Ethan Page: All Ego Indeed

Even in a promotion of world-class talent and constant surprises, ‘All Ego’ Ethan Page continues to impress. Currently battling with long-time rival Darby Allin, Page is quickly becoming one of AEW’s standout antagonists, cementing himself as a character of note. Since its debut show just over two years ago, the promotion has had many a fresh face, but few have found their feet as swiftly as Page. Though a respected talent and worthy acquisition, that prediction wasn’t particularly common, almost lost within the sea of speculation.

Page arrived at Revolution, the mystery member of a multi-man ladder match. The same night, a hall of fame calibre signing was advertised and eventually delivered, as Christian Cage came onboard. That displaced Page from the headlines, as did an immediately infamous conclusion to the event. All things considered, that was no disaster, as Page was in it for the long haul anyway. This was a signing for tomorrow as well as today, though the latter seemed as though it would have to wait a moment or two first.

An experienced pro, Page certainly had something to offer but with so many moving pieces, didn’t feel like an immediate priority. After all, even established names entered with a necessary delay ahead, simply getting comfortable until a vacancy emerged. Page wasn’t a shocker either, as his debut instead confirmed the widespread assumption. AEW always felt like a natural step up the wrestling ladder for ‘All Ego’ but admittedly, I was somewhat unsure of his ceiling. Valuable? Certainly but a potential gamechanger? I wasn’t so confident.

Part of that was the promotion’s existing depth chart. AEW wasn’t short on villainy, already featuring a loaded line-up of monsters and mouths. As a result, the opening for Page wasn’t immediately apparent, but a very different route would soon be taken. Within weeks of his debut, Page was paired with Scorpio Sky, forming the team that’s now known as The Men of the Year. To Page himself, it was a puzzling choice, putting a newcomer alongside the original tag champs’ potential star.

Stepping away from SCU and eventually turning heel, Sky seemed set to finally explore a sustained singles stint. Instead, he found himself in another tandem, one without an obvious connection or chemistry too. It didn’t make much sense for Page either, who himself was only months removed from an extended tag run. In IMPACT Wrestling, the combination of Page and Josh Alexander were The North, a record-breaking unit that cemented themselves in the promotion’s history books. That’s quite the act to follow, regardless of tag team acumen.

In hindsight though, those initial fears were misguided and more, as major plans were in place. Not only that but almost immediately, this thing just worked, connected by an innate chemistry that shined through in every setting. Seemingly throwaway tag tilts were elevated by their dynamic, compelling in the most standard of showcases. That set the tone and once armed with a direction, The Men of the Year were quickly climbing the card. This wasn’t any old direction either, as Page and Sky targeted Darby Allin and Sting.

Sharing a violent history prior to AEW, Allin was a natural choice for Page, simply exposing their conflict to the wider wrestling world. Allin really brings the bully out of Page, and he doesn’t take much convincing either. Page is a brute opposite Allin, battering the already established top guy with such a raw resentment. That element was even explored on last week’s Dynamite, as Page admitted that he hates how much he inadvertently helped Allin’s career, irate at the pace of his own ascension by comparison.

There was a truth to his frustration too, always and forever framed as a future star. The assumption was that Page would inevitably make his way to international relevance, though that reassurance didn’t stop the wait. It may have been a formality to everyone else, but Page’s decade-plus of patience wasn’t erased. By contrast, Allin skyrocketed to the top while Page continued to crawl, now lashing out with each and every opportunity. That attention to detail is lost on the scouting report, but they are the intangibles that connect.

In many ways, that’s been the main lesson to be learnt from Page’s success thus far. On paper, Page is impressive but when positioned this prominently, he can produce performances that far out-weight his perceived pros and cons. Page has immense instincts, projecting something especially special when left to his own devices. He’s not doing this alone of course, paired with a great partner and two unparalleled rivals but even still, it really feels as though Page is organically making this story his own.

Not in a showy, selfish way either, he’s just incredibly compelling. This version of Page is everything that the ‘All Ego’ persona could ever hope to be, a virtually unmatched villain. Page is obviously arrogant, the obnoxious archetype that his nickname suggests. He’s more than that though, as there’s a very pronounced nastiness to his motivation. This isn’t just another cocksure antagonist, it’s a truly spiteful soul, as bitter as he is brash. Physically, Allin makes that particularly pronounced but it’s present in Page’s every act.

This character lives within him, which allows a certain conviction, a presence that packs a far heavier punch than the performative norm. It’s that rare ingredient that allows Page to so outwardly belong, even when surrounded by excellence. At Double or Nothing, Page stood alongside one of the promotion’s most versatile grapplers, a silky smooth performer that brings a unique sense of danger to his impressive dynamism. Together, they stood opposite a perennial main eventer and future world champion as well as his mentor, ‘The Icon’ Sting. Clearly, that last name speaks for itself.

In less than three months, Page had earned his place in a genuine PPV attraction, shining brighter than ever among a squad of stars. I assumed that Page would be featured in some form or fashion initially, maybe even prominently but at this level? Not now, maybe not ever in truth. With each outing though, Page proves another point, further distancing me from that bizarre prior perception. Ethan Page isn’t just a part of this roster, he’s a major player, set to make a difference for the next decade and more.

‘All Ego’ isn’t another character in AEW’s story but instead, he’s the main character of his own. At the moment though, there are few stories more interesting than that, Page’s sinister pursuit of success. In his mind, it’s revenge for a simple wrong: not just getting out of his way.

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (24/2/21): Waiting for The Big Show

With Revolution only recently delayed a week, it seems as though some fat has been untrimmed. On paper, this edition of Dynamite appears to capture that rather well, not exactly leaping off the page in terms of matchups. If we’re being honest though, that doesn’t really matter. Unless Luther wins the Heavyweight Title tonight, AEW’s headline of the day is already set, with Papa Paul Wight coming onboard. Finally, a Paul that’s capable of running a developmental programme!

Seriously though, Show is BIG (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) news so who really cares about this episode, we’re waiting for Paul.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

Ryan Nemeth vs. Jon Moxley

As we wait for The Big Show, two of Paul Wight’s GREATEST RIVALS meet here in the Dynamite opener. Well, (it’s The Big Show) it’s actually just two guys that he probably wrestled. I mean, one guy, the other guy is simply a brother of someone that Paul probably wrestled. With all that settled, this was a swift little squash, as Moxley made short work of Nemeth. The whole thing was actually rather crisp, which isn’t always the case for Moxley in this setting.

Grade: Grins

Post-match, Moxley grabbed a microphone and took a seat. This was masterful, making the gravity of EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATH MATCH clear. Moxley rightly framed this as though it could be his last stand, which is perfect. It sounds silly considering the scenario, but this really felt like a throwback babyface promo, the kind that once got a small studio going wild. He spoke directly to his audience, rallying them for his most dangerous dare yet. Brilliant.

Elsewhere, Lance Archer and Fenix had the kind of argument that would make six-year-old twins ashamed. Ideal, these are rasslers after all, not adults.

Meanwhile in Gotham, The Young Bucks grinned with their father. What a strange segment to include, wonder why they’d do that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Varsity Blondes vs. Team Taz

This was probably longer than necessary, but I did appreciate the structure. Weeks away from a PPV clash with STANG and Darby Allin, this was a showcase for the TEAM of Cage and Starks. Thankfully, they used that literally, showing palpable chemistry in their approach. Isolating Pillman and cutting off the ring, Team Taz were a genuine team here, mostly dominating outside of Garrison’s fleeting comeback. That was even captured with the finish, as they combined in the blink of an eye, immediately halting their opposition’s momentum.

In addition, I want to reiterate my recent enjoyment of Cage, who’s increasingly monstrous in-ring. Cage can do cool stuff, but this isn’t the time for that, especially against opposition like this. Am impressed by Cage’s improving restraint, which I believe is my point here.

Grade: C

Post-match, STANG featured in his first Darby mini movie. He then arrived, bringing out HOOK in a body bag…my god! Team Taz didn’t have a chance to respond as they’d like either, as Darby came in from the rafters, allowing both he and STANG to run wild. This even resulted in a SCORPION DEATH DROP, as STANG continued his pursuit of pain. Seriously though, this physicality has really breathed new life into the angle, which was very much necessary.

Elsewhere, poor Tony Schiavone was tasked with interviewing Team Miro. As has frustratingly become tradition, this wasn’t very good. Even worse, it concluded in flat, borderline filth fashion, announcing a tag match for Revolution. Please move on.

The Jim Ross Dream Match

Brandon Cutler vs. Jake Hager

Asked to suggest a match that’d make MORE FENIX FILTH bearable for him, Jim Ross had a clear path in mind. Slaying a Twitter nemesis, JR sent his personal big board topper Cutler’s way, as Jake Hager scored an easy win. This was a match but thankfully, a short one.

Grade: Happy For Jim

Post-match, The Inner Circle attacked, continuing their assault on Cutler until The Young Bucks arrived. They cleared the ring, daring the Chris and MJF to FIGHT THEM NOW! Instead, they appeared on the video screen, leaving poor Papa Buck bloodied and battered. This was hilarious, which I assume was the intention.


Isiah Kassidy vs. Hangman Page

Though not exactly blockbuster, this match had my attention. Though they’ve recently turned heel, Private Party still has a very defined role and style. They are the flashy, innovative tag team, combining for more thrills than fundamentals. That’s fine but as villains, they’ll almost certainly need to show another side of themselves. I assumed this would serve as a focused preview of that, but it was even more than I’d hoped for, as Kassidy produced a genuinely impressive performance. He was incredibly comfortable here, which honestly surprised me.

It was a pretty traditional match, as Kassidy bumped around for Page early, selling like a proper heel before Hardy halted Hangman. That gave Kassidy a target, going after Page’s lariat arm and doing so with conviction also. His work in that regard was refreshing, especially as Page sold with such commitment too. Beyond that, Page even adjusted his finish, rewarding the audience’s attention to their work with his inability to hit the lariat.

Grade: B

Afterwards, Hardy dragged Alan Angels out, launching him through a table. Why? Because after two attacks of this ilk, TK wanted the match ball.

