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:
- Wrestling Poet @WrestlingRhymes
- Gareth Ford-Elliot @RHWGareth
- Sergei Alderman @SergeiAlderman
- Joe Cabana @JoeProWrestling
- Ryan Gorneault @RyanGorneault
- Daisy Foster @boutmachines
- Anthony Bennett @AnthonyDownUnda
- Craig William @CraigPWMusings
1. What did you think of Christian’s first match breaking the Dya0namite opener mould with a slow first 5-8 minutes and going 16.5mins total?
[JC] After listening to Christian on the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast, I must say that hearing his own perspective on the match and what he aims to bring to AEW, made me feel even better about this match. AEW have always prided themselves on being a variety show, and while the opening match to a Dynamite show is usually (not always) full speed ahead, it is often referred to as the workhorse spot because of the trust put in you to open the show, and the length of the opening matches usually being the longest. Christian was able to show everyone he is willing to “Out Work Everyone” in this position, which is what over 860 000 fans tuned in to see.
[CW] About 5 minutes in I was unsure, but by the end I was fully engaged, and I am now on tenterhooks awaiting Christian’s next AEW outing. This match was markedly different to the usual AEW opener. Usually, it is fireworks and state of the art bangers, however this was a welcome change of pace and the last 8 minutes were my favourite 8 minutes of wrestling on the show, just think about what that covers!
[GFE] It felt like it was an under-card match on a PPV, which is a compliment to the work but maybe a criticism of the booking. I didn't personally have an issue with it and it seems most enjoyed it. But it didn't keep 99,000 people tuned in to the rest of the show and did catch criticism online from some. Probably not the way you'd like to open a show every week. But, for Christian's debut, this week was a worthy exception.
[RG] I definitely thought the match was a decent affair, especially considering that this was Christian Cage’s first match (besides the Royal Rumble) since 2014. I did not expect the match to be a squash by any means, but I was surprised that the match was given as much time as it was. By no means did it bother me, since the length of the match ended up properly showing how far Cage has to go in order to become a main event. Considering that the match was as long as it was, and that the match held so much weight, its placement on the card was odd to me.
On paper, the lower a match on the card, the less important it is in the long-run (while television and the quest for ratings supremacy complicates this, I still think that general idea still stands). Ultimately, my problem is less about the match length than and more about the fact that the match’s placement on the card seems to imply that the match didn’t deserve to have so much time in the first place.
[WP] Personally I absolutely loved this match. Whilst we are used to the fireworks factory matches generally opening the show on Dynamite, this served as a reminder that a different style can be great, and that Christian Cage is the master of that style. It also told an excellent story of Christian Cage realising how much work he still has to do and I think we will see a lot more of these sorts of matches from him in the weeks to come. The ratings suggest that maybe this isn’t how a lot of fans want the show to open, but in my own humble opinion I find it baffling that 100,000 watched a match of this quality and then decided to switch over.
2. What is the purpose of a QT-led stable of newbies?
[CW] Apparently Tony Khan spoke about how the Dark Order turning face had left them with a deficit of heels that could take a fall. This faction may very well fill that gap; however, it seems more likely that this is a necessary next step in the ever-evolving character of Cody. Spears, MJF and now QT, who next, Dustin? Perhaps that’s the end game, Cody-Dustin II.
[SA] I’ve said it all along-- it’s exactly what it says on the tin: “the Nightmare Factory.” As a main-event singles wrestler who cannot challenge for the World Title, what does Cody need more than anything? Rivals with a heated personal issue with Cody Rhodes to give their feud a hook to get the audience emotionally involved. The Nightmare Factory is where Brutus’s and Benedict Arnold’s are built to order to betray Cody Rhodes. Wednesday was simply the inevitability of that finally playing out.
[AB] I’ve been critical about this angle and break-up. The segment didn’t really do much for me personally, I don’t know what they intend to do with this group, but it doesn’t feel anything more than a low card heel group now. My main issue is AEW are already telling a Faction war with Pinnacle and Inner Circle and this is going to have to be careful to not take away from that or seem like the same thing. It will be interesting to see where it goes and how AEW handle everything.
