SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Elite Promo – HIT: Cody didn’t have an easy job being the one to give a heartfelt message to the fans who were exclusively at home. However, Cody was the best choice as the face and voice of the company. He successfully tied the real life events into an ongoing storyline. He spoke about the need to stand together and fight a common enemy to which Hangman Page obliged. Matt Jackson and Kenny Omega spoke briefly tieing into Cody’s messages before Omega introduced the show. AEW moved the hard camera to face the entrance stage creating life in the background of the ring. This proved to be a critical decision as one minor change gave so much life to the rest of the show.
•Best Friends vs. Lucha Bros – HIT: AEW’s first match in an “empty arena” and what stood out to me was how many people were still ringside. There is still a lot that’s unknown at this point about what certain precautions need to be taken for social distancing. Multiple reports after the show said that AEW communicated with the city of Jacksonville about what was recommended and what they’re even allowed to do. I’m sure it was odd for the Lucha Bros and Best Friends to wrestle in a giant venue with no fans which would explain the slow start to the match. Given the circumstances, this was still a very good match. In the post-match, Best Friends challenged the Lucha Bros to a street fight on the next episode of Dynamite.
•Penelope Ford vs. Riho vs. Kris Statlander vs. Hikaru Shida – HIT: Nobody wants to see more disqualifications in AEW, but come on! Kip Sabian blatantly interfered in front of the referee multiple times without any consequences. He should’ve at least been tossed from ringside, but then he wouldn’t have been able to set up a match with Colt Cabana. Hikaru Shida and Riho shined in this match. With minimal crowd noise, as a viewer you could identify the spots where the crowd would be really into them. Shida continues to get the push to move up the ranks in the women’s division which feels like the right move at this point.
•Jurassic Express vs. The Butcher & The Blade – HIT: For the first time of the night, I forgot they were in an empty arena. The teams wrestled exactly how they would on a regular episode of Dynamite. The wrestlers at ringside helped with the energy creating a feeling of normalcy in a week that was anything but.
•Reveal of The Exalted One – HIT: After months of speculation, we finally found out the identity of the Exalted One. Despite the over the top references to Matt Hardy, Brodie Lee is the Exalted One. It’d been reported Brodie Lee was going to appear at some point, but it was a matter of what capacity. Lee, formerly Luke Harper, was always seen as a follower or henchman in WWE. He cut a pre-taped promo referencing Vince McMahon and pigeonholing his character. He then proceeded to attack Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. Lee has the opportunity to prove doubters wrong by being put in a lead role. It remains to be seen if this helps the Dark Order by his affiliation or brings down Brodie Lee because the Dark Order is one of the very few acts that hasn’t gotten over to this point.
•Lance Archer Vignette – HIT: What a video package! Something unique that says a lot about Jake Roberts and Lance Archer as characters. It painted Archer as this destructive monster while Roberts is the one manipulating and overseeing the whole venture. Also, couldn’t help but notice the picture of Cody with the name, Caesar, written on it. Not the only reference of the night to Vince McMahon.
•The Elite vs. The Inner Circle – HIT: One of the underplayed stories coming out of this match was Chris Jericho teasing a recruitment of Hangman “Handwashin” Page. Jericho even stumbled over the name of his own faction because he was blinded by his “sexiness”. Inner Circle won to gain the advantage in Blood & Guts. Everyone was non-committal as to when Blood & Guts would take place even though it’s currently scheduled for next week. AEW doesn’t want to take anything for granted given that anything can change on a moment’s notice. And finally, after hitting their audience over top with references to him, Matt Hardy made his AEW debut. Returning to the “Broken” gimmick with the drone flying in, Hardy will join the shorthanded Elite for Blood & Guts. Hardy is a great creative mind and still has a lot to offer outside the ring.