In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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AEW DYNAMITE TV REPORT
MARCH 18, 2020
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. AT DAILY’S PLACE
AIRED LIVE ON TNT
Announcers: Jim Ross, Taz, Excalibur, Tony Schiavone
Ring Announcer: Brandi Rhodes
-Cody stood mid-ring in a darkened Daily’s Place. He said he has never thought of his world as small before, but recent events have put in perspective how small we all are. He said it has clarified how big and how important the service they provide is. He said there is irony in what he is about to ask, but he’s about to ask three of the best athletes in the world to discard their petty differences and stand together. He said human beings in 2020 need to stand together, “and for many of us, that means standing at a distance.” The camera panned around to the empty venue with the lights darkened in the arena. “We have to be informed, and we have to be held responsible by health and science, but there is a profound difference in that versus living in a prison of fear. I refuse to live in fear, because that’s not living at all. I feel alive, and I hope you feel alive.”
He said he knows Matt Jackson is listening. He said besides Tony Khan, he is most responsible for AEW even existing. He said he’s a tag team specialist and an absolute tag team master, but that doesn’t mean anything is owed to him and he has to work harder. He said they shouldn’t want that anger, so he needs his older brother wisdom. He asked him to carry Nick’s heart into the match so they can win at Blood & Guts. He said he is tired of defending “Hangman” Page. He said he has touted his skills in interviews that he is the best wrestler in all of The Elite. He said he has a scary combination of cruiserweight skill and heavyweight power. He said both of them have lost to Jericho, but he asked Page to get over it. He said if he doesn’t want to be “the other guy” in the Elite, don’t be; be the difference-maker for them winning Blood & Guts.
He then turned to talking about Kenny Omega. He said they argue with each other over who is 1A and 1B, and they can argue over not wanting to be bride’s maids, but this isn’t a wedding and he needs the real Kenny Omega. He said he needs The Elite to be elite. In walked Matt Jackson and Omega. Cody handed the mic to Kenny.
Kenny said normally they’d be talking in front of an arena full of fans, but now it’s just friends to friends. He said at times he and Cody have been at each other’s throats. He said with the entire world falling apart, they might be on the verge of losing everything they built and they don’t even know if they’ll have a Dynamite next week. He said if it’s up to them, they’ll go out the way they came in – as The Elite.
Matt took the mic and said he understands Cody’s call to action and what Kenny had to say. They said Nick is out indefinitely and couldn’t even get on an airplane, so it’s just the three of them. He asked, “Where is ‘Hangman’ Adam Page?” They paused and waited. Page walked out, with a mixed drink in hand. Matt said things have been strange the past two weeks between them, and he’s not saying they could fix things tonight or even over the next couple of weeks, but he’s asking him as a man – tonight and at Blood & Guts, “will you stand with us.” Page looked at them, mouthed “yes” and nodded, then sipped his drink and turned and left.
Omega said to “the people in TV land,” he can’t feel their energy, but he knows it’s out there. He said they’re going to give them the best show they can give. He said everybody needs entertainment and they’re going to give it their all. He said, “Hit the lights, hit the pyro, and let’s start Dynamite!” The lights came on and pyro blasted. Kenny looked on. They forearm tapped each other.
(Keller’s Analysis: Cody’s “deep thoughts” were followed by Kenny’s doomsday concerns. Overall, it set the tone for what’s at stake, and acted as a way to utilize what’s going on in the world to unite some long-time friends having disagreements lately.)
-They went to Taz, Jim Ross, and Excalibur. Ross said they’re there to entertain them tonight. (Not a lot of social spacing there, either next to the 68-year-old Ross.) They hyped the scheduled matches. Then Ross threw to a video package on The Death Triangle.
-A video package aired on the Lucha Bros. and Pac, dubbed “The Death Triangle.”
