Welcome to 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:
1) Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega was undeniably a wrestling classic and one of the best matches this year. What were your thoughts on the draw as a result and where would you rank this amongst the best matches this year?
[Huw] The gravity and grandeur of any match is, ultimately, subjective, depending on your level of investment in those who are taking part. Fanfare and fever, then, are not usually universal, but it felt like Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson’s first big-stage encounter was the exception to that rule. This bout was burdened with such levels of hype that it seemed anything less than match-of-the-year would damn it as a disappointment.
That said, I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that, unless we get another do-si-do from this pair in the remaining three months, this will be 2021’s greatest wrestling match. Arthur Ashe was entrenched in ecstasy and euphoria even before Omega and Danielson had locked up, and this masterful story kept them on cloud nine for the duration of its whirlwind thirty minutes. Speaking of which, I could have sworn Justin Roberts was announcing the passage of the halfway mark or maybe letting us know there were ten minutes left when I first heard him. Where did that 29 minutes go!?
The draw is both the shrewd and sensible result. Neither man could realistically lose and neither man necessarily needed to win. With honours even and our appetites well and truly whetted, the inevitable rematch is blessed with the gravity of a neutron star. The only question is: when? I only hope that, in years to come, fans are gouging eyes and pulling hair as they argue over whether Omega Danielson II and Omega Danielson III lived up to this pocket-sized epic.
[Peter] First off, it was the best match Bryan Danielson has had in AEW so far. But seriously, it was just a magnificent match. Best of the year? I’m gonna need to watch Young Bucks-Lucha Brothers at All Out again before making that call but what I will say is that half hour went so quick and that’s always a good sign of a classic match. One thing that also needs to be mentioned is Bryan’s selling was just so good. I thought he had suffered a wrist injury during the match but it turns out he was fine.
What happens next? Danielson can say “If it had been a 60-minute time limit, I would have won”. Kenny can say “You had your chance but you blew it, respect the rankings and get to number one before you can face me again”. It sets up a lot of intrigue for the next few weeks. It makes the draw on Wednesday the correct result. It showed that the time-limit draw play that AEW has in its booking playbook works very well. We are left with many questions post Arthur Ashe and that’s always a good thing in pro wrestling.
[Ibrahima] Brilliant. Epic. Classic. Masterclass. Masterpiece. Throw any superlative you want and it will fit Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega. I had the distinct pleasure of watching this tremendous fight live in person at the Arthur Ashe Stadium and the gravity of the moment was not lost on me. The moment the bell rang, there was an immediate electricity that permeated throughout the entire venue. The experience live was dizzying, and I had absolutely no grasp of time.
When announcer Justin Roberts stated that only 5 minutes remained, everyone in the crowd, including myself reacted in shock. We were all engrossed in what we were witnessing. We were frozen in time. It’s a match that’s layered and detailed in a way that rewards repeat viewers. There’s a phenomenal section that was mostly taking place during the commercial break where Danielson played on all our concussion concerns when he struggled to his feet on the outside, selling Omega’s initial V-Trigger. It was the best selling of that particular move that I have ever seen. Violent, damaging, disorienting. It was a major turning point and the things continued to build and build as the match between these two generational performers evolved from a Kenny Omega match, to a Bryan Danielson match.
The closing stretch was a fight, and Danielson erupted in an explosive display of riveting fire, and passion. Danielson in his rawest form is so pure, fighting with his heart in a way that can almost be seen as romantic.
I love this match. Forgive my bloviating but I had to show my appreciation for what I witnessed. AEW had to capitalize on the momentum of Danielson’s arrival by doing this true dream match, but because of circumstance and timing, the time-limit draw was the only logical finish that could be done. It’s the second best wrestling match of the year to me.
[Dan] Without doubt the best TV match of the year and it will rightly be in the discussion for match of the year full stop. Two of the best wrestlers in the world showing just how sodding brilliant they are, and as many have said, it looks like they could even go up a gear if they wanted.
