AEW Dynamite 12/15/2021 Winter is Coming Review

From the Curtis Cullwell Center in Texas, AEW Dynamite’s special Winter is Coming event was something else but mostly for the first match on the card. That match was the highly anticipated Hangman Adam Page vs Bryan Danielson for the AEW World Title. There were three other matches on the card, two of which had some story going in, but originally I wasn’t clear if they were going to add more matches to this card. Nothing was announced beforehand and I wasn’t sure how the real main event would go given AEW’s booking.

Adam Page Vs. Bryan Danielson

This was for the AEW World Title and they wasted no time to get things going. Prior to the match as Bryan Danielson came to the ring first, they did a small review of his recent history against the Dark Order where he demolished many of the members in the previous weeks. That was actually a great move since at least it summarizes what’s gone on up to this point. They talked about his aggressive turn which would set the tone of this match.

The way they started was going in really slow, which was done to set the pace for what would become a classic. Just before the show, I had been listening to Renee Paquette’s podcast with Adam Page and Hangman mentioned the big thing he was working on was his cardio going into this match because of how Bryan Danielson likes long, grueling matches. So already I was expecting a good 20+ minutes.

The initial story they were telling was how Bryan was playing very cocky and not taking Adam Page seriously, taunting him with jumping jacks, making breaks in the ropes and otherwise trying to get into Adam Page’s headspace. Being a cowboy Adam Page was painted as losing his patience early in the match with Bryan as he felt disrespected.

As the match progressed, the first major bump was seeing Adam Page crash face first into the ring side table after a failed attempt a top turnbuckle moonsault with Bryan slamming him. That lead to Page getting further smacked and being cracked so that he started to bleed with Bryan working over the cut.

Likewise, Bryan would injure his knee at one point where the announcers mentioned how during his match with Jon Silvers he tweaked it. He would pull down his knee pads to demonstrate the bandage on his left leg, which is his kicking leg. So as the match progressed he would switch back and forth between his left and right legs, although you could tell that his right leg wasn’t nearly as strong nor effective as his left one. That happened when Bryan missed a kick on the outside apron and connected with the corner post which created an opening for Page to go on the assault to Bryan’s leg.

However, momentum would switch as Bryan managed to injure Page’s good arm which is the one he uses for his signature Buckshot Lariat. So the story gradually became how they were attempting to take out each others’ main weapons which I thought was great.

The real story came in the last 5 minutes as fatigue and time became their enemies. Both men were going the distance in an hour long Broadway with Bryan doing what he could to avoid the Buckshot Lariat, although towards the end getting hit by a pair. In  the end though, Page failed to capitalize on his last Buckshot Lariat with the time limit expiring.

So this possibly was the greatest match in AEW’s history. It really is neck-and-neck with Bryan’s match against Kenny Omega. But the big picture here is that they wanted to really establish Adam Page as a worthy title holder by being able to hold his own against a formidable opponent in Bryan Danielson by doing the one hour marathon. At the same time, they wanted to slowly have Bryan take Adam Page more seriously as an opponent where over the course of the match he was forced to pull out some big time offense and dig deep both in his arsenal as well as avoiding Page’s big moves.

There was no after birth (thank god) for this match. Instead, the referees came into the ring and brought water bottles as both men sold fatigue (or perhaps they were really exhausted). The announcers teased a rematch and honestly they need one because this was one of those matches without a solid conclusion and needed one. It definitely wasn’t just a taste but a main course of steak and lobster before a main course of the finest sushi.

So on the Cornette podcast, I had mentioned that the booking up to this point put this match into a very difficult spot. I predicted a 30 minute time limit draw, not realizing that they would give a whole hour to both guys. There really wasn’t any other way to do this. They needed to establish Page as being on Bryan’s level and Bryan couldn’t lose this huge of a match this early in AEW. In turn, this match was perfect. Quite honestly, this might be the best match on free TV for the longest time. I can’t even remember the last one hour draw I’ve seen.

