Grab yourself a pre-game beer and let me take you through the show – it is a holiday weekend right? 😉
Since it’s time once again to forensically analyze guys – and girls – fighting in tight shorts.
Three categories: star quality, match quality, build. For each we’ll assign a score out of 10. To get a total score with which to rank the matches. Star quality is within the company/to the company’s fans.
Although it’s me picking the scores, I’m trying to be impartial, this isn’t a list of my favorites. If scores are even, matches’ll then be ranked according to personal preference.
We’ll then predict the winner(s) of each contest.
Without further ado.
Orange Cassidy defends International Title against 20 men in a Black Jack Battle Royal
Star quality: 5 – Some stars, watered down by other entrants: Jay White, Juice Robinson, Ricky Starks, Brian Cage, Keith Lee, Swerve Strickland, Dustin Rhodes, Penta, Fenix, Kip Sabian, Chuck Taylor, Trent Beretta, Tony Nese, Ari Daivari, Big Bill, Lee Moriarty, Bandido, Butcher, Blade, Komander,
Match quality: 2 – That might be kind. Battle royals are rarely fun as far as action goes.
Build: 1 – A well-shown story of Cassidy being worn down by an insane schedule countered by throwing a bunch of people into yet another battle royal.
Pay-per-view should separate the best from the rest. They could’ve made this a ten-man featuring the stars already in feuds.
If the announcers tell me how great Butcher is in battle royals one more time…
Overall Score: 8
It’d be complete malpractice not to have Cassidy’s reign end one-on-one to an opportunistic heel. Jay White would be perfect given the frequency of defenses and need to work with anyone.
Though perhaps they want to end the DVD with a gangbang scene?
Aaaanyway, I’m going with the Juiceman.
WINNER: Orange Cassidy
(I’m assuming…) House of Black vs the Acclaimed & Billy Gunn (House Rules, Trios Titles)
Star quality: 6 – The House were as over as anyone at Revolution; they’ve done nothing notable since the post-Revolution Dynamite. Essentially the same could be said of their opponents. Another worrying pattern in AEW’s booking.
Match quality: 5 – The formula for the trios titles at a ppv has been: no build+kickass match. Of the challengers, only Bowens is on that level.
Build: 0 – Another part of the formula: they announce the match a few days before the show. This time reducing it to 48 hours. On the B show.
The only actual ‘build’ being the challengers winning a bad battle royal everyone wanted the Lucha Bros & Vikingo to win. And Anthony Bowens making a ‘don’t bet on Black’ joke Friday night.
Overall Score: 11
Part of me wonders why you’d introduce House of Black Rules three weeks before they lose the belts. The other says AEW have made it clear the House aren’t a priority. And the Acclaimed are a homegrown act very popular with the younger audience.
WINNER: the Acclaimed & Billy Gunn
(Pre-show) The Hardys & Hook vs the Gunns & Ethan Page (if Matt’s team wins, he gets control of Ethan’s contract)
Star quality: 5 – So I really like Ethan Page. But he’s rarely presented seriously. And the Gunns went from a team who never appear on tv, to tag champs, to a team who never appear on tv.
Matt Hardy’s same ol’ same ol’. But all three good guys should get a friendly greeting from the Vegas faithful.
Match quality: 5 – Without the bells and whistles of a cinematic clash, there aren’t enough quality workers here to make this anything above solid. If it rises above this, Ethan Page has had himself a night.
Build: 3 – Much like Hangman/Mox, it seemed this feud (Hardys/Isiah vs Ethan) had finished: there was a big gimmick match, the babyfaces clearly won – yet AEW added a couple new players and decided to keep it going.
Merely flipping whose contract was up for grabs and organizing a single attack from behind. After which Kassidy was replaced by Hook. They revealed this on Rampage, a mere 48 hours before the show, to a third of the Dynamite audience.
Overall Score: 13
Instinct says the Hardys win since they’ve made it pretty clear they want the tag belts. Though it leaves one to wonder how long they can keep this going if Ethan is indeed to become Matt’s lackey. Presumably Hook actually gets the win.
WINNER: The Hardys & Hook
Jamie Hayter vs Toni Storm (Women’s Title)
Star quality: 5 – Again, that’s not a reflection on the girls, but the booking.
No-one, not a single person male, female or identification of choice has been overlooked between ppv’s like the women’s champ. AEW’s nasty habit of leaving folks off tv with no explanation has again damaged a popular act.
And presumably Hayter will remain fairly popular. But when it comes to Toni, we still don’t even know who her ballyhooed ‘four wins in five nights’ came against and in her rare televised matches she generally sneaks pins after a tidal wave of interference.
