(NJPW SPOILERS IN THIS INTRO)
Arena: Climate Pledge Arena
City: Seattle, WA
Last Week’s Rating: 876,000 overall; 0.28 in 18-49 demo
New year, new look and a big hint about Saraya’s partner. Could be a good one.
Related (maybe?), Sasha Banks appeared at Wrestle Kingdom, coming out to a slowed-up remix of Kriss Kross’ Jump Jump to be introduced as ‘The CEO, Mercedes Mone’. Rocking a Japan flag kimono, she offered a handshake but then blindsided Kairi, dropping her and vowing to leave ‘you bankrupt bitch’ and ‘you can bank on Mone’ (said like ‘money’, in case that was too subtle).
(And has now opened a PWTees store – which you do not do if you’re headed back to WWE.)
Her buddies FTR lost the last of their belts not long after. You’ll be shocked to hear they had a really good match. Despite two cancelled flights and a seven-hour drive.
While Kenny Omega did win gold and is now the IWGP US Champ.
It’s Wednesday night, it’s Dynamite. Let’s go.
We were welcomed by Excalibur, alongside the same music, a different video package with red and blue lasers, a ton of pyro and something akin to a Titantron around a single entranceway.
Also seems like one of the bigger crowds they’ve had in a loooong time.
Ricky Starks vs Chris Jericho
Backstory: Starks turned down Jericho’s offer to join the JAS; wanting revenge, Jericho’s vowed to end the ‘experiment’ that is Ricky
The crowd were firmly behind Starks as the two circled one another. A quick armdrag saw Jericho oozing smug. Ricky responded by dropping the Ocho with a shoulder block. The pair exchanged slaps; a fistfight broke out bringing both to the aisle. Where Starks hurled Jericho into the steps, then returned him inside where the vet cut him off.
Until telegraphing a back drop, Starks striking with a kick to the face before strutting the ropes and coming off with a jab to the head. Jericho sent him to the apron, Starks was ready for the springboard dropkick, clocking the vet before the two battled on the apron, ending when Jericho dropped Starks to the mats at ringside via suplex.
Bringing the first break.
Decent start before a lively crowd.
Jericho’s patented one-foot pin bagged him two on our return, before he dropped Starks in the corner as the crowd chanted ‘Lets go Ricky!’ A rebound clothesline bought him the break he needed, both fighting their way up, exchanging chops until Starks hit another lariat, then a dropkick, the crowd pumped, Ricky readying Roshambeaux until Jericho fought it off.
Another attempt, into a Liger Bomb instead to bag two slaps.
Starks countered the Lionsault, getting the knees up before heading upstairs, a moonsault from the middle, which he missed, tweaking his knee, Jericho went after it but Starks hit a thrust kick for another close count.
The Ocho then avoided a splash in the corner, blasting Starks with the Codebreaker, Judas Effect ready; Starks countered, Roshambeaux setup, Jericho countered back into the Walls, the crowd roaring, many cheering, many booing as Starks struggled in the hold.
Grimacing, Ricky strained all the way to the ropes but was dragged back center. Angelo Parker took Aubrey, Shouty struck Starks with the bat, leaving Ricky out cold in the hold. Aubrey checked the arms, Starks raised his at the third time of asking.
Still in the hold, a good minute, he used his legs to power out, snagging an inside cradle for 2.9. Then followed up with a tornado ddt off the ropes, took out 2.0, hit a Spear, 1, 2, 3.
Barely had Aubrey finished her count when the jackals arrived, stomping away at Starks until Action Andretti returned with a chair. His left eye was all red but no patch or anything. He ran through the guys until the ladies distracted him and Tay hit a low blow, whereafter the beatdown continued.
Garcia booted Andretti from the ring, then Hager powerbombed Starks off the apron through a table at ringside. Heavy booing from the crowd.
Big win for Starks but the finish was out of nowhere and this was just fine as both an opening match and segment.
The more I see this new set, the more it just looks like Raw and Smackdown had sex. Better than/ less than/ different to.
WINNER: Ricky Starks
We then joined Tony in the ring to welcome the Cowboy. Page said there was nothing he wanted more than to say he was good to go next week. But he’s still not cleared to compete. But he might be cleared for next week – a bit confusing.
Wherever it is he fights Mox, he will ‘knock your dick in the dirt’.
You do not talk s*** about Moxley’s junk.
