AEW found itself in a strange place going into this show. The majority of Dynamite episodes in 2023 have been all over the place when it comes to quality. The backstage drama, mostly revolving around CM Punk, as well as the upcoming new TV deal that is set to include an extra show has all distracted from the actual TV presentation. Not to mention the fact that they’ve recently sold over 60,000 (!) tickets to All In at Wembley Stadium.
Following the disastrous, and quite frankly embarrassing shit show that was Rampage this past weekend, AEW were desperate for a home run here. The card was loaded in an attempt to do just that, but did they pull it off? Let’s jump into it..
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Rey Fenix
In a week that WWE performed in front of one of the hottest crowds in years, this match was the perfect way to remind fans that AEW can pull similar crowd reactions on a week-to-week basis. The crowd in Detroit were packed in and ready to make noise and this opening match gave them everything they wanted.
Rey Fenix continues to be one of the best high-flying luchadors on the planet, there’s even an argument to be made that being in the Lucha Bros with his brother Penta is holding him back at this point. Claudio Castagnoli acted as the perfect base for Fenix’s fast paced style and this match lived up to all the hype. Claudio reminded everybody why he’s one of the best wrestlers around who can work any style. He was able to keep up with Fenix while still showing off his incredible feats of strength with some incredible spots.
The finish was brutal and clean as well. Bangers like this are always the perfect way to open Dynamite.
The excitement continued next as we see Miro walking backstage towards Tony Khan’s office for the first time in months. Something this shocking straight after a 4-star match really gave this show a big-time feel right off the bat. This would lead to a mini story that would cover the first half of the show, I’ll cover it all now to keep everything simple.
We’d later see Thunder Rosa return in the exact same spot as Miro. In a very different segment, we also had Jericho complaining about Dynamite being an unsafe working environment after he was attacked last week by Adam Cole & Britt Baker. Before the show was even half way through, Tony Khan himself did a short promo saying he’d have a big announcement next week. This is of course leading to the brand new Saturday night show – Collision. It appears that all the wrestlers, such as Miro and Rosa, who are struggling to get TV time will be moved to this show judging by what we saw here. Jericho now also has the perfect excuse to also jump over to Collision.
Now we all know why this is happening (cough cough Punk) but this was a great way to give the audience an on-screen reason for it happening. The AEW roster has grown significantly and TK is well aware of this. Only time will tell if this soft roster split is a good idea or not, but this was a fun way to get the ball rolling.
Next up we had an MJF video package that would be the first of four revolving around all the guys in the Double or Nothing main event. After a few weeks of this story not really hitting, going back to basics with these pre-taped promo packages felt inspired. All four of them were kept simple and made each guy look ten times better than how they came off doing live promos in recent weeks. Having Jericho as part of Sammy’s video, Sting as part of Darby’s, and surprisingly Christian as part of Jungle Boy’s all made this feel massive. MJF was also allowed to brag about beating CM Punk and Cody Rhodes which definitely helped. This was a really smart move on AEW’s part with these videos throughout the night, it felt like the first part of a real course correction.
In a very uncharacteristic way for Dynamite, we had more storyline related action instead of a match next with FTR answering Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal’s challenge for the tag titles. Without going over every detail, this led to Mark Briscoe announcing himself as the special guest referee before Dax Harwood, blinded by alcohol in his eyes, accidentally hit a piledriver on Mark. This was all pretty fun and even though it’s not elite-level storytelling, I’m still into it and looking forward to the title match at Double or Nothing.
International title: Orange Cassidy vs. Daniel Garcia
This match wasn’t the firecracker like we saw in the opener, but instead told a great story that not only calls back to months worth of great narrative for both men, but also helped move along both wrestler’s character arcs.
Cassidy was once again selling his hand injury while simultaneously telling the overarching story of this long and grueling International title reign. Garcia continued his personal story of him trying to fit in with Jericho as a sports entertainer while slowly realizing that being a technical wrestler is what nearly won him this match. It may not be memorable compared to other matches on this card, but it did a perfect job at moving the story along for both guys separately.
Christian Cage was out next with Luchasaurus to simply remind every single person watching that he’s still one of the greatest heels in the business today. Shouting over a rage-fueled crowd, Christian called back to his previous feud with Jungle Boy and compared him to Wardlow who both have “Daddy Issues”. With the knowledge that Wardlow was not on the show, it really helped put Christian over as the cowardly loud mouth who people love to hate. Great stuff.
Julia Hart vs. Anna Jay
This no holds barred match was filled with great intentions but poor excecution. Julia Hart’s entrance is fantastic and having Anna Jay interrupt it got this match off to a hot start. Sadly it all fell apart after a botched pinfall where Hart didn’t kick out when she clearly should have, followed by a top rope superplex that completely missed the pile of chairs they were aiming for.
This match got more wrong than it did right, but thankfully it was on a hot show with an even hotter crowd so they probably just about got away with it!
Trios titles: House of Black vs. Best Amigos
This trios match followed a genuinely hilarious backstage segment with the Best Friends (Amigos tonight thanks to Bandito) who never realised they were meant to pick a “dealers choice rule”. In a last minute panic, they decide to ban Julia Hart from ringside with a “No spooky witches allowed” rule. Brilliant.
The match itself was really good but the new lighting (or lack thereof) used for the House of Black was a bit of a distraction. It’s hard to say right now whether this new effect is any good. As I said it’s distracting, and also a bit corny. However it does make these new Open House Rules matches stand out from the pack. Only time will tell if it becomes too annoying or a great little addition.
We then cut backstage to see Kyle Fletcher from Aussie Open attack a tired and battered Orange Cassidy. I love Kyle and the match with Cassidy will be great, but the “Aussie Aussie” line and the lingering camera shot was a little cringe.
Steel Cage: Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley
Omega vs. Moxley is a legacy feud for AEW at this point and this latest chapter of chaos did not disappoint. This was brutal, exciting, and felt like a proper main event. In fact there’s an argument to be made that this was the greatest steel cage match we’ve ever seen on American weekly television.
The match didn’t waste any time by having the BCC and the Young Bucks come out early to start brawling before being kicked out the building so that Omega and Moxley could continue killing each other. There was both barbed wire and glass used, not only to make this match as violent as possible but also as a nice callback to the pair’s previous matches.
Although the early interference and awesome cage-breaking spot made the eventual Don Callis turn a bit predictable, it was still highly enjoyable to watch and felt huge. Callis was the final piece stopping the Elite turning full babyface so expect this feud to go up another level after this. It was also a very cool perfect circle moment given he originally joined up with Omega when these two first faced off for the AEW title.
Everything about this main event felt huge and gave me that AEW feeling of old. They even let the Callis betrayal breathe in the aftermath which is something AEW sometimes fails to do.
Remind is a word that has been used a lot in this review. It’s apt because that’s exactly what this great episode of Dynamite did, it reminded people of what we love about AEW. It was fast-paced, told great stories that not only called back to story beats from years past but also teased what’s to come, and was all accompanied by a white hot crowd. A clunky women’s match and a few oddities here and there stopped it from being an all-timer, but overall this was a fantastic show. Welcome back AEW.