Welcome to the AEW Dynamite Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points arising from AEW Fyter Fest Night 1. Please note writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
-Ryan Gorneault: @RyanGorneault [RG]
-Dan: @WrestlingRhymes [DH]
-Gareth Ford-Elliott: @RHWGareth [GFE]
-Craig William @CraigPWMusings [CW]
-Sergei Alderman: @SergeiAlderman [SA]
1) Ricky Starks defeated Brian Cage with the help of his Team Taz teammates. What did you make of this match and where does this leave Brian Cage?
[DH] I really enjoyed this match. Yes, there was a very early flub but it came so early that it didn’t impact the flow of the Team Taz men and from there it was a very entertaining back and forth affair. The ending was clever as well as it made you wonder if perhaps Team Taz were turning against gorgeous Ricky Starks...but no. Hobbs and Hook (the next great detective duo) went full bastard and I loved it.
Cage will hopefully now make for a very compelling babyface, and once the Machine has yeeted Team Taz all over the place, a contest with Miro for the TNT Title sounds amazing.
[CW] The face turn for Brian Cage is fascinating. He just looks like a heel so you’d never really think it’s the best plan but once you think about all the cool stuff he can do… Then it starts to make sense. Plus, now you have Ricky Starks at the head of a faction with a meaningless title around his waist, who better to make that thing a heat magnet?
[RG] Man. Where do I even begin? This was easily my match of the night, but not because any of the action was mind-blowing. The wrestling itself was basic but well-paced and still a lot of fun, especially considering that both wrestlers still very much work like heels. What really got me was the result because of how unexpected it was. I was positive that one of the members of Team Taz would eventually beat Cage for the FTW belt, but I surely did not expect it to happen as early as it did.
The crowd was CLEARLY happy about the result too, which could easily complicate Cage’s face turn, but if anything, this proves that Starks, Hobbs, and the still-yet-to-debut Hook can be (and are) major stars for the company. Overall, the match was a lot of fun, but the result MADE the match.
[GFE] My favourite thing about this match was Brian Cage wearing the Taz colours whilst Ricky Starks wore whatever he liked. Cage did everything Taz wanted, even at times against his best judgement. Starks is the guy who has caused these issues as he cannot stand not being the star, where he feels he should be.
Cage remains the one who was always loyal to Taz. Now where is he left? Out in the cold and that will make fans very sympathetic to him. AEW need to handle the next beats of this story well. Cage has to be pro-active in responding and not passive. But we could have ourselves a bad-ass babyface ready to take on the likes of Miro before too long.
2) Adam Page finally stood in the middle of the ring challenged Kenny Omega, before The Elite came out and things broke down. Omega accepted Page’s challenge on the condition that Page and the Dark Order can defeat The Elite in a 5 vs 5 elimination tag team match. What are your thoughts on this segment and the stakes on the 5 vs 5 match?
[DH] Yet again I thoroughly enjoyed the Page and Omega interaction, and yet again AEW have managed to hold off on the one-on-one between the former partners without making it feel too contrived. Hangman may not fully have confidence in himself yet, but he certainly does in the Dark Order, and I suspect that 5 v 5 matches will be an absolute classic. This is so much better than just a simple months’ long build to Page v Omega, and I’m confident it will all play into that final titanic encounter.
[CW] I don’t totally like the presentation of Kenny Omega, sometimes I think it makes him a little hard to take seriously. The problem is he’s being a pure-heel, a totally detestable-cringy man, for one reason and one reason only… To put over his eventual conqueror big. It’s a smart play. But now that’s out of the way…
This was bloomin’ brilliant! The long awaited face-to-face between Hangman and Matt (we have got to see that one on one at some point), the crazy melee, the Dark Order’s fiery babyface save, the match that came out of it and the literal face to face between Omega and Page… These segments are gorgeous pro-wrestling story-telling and this one was somehow the moment of the show on a show where Darby Allin…
[SA] This storyline is the rare confluence of perfection of concept and execution. It’s easy to see what this storyline is intended to do and be: for Omega, for Hangman, and most of all for AEW. Sometimes they do exactly what almost everyone watching would expect—like last week Hangman finally being moved to direct conflict with the Elite by needing to rescue his Dark Order buddies. Sometimes we get a surprising curveball, like Kenny proposing a 5-on-5 elimination match. But either way, in retrospect, we wouldn’t change one jot or tittle. That’s what I mean by perfection of execution: hindsight is 20/20, but even so, there’s no room at all for improvement.
[RG] This. This segment was easily one of the best AEW segments of the year solely because it showed just how far Page has come and how far gone The Elite are. You KNOW The Elite are crumbling under the weight of their own egos now that they’re biting Yoya’s style (but that’s beside the point).
Physically keeping Omega and Page apart has done this feud wonders, because the longer they stay apart, the more intense it becomes, and the more shine the “supporting characters” get in the process. This is partially why the Sabu versus Taz rivalry was so compelling more than 22 years ago; the longer Paul Heyman kept the fans waiting, the more they wanted them to fight. Of course, we know Tony Khan knows this as a former ECW fan himself. I bet Omega and Page (mostly) stay apart until their one-on-one match, presumably at All Out. I don’t even want them to bump into each other during their impending elimination tag team match.
3) Darby Allin shut the lid on the Ethan Page feud as he won the main event’s Coffin Match. How did you feel about this match and where do both men go from here?
[DH] Another tremendously entertaining encounter, and it may be controversial to say, but certainly a better coffin match than anything WWE have ever been able to deliver. The unhinged violence and chaos of it all fitted the build to the match, and both men absolutely gave their bodies to this war.
I’m really not sure where either man goes now though. Darby may fancy another pop at Miro, but maybe he just continues with non-title feuds for now. Certainly, Malakai Black looks like a future opponent, and that match would absolutely slap. As for Page, none of the titles look open for him at the moment, but if and when a babyface tag team is able to capture the belts, he and Sky would make very interesting opponents.