The draw was a perfect result as well. The match was so perfectly balanced between the two that a draw was the only possible result really, and from a storyline perspective it presents so many opportunities. Kenny can say that he’s dealt with Bryan Danielson meaning he can head in a different direction for now, whilst Danielson can hold over Kenny that he’s the one man he hasn’t beaten. I don’t think we’ll get the rematch soon, but when it comes good god it’s going to be dripping in significance. Absolutely superb from every single perspective.
2) Malakai Black defeated Cody Rhodes with the use of black mist. However, it was Cody who appeared to lose his cool throughout this match. Given recent comments he’s made about “retiring before I turn heel,” is Cody actually teasing a heel turn? How did you feel about the match as a whole?
[Peter] Again, more questions after Cody-Malakai II. Cody certainly gave hints to a potential return to the dark side from his entrance attire homaging Homelander from The Boys (the size of the tail of that cape) to the losing of his cool that led to his downfall.
The one thing I will say is, Cody being booed in this feud shouldn’t mean an automatic heel turn. Malakai is beloved by the fans who thought he was being held back in his previous place of work and want to see him succeed in AEW and while Malakai and Cody have been perfect for each other at this junction of their careers with Cody needing something after the debacle of the QT feud, Cody has been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, it could be said that Cody will end up being more popular in the southern states and Mid West than the north east. If Cody is booed in Virginia on November 17, then it’s time for Cody to press the heel turn button.
[Ibrahima] When I watched this match live, I watched it purely as a fan, in the way I would view wrestling as a child. The workrate was less than secondary, all I cared about was seeing the man I cheered for, Malakai Black win. Having now seen the television broadcast version, my evaluation is that the match was quite strong until some of the weirdness at the end. There was great heat in the building and I like the dynamic between the two. The match got a bit odd to me after Arn Anderson’s apron botch. I don’t love the indecisive finish, but I'm under the assumption that this match will happen one more time where Cody has his Bret Hart WrestleMania 13 moment and turns heel, having thus proving Malakai Black’s point all along. It has to happen, Rhodes is leaning in to all way too hard for it not to.
[Dan] I really enjoyed this match. I thought the action was great, and the storyline development was also excellent. Black really is both technically slick and impressively violent and it makes for an intoxicating mixture when he puts it all together.
And credit also to Cody who still doesn’t get enough credit for his in-ring work. He sells brilliantly and is a superb situational wrestler as well. In this match, which the febrile crowd against him, he worked the heel schtick from the off...not overtly and not ostentatiously, but enough to really give the match an added dimension. Will he turn full-on heel? I’m still not sure as we’ve seen these hints from the Roller-Codester before, but with those crowd reactions it certainly seems like the logical next step, and to be honest I’d love to see it.
3) Sting and Darby Allin beat FTR in a match where many felt that FTR needed to win. Was this right decision? What did you make of the match?
[Huw] It’s only now that you pose that question that it starts to feel slightly strange to see FTR on something of a high-stakes losing streak. I personally think that, while the wins in AEW’s system should certainly matter, a few losses here and there needn’t signal a death sentence. Harwood and Wheeler have put in stellar performances in each of their recent defeats, which will do far more to endear them to audiences and raise their stock than a hatful of wins on Dark would have done.
[Peter] I put the case for FTR winning in the preview roundtable but I can say after watching the match that Sting and Darby winning was 100% the right call. Sting and Darby matches are like being at a party. High jinks are expected, the greatest hits are going to be played and you go home thinking “I want to do that again”.
[Ibrahima] Personally, it is yet to be determined as to whether FTR losing this match is the right call. I do think this was the second-best match of the entire event. Sting being this good at the age of 62 has to be a statistical anomaly and he should be tested for extra-terrestrial DNA. FTR are a duo that are excellent at all the little things and it amounts to so much. They were always in the right place and the right time and fed and bumped perfectly for Sting. Darby Allin is great, and it will always warm my heart to see successful and productive father-son activity.
