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]
-Dan: @WrestlingRhymes [DH]
-Sergei Alderman: @SergeiAlderman [SA]
-Sam Brown: @Sir_Samuel [SB]
-Gareth Ford-Elliott: @RHWGareth [GFE]
1) The Elite defeating Hangman Page and Dark Order means Page and Dark Order don’t get their respective title shots. What did you make of this decision and the match as a whole?
[DH] The match itself was an absolute festival of wrestling from start to finish. The entrances of the two teams were two of the best I’ve seen in recent memory, and the match lived up to that hype. Some of the tag team moves from each of the teams were scintillating with Reynolds and Silver looking slick before Uno and Grayson went up a gear.
There were brawls, aerial spots, near falls and some lovely call-backs to previous encounters between Hangman and the Elite. And it will all go on that little bit longer because the hero was ultimately defeated. Maybe a surprise to some, and indeed to me, but yet another delicious wrinkle in this story for the ages. When Hangman does get that title...Christ, it’s going to be special.
[SB] Like most I was very surprised that The Elite won this match, however, I don't think anyone could have watched his incredible entrance and not think that this company is all in on Hangman Adam Page. I am sad as a fan of Hangman that he didn't win it for his team but after seeing how much of a star they built him up to be, in both the presentation and match layout, I'm still confident that down the line Hangman will win the big one-off Kenny Omega. Buckle up Cowboy!
[SA] One thing I love about AEW’s stories is that they never seem afraid to do the obvious thing; they don’t insert a plot twist for its own sake. Hangman Adam Page has been that “obvious thing” for quite some time now—the king-to-be, awaiting coronation. Now he has lost a match with all of that on the line, just down the road from where he was born and raised, with no clear path forward for him.
There are two possibilities: either Tony Khan has outfoxed himself and made the biggest blunder of his short but scintillating career as AEW booker; or he sees a way out of the corner he’s painted himself into that I do not that will be even better than “the obvious thing.” Based on his track record so far, I know which one I’m betting on.
[RG] Just read the following sentence as Stefon from Saturday Night Live: This match has everything; wacky and heartfelt entrances, crazy character work, call-backs, heartbreak... MTV’s Dan Cortese...
*puts my hands over my nose and mouth to hide the laughter*
Okay, you know what? Scratch that. Let’s get serious.
This match was a rollercoaster of emotions from the second the entrances commenced to the moment Kenny Omega got the win for his team. The overarching story that allowed this match to happen was what made this match so compelling, rather than the fact that the match featured some absolutely excellent wrestlers.
Ultimately, I don’t think I’ll remember much about the action of the match itself in a few months' time, but I’ll at least be able to remember what a spectacle this match was, and how deflated both the live crowd and the many fans watching at home felt with Adam Page’s eventual loss. I just hope that AEW doesn’t “Inner Circle versus The Pinnacle” this feud and extend it too long.
2) CM Punk to AEW is all but confirmed at this point with Darby Allin lined up as his first match, potentially at All Out based on his not-so subtle promo on Dynamite. Jon Moxley also teased a match with someone from New Japan Pro Wrestling which, if rumours are to be believed, could also take place at All Out. What are your thoughts on both of these hints and rumours?
[DH] CM Punk v Darby Allin? Jon Moxley v pretty much anyone from New Japan? Yes, yes and yes again. The pop for Punk in Chicago is going to be mind-melting, and putting him against proven ratings draw Darby Allin is both a savvy move, and one that will generate an incredible match, assuming Punk can still go.
For MOX, my first thought was another run in the G1, but with the issues with travel and him having just had a baby it probably doesn’t make sense. If they are building to a Tanahashi match that would be momentous. But what about Naito? Or Kota Ibushi? Or the match that we never got with Zack Sabre Jr? Frankly it’s all a bit too exciting. I need to lie down.
[SB] There is a theater convention that works for all storytelling called Chekov's Gun; it says if you put a gun on stage in Act 1, someone needs to fire it in Act 3. The idea being that if you introduce a plot device you need to pay it off. Consider the two promos this week Chekov's Ace and Chekov's Best in the World. There is zero chance AEW would have brought up both of these men if they weren't going to have them on the show at some point. This is a company that has built a reputation of paying off its angles, teasing such huge names and not coming though would irreparably damage their credibility with their audience.
[RG] Well, being that Darby Allin has been implicated during the Speaking Out movement, I don’t have the need to ever see him again, never mind in a match against CM Punk. I would enjoy CM Punk returning to face just about anybody else in the company.
