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:
-Jacob Burns: @SaltyAyyycob [JB]
-Ryan Gorneault: @RyanGorneault [RG]
-Gareth Ford-Elliot: @RHWGareth [GFE]
1) Jake Hager defeated Wardlow by submission in a worked MMA fight to open Dynamite. What did you make of this?
[JB] I’m not really an MMA guy, so I don’t know if I can accurately review this match as an MMA fight. But in the realm of Pro-Wrestling, I thought this was pretty fun. You could tell they were working strikes; they obviously weren’t trying to go for legitimate knock-outs, but that’s not what I wanted from this match anyway.
I wanted the one thing I feel they delivered massively in this match. A unique presentation. Combat aside, everything about this match felt MMA. The cage looked awesome, the camera-angles were on point, and even how Justin Roberts announced the competitors was unique to this match.
Love it or hate it, this match was unique. I know this isn’t the first MMA style cage match in pro-wrestling, but they’re so rare that when they get brought out, they still feel special. It’s one of the few stips in wrestling that doesn’t feel overplayed. Though, Wardlow should have definitely won and I’m kinda cross that he didn’t.
[GFE] Jacob has basically nailed my thoughts above. I am an MMA fan and I knew this wouldn’t be Cain Velasquez vs Brock Lesnar levels of brutality (in UFC) but knew it’d be better than Cain Velasquez vs Brock Lesnar (in Saudi Arabia), which it was. It won’t be for everyone, but as Jacob says, it’s different, exciting and a bit of fun.
I would have liked to have seen Wardlow win, but if you’re going to have Hager win, this was the way to do it. They mentioned a rubber match on commentary, with the record between the two at 1-1, so “Wardog” will get his win back and become the monster he looked in this fight.
[RG] Regardless of what people thought about the quality of this match, I think AEW should be applauded for having the gall to try and pull this off. Aesthetics-wise, the match looked great, and AEW did their best to make the presentation feel like a huge deal.
Now, the match itself wasn’t good. At all. Oh boy. I don’t watch a ton of MMA, but the MMA I have watched was significantly better than Hager versus Wardlow. This wasn’t “Dada 500 versus Kimbo Slice” bad, but it sure as hell was nowhere near “Don Frye versus Yoshihiro Takayama” good.
The funniest thing about this match is that Jake Hager, the legitimate MMA competitor, looked just as incompetent in an MMA-style match as Wardlow, who couldn’t even throw a punch that looked even *slightly* real. Well, actually, the funniest thing is that it took Hager less than one round to look completely gassed.
I’m disappointed in Wardlow for being so sloppy, I’m disappointed in Hager for putting on such a muted performance, and I’m disappointed in AEW for exposing both of their major weaknesses. Anybody who was put off by this match should go out of their way to watch some Tenshin Nasukawa fights and call it a day.
2) Darby Allin failed to overcome Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky in a handicap match which leaves this series at 1-1. Where do you think this feud goes from here?
[JB] I think this is a pretty good pausing point in the feud for now. The villains got what they wanted from beating Darby, and they’re too egotistical to care that the match was two on one. Darby doesn’t seem like the type of guy that’s going to start complaining about being in a handicap match that he asked for, but I could see him using the fact that it was a handicap match to get under Men of the Year’s skin. When the feud continues, we’ll definitely be getting a singles match between Allin & Page, but for now I’d like to see them go their separate ways. Even if just for a month.
[GFE] I presume we will see Darby Allin vs Ethan Page in a singles match when the fans return. After that I’d like to see Darby move on from Page and Sky, whatever that means fort him I’m not sure.
As for Page and Sky, I really don’t know what they do. I’m not really bothered about them as a tag team, but AEW have invested time and packaging in these two so I guess it isn’t going anywhere. They’re a decent team, I just don’t particularly care. Especially knowing these two were both in much better tag teams a year ago.
3) Vickie Guerrero announced that she and Nyla Rose would take on AEW Women’s Champion Britt Baker and Rebel in a tag team match. There was a lot of discourse online with this news. Where do you sit on the issue? What do you think happens with this? Should we expect better for the women’s division?
[JB] This is a curious one. As I’ve said on this column before, I love Vickie as a character and performer. But I have never once wanted to watch a wrestling match with her in it. And I don’t think we will be seeing a Vickie Guerrero match, come Wednesday, June 30th. It’s pretty obvious to me and everyone I’ve seen talk about it, she’s probably going to be replaced at some point.
I just don’t understand why this wasn’t advertised as a mystery partner. Vickie in a match is an anti-draw, even to me, self-admitted Vickie mark, Jacob, am put off by the sight of this match. If I didn’t know she is likely going to be replaced by an exciting new character, I have zero reason to be excited for this match.
