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Dynamite Report Card 01/11/23

Hello and welcome back to the Dynamite Report. In this article we will take a look at the most recent episode of AEW Dynamite and how it stacks up against our Report Card Success Criteria. Below you will find our evaluation criteria and grading:

As always opinions are personal to the writer.

Hangman Page vs. Jon Moxley | C+

I thought about separating the match from the aftermath, but I’ve decided I don’t want to take that format anymore, it’s a coward’s route! I’m not going to cop-out and pretend like they are not related enough to be summarized under one grade! Which is unfortunate for the match’s grade, because there was a lot to really like here. The boys came out swinging with a lot of chops and big lariats and the story of the match mirrored the promos that lead up to it. Mox’s offense matched his credo of “I’m gonna put you through hell you weak little baby” and Hangman’s response was equally “You don’t have enough hell to put me through.” Early in the match it felt like the crowd was there for Moxley’s violence and as it went on became more interested in the Cowboy’s perseverance.

This never felt like it hit its peak as consistently as their last match, which despite the scary ending felt more electric throughout. This had less to do with the missing title implications and more to do with the placement on the card. An opening bout 5pm local time doesn’t necessarily have the crowd in the right place to react to a story that’s been going on for the better part of 3 months. There was a “This Is Awesome” chant that was well deserved but it was started in the midst of Moxley trying to cinch in the bulldog choke, which ruined the suspense that this could be over at any moment since that is almost always a mid-match chant. But nonetheless it did hit some great high points with the big shots, the finishers, and most importantly the one-count after the pile driver that all but guaranteed Page would be walking out the hero.

Overall this was the banger it was predicted to be in this very column, which is what made me willing to stomach the concussion storylines that I very much did not care for. But what is the biggest impediment to the grade here is that we continued with the concussion storyline in the aftermath where we could’ve had a clean break from it. After the loss, Moxley looked dazed and was being evaluated by Doc Sampson as the segment ended. None of that is needed. Mox doesn’t need to be work-concussed. Hangman doesn’t have to have a look on his face like he might feel bad about maybe consussing Mox. We know what a real concussion looks like in this context, because the storyline is built around the fact we saw one the last time these two met. Presumably Moxley will take a little time off now so that they can meet for the rubber match at Revolution, but that could just as easily have been achieved with the unusual occurrence of this match- a clean Moxley loss.

Adam Cole Returns | Grade: B+

Tony Schiavone certainly gave us the misdirect by saying he “took no pleasure in welcoming” the person coming to the ring, which for sure seemed like an MJF reference, but instead it was his long time nemesis Adam Cole! This led into Adam Cole’s deception where he told everyone he had “bad news” and then talked about his injury history. (Side note: I know people complain sometimes that it doesn’t seem like segment/match producers at AEW are communicating to prevent repeat situations happening on the same episode, and it doesn’t really bother me but surely SOMEONE should have spoken up about doing a worked concussion angle minutes before you go into this emotional plea from Adam Cole regarding his own history of head trauma.)

As it turns out, it was all a ruse. Adam Cole is healthy to compete and he’s back Bay-Bay! The one who the news is actually bad for is everyone else! This was a great pop, but after it there was a sort of rudderless direction to this promo. I get that they didn’t want to be too specific about what is in store for him, and it was probably a safer choice to just let him soak up the returning adoration. But the other side of this is that it made him feel a little bit like a generic face giving a video game promo about how he plans to make it to the top. Adam, my dude, you had 3 World Championship matches in 2022, two of which were on PPVs AND you won the first Owen Hart tournament! That’s pretty dang near the top! Either acknowledge your prior dominance or call someone out!

JungleHook defeats Big Bill and Lee Moriarty | Grade: B

I could give a big poetic introduction to this match but let’s just get to what’s important: Hook tossed Big Bill like a 7 foot sack of potatoes! It ruled. Angels rejoiced, children wept, it was everything you hoped it would be, unless you were Big Bill, in which case you just sort of look dumbfounded by it all happening. JungeHook felt like they gelled as a team of babyface hearthrobs in a way that I don’t feel like I need to see them regularly but if they have eachothers backs sporadically it could be useful for future storytelling. Big Bill lived up to his name and even got some good heel reaction by doing a mocking version of the Jack Perry entrance arm dance that the crowd does.

Lee Moriarty felt like he got the least chance to shine, he’s still trying to figure out how to turn his impressive technical skills into something the bad guy would do, but I think he’s continuing to prove his in-ring competence and as long as Stokely is nearby it seems like a good bet that heat will be generated. Big Bill and Hook facing 1 on 1 seems like the most obvious fall out for this match, especially since the camera direction did a bad job of showing Hook incapacitating Bill so that Perry could get the submission win. But if they want to additionally give me a Jungle Boy vs. Lee Moriarty match while we wait to see what’s next for Jungle Boy, I can get behind that.

Takeshita …. Just Kidding Here’s MJF | Grade: C-

Konosuke Takeshita was getting ready for his match against Danielson when out walked MJF to make things, predictably, about himself. He told Takeshita to “Speak American” which I disliked for two reasons. First is that it was clearly a reference to a Twitter conversation from over the weekend that I am embarrassed to have recognized. The second being that it’s kind of racist, and while it’s easy to say “but he’s the heel!” MJF has shown in the past a personal trauma related to anti-semitism, so I think it makes him a more compelling heel if he realizes there are certain lines not worth crossing, but that he’s willing to do everything and anything up to that line. Either way, Takeshita responded first with a tirade in Japanese and then with a simple “Kiss My Ass” both of which got big reactions from the fans, which is a nice little way to show the very dumbest voices on the wrestling internet just how prime to be over Takeshita is.