As for the Jon Moxley rumours? There aren’t many wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling that I wouldn’t mind seeing on American soil for a pay-per-view, whether Moxley faces an old foe (Juice Robinson, Minoru Suzuki, Tomohiro Ishii) or see someone he’s never faced before. Either way, AEW’s use of New Japan talent feels very “mid 2000s ROH,” which of course I’m happy about.
[SA] I think it’s worth noting that the CM Punk chants were already going before Darby appeared on screen, and before he spoke the words “Best in the World.” How did they know? Simply the fact that they announced a major show in a venue over double the capacity they had tried to fill before, in Chicago, and called the event First Dance was enough of a subtle clue to the AEW faithful to know exactly who they were being set up for. Darby simply put the nail in the coffin, as he does.
Last week when Punk was only a rumor, I was already calling for Darby as his first feud. He is the ideal foil for Punk and we should be in store for something truly special.
3) Chris Jericho main evented Dynamite overcoming deathmatch legend Nick Gage in a no disqualification match as the second ‘Labour of Jericho’. How did you feel about the match and how excited are you for Jericho’s third labour, Juventud Guerrera?
[DH] I’m not a huge Deathmatch guy generally and haven’t seen a lot of Nick Gage other than the obvious highlights, but I was still super-hyped for this match. And by gawd did it deliver. You have to give a huge amount of respect to AEW for not compromising on the aura of Nick Gage, as, let’s face it, this sort of match would never be able to happen on a WWE screen. Gage was allowed to be Gage, and blimey did he Gage all over Jericho’s face.
A brilliant and brutal step in the Labours of Jericho, and followed up with the masterstroke of bringing in Guerrera as labour number 3. In terms of mind-games, this was just sublime and whilst I’ve got no idea what Juvee still has in the tank, I trust that this will be yet another runaway success.
[SB] I am very torn on the Death Match. Both Jericho and Nick Gage put on incredible performances, Gage in particular adapted to network TV like a duck to water, constantly mugging for the camera and coming across as a dark but charismatic psychotic thug. Jericho took everything like a champ, he is nearly 50 and does not need to be rolling around in glass but still manages to exceed my expectations, if this is his last run, he is making sure we remember it.
All that said, I feel uncomfortable with a match like this going on TV. It is not something I'd want a kid to see, and there were kids in that crowd even though AEW is rated TV-14. I also don't think it is something a non-wrestling fan would appreciate either. I guess as a once off it is okay, but this isn't something we need to see on Dynamite ever again.
[RG] AEW *probably* should have advertised this as a deathmatch rather than a no rules match for the same reasons mentioned above. But overall, I feel about this match the same way Nicki Minaj feels about kids listening to her music: it’s up to the parents to monitor what their kids watch. That match seemed on par with some of the more violent TV-14 content I have seen in my lifetime, so the censorship conversation feels somewhat unnecessary. I mean, this isn’t WWE. AEW has shown they’re willing to be pretty darn violent at times.
Or, maybe I’m just desensitized to deathmatches? This match felt fairly tame compared to the run-of-the-mill Toshiyuki Sakuda match, but the fact that this happened on cable television is still completely bonkers to me. If this match acted as a test to see if Nick Gage could be successful on national television, he passed with flying colours; he proved that he’s capable of...well...you know...actually wrestling, while still utilizing the tactics that made him so popular in the first place.
Now, the Juventud Guerrera match could easily be a train wreck. Expect the worst. Hope for the best.
[SA] This storyline was the perfect use of Nick Gage as a character in the context of a normally-less-brutal show like AEW—as a terrifying, yet not necessarily perfectly effective, mercenary. That was my take on him from the jump. But I wasn’t convinced that it was a story that would translate into a match that rated the main event of a stacked Dynamite card like this one.
Boy did Jericho and Gage ever prove me wrong! We got a main event that told a fantastic story, just with different tools than we are used to. Thrills, chills, and spills, as they say.
Juventud Guerrera in a must-fly match for the third Labor was such a fantastic twist that I never saw it coming, despite the fact that ProWrestlingMusings' own Salty had called it in his column discussing possible Labors for Jericho. Now that we’ve seen that Jericho can make a brutal bloodbath beyond what he’s ever participated in compelling, I can’t wait to see if he and his old rival can turn back the clock to their WCW Cruiserweight-division battles of over 20 years ago!
4) Who was your AEW stand-out performer of the week?