Stalking through the crowd, Mox snatched a mic; the pair went face to face in the ring. Loud chant for Moxley. Who’s surprised Page even made it tonight. He’s getting sick of everyone turning something beautiful (his knocking Page out) into something bad.
A ‘We can’t hear you’ chant – you could on TV. The mic went out again. Mox said f*** about nine times. Then brought it back with ‘Go Seahawks, Jesus Christ.’ Only he could’ve rescued that.
When he thinks of everything he’s put his body through, the plates of crap hes eaten, miles of crap hes crawled through, Hangman playing the victim makes him sick.
Page grabbed the mic.
‘You think I’m mad because you knocked me out?’
‘What I’m angry about is how you called me out here and didn’t let me get a word in before you made a joke. You nearly took my career from me and you made a joke.’
He wasn’t there for revenge that night but it is what he’s here for now. He’s had a month to stew on that. He’s got two in the chamber with Mox’s name on them, and ‘you get them at the Forum.’
Mox had the last word: ‘The only joke around here is that you think next time is gonna be any different. Your punk ass doesn’t belong in the ring with me and I’m gonna make sure that next time, you don’t get back up’.
(They seem to have meandered from where this story started – liked it better when it was Mox giving Hangman his props for ‘getting back up’ and a ‘may the best man win’ scenario. They could’ve easily had Mox lose and slowly descend into this resentful character. Nevertheless, intense and good.)
Joe/Darby package. Joe, referring to himself as ‘the King’ and Allin as ‘Little Dead Boy’, promised Darby would pay the price for ‘insolence in my kingdom’. Joes’s so great.
Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal vs the Acclaimed, Tag Titles
Backstory: Jarrett & Lethal feel slighted by the Acclaimed over both FTR getting a shot ahead of them and last week’s diss
From the sublime to the ridiculous, it’s Total Nonstop Apathy competing for the tag team titles. In 2023.
Caster continued his feud with Karen Jarrett in the pre-match rap. Which maybe seven people know about. Yet the commentators only hinted at it.
Jarrett took a cheap shot at Caster before he and Bowens kicked things off. A quick elbow allowed Jarrett to tag out almost straight away. Bowens hit a couple leapfrogs then his over-the-back guillotine legdrop.
Before tagging Caster. Lethal was weirdly in Trailblazers colors. The champs hit Scissor Me Timbers on him, then Jarrett in illegally to eat another.
The Acclaimed and Gunn mocked Jarrett’s strut before scissoring. Leading to Lethal slapping Gunn, leading to Gunn being removed from ringside. Heavy boos.
Lot of smoke and mirrors so far.
Jarrett was firing away as we returned, Lethal quickly back in, the ever-fascinating chinlock in the middle followed by a bodyslam. Lethal headed to the top, and missed the elbow. Jarrett cut-off the tag, bagged a sleeper, Bowens belly-to-backed his way free as the crowd clapped their support.
Finally, the tag to Caster, he ran through the heels 1990s style – clotheslines and back body drops – then a thrust kick and a something over the ropes onto Lethal.
The heels isolated Bowens, hit a weird double team drop with Jarrett holding the arms, Lethal threw on the Figure Four, Singh was ejected for flinging Caster into the steps.
Bowens fought off a Lethal Injection, Jarrett hit the Stroke and got the pin with Bowens foot on ropes (Dutt had pushed it off before the three count).
Thankfully, the officials restarted the match.
Lethal went for a quick pin holding the ropes, Bowens reversed it for the win.
A nothing match. The fact that the J’s received far more build, more of a story and more of an ‘out’ than FTR suggests they ain’t no short-term nostalgia act. And makes you question every decision this company makes.
WINNER: the Acclaimed
(The new TV guy certainly hasn’t helped with pacing. We are absolutely racing from seg to seg.)
Tony with Britt and Jamie Hayter. Britt asked whether Saraya ‘got’ AEW and what it means to them and the fans. Both talked about how they’d had rocky starts and struggled their way to the top. Britt then talked about how ‘fantastic’ Toni Storm and Hikaru Shida were so wondered why Saraya hadn’t yet made a decision re: her partner.
‘I’m the Boss. She’s the Killer, I’m the Pillar’.
(They have to be bringing Sasha in after that last line. Still though, the way Britt has talked about both herself and the way she’s talked about Saraya continues to baffle. This was another thoroughly babyface segment which will appeal to AEW die-hards. While simultaneously dropping a crumb that Britt feels ‘bigger’ than Hayter.)
