Elite to end on a high. However the constant interferences, a terrible World title picture, and general inconsistency of the show, while still under a giant CM Punk shaped shadow, is enough to prevent Dynamite from reaching its previously high standards.

7.5 / 10