That said, if they do a rematch (which I assume will be in a month or two at their next PPV), I’m not sure what they can do to top this. My only guess is that they either do a 2/3 falls match or an Iron Man match where both guys try to pin/submit each other in a one hour time limit. But that would be the logical follow up to a one hour draw. For now, Page looks damn good and Bryan still is impeccable. I can’t complain when they give a match this high of a performance away on free TV and have such great story telling that never got boring once.

Super Kliq Backstage Segment

Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and the Bucks stood around to bad Christmas music playing in the background talking about the Best Friends and making fun of them (with some background video). Adam Cole teases the Bucks with a gift he’s presenting them next week on Dynamite.

So this actually is much bigger than what was let on here. While Cole only had a small box, over on Twitter Kyle O’Reily asked, “What’s in the box?” With Kyle O’Reily’s contract officially done with the WWE, in all probability he will be the special surprise. I’m really looking forward to that. That should be amazing. Notice also how Bobby Fish didn’t say anything about the surprise. So is this going to be the return of the Undisputed Era in the highly anticipated rivalry against the Elite?

Matt Sydal Vs. Wardlow

Poor Matt Sydal is officially the Brad “The Candyman” Armstrong of AEW to Wardlow playing 1990’s WCW version of Sid Vicious. Even Shawn Spears joked that this match lasted too long and told Wardlow to finish it up. After Wardlow pinned Sydal, Spears gave a few more chair shots to poor Sydal and told Wardlow that MJF called to tell Wardlow to pick up victory champagne after his match later in the night. So more of a tease for Wardlow turning against the Pinnacle. How long has this been going on?

Malakai Black House of Black Vignette

This was a well produced video that probably would be better in a horror or psycho-suspense thriller movie than on a pro-wrestling program. It was reported that Brody King (from ROH) has officially signed with AEW. Since King has teamed with Black on the independent circuit (PWG), this most likely was geared towards his intro. Black did mention “Now you’re so much more than a king.”

And I say that the video was better for anything not involved pro-wrestling because when they came back to the announcers, Taz joked about how that was fun. I mean I like Malakai Black, I think as a person outside of pro-wrestling he seems super cool. But these nonsensical video segments make him look silly.  And there’s no easy way to transition from something like that back into a normal wrestling program. It’s almost like saying Freddie Krueger shows up and you have to pretend that he’s real outside of a movie. It just doesn’t work.

Hikaru Shida Vs. Serena Deeb

Billed as the “rubber match” between these two, this match was something I felt pretty bad for. Sure, Wardlow vs Sydal was put before this as a buffer but nothing was going to top Bryan vs Page. The whole show format is ass backwards and I understand why they do it, but it hurts the rest of the event.

Anyway, I like both people but for a rubber match with an issue, it remained a wrestling match. The big spot was Deeb getting frustrated, pulling off the top turnbuckle padding and trying to setup a spot a few times only to have her face bounce against the metal so Hikaru could roll her up with a jack knife pin for the three count. I don’t know why this result took place because Deeb probably needed the win more than Shida and I don’t know what they will do with Shida after this match. So just bleh booking.

Varsity Blondes Backstage Interview

Schiavone gave a semi-civilized interview with the Varsity Blondes asking for an update of Julie Hart, who was not present. Griff Garrison actually did a decent promo and showed some fire for once in his promo about being angry at what happened to Hart and called Malakai a coward. Brian Pillman Jr. tried to calm Griff down but Griff angrily shoved him and asked for a match against Black next week. Perhaps, Brody King shows up next week, sprays Griff so that Black and King take on the Varsity Blondes in the future.

Eddie Kingston Backstage Segment

Kingston found a spot where he safely could give 2.0 and Garcia a piece of his mind. So with Moxley out, Kingston will team with the Lucha Bros and Santana and Ortiz agaisnt 2.0, Daniel Garcia and the Acclaimed on Friday’s Rampage. So because the real main event took an hour, they needed to cram as many people as possible into a single match.

MJF Vs. Dante Martin

Before the match got started, MJF had a microphone and got on the crowd and CM Punk’s case. However, he did talk briefly about Dante Martin which gave Dante some favoritism from the crowd going into this match.

