AEW Dynamite Review: The First Steel Cage Match
Last week, AEW Dynamite delivered what is arguably the best episode yet. It featured four great matches; including two championship matches; a killer interview; several great promos and introduced a new superstar, all within a two-hour time slot. That’s impressive.
This week, Dynamite (which was held in Atlanta, Georgia at State Farm Arena) promised to deliver an even bigger and better show. We were treated to a tag team Battle Royal, a tag team title match, a match between Jon Moxley and Jeff Cobb, and a brutal Steel Cage battle featuring The American Nightmare Cody Rhodes and the monstrous Wardlow making his in-ring debut. Was this week’s episode bigger than last week? The answer is yes; however, it was just a tad shy of being better than what we got a week prior.
Don’t get me wrong, AEW killed it this week and as it stands, Dynamite is currently my favourite show of 2020. It’s the one and only television program currently airing that I consider appointment viewing and it rarely disappoints. This week, we were treated to what is in my opinion, the second-best episode of Dynamite so far— an episode which could have easily topped last week’s extravaganza if not for a few missteps.
#1 Contender’s Tag Team Battle Royal
The Young Bucks, SCU, The Strong Hearts, The Best Friends, The Dark Order, Private Party, Butcher & The Blade, Santana & Ortiz, TH2, and Jurassic Express all stepped into the ring for a tag team Battle Royal with the winner getting a title shot later this month at AEW’s pay-per-view Revolution. I’m not a fan of Battle Royal matches but I must credit AEW for directing a Battle Royale which was fun to watch and featured plenty of highlights including Matt Jackson’s devastating superkick which almost took off Sammy Guevara’s head. It was so brutal, in fact, that I initially thought maybe both men had miscalculated the setup and Guevara would walk out with a serious injury. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt but credit to Guevara for really selling the moment. Aside from that, there were other highlights including Matt Jackson being left by himself to eliminate both Ortiz and Santana and Orange Cassidy appearing out of nowhere to save Trent from being eliminated (reminiscent of Otis saving Mandy Rose at the WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view).
The Dark Order
Whether you like them or not, you had better get used to The Dark Order because AEW seems determined to keep pushing this faction. The group, which currently features Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, has run rough shot over the company ever since its beginning often storming the ring to attack various AEW superstars while also trying to recruit them. With the faction desperately looking for new members, it has become clear they are following the orders from someone, but the question is who?
Some of you may have noticed that a certain former WWE/ECW star was in the crowd during the tag team Battle Royal. Of course, I’m referring to Raven who was seen on camera sitting in the same area where the Dark Order was teasing who might be their leader shouting orders behind the scenes. I love how AEW used Raven as a red herring with The Dark Order name-dropping the Exalted One and implying that maybe it is him. Obviously, Raven (who just so happens to live in Atlanta) isn’t joining the Dark Order (although he would fit the bill) but it was a great spot nonetheless in continuing to build the anticipation for the big reveal. At this rate, I’m pretty sure we won’t know who the mystery man is until we get to Revolution, but with other names rumored and plenty of fan speculation, it’s likely that Matt Hardy is the safest bet. Only time will tell.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again— I’m not a fan of The Dark Order. I don’t like their promo spots nor their gimmick and I could care less who the puppet master is pulling the strings. That said, I must give credit to AEW for finding clever ways to continue to push the faction.
The big misstep here was the decision to have both Ortiz and Santana eliminated by Matt Jackson. It’s a great push for the Young Bucks and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the brothers would win the rumble and face Kenny Omega and Hangman Page at Revolution— but it also seems like AEW is doing a disservice to Ortiz and Santana, arguably the best tag team in the promotion to date. At this rate, the Young Bucks should walk away as Tag Team champs at the end of the month but I’d like to think that once they have the belts around their waists, AEW will start positioning the former members of the Latin American Xchange as the number one contenders.
Too Many Great Tag Teams
Every team who entered this Battle Royal except for The Butcher and The Blade should be commended for their almost-near-perfect in-ring fight choreography. The wrestler, however, who impressed me the most was Luchasaurus and as much as I want to see Santana and Ortiz win the tag team belts, I’m also hoping Jungle Express will quickly ascend the ranks. As it stands, AEW has the best tag-team division of any wrestling promotion but with so many great tag teams, how do you keep them all in the spotlight? It’s a good problem to have but here’s hoping the writers will soon brainstorm some new storylines to keep all these superstars busy.
The Problem with the Women’s Division This Week
At the start of this article, I mentioned how this week’s broadcast was just shy of being better than last week’s episode and one of the reasons for this is that the women’s match paled in comparison to the women’s championship match from seven days ago featuring Rioh and Nyla Rose. Kris Statlander and Shanna did an admirable job and I’m guessing the company is attempting to build Statlander into a viable threat for Nyla Rose, but I don’t see this potential rivalry being that great since I don’t think Statlander has the charisma to get the fans behind her. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
This part of the broadcast featured a few other problems as well. For starters, Brit Baker who has been killing it on the mic as of late was invited to join the commentary booth which could and should have been great if only the levels on her microphone were higher. It seemed like a missed opportunity since I could barely hear her commentary. Finally, the spot with Nyla Rose was both good and bad. It was good in the sense that Nyla Rose did an incredible job with her promo dishing out memorable and quotable lines like, “I break bitches” while using a bee metaphor to describe her as the Queen and the audience reactions as nothing but annoying buzz. The problem, however, was having Statlander and Big Swole interrupt the spot and ruin her moment. I get they are most likely setting up a three-way match at the pay-per-view but neither Swole or Statlander come across as a physical threat to Rose and the delivery between them was downright terrible.
