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:
-Ryan Gorneault: @RyanGorneault [RG]
-Gareth Ford-Elliot: @RHWGareth [GFE]
-Craig William @CraigPWMusings [CW]
-Sergei Alderman: @SergeiAlderman [SA]
Before we get into this roundtable, it is worth mentioning that we felt the debut of Malakai Black deserved a bigger space to discuss, so we will be releasing a special roundtable discussing it over the weekend. Keep your eyes peeled at the @PWMusings twitter account for updates on that and to keep up with all of our content. Now, let's dive into AEW Dynamite!
1) Cody Rhodes defeated QT Marshall in a South Beach Strap Match in what we’re left to presume is the last match in this feud. What did you make of the match and the feud overall?
[SA] Relative to most, I am a big defender of Cody’s work and of how he is presented. But the storyline of the Factory splitting off from the Nightmare Family was a major disappointment. The basic concept of Marshall being motivated by envy, and his students by personal loyalty was an excellent premise in theory, and the two faction members with the most potential got the shine of a PPV debut and a Dynamite main event respectively. But, in retrospect and in context, the execution just was never really there.
[CW] I’ve enjoyed it a lot actually, with the exception of Anthony Ogogo’s loss at Double or Nothing. QT is a great wrestler and talker and the betrayal angle was well-executed. The match itself was excellent and functioned to re-establish Cody as a huge fan favourite. The absorption of the strap shots ‘Hulk-up’ was incredible.
[RG] I have seen a single great strap match in my thirteen years of watching wrestling: Sting versus Vader at WCW SuperBrawl 1993. Trust me when I say that Cody and QT are no Sting and Vader. This was a perfectly mediocre way to end a perfectly mediocre feud though (if this is even the feud-closer).
I agree that this feud could have been something special and that the execution was disappointing. The booking was bewildering at best and boring at worst, with members of The Factory taking their biggest losses to date and the “lesser” members of The Nightmare Family not doing much of note. If I had to find a silver lining (and trust me, I have to *really* want to see it), it’s that none of the competitors are worse off because of this feud.
[GFE] I always think we have to judge things by the aims and purpose. This was a mid-card feud between two factions that existed to get over some younger talents. For the most part I think we can all agree they achieved this. That may be a boring way to look at it, but it is what it is.
The lows were bad, at times seriously bad, but the highs were good. The betrayal angle, the subtlety of Lee Jonhson overlooking QT Marshall and, in my opinion, Cody vs Ogogo (the match, not the build) were all great. The big issue for me is we never got Lee Johnson vs QT Marshall in a singles match. Maybe that’s the real end and this is just the end of Cody’s involvement? But it was Johnson and QT who started this, ultimately, and that’s how I’d like to see it ended if there was to be another match.
2) After a promo segment between Kenny Omega and Dark Order turned violent, ‘Hangman’ Adam Page came to the help of his friends, leaving Hangman and Omega standing face-to-face. What did you make of this?
[SA] This may very well have been the perfect professional wrestling segment, in that every moment of it felt perfectly inevitable but never merely formulaic. This is one of those moments that everyone involved will be able to say with pride in the decades to come: “I was there.”
At the climactic moment, with Hangman on the apron considering hitting his former friend and partner with the Buckshot Lariat, JR had the perfect words: “the eyes of the two men tell the story.” The regret in Adam’s eyes and the bewilderment in Kenny’s certainly gave us the building blocks of a great story—and some of the beats of that story to unfold feel as inevitable as this one was.
Some of the details of timing and characterization remain open questions. But there is no question that we are finally in the climactic chapter of the central storyline that has defined AEW from the beginning.
[CW] That shot of Page on the apron with the opportunity to hit Omega with the Buckshot was not only a terrific call-back to the post-match scene at Revolution but a stunning illustration of the dynamic between Page and Omega; fractious to say the least and with much water under the bridge. This is the beginning of the culmination of years of storytelling between AEW’s most beloved character. Strap in.
[RG] I would have NEVER guessed that Adam Page and The Dark Order hanging out MONTHS ago would be the perfect way to build an AEW World Title feud, but here we are. In a vacuum, this segment did not reinvent the wheel, but between The Dark Order’s sustained popularity, Adam Page’s emotions, and the utterly palpable tension between the former AEW Tag Title holders, this segment was ELECTRIC!
Even without context, that segment could sell their feud. Of course, I’m excited to see the inevitable Omega versus Page match, but I’m even more excited to see where The Dark Order goes from here.
3) MJF and Chris Jericho had a standoff where they traded words and MJF set Jericho a challenge. The challenge being inspired by the “Labours of Hercules”, four matches with stipulations and opponents of MJF’s choosing. What are your thoughts on this?
[GFE] I love it and I’m excited to see which matches and stipulations this throws up. Jericho is far from his prime but his grasp for psychology is exceptional and we could get some great matches. Jericho will obviously win them all so it’ll be a little obvious. But I know there is a twist coming and I have the perfect solution.