Jungle Boy backstage. Just when he thought there was no one left to count on, maybe he’s found someone. And ‘Big Bill’ (still can’t hear that with a straight face) and Moriarty seem to be looking for a problem. Next week, in his hometown, how about he and Hook take care of business?
Bryan Danielson vs Tony Nese
Backstory: Nese and Sterling challenged Danielson on Rampage
Huge reaction for Danielson in his hometown; Nese was already in the ring.
Josh Woods immediately grabbed the foot, Nese hit a running knee in the corner, got two, nobody cared. The crowd weren’t booing, they were silent.
A ‘Daniel Bryan’ chant kicked up. AEW can’t have been happy about that.
A running elbow strike dropped Nese – the crowd back into it with the vet on offense. Yes! kicks followed, Nese blocked the last, hit a buckle bomb but missed with another knee in the corner. Allowing Danielson to wallop him with a busaiku knee, kick his head in, then lock in a crossface. Though Nese was already out cold.
(Well, I said on Friday that this better not go more than five minutes. And this was perfect. Danielson absolutely ran through Nese before a red-hot crowd.)
‘It is great to be home!’ Danielson announced. Before insisting he was ready for another fight, calling on MJF to get his ass out here. The champion came to the top of the ramp but no further. Heavy boos. He again called him ‘Brain Damage Bryan’, declining the offer to wrestle because unlike Danielson he doesn’t get off by putting his body on the line in front of these people. He gets paid the same whether he wrestles or not and he’s not a ‘mark’.
Then said that a lovechild of Lance Storm and Dean Malenko would have more charisma and implied that Danielson’s mum had had sex with a goat. Danielson responded that all the boys in the back talked about how many people had ‘had’ MJF’s mum.
Before implying that the whole crowd might have then asking them how many indeed had had the pleasure.
This really got to Max, who snapped back that he was the champ – made the generic ‘mother’s basement’, ‘marks’ remarks. Contrasting that while those people thought Danielson was great, former big-time wrestlers thought Max was great – namedropping Disco Inferno, Bischoff and Cornette. (Okay, that was good character work.)
Danielson interrupted to say that we’ve all heard the spiel (he’s not wrong) and that its time for them to fight. MJF completely panicked, begging off and hiding behind the announce desk. He then figuratively hid behind ‘wins and losses’ – which ‘matter’ here. Tony Khan has said that if Danielson wins every week from now until February 8th, that’d earn him the number one contendership and Max will give him his title shot.
Danielson said ‘no’. He’s going to wrestle when he wants, beat who he wants and become number one contender anyway. Max snapped again, saying that he ran the company, not Tony, not the EVP’s. If Danielson doesn’t do things his way, he’ll have Sterling filibuster. Danielson said Sterling was a ‘horrible’ lawyer but that if Max lets him choose the stip, he’ll agree to MJF’s terms.
Cocky, Max asked which stip Danielson would choose that would allow him to cheat right in front of the ref. But his face fell when Danielson revealed it’d be a one-hour ironman match. ‘Do it dumbass!’ begged Schiavone.
Danielson goaded him by calling him ‘Maxi Pad’. Then vowed to ‘run through every single opponent that you put in front of me’. And when it gets to the ppv, he’s going to ‘expose’ MJF: that he doesn’t put in the work, doesn’t have the footwork, the reason he bails on matches is because hes not good enough. And after he exposes him hes going to ‘kick your damn head in’.
This was fantastic. MJF played his character – the cowardly heel – really well but Danielson’s promo work was what really made it. A totally likeable, ass-kicking babyface who called out the heel on his BS.
WINNER: Bryan Danielson
(They keep going to shots outside of the arena coming back from break. This is all very WWE. You won’t beat them at their own game. Better than/ less than/ different to.)
Swerve Strickland vs AR Fox
Backstory: Jon Moxley loved their match in Lucha Underground
(Unless this and the main event are going very short, hard to see where they’ll fit Jade’s tag match in.)
A slightly remixed entrance theme with electric guitars brought Strickland to the ring. The crowd still chanted ‘Swerve’s house’ and were very happy to see him – Excalibur explaining that he’s from the area.
It’s good that he keeps appearing on TV after his turn. Too many AEW guys disappear for weeks after angles.
Both guys used their athleticism to avoid the other, culminating with Fox backflipping off the apron and Swerve meeting him face to face after a flip over the ropes. They still don’t know the name of Swerve’s second backup guy.