Elsewhere, Kenneth is being WACKY again!

Nyla Rose vs. Britt Baker

Remember when Alexa Bliss worked Nia Jax, but she’d have Mickie James at ringside? Yeah, so like, heat segments and all, imagine that but instead, Alexa is taller, and Nia’s offence looks better. Sounds decent right? Well it was, and I had this whole bit planned, assuming that Baker would eventually win a seemingly ill-fated, but somewhat surprising triumph. Instead though, this didn’t end, opting for a closing stretch that seemed incredibly unlikely only minutes prior. Almost out of nowhere, this became borderline great, which stunned me.

For the most part, it was firmly in the tier below that but considering the styles clash, that impressed me in itself. It’s a monster heel against a cowardly heel, which is tough enough but when the story is simply a tournament tilt, it’s even tougher to portray. They produced something cohesive and logical, trending nicely before again, hitting a gear that I just couldn’t see coming. Down the stretch, this was genuinely enthralling, a rollercoaster of back-and-forth action until surprisingly, Rose won.

That’s a bracket buster for sure but bigger than that, it also maintained a match quality that didn’t always feel suited to this bout. On paper, this looked like a challenge but in reality, I’m left incredibly keen on a sequel.

Grade: B+

In a preview of next week’s six-man tag, FTR and The Jurassic Express traded insults and such. FTR did a very neat job of capturing Tully’s importance while Marko brought the fire, all hail.

Lance Archer vs. Rey Fenix

After a few messy moments, this match had me concerned. Early on, I feared that it’d be a cool move montage, which felt short-sighted considering the matchup. For all of his athletic range, Archer is still the much bigger man here which felt like the natural story, regardless of disposition. Thankfully, they both embraced that truth, even if it positioned Archer as the de facto villain. Well in fairness, Jake was framed that way more than Archer but either way, the roles became rightly defined as things developed.

Now dominant, Archer battered Fenix, only making the latter’s bursts of energy more impactful. Archer’s ability to keep up was the real key, not looking out of place when Fenix tested him with his most spectacular offence. Naturally, they eventually ended up trading cool stuff anyway but by that point, it did feel earned. I’m a miserable fella so personally, I did think that it slightly overstayed its welcome. They strayed into excess tonally I thought, feeling almost too desperate to reach certified ‘classic’ status.

Then again, perhaps Schiavone’s edited call of exactly that didn’t help, making things feel less organic than I’d like. That’s a minor gripe though, as this was basically a collection of awesomeness between two guys at the absolute top of their games. Their skill sets are too good for this to be anything less than great, even if I’d have shaved a minute or two off the overall package.

Grade: A-

Final Thoughts

For a show with so few headlines, this certainly delivered bell to bell thrills. It wasn’t must-see beyond that but in-ring, certainly exceeded my own expectations, producing two tremendous bouts as well as a Hangman match that I really enjoyed. This was an interesting example of AEW’s recent approach to Dynamite, producing more and more foregone conclusions. For me, that’s not an issue as it makes the major matches truly stand out from the pack. It won’t be for everyone though, which is certainly a topic to follow in the coming months.

Also, I forgot to continue my Big Show bit….wow, need Paul to teach Archer and I how to work like a giant!

Grade: B

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (17/2/21): Tying Up Loose Ends

It’s a beautiful Wednesday evening and inexplicably, Ed Kingston has asked for a fight. Honouring The Undertaker, Eddie has a small knife in his pocket. Well, it’s a bald Blade actually, but you see my point. Unfortunately, his opposition are far bigger fans of The Undertaker, bringing multiple guns to this bout. All this to say, our friend Eddie is outmatched this evening, doing the rasslin equivalent of me challenging Amanda Nunes to a fight. I’m a big lad and mean well but let’s be frank, I’m fucked. That’s life.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

Hangman Page & Matt Hardy vs. TH2

As ‘Big Money Matt,’ the formerly Broken Matt Hardy has really won me over. I’m actually enjoying this angle, entertained by his act. That may lead to more generous grades of these segments, so be wary. I wouldn’t accuse this match of being good. It was mostly spotty chaos and included some filth from Evans late. Luckily, this also featured Adam ‘Hangman’ Page, producing yet another spectacular tag team showing. His hot tag is electric, hits each and every time regardless of foe.

Speaking of such, TH2 really unlocked Page’s power offence, launching these lads around and shining like a star. Page was rightly presented as the key man of this team, with Hardy his crafty, selfish ‘partner.’ AEW deserve credit for keeping Page so fresh in my mind, a Dynamite regular that never feels even close to overexposed. Again though, the match itself is merely fine, serving more as a useful plot device.

Grade: C

Post-match, Page finally revealed his plan, unveiling the actual contract he signed. This startled Hardy, who seemed to have his response set, securing a ‘money match’ stipulation. Isiah Kassidy then jumped Page, removing his mascot disguise. Incredible degree of planning going on here, stunning stuff.

Riho vs. Serena Deeb

Benefitting from the sense that the result was truly in doubt, this match felt positioned to succeed. Two great performers, once enhanced by her return and both assisted by the brand-new matchup. It jumped off the page and yet even still, managed to exceed my expectations. Selling a knee injury throughout, Deeb was truly masterful here, with Riho unsurprisingly managing to match her efforts. Deeb is brilliant enough to sell throughout while also positioning Riho as the underdog, her most natural role.

That allowed this to escalate beautifully, bringing more and more fire out of Riho while Deeb began to express desperation. This was a simply perfect mix, with Deeb’s spiteful offence allowing Riho to sell as only she can. They traded counter wrestling sequences, going back and forth, targeting body parts and just working with a general tightness that’s timeless. Deeb is magnificent but Riho’s sheer energy made this closing stretch special, eventually scoring the swift roll-up victory to conclude a fabulous match.

This felt like a Cruiserweight classic on your favourite episode of WCW Monday Nitro, the kind of bout that elevates a whole division. I’m not sure AEW’s women have produced anything better than this, spectacular clash.

Grade: A-

Jade Cargill is a better free throw shooter than Shaq.

Orange Cassidy vs. Luther

My good friend Luther may be the Japanese Death Match Legend but in my mind, he’s forever the king of the sprint. This was art, a two-minute thriller in which Luther almost won and then didn’t, falling victim to the Orange Punch. Also, Chuck Taylor hit a very cool professional wrestling move. Tremendous television.

Grade: Grins


Missing Hobbs and Starks, Team Taz is here and incredibly, Taz looks angry. With Cage and Hook by his side, Taz calls out STANG. As you’d expect, STANG indeed arrived, dropping his bat when challenged to and then throwing some of his STANG punches. Moments later though, the numbers game halted him, allowing Cage to attempt murder, almost powerbombing STANG through the mat. This angle needed a jolt and oh my, this was that and then some. Incredible moment that made Cage look incredible.

Taz talked tough and Cage then proved himself as such, flooring STANG with just one move. The closing visual did more for Revolution than any match could, with STANG looking up at the lights, shaken by this reality check. Brilliant, I loved it.

Grade: A*

Elsewhere, Ed Kingston is taking pills in order to erase the Jon Moxley from his mind. Seems bad, can only send love Eddie’s way.

Meanwhile in Gotham, Kenneth tells kids about how he and the Chris changed the business. Weird, I usually explain The Four Horsemen’s complex, fascinating history as a faction.

AEW World Tag Team Titles

Santana & Ortiz vs. The Young Bucks

This was good. Unfortunately, I think that it ultimately suffered from the belief that it could and should have been even better than that. Though they captured the drama late, this one felt damaged by presentation. It looked like a potential title change on paper but didn’t capture that same energy live, instead feeling like a mere roadblock for the champs. Middle of the show, overshadowed by other factors within its own segment, just not a set of circumstances that helped.

The result was a match that for the most part, felt like an exhibition. Two great teams doing their cool, sequenced offence without ever really capturing much rhyme or rhythm. That can’t be bad, the talent involved wouldn’t allow such a thing, but it did seem hollow, slightly aimless even. They got there by the conclusion though, hooking me down the stretch until an admittedly flat finish. Really not sure about The Bucks retaining but the match was good, even if not quite what I was hoping for.

Grade: B

Post-match, The Inner Circle attacked, forcing a conveniently delayed save from The Good Brothers. Before that though, Jericho and MJF forced The Bucks to submit.

FTR vs. Matt & Mike Sydal

I adore FTR and even for me, this was wild. They looked so good here, just incredibly crisp from start to finish. In fact, this may be the best they’ve looked in AEW, even if the match obviously wasn’t intended to be anything special. For what it was though, they nailed it, producing a compact, exciting tag match that highlighted FTR’s excellence. It showcased the Sydal brothers neatly too, a team that I’d like to see stick around if this promotion didn’t already have 91 teams of a similar style.

Mike had some clunky moments but generally, this was just masterful TV rasslin, the latest in a genre that remains my favourite use of FTR. Nothing grand or epic, just sound fundamentals executed by two rock-solid performers. Cody was on commentary for this by the way, give me him and Dustin vs. FTR.

Grade: B-

Post-match, FTR planned to cut poor Mike’s hair but The Jurassic Express arrived, running wild as Luchasaurus even sported a new mask!

In the name of friendship, Moxley promised to beat up Ed Kingston again, then seemingly threatening to murder KENTA. These fellas are out of control, very scary stuff.

Lance Archer, Fenix & Jon Moxley vs. All the King’s Men

This was delightful. On a tag/multi-man hot streak, AEW were able to steal a main event here, producing something of narrative weight also. Kingston is a tragic figure, and this captured that perfectly, pursuing a feat that would only cause him more pain. His team was obviously outmatched, struggling early until some shortcuts gained them momentary control. A pretty captivating heat segment followed, with simply containing Archer proving to be an impossible task. It was always a matter of time, which rules.

Eventually, Fenix made another sublime hot tag and after the dust settled, only Moxley and Kingston remained. Of course, the former swiftly claimed victory, again flooring his old friend in a tremendous extension of their ongoing conflict. This wasn’t a thriller like the recent Bullet Club bouts, but it was a bruising affair nonetheless, satisfactory in a much blunter fashion. Great main event and to the surprise of no one, I remain desperate for Kingston and Moxley to finally unite.

