Welcome to the inaugural issue of the AEW Dynamite Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points arising from AEW Dynamite. Please note writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
- Wrestling Poet @WrestlingRhymes
- Gareth Ford-Elliot @RHWGareth
- Sergei Alderman @SergeiAlderman
- Joe Cabana @JoeProWrestling
- Ryan Gorneault @RyanGorneault
Did AEW have the right man walk out as TNT Champ?
Trigger Warning - Darby Allin's allegations of abuse are discussed below.
[JC] The time is not right for Darby Allin to drop the TNT championship, Darby acknowledging that he needs to be a better champion, a fighting champion is what the fans needed to hear after his long program with Team Taz. He’s someone AEW can always count on when it comes to delivering an exciting title defense, and while I do believe there is a nameplate with the name “John Silver” on it, just waiting for the right moment to be put to use, this week was not it.
[RG] Darby Allin was accused of being a manipulative abuser during the Speaking Out movement. He admitted that he paid a homeless addict $3.00 to drink toilet water, and that he paid a meth addict to let him pepper-spray him (the addict agreed to get pepper-sprayed because he needed the money to fight in court for custody of his kid). This isn’t a question of whether the right man walked out as TNT Champion. This is a question of whether he should even be allowed in the wrestling industry.
Now, if we must go through the formality of picking a winner, I would have hoped John Silver could have pulled out the win. Of course, my reasoning has less to do with storyline and more with the fact that Darby Allin has been abusive and should not have what he was given by AEW in the first place. No amount of “becoming a better person” can change that; it’s not even like he’s ever expressed remorse like he wanted to change for the better…
[GFE] As pointed out above, there is a very good argument to say that Darby Allin shouldn't be TNT Champion or in AEW to begin with. But speaking purely about their booking decisions it was probably the right call.
A John Silver title reign would so much fun, even if short and you can't say he hasn't earned it. However, for the sake of the title it feels like what is needed next is a heel champion to really establish the title again after this strange period under Darby Allin. My hope would be Pac, Lance Archer or Penta. Although weirdly they're all kind of faces/tweeners right now. Nothing a feud with Darby Allin can't fix, though.
[SA] John Silver showed an incredible amount of fortitude, gutting his way through half a match with a separated shoulder, and he showed the combination of ability and appeal to hold up his side of a Dynamite main event. He is the star of the new, babyface Dark Order. But he’s nowhere near ready to hold gold in AEW.
Darby Allin has an absolutely unique appeal and skillset that AEW isn’t going to find in anybody else. His potential is immense, but he isn’t just the future, he’s also the present. Nobody else in his generation of performers has so much faith placed in them, not only to represent AEW as a champion, but also to lead someone even newer to these heights than himself to their first live, internationally broadcast main event match. Darby Allin is a unique talent and I believe that he will be holding Pretty Platinum for a long time.
[WP] The non-wrestling issues around Darby Allin have already been covered so I’ll look at this from a purely kayfabe perspective.
I think Darby needs a few wins under his belt now having not really defended the belt up until this point, and a banger with John Silver was a great way to start that off. Silver loses nothing in defeat as he will remain immensely popular both as a character and as an in-ring talent (his transition into the Queenslayer in this match was majestic). And this performance reminded us all what Darby can do in the ring after a couple of months of only seeing him pal around with Sting.
I really hope the Matt Hardy intervention after the bell lets us see Darby against each member of Private Party, or more interestingly the Butcher and the Blade, before we get to the Hardy v Darby match, which I’ll be honest doesn’t really excite me at all.
What next for Conti and Rose?
[RG] Nyla Rose and Tay Conti are both great wrestlers who have improved tremendously over the past year. Their mini rivalry has been pretty nice, and their three matches (four if you include their AEW Women’s Tag Team Cup Tournament clash) have been mediocre at worst and mildly enjoyable at best. It is clear that they are both capable of excellent matches with other competitors, but even four matches between these two spread across 233 days seems like a bit much for me.
In singles competition, Nyla Rose has won the rivalry with two wins to Tay Conti’s one, but they are technically tied if we count the tag team match. That being said, if they were to continue their rivalry, there would need to be added stakes (maybe their next match could be a number one contender match). In that event, I’d have Tay Conti go over Nyla Rose, purely because we have never seen Tay Conti and AEW Women’s World Champion Hikaru Shida fight before, and you cannot tell me that wouldn’t be appealing.
[GFE] It feels like Tay Conti will be either a challenger for Shida before Britt Baker wins the women's championship or will be Britt's first challenger. Beyond that she'll continue to build and grow as a performer. Hopefully with a few mini-feuds to further establish her as a character.