-Schiavone interviewed MJF at ringside who was checking his phone as Schiavone introduced him. He said he saw the winner’s purse that AEW is offering, and it’s a lot of money for some of the wrestlers, but not for him. He said he’s going to step back and let “undercard” wrestlers kill themselves why he watches and makes some real money. Shawn Spears was revealed to be sitting next to him. Schiavone asked if he’s gambling. MJF yelled in Schiavone’s face (droplets were very likely landing all over Schiavone’s 62 year old face there), “How dare you! How dare you!”
(1) BEST FRIENDS (Chuck Taylor & Trent w/Orange Cassidy) vs. LUCHA BROS. (Rey Fenix & Pentagon Jr.)
Brandi Rhodes stood mid-ring and handled ring introductions. Cassidy joined Excalibur at the commentary table. The camera panned ringside where wrestlers were watching, but they were reasonably socially spaced out, including Colt Cabana, Christopher Daniels, Kaz, Joey Janella, and Sonny Kiss. They were there to provide noise and energy at ringside. The announcers talked about the tag team rankings. They cut to other side of the ring where not only were MJF and Spears sitting near Wardlow, but Tully Blanchard was sitting behind Spears chatting with him, and Jake Roberts and Lance Archer were sitting. Everyone had “staggered seating.” For instance, Archer was a couple feet behind Jake. They showed Cassidy, who appeared to be dozing off. Excalibur said he might be falling asleep, then plugged Cassidy merch. Excalibur said you can buy an Orange Cassidy donut pillow. Ross said, “Alright, that’s enough.” Then he plugged his BBQ sauce. Fenix dove onto Trent at ringside. Chuck clotheslined Fenix, who flip-bumped at ringside. All four were down. Ross threw to a break, but they stayed with the action on split-screen. Spears and MJF were standing and having an intense conversation. The wrestlers got up and began battling again. [c]
(Keller’s Analysis: This set-up by AEW is exponentially better than WWE’s. World’s apart. Having the ring lit with the stage and video wall and spotlights in the background providing an interesting backdrop with movement alone is a step up, but darkening the empty seats makes it even better, and then add all the noise the wrestlers were making at ringside, and it’s avoiding the apocalyptic vibe that WWE has given off so far in the Performance Center.)
Ross talked about the unique circumstances they are in. Best Friends went in for a hug, but stopped a few feet apart, tapped elbows, and then were attacked by the Lucha Bros. Cassidy got up from the chair at ringside. Trent knocked the Lucha Bros. to ringside, then held them in place for the Cassidy “Leap of Faith.” Back in the ring, Taylor gave Pentagon a stuff piledrive for a near fall. Pentagon superkicked Trent who was holding up Fenix for a destroyer, and that led to a roll-up for at two count. The Lucha Bros. then landed a top rope dropkick/package piledriver combo for the win. Taz said that’s a tough loss for the no. 4 ranked Best Friends.
WINNERS: Lucha Bros. in 13:00.
-Schiavone stood on the stage to interview Chuck, Trent, and Cassidy. Schiavone said that must be a tough loss for them. He said Death Triangle are making a big impact. Chuck said they kicked his partner in his dick when the ref wasn’t looking. He challenged them to a street fight. Trent, holding his crotch, offered to meet them in the parking lot next week on Dynamite.
-Ring entrances took place for Penelope Ford with Kip Sabian and then Riho. They cut to a break and then showed MJF and Spears at ringside interacting again. Then on split-screen, Kris Statlander made her entrance followed by Hikari Shida.
(2) PENELOPE FORD (w/Kip Sabian) vs. RIHO vs. HIKARI SHIDA vs. KRIS STATLANDER
Taz noted that Ford isn’t ranked in the top five, but the other three are. He said a win here would be big for her. Sabian yanked Statlander and Shida out of the ring by their boots. The stood up and each punched him. Riho leaped off the top rope onto her three opponents at ringside. Ross said, “It is amazing all three of those women were in the spot they needed to be. Riho was lucky.” (Wow!) A few minutes later Sabian interfered again, so Riho gave him a running knee to knock him off the ring apron. Statlander dropped Riho onto Shida. Ford then gave Statlander a poison rana. Shida and Statlander battled next, with Shida dropkicking Statlander in the back as she went for a handspring elbow. Then Shida hit a falcon arrow for a two count and a running knee strike to the jaw for the win.