The match was for the diamond ring that MJF has coveted. This was more of a showcase of Dante Martin’s high spot and MJF trying to lead the guy. Dante did slow down a bit to allow his moves to resonate with the crowd. But early on he hit a low 450 splash that looked to have legitimately clocked MJF on the jaw. Afterwards, MJF clutched his jaw and rolled out of the ring a few times before Dante hit an outside Shooting Star press.

Eventually, Dante lined MJF in position for his double jump moonsault from the top rope but Ricky Starks came out to put MJF’s foot on the ropes for a small piece of revenge for Dante embarrassing Starks during the battle royal the previous week. In turn, MJF got Dante into his “Salt of the Earth” armbreaker for the tap out victory.

Not a bad match but I was sad that Dante didn’t win this one. Even if MJF needs every win going into his inevitable match against CM Punk since MJF doesn’t wrestle often, Dante Martin could’ve used the win badly. Obviously, they wanted to show that Dante’s growth has been meteoric but unlike Jade Cargill who has been pushed to the moon with a flawless record, Dante Martin actually has real talent and needed a big victory to elevate him into a new level.

Afterwards, FTR came out to celebrate with MJF by propping him up on their shoulders, leading to a black out. Initially, given that FTR showed up in ROH’s ring with a black out and that the Brisco Brothers issued a challenge earlier in the day to FTR, I really thought that they would show up here. Instead, Sting and Darby Allin appeared. Didn’t Sting and Darby job FTR out back on the big Arthur Ashe show? Did Tony Khan cross his wires again in terms of forgetting which container had the coke vs the meth? Anyway, FTR and MJF eventually got the one up over Sting and Darby when MJF delivered a low blow to Sting. But CM Punk’s music played as the crowd went wild in chanting his name and the man himself came down with Sting’s signature baseball bat to clear the ring.

CM Punk proceeded to declare a new match for next week at the North Carolina Greensboro show where Sting hadn’t wrestled in a while by having a trios with them vs FTR and MJF. The announcers, of course, then declared that Tony Khan “just signed” the match almost immediately after Punk offered the challenge. I’m telling ya Tony, it’s all about time management, something apparently he doesn’t know how to do given how they didn’t announce the Owen Hart Cup thing that was supposed to happen tonight because they ran out of time.

Final Thoughts

This was a one match show again that pretty much hurt the rest of the card because the ordering of the show was done in reverse, much like their general booking. Now, the thing “I get” is that if the match had started at the top of the 2nd hour, everyone would have immediately guessed that the match would be going an entire hour. So they probably didn’t want to spoil anything, which to me is ridiculous.

Even though I won’t complain about the quality of Bryan vs Page, I still think they could’ve done a lot more to lead into the match to create more anticipation. Like them warming up, or giving last minute thoughts going into the match. Also, it’s stupid for your world title match not to be the main event. Logically speaking, that match should’ve belonged on the taped Rampage since then they could be given the entire hour.

But right now, outside of the focus on match quality rather than focusing on caring about the people and issues for their shows, the biggest problems with AEW’s TV product is that they are really bad at time management. They really try to cram too much together into a single show. I can appreciate long matches but having a combination of long matches and doing things like 10 mans just to put as many people on TV as possible is just detrimental.

Now, I will admit that I liked this program a lot more than last week’s Dynamite. Probably because the MJF stuff and the world title match were really good. I felt bad for Shida and Deeb because no one could really follow up to Bryan and Page going for one hour. I probably would have cared more about the Shida vs Deeb match if I hadn’t watched a 60 minute classic go first. But again all of that is just poor time management.

The Wardlow stuff doesn’t interest me because Shawn Spears is in there while Matt Sydal has as much personality as Brad Armstrong. It’s just quick filler to get the guy on TV. Eventually though, he’s going to be forced to wrestle real opponents and he can’t Goldberg his way through everything. The Goldberg booking style just ends up limiting the bigger wrestler into being very stunted.

At any rate, I’m curious about Brody King and Kyle O’Reily. I feel the complete opposite for anything involving the Bucks directly or worse yet the Best Friends. And hopefully, they have that Page vs Danielson re-match at the PPV after this showing.


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