Match quality: 7 – Their clash at November’s Full Gear was very good. During last week’s promo, Toni emphasized that she’s different now. Which is both good and bad.
In that we now have a clearer heel/babyface dynamic. But she’s with the Outcasts – who pile interference on matches like manure on plants. Without the positive results.
The only reason this match doesn’t score higher.
Build: 1 – Toni injured Jamie’s shoulder. It was absolutely fine on the 3/5 Dynamite. Then it wasn’t on the 10th. Nothing happened in between.
Overall Score: 13
About a month ago, the Outcasts promised one of them would take Jamie’s title. Then hinted at some dissension around which of the three might do it. So it seems this is the direction they’ll go.
Reinforced by the heels reinjuring Hayter’s shoulder on Rampage. Providing an ‘out’.
WINNER: Toni Storm
Jade Cargill vs Taya Valkyrie (TBS Title)
Star quality: 4 – When these two appear on-screen, they win. Albeit against enhancement talent.
And while Jade’s act is tired, she still gets a decent response and looks like a star. Similarly, Taya has presence and charisma.
Then, they disappeared for weeks (drink at home).
Match quality: 4 – If done well, they could build an interesting story around Jade desperately avoiding Taya’s finish. Though Jade still needs some help in the ring. It’s unfortunate that 2+ years into her run, she’s still pretty green…
Build: 6 – … but, for the first time in that 2+ years, AEW have convinced me she might lose. I’m actually interested in this match. And that’s the art of pro wrestling (lower case, Colt!). A match doesn’t have to be 5* if the outcome is interesting.
There’s a real story here – it wasn’t executed perfectly but it was easy to understand. Jade has Taya’s move banned, Taya goes to use it and it costs her the match. So what’d happen if it wasn’t?
And to the criticism Valkyrie looked dumb doing the above, look at injured sportsmen. How frequently do they try to do too much on a sprained ankle or a broken finger because in the heat of battle they momentarily forget the injury?
If we’re pretending this is real – and we are – it’s perfectly reasonable that in a big title match Taya would reflexively go for the move that bags her big wins.
Unfortunately, both then disappeared for weeks until we were told on the 19/5 Rampage that Taya had been banned for attacking the refs. Just before she returned to smack Jade with the move in question and use the champ’s catchphrase against her.
Overall Score: 14
The question’s been asked before but if not Taya, who? If it was going to be Mercedes at Forbidden Door that ship’s sailed. The only other possibility being Kris Statlander who should be returning soon.
I do believe it’s possible Valkyrie might win here. It’ll be interesting to see how they build around Road to Valhalla and how far those in attendance buy it as a possibility. But if I had to put money on it, I’d stick with the champ.
WINNER: Jade Cargill
FTR vs Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal (Mark Briscoe special ref, Tag Titles)
Star quality: 5 – My thoughts on the J’s are well-established. But this score reflects more on the status of both champs and division. The latter of which is at its lowest since AEW started. Further dragging down champions who aren’t exactly scorching hot.
FTR should be having badass matches at least twice a month.
Match quality: 6 – Lethal is solid in the ring, Jarrett moves incredibly well for his age. And FTR just don’t have bad matches.
What could drag this down is outside shenanigans – already rather galling among the heels – and that’s before the debut of Karen Jarrett who’ll presumably receive some level of focus here or why bring her in?
Since both singles resulted in the heels winning in obnoxiously screwy fashion – including a previously banned Sonjay Dutt running through the ring in full view of the same ref who banned him.
Build: 4 – There is a clear story here. If a little rushed. The heels are playing off Jay Lethal’s friendship with the deceased Jay Briscoe to manipulate his brother Mark. While FTR genuinely have Briscoe’s best interests at heart and are looking to prove said manipulation.
‘You cannot help them make you look stupid’ said Cash to Mark on Weds. And yet he has. The bad guys using Mark’s peace offering to blind and attack the champs right in front of him. Then shoving him into a Dax piledriver.
This isn’t a subtle story where we can see what Mark can’t and want him to see it too. Not to mention his own father warned him about them.
Overall Score: 15
This’ll obviously come down to where Mark Briscoe’s loyalties lie. The guy just absolutely cannot go heel this soon after such a tragedy. And these belts need stability, they need to be on a team thoroughly established as world class, they need to be on FTR.
Viewed through the prism of Forbidden Door (most everything here should be since it’s a sprint to the next show) it’s hard to envisage Jeff Jarrett working a New Japan tag. While FTR have already donned the colors.