As far as Nyla Rose goes my hope would be that she joins with Jade Cargill and Britt Baker in a heel faction that can be the backbone of Britt's reign. Thus, allowing Jade and Nyla to be dominant forces without having to challenge for the championship. Jade isn't at that level yet and Nyla has challenged so much, she needs something different.
[SA] Tay Conti and Nyla Rose are coming off of a genuinely epic series of matches, perfect archetypes of skill and heart eventually overcoming raw power. Now they move into a multi-woman feud by adding the AEW World Champion Hikaru Shida as well as the Bunny to the mix, giving them the opportunity to change partners. Based on the hints that we’ve been given, I expect that after that tag match, we’ll see Conti and the Bunny in the title picture, while Nyla Rose descends back to Dark to feed on jobbers until she is needed again.
[WP] I really liked this booking for Tay Conti, and she suddenly feels like a credible challenger for the belt in a division that feels increasingly full of such challengers. It looks as if we’re getting some tag-shenanigans in the next week or so, but I hope that comes with some actual storyline development for all of the wrestlers involved.
I’d like to see more made of Tay’s links with The Dark Order to give her some storyline to work with (and to help build to what could be a Conti v Anna Jay feud down the line) but I think as an interim challenger to Shida she makes a lot of sense, and that can be built on a ‘babyfaces respecting each other’ angle rather than hot-shotting some sort of split.
As for Nyla, has she been built up to be used as the gatekeeper to the top of the division? I hope not as I think she deserves more than that, but whilst Shida is champ I don’t think she can go for the belt as that feud has been done. Perhaps a link-up with Britt Baker is in the pipeline, and I think that would make for a great dynamic.
What are the ramifications of the Bucks turning their literal backs on Kenny Omega?
[GFE] Kenny, Don Callis and The Good Brothers will react to this but I don't feel like this means war, yet. As for the Bucks, this, along with the fact they now know that Hangman didn't send the text months ago, should drive them towards Hangman's side. All leading to The Bucks being in Hangman's corner when he defats Omega and a fun trios match.
[SA] I think the most important aspect of this is that it’s a sign of Callis gradually succeeding in his manipulations to ensure that there is nobody around Kenny that isn’t already in Callis’s pocket.
[WP] As I said last week, I really don’t know where this story is going and I’m absolutely okay with that situation. The Bucks couldn’t really continue to be babyfaces and mates with Kenny whilst he was being such a magnificent dick, but there continue to be so many options with this story going forwards. I think we are ultimately going to get the Bucks in Hangman’s corner when he comes to challenge Kenny for the AEW title, but in the meantime they can now engage in a full-on feud with the Good Brothers, whilst FTR continue to lurk in the background.
And if the ramifications lead to more matches like that fireworks factory they had against The Lucha Bros and Laredo kid, then I’m all for it.
How will Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle respond to MJF's challenge?
[JC] If MJF wanted the “Funny-haha” Inner Circle to go away, I believe he will get his wish. Many believe this is the rivalry that will culminate in a Blood & Guts match, but before we get there, we have so many potential stories to tell. I believe the response will be a vicious one, the time for games are over and the gloves are off. Santana & Ortiz with FTR will take the spotlight some weeks, Hager v Wardlow, Guevara v Spears, and of course Jericho v MJF, all of these individual rivalries will fill up TV time for months to come. And when it’s time to open up the gates to more fans, and this rivalry is at its hottest, Blood & Guts will be a natural conclusion. Should this rivalry be done right, it can certainly be one for the history books.
[SA] If Jericho (the fictional character) is as savvy as I think he is, the Inner Circle will take a long vacation. By its nature, the Pinnacle cannot exist without gold for long, it needs it to justify its own existence to itself. MJF would go on the attack for gold immediately, except he (and Tully) are shrewd enough not to open a new front when the war with the Inner Circle isn’t over. That’s why MJF sounded impatient and antsy for Jericho’s counter-attack, he needs to deal with the threat at his flank before he advances, but he can’t wait forever. In theory, Jericho can wait forever. Or more to the point, he can wait for the least auspicious moment for MJF.
[WP] In the short term I think we may get an Inner Circle video response at most next week, but this feud needs to simmer for a while before we start getting full on war. Another week of MJF crowing about how the Inner Circle are running scared would be fine with me, and I would couple it with Wardlow squashing some goober into oblivion as it’s been far too long since we’ve seen the handsome devil in action.