WINNER: Shida in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid match with non-stop action.)
-They went to Schiavone interviewing Colt Cabana at ringside. They agreed it felt weird. Colt said he’s scouting from the front row. “I don’t have to pay for the seat. They’re paying me for the seat.” He touted Ford’s performance. He said she lost the match and would be better if she wasn’t scheming with her boyfriend the whole match. Sabian walked up and got in his face. Colt asked if he wants to fight. Kip shoved him. Colt slapped him. Kip agreed to to fight him. Colt said he’s not sweating it. [c]
-Ross threw to a segment with Schiavone and Jon Moxley outside in the parking lot. Moxley was showing off the car that he accepted from Chris Jericho when he was offering him to join Inner Circle. Schiavone said he’s not medically cleared and is on the “Do Not Enter” list. Moxley: “Don’t they understand I go where I want to go when I want to go there? Medically cleared? What is medically cleared? When have I ever been medically cleared in my entire career?” He said they have enough problems, they don’t need him punching any cops. He said he’s going to blow off steam in his car, but whenever and wherever Inner Circle goes, he’ll be lurking around the corner and hiding in the blind spot, and wherever Blood & Guts happens, he won’t miss that party.
(3) THE BUTCHER & THE BLADE vs. JUNGLE BOY & LUCHASAURUS
Brandi Rhodes continued ring introductions, this time for Butcher and The Blade. No sign of Bunny. MJF chatted with Butcher and Blade at ringside. The bell rang about 50 minutes into the hour. They cut to a break a few minutes in. [c]
As Jungle Boy was taking a beating, Ross said Jungle Boy reminds him of a young Kevin Von Erich. Taz said maybe Shaun Simpson. (I’m with Taz. Matt Riddle is closer to Kevin Von Erich, and Jungle Boy is much loser to Simpson.) Excalibur said, “Maybe ‘Jungle’ Jim Steele.” (Definitely not him.)
Jungle Boy hot-tagged Luchasaurus who landed a moonsault onto Butcher at ringside. He went to work on Blade back in the ring including landing a 360 degree roundhouse kick to the head. He scored a two count, with Butcher breaking up the cover. Jungle Boy returned to put up a fight, but was backdropped over the top rope in a nearly botched move. Butcher and Luchasaurus battled one-on-one for a while. Luchasaurus set up a chokeslam, but Blade broke it up. MJF yelled for Butcher and Blade to go to their double-team finisher, but the distraction opened up a comeback by Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus. They finished Blade with a double-team neckbreaker slam.
WINNERS: Jurassic Express in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The energy of everything going on at ringside is really adding to the atmosphere. Yes, the lack of a crowd is a negative, but I’m not completely preoccupied with it as I was with the matches WWE presented on Smackdown and Raw. This feels like a sustainable situation for months on end, assuming health considerations are fully taken into account.) [c]
-The Dark Order made their ring entrance (Evil Uno, Stu Grayson, Alex Reynolds, John Silver). Excalibur said they have promised to reveal the Exalted One’s identity. Ross said, “Allegedly.” He said he had become skeptical one even exists. Uno said the Exalted One is present and tonight their eyes will all open and they will see what he sees. He said he never lies and never breaks his promises. He said they’re one and the Exalted One is near. He repeated himself two more times. Daniels and Kaz interrupted. Daniels asked him to stop running his mouth. He said it’s been like this for months and he’s sick of these lies. He said he hasn’t made the lives of Reynolds and Silver better. “All you’ve done is wasted our time and these people’s time watching at home,” he said. “And the biggest lie you’ve told is that there’s an Exalted One. It’s just you two.” He was then interrupted by a video on the big screen. The Exalted One then walked onto the stage and talked in a distorted voice. He said, “We do what we want, when we want, and if I want something, I take it.” He repeated their message, saying if they knock on you door, you have to let us in and if you don’t, he will kick your door down and lead the Dark Order through it. He then revealed himself to be Brodie Lee (the former Luke Harper).
