SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Jurassic Express vs. Lucha Brothers: HIT
While I don’t think this was either team’s best match, and certain spots did feel far too contrived or took too long to set up, this was still pretty good. I was not expecting the Lucha Brothers to win, especially since they got no entrance on TV. Perhaps they are trying to tell a longer-term story between Jurassic Express and the Young Bucks, which would serve that match better than just two nights of build-up. The Lucha Brothers already have enough history with the Bucks in AEW canon that the short hype time for the match is less likely to be a limitation.
I can’t help but think that if the tag-team tournament was set a week earlier, and this match opened Dynamite two nights ago, that show would have been much stronger for it.
C.M. Punk vs. Darby Allin Video Package: MISS
We were promised “fresh content” by Taz on commentary earlier. While the video package itself was indeed “fresh,” it was more of a narrated highlights package instead of actual fresh content from the wrestlers themselves; a package you can play on the PPV pre-show or right before their match. The only thing fresh in this video was a brief clip from a sit-down interview with C.M. Punk saying almost exactly what he said in his promo on Dynamite this week. We’ve now had two shows since C.M. Punk’s debut and Darby Allin hasn’t addressed this feud even once since then. In fact, he was laid out on TV last week by a relative unknown in Daniel Garcia.
My excitement for this match is based purely on my nostalgic love for C.M. Punk and respect for Darby Allin. Nothing they have done on television so far has augmented my enthusiasm, and I genuinely wonder how newer wrestling fans with no nostalgia for Punk are feeling about this “feud.”
All that being said, the production on this video package was very good for AEW’s standards. In fact, probably better than average. The narrator’s voice really added to it, I hope they continue working on adding this kind of elbow grease to their feuds.
Miro and Eddie Kingston Segment: MISS
In terms of their performance, I thought both wrestlers were great. Miro and Kingston have such believable intensity in their dispositions that really makes me excited for a longer-term story between the two.
However, I don’t think this feud has been built up enough for Eddie to just run in for a brawl before even saying a word. Miro hasn’t really done much to Eddie or even insulted him severely enough to warrant this. The brawl seemed designed to just pop the live crowd instead of remaining tonally consistent with the story told thus far. They could have had this brawl on any of the remaining two shows, after at least building up a little more animosity between the two. As of now, this story feels like it’s either missing a chapter, or the opening chapter was incomplete.
Tay Conti vs. The Bunny: MISS
Bunny didn’t get an entrance and still won the match. I hope this doesn’t become a formula for Rampage.
I have loved watching Tay Conti’s progress on Dark whenever I get a chance, but most of her TV appearances have left something to be desired. This match was no different. A majority of the contest was pretty dull, and I don’t think the Bunny is as over as a heel as Tony Khan thinks she is. The distraction finish didn’t go over well either, even though I personally didn’t mind it as much.
If Penelope allying with the Bunny means they both get more television time and a chance to grow in front of a larger audience, that’s definitely a good thing. However, since we have a heel champion, AEW really needs to start building up babyface challengers on television or risk having them booed against Baker.
Team Taz video package: HIT
I like this feud, and I appreciate AEW keeping viewers reminded of its proceedings. The angles between Cage and Team Taz get so little TV time that they can get lost in the shuffle on a show as packed as Dynamite (and further de-emphasized by Taz being a completely different person on commentary; more on this in the “Commentary” section below).
Christian Cage and Omega pre-match interview: HIT
The promos for this match have been largely repetitive, with Christian reminding Omega of how he has his number. That being said, there was less needless comedy in this interview than I expected, and it did a serviceable job of building up tonight’s main event and continuing the (admittedly moderate) hype for All Out.
Christian Cage and Frankie Kazarian vs. Kenny Omega and Brandon Cutler: MISS
I thought I would enjoy this match for what it was, but it felt like a complete miss all the way round. There was far too much comedy that wasn’t delivered well, definitely on the negative end of The Elite’s goof spectrum. In addition, this referee continues to be more of a spectator than a respectable match official who enforces rules. While I am usually able push that aside, the quality of this match wasn’t good enough to help me overlook it.
Psychologically, the match felt pretty backwards as it came across like two good-guy wrestlers against one bad-guy wrestler and a young sidekick recruited up from a college clubs event. I couldn’t bring myself to feel any sympathy for the babyfaces, nor did I care much to see them beat up on Brandon Cutler.
Speaking of Brandon Cutler, I actually like him through following some of his D&D games. However, as a character in AEW, he has a lot of work to do if he ever wants to have even Shawn Spears-level credibility. While Cutler is in a better spot now as a heel compared to what he was as a babyface, a majority of his story, including how he got involved with The Elite in the first place, has been told on Dark or Being The Elite. Therefore, I didn’t really get much enjoyment from watching him take a beating tonight. He just doesn’t have enough heat with me.
I was a little anxious about Jericho returning, but he was actually much better tonight than two weeks ago. He allowed the other announcers to breathe a little more and toned down the obnoxiousness. In addition, he was less self-indulgently heelish than usual and actually condemned some of the heels.
Excalibur continues to be a very serviceable lead announcer, and assuming Mauro Ranallo doesn’t want a full-time gig, probably the best AEW has available right now. I do wish he had a little more conviction in his voice when trying to sell sympathy for the babyfaces and condemning heels.
Mark Henry continues to be almost devoid of personality and just an easy-to-please, neutral veteran. This is not what I was hoping for when he made his AEW debut, but I still appreciate his presence nonetheless. He certainly doesn’t make anything worse.
Taz, for some reason, really caught my attention this week. Overall, I think he is a fine announcer and a voice from my childhood whose commentary skills have not waned with age. However, since he is a heel television character as well, I have to factor that into my analysis. As a mostly neutral-leaning-babyface color commentator, he just weakens any television feuds he is a part of. I appreciate that he gets in character when Team Taz wrestles, but other than that he just reverts back to being himself, which reinforces the idea that all he does when Team Taz is present is just an act. For example, when discussing the tag-team catch match at All Out tonight, he endorsed the cage match stipulation to keep out interference. However, his TV character just excommunicated a member of his faction precisely for refusing to accept outside help to win a match. In addition, I don’t think it was wise for Taz to be the one to plug the Punk vs. Darby video package, especially by concluding with “this is awesome,” when Taz has been one of Darby’s main antagonists for several months (and his dislike for Brain Cage started when Cage was giving his rivals respect).
While the announcing on its own was fine this week, I really wish on-air performers on commentary would do a little more due diligence in thinking about what they say and put some more effort to maintain verisimilitude.
Overall show: MISS
After a hot opening match, the rest of this show was rather weak. I understand that we shouldn’t expect legendary moments like we had on the first two episodes, but the mistakes on this show are largely correctible through better storytelling on the actual television shows.