Home AEW ‘Dynamite’ review: Hits, misses from the post-‘Double or Nothing’ show

AEW ‘Dynamite’ review: Hits, misses from the post-‘Double or Nothing’ show

Ray Petree
swerve strickland will ospreay
Photo: AEW

With “Double or Nothing” in the rearview mirror, AEW “Dynamite” returned to the “Fabulous” Kia Forum in Los Angeles to begin the road to “Forbidden Door.”

Addressing the fallout of one pay-per-view, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the next pay-per-view, is a high-wire act in and of itself. Throw in both the creative and financial interests of two other wrestling promotions, New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) and Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), and it’s no secret why this week’s episode of “Dynamite” felt so disjointed.

Compounded by nonsensical booking decisions and the untimely injury of Adam Copeland, and it’s no surprise that Tony Khan failed to meet the challenge. However, the episode’s saving grace was its main event — affirming a sentiment echoed by Mercedes Moné during the “Double or Nothing” post-show media scrum: “AEW is where the best wrestle.”

Hits and Misses

MISS: The opening segment 

The opening segment was reminiscent of a bad episode of Monday Night RAW. The newly-minted TBS women’s champion, Mercedes Moné, opened the show — celebrating her victory over Willow Nightingale. While I love Moné’s work between the ropes and the gravitas she brings to AEW’s women’s division, it’s hard to deny that her promos feel overly rehearsed, clumsy, and disingenuous.

Moné’s oration was interrupted by Skye Blue, who revealed herself to be Moné’s mystery assailant.

While I am relieved that the identity of Moné’s attacker was revealed, I would much rather Moné have initiated the call-to-action, challenging whoever attacked her to reveal themselves. Instead, Moné was laid out — which led to an announcement from Khan, by way of Tony Schiavone (we’ll discuss this later), that Moné and Blue will wrestle later on in the show.

HIT: Samoa Joe and Hook 

Hook has been thrusted into odd-couple pairings with Danhausen, Jungle Boy, Orange Cassidy, and Katusyori Shibata — gradually wearing away at the inviolable image that Hook debuted with. Finally, Hook has found a worthy mentor and ally in Samoa Joe, a longtime friend and mentor of Hook’s father, Taz.

MISS: Swerve Strickland versus Killswitch 

This match felt entirely unnecessary. Swerve Strickland already defeated the “Patriarch” Christian Cage, Killswitch’s mentor. Ostensibly, that means that Strickland already defeated the final boss of the “Patriarchy.” So, why did Khan book a non-title match between Strickland and one of the Cage’s underlings? These 10 minutes certainly could have been better allocated, to improve the pacing of this episode.

HIT: Stephanie Vacquer’s surprise introduction 

Early in the show, Excalibur clumsily queued a video package, introducing the CMLL women’s world champion and current NJPW Strong women’s champion, Stephanie Vacquer. After Mercedes Moné and Skye Blue’s aforementioned match, Vacquer shockingly appeared — staring down the “CEO,” brandishing the NJPW Strong women’s championship.

MISS: The Elite conundrum 

After receiving an EVP-Trigger from the Young Bucks, Khan was reportedly absent from AEW due to the injuries he sustained. During his sabbatical, Khan famously appeared in the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Draft war-room with a neck brace. In Khan’s absence, Matthew and Nicholas Jackson exercised their contractual powers as executive vice presidents, becoming makeshift general managers for All Elite Wrestling. This storyline was the crux of the “Double or Nothing” main event, Anarchy in the Arena, between the Elite and Team AEW, handpicked by the injured Tony Khan.

In the second hour, the Young Bucks, accompanied by Kazuchika Okada and Jack Perry, took the ring to announce that Copeland had been stripped of his title, in light of his injury. While the Young Bucks intended to award Jack Perry the TNT championship, Christopher Daniels interrupted their address — revealing that Khan has named Daniels the “interim executive vice president” of AEW. And, on behalf of Khan, Daniels announces that a qualifying tournament will decide the new TNT champion. The winners of those qualifying matches will wrestle in a TNT ladder match at “Forbidden Door.”

The problem with all of this is that Khan was physically present at “Double or Nothing.” Khan even publicly donated his neck brace to Rich Eisen, on the sports-talk show host’s show. So, why is Khan relaying his decisions via Tony Schiavone or Christopher Daniels? Better yet, why is Christopher Daniels the guy Khan chose? (“The Fallen Angel” didn’t help matters, when he mistakenly referred to “Rampage” as “Dynamite.”)

HIT: The Casino Gauntlet Match 

This match format is brilliant. I felt the same wide-eyed exuberance that I feel during the “Royal Rumble” every time that clock started ticking. If Tony Khan manages to use this in moderation, it could become a hallmark of AEW’s programming for years to come.

This match was proof positive that AEW is still the land of opportunity and where (some of) the best wrestlers come to wrestle. While I was puzzled by the result, this match hammered home the brilliance of what Excalibur dubbed as “‘Forbidden’ Door season.” AEW, NJPW, and CMLL were all represented in a clash of varying styles that were only magnified by the gauntlet matches’ unique format. I was pleasantly surprised by the return of Lio Rush and enjoyed all eight wrestlers’ contributions.

Still, I was perplexed when Will Ospreay came out victorious. I love Ospreay, but it doesn’t change the fact that the just won the International championship at “Double or Nothing.” It seems like a lose-lose situation for AEW. Either Swerve Strickland’s highly anticipated run as world champion ends in less than two and a half months, or Ospreay’s air of invincibility ends prematurely.

Looking ahead

“Rampage” on Friday will kick off the TNT championship qualifiers, where Konosuke Takeshita will take on Penta El Zero Miedo for a spot in the TNT ladder match at “Forbidden Door.” Satnam Singh was advertised, as well as Toni Storm versus Viva Van. Kyle O’Reilly will also have a match on “Rampage” in preparation for his showdown with Ospreay for the International championship on “Collision” on Saturday.