Coming from the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, Texas, this is one of the first truly on the road shows for AEW as things begin opening up again from COVID-19. For me this show would be the initial litmus test for seeing how non-Florida fans would react. The current theory is that fans are going to be exceptionally hungry for wrestling and live events since the start of the pandemic and various lockdowns. According to Wikipedia, the H-E-B Center holds about 8000 people and for the most part this place looked sold out and was pretty hot to start.
Jon Moxley vs Karl Anderson for the IWGP US Title
Moxley came out first to Wild Thing (strange that the face/champion would do that) through the crowd, which popped huge. Eddie Kingston accompanied him while Karl Anderson came out with his partner Luke Gallows. Kingston actually started the “match” by beating up Luke Gallows but pretty much sent him towards the back so Moxley and Anderson could actually have an in-ring match. Wasn’t too bad and no afterbirth (thank god) with a clean victory for Moxley. It didn’t get out of control and mostly stayed in the ring, which is what a wrestling fan like me prefers.
Some people were convinced that Karl Anderson could take the title here but he’s still too tied up as a tag team wrestler.
After the match, there was a very short segment with Jake Roberts and Lance Archer. Lance Archer actually had a chance to speak and reminded Moxley that Moxley never gave him a re-match. So that will happen next week. I read a few comments on how Lance Archer needs to beat Moxley and I kinda agree. The idea here would be for Moxley to lose then get some time off to be with his wife and newborn. Since Moxley held the belt for a fair amount of time, it wouldn’t be a bad idea since he’s not really factored prominently into any feuds at this moment.
Andrade Idolo Interview
Alex Abrahantes interviews Idolo and Idolo tells Abrahantes to give a message to Death Triangle that he’s looking for them. Honestly, that was my first instinct in booking Andrade into a small feud since it would get a chance to show his lucha style against the popular Penta El Zero M, especially with Penta and Kingston losing their title shot against the Bucks.
Ricky Starks vs Brian Cage for the FTW Title
This was a really bizarre match up although it had been “building.” The problem is that Starks was far more over as a babyface than Brian Cage. And Brian Cage is pretty bland especially for someone AEW seemingly wanted to turn babyface by having him split off from Team Taz. Starks won it via some help by Hobbs which was convoluted but the place popped big for the win. And this is one of those situations where it’s very bizarre. Here’s why.
Starks, although out with an injury and trying to be the smaller, prickish heel who wants to cheat to win, somehow was transformed into the babyface without changing anything. Instead, Cage got almost no reactions from the crowd whereas Starks, upon winning via cheating, received a huge pop. So my interpretation of the situation is twofold.
First, Brian Cage just was setup to fail because he simply has no personality to make him into a babyface. He just doesn’t get good crowd reactions and seems more concerned about getting all his moves in. Even though physically Brian Cage is impressive, he doesn’t have the charisma of Hobbs, who parallels him but works better as a heel, especially at their relative experience levels.
Second, the crowd popped for Starks because it was a title change and they were glad to see something happen. The FTW title really isn’t anything. It’s not like Brian Cage had an impressive run with it and I haven’t seen him beat anyone to convince me that title meant anything. Yet to the crowd, a title change is a title change and they’re just happy to “be part of history”.
Now, the warning I have here is that these initial crowds for say the first three months might be akin to a second honeymoon from a new spouse. Of course, everything seems great in the first three months but then you start seeing all the problems crop up because the novelty of being at a live event starts to wear off again.
If AEW is truly smart, they won’t listen to these crowds but use that momentum and the appearance of excitement on TV to build up their brand. But they also must alter their presentation a LOT because they won’t have that strange pandemic advantage where it’s a given that crowds are absent and thus can do non-traditional segments. They have to start catering to more sensible wrestling and not just making it seem good just for TV. Because not only do you have to make an effort to gain new fans, you have to ensure the current fan base does not weaken once the novelty begins to fall off.
Going back to the match itself, it wasn’t horrible. But it was a little off.
Cody Rhodes/Malakai Black Segment
This segment actually was reasonably good. Cody started off getting some small heat but he managed to switch to babyface pretty fast. I think part of the AEW crowd is that it’s composed of very loyal “smart” fans who read and keep up with everything they do. However, that can work against you. Luckily, both Cody and Malakai have proven themselves to be smart enough to utilize that to their advantage.