Grade: B+

Post-match, The Good Brothers and Omega arrived, with the latter announcing that at Revolution, he’ll face Moxley in an EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATH MATCH.

That may seem like one of my dumb jokes but incredibly, it’s true.

So yes, with that bombshell unveiled, Moxley headbutted Omega, earning a V-Trigger or two for his troubles. Very TEW closing segment, but Omega brought it if nothing else.

Final Thoughts

Featuring two terrific matches and a couple strong supporting bouts too, this episode of Dynamite certainly wasn’t lacking in-ring quality. Granted, we’ve come to expect that but it was particularly prevalent here, including a truly wonderful women’s tournament tilt. This episode was great, it’s now just a matter of how great. Well, I’d say that it lacked the headline it needed but then it didn’t, producing EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATH MATCH. That’s strong, even if some of the other segments seemed more like bonus offerings.

It didn’t feel like an all-time episode but on paper, it certainly looks like one. Hard to be anything but positive regardless, this show is seldom missing right now.

Grade: A-

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (10/2/21): That Forbidden Door?

Another week, another Dynamite, as THE FORBIDDEN DOOR finally falls! What’s that? The Forbidden Door I said, you know, the Forbidden Door between AEW and NJPW? YES! That Forbidden Door! The same Forbidden Door that regularly allowed talent to work both promotions? YES! That Forbidden Door! The same Forbidden Door that was titled that when a NJPW icon faced AEW’s World Champion? YES! THAT FORBIDDEN DOOR! Well, guess what? That same Forbidden Door has been put to sleep, all hail KENTA!

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.


Joey Janela vs. Darby Allin (c)

Though I had decided that this wouldn’t be for me, I am delighted to announce otherwise. This was actually a sound, mostly traditional TV Title match. They were tight early, capturing the element of competition right away and steadily building from there. Darby’s inevitable bump of insanity didn’t throw off that rhythm either, logically transitioning them into a heat segment. Janela was even quite good there, wrestling with a refreshing focus that elevated the title’s value. In fact, this belt needs more matches of this ilk, they’ve got away from this.

Now don’t get me wrong, Janela still has spurts of silliness but it worked within the overarching narrative here, as he struggled to stay on track. He needed this one, but instincts still got in the way at times. Simple stuff, but effective nonetheless. Other than the slightly excessive closing stretch, this was pretty much perfect, which genuinely stunned me. More stripped back TV matches for the hoodlum please, this can be a consistent choice for the opening bout.

Grade: B

Elsewhere, Big Match Jon said that he rules, showing off that beautiful IWGP US Title while suggesting that tonight, he’ll win. Lol, as if.

Meanwhile in Gotham, Sammy Guevara cleared out The Inner Circle locker room, leaving just him, MJF and the camera man. This happens later too, so I’ll mention it now but yeah, massive grin at the camera being acknowledged. Too often in rasslin, the rules are completely flexible, it’s filth. Make me understand why I’m allowed to see what I see; it really helps. Anyway, these two continued to argue until Sammy lashed out, gut punching MJF (luckily, not a fat kid) after realising he’d been recorded.

This seems illogical, as why would MJF record Sammy when there’s a camera already recording their every move? In fairness, this programme is nothing if not thoughtful, so I’d imagine that’s the point: MJF baited him, basically. If not, please erase my prior praise. Again though, this angle isn’t always for me but there’s certainly some good ingredients in there, especially within these two’s bickering.

Cezar Bonini & Peter Avalon vs. Cody Rhodes & Lee Johnson

Nothing complicated here, which neatly matched the story itself. Yet to taste victory, Lee Johnson found himself in a must-win scenario, suddenly standing by Cody Rhodes’ side. Clearly, their opposition was of a level that Rhodes could handle with relative ease, which only put pressure on Johnson. This kind of thing won’t be riveting for everyone, but it rewards the Dark loyalist, which is important to keep that show alive. There was some Dynamite relevance too, following up on Rhodes’ recent match with Avalon.

After his struggles last time, Rhodes upped the aggression in this affair, running wild but eventually taking the heat segment anyway. Though I’m sure this frustrated Jim, it was at least selfless in a more useful fashion, allowing Johnson to make the hot tag and show off his awesome physical potential. Ideal and he got the win too, doing it all alone even if not emphatically. This wasn’t trying to be a classic, but it was a pretty wonderful piece of television, adding even more structure to this promotion.

Grade: C+

Post-match, Johnson stopped by for a passionate promo, crediting everyone but QT and expressing his pride. I’m a dork, but this kind of thing adds so much in my view, elevating the stars that win regularly on TV. It adds structure, a sense of hierarchy that’s too often lost nowadays. Loved it!

Backstage, The Young Bucks grimace while The Good Brothers grin. There’s some sexual tension here, but that’s not my article to write. Anyway, G & A fired The Bucks up, getting them to give Santana and Ortiz a title shot next week! Uh oh, ANGLE ALERT!

Ryan Nemeth vs. PAC

After much campaigning and protesting, poor Ryan Nemeth was simply here to get squashed. The whole conversation has been much ado about nothing honestly, as this was a mere Pac showcase. ‘The Bastard’ kicked ass, just battering Nemeth outside of one rally. Of course, that mini retort came exclusively with Dolph’s offence, but that’s just Ryan’s deal, I guess? Either way, he was again fine here and Pac is an awesome destroyer, eventually winning with The Brutalizer after hitting a Black Arrow on Nemeth’s already lifeless body. Cool!

Grade: Grins

Meanwhile on Gotham, Miro promised revenge while Orange grinned…oh yeah, the wedding! Remember that?

Chris Jericho & MJF vs. The Acclaimed

Following up on the shenanigans from earlier, there was an angle at play here. Pre-match, MJF barely made it to the ring, struggling with his taped ribs after Sammy’s violent outburst. That gave the match a different feel, though I’m enjoying The Acclaimed’s progression. Their confidence is increasing each week, which will only enhance this act. Bowens and Caster were a better fit for Jericho also, not requiring the athleticism to keep up with 400 synchronised manoeuvres. Don’t get me wrong, I love a synchronised manoeuvre, but you see my point.

Operating at a more comfortable pace, Jericho was certainly motivated to make The Acclaimed’s stars shine, including an incredible false finish late. This wasn’t anything special and I would’ve trimmed the runtime slightly, but it was a steady affair nonetheless, advancing an angle while featuring a fresh team.

Grade: C+

Post-match, Guevara arrived, announcing that just as promised, he was now done with The Inner Circle! This broke the Chris’ heart but MJF smirked, with Sammy finally leaving the faction behind. If you’re into this, you’ll consider it a properly developed, well-executed “turn.” If not, you’ll feel it’s flat, almost comically overdue. I’m not.

Elsewhere, Page and Hardy shared a few drinks. The fake genius, Hardy wasn’t actually drinking though, talking to the camera while Page switched his proposed contract. Page signed something, but we don’t quite know what. Neat little segment, I’m enjoying Hardy in this role.

STANG followed, once again being interrupted by Team Taz. The lads had kidnapped Darby Allin, driving his bagged body across the parking lot. This somewhat unsettled STANG, who walked away with slightly more speed than usual. Angle needed a jolt and in theory, this solves that but the execution made it feel familiar, which is unfortunate.

Kenneth plays golf, NXT’s audience can relate.

Leyla Hirsch vs. Thunder Rosa

The first match of this promising tournament, Hirsch and Rosa were the perfect choice to kick things off. The intensity was palpable, trading holds with a crispness, everything stacked with a snap. Stylistically, Hirsch actually extended herself a little here, bringing out some flashier offence before returning to the mat. What is there left to say about Rosa? One of the world’s absolute best and bringing an immense physicality to every performance, all rich with such presence too, a genuine flair.

This match had my full attention going in and they matched my expectations too, setting a standard that bodes well for the rest. I really hope that Hirsch’s usage steadily increases, as she’s not only reliable but showed some range here also, even if I’m keen on her maintaining that core style. Strong match, excited to follow Rosa’s route through this bracket.

Grade: B-

A short Jungle Boy interview followed, calling Dax a BITCH! Oh my, shades of Nattie Neidhart circa 2008, or 2009, perhaps even 2016, definitely 2018.

Falls Count Anywhere

KENTA & Kenny Omega vs. Lance Archer & Jon Moxley

Well, this was certainly as advertised. A wild and woolly affair, these four fellas fought across Daily’s Place, battling away in a truly chaotic clash. Generally, this isn’t my thing but within its genre, it was unsurprisingly epic. The more weapon-reliant brawl can grate on me, but this thing flew by, an enthralling rollercoaster featuring four top guys. Speaking of such, everyone was great here, with KENTA‘s interactions opposite Moxley stealing the show. The former’s mere presence stood out, but he brought the violence along with it.

Archer also seemed perfectly at home, the dominant wild man that simply loves to fight. With each outing, he further proves his worth, useful in roles far broader than “mute monster heel.” In fact, tough guy babyface Lance rules, perhaps his strongest stuff yet. Finally, Omega is Omega, at ease in a match filled with such overt awesomeness. He eventually scored the pin too, needing The Good Brothers’ assistance in flooring Archer. Really thrilling stuff, featuring some incredible sequences throughout.

If it’s more to your taste, this may even be an all-time Dynamite main event but for me? Not quite. Instead, this was simply fun. Elaborate, exciting fun but for my miserable soul, little more. Even still, quite the TV main event, which is becoming a trend.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts

Though only featuring one match that you’d deem must-watch, this wasn’t a one hit wonder. Instead, this episode had lots of segments worth your time, including two strong matches that really maximised their minutes. Add Lee Johnson’s win to those triumphs and you’re onto something impressive, especially with all the short segments along the way. Not all of those will hit and frankly, some aren’t even necessary but it’s that connective tissue which keeps Dynamite moving.

If you’re into something, you can probably trust the process, as extra puzzle pieces are revealed relatively regularly. It can create a dizzying product at times but on this week, things gelled rather well in my view. Another strong show, which didn’t always look guaranteed on paper.  

