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AEW ‘Dynamite’ preview: Wardlow gets chance at revenge at Samoa Joe

Chris Graham
Graphic: All Elite Wrestling

The rebuild of Wardlow from AEW’s summer of discontent continues Wednesday on “Dynamite” with the former TNT champ challenging Samoa Joe in the featured match on what is being billed as “New Year’s Smash.”

Wardlow, 34, who is 23-3 as a singles competitor in 2022, lost the TNT belt in a three-way match with Samoa Joe and Powerhouse Hobbs at the “Full Gear” pay-per-view on Nov. 19, snapping his 15-match winning streak.

2022, for the first half of the year, anyway, was shaping up to be the Year of Wardlow, with his brilliantly booked feud with MJF peaking at “Double or Nothing” on May 29 with a clean, squash win over Friedman, who is now the AEW world champ.

Wardlow (his real last name, incidentally: his given name is Michael Austin Wardlow) went on to win the TNT belt from Scorpio Sky on July 6, but it wasn’t long after the title win that Tony Khan seemed to forget what he’d built up.

Wardlow’s first title defense came a week later, in a less-than-impressive pinfall win over Orange Cassidy, and then he concluded a short program with Jay Lethal with a win at Battle for the Belts on Aug. 5.

Following that one, Wardlow found himself buried – defending the belt against Ryan Nemeth, Tony Nese, Brian Cage, Matt Taven and Ari Daivari, around a going-nowhere couple of six-man matches with FTR.

Khan then paired Wardlow and Samoa Joe for a few weeks to lead to the obviously inevitable split between the two, which, fine.

As long as Wardlow eventually goes over on Joe, it will have been worth it, but here’s to hoping that Khan doesn’t rush the resolution to Wardlow-Joe the way he seems to rush … almost everything else.

The rest of the show

  • Match 6 of the interminable best-of-seven series for the trios titles pits Death Triangle and The Elite. Death Triangle has a 3-2 lead. This one’s going seven. Unfortunately.
  • Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli face Top Flight in a tag match. Not sure where this one is going. On paper, both teams are babyfaces. Top Flight wouldn’t get over as a heel team, so let’s hope Khan isn’t thinking of taking things in that direction.
  • Bryan Danielson vs. Ethan Page. Danielson is being booked for a match with MJF for the AEW title down the road, but we need some good stuff in between before we get there. It would be nice if something were to happen here to put Page over using chicanery to give him a chance to build some heat, and make a Danielson win over him in a couple of weeks actually mean something.
  • Ruby Soho and Willow Nightingale face Tay Melo and Anna Jay in a tag match. Soho already won her grudge match with Melo, so this one would seem to be a chance to build something for Nightingale.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].