Then back in the ring, he stood behind Daniels and Kaz. He kicked Daniels’s head. Uno and Grayson attacked Kaz. Taz said it wasn’t a lie, it’s a fact, there was an Exalted One.
(Keller’s Analysis: The good part of this reveal in an empty building is that there wasn’t a chance for an energetic crowd to react with silence. I’m not saying there would or wouldn’t have been a big pop for Brodie Lee, but at least the worst case didn’t happen. This works for me. In a way, Matt Hardy is too big of a name to lead the Dark Order group, who have come across as a lower-mid-card collection of no-names. Lee has the eyes and demeanor to look like he belongs as their leader. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow in this role. He’s certainly got pent up motivation.) [c]
-Back at ringside, Schiavone interviewed Jake Roberts and Lance Archer. Schiavone tried to ask Archer a question. Jake grabbed the mic and said he’s not there to talk. He said they gave Cody a little respect, and they got nothing in return. He said he’s a Hall of Famer, and they should pay attention to him. He said they don’t play games, and he should be worried about what he got himself into. Jake said it’s one thing to try to stay out of harm’s way, but ignoring them is like spitting in his face. “We will not have that,” he said. He said he heard his friends out there earlier bitching like who’s going to prom. He challenged them to try to shut them up. “I don’t think you can,” he said. “Cody, it’s time for you stand up and face the man.” He said they didn’t want this to turn into something personal, but it already has. He said he had his chance to meet them straight-on, but now they will get their attention the hard way. “Think about it,” he said. They walked away. Schiavone threw to a video package on Archer.
-They showed a backyard wrestling set-up in the middle of the back woods. They showed Archer get into the ring and battle another guy with a frenetic group of backwoods guy yelling. Archer beat up the guy, then another. Archer yelled, “Everybody dies! Everybody dies!” He absorbed some blows, then finished off a third guy. Jake Roberts watching at ringside, with a smile. A fourth guy entered, the biggest yet. He hit Archer, but Archer battled back and destroyed him with stomps and a big blow that knocked him hard to the mat. Others from ringside entered and he took down all of them. Then they went to a drone shot from above the ring with all of the fallen bodies below as Archer stood mid-ring spinning around. Then some other guy came up to Archer and yelled “Asshole” Archer beat him up and slammed him onto the hood of the car.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’d watch a two hour wrestling show in that outdoor backwoods setting. Maybe bring those guys who were there the whole time yelling too.)
-Ross said you gotta watch out for Archer’s big right. Ross then hyped Wardlow vs. Luchasaurus next week in a lumberjack match, Best Friends vs. Lucha Bros. in a Parking Lot Fight, and Blood & Guts. They explained that Nick Jackson has internal injuries and isn’t cleared, so The Elite will have a numbers disadvantage. They said the advantage at stake later is vital for The Elite.
-Inner Circle made their ring entrance, without Chris Jericho. They showed Billy Gunn and his son at ringside yelling at them. Excalibur said the stakes have never been higher in a six-man tag match in AEW. They went to a commercial, but Guevara held up cue cards during the commercial about Blood & Guts. [c]
-Jericho made his ring entrance. Guevara grabbed the mic and sang along to the song, purposefully over-the-top and out of tune. Taz: “Thank god he can wrestle.” He kept singing even after the music stopped.
