It’s probably fair to say that this week’s edition of AEW Dynamite didn’t have quite the stacked card as the past few weeks. Nonetheless I was still hoping for a more consistent show than what was ultimately delivered. In the end, as has been the case on many occasions, Dynamite was a rollercoaster of differing quality that ranged from the excellent to the downright terrible. Let’s get into it.
Darby Allin Vs Swerve Strickland
This opening match was a follow-up from the reveal on Rampage that Swerve had joined forces with Brian Cage and the rest of The Embassy. During said reveal, Swerve and Cage attacked Darby on the ramp which is the kayfabe reason behind this match. In reality, it existed to showcase Darby in a big win before his presumed Double or Nothing main event against MJF, Jack Perry, and Sammy Guevara for the World Championship. Overall, this match accomplished everything it needed to.
It’s no secret that these two have incredible chemistry dating back to their long history on the independent circuit, and it showed here. This was a much better match than their previous AEW encounter with the highlight of the match being a poison rana from the apron to the outside. Darby went over clean while needing to resort to a Last Supper pinning combination that Excalibur excellently pointed out is Swerve’s kryptonite having falling to it already in AEW, meaning Swerve was somewhat protected in defeat while Darby still got a much needed victory.
Match Rating: 3.75/5
The post-match angle saw World Champion MJF come down to the ring to mock his potential next challenger, mocking both Darby Allin and Sting. Hot take: MJF is great on the mic. Darby’s comeback was also pretty good before his partner/mentor Sting came out and quite frankly stole the segment.
With the knowledge that this is to be Sting’s final year in-ring, hearing him drop the line “Showtime is almost over” was enough to bring a tear to this old wrestling fan’s eye. Although this Sting promo existed to put over Darby Allin, I couldn’t help but feel that all I wanted to see after this was Sting take on MJF. Regardless of that, this entire segment was great to watch.
TNT Title: Powerhouse Hobbs Vs Silas Young
There’s not much to say here. I like Silas Young but having Hobbs crush him in less than a minute was the right call here. Hobbs needs more wins like this and less 50/50 matches with guys who should be below him.
Match rating: N/A.
After the match we saw Wardlow destroy Hobbs’ new car with a forklift truck in a very attitude era-like segment. This was pretty cool if you’re into this sort of stuff, I thought it was good for what it was. It’s all leading to the Hobbs v Wardlow rematch next week which, if I’m being honest, I’d just like to see be over and done with now. Between this awful QT Marshall stuff and Wardlow generally feeling pretty cold, I just can’t get excited about their rematch. I’m definitely more interested in what both lads do next. Wardlow powerbombing Bailey’s ex-boyfriend off a stage was very cool though, more of that please.
Before the next match we heard from Jay White and Juice Robinson who told us they’re now going by the name Bullet Club Gold… Okay. Bullet Club in 2023 couldn’t be colder, slapping the word ‘Gold’ after it probably won’t help but let’s see I guess.
International Title: Orange Cassidy Vs Buddy Matthews
What an over delivery this match was! I went into this 100% sure that OC was retaining his title, and although that ended up being the case, I was fully drawn into believing that we were going to see a new champion in Buddy Matthews.
Building the match around Cassidy’s injured hand turned out to be a stroke of genius. The way both men worked the match had both myself and the live crowd in Milwaukee biting on every pinfall and believing that this incredible title reign was coming to an end. This current character arc of Cassidy being the lazy millennial who is actually the hardest working champion on the roster is one of the best parts of Dynamite right now and long may it continue!
Match Rating: 4/5
Following this excellent match we were brought crashing back down to earth with this horrible Matt Hardy story with The Firm. Now I completely get that some people are into this but wrestlers being contracted to other wrestlers has already become an annoying go-to storyline in AEW’s short history. We’ve had it with Andrade, MJF, Jericho and now The Firm. This version where Matt Hardy has found some weird loophole that the dumb looking Ethan Page missed was just nonsense that I didn’t want to be hearing first thing on a Thursday morning.
Of course this was all just laid out to facilitate the return of Jeff Hardy. Bringing back a felon to TV in a week where your rival company has the genuinely evil and disgusting Vince McMahon back at the helm is certainly a choice. Now I’m not for one second comparing what Jeff has done to the numerous gross acts committed by Vince, but if I were Tony Khan, I’d have definitely enjoyed a few weeks of just being the good guys but hey ho. Having said that, I do hope Jeff is in a better place and this can be another step on his road to recovery. I’m just not sure we need him on TV right now.
Blackpool Combat Club Vs Brandon Cutler & Michael Nakazawa
This followed a pretty decent Kenny Omega promo from his home which we would later learn was pre-taped. The match went longer than many expected as the BCC were essentially playing with their food. A bloodied up Cutler & Nakazawa had a few little comeback spots that were quickly crushed. This was fun and achieved what it needed to without being great.
Match Rating: 2.75/5
The post-match saw the return of The Elite. Now as cool as this was in the moment (and it really was!), it did leave me wondering why The Elite were happy to let their friends get beaten up for so long if they were in the building the whole time. A small plot hole that can be forgiven for what was a fun segment in a top quality story so far.
Ruby Soho & Toni Storm Vs Skye Blue & Riho.
A women’s tag match being thrown on just before the main event.. yup, we’re definitely watching an episode of Dynamite! Let’s be honest, you’ve seen this before. All the women involved are good workers who put in a solid effort but the entire match and angle that followed was just so unoriginal. I actually quite like the outcasts but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them do the spray paint gimmick only to be interrupted by the homegrown babyfaces. This was all inoffensive enough to not bother me but I doubt I’ll remember much of it come next week.
Match Rating: 2.75/5
Chris Jericho Vs Keith Lee
The main event of Chris Jericho Vs Keith Lee is one of those matches that makes you realise just how strong AEW’s roster is, and just how well they’ve done keeping certain wrestlers apart. It’s just not the sort of match many fans would have envisioned a couple of weeks ago but here we are. As exciting as it was to see these two stars come together, the advancing age and size of both men had some people worried about the quality of this main event. However, these two guys are top level professionals and showed it in this match. Seeing Lee throw Jericho around like he was still a cruiserweight on Nitro was a lot of fun to watch. Although a screwy finish is less than ideal, it at least protected Keith Lee in defeat while also circling back round to the Swerve Strickland story, so that’s okay.
Match Rating: 3.5/5
Unfortunately the post-match angle with Adam Cole ended the episode on a flat note. Throughout the night the commentary team were trying to sell viewers on the fact Adam Cole and Keith Lee are good friends. Not only was this just a painfully obvious move to get Cole involved in the main event, but it also felt very contrived and just plain weird. Firstly, they are they relying on the pairs NXT history which, let’s be honest, not many people watched, especially AEW fans during the Wednesday night wars. And secondly, it also requires the viewer to ignore years of AEW history. If these two are so close, why is it only now when they are both orbiting Chris Jericho that we hear about it? This was crap, just lazy unimaginative crap. To add insult to injury, having Cole and Jericho recreate the scene from Cole’s return match but with the roles reversed just felt corny and left a bad taste in my mouth. Adam Cole has only been back for a few weeks and he already feels wasted in this lame angle.
As I said in the intro, this was a really up and down show. Orange Cassidy Vs Buddy Matthews was worthy of any wrestling fan’s time, Sting put on a masterclass of a promo, and seeing The Elite return to face down the BCC was really exciting. However an unnatural and contrived friendship between Cole and Lee, nothing notable happening in the women’s division and a problematic Jeff Hardy shadow looming over all of this stopped the show from being great.
AEW Dynamite Score: 6/10