Malakai Black looks to be executing the character he wanted to portray and that he was working towards just before he got let go. He was filled with smoke (probably dry ice) to give a misty, mysterious aura. However, he didn’t use any weird voice but told a pretty compelling story.
The best part was the follow through where Cody challenged Malakai to show up and Malakai replies, “I was hoping you would say that.” In turn, the lights went out, the audience popped big again (as Malakai obviously was running to get to the ring as quickly as possible) then had a breather moment to smile just before the two got into a fight leading into various referees coming out to try and break it up.
Neither men backed down, looked intense, and teased a feud. Cody said something that actually was heartfelt in telling Malakai that “you don’t put down a 60 year old man,” which I can agree with especially in Arn Anderson’s case because of the injuries that cost him his in ring career. Best of all they got the exact crowd reaction they needed which is being hungry for more.
I really enjoyed this segment because I felt Cody’s feud with QT Marshall just was going nowhere and really helped no one. However, in this situation, having Malakai immediately go after the top dog and continuing to hunt him down while producing these small vignettes with Cody not backing down at this point and just brawling has been excellent. It’s reasonably simple and even the lights out aspect isn’t too hokey.
The thing I like about this in how it’s being handled is that you have two guys at the prime of their career, with good experience, being able to work very well, one who is super hungry, wanting to prove himself and just get in the AEW ring and face everyone, and the other trying to help create more stars and legacies being recognizable, both having this fresh match. We haven’t seen these two work together. It’s new, it’s about the fantasy that asks “what if?” They have a simple concept of good vs evil. Nothing fancy. This is the makings of a feud done right and one that belongs on the top of the card where it’ll help both men and show that AEW is capable of getting the right people into the right slots they need.
Tully/Santana/Ortiz Backstage Segment
It has Alex Marvez (aka the most useless announcer in existence) so you know he’ll only have a sentence before it gets interrupted. Poor Tully suffers from a gangster type of assault and one of the two guys calls him a pendejo. That’s messed up dude. Honestly, the way this was executed made Tully look more like the babyface.
Hangman Adam Page/Kenny Omega Interview Segment
Ugh, I really hated this. Not Adam Page but the length of this segment. Too many people involved. Kenny Omega talked too much and there were very awkward moments from both Omega and Page. The biggest issue here I had was the wrestlers’ ability to make matches. Who the hell is in control of this federation? Why should a wrestler decide when someone gets a title match? I mean to Omega’s point, the Jobber World Order never earned a tag title shot of any kind. They aren’t over. Why is it that they get a tag title shot but Brian Pillman Jr and Griff do not when they are the #1/2 contenders?
The only thing that should really come out of this mess down the road is Adam Page getting the title and Kenny taking a long break. I’m assuming the only reason the Jobber World Order are getting tag title shots is because Evil Uno was promised something from the Young Bucks about 6 months after he signed with them. But without Brodie, the Jobber World Order are just guys that don’t mean much at this point. They lost all their momentum after Brodie’s passing. So I guess the Young Bucks will get fed again eventually but it’s just a waste of time.
Jericho Backstage Segment
Marvez is there too so there’s no surprise when Jericho gets nailed in the throat by Shawn Spears. Marvez is the equivalent of an orange in the Godfather series at this point. I heard on Jim Cornette’s show them joking on how the second a wrestler sees Marvez walking after them with a microphone, run the fuck out of the building. Or perhaps just arm yourself with a minigun because you’ll just be interrupted or assaulted randomly.
Anyway, thankfully with Jericho in a non-arena segment for once, we didn’t get to hear that god awful song. Also, I suppose it’s not worth mentioning how they only used this to set up the first stipulation for Jericho’s gauntlet, which will be against Spears next week. Sigh.
Matt Hardy vs Christian Cage
I’m going to say this straight out. This was the best match of the night. This probably was Matt Hardy’s best match in AEW and possibly his best match in years. The pacing was very good, nothing was completely outlandish and the finish worked okay. I do think the finish did come up a bit out of nowhere but I could buy it enough to not complain too badly.
I saw some people complain that the match showed that these two can’t work the same manner as before. Actually, I’m glad because the style they used here should have been a clear demonstration to all the spot monkeys of how they can still have cool looking spots but setup a great pace.