(4) INNER CIRCLE (Santana & Ortiz & Jake Hager w/Sammy Guevara) vs. THE ELITE (Cody & Matt Jackson & “Hangman” Adam Page w/Kenny Omega)
Jericho joined the announcers at ringside. Then the ring entrance took place for Cody, accompanied by Arn Anderson. Being able to blast pyro is a big part of adding, piece by piece, to the atmosphere to make up for the lack of fans. They showed Dustin Rhodes at ringside. Matt Jackson was out next. Jericho claimed he tried to help Nick Jackson when the garage door fell on him. Then “Hangman” Adam Page came out to his music. Kenny Omega joined him on the stage. Excalibur said he’ll be cleared by the weekend, but Kenny isn’t medically cleared to wrestle tonight. Ross wondered if Page could be trusted. Wrestlers at ringside were making lot of noise before the bell. Jericho said the Inner Circle have never hit each other with their finishers or showed up drinking on the job. Jericho said he’s got his eye on Page as a future member of The Elite. He stumbled and said, “All Order.” Taz told him his group is Inner Circle. Jericho said Page’s sexiness threw him into a tizzy. (Good save, Jericho.)
Hangman tagged himself in a couple minutes into the match. Matt seemed sorta resentful, but didn’t make a big issue of it. The constant noise at ringside from the wrestlers sounded louder than some arenas full of fans over the years. They cut to a full break around 5:00 in. [c]
Jericho yelled tips to the wrestlers and claimed he is a much better coach than Arn Anderson. Matt attacked Ortiz at ringside. Hager yanked Jackson off of him. Santana had Cody grounded in the ring. Cody almost got a hot-tag, but didn’t quite make it there before he was cut off. They cut to another break, but stayed with the action on split screen. [c]
Back live, Cody finally hot-tagged Page just as Ortiz tagged in also. Page hit-rapid fire offense against everyone. He slung himself over the top rope onto Hager, then landed a sliding lariat to Santana in the ring. Ortiz broke it up. Cody then dove though the ropes onto Ortiz at ringside and then threw him into MJF. Wardlow grabbed Cody by his throat. Arn hit Wardlow with his clipboard to break it up. Hager tripped Page from ringside and rammed him into the ringside barricade. Ortiz caught a charging Jackson with a boot, but Matt landed three Northern Lights Suplexes afterward. Hager ran in. Jackson and Page worked together to give him an overhead suplex. Jackson then set up the Indy Taker. When Page set up a slingshot into the ring, Hager yanked his legs. Ortiz then rolled up Jackson in a small package for the win. Jericho stood and celebrated by yelling, “We did it!”
WINNERS: Inner Circle to gain the advantage next week in Blood & Guts.
-Ortiz and Jericho hugged on the ramp, and then they showed Page soaking up the loss with a look of disappointment mixed with disgust. Cody and Jackson were also dejected. They replayed some of the key spots in the match. Jericho then said they now know they have the advantage for four reasons. They won the match, they are the Inner Circle, and he’s banning all fans from future AEW events until I say so. “I don’t care if the world changes tomorrow, the last thing we need is a bunch of pumpkin headed dip-shits” cheering for The Elite. He said the fourth reason is The Elite only has four wrestlers, whereas they have five. Kenny joined the his partners in the ring. Jericho said they don’t stand a chance when Blood & Guts happens. Hager did a push-up with Guevara on his back. Jericho said they get along, unlike The Elite. He said there hasn’t been a crack in their armor. He said they’ve dominated in everything they’ve done. (This started to feel like filling unexpected extra time. Good person to have with the mic at this point.) Jericho talked to Brandi at ringside. Then he told Guevera to tell people how hot he is. He hit on Brandi. Then came a buzzing noise and a drone flew above the ring. It lowered into the ring. Jackson said they’re not out-numbered because he made a phone call to a friend who owed him a favor. Then they cut to Matt Hardy in the stands in his full Broken Matt outfit. The announcers reacted with shock as Jericho looked up with a concerned expression. Excalibur said The Elite have a disadvantage, but they are not outnumbered anymore.
CATCH UP… 3/11 AEW DYNAMITE TV REPORT: Keller’s report on Jericho & Guevara vs. Hangman & mystery partner, Cody vs. Ortiz, Jurassic Express vs. MJF & Butcher & Blade, Death Triangle vs. Janela & Private Party