In short, give The Pinnacle a bit of time to shine right now. Whilst the continued absence of Jericho and his squad will look odd if it continues for too long, I think it can live with another week of pretty entertaining fat-jokes from young Maxwell.
How can AEW keep Page interesting during his apparent slow burn to challenging for the World Title?
[JC] The answer to this is a complicated one, and although I trust how AEW will handle the Hangman’s character, there are several routes they can go with him, and some are definitely more interesting than the others. The latest episode of Being The Elite on Youtube put us on the road to a reunification between The Young Bucks and Adam Page, specifically between Matt Jackson and Adam. A wound that will require months of TV time to heal, in what is undoubtedly the most intriguing place to take this story. Will Hangman, who recently found friends in the Dark Order, take a chance on The Bucks again? Should he do that, I think his road to the World Title will be long, emotional and more interesting than anything else in wrestling.
[GFE] Keep him competitive. Nothing too dramatic for now. He's just had a feud with Matt Hardy and he's got something very emotional coming with Kenny Omega. If Christian Cage is going to be purely competitive then a match between the two for Double or Nothing, which Hangman should win, would be great. Hangman respectfully being the first to defeat Christian would be a huge boost for him.
In the meantime, we can start to see the re-alignment of Hangman with the Young Bucks as mentioned above. Not sure how you get there but that can build in the meantime. It is important for Hangman's character that when he does challenge for the title, he has truly earned the shot. So, building the wins, interacting with Dark Order and re-aligning with The Bucks is what's needed right now.
[SA] I think it’s a mistake to imagine that the Hangman needs some particularly compelling distractions to keep us from getting bored at a slow burn on his main plot. He is possibly the most compelling and complex and genuinely humanly relatable character in the shared universe of professional wrestling— he makes stories interesting, not vice versa. Along the same lines as how his story with Matt Hardy was about him not falling victim— but instead turning the tables on—the sort of manipulation he’s been fooled by in the past... I suspect that his storylines going forward are going to continue to be about himself, and his ongoing growth as a human being, not so much about his former friends and allies.
[WP] As my learned friend has already intimated, I’m also not overly worried about this one as I think fans are prepared to follow Hangman wherever he goes right now. His schtick with The Dark Order is entertaining as hell and I think I wouldn’t be alone in being happy to see that continuing for a while.
We do need to keep seeing him in the ring as he continues to work his way back up the ladder, and those challenges will need to increase week on week to keep him in mind as a future title challenger, but there are more than enough people on the roster to work those types of matches with Page. Interestingly, the commentary team mentioned this week that Hangman must be thinking about the AEW Title, which I think was the first time they’ve linked him to the big-one in a while. That won’t have gone unnoticed by his biggest fans and I think these little tidbits will keep him at the forefront of everyone’s mind even whilst he’s drinking with Alan Angels.
What did Britt Baker's promo and presentation tell you to expect next?
[JC] First of all, I’m glad they gave Britt this time on air. Both so she could solidify her status as a heel, and to let us know that last week wasn’t the end of project Britt Baker. As for her promo, I’m honestly not quite sure where it takes her next, it almost sounded like she wasn’t done with Rosa, and it also made it sound like she’s scheduled for a “This Is Your Life” segment with Mick Foley. Personally, I hope a title shot, and a title change is what’s next for Dr. Britt Baker. The timing just feels right.
[GFE] Britt Baker will be the next AEW Women's Champion. She walked through the biggest loss of her career in one promo and considering the loss didn't count towards the rankings it is unsurprising to see her still ranked in the top 5. A couple of big wins over established talents and she'll be number one contender. She can then win the championship with the division built around her.
[RG] Britt Baker’s presentation has been wild to me, because it took her Lights Out match against Thunder Rosa for me to realize just how good she’s gotten since the pandemic shut down AEW’s arena shows. Baker has actually had multiple star-making matches and promos, but in losing against Rosa, she managed to officially solidify herself as the top competitor in her division. Well, she’s the top competitor outside of the champion, Hikaru Shida, of course. I hope Gareth is right, and that Baker wins the belt sooner than later, but her latest promo makes it sound like she will be upping the ante against her opponents on her way to number one contender status.
Baker made a point to call herself a hardcore legend at the expense of Mick Foley, which is something I hope she leans into. Of course, I don’t want her wielding a barbed-wire baseball bat during all of her matches, but if she pushed a person through a table or smacked someone with a chair every once in a while, that surely wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.