One immediate thing that I noticed was how the crowd actually chanted Christian’s name during the match rather than AEW. What does that tell you? They were into the match, they were into him and that’s what wrestling is about. Working a smart match vs a spot monkey match is the direction that the rest of the roster should be moving towards. Slow your pace down so the crowd can absorb each move and you can give yourself a moment to think about what you’re doing then execute the move properly rather than moving at 100 miles an hour and be sloppy to make everything look like garbage.
There was a small after birth where Private Party and Wire Man tried to jump Christian Cage post-match but Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy came in for the save. JR mentioned a bizarre glance from Jungle Boy to Christian when he was on the shoulders of Luchasaurus. Not sure if this Christian vs Hardy Office is done but I hope so. JR also mentioned that this type of win should push Christian into the title picture.
For myself, I’m hoping he gets a chance to face Miro. I don’t think some of the young babyfaces like Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara, etc. who would be considered as potential opponents for the TNT Title ought to be the ones to beat Miro. But I would buy Christian Cage because he is the veteran, can work a long, good match and has the credibility to beat Miro in a fresh match that I think people would accept. Then Christian Cage can put someone like Jungle Boy over later on for that title after a few key defenses.
So Jim Cornette often talks about “booking a match backwards.” With Miro it feels the same way because of how Miro is slowly discovering himself. It’s like they’re figuring out how to nail his character down as they go rather than setting up vignettes that would have led to a much hotter introduction.
For myself, I like Miro. I’ve been on his Twitch streams, watched his YouTube clips and for the most part, I think he’s a decent dude. But I knew that using his Twitch stream for his gimmick was out of bounds for what he needed upon arrival. Since Lana/CJ Perry wasn’t around him anymore, he really didn’t have that heat magnet and had to re-discover what got him over in the first place.
Dr Britt Baker Interview
This one was done in the ring with Tony Schiavone. I have to say at this point in time no one in the women’s division that I know of can touch Dr Britt Baker on the mic. She’s extremely over and looks good as the champion, which makes her very marketable for them. I was pretty amazed at seeing the fans outside of Florida react that favorably towards her but I think she managed to find a gimmick and more importantly her voice to make everything work well.
Her only issue that I’ve seen is that beyond short squash matches, she’s still very green in the ring. Obviously, she’s protected but she shouldn’t work long matches to expose her issues.
At any rate, they had a bizarre segue to give Vickie Guerrero and Nyla Rose some time to come back after Britt Baker did some huge verbal punches against them both. But by this point, I was pretty much done with way too many promo/mic segments.
Wheeler Yuta vs Sammy Guevara
After the much talked about Sammy Guevara vs MJF match, this one seemed really out of place. I’m glad that AEW gives opportunities to new people like Wheeler, but I wouldn’t use their flagship program to do it. The only positive was that the audience that night was popping for anything and everything so I guess they wanted to use that to their advantage. But again I don’t feel the crowd’s current reaction should be the real indicator of how the company should move forward. Instead, they need to be very cautious of risky situations like this because you’re getting people paying good money and they want to see stars, not unknowns that work primarily on their YouTube shows.
QT Marshall Segment
Complete waste of time for me. Sorry QT. There’s just too many talking segments on a 2 hour wrestling program. This should have been relegated to Dark and Dark: Elevation. More time could have been provided to the main event or even Matt Hardy vs Christian since they were having a good long-ish match.
Yuka Sakazaki vs Penelope Ford
What I mentioned about the Sammy match applies nine times over in this situation. Penelope isn’t exactly green but she’s not very experienced. And Yuka Sakazaki isn’t someone I know much about.
Here’s the thing. As a long time Joshi Puroresu fan from back in the day, I appreciate what AEW is attempting to do by bringing in people like Riho, Shida and Yuka.
These people at this point are jobbers to be honest. Okay, so Riho got the first title and Shida got it afterward. In the case of Riho, it’s somewhat excusable for her since she was locked up in Japan. In Shida’s case, I felt bad because of how poorly booked her title “reign” went. But Yuka? That’s like the bargain basement DVDs you find in the pile at Best Buy. I’ve never heard of her and I don’t see the point.
What’s sad is that most of the good veterans have all retired by now. There’s a few like Mima Shimoda or KAORU that still wrestle (I think KAORU might be retiring or has retired for the 5 millionth time) but all the best people were gobbled up by the WWE. At this stage, a lot of non-Japanese women are about as good if not better than the Japanese ones.