[DH] In a match that included Hangman, Kenny Omega and the Bucks, I thought Stu Grayson stood out wonderfully in that opening 10-man tag match. His tag work with Evil Uno was glorious and makes me gutted we won’t be seeing them in the tag title frame in the near future.
Even on his own Grayson looked like a man possessed, determined to show his immense talents in such a high-profile environment. His aerial work was terrifyingly brilliant, and on top of that his sense of timing throughout his involvement was beautiful. More Stu Grayson please.
[SB] This is going to seem random but given the other guys will take the obvious names, I'm going to go with Aubery Edwards. The look of concern and disgust on her face at what Jericho and Gage were doing were masterful and really helped sell the drama of the match. Bonus points for having to count a pin in broken glass and being the middle man in the insanely gif-able Kris Statlander and Tay Conti dance move on Dark.
[RG] Adam Page had the world CONVINCED that he would win the match. He had everybody in the palm of his hand, and if that’s not a sign that he’s both an awesome babyface and that he’s meant to be a star, I don’t know what is.
[SA] Nick Gage. The last guy to knock a debut out of the park like that would have to be Eddie Kingston. Not to say he’s necessarily the right fit to join the AEW fold like Eddie did. Maybe matches like that should be limited to small, rare doses. But even if Gage isn’t the next to be All Elite, this exposure should bring a lot of attention to his GCW.
[GFE] I wasn't going to contribute to the Roundtable this week as it was already as stacked as this Dynamite card. But I couldn't let this question go without answering one man. A man who has been absent for a while in wrestling but is making his return after what feels like so long.
No, not CM Punk... John 'CM Hunk' Silver. He was brilliant in the 10-man tag team match. His selling and explosivity was a real highlight of the match and when he was eliminated and I was genuinely gutted. I wanted so badly for Silver and Hangman to beat those elitist prats and Silver sold the emotional heft of his elimination brilliantly.
Also, I'm breaking the Roundtable rules and I'm shouting out another wrestler. Dax Harwood was fantastic, as he always is. In a match that felt off and was ultimately cut short due to an injury to Dax's partner Cash Wheeler, he really shone. Dax carried this match and then had to think on the fly in order to end the match.
5) What was your AEW match of the week?
[DH] Has to be the opening 5-on-5. That level of intricate storytelling whilst also weaving it between a thrilling wrestling match shows that these guys are on a different level right now, and I think I could have watched that match for the full 2 hours (which it looked like it might go at one point).
[SB] The 10-man elimination tag match. Even if someone else has also picked it I'm going to double up because this match made me cheer and believe like I was a kid. Very few matches can do that and this did so it is the only match I can pick.
[RG] I’ll choose the Chris Jericho versus Nick Gage deathmatch just because of its novelty. Has a match like this ever happened on television EVER?
[SA] The Deathmatch, definitely. It’s amazing that something so outré and out-of-left-field—putting a wrestler who by all rights should be over the hill against one who’s never been on television in the main event of a high-profile broadcast—should also have told such a compelling story.
6) How would you rate this episode of AEW Dynamite? Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
[DH] A. Was it perfect? No. The FTR v Santana and Ortiz match completely failed to catch fire and it was yet another paltry outing for the women’s division (although I hope the execs were paying attention to the Thunder Rosa pop). But a wrestling show doesn’t need to be perfect to feel perfect, and with the euphoric and heart-breaking opener coupled with the violent and gory main event, Dynamite already had an absolute classic on their hands.
[RG] It should be noted that the women got, maybe, five minutes of airtime, which is a damn shame. A measly 4% of the airtime. I’ll give this event a B- because that stat alone puts a damper on everything.
[SA] I believe in descriptive grading, but even using multiple letters, words, and sentences, this episode has a Heisenberg grade for me. This chapter of the story was absolutely thrilling, but only based on my faith in the overarching story—faith in the sense that I believe, although I do not see. Without that faith, the moment of Hangman’s defeat would have deflated all else. That moment will either go down as the beginning of the end of a Golden Age, or the dawning of a somehow even greater Platinum Age.
It all comes down to what their plan is for Hangman’s story—the central story of the whole tapestry, regardless of how massive of free agents they sign—and if they can stick that landing.
No pressure, TK.
[GFE] For my subjective enjoyment I'd give this a solid A. However, as noted above there were some objective issues with this Dynamite. The women's division issue is one that decreases the show-grade immediately and there was a surprising amount of stuff that felt like filler on a card that looked so stacked. But then, good times never seemed so good. Thanks North Carolina, I'll give it a B.