[Dan] Personally I don’t think FTR lose too much by losing this match. You’d have to have been blind not to notice how great FTR were in this match, and more performances like that will easily see them back in the bright lights soon enough. They absolutely made this match from start to finish and really allowed for Sting to get his stuff in beautifully. As for Darby and Sting I’m not sure where they go now, although it appears the shenanigans with Tully Blanchard aren’t finished. Sting v Tully Blanchard in a 60-minute Ironman match? I think we all know that’s the sensible choice.
4) The Superkliq’s first match in many years resulted in victory over Jurassic Express and Christian Cage. What were your thoughts on this match? Is this match the evidence that AEW need to introduce trios titles?
[Huw] As far as trios titles are concerned, I think it’s already a closed case. No company puts as much weight behind their six-man-tag-matches as AEW and AEW do six-man-tag-matches better than any other company. Let’s fire up the forge, Tony.
The Young Bucks, as architects of the multiman banger, are the best in the business. This frenetically paced and frantically contested number was so much fun, as we all knew it would be. You’d think that The Superkliq would overshadow and outperform their opponents, but Luchasaurus stole the show for me. First, there was the handspring under two superkicks and a nip-up after evading Adam Cole’s big boot. Then, he unleashes a medley of innovative chokeslam variations. ‘Pretty cool’, says Ricky Starks. ‘Bad ass’, according to Taz. Impossible to disagree.
[Peter] As much as a second singles belt for the women’s division would be great in getting that division some extra love, a Trios title feels the better move for AEW right now. You have a lot of ready-made teams to contest an eight maybe even a 16-team tournament and the number of storylines that can be played out with the Trios belts would make for great television. A second women’s title can be introduced in 2022 but a Trios Tournament that can end on the first show on TBS would be money.
The Superkliq rule but like Huw said Luchasaurus stole the show and that spot with the completely unnecessary extra running of the ropes before the Bucks kissed their buddy on the cheek before the double dropkick on Jungle Boy popped me.
[Ibrahima] A few observations about this match: the timing and placement of this match was smart. By this point in the show, everyone is very tired and a high-octane tag team match like this is the adrenaline shot that we all needed. Another observation I had is that I enjoy the Young Bucks more live. The wrestle in a very crowd pleasing, athletically impressive, house show style. I mean this in most praising way possible: it's like being at live at the circus. Very well-done trios match, we needed the belts yesterday.
[Dan] Loved it, loved it, loved it. Adam Cole is an absolute genius of a professional wrestler and he showed it here again in eliciting huge sympathy for Jungle Boy, even though Cole got arguably the biggest pop of the night. The spot where the Bucks kissed him on the cheek and then dropkicked him in the face was sublime, and the interaction between those three was electric from start to finish. Trios belts must happen, and I think they must happen soon. They don’t need to have long title-reigns or particular stories built around the matches. Just give us bangers and a reason for those bangers to exist.
5) We had seven other matches across both nights on AEW Grand Slam. Is there anything you’d like to say about any of these matches? How would you rate Grand Slam amongst AEW’s other shows?
[Ibrahima] Other things I wanted to talk about the event was how over some of the talents were in the building. Adam Cole is possibly the most over person in AEW currently, but aside from him, the Lucha Brothers and Santana & Ortiz got great reactions. I felt that the 8 man tag was a very solid sprint that built good anticipation for the eventual tag title match between the aforementioned teams.
Another thing I wanted to point out was that I didn’t think the Lights Out main event between Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston vs Suzuki- Gun was very good live. I was actually quite disappointed with how tame it was compared to past violent matches that have occurred on AEW programming and thought it didn’t live up to a match like the Texas Deathmatch between Moxley and Archer. With that said, watching the match back on TV while not being tired and groggy, its actually pretty fun! Kingston cut a heartfelt promo for the live audience to send everyone home happy and overall I thought AEW Grand Slam was a really fun event. It’s going to be historically significant for the promotion, as a massive statement was made selling over 20,000 tickets. Very good show.
