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This Week on AEW Dynamite, Chris Jericho Steals the Show While The Dark Order Struggles

AEW Dynamite Review: Vanguard 1 Returns

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, All Elite Wrestling gave its passionate fan-base an action-packed broadcast.

AEW Dynamite was back this week— once again forced into an empty arena, only this time from an undisclosed location. While this installment wasn’t quite as good as what we got two weeks ago, it was a vast improvement from last week’s episode and featured the introduction of The Natural Nightmares (a tag team composed of QT Marshall and Dustin Rhodes) as well as the in-ring debut of Lance Archer.

While the venue was much smaller than what we are accustomed to seeing on a regular episode of Dynamite, there was plenty to like here starting with the talents surrounding the ring at a distance. Unlike last week, various wrestlers including Kip Sabian, Penelope Ford, Brit Baker, and the Gunn Club were once again allowed to sit in the stands, acting as audience members and cheering on the action. While this might have been distracting for some viewers given the recommended social distancing rules advised by world health leaders, we can only hope the AEW team has been quarantined as a group in order to protect the team from the coronavirus and allow them to continue to film episodes of Dynamite in advance. Assuming this is true, having the wrestlers chanting during the matches certainly added to the ambiance— and while it could never replace the sounds of thousands of cheering fans, it is still much better than having dead silence.

Unfortunately, Taz, Excalibur, and Jim Ross were was again missing in action but thankfully Tony Schiavone was there to provide commentary with some help from Cody Rhodes (accompanied by his dog Pharaoh) and later Colt Cabana who in my opinion, is an amazing announcer and I wish they’d just keep him by Tony’s side until this pandemic is over.

While the episode didn’t have a jumbotron nor any pyro, it did feature some of the best handheld camera work I’ve seen in a wrestling show in quite some time. Over the past two weeks, I addressed how AEW did a great job in sticking to showing mostly tight shots of the action in the ring; favouring closeups over longer and wider camera shots in order to not distract viewers from noticing the empty stands. This week was no different, only this time they managed to get even closer to the action which helped obscure any ill-timed maneuvers and enhance the speed of each move. Overall, the action in the ring was faster, and far more exciting than what we saw seven days ago.

Best Match of the Night

Lance ‘Murderhawk’ Archer vs Marko Stunt

By far, my favourite match of the night was also the shortest.

AEW made good use of Marko Stunt by having him face off against the 6 foot 7 Lance Archer. Obviously, Marko is the smallest guy in the AEW locker room and because of this size disadvantage, the match made the big Texan look even more dominant and frightening. And while Stunt didn’t stand a chance against Archer, he did put on a fight, showing his courage and resilience while taking major bumps along the way. This was what you’d call a great “squash” that allowed Archer to look like an unstoppable beast. The biggest highlight here was watching Archer return to the ring after the match and chokeslam Marko from the apron onto Billy and Bart Gunn who were positioned in the stands.

Lance Archer may be new to AEW but he’s quickly becoming my favourite heel, second only to MJF. I love everything about his character, including his look, his nickname, his finisher (The Blackout) and the fact that he has Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts by his side. If I had to put money down on the upcoming tournament, I’d put all my chips in Archer winning. Unless they find a way for Archer to get screwed out of a win, I can’t see AEW having him lose anytime soon since it would hurt his current image of being one of the most dominant forces in the company.

Jake Roberts Delivers Another Great Promo

Speaking of Jake Roberts, he once again appeared in a video package touting Lance Archer’s ability to dominate AEW and accusing Cody Rhodes of playing mind games and doing everything he can to avoid a match with his client. I hate to sound like a broken record week after week, but I once again must praise Jake’s promos. Roberts has been in the industry for decades cutting some of the best promos professional wrestling has ever seen and despite his age, he isn’t slowing down. In fact, Jake Robert’s promos might be better than ever, and it helps that AEW is doing a great job with the production values in these short but effective vignettes.

Another Great Match!

Kenny Omega vs. Trent

To say that Omega and Trent had a strong match would be an understatement. It’s amazing how much they beat the hell out of each other considering the absence of fans. Despite the circumstances, the intensity and aggression was not unlike what you’d find in a normal episode of Dynamite with both men putting on a clinic that featured plenty of highlights including Kenny Omega mockingly asking for a hug and Orange Cassidy and Kenny power bombing Trent to a post. This was a great, hard-hitting, competitive match and despite lasting a good nineteen minutes, it was so well-paced, it didn’t feel as long.

In retrospect, however, one could argue the two men went a little overboard considering there was no storyline or heated feud between the two. While I do appreciate the effort to entertain audiences at home, it did get a little scary at times with several dangerous spots and an extremely scary top-rope bump where Kenny Omega landed on the back of his head. That said, as a match that put over the competitive nature of AEW and the talent of the under-rated Trent, it was great. Hopefully, we can see a rematch between these two men once the world gets back to normal.

Brodie Lee is Not Helping the Dark Order

I’ve just about given up on the Dark Order. Scratch that, I’ve given up on the Dark Order.