[WP] I think the purpose is to get a load of relative unknowns some spotlight, with them now having the opportunity not only to get some TV time but to also work in an actual storyline, which is not always possible on Dark. It provides an opportunity for any number of matches whether as teams or as singles bouts and with both Cody and Dustin involved it is likely to be handled very well. Will it churn out the next AEW star? Maybe not, but I think booking the lower to mid-card in stories that actually have a bit of substance to them is the best way to try.
3. Was it too soon to embarrass The Pinnacle and/or too early for The Inner Circle to return? And are the Inner Circle really turning face?
[CW] A lot of people really liked this, I did not. The MJF turn on Jericho and the reveal of his faction was one of the most exciting moments on Dynamite, period. It was serious and big-time, the following week underlined that perfectly. This felt a little tongue in cheek and tit-for-tat, thereby lacking the necessary blood-lust from the Inner Circle that was very much required. Course-correcting very much required next week.
[SA] I’ve been saying for weeks that Jericho should not hurry back, so you might think I’d be disappointed. But I emphasize that I only meant that within storyline, it might have made strategic sense for Jericho to force MJF to wait. But Jericho isn’t a purely rational, methodical player, like Friedman claims to be. Him reacting with anger and pride makes perfect sense. The Inner Circle are babyface between them and the Pinnacle, and that’s all that matters. I’d be pretty shocked if this feud were not their last blast. The climax of this story almost has to be a “loser breaks up” stipulation.
[GFE] Logically, no. The Inner Circle were beaten up bad but no worse than you would be in your average match. It simply isn't logical to be off screen for weeks and week because the beating they took wasn't write-off worthy.
Subjectively, maybe it was too soon. But I'd make the following argument; Inner Circle are not the long-game for The Pinnacle. Chasing gold and feuding with Cody is the long-term. Inner Circle are an establishing feud for them so there’s no need to drag it out for too long.
I assume this will build to a big 5 vs 5 at Double or Nothing or potential Blood and Guts at some point on TV. In the meantime, there are so many salivating matches to have to build to this. MJF vs Guevara as well as Jericho, FTR vs Proud & Powerful and so on. I'd say it's best to get started with those as soon as possible.
[WP] I really enjoyed this at the time and I thought the brawl was excellently done. But I do wonder if it was a bit early for The Pinnacle to take that beating. On the other hand the initial angle wasn’t a beat down that looked like it would have ruled out all of the Inner Circle for weeks and weeks, so I can see the argument the other way. Ultimately the quality of the brawl itself didn’t allow me to worry about this at the time, and that is always a good start. I think we need to see something big from The Pinnacle on the next Dynamite otherwise they’ll start to look like AEW’s version of Retribution, but I trust AEW to get this one right.
[RG] It wasn’t too soon to embarrass The Pinnacle, but it was too soon to embarrass Wardlow. He’s a special talent in that he has been able to maintain such an impressive aura despite having so few matches and despite having lost most of the big matches he’s been a part of. The rest of the group can afford to take some losses as this feud goes on because they are more established, but I think Wardlow specifically needs to stay strong.
I really think he can be AEW Champion in the future (I want nothing more than to see a feud between him and Hook) but he needs at least some protection to get there. The angle as a whole was impressive, and I was especially fond of the fact that Dax Harwood got attacked with the leg of a broken chair like his mentor, Tully Blanchard, was in his famous I Quit Steel Cage match at Starrcade 1985 against Magnum TA. I think the key here is to see how and when The Pinnacle retaliate, because the next brawl needs to really bring it.
4. There were 15 diving strikes in the Trios match, is this too much? Did you enjoy this match?
[CW] I love a spot-fest and these trios matches have very much worked for me. I love the options and see these matches as the possible next steps in AEW’s industry-leading tag team wrestling evolution. Double team moves in AEW are off the chain, I can’t wait to see them continue to push the limits of their creativity with more triple-team moves!