Grade: B+

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (3/2/21): Go To Sleep

Okay, let’s be honest with each other. It’s 6am and as usual, I’m writing this after Dynamite has aired. However, this is somewhat unique, as I haven’t actually watched the show yet. I know, I always pretend that’s the case anyway but yeah, you know the deal by now. The thing is though, it’s left me uncertain as to what this intro should look like. I’d usually just base it around my latest #fav on the Sixers, but I haven’t caught up on them either. Basically, I know nothing and should probably just go to sleep.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

10-Team Tag Team Battle Royal for Tag Title Shot at Tag Team Titles at Revolution, Tag Champs Choose Own Tag Challengers for Their Tag Team Titles If They Win Though. Tag.

The Young Bucks vs. The Inner Circle vs. The Dark Order vs. The Faces of Fear vs. Blake & Murphy vs. The Vaudevillains

I never miss writing the play-by-play for these gimmicks but if I did, these matches would swiftly stop that. Look, it’s a battle royal featuring twenty fellas, filth. These matches aren’t supposed to be anything other than YouTube view owners, which is fine. That being said, this was very well-produced for AEW standards, spreading the shine while advancing The Inner Circle’s internal power struggle. That element was captured rather well but didn’t overshadow the less established teams present, which was an impressive feat.

MJF and Jericho weren’t my ideal victors, but I get it, as the latter is on a short list of lads that’ll never miss an AEW PPV. That’s fair enough and they’ve committed lots of time to this, so it’s logical even if not particularly inspiring for me personally. Regardless, fun match that wasn’t offensively clunky and never left me dizzy. Can’t ask for more than that folks, ideal.  

Grade: C

STANG is not, but he’s also sixty, so win some you lose some I suppose. Either way, he’s here with Darby, stopping by for another hilariously advertised in-ring interview. They are swiftly interrupted though, as Team Taz serve their time by cutting a promo, live on national television. These fellas are street and love the jungle, which they seem confident will concern STANG. It doesn’t though, as he responded with an Ole Anderson promo about fire in the eyes and all that good stuff.

Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa

Think everyone had lofty expectations for this one and in my mind at least, it matched that optimism. This was a really strong television match that fit both performers without trying too hard, which is a crime that in this scenario, I’d have understood. These two women could’ve easily swung for the fences with a flashy thriller, but they did something far more grounded and naturally, I loved it. Both worked a with a focus, isolating individual body parts and bringing an intensity that fit this feud.

Again, that alone speaks to Baker’s development, as she seamlessly matched Rosa’s aggression for a wonderfully spiteful affair. The physical presence of Rosa continues to be her greatest strength of all though, adding a fresh ingredient to this division with that palpable big match feel. That’s partly a credit to the programme itself also, which has been refreshingly heated, even when circumstances didn’t allow a natural progression. These two captured that from start to finish physically, which really spotlighted a different flavour altogether.

The finish wasn’t as impressive, with Baker cheating her way to a somewhat flat victory. These interference finish don’t always hit as I’d like but if this is indeed unfinished business, I’m all for another chapter.

Grade: B+

Hangman Page & Matt Hardy vs. Chaos Project

Introduced by a vignette in which this match was supposedly agreed upon, I have to stress my pride at TK’s restraint. This card clearly had enough puzzle pieces to place already, so though I love Luther’s perfectly symmetrical face, it couldn’t be featured for long here. This is an element that AEW needs to improve at, advancing an angle with a fluidity that doesn’t feel forced. This did that comfortably, existing logically and adding another layer that’ll allow the eventual conclusion to feel far more earned.

The match itself was simply a path in that direction, as Hardy and Hangman won with relative ease, mostly avoiding King Death Dealer.

Grade: Grins

Meanwhile in Gotham, The Inner Circle argued again. Sammy halted Jericho’s hopes for celebration, asking why the others are seldom more than collateral. As you can probably tell, this stuff isn’t for me and in fact, it’s my least favourite of AEW’s current priorities. With that being said, it’s all being done rather well, and I’d imagine that for someone out there, it’s a consistent highlight. I mean, maybe not but I wouldn’t be surprised, as there’s definitely some good ideas in here, even if its existence irritates me.

Wrestling wedding time, as Kip and Penelope got married. Orange was there too, can I interest you in my recent Samoa Joe article?

Seriously, it’s a wrestling wedding… there’s no way you’re reading this and think that I could possibly pretend to care. It didn’t strike me as a particularly good wrestling wedding though, so there’s that.

Lumberjack Match

Eddie Kingston vs. Lance Archer

Man, this whole thing is so wonderfully Nitro. They should just wrestle every week, trading messy wins while Kevin Sullivan grins. Build to a brass knucks on a pole match or something, I don’t know, pop me! Either way, this was unsurprisingly fun, only building on the wild and woolly feel of last week’s affair. Lumberjack matches aren’t supposed to be what you’d call “good,” especially on a product like this, but they are a useful TV tool when handed to performers as switched on as these two.

I enjoyed the ongoing dynamic of Ed’s many plans inevitably falling through, with Archer eventually getting his win back. I’d personally love for these lads to meet in a cage match next, ideally at Revolution. It’s an old school feud between two throwback fellas, LET’S BLEED!

Grade: C+

Up next, Tully Blanchard kidnapped Marko Stunt, just as we’d all predicted.

Kenny Omega & The Good Brothers vs. Jon Moxley, Pac & Fenix

This series especially isn’t the place for unnecessary comparisons but man, AEW have really maximised this match type’s appeal. The blockbuster multi-man is becoming a promotional speciality in a way that US rasslin hasn’t seen in some time, which really enhances this product’s potential. It’s such a beautiful option when trying to find TV main event worthy matches, with this being an admittedly absurd example. This was always going to be great, the talent on offer made that clear but even still, it was a treat to watch.

It swiftly became the Fenix show, which not only helped the match but also made his eventual loss far less damaging. Elsewhere, Anderson had some pretty engaging exchanges with a few relatively familiar foes, allowing Omega to pick his spots before that unsurprisingly epic closing stretch. The first couple segments of this are tight, featuring excellent offence from all involved but in truth, it’s the more sequenced stuff that steals the show. As you’d expect, they eventually strung things together in staggering fashion, producing a spectacular main event.

Honestly, this is probably a historically great Dynamite match, which is hilarious considering how overshadowed it’ll be.

Grade: A

Post-match, the victors continued their onslaught, bringing out Lance Archer for the save. He run wild, leaving Moxley and Omega alone until KENTA arrived, flooring Big Match Jon. Oh my, this isn’t the time for wild speculation but yeah, this feels significant. What a visual! All details aside, Dynamite’s actual greatest strength is this exact feeling, the sense that anything can happen. It’s exhilarating.

Final Thoughts

I assumed that this show would be great, and I can confirm, it was indeed so. The main event fit the bill, a sublime spectacle while elsewhere, Baker and Rosa produced a standout match of their own. Those are the highlights in terms of quality, but KENTA steals the headlines and understandably so, that’s an industry titan right there and in this setting, his presence symbolises something special. Combine all of this with the fact that I barely have a gripe elsewhere and this is yet another hit. Simply immense episode.

To be clear, it’s worth noting that my expectations for the wedding were too low for me to even remember that it happened. As a result, my current grin is unaffected by that segment, so my grade probably is too. Is that fair? No, but nor is life, grow up.

Grade: A

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (27/1/21): Tobias Harris

Let’s talk about Tobias Harris. Who? Well, let’s learn. Tobias Harris is the Philadelphia 76ers’ very valuable and worthwhile max contract player. He’s the best at everything, a lockdown defender and world-class scorer, a literal sniper beyond half-court. Moreover, Tobias is very handsome too and I love him, especially when he smiles. What’s that? Why am I talking about Tobias Harris? How does this relate to AEW Dynamite you ask?

Simple, this is my apology to Chuck Taylor, who recently sported a Harris jersey on this very show. I mocked that choice and have felt terrible since, especially considering Charles’ current predicament. Ideally, this will cheer him up though, which was definitely my intention.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

Eddie Kingston vs. Lance Archer

The Eddie Kingston “character” may be tired of making stars, but the performer absolutely relishes in it. Though I understand the logic behind a wild multi-man, these Kingston openers are perfection, kicking things off with immense intensity and physicality. Archer certainly wasn’t along for the ride in that regard either, bringing his own brand of brutality, even launching Kingston onto the apron. Kingston’s ability to bump with vigour really unlocked Lance too, making this quite the spectacle visually. It wasn’t shades of grey though, Kingston is a willing villain in the most traditional sense.

That allows these simple stories to flourish in this setting, producing compact TV matches that tick every box. This was exactly that, with Kingston spotlighting Archer’s passion for violence before stealing a win. Kingston effectively fooled Archer, demanding a one-on-one scenario only to utilise his backup. As you’d expect, he executed that perfectly too, paying attention to detail as usual.

Grade: B

Elsewhere, Jon Moxley grinned, discussing sex and much, much more. My god, he rules.

Meanwhile in Gotham, STANG and Darby Allin conceded that they are in fact, hoodlums. This was encapsulated by their actions, battering glass windows with an admittedly questionable success rate.

Chris Jericho & MJF vs. The Varsity Blondes

After the focused effort that preceded it, this was about what you’d expect. As I’ve mentioned before, Jericho isn’t really suited to feeding this kind of offence anymore, but he was fine here, which helped. I did appreciate that MJF referenced his prior victory over Griff Garrison, as that kind of transparency really brings me in. Also, I enjoy the dynamic of young talent climbing the ladder, it’s simple and adds some hierarchy to the roster. Once the bell rung though, there wasn’t a whole lot to discuss.

It was a WWE TV tag, which is fine but seldom much more. With that being said, Garrison’s hot tag was genuinely great, which was another encouraging sign for his personal progression. Even still, this didn’t feel particularly necessary, spread the love a little TK.

Grade: C

Post-match, MJF and Sammy Guevara were mad at each other, again.