[SA] A vocal minority of wrestling fans are always going to love the villains. The villains are cool and glibly spout cool put-downs of their perceived enemies, and some folks dig that. Especially when you have someone like Britt Baker. After all, the real human being and performer behind “Britt Baker, DMD” shed her blood, sweat, and tears for our entertainment. But lest we forget, the character “Britt Baker, DMD” shed her blood only for her own selfish goal: to try (and fail) to push out of “her” division a woman whose undeniable talent and charisma she felt threatened by. So, her promo told me two things.
First: although Thunder Rosa was victorious last week, this week she spoke her mind on POWERRR, while her vanquished enemy told her version of history on Dynamite. This made it clear that, even if Rosa won the war, Britt intends to win the peace. Second: she gave a supremely hateable performance—taking swipes at hardcore legend and literal Santa Claus, Mick Foley— at a moment when the fans might easily have been swayed to root for her out of sheer respect for her toughness. That tells me that the promotion is committed to her remaining the villain of her division.
She will be the driving engine of that division’s stories, but not their subject, not what those stories are actually about. That will be, instead, the heroes who arise to challenge her.
[WP] Firstly let’s just take a moment to recognise what a superb promo this was. It leapt on the recognition that Baker had rightly gained after that superb match with Thunder Rosa, and cemented that position in the public eye by calling out Tony Khan and even poor old Mick Foley. A true masterclass in how to revel in your own heat.
I’m not quite sure how they get to her being champ after losing to Thunder Rosa, and to be honest, whilst I would love to see her with the belt, I wonder if at the moment she necessarily needs it. She’s the top woman in the division even without the gold, and I think she could build another story whilst Shida is busy with Conti, Nyla Rose and the Bunny, and then when we get to one of AEW’s bigger shows, and when crowds are back in force, that’s when Britt can extract the belt from Shida like the awesome dentist she presumably is.
To Andrade or not to Andrade?
[JC] I have never been one to consider someone’s former workplace a factor, so when someone the calibre of Andrade ends up on the market, I don’t see how AEW can pass on that. The question is what do you do with him? You certainly don’t want him to end up just being another guy in the locker room. Whether you involve him with Kenny Omega’s group of crazies or you team him up with another welcomed addition, and a former business associate in Thea Trinidad, the answer will always be To Andrade.
[RG] I would absolutely love to see Andrade (well, he’ll probably go by La Sombra) in AEW, but absolutely not as a full-time employee. I want him to be able to wrestle anywhere and everywhere, which clearly would not be possible as part of AEW. As salivating as it is thinking about his potential matches against Kenny Omega, The Lucha Brothers (especially Rey Fenix), Jungle Boy, PAC (the opportunities are endless), I want him to be free to do whatever he wants.
The two safest options for him would be to go back to his original home promotion of CMLL, where it’s basically a guarantee that he’ll have great matches, or head off to NJPW and ROH to tear it up with his Los Ingobernables brothers. I propose something a little bit different though. I actually would like him to sign with Major League Wrestling (MLW). Sure, when looking at wrestling companies in the United States, MLW is not exactly the biggest. On the US promotion totem pole, MLW is situated below WWE, AEW, Impact, and ROH, but above the biggest independent promotions. In other words, they’re too good for the indies but not good enough for more much wider audiences.
Yet. Signing La Sombra could be an excellent opportunity for the company itself to rise in the ranks, but it would also be a great for La Sombra, who would fit in perfectly with their roster filled with some of the best junior-heavyweights and some of the most underrated heavyweights and brawlers. Plus, MLW still has partnerships to Pro Wrestling NOAH and Lucha Libre AAA World Wide. La Sombra fighting for NOAH and AAA, even on a part-time basis, would make him signing to MLW a lot more worthwhile than him signing to AEW.
[WP] I personally hate the take that AEW is signing too many WWE wrestlers. Far more eloquent voices than mine have said this elsewhere so I won’t repeat it, but suffice to say WWE doesn’t own the whole of wrestling, and their ability to mismanage talent proves beyond doubt that what WWE considers a ‘cast-off’ is more than likely to be an un-used gem.
Unfortunately though that discourse does exist and is particularly prevalent in the wake of the signings of Paul Wight and Christian Cage. For that reason I think La Sombra might be wise to go elsewhere in the immediate aftermath of his release. He doesn’t deserve to be caught up in that sort of negativity, and for me a run in NJPW in particular, with the G1 on the horizon, would raise his profile even further. From there I would absolutely love to see La Sombra, hopefully paired with Thea Trinidad, in AEW as the idea of matches with Omega, Allin, Penta, Fenix, Moxley etc etc etc is surely too mouth-watering for anyone to resist.
We might just have to be a bit patient.