Wardlow vs Christian (Ladder Match, TNT Title)
Star quality: 6 – ‘Whooo flatter than Wardlow?’ New haircut, same gimmick, same character.
Cage has a nice aura as a heel but reliance on cheap heat has only worsened in recent weeks.
Match quality: 6 – Wardlow remains unproven in longer matches since he never has any. Certainly, he is not the build for ladder matches. And nor should Christian be taking crazy bumps and flying all over the place – he’s more than paid his dues in that regard.
That said, the vet’s a master at laying out matches. I’m assuming he’ll figure a way to work around the ladder rather than through it.
Build: 3 – Standing and staring someone down from the ramp only works if it’s a match fans are already dying to see: Reigns/Zayn.
And why on earth is this a ladder match? Christian attacked Wardlow once with the weapon in question. There is just nowhere near the level of antipathy here to reach immediately for a gimmick match.
Although perhaps that’s the problem. There was so little meat that they threw a gimmick on the bone.
Overall Score: 15
Honestly, the victor is anyone’s guess. At this stage, after spending the best part of eighteen months defecating on the TNT title and its champions, nothing would surprise.
The big man should win, but…
MJF vs Sammy Guevara vs Jack Perry vs Darby Allin (AEW Title)
Star quality: 7? – That question mark’s there for good reason. The three challengers’ stock fluctuates wildly week to week.
Max is one of the biggest stars in the company. Darby’s just a notch below ‘main-event’. But the other two are very firmly mid-card. Particularly given Perry’s recent destruction by Rush.
Admittedly, as a long-time fan the Four Pillars thing helps. They’ve talked about it for years, making the weaker two seem more credible than they actually are. If they’d thrown Sammy and Perry in against say… Mox and Kenny, it wouldn’t be the same.
Match quality: 8 – It shouldn’t need stating by now that Max is more than a mouthpiece. Sammy’s spectacular; Perry’s an excellent athlete. Darby might actually kill himself to make the match good.
A four-way was the best of some bad choices. We might not think there’s a sniff of Darby pinning MJF. But he might pin Sammy.
Build: 5 – Upon thinking how to describe this feud the hook to that Katy Perry song honestly started playing in my head – up/down, yes/no etc. So a ‘5’ seems fair.
It’s good that young, home-grown talent has been given a chance to go for gold. Would it have been better if Sammy and Perry were on hot streaks before it all started? Sure. But this seems like a short-term loss for long-term gain situation. Depending on how all are presented going forward.
Since Guevara in particular is so all over the place one might believe he’s drunk when cutting promos. One week a money-grubbing, sell-your-soul heel; the next a chase-your-dreams babyface.
And both Perry and Allin have been dislikable at times during this feud.
Then there are the insider references. Worst of all from Max. Threatening to leave with the belt while the company’s flat is such a bad look.
But easily the most damaging was the Rush/Perry segment last week. One main-event babyface demolished by a mid-card heel who rarely makes tv; another (Darby) beaten down by a man whose moniker is the Assistant.
Perhaps this’ll later be revealed as a pivot-point for a turn. But ahead of a match where no-one believes MJF is losing. It was at absolute best counterproductive.
On the subject, all three challengers have been tempted by the Devil. All three have shown heel tendencies. Essentially, since there isn’t much doubt about who is winning, the real question is how?.
Max and Sammy had great chemistry and were wildly entertaining together. Will he take the money? Jack Perry has a hot girlfriend who’s already a heel (and was brought up several times here). Will he finally tire of being too nice for his own good and join her on-screen? An increasingly cocky Darby Allin’s been a dick to Perry.
Overall Score: 20
On Wednesday they positioned Max as having the odds against him. So who’ll help him retain?
Most likely, Darby has the match won and is thwarted by whoever’s turning, leading to Max snatching the win.
Chris Jericho vs Adam Cole (Unsanctioned Match)
Star quality: 8 – Jericho’s presented as a top star. Cole comes and goes from that position but his trajectory has been upward since returning.
Match quality: 7 – Lately, Jericho’s worked to the level of opponents – solid enough against Starks; slow and plodding against Lee. Adam Cole’s a lot better than both. I’m typically not for these match types but it’s hard to see it being anything less than good (side note – really hope they’re going to bear Cole’s brutal concussion in mind here).
They’ve all but told us there’s going to be mass interference. Might drag it down.
Build: 6 – After having the ‘love of (Cole’s) life’ beaten down while he watches, Jericho called him a ‘coward, I want nothing to do with someone who’d allow that to happen’. Beautiful psychology: a cowardly heel hiding behind – & blaming the babyface for – his own despicable acts.