[GFE] That's Lucha Libre for you. If you're going to showcase this style, don't water it down. This was a fantastic match, in my opinion. Omega and the Good Brothers kept Laredo Kid in their corner for the start of the match making you beg for the hot tag. And when that tag came the match exploded. As far as trios matches go, there aren't many better from what I’ve seen. It just makes me want a trio's division in AEW even more for the variety these matches bring to the card.
[SA] The issue with dives is never quantity, but quality. Saying that Fenix (or Darby) uses dives too much would be like saying that Cody or Christian apply too many headlocks. It’s their bread and butter, and they make them look great. Some competitors seem to fly simply because that’s just how modern matches are laid out, and their dives look low-impact and half-hearted. If you don’t have an awesome dive, do something different when the heel goes to the outside.
[WP] It would only have been too much if we’d already seen similar diving-heavy fare elsewhere on Dynamite. Going back to the first question though, this was in stark contrast to the Christian Cage v Kazarian match and highlighted the variety of match-styles we get from Dynamite. I also think the high-spots were well earned in this match as Laredo Kid took a beating from Gallows and Anderson before the Luchas had to break into their box of tricks. And when the box of tricks is so spectacular, I’m happy to watch it on repeat.
5. Two weeks after, are AEW doing enough to maintain the Women’s Division’s momentum and why didn’t Tay Conti pin Allie?
[CW] I have mixed feelings on this, I have loved the evolution of Tay Conti, but I felt her booking very much stuttered here. Interestingly there was only one tag between Shida and Conti in this match. That being said, we saw a really good progression of the Red Velvet/Jade Cargill program and a Britt Baker segment.
[DF] I’ve been thinking about this match a lot and I still haven’t quite figured out why they went for that finish. Tay has been rising through the ranks on Dynamite, Dark and Elevation for months now and it was a very odd choice to have her pinned by someone who hasn’t wrestled for such a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Bunny and her presence in the ring has been missed, I’m just not so sure a win over the number one contender was a smart move. Not my favourite week for the women all around, but hopefully it’s just a small bump in the road and things continue to improve.
[GFE] It doesn't really harm Tay Conti, assuming she beats The Bunny next week, because Bunny cheated to win. It should, in theory, just make us sympathise with Tay even more. So, I assume that’s the logic behind this, to build the match for next week and make Conti’s win there feel more rewarding. Conti can kind of take these losses at present because she is still considered a prodigy. The match to solidify her push is hopefully just around the corner.
AEW have taken strides to improve their women's division in recent months. However, this week was a reminder that there is a long way to go, particularly with the only women's match mainly acting as a vehicle for Matt Hardy's feud with Dark Order. But, AEW also served a variety of women's wrestlers and feuds on tonight's show which is progress from six-months ago. It still shouldn't be this poor on any given night but you can't have Britt Baker vs Thunder Rosa every week.
[SA] I’m surprised how many people are surprised by Bunny pinning Tay. Bunny’s manger is pushing her as a rightful contender for the World Title on the basis of having been unjustly left out of the Eliminator Tournament, but she has no singles record to back that up. Bunny having a tag-match pin over Conti gives Conti motive to go for a revenge match and gives Tay’s win over Bunny more meaning and value once she gets it. What would beating Bunny twice in a row do for Conti, after all? Getting her win back creates the perception she accomplished something difficult, helping to build Tay up toward a World title shot. Beating Bunny twice in a row only makes Bunny look easy to beat! Giving the heel their heat back in advance is a classic wrestling trope because it works.
[WP] I had assumed The Bunny was going to get the pin here but seems like it has thrown some for a bit of a loop. For me it adds another name into the stories bubbling along in the women’s division and didn’t harm Tay Conti either as she looked great and only lost due to outside shenanigans. The one person who I still think isn’t getting nearly enough TV time and story development is the AEW women’s champion herself. Shida needs to feel like the pinnacle of the division and I just don’t think she does at the moment. I’m hoping we see something more on that front in the next show, but otherwise I think things are ticking along nicely.