Jon Moxley vs. Jeff Cobb Was the Highlight of the Night
Jon Moxley might not be my favourite wrestler in the AEW locker room but every storyline and every match surrounding the superstar has been nothing short of excellent. AEW’s still undefeated “Stone Cold” brawler continued his winning streak against the hired assassin Jeff Cobb this week and the two men put on a spectacular show.
What made this match particularly great was trying to guess the outcome. It didn’t make sense to have Moxley lose a match just ten days prior to the PPV main event where he will face and most likely defeat Chris Jericho. It also didn’t make sense to introduce someone like Jeff Cobb and have him lose his first match in AEW— even if he isn’t part of the main roster and is only currently working under a short-term contract.
And yet, despite this dilemma, AEW found the perfect way to end a great match by having Moxley pull a Bret Hart-style small package and get the three count. I realize this might not satisfy some fans but in doing so, AEW managed to keep Cobb a physical threat since he pretty much man-handled Jon Moxley throughout the match and I honestly can’t think of a better ending that would do justice to both superstars. As Bruce Prichard says often on the Something to Wrestle With podcast, it’s not always important who wins but the story you are telling.
Darby Allin is Killing it!
To top it all off, the match ended in dramatic fashion as members of the Inner Circle jumped in the ring to attack the number one contender. Just as it seemed Moxley’s wrestling career might be over, Dusty Rhodes runs in to save the day followed by a blackout in the arena and the return of Darby Allin.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Darby Allin at the start. I recognized his talents in the ring and his outright courage for placing himself in dangerous situations, but I didn’t care much for his gimmick which includes skateboarding to the ring. It wasn’t until I watched Viceland’s documentary series The Wrestlers that I really started to take notice of the semi-pro skateboarder-turned wrestler. It’s obvious Allin is now a fan-favourite and AEW is doing a remarkable job pushing him with clever silent black and white promos and moments like this that make him seem like the company’s biggest star. Given that I’m also a big fan of Sammy Guevarra, I’m looking forward to their match at Revolution this month.
Kenny Omega & Adam Page vs. The Lucha Brothers
The Tag Team Title match between Kenny Omega & Adam Page and The Lucha Brothers is maybe the second-best match of the night. The ending wasn’t anywhere near as surprising and exciting as the Moxley and Cobb fight, but the match was a non-stop, action-packed, high-flying and hard-hitting fight that had me believing for a moment that Omega and Page would lose the championship belts. There were plenty of highlights such as when Kenny is left to fight for his life against both challengers and later watching Fenix run along the top rope and deliver a swift kick to Kenny Omega’s head. Needless to say, it was a breathtaking event with jaw-dropping finishers and an ending that once again had Page walking into the crowd in search of beer while leaving his teammate behind.
The Steel Cage Match: Cody vs. Wardlow
After weeks of being taunted, tortured and ridiculed, Cody was ready to take on Wardlow in a steel cage overcoming the final MJF stipulation so that he could get a shot at his former best friend at the upcoming pay-per-view.
The match had plenty of highlights but before I get to that, I should first mention how enormous the steel cage was. When compared to the steel cages we’ve seen in other wrestling promotions in the past (including the WWE), the structured looked almost twice the size. The second thing that stood out was having MJF encourage Arn Anderson to double-cross Cody— a clever callback to Anderson’s WCW days when he turned heel. Finally, it was also refreshing to have the AEW go back to the old-school days of wrestling by not having the match end by simply stepping out of the cage. Personally, I like this format better since it meant both men couldn’t find an easy way out and were forced to pretty much beat the living crap out of one another— and that they did.
On his debut Wardlow came across as a real threat, even if he lost. For most of the match, Wardlow was in full control, tossing Cody around the ring and at one-point busting Cody’s forehead wide open. Once the blood came spilling down Cody’s face, the intensity increased with Cody trying his best to overcome the sheer strength of his opponent. In the end, Cody built up enough courage to climb the steel structure and without any hesitation (nor looking down), the American Nightmare stunned the crowd by performing a moonsault flip and stealing the win.
Not only did this week’s Dynamite feature some amazing camera work but whoever oversaw the switchboard deserves credit. In past episodes, the cameramen weren’t always quick to catch the action and sometimes they would switch back and forth between shots at the wrong time. This week, we didn’t’ have that problem— instead, they captured every highlight with the best angles possible. And to top it all off, we were given several vantage points including a birds-eye-view showing the American Nightmare leaps off the steel cage. Overall, the matches were shot the way dance should be shot: wide enough so you can usually see where everyone’s feet are. The broadcast was expertly paced and edited for maximum entertainment and at times it moves at such a breakneck speed, you’ll swear you’re watching it on the wrong speed. To say Dynamite is just another wrestling show doesn’t do it justice; it’s so much more. The wrestling is so fast and well-executed, you won’t even want to blink.
Aside from my slight misgivings about the women’s division, this week’s episode was truly spectacular, and once again I have to praise Cody Rhodes for taking a beating. For someone who was once undesirable, he’s now undeniable! My only complaint about Dynamite really, is that it ended.
Last but not least, when the show was over, Cody took to the mic and spoke to the crowd about being a fan of wrestling and watching his dad Dusty Rhodes, perform in Atlanta. In case you missed it, I’ve embedded the video below. Enjoy!
- Ricky D