SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
•Kenny Omega vs. Trent – HIT: Due to Florida enforcing “Shelter in Place,” Dynamite was forced to move out of Jacksonville and to an undisclosed location in Georgia. The new venue is much smaller than Daily’s Place, but AEW had a modified stage that exits directly to ringside with no rampway. A handful of wrestlers were scattered near ringside giving far more energy to the show than an empty gym. Kenny Omega did what he does best putting on a great athletic match. His performances are so entertaining that a crowd isn’t even needed. They teased a time-limit draw before Omega hit the One-Winged Angel on Trent for the victory. Right finish with Omega still going over strong and Trent nearly taking him the distance.
•Hikaru Shida vs. Anna Jayy – MISS: I can’t say enough great things about Britt Baker in this heel role. She’s become such a treat to watch even incorporating social distancing and using it as an excuse to back away from Hikaru Shida. Shida’s match with Anna Jayy was less than stellar with plenty of sloppy spots. I remain a believer in Shida, but felt she could have done more to elevate the lesser experienced Jayy.
•Moxley-Hager Promo – HOMERUN: That’s how you build a match. This package accomplished everything you could want. I had serious doubts about Hager in AEW. Being ringside for his first AEW match, he lacked the fire and energy that his new character demands. He’s presented as a vicious MMA fighter, but in the ring he looked like an older Jack Swagger. The way in which this video package presented Hager made me go from dismissing him as a weak title contender to someone who could main event a major show against Jon Moxley. On the flip side, Moxley continues to cement why he’s the top guy in the promotion. This is the type of package that Dynamite has been missing on a consistent basis. Most of this content has been regulated to the Road To series where only a small fraction of the audience seeks it out. Basic wrestling booking of presenting bad-ass fighters with the endless pursuit to be the best is timeless storytelling.
•Lance Archer vs. Marko Stunt – HIT: Poor Marko Stunt. Stunt didn’t stand a chance against the debuting Lance Archer. Although the match was short, it accomplished what it needed to. Archer stormed to ringside taking out everyone in sight before demolishing Stunt. Stunt sold great for Archer flying around the ring before being launched over the ringside barrier.
•Brodie Lee Promo & Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall vs. 8 & 9 – MISS: I continue to be intrigued by watching Lee in this role. It’s jarring to see him go from a cult follower in a greasy tank top to a well dressed ringleader centered around Vince McMahon’s quirks. Not a lot to the match between the newly formed tag-team, The Natural Nightmares and the nameless disciples of the Dark Order, 8 and 9. Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall are a fine veteran tag team, but not the kind of act AEW should be giving a hard push. The current travel restrictions have put a limit on who AEW can use from their roster. Putting this team together is an acceptable use of making the best of the situation.
•Chris Jericho – Vanguard 1 – HIT: As someone who’s not a traditional fan of comedy in wrestling, this segment had me laughing out loud. Chris Jericho is entertaining at everything he does whether it be the serious painmaker or the frivolous mustache twirler with a list. The absurdity of Broken Matt Hardy’s Vanguard 1 plays much better when it’s not done in an empty arena. I’m less concerned about the outlandishness of Hardy because of AEW’s other unconventional characters who’ve gotten over. I do raise a red flag for Jericho playing into all of the silliness. He’s fun and entertaining doing it, but is it worth the risk of him looking like less of a star? Kurt Angle was among the best at wrestling comedy wearing a little cowboy hat, but it undercut him as a serious performer. Perhaps Jericho is at such a star level that he transcends what would typically damage one’s image.
•Cody & Darby Allin vs. Shawn Spears & Sammy Guevara – HIT: An entertaining contest that effectively built up the quarter final matches for the new TNT Championship. Shawn Spears seems to have lost a good chunk of money gambling on matches, but he scores the pin on a distracted Darby Allin. Last week, Cody heavily put Allin over on commentary even comparing him to Sting. This week, Allin saves Cody from a chair shot to head and in doing so gets rolled up. Allin took out his frustration from the loss on Cody teasing that they may be meeting each other in the next round of the tournament if both are to win their first matches. The rest of the bracket leaves some intriguing possibilities, but ultimately points to Lance Archer vs. Cody as the most obvious final destination based on the Jake Roberts promos.
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