Papa Schiavone was here next, welcoming Cody Rhodes and Arn Anderson for an interview segment. The intention was that Cody would respond to Shaq, who produced something that in no universe required a response. Anyway, Cody mentioned that Brandi is pregnant and Arn did the same. They grimaced, then grinning with a tear in Rhodes’ eye. Anyway, the point was that at Revolution, Cody and Red Velvet will be facing Shaq and Jade. This path was taken in quite impressive fashion, as Arn introduced Velvet as the fiery candidate for Rhodes’ partner.

Velvet fit the bill too, producing a confident promo that she should be proud of, as this wasn’t an easy position to fill. Fine segment, even if somewhat disjointed at times.

Ryan Nemeth vs. Hangman Page

Look, we all know the deal here: this man is the Dolph Ziggler’s brother. With that being said, this match left me almost uncomfortable with how Dolph Ziggler this man truly is. Nemeth’s offence, even his movement, it’s Dolph. The results, well they are very scary for my tired eyes. Nonetheless, he’s obviously sound and didn’t look out of place, performing decently opposite Page. In fairness, Hangman is a good guy to welcome folks into this territory, as his in-ring versatility makes him rather adaptable.

Solid introduction for Nemeth and another win for Page but at its core, this was an angle, as Matt Hardy arrived at ringside.

Grade: C

Post-match, Hardy was invited in-ring by Page, taking the chance to send a message. Hardy said that Page is a pal and after all that’s happened, he’s here to support him. Must say, love the silent contrast between Page and Moxley, with the latter never even receiving these approaches anymore. The Inner Circle fiasco concluded that, which rules.

Dax Harwood vs. Jungle Boy

There are few things in wrestling history that I love more than an Arn Anderson television title tilt. Considering that, this was inevitable grin but even still, somehow managed to exceed my lofty expectations. Seriously, this may be my favourite genre of match, just rich with competition. It’s so spirited, generally gritty, and tough. It’s technically sound, mostly featuring basic stuff that just looks great, I love it. These two were made for such a bout, with Harwood’s brilliance containing Jungle Boy’s potential perfectly.

It wasn’t just a cohesive match either, as they eventually provided the finishing stretch that catapulted this beyond taste. Wrestling can’t be objectively anything, but I’d imagine that most fans can find a grin or two in this one. Harwood is wonderful, I’d really appreciate more matches of this ilk and Jungle Boy, well he’s just remarkable. It’s a pleasure to watch him develop and ideally, this’ll be one of many meetings that one day, I’ll remember fondly. An exciting match that matched the wrestling bubble’s hype, absolutely loved it.

Grade: A

Post-match, FTR reclaimed their heat, attempting to murder The Jurassic Express. I love WCW.

Team Taz hate STANG shirts. Team Taz hate Darby Allin shirts. They beat up anyone that sells those shirts, they rule.

Britt Baker vs. Shanna

The story of this match was Britt Baker and more specifically, her increasing status as an absolute star. Since returning, Baker has been really projecting as a headline act, presenting herself with a refreshing confidence. This match may have been the best example yet, as Baker felt like a major attraction while enhancing her character along the way. Baker is more vicious with each showing, becoming the nasty heel that her promos demand her to be. This version of Baker is the complete package, it’s obvious.

Though clearly the backdrop, Shanna continued to show some promise of her own, though not standing out much overall. On the other hand, her performance wasn’t flawed, allowing this to be a smooth ride, which isn’t always the case. It was a tight, competent TV bout that on sheer presence alone, Baker made inherently watchable.

Grade: C+

Post-match, Thunder Rosa halted Baker’s continued attack, adding one last step to their upcoming match’s build.

Elsewhere, The Good Brothers and The Young Bucks stopped for an interview, grinning wide and reminiscing. Kenneth soon arrived however, seemingly hoping to demand answers from the Bucks. That brought in Callis, who has an ALLEGEDLY fake wound, continuing ‘The Invisible Hand’s mischief.

The Young Bucks & The Good Brothers vs. The Dark Order

If there’s one thing these fellas can do, it’s have an engaging multi-man thriller. This wasn’t without substance either, featuring some strong storytelling in the process. The Good Brothers are an interesting piece of this puzzle anyway, either easily manipulated or spitefully manipulating. Either way, they are willing villains and did so throughout this one, painting Matt and Nick in a bad light. This could hit harder if they were more pronounced protagonists but then again, they are believable dicks these days, so that works in its own way.

As for the match, it remains very fun to see the IMPACT champions in this setting, especially opposite a fella like John Silver. His general presence continues to be delightful by the way, bringing that wonderful hot tag wherever he goes. The action was enjoyable but it’s really a scenario thing for me personally, as this whole direction continues to provide the fresh ingredient that only makes Dynamite more must-watch. The finishing stretch didn’t hurt either, ensuring that this was a main event-worthy clash.

Grade: B+

Afterwards, The Young Bucks suggested that if they win next week’s battle royal, they’ll pick The Good Brothers as their Revolution rivals. Ah man, yes please, I share in the fellas’ too sweet response. Either way, Fenix soon arrived and then Moxley too, running wild and clearing the ring. Can’t argue with a little exclamation mark to finish things, ideal.

Final Thoughts

When AEW Dynamite is great, its appeal isn’t always easy to explain. If you don’t care and watch this cold, I’m sure that you’ll find it to be fine and little more. As a mostly invested viewer though, I often find this programme to be a quite glorious experience. They’ll find a rhythm at times, a flow that gives everything such a connected feel. It’s just seamless, an effortless two hours. Last week’s relative downswing aside, Dynamite is on an incredible hot streak. It’s an almost historic run in my view, the kind of form that one day, folks will look back on fondly.

Grade: A  

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (20/1/21): A Perfectly Symmetrical Face

After two blockbuster episodes of Dynamite, All Elite Wrestling appears set for step back this week. With a relatively uninspiring line-up, there’s not a whole lot leaping off the page unfortunately, but you never know, perhaps this will exceed expectations. I mean, it won’t. I know this because I’ve just watched the thing but still, please play along here folks. In truth, this intro was supposed to be about Luther, but I’ve opted to save that for the opening bit, so instead this was left without any real direction.

Got you again though, just stole another 100 words.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

In all seriousness, this opening segment isn’t for analysis or critique. AEW’s treatment of young Brodie Jr has been truly uplifting, making the best of a horrific situation. With that in mind, I have nothing to add, no intention to be distracted by anythi….OH MY GOD IT’S LUTHER!


Making an early case for “best on interviews” honours, Luther showed the literal kid how it’s done, paying homage to The Distraction by announcing his hatred for children. He also referenced my perfectly symmetrical face, channelling your favourite heel on his absolute best day.

The Dark Order & Hangman Page vs. Chaos Project & TH2

Okay, I’ll actually be serious now, as this was lovely. They didn’t have much more than five minutes and ensured that it was nothing but fun, producing a packed little rollercoaster to kick things off. I legitimately love Luther’s ongoing bit of using his partners as weapons, it’s perfect and really enhances his presentation. This match was obviously about his opposition though, with Page and Silver in particular doing what they do best, bringing sheer excitement with their every entry.

This was a swift route to the angle that followed, but more importantly, a match for -1. Considering that, this match genuinely isn’t one that requires any insight, just enjoy it.

Grade: Grins

Post-match, -1 grinned before Silver seemingly proposed to Page. This of course, was the reiteration of his offer to join Dark Order but reluctantly, Hangman refused. There was a quite bold blend here, as with a premature celebration, this was mostly comedy until on delivery alone, it quickly became a moment of real gravity for these characters. Page continues to be a tragic figure, which remains a tale of interest for me personally.

Meanwhile in Gotham, The Inner Circle.

Returning to the ring, STANG is here, intending to congratulate Darby Allin. He achieves this before Team Taz’s inevitable interruption, as Taz talked about “DA STREETS,” laying down some kind of challenge. This thing could do with a jolt of some sort but the “street” chatter could solve that, likely referencing a cinematic outing for ol STANGER.

Elsewhere, The Young Bucks are headed to play with Kenneth Omega, only to be halted by Marvez. Either way, they are eventually greeted by Don Callis, with the “executive of the year” sending Marvez and the camera crew away. However, he made a point of positioning one of their cameras, ensuring that this interaction would be seen. Callis then baited the Bucks, backing up into the camera and screaming wildly, seemingly starting some kind of MYSTERY.

Peter Avalon vs. Cody Rhodes

Ah man, this was almost exactly what I hoped that it wouldn’t be. I generally enjoy Dynamite very much but if there’s one consistent flaw that frustrates me, it’s their slightly lazy reliance on matches like this. It’s a cold bout that really achieves nothing other than filling a 10-minute block of each episode, which disappoints me every time. As I’d suspected, this was yet another case of exactly that but perhaps even worse, Cody was somewhat torn here too.

Smart enough to make his dominance obvious, Cody had this match won in seconds, only to be distracted by Jade Cargill. That made Rhodes look dumb but also lessened any intended rehabbing of Avalon, which in fairness, probably wasn’t the intention anyway. Okay, so why do the match? Simple, Cody probably wanted to wrestle Peter Avalon. Ugh, it’s nothing awful but just no need, work this on Dark if you’re simply popping yourself.

Grade: C-

Backstage (I think), Dax Harwood learned that Jungle Boy is taller than him, setting the stage for a match that’ll be legitimately awesome.

Jon Moxley vs. Nick Comoroto

This was one of those squash matches in which the squasher wanted to have an actual match, elevating the squashee but lessening the squash’s squishiness in the process. Seemingly working Bruiser Brody here, Moxley sold a little, showcasing some of Comoroto’s power offence. He also fit a neat finish in there, securing a choke for the win. This wasn’t intending to be anything much, but I did like the detail of Comoroto being the only man willing to take this match. Now that’s smart, introducing a guy while emphasising the star opposite him.

Squash Grade: Mild Grin

Post-match, Mox grabbed a microphone and in a few more words, said that he intends to beat everyone up.

Backstage, Eddie Kingston is struggling with last week’s defeat and things aren’t getting better, with Archer soon interrupting. This brought Jake too of course, trying his best to talk with some intensity while Ed looked on in an almost awed confusion. King is working Archer next week and it seems that no pals are allowed, which makes me expect a new pal. Either that, or they are breaking this character down, that could also work.