[RG] The Bunny (formerly Allie) pretty much needed to win considering that this was her return match, but it felt odd to be to pit her against Tay Conti, who seemed like she was on a roll, coming off of a big win against Nyla Rose. AEW could have easily put The Bunny against an AEW Dark talent in order to make her look good, give someone new some screen time, and protect Tay Conti. Being that AEW’s Women’s Division is going through something of a “revolution” so the company does what it needs to do to elevate as many wrestlers as possible.
6. Did the ending of Arcade Anarchy come anywhere close to making things up to the Best Friends/Wedding Party feud? Did this match do anything for Miro?
[DF] I was not a fan of this feud. Despite personally being a huge fan of Twitch and wrestling, Miro’s twitch-streaming-wrestler gimmick just wasn’t sitting right with me. His unlikely pairing with Kip Sabian didn’t help either with the tail end of this feud suffering due to Sabian’s injury and as a result, the entire thing dragged on far too long. With that being said, I adored this match. It almost feels like all of those weeks of eye-rolling over the angle were worth it for that collective thumbs’ up to Sue as the Pixies echoed around Daily’s Place.
As for Miro, the commentary team did a great job of putting his strength over throughout the match, and it took a literal burial at ringside and a spear into the stage to take him down in the end. I hesitate to say that this main event made up for all of the missteps along the way, but I do think it came close.
[SA] It didn’t need to redeem anything for me, seeing as I never had a problem with Miro killing time with the Best Friends. But it was one hell of a feel-good moment to go out on. Each match and segment with Miro has done a great job putting him over as a genuinely terrifying force of nature, and this one was no exception.
[AB] The feud defiantly was a mixed bag for me, I honestly thought we were getting the ending at Revolution. When this was announced I don’t think anyone really gave it much of a chance, but once again AEW surprised us with a fun match that had a wholesome ending that was nearly a perfect way to end a show. Miro can now go and be a monster doing other things and Best Friends can get involved in the chase for Tag Team Gold.
[WP] I don’t think anything would have made the months and months and months of this feud worth it, but taken on its own it was fantastic. We got the return of Kris Statlander which I think is huge for the women’s division. We got the return of Trent which is great as Dynamite feels odd when it’s just Orange Cassidy and Chuck Taylor. And we got Sue! Who doesn’t love Sue? Well Miro presumably, but there we go. Speaking of Miro, I thought he looked great here and whilst this story has been a slog to get through, I think he still emerges as a menacing presence who can hopefully move up the card now. Let’s see him destroy Kip Sabian first and then maybe the TNT Title is in his future.
7. Does AEW have too many factions?
[DF] No. Is that too simple of an answer? At the risk of coming across an AEW Mark employed personally by Tony Khan to sow AEW Propaganda into this piece, I just really, really like factions. I’ve loved the stable system in New Japan ever since I first started watching wrestling and faction in-fighting/breakdowns are one of my favourite lines of wrestling storytelling. I love a good break up, I love a good reunion, and I love some emotion in my sports entertainment. The more factions the better.
[GFE] No. Repeat the above. The company is named after a faction that split from a bigger faction in a company where faction warfare is the underpinning of most of the storytelling. It makes richer, satisfying storytelling much easier to follow without resorting to repetition of matches.
Furthermore, factions are only logical. You would team up with likeminded people in your workplace. You would team up with your training partners. If there are other factions in the company, you would find friends yourself to watch your back.
[AB] No, being in a faction gives more chance to be on TV and helps to give each person a chance to get over, just look at how well it’s done for the Dark Order. If we look at shows like Game of Thrones, they have multiple factions doing different things with different goals. Same for AEW. However, they need to make sure no faction is the same and each has its own identity and reason for existing.
[RG] I'm not sure. I never realized AEW had so many factions, or at least loose alliances, until the Nightmare Family split. I definitely think that the company’s faction system could be more effective, but I think they need to lean into it the same way companies like Dragon Gate do for it to reach its full potential. In other words, they need to make each faction more distinct, give the loose alliances bigger reasons to exist, and find a way to weave the very themes of faction warfare into the foundation of the company.
