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Dynamite Report Card 12/28/22

Hello and welcome to the first edition of 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.

Bryan Danielson vs. Ethan Page | Grade: A

Though there’s been some worry about where Bryan Danielson exists on the AEW card and how that compares to where he belongs, one thing that’s been consistent is that a crowd that gets The American Dragon in their opening contest is a hyped crowd. You only have to look back to his last televised match against Dax Harwood to see the advantages of giving the audience what they want and early. While this was maybe not have been the technical masterclass that was Danielson-Harwood, it certainly hit all of the right spots when it came to creating compelling television.

What really made this work is the number of moving parts to create intrigue. The most obvious of which is the looming presence of MJF featuring champagne and arm candy literally looking down on the match. Obviously this was meant to belittle Danielson but Page certainly wasn’t very happy with it himself. On the ground we had Stokely Hatheway’s presence and the various ways his devious nature and uhhh follicle insecurity played into the match as a way to create new waves of momentum for Ethan Page as the match went on.

The ending was just about what anyone could have predicted, that no matter the power and size advantage All Ego exhibited eventually he’d be victim to a running knee and kicked until the will to fight left his body. Danielson now gets to eye MJF’s title and will undoubtedly get some kind of trajectory blasting moment in front of his home crowd in Seattle next week. Ethan Page will lick his wounds after again coming up second best but can leave with the consolation that he was part of a match good enough that he got some counter-chants in his favor while working heel against one of the biggest wrestling stars on the planet.

Hangman Is Is In Concussion Protocol | Grade: E

This is something that just doesn’t work for my preferences. I think historically the problem of concussions hasn’t been treated correctly by wrestling as a whole, and the small improvements have not been enough to justify it being in a spot where concussions storylines are being put on TV. I was willing to overlook my usual discomfort about this for Hangman’s recent promo about not being able to remember his son’s name, because that had enough raw emotion that it made for compelling TV.

This though? There was nothing here. The only thing of note was the AEW medical personnel telling Hangman that he might be “two weeks away”, a flat out misrepresentation of how concussion protocol works (there’s no timeline for recovery beyond a disappearing of symptoms). I already have enough to be excited for Hangman vs. Mox at Revolution, I don’t need these weekly check-ins that diminish the hype. This grade is completely personal preference though.

Blackpool Combat Club vs. Top Flight | Grade: A+

This is a feud that I would’ve never fantasy booked but it’s working really well. The success is really contingent on the fact that against all odds Top Flight (with AR Fox) won the Very Long Named Battle Royal For Money last eliminating Mox and Claudio. This has catapulted Top Flight from a pair of very promising upstarts to a team that depending on your perspective is either getting too cocky for their own good, or presents a legitimate threat to dominate the tag team division. Either way, BCC cannot sit idly by without addressing it.

The main story of this match was that Top Flight is facing their biggest threat as a tag team so far, and has to wrestle their most intelligent and brutal game plan possible because the high flying finesse won’t be enough in this instance. For a good amount of this match they succeed with some very smart counters, like a jump rope style maneuver from Dante to get close enough to stop the Big Swing on Darius. Darius even keeps the match going by kicking out of a neutralizer. But by the end it showed they do not have that final gear of intensity that BCC has, and end up taking a European uppercut so strong that CLaudio has to remove his mouth guard to execute it (the sort of platonic ideal of a wrestling moment, where logistically it makes no sense but as moment to watch it is sublime.) We can’t say what’s next for either of them, but considering what it took BCC to get the win, it wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t over.

Kip Sabian Addresses Orange Cassidy | Grade: B+

I’m not a big fan of Sabian, but his theatrics work well when juxtaposed with OC’s complete uninterest in them. While I’m not that happy with Sabian continuing to be the major feud, it was also a very funny way to get to Trent vs. OC match, which we might not ever get under usual circumstances.