Cole’s uncontrollable response to this was just right. And the Ocho’s labelling of it as an ‘unprovoked attack’ was again superb. As was his being petrified to even be in the same building as Cole.
Until he wasn’t. Suddenly deciding on Rampage to tear up Cole’s ban: not only was he no longer afraid, he actually rushed to brawl with Cole.
Then there’s another issue.
Since attacking Britt, Cole’s got the better of Jericho physically and intellectually every single week. He beat him down backstage, outsmarted him and gave him the Boom to cost him the match vs Strong. Even Britt got to paintbrush the vet and call him ‘Bitch Jericho’. And is apparently physically fine – not a single mention of her injuries during recent tags.
Cole seems to have gained his revenge. And Jericho’s no longer running and hiding.
Putting a capper on everything was Cole’s strong promo work Wednesday, contrasted with the very strange reveal of Sabu as ‘Special Enforcer’.
Overall Score: 21
Scrubbed from the 17/5 Dynamite was Britt Baker interrupting MJF and implying Adam Cole’s his next challenger. If it wasn’t already clear Cole was continuing his upward trajectory, that’ll seal it.
WINNER: Adam Cole
The Elite vs the Blackpool Combat Club (Anarchy in the Arena)
Star quality: 9 – Three of the six world champions in company history are in this match. As is last ppv’s top contender. The former tag champs. And the current ROH Champion.
Match quality: 9 – AitA is not my bag – action here; action there; action elsewhere – tough to follow the thread of the match. But last year’s version was tremendously well received. And this year’s possesses better workers.
Build: 6 – Great angles; bad story. Two examples to speak for the whole:
Bryan Danielson’s return was superb. The crowd were happy to see him and furious when he attacked Omega. Even more so as the BCC continued a gang attack. But it was never explained why the Dragon went from ‘be with my kids’ babyface to a lunatic heel raving about ‘amateurs’.
Ditto the Elite’s reunion last Wednesday. A moment years in the making. Yet in typical AEW fashion, they hadn’t mentioned the former world champion(!) the whole time he was off tv. No reminders, no sympathy, no concern about whether he’d ever wrestle again. Just – here he is, eyepatch and all, sucks if you missed that angle last month. Is he blind? Who knows?
And the only thing that’s actually come close to explaining the ‘why’ of the story is a throwaway line by Moxley that the BCC are the ‘only Elite in this business’. Which would’ve been as good a reason as any if they’d started with that.
Overall Score: 24
There’s been absolutely no explanation for Callis’ turn on Kenny. That might just be AEW being AEW. But let’s assume it’s not and that Callis plays a part in the finish. Or more specifically, Takeshita does.
He keeps losing. And has a manipulator in his ear. Given the Bucks cost the heels a chance at the ROH tag titles Wednesday, they’ve already had a little payback. And there’s absolutely no reason to conclude the feud here.
For a start, there’s Blood & Guts. For another, there are singles, tag and trios possibilities to help lagging tv ratings.
Forbidden Door gets in the way a bit.
Though you could keep this going and throw Okada (been teaming with Kenny, recently begun feuding with BCC in New Japan) or Ibushi on one side and Ospreay* on the other to keep that fire burning while holding off on the big singles rematch.
If you’re going to this show, it’s because you’re an AEW die-hard. As of very recently, they’d sold around 7000 tickets for a show they easily sold out in 2019 before the company even really existed.
It takes place on the 28th May. On the 12/5 Rampage they pushed tickets for it. And could advertise precisely one match.
That’s not a pitch for casual fans who’d have to tune-in at the exact right time during the last two Dynamites to catch the card. Not to mention have the means and freedom to purchase everything necessary ten days or less beforehand.
They assume fans are coming.
Similarly, if you’re buying this show on ppv, it’s because you’re an AEW die-hard.
I know the backstory of the Elite because I’ve watched every week since 2020. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know Page and Kenny used to tag, wouldn’t know Page beat Kenny for the title, wouldn’t know the Bucks couldn’t bring themselves to stop him despite being on opposite sides at the time. Wouldn’t know they’d been apart for two years.
They assume fans already do.
And as for being a fresh, young alternative – six of the ten matches feature a wrestler from the Attitude Era. Two of them in singles.
While it can be argued that every belt excepting the International is worse off since the last ppv.
‘I don’t mean to be mean’ as Eminem once rapped. But big improvements are needed amid the busiest big-show period in company history.
To not end on a completely miserable note (too late?) I’ll twist Thanksgiving on y’all and say what I’m looking forward to: AitA, AEW title match (& who helps Max win), whether Jade loses and the outside shot HOB have a different challenger since it is nominally an open challenge.
Enjoy the show!