Fox hit a pumpkick, then flipped off the ringpost (the camera missed most of it) before rolling through into the ring for a corkscrew brainbuster – very smooth.
Following up with a running lariat in the corner, he hung there for three years so Swerve’s minion could hit him with the ref distracted (noticing a pattern?). Bringing the break.
Shots to the back of the head welcomed us back: Fox in trouble, firing back with stiff kicks, then matrix-ing under a lariat, popping up into an enziguri. Before following up with an elbow in the corner, rolling into a cutter which Swerve countered into a Flatliner for two, excellent sequence.
After being parked up top, the vet fought back, flipped off into a cutter, boot in the corner, iconoclasm into another cutter, straight back to the top, 450, close two. God this match is so smooth and athletic.
Hauling Swerve upstairs, he setup a backdrop but Boudreaux did ‘something’ per the announcers – it was hard to see what – allowing Strickland to hit a DVD from the top to the apron, before smiling broadly as he setup the diving foot stomp to finish off Fox.
My favorite match so far.
Still, no-one cares about Keith Lee.
WINNER: Swerve Strickland
Renee with Saraya, Shida and Storm. Saraya and Storm said Britt’s trying to make everything about her as usual. Saraya said she’s learned so much since coming to AEW, that they have the best matches, best female matches and she’s sitting next to the best wrestler in the world, ‘so Toni you’re gonna be my partner.’ The two talked about how much chemistry they had while Shida just sat there, akwardly, and you felt sorry for her.
What the hell’s going on? Was this a double double-turn tonight? There were aspects of both face and heel here.
(They did need to do this if it wasn’t going to be Sasha. Perhaps she’s coming after Cargill? Or perhaps after the match next week to throw fans of the scent? Or maybe not at all.)
The Gunn Club came to the ring, dressed in black, to hold a funeral for FTR. Pretending to hold back tears, they talked about how many belts FTR won last year – to the first ‘What?’ chants of the night. Before stating that FTR’s aging bodies couldn’t hold up anymore as the year ended, so they lost all their belts and started a podcast ‘no-one listens to’.
FTR’s music hit and the two panicked. Though it was all fake, they laughed at the audience. (That was pretty good). Then warned that FTR can work wherever else they want but not again in AEW. ‘Top Guys, Out.’
Red Velvet & Jade Cargill vs Skye Blue & Kiera Hogan
Backstory: Cargill kicked Hogan out of the Baddies, Velvet stopped Jade from striking Kiera on Friday and walked out on her, Jade’s decided that it’s fine to team with her anyway
If you saw Rampage (and why would you, I take that bullet on your behalf 😊) you’d realize how dumb this match is. Or you could just read the Backstory above.
Velvet walked ahead of the other two Baddies during the entrance. An auspicious start.
(The announcers sent condolences to Dustin Rhodes, whose mum just passed. Also noting that Justin’s mum is sick and that’s why he’s been absent.)
Blue avoided a leg lariat, got a pair of early rollups for two; another, Velvet bridged up, the pair exchanged a bunch more twos until Blue hit a step-up knee strike, tagging Hogan who hit a hip attack in the ropes then a legdrop out of a curb stomp.
Blue back in, she hit a ddt for another two as Jade yelled at Velvet. Who finally got the tag as the ads arrived.
Skye tagged out to Hogan as we returned. Jade hit the Eye of the Storm for two. Readied Jaded but stopped to jaw at Velvet, tagging her in by patting her head. Hogan took advantage, hitting a hip attack in the corner; following up with a baseball slide for another two.
Velvet readied a suplex, Hogan countered, tagged in Jade who hit pumpkicks to both babyfaces, then drilled Kiera with a chokeslam. Then told Velvet to ‘whoop’ Kiera’s ass, offering a tag.
Red dropped off the apron. Allowing Kiera to strike from behind; Jade won anyway.
So, it didn’t cost her anything. Still, at least Red chose to leave, which is more than can be said for Hogan. They’re leaving careers in her wake in order to keep Cargill afloat here.
The match itself was fine, there were some good sequences, they kept Jade out for most of it, and nothing went wrong.
WINNER: Jade Cargill and Red Velvet
‘A bunch of carny BS,’ is what an angry Total Nonstop Apathy shouted, backstage with Renee. (Self-awareness is never a bad thing.) Before complaining about ‘fifteen referees’. Almost sounds like every main event match Jarrett’s ever had.
No holds barred match made for the tag titles at Battle of the Belts. Also, Jade vs Skye Blue. This might be the best one yet.