Anyone’s who read my reviews all year will know I’ve never been a fan of their gimmick. The best thing that came out of this faction was the months-long tease of who the Exalted One would be— but let’s be honest, the only reason why that had fans talking is that everyone was expecting to see a well-known WWE superstar like Matt Hardy or Brodie Lee join the AEW roster.

Well, we got what we wanted but the problem is, Brodie Lee’s constant jabs at Vince McMahon are already getting old and honestly, it was never great, to begin with. This week, Brodie Lee continues to channel McMahon, but these inner jokes and references make little sense in what the Dark Order is supposed to be – which is an intimidating cult and a dominant force that threatens to destroy every AEW wrestler who gets in their way. There is nothing threatening or intimidating about the Dark Order at the moment. In fact, the inclusion of Brodie Lee as their leader as only made his minions seem less menacing since his character is meant to treat them like a bunch of mentally and physically weak bunch of followers who appear absolutely frightened of everything and everyone during these segments. It would be equivalent to watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre only none of the members of the Hewitt family (including Leatherface) come across as scary. My hope is that AEW will put this ridiculous storyline to an end soon and find a better use for a talented superstar like Brodie Lee.

The Natural Nightmares vs. The Dark Order (8 and 9)

As mentioned above, none of Brodie Lee’s followers and the members of the Dark Order come across as a threat— so much so, that The Natural Nightmares wrestled against two men identified as simply members “8” and “9”. Are we supposed to ever for one second believe that these nameless masked creepers would actually stand a chance in beating Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall— and more importantly, why would anyone care about these opponents who have zero personality? Overall, there wasn’t much going on here other than a few decent spots for QT and Dustin.

The Main Event

Cody Rhodes and Darby Allin vs. Shawn Spears and Sammy Guevara

Kudos to the AEW talent for not holding back on putting on a show. Apart from the Kenny Omega vs. Trent brawl and the Lance Archer and Marko Stunt match, the main event of the evening saw four competitors in the first two quarterfinal matches of the TNT Championship tournament battle in an action-packed tag team romp that had plenty of entertaining spots. Highlights included Shawn Spears and Sammy Guevara placing bets during the match on who could suspend their opponent the longest in mid-air before delivering a hard suplex to the mat— and Darby Allin climbing a nearby pole and some 10-feet in the air, launching himself off with a Coffin Drop. Honestly, this was a superb match thanks mostly to Allin who exploded and pummeled the opposition.

Hikaru Shida vs. Anna Jayy

I don’t have much to say here other than I wish the women’s matches were as entertaining as the men’s division. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like the women in AEW and Hikaru Shida is perhaps my favourite of the bunch, but considering that I have never heard of Anna Jayy and given that this match was slightly above average— it didn’t leave a big impression on me. One could argue it was another showcase for Shida that continued building momentum toward a match with Nyla Rose for the AEW Women’s Championship but of the handful of good matches she’s had, this ranked as my least favourite. Thankfully, we got a Hikaru Shida video package prior to the match that complied some of Hikaru Shida’s biggest highlights in AEW— reminding fans and educating newcomers on why she’s one of the best athletes in the women’s division.

Chris Jericho, the King of Comedy

Chris Jericho once again steals the show with his extremely over-the-top but outright hilarious promo.

This week, Le Champion was seen basking in his hot tub drinking the bubbly and explaining that he’s decided to stay home on April Fools since he considers it a national holiday. There’s so much to love here— from Jericho calling the Elite a bunch of fools (a nice tie-in to April 1st) to him nicknaming Cody Rhodes, Cody Exotic (a clever nod to the Netflix documentary Tiger King, which has become a sensation over the past couple of weeks). If that wasn’t enough, Jericho is visited by Vanguard1 who he then desperately tries to recruit to the Inner Circle by offering the drone a baby-sized Inner Circle t-shirt.

I realize that some wrestling fans might not like these sorts of promos but for my money, Jericho is killing it week after week, brainstorming creative spots that add much-needed levity to the proceedings. The world as we know it is currently falling apart and fans are turning to these makeshift episodes of Dynamite in order to escape the harsh realities of life. Personally speaking, this segment is one of the few things that made me laugh over the past couple of days and so I’m hoping that if AEW continues to produce episodes of Dynamite, they’ll also keep adding these fun bits of comedy sketches.

Seriously, how fun was it to see Jericho release the hounds and watch his dogs (who don’t at all look threatening) chase Vanguard1 through his massive estate. Also, why is Jericho wearing jeans while he’s in the hot tub?

The Jericho video package was utterly ridiculous, but once again proves why he’s one of the funniest wrestlers to ever step in a ring.

Closing Thoughts

For the past three weeks now, AEW has continued to surprise me with the quality of entertainment they’ve managed to put on despite the limited resources and small empty arenas. Just about every wrestler has gone above and beyond, delivering the fans what they want in a time when they most desperately need it. Sure, I do worry about their health, but I also firmly believe Tony Khan is doing everything in his power to keep them safe. In fact, I’ve been told that AEW has already pre-recorded the next few episodes of Dynamite in advance which would give their talent time to relax and self-isolate during this critical time. Here’s looking forward to next week in what will hopefully be another explosive episode of Dynamite.

-Ricky D

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