At any rate, Yuka is terrible. I’m sorry but she’s annoying, her music is for weebs, none of her offense looks good, she’s sloppy and she’s too small. I saw her on Dark and it was pretty bad there too. Now, maybe her purpose is to help train other young girls because god knows the majority of the women’s roster in AEW are mostly green girls. But couldn’t a better person have been chosen? This was abysmal and I must admit that I really liked Joshi Puroresu back in the day. And I still like Kairi and Asuka.
Ethan Page vs Darby Allin Coffin Match
This was just a version of the Undertaker’s Casket match except that they got a cardboard box looking thing to do their end spot. Darby Allin has to be one of the craziest muthafuckas in pro-wrestling right now. That Ego’s Edge drop on the stairs spot was brutal. Luckily, this match had the “you must dump your opponent in the coffin” rules because I’m sure Darby would have kicked out of that move otherwise.
There really wasn’t much selling especially from Darby which pissed me off after that stair bump. Yet he did win and did another insane move by doing his own Coffin Drop into the coffin from the turnbuckle towards the coffin on the floor. I suppose the only real benefit from doing a move like that is you have a live crowd so it looks okay as a visual on TV with the live crowd giving you the reaction you want.
That said, this wasn’t my cup of tea. It was entertaining enough. The Sting vs Scorpio Sky part was okay just because it allowed Sting some screen time without having him forced into the ring. And he got to do some simple brawling for a big time fan in Scorpio Sky, who was willing to put Sting over. The two insane spots were stupid just because I’m sure that in 10-15 years, Darby’s health is going to be in serious jeopardy unless he retires early. They did work for the situation though just because of that crowd to help make the situation look far better than it was.
I’m hoping that all four guys move on from here. Darby got established as a star here while Page managed to hold his own. I don’t know what they can do with Page nor Sky at this stage unless they give them a small feud with the Varsity Blondes since the rest of the tag team division’s babyface teams are pretty much taken up.
I did read that Darby wants to work with Malakai Black down the road. People are clamoring for so-called cinematic matches with them, which I hope don’t come to fruition. But I can see it happening, even though both guys are capable of doing good work in the ring. For now, it’s obvious that Malakai Black and Cody will feud for a bit which means Darby should hopefully move onto a new project. I wouldn’t have him go back to Miro because I prefer having Darby in fresh matches. So say against Ricky Starks since I’m still uncertain whether they’ll keep him as a heel. Then Darby and Starks can wrestle for the FTW title for a while until Black gets out of his feud with Cody.
This was less offensive than last week’s program. The crowd made the event better than it deserved though. The Cage vs Hardy match was my personal favorite because it’s the way the company should go. But the women’s match was a waste of time and they should’ve kept Yuka on Dark or Elevation. Again, where’s Serena Deeb? They should feature her more prominently and have her chase after Britt Baker.
Since Brian Cage lost the belt, I really hope they keep him on Dark or Elevation for a while. I wouldn’t honestly want him feuding with Hobbs, although that is the logical choice. If they want to use him a face, I would pair him against Miro for the big man vs big man type of novelty match. But Cage isn’t a smart worker so I don’t think that would do him any favors. And Miro is really at his best squashing smaller men.
But as per my usual complaint, the real glaring problem with Dynamite is the number of worthless talking segments. There’s just too damn many compared to the number of matches. And three of the matches belonged on Dark or Elevation, not on this program. Couldn’t Nyla face say Tay Conti just as a builder match against Britt rather than Yuka if they wanted a women’s match? And why was Yuta wrestling here? Couldn’t there have been a better candidate to feed Guevara rather than an unknown?
There were only six fucking matches on TV. Six. For a 2 hour live program. Six. I would be screaming bloody murder for 6 matches where two of them were clearly job matches with people no one really cared about. Instead of having those people talk so bloody much, especially Kenny who can’t make a friggin’ point in less than a year, why not have a match? The whole Kenny – Page segment lead nowhere. I was under the impression from Page that we would get to see them wrestle. It would have made sense. Why couldn’t they have cut that stupid time length down so that they had that five man match tonight?
I know they tape a bunch of “actual matches” during Dark and Elevation so paying fans get to see more. But those are all really bad job matches for mudshow, indy goofballs. Ever see the hairboi guy? If I pay for a major TV show that’s scheduled for two hours, I would expect to get a lot more than 6 matches.
And if the crowd wasn’t hungry for pro-wrestling as a result of the quarantine, they might be pissed from the stupid TV formatting. That part still needs to be corrected.