Beyond that, this felt fairly pedestrian for the usually inspired MJF. He made a reference to how the 60 Minute Iron Man match is a lot like 60 minutes of sex, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to imply he was having sex with the viewer’s mother, sister or girlfriend, so he just said all three for good measure. Then he paused the show to roast celebrity audience members like he was at the Friar’s Club, but didn’t really have much ammo against Ken Jeong or Freddie Prinze Jr. besides “the things you are known for happened a number of years ago.” You gotta do better than that in Hollywood, Max!

Bryan Danielson vs. Konosuke Takeshita | Grade: B+

So I don’t know if you know this but these guys are very good at wrestling. That was most of the story of this match. There was some more minor stuff that ran through the match, Takeshita came off as a gifted young star still trying to reach his potential, whereas Danielson was the wily veteran trying to remain at the top. Danielson never felt particularly threatened in this match (largely because he’s unlikely to lose before Revolution) but it did feel like he was trying to bring out the best his foe had to offer. He seemed to get Takeshita’s best: the flying lariat, the shoulder tackle, the dead weight german suplex. Short of offering him a Cinnabon, Konosuke tried everything that I’ve grown to associate with him.

Between the match and the very small bit of mic work he got in before it, I think Takeshita has shown he’s overdue for a meaningful feud. He’s been stuck as a special attraction, meaning he usually loses when he appears on Dynamite and wins when he’s on Dark. In both cases, people will complain that he’s being underutilized, and it’s reaching a point now where both of those can be good-faith criticism. Hopefully this long-term Don Callis courting will come through soon to give him a reason to wrestle on TV besides simply being very good at it.

Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter defeat Toni Storm and Saraya | D+

Well this certainly didn't go how I expected it to. It played out pretty straightforward without any surprises or betrayals. Most disappointingly, it did not advance anyone’s story, especially compared to last week when it felt like everyone’s story was advancing. The in ring work for this match was quality and I have nothing to say to detract from it, in any other situation that would be enough to give this high marks. But this isn’t any situation. This was the tag match in Los Angeles, teased for 5 weeks, including last week when a “Boss” comment was made.

“Dirk! You ignorant mark!” I can hear you saying, “You played yourself! Mercedes Mone was never advertised to arrive!” You are not wrong. References from Britt Baker are not the same as declarations from Excalibur. But if I looked too much into this, what would I have seen if I had looked at it the correct amount? What story was supposed to be told? Who gains anything from this tag team victory? Are we any closer to seeing a women’s title feud emerging? The closest thing we had to any storyline in this match was Shida coming down to the ring at a seemingly random moment (Rebel was ringside the whole time for a chance to interfere! Why not have her cause some trouble and THEN have Shida make an appearance to neutralize her?) and then doing a poor job of giving the faces a chance to cheat which backfired. Now Saraya and Toni will be mad at Shida, but it doesn’t bring us that much closer to a meaningful match.

It’d be one thing if I was the only one who was reading into things, but AEW knew that large portions of the audience would be expecting something big for a match announced more than a month ago, and we got basically nothing for our anticipation. An uncharacteristically poor execution in relation to hype.

The JAS Speaks! | Grade: C

The promo equivalent of a meeting that could have been an email. A few good lines in here, in particular PWG getting a shoutout and Jericho calling Action Andretti “Oliver Twist”, but the only really useful thing here is that it got Ricky Starks in front of an important crowd. Even then, his time was used to put out a challenge for a match that had already been announced, and of all the things he could've made fun of Jake Hager for, he chose to goof on his speech impediment. Ricky no! You were supposed to destroy MJF, not join him!

Elite vs. The Death Triangle: Game 7 | Grade: A

Renee and Excalibur both mentioned that there hasn’t been a Game 7 in the building since 1999, which seemed wrong to me until I realized that was the last year the Lakers played there. Aren’t wrestling stats fun? This match was able to create the type of “leave it all on the field” energy that we associate with a Game 7 in any sport. Impressive, considering how it felt like they had done nearly everything there was to be done in the six preceding.

One of the things that made this one work so well is that there was nothing particularly funny about it. Sure Brandon Cutler showed up for a second, but the majority of the match had no goofiness, one of the most compelling parts of a usual Elite match, but it’s absence made this one feel all the more special.

I was surprised to find that relative to the other matches in the series, this was a similar length. The consistent action made it feel like a sprint. I’m glad they went this route, as many others in this position would’ve made the final chapter of a feud a plodding affair in attempt to wring as much suspense out as possible. Not here, they saw their time slot and said “how much can we put in here before we close this book for a while?” Now The Elite are Trios Champions once again, and through the efforts of both them and Death Triangle, the belts feel prestigious, and I hope they can continue to feel that way.

Cumulative Score: C+

Wrestling is theater of some kind, but it ain’t Samuel Beckett. When Godot doesn’t come to the ring, I’m not going to ponder the meaning of existence, I’m going to be disappointed. A non-debut wasn’t a sure thing to sink the show, but enough other things irked me that I came away with a mixed reaction to a show with a lot of good wrestling.

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