Elsewhere, Kenneth is here, grinning wide until he finds a JCP studio-style black eye on poor Callis. Big Dick Don ‘reluctantly’ reveals that Matt and Nick are to blame, almost certainly manipulating Omega. This stuff may read poorly but honestly, it rules, one of the episode’s strongest elements. Callis is a wonderful fit here, no problem for me.

Matt Sydal & Top Flight vs. Matt Hardy & Private Party

This could’ve been better. Featuring two teams with immense athletic ability, this particular match exposed the rawer features of both parties. What makes The Young Bucks so special is that for all of their innovation and excitement, they are masterful in terms of placement and such. This bout was the opposite, just a collection of stuff that didn’t really flow, struggling for any connective tissue. That doesn’t necessarily make it bad though, what does is when that stuff isn’t landing, looking bad more often than not.

Look, Top Flight especially appeared off here and that’s fine, they are a very young team. However, this match wasn’t a good mix and that’s something to consider moving forward. Rough outing, not low on creativity but really lacking in execution and structure. On the other hand, I’m enjoying the overall direction, with Hardy’s heel antics giving the party pals more of an identity.

Grade: C

Post-match, Sydal and co were enraged about Private Party’s tactics, earning themselves an extended ass-kicking.

Meanwhile in Gotham, The Inner Circle.

Leyla Hirsch vs. Penelope Ford

Miro, Kip and Chu…Charles were here for this one, with Orange Cassidy looking on from the crowd. Not sure who needs to hear this folks, but Leyla Hirsch is awesome. In a division of mostly inexperienced stars, it’s so awesome to have a woman with a clear style, something to hang her hat on once the bell rings. It brings a different flavour to the division, allowing matches like this to maintain my attention. That’s not to dismiss Penelope either, who continues to showcase her ceiling while steadily piecing things together.

Ford has all the raw ingredients and best of all, she’s finding her personality too. Like the last match though, it’s a matter of rhythm, bringing a palpable flow to these matches. This one had moments of clumsiness but didn’t strive to be anything spectacular, which I actually appreciate. It was mostly a sound TV match, rough around the edges but enjoyable enough, featuring both women well.

Grade: C

Post-match, Miro was a big ol meanie, forcing Charles to say that they are best friends. This hurt poor Orange and though silly, I think they may have something here. I’ll forever maintain that Miro is a babyface, but this role could change that, really bringing something horrid out of him. Miro was smug in the best way, not overacting but just projecting arrogance. Something to like about this thing, finally!

Backstage, The Good Brothers are assisting Kenneth, battering poor Penta. These shows don’t always have time to breathe and that issue was very prevalent for me as this occurred.

Chris Jericho & MJF vs. Sammy Guevara & Jake Hager vs. Santana & Ortiz

If it wasn’t already obvious, this whole thing just isn’t for me. The Inner Circle lost me some time ago and this saga isn’t changing that, regardless of its alleged intricacy. Clearly, MJF’s presence is forcing the faction to implode and that’s fine, logical enough direction but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that I care. As a result, my grin was limited here, though there were some nice moments of angle progression. I liked that Sammy and Hager upped the intensity almost immediately, unleashing their resentment on the Chris.

I also enjoyed the chance to watch Santana & Ortiz rassle, especially with the backdrop that this match began to develop. It seems that even in defeat, this team’s struggles are very apparent to those in power, highlighting their inability to thrive in The Inner Circle. As a fan of theirs, that encourages me but for now, it was a pleasure to watch them work in a main event match. Jericho’s woes have been clipped a thousand times by now but in truth, the matchmaking isn’t helping.

It’s unlikely that another classic is in Jericho’s future, but this recent influx of quick fellas isn’t protecting him, instead making his decline only more pronounced. Pair him with someone that’s more his pace, as these flashy tag teams aren’t fitting the bill. Decent match but one that didn’t increase my interest whatsoever, so more of the same for this act.  

Grade: C+

Final Thoughts

Puzzling programme really, featuring fewer in-ring hits than one expects from Dynamite. I didn’t enjoy the action much at all sadly, actively grimacing at some of the more alarming moments. They came throughout the episode too, which is odd and perhaps speaks to a collective off-night. Thankfully though, this show didn’t feature any angles that I disliked and in fact, most neatly advanced things I thought. That alone ensures that this wasn’t a complete miss, but certainly not a night to remember inside the ropes.

Grade: C+

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (13/1/21): Making a Machine

After an all-time conclusion to last week’s episode of Dynamite, AEW has quite the task on their hands, looking to build upon their recent momentum. On paper, it looks like they’ve got a shot too, featuring a TNT Title match as well as Kingston vs. Pac. Clearly, that has some promise but we’ll see how it goes because again, I’m definitely writing this before the show has aired. It would be ridiculous to write these articles at 4 am and as all you know, I’m not ridiculous!

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

Eddie Kingston vs. Pac

This was delightful. Kingston is a master of this match type, packing these bouts full of logic and narrative. He’ll sell for me if it makes sense and Pac certainly filled in the blanks, hitting some spectacular offence while punishing Kingston around the ring. Kingston was defiant in response but never much more, only firing back in bursts. This was an example of Kingston’s value to AEW, providing a strong TV opener that ticked all the boxes without overstaying its welcome.

Pac is needed as an absolute top babyface, like a complete destroyer. This nailed that element, much better than Pac’s prior outings in fact. He leaves this as a standout contender on a roster loaded with heels, which was key. On the other hand, Kingston is the game, tough veteran, still trying to hang with the world’s best. He’s outmatched physically in every way but he’s a fighter, that’s just what he does. This contrast played out perfectly, as Kingston battled away with strikes while Pac’s brilliance stole the show.

Kingston’s selling was artful, and Pac’s offence fit the bill and then some. Just a really tight, compact TV bout, loved it.

Grade: B+

Post-match, Pac refused to relent, applying The Brutalizer as everyone hit the ring. That brought out Lance Archer, who goes face to face with Pac.

Chuck Taylor vs. Miro

Hmmm, torn on this one. Miro won emphatically here, in short order too. That feels correct, smart even but yet, I’m left unsure. As I’ve said before, Miro’s actual appeal comes with his ability to produce once the bell rings, which this obviously doesn’t show. This is dominant Miro, monster heel Miro. That’s cool but is it what this promotion needs? What Miro needs even? Personally, I don’t think so and believe that opposite Orange Cassidy, Miro will eventually need to deliver.

This isn’t a criticism, he was fine here, it’s more a matter of your thoughts on the overall presentation. Personally though, I’m no keener.

Grade: D

Meanwhile in Gotham, Matt Hardy.

The Inner Circle did one of those segments in which everyone took centre ring, looked at the hard camera and delivered DIALOGUE. It was bad, threatening to save itself as Santana began to speak. That was mowed over for more Sammy/MJF stuff though, so nothing doing there either. This faction is officially not for me unfortunately, which is a shame as TK definitely thinks I love them.

Elsewhere, The Dark Order were actually funny, as Hangman Page’s mere presence nearly had Silver in tears. He was very excited, and I definitely am too, absolutely not falling asleep as I type this. Seriously though, I actually like this direction with Page and think he’s continuing to perform wonderfully in the role.

Set for their six-man tag, The Young Bucks are granted their own entrance by Big Dick Don. It’s another trap though, as he introduces The Good Brothers instead. YAS.

Danny Limelight & The Varsity Blondes vs. Kenny Omega & The Good Brothers

Considering my earlier response to Miro, this was an interesting one. Ideally, I’d switch these two around, making Gallows and Gun look like absolute killers here. I’m not dumb enough to be that hypocritical though and very much understand this scenario. Traditional rasslin logic aside, this is just how AEW operates. Their audience knows who these men are, they don’t care about them ‘looking strong.’ What they don’t know though, is much about their opposition here. In-ring, that’s now solved, as The Bullet Club shined these fellas up.

It’ll be polarising, sparking a familiar debate but frankly, I enjoyed the match which I’m certain was the intention. Have to step out of my old ways here at times, as this probably worked better for the actual AEW audience. For me, it was fun even if a little unnecessary, but I’ll never complain about watching ‘The Machine Gun’ rassle.

Grade: C+

Afterwards, Jon Moxley arrived and Nitro began, as everyone and their mother brawled. That includes the aforementioned Bucks too, getting dropped by The Lucha Bros for their troubles. Meanwhile Callis pulled Omega away, again exposing his intentions. I love this, as it adds some depth the whole thing. I don’t know if ‘Blood and Guts’ is on its way, but The Bucks need to remain on the fringes here, as their reluctance makes perfect sense. Good stuff, rare hit in terms of this week’s angles.

Speaking of hits, ‘The Waiting Room’ wasn’t one. Look, people liked this and that makes me happy, but I thought it sucked. They basically used Cody to get eyes on others, which is obviously good, but the general feel just isn’t for me. This had ‘Flair for the Gold’ vibes, which is filth. It doesn’t fit in my view and is dangerously close to New York content, which I’d suggest that AEW avoids. Either way, they set up something with Jade Cargill and Red Velvet before booking Thunder Rosa vs. Baker. Cool.

Jurassic Express vs. FTR

Some execution issues aside, this was rather enjoyable. Positioned to provide the match’s hot tag, Jungle Boy was able to stretch his legs a little while in the meantime, Marko Stunt made for a seamless ragdoll. FTR flung Stunt around, disrespectfully battering him for much of the match. Jungle Boy’s comeback aside, that was the match, with the Jurassic Express’ only moments coming from creativity that operated outside of FTR’s game. That’s sound and again, some hitches aside, hit pretty well for me.

Probably could’ve been a little shorter of course, which is a common complaint, but I enjoyed the match and absolutely love FTR needing a shortcut. That’s great heel stuff right there, picking a fight and still needing assistance to win.

Grade: B-

NWA Women’s Title

Tay Conti vs. Serena Deeb (c)

Two tales here, both equally encouraging. Firstly, Tay Conti has genuinely improved. This isn’t a bit like I’d originally suspected, she’s truly figuring things out, which is great news for AEW. Conti’s raw skill set makes her interesting immediately but she’s learning the important ingredients that are required along the way. With that being said though, this was still Serena Deeb’s match. I mean it wasn’t, because she opted to make Conti the star of the show, but this was still her dance to lead.