[Dan] CM Punk v Powerhouse Hobbs was exactly the sort of match I wanted to see when Punk came back and I thought they delivered on the night. Hobbs looked like a beast and it took a coming-together with Hook (the lucky so and so) to derail his efforts, and just by being in the ring with Punk he feels like a million dollars.
As for Punk he isn’t delivering the explosiveness that it looks like we’re going to see from Bryan Danielson, but his technical clinics are feeling very special and actually make him stand-out in an AEW that is already full of fireworks and high-spots.
Also a quick word for Britt Baker v Ruby Soho. Headlining a show after that Danielson v Omega match was never going to be easy, but I thought they absolutely brought the crowd along with them and put on an excellent match to boot. Britt marches on, Ruby doesn’t really look weakened, and I suspect we’ll see this again in the not too distant future.
[Huw] Grand Slam is simultaneously a lofty statement of intent for the company as well as an emphatic rubber-stamp of the progress they have made so far. This felt almost like a season premiere and finale rolled up into one. You get the feeling this show will live long in the memory of groundfloor fans and probably will have enticed a few new followers to the black, white and gold side following the considerable buzz it has generated. I could have sworn I said AEW were on a roll last month after the CM Punk debut, but if anything they’ve only gone through the gears again since then.
6) Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega will unquestionably be most people’s match of the week. But besides this obvious contender, which match was your favourite from Grand Slam?
[Ibrahima] Sting & Darby Allin vs FTR. Sting at 62 is outperforming his work from when he was 52. It makes no sense, it's unbelievable, and it's an absolute spectacle to see. I know The Elite cosplayed Space Jam a few months ago, but I didn’t know that they brought along Michael Jordan’s “secret stuff”. I think everyone’s been drinking it.
[Joe] SuperKliq vs Jurassic Express & Christian Cage. That was the match I had the most fun with, and it also set up Adam Cole vs Jungle Boy for next week so it gets bonus points for that. Still not over the fact that Adam Cole is in AEW, where he should be, I can’t wait to see what he does and what he will become in this company.
[Dan] Punk v Hobbs for all the reasons I gave above. I just absolutely love that a match like that exists in AEW, and it makes me giddy with excitement over what we might see when we get Punk v Starks, or Punk v Jungle Boy and of course Punk v HOOOOOOK!
7) Who was your standout performer of AEW Grand Slam?
[Ibrahima] The standout performer of AEW Grand Slam goes to the pornographically good, best wrestler on god’s green, Bryan Danielson. He’s a master of pace, structure, and psychology and showcased all of these skills in his classic with fellow living legend Kenny Omega.
[Joe] I thought Malakai Black had another great week, Sting continues to show why he was a brilliant signing, I know a lot of fans questioned it at first, but I will go with the Eddie Kingston. You really can’t help but feel happy for him, we all know the story about him selling his gear to pay rent before signing with AEW, now he’s in New York, he’s main eventing, there’s 20.000 people there watching it. This week goes to Eddie Kingston for me.
[Dan] I thought Kenny Omega did brilliantly carrying the rookie Bryan Danielson through their match. Seriously though whilst Danielson will rightly get a lot of the plaudits, Kenny Omega yet again showed why he is considered by many to be the best in the world. His character shift in this match, from the goofy Elite member to the incredibly serious 5-star legend, was a sight to behold, and his smoothness in the various reversals and interactions with Danielson was just “mwah”. I believe he now has 18 matches rated 5 stars or more by Meltzer...and he has earned every single one of them.
[Peter] Omega and Danielson aside, my MVP of Grand Slam week was Sting with his performance in the tag match. Sting was one of my favourites growing up and watching him in 2021 not lose a step makes this little Stinger so happy. Also, a shout out to Taz. He was really great on commentary on Rampage. His line when Moxley, Kingston and Homicide were hugging after the lights out match when he said “I wish I had friends” popped me big time.
I also want to give props to Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss for a really great match on Dark: Elevation on Tuesday away from Grand Slam. They went full blast for 10 minutes in an immensely brilliant contest. Go and check that one out.
[Huw] CM Trunks! CM Trunks!