As for the women’s division, I’m still in the “Let them work out the kinks” phase. I think they could have a great division right now if they gave the time and effort? Yes. But I’m not ready to say that they aren’t seriously trying with this division. Do they deserve better? Yes, absolutely. But do I think the current state of the women’s division comes from a lack of caring? No.
I think what it boils down to is a lack of inspiration. I don’t think the creative minds in AEW have come up with one real storyline for the women’s division. They have great characters, but zero stories to tell with them. Once they find that first REAL story, the whole division can tell stories around it.
[GFE] I think we absolutely should expect better for the women’s division. If they can do better, they should. However, I will wait until crowds and Rampage before AEW get savaged for the poor state of booking in their women’s division. Maybe, just maybe, they’re saving something?
As for Vickie wrestling, I can’t say I’m interested. But I am hoping that this is a bit of a swerve. With Andrade saying that he and Vickie had a surprise for people, I’m hoping the reveal comes in this match. Instead of wrestling, Vickie introduces another acquisition in Thea Trinidad.
This wouldn’t only make a fairly boring match very interesting, but also add to the women’s division with a talent immediately capable of being a strong character, Andrade’s mouthpiece and a potential challenger for Britt Baker for All Out. This could be the start of that. Am I getting my hopes up for something that likely won’t happen? Yes, but it’s the only way I can feign interest in this match.
4) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[JB] My stand-out performer this week is a young guy who was in a match with Cody this week. Brock... Aaron Solow. I’ll let someone else talk up Brock Anderson if they want to. Truth is I don’t really have anything to say. He was green but competent, review done.
Solow’s name is going to get lost in the shuffle in this match. I believe it was his first match on Dynamite proper. And if it wasn’t, it was definitely his first non-squash, and I think he looked like the best out of anyone in that ring. This wasn’t two young guys keeping up with Cody and QT. This was three guys keeping up with Aaron Solow. The man deserves his praise.
[GFE] Wardlow. He had two squash matches on Dark and Elevation where he showed off an impressive knockout, which could easily be a new finisher as it was brilliant, and a choke submission. All of this to showcase Wardlow ahead of his MMA fight with Jake Hager.
The MMA fight, as I said above, was enjoyable in its own way. Wardlow was well showcased in the match and, until Hager locked in the submission, looked better. He’s a future star for sure and I can’t wait to see that potential unleashed.
[RG] Miro. Kind of sad that the person who impressed me most was a person who didn’t compete this week, right? He might be one of my favourite wrestlers on the AEW roster just from a character-work perspective. The fact that he can switch from nonchalantly talking crap about Kip Sabian to Penelope Ford, to exhibiting massive amounts of aggression against the Varsity Blonds, adds a lot to his character, and quite frankly, is super entertaining to watch.
5) What was your AEW match of the week?
[GFE] Orange Cassidy vs Cezar Bononi was the match I had most fun with this week. It was silly, but I had fun. It was a weak week of AEW action, but the heelish nonsense of The Wingmen made me chuckle and I enjoyed OC’s comeback and win. Sports entertainment done right, and I don’t mind that in small doses.
[RG] That match Gareth highlighted was dumb as hell and I loved every second of it. It was clear to me that all of the competitors were having a great time and taking the comedy seriously. Nothing about the match was spectacular, but nothing about the match needed to be, considering that the characters in and out of the ring were so strong. Overall, it was a great time.
6) How would you rate this episode of AEW Dynamite? Is there anything else you’d like to mention? (Please try to limit to one paragraph).
[JB] B+ from me. It was a very entertaining show that advanced nothing in particular. It set up a few new things. Some I’m more excited for than others (Brian Pillman JR vs Miro, yes please). All of the matches hit, all of the promos that weren’t announcing a match with Vickie Guerrero hit, all the segments hit. Just not in a way that moved things forward.
After this show, I feel in the same exact spot I’ve been since these Friday shows have started. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I just can’t wait.
[GFE] B. I’d say this was a slight improvement on last week which I gave a B-. There was still nothing that stood out as “elite”, but it was a consistently entertaining show.
[RG] C- to C. Cezar Bononi and Orange Cassidy put on a super fun match, Miro being Miro was entertaining to watch, and the backstage interactions between Jungle Boy and Kenny Omega sold me on their upcoming match.
Still, the event as a whole felt lacking. The MMA Cage match made everyone involved look bad, Brock Anderson’s debut match felt like a major exercise in nepotism rather than the showcase of a potentially great up-and-comer, the Julia Hart versus Penelope Ford match was clearly only booked in order to advance Miro’s storyline, and the main event was as unmemorable as an AEW main event can get.
I know I’m hard on AEW, but only because I know they’re capable of SO much more. I just hope that Dynamite going back to Wednesday night and the company going back on tour will help to bring them back to form.