She did so beautifully too, positioning all of Conti’s best stuff perfectly. Conti still has moments of awkwardness as she waits for her next transition, but they mostly gelled well, with Deeb guiding things seamlessly. She’s honestly this division’s MVP, providing one half of almost all of the women’s neatest bouts. She set Conti up for success and thankfully, Tay delivered, shining bright even in defeat. Would assume that the NWA Women’s Title is headed to Anna Jay but for now, genuinely good match.

Grade: B


Brian Cage vs. Darby Allin (c)

Oh my. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t care about this match. Like, at all. Neither guy is for me, and that’s fine but naturally, it effects these things. However, this match was magic, just an absolute thriller. Cage is very capable but too often, he’s content to play flippy fella. Allin doesn’t allow such a thing, literally forcing Cage to play ‘The Machine’ that he’s titled as. No one takes bumps as violently as Allin and to his credit, he generally makes them matter too. That was the case here, positioning him firmly as a pure underdog.

That fit within the broader narrative too, as this is a character clash that traces back to both men’s core identities. I love that element and it enhances this feud which over time, can become a famed matchup for AEW. They won’t run this back too often of course but their chemistry can’t be ignored as stylistically, these fellas are simply made for each other. Allin gets over as a babyface while Cage looks like a true monster, it’s just pro wrestling perfection. Dynamic and violent, as enthralling as it is emotive.

The finish was about more than these two men, as STANG arrived, allowing Allin to score the win. That somewhat hindered their ability to conclude this particular story adequately, but it certainly wasn’t bad. Great match, not quite on the level of last week but an incredible attempt all the same.

Grade: A

Final Thoughts

Though it didn’t quite reach the heights of last week’s closing portion, this episode of Dynamite may have been more consistent. Well, in-ring at least, producing two strong TV bouts as well as an excellent main event. Unfortunately, the other segments didn’t really hit for me, which hurts this show’s overall standing. As a viewer, it was an incredibly smooth watch, always moving but never dizzying me. However, I just didn’t like the glossier, more produced talking skits, which is a shame.

Still a strong outing though, packing two hours of wrestling with three matches very much worth your time. Things are trending encouragingly for AEW, even if next week looks less enticing. I think there’s a conversation to be had about the reliance on these ‘TV specials,’ but I’ll save that for another day, probably another format even.

Grade: B+

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (6/1/21): Fenix Thrills, Good Brothers Grin

Well folks, it’s been a while. As all two of you will recall, I intended to take Christmas off but last week was clearly something different. The passing of Brodie Lee devastated us all and in fear of returning us to tears, the show honouring his life wasn’t about grades. It didn’t need critique or analysis, it was a beautiful piece of wrestling programming that I truly wish we never had to see. Now in a new year, we move on with a heavy heart, inexplicably reviewing more pro wrestling.

Thankfully, this show should be very special, giving us something to enjoy when once again, us losers need it most. No jokes from me, let’s get to it, kicking this series’ year off in style.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

The Young Bucks & SCU vs. The Acclaimed & TH2

Look man, The Young Bucks rule. I’m sorry, I know that it’s fun to be cool and suggest otherwise but seriously, they just rule. This was a mini-showcase of their skill set, not even a necessary one but even still, I was completely captivated. That’s not to dismiss the other teams’ efforts either, as all three of them provided a worthy piece of the puzzle. SCU are a nice balance opposite The Bucks, a steady, solid contrast that still share their general motivation. There’s an enthusiasm to their work and it matches The Bucks, regardless of offensive differences.

On the other hand, The Acclaimed remain exciting prospects, producing something really quite admirable two weeks ago. They were good again here and TH2 continue to maximise their minutes, earning an extension to their recent re-emphasis. This wasn’t a classic or even a standout match, it was just an enjoyable opener that didn’t overstay its welcome. Basically, The Bucks excited without needing excess, that’s a win for me. It was a win for SCU too, who were due a pin-fall.

Grade: B-

Post-match, SCU grinned wide and said that their next loss would mark their final match as a team. They then hinted at a future title match, planting the seeds for a match that could arrive sooner rather than later.

After that, Jon Moxley was finally back, returning after a month away from Daily’s Place. Moxley cut a brief promo in which effectively, he said that he loves this business. He wanted Fenix to get a fair shot at Omega, and he’d handle his business after that. Moxley said a whole bunch before that too but frankly, the sound of my fast-food wrapping somewhat drowned him out. I was trying to crunch those materials, removing any evidence of my fast-food exploits. Sense that failed, but I’m not certain of it at the time of this writing.

Anyway, good promo I think, Mox is tremendous.

Meanwhile in Gotham, Chuck Taylor and Miro booked themselves in a ‘Young Boy on a Pole’ match. Think that’s what happened anyway. I mean, I don’t but it’s a funnier thought than the reality awaiting us.

Inner Circle Big Lads Battle For the Position of Lead Inner Circle Big Lad

Jake Hager vs. Wardlow

On paper, this felt like a scouting trip. Wardlow has been very impressive since arriving in AEW but when working anything grander than a squash match, he’s almost exclusively worked with world-class pros. Jake Hager is many things, but that description isn’t one I’d be throwing his way. Basically, this was a chance to get a better grasp of Wardlow’s ceiling, a glance at where he’s really at right now. The results were encouraging, as Wardlow continued to shine even after an admittedly shaky start.

Hager isn’t some wonderfully polished pro, nor is he a master of layout or structure but he did work hard here and thankfully, that was enough. He managed a spirited showing and Wardlow’s raw awesomeness did the rest, producing a rather engaging big man battle. Wardlow has moments that scream top guy and he’s still an obvious work in progress, which only makes his future more exciting. Again, credit to Hager for bringing it and allowing Wardlow’s sheer talent to shine through in a spot that could’ve easily failed him.

This was another step forward for Wardlow both in-character and out, perhaps his toughest yet too. These two didn’t click immediately but they worked through it and brought a physicality that eventually captured the imagination. By its conclusion, this was rather exciting and best of all, Wardlow won emphatically. Major triumph in my book, especially considering my concerns coming in.

Grade: B

Afterwards, the big lads shake hands while elsewhere, Snoop Dogg grinned wide with Private Party and pretended to understand Matt Hardy’s Cameo jokes. This must’ve been cool for the fellas that party in private, pretty neat to be honest.

Elsewhere, men weighed in a week in advance. If Cage had to hit a certain weight here, this system would’ve been marvellous, allowing him a full seven days to strengthen. He didn’t though, rendering that whole point well, pointless. Anyway, no one wanted to take their clothes off for this so STANG came out instead. He has face paint and a baseball bat, many clothes though too. Also, Taz hates snow.

MJF and Jake Hager are pals. Marko Stunt and Tully Blanchard are not.

Matt Sydal vs. Cody Rhodes

I think very highly of these two men but seriously, imagine watching this match. Snoop Dogg was right there, walking from one side of the ramp to the other, hiding his face behind Arn’s playbook. Seriously, he really did this, almost colliding with Sydal at one point before returning to his prior position. Snoop was glorious here, completely distracting me from the professional wrestling match directly in front of him. From what I saw, this was a mostly sound match between two tremendous pros but again, who could possibly care while Snoop stood there.

I will say this though, Snoop’s presence made me ponder an upset, so that’s a win I guess. It was never going to happen of course, but the ongoing ‘Cody has too much going on’ narrative made me think, especially as Snoop hilariously coached from the ramp. That helped the final false finishes but overall, this match wasn’t what it could’ve been. That said, this version was far funnier television than any physically impressive alternative, so I’ll grin regardless.

Grade: C+

Post-match, Snoop ducked LUTHER, literally running for his life until Cody and Sydal took care of business. Snoop then took advantage, landing an all-time knee drop splash on Serpentico. If the match was funny, this was comedy’s peak.

AEW Women’s Title

Abadon vs. Hikaru Shida

Look, this is the best possible version of this match. They started hot, brawling before the bell and bringing a general intensity afterwards. Abadon is very limited but this structure hid that well enough, allowing her character work to lead the way. Now granted, that character work will be polarising, especially when a title match is taken under the ring for the sake of ‘bite’ blood. That wasn’t for me, but it’ll pop others so there’s that. These presentations are generally divisive and Abadon will be no different.

Shida can be very proud of her efforts here regardless, guiding Abadon towards something perfectly acceptable. To be clear, I actually think there’s genuine potential with the Abadon act, it’s just not ready for a spotlight bigger than this. Personally, I’d like for them to find a balance of sorts. Abadon is different and that shouldn’t change but even still, I think adjustments can be made. Ideally, this character would fit better within the promotion’s wider landscape, it’s just a matter of maintaining her appeal in the process.

Grade: C

Tay Conti is your next NWA Women’s Champion.

AEW World Heavyweight Title

Rey Fenix vs. Kenny Omega (c)

Honestly, I’m not really qualified to review this match. If you’re reading this nonsense, then I’d assume that you’re already aware that this was an absolute masterpiece. I’d imagine that some of you are even here for my take, expecting something profound in its praise. I have nothing though, this was just magic. They set the tone immediately and maintained it for fifteen truly exhilarating minutes. It never dipped, with these two even battering each other in PICTURE IN PICTURE.

To his credit, Omega took a relative step back here too, allowing Fenix to shine in the most stunning way. This was a showcase of all his most spectacular stuff, a violent montage of brilliance. I was absolutely in awe of the whole thing, just incredible execution from start to finish. They are both magnificent of course, so I’m not surprised but seriously, it really is remarkable how exciting this was. An all-time TV match and I’m being sincere with that, I can’t recall the last time I was this thrilled.

This staggering pace wasn’t just enthralling either, it was effective. That element allowed me to buy false finishes throughout, as it was worked hectically enough that any ending would feel organic. Simply put, this was magic, one of the finest TV tilts that I’ve ever seen. Beautiful stuff and all with post-match time to spare too. As good as it gets, an astonishing effort.