[CW] This was not five stars in the Tokyo Dome, not even slightly, but what it was is the best presentation of ‘Sports Entertainment’ you’ll see anywhere. It was a thrilling watch as the two heated competitors escalated and escalated the action. The culmination of the action was a terrific spot that will be replayed for years. Darby Allin is a golden talent, an absolute gem that AEW must protect at all costs.
Ethan Page can do a lot from here, with Darby’s help he is not established on screen and is a heel in the vein of MJF that can work in the mid-car with or without Sky. Darby Allin should get a match against Kenny Omega, before or after his eventual title-loss either would work but before would be a truly mouth-watering encounter.
4) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[GFE] Yuka Sakazaki was so fun to watch. She didn’t do anything out of her usual schtick, but it’s just been so long since she’s been on Dynamite in front of a hot crowd that it was so great to see. Her match with Penelope Ford was a blast and hopefully her victory leads to Yuka taking on Britt Baker for the women’s title before she returns to Japan.
[DH] Christian Cage deserves a strong mention here. His match with Matt Hardy wasn’t one I was particularly looking forward to (and I don’t think I was alone in that) but I actually found this to be a very compelling match. The main cause of that was Christian Cage’s superb selling throughout the match. He looked like he had taken a catastrophic beating, with his troubles in breathing really selling the throat snap on the ropes earlier in the match. And he still found time to foreshadow the impending issues with Jungle Boy...a match that I cannot wait to see.
[RG] Team Taz. Each member of the group has massive potential on their own, but together, they look like total bosses. Considering that Ricky Starks just returned from a neck injury, Powerhouse Hobbs has had pretty shoddy booking, and Hook has yet to make his wrestling debut, they collectively came off as total bosses who could easily dominate AEW for years to come. I’m so excited to see where they go from here, whether their successes come from teaming up or from their eventual singles-breaks.
[SA] Somebody had better come along and say “Darby Allin”... But I can’t, when someone still needs to say: Hangman Adam Page. That is what being over huge with a crowd looks like—what a character and a story and a performer clicking perfectly together looks like.
[CW] Darby Allin. As mentioned in the previous question, he is a glorious talent. He brings a tenacity and grisly style that is wonderfully compelling and unique. His match against Ethan Page was perfectly designed to bring out the grisly, scrapper side of his style in tremendous form.
5) What was your AEW match of the week?
[DH] The Coffin Match was probably the best match, but watching a pure babyface v heel opener with a nuclear crowd just made me smile so much. Jon Moxley is the most over guy in wrestling anywhere at the moment, and this crowd reaction just underlined that. Plus, it was nice to see Karl Anderson actually wrestle for once rather than simply offer interference, and remind us that he is a former G1 Climax finalist. Just a great way to open the show.
[CW] It has to be the Coffin Match for me. Inventive and jaw-dropping with two workers who captured the spirit of the struggle whilst working in thrilling spots. An event too, this is not going to be a match that’ll be repeated for a while.
[RG] Dante Martin versus Rickey Shane Page was completely unexpected. RSP is probably best known for being an excellent deathmatch wrestler and the leader of the underrated 44OH! Alliance, but this match proved that he could potentially be a major player on a nationally televised wrestling program. Despite being only five minutes long, RSP played the classic heel to great effect, and Dante Martin proved just how ridiculously athletic he is.
[SA] It’s the coffin match. Of course, it’s the coffin match. Darby Allin’s commitment to his character, and to ensuring that every maneuver, every gesture, and every expression he performs perfectly fits that character paid off beautifully when, after closing Ethan in the coffin and clinching his victory, he adjusted the coffin and climbed the turnbuckle. Any other character you would be confused as to what on earth he thinks he’s accomplishing after already winning that grueling match. But with Darby it’s just: of course. Of course, he needed to do one more crazy, dangerous move; of course, he needed to put one more nail in the coffin. Of course—it's Darby.
6) How would you rate this episode of AEW Dynamite? Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
[DH] A. Couldn’t really fault this show from start to finish. Great promos, exciting matches and a whole host of storyline development. It really felt like a blazing return to form for AEW Dynamite. One quick mention for the ‘Labours of Jericho’. Whilst there is no doubt Jericho will win the match with Spears, the fact that the first match in the series is so stacked against the leader of the Inner Circle suggests that there is going to be some hellish action in the next few weeks.
[RG] I give this episode an A. I pretty much have no complaints about this episode, which is saying a lot because I tend to be harder on AEW than many. All of the matches ranged from solid to great, the segments were well done, and overall, this event felt like a huge deal, partially thanks to that awesome crowd. Dan said it best. It really did feel like a blazing return to form.
[CW] B+. What can I say, I’m a teacher, I know the value of having the highest of high expectations! The women’s match needed longer, I found the opener slightly deflating and there was no state of the art in-ring. That’s the negatives out the way…
The Coffin Match was a thrill-ride that made the show, essentially every backstage or in-ring promo/story-telling segment was superb, the show was bursting at the seams with ambition and everything Christian Cage does in the ring turns to gold. Most importantly, I’m absolutely buzzing to watch next week’s.
[SA] I don’t do letter grades, but this episode earns honors. It’s a fact that the women’s division both needs and deserves more time on Dynamite. But that doesn’t change the fact that that was one of the most entertaining and thrilling and memorable shows (any kind of show!) I’ve ever watched.
There is something else I’d like to mention, and that is Cody Rhodes’s white suit—and even more so, his gold lapel chain. Just the fact that he decided to wear a white suit in contrast with Malachi’s black “basically, I’m Satan” suit, and yet—Cody’s the one that looks more the supervillain!