The first two matches should be against Shawn Spears and Cash Wheeler. He’s faced Dax already and I’d like to see Wardlow protected. The third match is an outsider, maybe from NJPW or, ideally, someone from Jericho’s past. But the killer is the fourth match...
Sammy Guevara, and I’ll let your mind run wild on what the stipulation and what that could mean. As long as it’s Guevara, they cannot go wrong.
[SA] MJF compared this to the Labors of Hercules, and he compared it to the gauntlet that Jericho put Moxley through in the run up to challenging him for the World title. And these comparisons served their purpose: to distract the audience from the obvious comparison: to the stipulations MJF put Cody through to earn a revenge match with him.
Has MJF run out of tricks and started repeating himself? Or relying on a time-proven classic in a similar situation? It really comes down to execution: will the opponents and stipulations chosen for Jericho’s “Labors” be interesting and apropos?
[CW] I don’t want to see Jericho knock-off each member of the Pinnacle... I suppose FTR can lose as they’re tag guys, however I still don’t want to see it. Shawn Spears? That one is inoffensive... But Wardlow? You can’t have 50-year-old, Chris Jericho beating Wardlow. I’ve been saying it for weeks if not months now, main event worthy Pinnacle are clowning way too often for the Inner Circle and especially Jericho.
4) Andrade el Idolo made his debut by defeating Matt Sydal. What did you make of the match and Andrade’s presentation thus far?
[CW] This was better. Vickie Guererro worked as a link to Eddie rather than playing her usual schtick. He looks massive, which helps, and very much like a star. Correct direction but early stages. The introduction of a different NXT alumni was far more impactful.
[RG] This match was everything it needed to be and pretty much nothing else. The former La Sombra and the former Evan Bourne could probably go longer and harder if they wanted and if they didn’t have time constraints, but the booking pretty much dictated that Idolo look like a boss throughout, so that’s what we got. Nevertheless, the match was entertaining and was a good appetizer more than an entrée.
[GFE] It was very obvious to me that Andrade has been lifting a lot of weights and not jumping on the treadmill enough. He gassed and the match was worse for it. Hopefully this isn’t the extent of Andrade because all this really did was show me that Andrade could hit moves rather than show-off how special Andrade is, or was, perhaps. It wasn’t bad by any means, but you know these two can go to a different level if they’re showing their best.
5) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[SA] Obviously, the man who made the biggest impact was Malakai Black. With a genuinely surprising debut, a creepy look that might hint at permanent scarring, (or possibly something more demonic,) and with two Black Mass kicks to the Nightmare Family, he made his arrival in AEW something truly shocking.
[CW] Cody for me. He feeds off the crowd and they feed off him, it works perfectly when he captures the moment. Tonight’s performance against QT was superb and yet somewhat simple. His intensity and ferocity inviting the belt shots and then insisting on hitting three Cross Rhodes was magnetic. I’m more and more convinced he needs to, eventually, end up in the main event slot somehow.
[RG] Malakai Black. He’s done his best work as a quiet killer who seems supremely pissed off at the world. The dude was quiet, the dude was a killer, and as he kicked Cody Rhodes and Arn Anderson’s faces off, he looked supremely pissed off at the world. I’m excited to see where he goes from here…
6) What was your AEW match of the week?
[GFE] Wardlow & FTR vs Hager, Santana & Ortiz. This was grade A television wrestling. It was electric, they held nothing back and there was a real feeling of hostility in the air. The quick tags from both sides made me feel like every guy wanted to fight each other, when sometimes these matches can be spoiled by cowardly heels.
The result was right considering Wardlow needed to look strong and FTR vs Santana & Ortiz is *the* match to make in the tag division right now. A perfect teaser for a tag match that I have very high expectations for.
[CW] I’m doubling down on the Trios match alongside Gareth. It was so offence-rich and creative. The work between FTR and PnP bodes well, really well, for their eventual clash. Then you have the character work and raw physical chemistry of Wardlow and Hager? This match was a perfect concoction for TV.
[RG] Eddie Kingston & Penta El Zero Miedo versus Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson. This match was the epitome of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck, and sometimes, that’s all it takes. I’m like Chandler and Monica; I’m fond of the silliness, and this match was just about all silliness. Okay, well, it’s about as silly as a match with thumbtacks can get.
7) How would you rate this episode of AEW Dynamite? Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
[CW] A-. This lacked a truly state of the art 1v1 wrestling match like the previous two weeks, which is what I really look for in a wrestling show. However, the shocks, crowd engagement and fire-cracker matches were spectacular in parts. All that being said, the booking or lack there of the Women’s Division is a crime. In fact, I was carried away… I’m knocking it down a grade… You can’t waste these women in such a manner. B+.
[RG] I’ll give this one a B. The matches were not spectacular, but the crowd was hot and the moments were grand.
[GFE] B+. The highs were really high and the show was consistently fun, but the lack of a proper women’s match and even a proper women's segment continues to be a serious dampener on the product.