HOOK defeats Baylum Lynx, and then gets some visitors | Grade: A

It was no surprise to see that Hook’s match (always dominant, never boring) was more of a build than a match itself. It didn’t even last a minute before the bell had rung and Stokely Hatheway was on his way back down to the ring with Big Bill and Lee Moriarty trying to ruin Hook’s night. Jack Perry must’ve seen it all coming even quicker than the rest of us because he was there before they even got all the way down the ramp, immediately taking down Moriarty, which left Hook to face off against Big Bill. As Hook lifted up Big Bill for a suplex, the Denver crowd sounded like they were about to go a mile higher. Unfortunately, it was just a tease for what is to come in the future, but what a tease it was.

Every part of this fills me with giddy anticipation. I want to see Hook face someone as big as Big Bill. I want a Perry-Moriarty match that elevates both of them. I want The Jungle Hook to get sponsored by a high end hair care product. There were a lot of questions about where Jack Perry could go after Full Gear, especially if Christian Cage wasn’t ready to go, and I think they have rightly assuaged all fears.

Chris Jericho and Ricky Starks Cut Duelling Promos | Grade: B

These didn’t occur back-to-back but I’m grouping them together. We start with Jericho who cuts the sort of middle of the road promo that has defined his JAS run, nothing egregious but nothing memorable.

A few segments later, Ricky Starks appeared and was given enough room to easily clear the previous Jericho promo. He talked about how Jericho is afraid of Starks because he could not control Starks, which seems not incorrect. He mentioned his “friend” Action Andretti, which I don’t think is something we’ve seen actually established before. A better angle than pretending that they are friends would be to state something simpler, that Jericho is afraid of the future and that’s why he’s intimidated by the rise of both Starks and Andretti.

Wheeler YUTA challenges Swerve | Grade: C

Swerve gets interviewed with his affiliates by his side. He still does not name the more tattooed of the two which feels unnecessary because there’s no way his name is going to pay off in any way that deserves being reserved for a later date. Yuta interrupts with a very simple challenge for a match at Rampage, making sure to namecheck his BCC affiliation in the process but delineates that he is violent in a Good Way while Swerve is violent in a Bad Way. Not long enough to ruminate on, but the Rampage match should be above average.

The Elite vs. Death Triangle Match 6: Falls Count Anywhere | Grade: A+

There are fewer struggles I can think of harder than trying to write a Dynamite recap/review for the first time in your career and having to sum up what happens in this match. Is it fair for me to say that “everything happens?” One of the praises I’ve seen a lot of this best of 7 series is how they’ve managed to make each iteration feel unique. This one felt like it was from another universe, transcending the entire history of this feud and Falls Count Anywhere matches.

This had all of the great moments you want in a Falls Count Anywhere match. The backstage brawl, the split screens, the battle of the catering table and the slow violent march back to the ring. In this case what made it pop for me, is that they subverted expectations by bringing all of the action back to the ring and then actually putting the concluding moments some 200 feet away. I wish they would’ve been quicker with putting up the split screen to show some build for Kenny fighting with Fenix as Pac thought he had the series win in his hands, but ultimately it did not matter as it felt inevitable aTs soon the One Winged Angel was hit.

I feel like they left everything on the mat here while simulatenously leaving enough for the Game 7 conclusion to feel as big as it should be. The ladder rules will certainly help give new moments, and for as much weapon use as this series has had it has been relatively bloodless, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is an escalating (ladder pun!) factor in the final interaction of this spectacular series.

The Acclaimed have a Jeff Jarrett diss track | Grade: B+

These are always fun for what they are and help Acclaimed set themselves apart from other tag teams, and also set AEW apart from other televised wrestling products. I’m not sold on Jarrett and Lethal as a real threat to the Acclaimed and don’t wish for this feud to be long enough to justify a diss track, but Sonjay Dutt did have a very bad one last week so I suppose it necessitates a response. The sooner they have this match and move on to better tag teams, the better it will be for me personally. Still, some good lines in here, and the part about stealing Kurt Angle’s wife is sure to grab some headlines.