Grade: A*


With the title still over his shoulder, Kenneth Omega has reason to celebrate. Don Callis suggests that’s not his only reason either, unveiling step one of his plan. All the King’s Men have taken out Pac and Penta, leaving poor Fenix all alone. Before Omega could take advantage though, Moxley arrived, barbed wire baseball bat in hand. He briefly took control, running off Callis while going to work on Omega. It was all a TRAP though, as Gallows and Anderson then arrived, battering poor Mox.

From there, ‘The Band’ dominated, kicking the ass of anyone that dared to enter in opposition. That eventually included The Young Bucks but they stood by their ex-Club mates instead, reluctantly throwing up a ‘Too Sweet.’ This was wonderful, a strong closing in a vacuum and after the last month, an absolutely necessary one too. The angle needed a jolt and this provides exactly that, especially with the uncertainty surrounding The Bucks. Before their involvement, this was great but with that piece of the puzzle now in motion, they’d ticked every box.

This closing thirty minutes or so was masterful, some of the best stuff that AEW has ever produced in my view. It got me truly excited, genuinely hooked in a way that this programme seldom does. It’s a very strong show but these kind of endings? Well they aren’t common in any product, which makes these moments even sweeter.

Grade: A*

Final Thoughts

With an all-time closing quarter, this episode immediately commands respect as an edition of note. For me, that portion alone makes it an automatic classic, now it’s just a matter of the rest. If I loved just one other segment on this show, then I’d likely give this the ultimate grade but sadly, I didn’t. Thankfully, no one cares about my grades anyway, so what does that even matter? This show ruled and AEW has my full attention moving forward. Details aside, you can’t ask for more than that, I just hope next week reaches its ceiling too.

Grade: A

The AEW Dynamite Report Card (16/12/20): Winter is Kenneth

In complete opposition to last year’s efforts, it’s been a tremendous December for AEW. On paper however, this week feels like a relatively quiet one by comparison. I’ll watch with an open mind though, because I’m definitely writing this before Dynamite and not nine hours after the programme’s conclusion. That’d be unprofessional, almost as unprofessional as filling your intro with the same joke that you’ve used six times. Lazy even but after this show (that hasn’t aired yet), Tony shouldn’t be judging anyone.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.

The Dark Order & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page vs. Matt Hardy & Private Party

Considering what this seemingly intended to achieve, I’d say they produced something rather successful. Silver and Reynolds’ dynamic with Page is a perfect example of AEW’s ever-expanding universe (lol), as it’s unlikely to appeal to those following from afar. The hardcore AEW audience sees it as something far more intriguing though and that makes sense, as Silver especially has captured people’s imagination. It doesn’t hurt that this act is already entertaining either, because it’ll quickly win you over if uninterested.

On the other hand, Hardy’s AEW struggles haven’t been shifted by the link to Private Party but this match was a step in the right direction. Hardy worked hard and the finish advanced his heel progression, stealing the win from his partners. This match was the opposition’s show though, even in defeat, as the in-ring role of babyfaces unlocks Silver and Reynolds even further. Page is magnificent in his own right of course, bringing that wonderful hot tag which improves every match it’s in.

This was fast-paced and engaging without trying too hard, an agenting triumph that proved there’s always an available middle ground. Strong opener and frankly, better than I expected.

Grade: B-

Meanwhile in Gotham, MJF celebrated his recent ‘Best Performer’ award, much to Jericho’s chagrin. The MJF continued to subtly drive a wedge between them, intentionally or not. I’d actually prefer the latter, especially if it’s just MJF in his natural form, being brilliantly unbearable.

Cody Rhodes vs. Angelico

Before the bell rings, we are informed that Cody and Brandi Rhodes have a child on the way, which obviously rules. This match though, slightly less awesome. Cody has a brand of match that depending on my mood, can be somewhat frustrating. This hit some of those notes, as Cody’s intentions to have a sound, solid match quickly lead him towards unnecessary self-indulgence. He wants it to be the kind of competitive match that would’ve rocked WCW Saturday Night, but he seldom has any real content, often leaning on epic tropes instead.

There was something vaguely interesting about Cody selling his leg injury, but it never felt like the focus, let alone a threat. Angelico is very good though so even in an unfocused match with Cody, the quality can only dip so far. Want to stress that I actively enjoy Cody (please keep paying me), he just has his quirks that grate on me at times. This was still a decent outing, just wish they’d have picked a central narrative and left the ‘big match feel’ backstage. Could’ve been better, but still enjoyable enough.

Grade: C+

Post-match, Team Taz arrived. They are still mad. Ricky grinned, Taz grimaced but just as they headed to the ring, STANG emerged. He looked at Cody and Darby (in the rafters), winked and said “oh my, I love getting paid to put on face paint!”

Miro said BAH HUMBUG.

Eddie Kingston was here next, set to ‘address his enemies.’ This legitimately began with God, then transitioning to rasslers. This promo was more WWE than I’d like but it didn’t have graphics for Eddie to point towards, which is good. Even still, nothing much as Archer swiftly interrupted, causing a brawl to ensue. The Butcher and the Blade followed and then PAC included, Death Triangle too. Everyone kicked Eddie’s ass, but Archer and PAC seemed set to battle over who should actually kill King.

Eddie is a man short now, which brings a range of possibilities to mind. Ethan Page? Homicide? Mance Warner? Nick Gage? CHRIS HERO?!

Speaking of heroes, Dustin Rhodes is wearing orange face paint. He doesn’t like Evil Uno, or Seven.

The Best Friends, Varsity Blondes & Top Flight vs. The Inner Circle

Look, this just wasn’t my thing. Ideally, they stop booking these matches as even with the best of intentions to try, it’s impossible to truly spotlight individuals. Sammy looked good, but it’s inevitably lost in the sea of humanity. They wanted to give a shine to some of these young fellas but simply put, standing alongside five others is no way to get over. You either produce a short mess or a long one, and they chose the latter in hopes that it’d allow them enough wiggle room. For me at least, it didn’t.

Add in Jake Hager’s filth F10 and you have a miss for me. Personally, would have preferred dedicating these fifteen minutes to almost anything else. That being said, I was delighted to see Santana back in there, hoping he and Ortiz will be back on track soon.

Grade: C-

Nonetheless, we were quickly back on track, as Thunder Rosa cut a tremendous promo on Baker. Must say, I didn’t fully appreciate this element of her skill-set before, but was very encouraged here. Rosa was fiery and genuinely PROMOTED her match, good stuff. They did a neat job here in general, as Baker then attacked from behind, applying her finish and wiping away Rosa’s face paint. She then did an ugly bit which, I would be very, very careful with but as an overall angle, this was effective. They maximised their minute(s), excited for the eventual match.

SCU vs. The Acclaimed

If it wasn’t already clear, this episode of Dynamite suggested that AEW have big plans for The Acclaimed. They allowed Caster to rap twice, booked them against world class veterans and put them over too. Oh, and next week they’re challenging for the tag titles as well. They were positioned to succeed here and I’d say they passed the test, even if without absolutely stealing the show. There’s a palpable rawness to this act but it’s got immense potential, so I’m completely onboard with their push.

They do seem to be intent on working as actual heels though which as absurd as this sounds, may demand some adjustment from the audience. This wasn’t an action-packed thriller but it was steady and with The Acclaimed’s inexperience, that’s a reasonable path to take. I’m an unprofessional prick so their actual work is mostly new to me but in that sense, next week’s match will provide some very useful evidence.

Grade: C

Ivelisse & Diamante vs. Big Swole & Serena Deeb

If the last match was an exercise in professionalism and reliability, this was something much more complex. Swole and Diamante remain rough around the edges, which is particularly pronounced when they go head-to-head. They never fail to provide some spirit to their performances though. It’s always energetic and enthusiastic, which earns then some leeway for me. Ivelisse is quite the opposite, as I can never grasp whether or not she’s even happy to be there. She’s clearly capable, but there’s a frustrating inconsistency to her at times.

Deeb is much more in the lane of Daniels and Kazarian though, just a remarkable pro. She adds so much to these matches, and the quality is always upped when she’s leading the way. Fine match, not without flaws but even still, they worked hard and Serena seamlessly stole the show.

Grade: C

Post-match, AEW did the AEW angle, as the locker room emptied to keep with tradition. In the end, Red Velvet and her steel chair run off Nyla and Vickie, setting up a 6-woman tag for hopefully, a Dynamite in our future.

The Best Friends are excited.

FTR are not.

No DQ, All Grins Allowed

Joey Janela vs. Kenny Omega

Hang on just one second, no need to scream or shout. The below rating is unique in some ways, as this wasn’t purely a match. It was really an angle, a chance to expand Omega’s heel character. He and Callis literally announced the match, battering Janela outside of two admittedly violent hope spots. This was impressive for me, as I feared that Omega would go 20 minutes with Janela, trading every insane stunt they could fathom. Instead, Omega just dominated, ending things as soon as he took this even somewhat seriously.

That took a restraint that frankly, AEW is too often without. This wasn’t the time for another lost classic, it was the time to get the champion’s new personality established and for me at least, they achieved that. Exciting, wild action without losing sight of what matters most, effective main event.

Grade: B-

Afterwards, Death Triangle surprisingly arrived, as PAC announced that on December 30th, Fenix will challenge for Omega’s title. Kenneth sold this as you’d hope and after a low-key episode, they concluded with a headline of note.

Final Thoughts

Even without an objective lull or low, this failed to match Dynamite’s recent efforts. The peaks just weren’t there and that doesn’t surprise me, as nothing jumped off the page beforehand. That’s not ideal to be honest, as they were building immense momentum as of late. Thankfully, they won’t have to wait long before adding to that, as the New Year’s Smash shows seem set to be quite spectacular. They are building such a range of stories right now that they have enough to produce two PPV-quality cards, which is admirable.

It’s important those deliver, as making Dynamite must-see remains the ultimate challenge for AEW. They achieved it recently but failed to here, which only makes the quality of those upcoming specials even more important.

Grade: C+

To the twelve pals that read these things, enjoy Christmas and grin wide. No Report Card from me next week, intend to enjoy the holidays’ only good day: Christmas Eve. All hail.