Darby Allin vs Samoa Joe, TNT Title
Backstory: Allin wants his title back after taking care of personal business, but was beaten senseless by Joe last time they met, will his self-belief get him the win in his hometown?
(This is a really nice story considering there hasn’t been a ton of build. Sometimes, simple is best: David vs Goliath in David’s hometown.)
Darby hugged Nick Wayne, in the front row, before the match. That lad’s getting a Muscle Buster before the night ends.
Samoa Joe is everything great about wrestling. A smug asshole with two belts across his shoulders who struts to the ring, calls himself the King of Television but can also kick your ass.
Turns out Nick didn’t have to wait long: Joe began to choke him the second he saw him. Bringing Darby flying through the ropes with a tope. He then battered Joe up the ramp with his skateboard – Excalibur explaining that the bell hadn’t rung yet. Then came off the ramp to drive the skateboard into Joe’s back, before heading backstage to grab a ladder.
He flipped off the top onto a standing Joe on the ramp. Really nasty landing for Darby who almost blasted Joe in the head with his knee. Rapid, heated start.
Continuing when Allin hit a dropkick in the corner. Joe bailed outside but caught Darby coming off the apron, spiking him onto the ringsteps via STO. Hate how much punishment Allin takes but adore these two as a combo.
Comfortably on top as we returned, Joe hit stiff kicks to the chest, chops to the back but missed an elbow drop. Allin quickly crawled up Joe’s back to grab a sleeper, Joe simply dropped backwards to shake him off. Then hit a legsweep as Allin continued to fling himself at the monster.
As the crowd chanted ‘Darby’, Joe smugly shook his head with a wry smile. So great.
Allin kept coming, Joe dropped him into a double kneebreaker.
More stiff kicks to the chest, senton splash, count of two. The first pin attempt; Joe content to torture the smaller man. You could hear Darby screaming throughout.
The monster continued to mangle the smaller man’s body: to the corner, hoisted up, Muscle Buster time. Darby slipped out, was hoisted back up, slipped behind again for a waistlock, Joe grabbed the buckle, the pad came off, Darby fell into the choke but slipped out again to bag two.
Then went for the flipping stunner but was snatched back into the Kokina Clutch, instantly drooping but fighting his way back up, slapping his chest a la Sting before sending Joe to the exposed buckle, Code Red, Coffin Drop, another, before collapsing atop Joe to claim the win.
As the confetti poured, Sting came to the ring to congratulate his mentee, hoisting him up into a big hug. After all the turns lately, I kept waiting for the vet to drop him. Thankfully, the show ended on a happy note.
I want to see these two wrestle every week until the end of time. Hopefully this feud isn’t over. If it is, they’d damn sure better have a follow-up plan for Joe; he’s far too good to waste.
WINNER: Darby Allin
- Top Flight vs Bryan Danielson & Jon Moxley
- Renegade Sisters vs Jamie Hayter & Britt Baker
- Perro Peligroso (Ten/Preston Vance) vs TBA
- House of Black promo – (hopefully challenging the winners of next week’s trios match because the HOB have once again, and very quickly, become an afterthought)
Battle of the Belts:
- Kip Sabian vs Orange Cassidy, All-Atlantic Title
- Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal vs the Acclaimed, Tag Titles
- Jade Cargill vs Skye Blue, TBS Title
Jan 11th Dynamite:
- Jamie Hayter & Britt Baker vs Saraya and Toni Storm
- Death Triangle vs the Elite, Ladder Match, 7 of 7 for the Trios Titles
- Jon Moxley vs Hangman Page
- Bryan Danielson vs Konosuke Takeshita
- Jungle Boy & Hook vs Lee Moriarty and Big Bill (I laughed again)
Like most things in life, this had its good and bad points. Two very good to excellent promo segments between top stars and three very good – and very different – matches.
Contrasted with a poor tag match – shocking your audience because they can’t believe you’d book that way is not the same as ‘man I hate those heels and can’t believe they won’ – and more very confusing heel/babyface dynamics among the ladies. And a new set but the same frantic rushing from one segment to the next.
Ultimately, there was enough good, particularly since the show finished very strongly, to give it a thumbs up.
- Bryan Danielson vs Tony Nese (short but heated – a perfect ‘squash’) and the subsequent segment with MJF
- Swerve Strickland vs AR Fox (smooth and athletic)
- Samoa Joe vs Darby Allin (a classic David vs Goliath )
Thanks for reading.