TayJay AS vs. Ruby Soho and Willow Nightingale | Grade: B-

After last week’s episode closing with arguably the best women’s match in AEW history, there were certainly high expectations for that quality in this week’s tag match. Obviously it didn’t hit those highs but there was a lot to like here. The crowd at different moments had chants for both Willow and Ruby to get back in it when they were getting beat down, which is a good indication that they were bought into this match for the whole time. TayJay did a great job of showing that while they might lack Nightingale's power or Soho’s tenacity they made up for it with tag team experience and being on the same page, able to isolate opponents and run interference that kept it competitive.

The ending was a bit sloppy and overbooked. Right before the end there was a moment where Ruby hit a No Future on Melo while Jay was in the ring, and Jay did not break up the pin they way that would’ve made sense, because she was getting set up for the next set of moves. A small thing, but it made the ending a few minutes later feel similarly choreographed: Anna went to find a chair to hit Willow, but was thwarted by Aubrey Edwards, which led to the distraction that allowed Tay to use a chair against Ruby then get a pin. It didn’t feel particularly smooth and it felt like they just needed to end the match with some cheating, when the narrative being told didn’t seem to require that.

It seemed likely we would get an outcome similar to this. With Willow and Ruby already both beating TayJay as singles competitors, they were a near lock to get their win back as a tag team. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this rematched as a street fight in the coming weeks, which will give all of these women a chance to shine with a meaningful feud. Which is good that someone got something out of this episode, because no other women’s storylines were even progressed.

The Gunns showed up to tell us they are leaving | Grade: D

Okay? I don't know why we needed this. Did Big Stoke get some kind of contract agreeing all members of The Firm would appear on TV this week? Either have them celebrating or just save it all for next week.

Wardlow vs. Samoa Joe | Grade: A for the match, B- for the before and after

Earlier in the night we heard from Samoa Joe in a taped promo where he justified his hate for Wardlow. Didn’t seem like it was needed to retcon what was already good: that Wardlow said he was coming for all the belts, and Joe saw that as a threat and said “not if I come for all of them first.” Instead Joe phrases it as if it was always his plan to turn on Wardlow, which I don’t think is needed but it’s fine. Then Wardlow responded in person and before he reached anything of substance Joe took him out with a lead pipe, leading to intrigue about whether the match would even happen. This wasn’t for me personally, because I just wanted to see them go at it evenly matched, but I can understand how it created heightened stakes for others, or could be thought of as protecting Wardlow in a loss.

Samoa Joe came out and cut a promo on the idea that Wardlow wouldn’t make it out to the ring, and The King Of Television gimmick is good as ever here. He even gets in a jab about the Denver Broncos, which I would usually consider beneath a killer like Joe, but it works here. Wardlow makes his way to the ring and seems outmatched in the early going, but the longer it goes the more the match grows into a main event quality match. Wardlow fought against adversity to nearly win the match with a powerbomb, but his leg gave out on the symphony’s second movement, the way Joe had designed it to from the beginning, giving Joe what he needed to get the victory.

In the aftermath, Joe gave a fleeting glance of respect to The Wardog before flattening him once again, and then taking a step further and emasculating Wardlow by cutting off his hair. This was a perfect moment to show Wardlow at his lowest of lows, the type of reset that he needs in order to reestablish himself as someone fighting his way back up to the top after a middling TNT reign. But the moment was short lived for Wardlow as he became the third wheel with the emergence of Darby Allin, a competitor who put on a great match with Samoa Joe recently but one largely built on Darby getting ragdolled around. I’m not sure how inserting Darby helps Wardlow, and I don’t see anyone other than Wardlow usurping Joe’s title reign (other than maybe a longshot Miro return) so for that reason it felt like an overly busy end to a show that could’ve easily faded out with Joe holding his titles and his trophy hair.

Cumulative Grade: A

There were some gripes here and there, but every match was solid, including a few of the best of the year, and it feels like AEW has been on a great streak with quality Dynamites as of recent, so what’s not to like?

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