The two most recent “Losing Unit Must Disband” elimination tag team matches seen in Dragon Gate have been two of their best matches ever because, besides the fact that they are complete chaos, they have major stakes and implications. Also, those matches result in the landscape of Dragon Gate changing, allowing new stars to be created in the process. Just imagine if The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle (possibly) had their Blood & Guts match with “Losing Unit Must Disband” rules. The Inner Circle losing could result in Sammy Guevara breaking out on his own or Ortiz and Santana finally winning the tag team titles. Meanwhile, The Pinnacle losing could push Wardlow into the stratosphere.
[WP] Nope. I fundamentally don’t understand the issue that people have with lots of factions, and can only assume it’s down to not being used to them. I would understand the concerns a bit more if the factions weren’t being used well, but I can’t think of anyone in AEW who has been harmed by being in a faction. It gives so much scope for good storytelling and gives depth to matches that might otherwise feel a bit thrown together. I do think that the addition of trios titles would really help give the various factions something to aim for, and that feels like the next logical step.
8. Why do Kenny Omega quarter hours draw poorly with women but draw well overall and particularly well with men?
[CW] I pushed back on his presentation a while back due to what I perceived as the sexist undertones of his entrance. I voiced this on Twitter and was informed that he was exaggerating the egotistical heel champion and the misogynistic tones were part of this. I would argue it’s not clear that this is what is going on.
In Always Sunny in Philadelphia there is an episode where Dee wants to get her hair cut and the guys get super-invested in talking her out of it. This escalated to Dennis screaming and smashing a bottle after Dee ignores his advice and goes into the hair-dresser. This is done in a spectacularly over the top and demeaning way to the male characters to underscore how ridiculous it is when men police women’s appearances.
I don’t believe Kenny Omega’s entrance achieves the same effect. In fact, it feels more like Kenny’s entrance is utilising misogyny to build a character. Let me just mention that Kenny Omega is my favourite wrestler of all time and his intentions generally come across as genuine and benevolent. In this case, I believe he has misjudged the complexity of hegemonic masculinity.
Add this to the histrionics of the Good Brothers and the sliminess of the Don Callis character and I believe you have your answer. I can’t imagine the 2018 Golden Lover-Kenny Omega character would run into the same problem.
[GFE] I imagine that it's mainly down to his current character as well as being surrounded by Don Callis and the Good Brothers. These are not characters who have ever traditionally attracted female viewers. They effectively display toxic masculinity, in Omega’s case purposefully in order to enhance a story. This isn’t something I’d expect women to be interested in until Omega comes head-to-head with ‘Hangman’ Adam Page.
[RG] I kind of assumed Kenny Omega’s new entrance was just his crappy attempt at being camp, but when Don Callis and The Good Brothers got involved, it became clearer that his act was more of an exercise in toxic masculinity than anything. Honestly, this character “development” makes everyone around them look bad, because, at worst, they have sexist tendencies, and at best, they are so uncreative and so ineffectual as heels that they need to rely on sexist tendencies to get heat. From a storyline perspective (and ONLY a storyline perspective), this would work if their enemies act as the antithesis of toxic masculinity, make it obvious, and win in the end. Still, I don’t have trust that ANY wrestling company, never mind AEW, can handle topics like that effectively and with grace.
[SA] The thing that needs to be remembered about Kenny Omega is that he represents toxic masculinity LESS than any other main event level men's singles competitor. His relationship with Kota Ibushi is unabashedly romantic with no worry whether anyone might take it as homosexual. He supports women's wrestling and women's wrestlers and considers them his inspiration, above and beyond his male peers. And, come on! Just look at his damn clothes!
The fact that he includes sweeper cheerleaders in his attempt to create an entrance even more over the top than Cody's does not suddenly overshadow all of that.
Maybe women viewers just aren't buying him as a heel?