Home Hits and Misses: Review of the June 5 episode of AEW ‘Dynamite’

Hits and Misses: Review of the June 5 episode of AEW ‘Dynamite’

Ray Petree
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Photo: AEW

The road toForbidden Door continued last night, when AEW made its debut in Loveland, Colo., at the Blue Arena for Wednesday night “Dynamite.” The show opened with the “return” of AEW’s ace, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, and concluded with their champion, Swerve Strickland, defending his world title against Roderick Strong.

It’s no secret to anyone immersed in the wrestling bubble: AEW is in a slump. Since MJF’s detour with the “devil” last summer, a dark cloud has loomed over the company. That thesis is supported by the weekly television ratings and live attendance, which has steadily dwindled week after week, month after month. This week’s episode was a necessary step in the right direction for Tony Khan, who has patiently laid the foundation for the company’s next few months — headlined by four central figures: MJF, Swerve Strickland, Will Ospreay, and Bryan Danielson.

Hits and Misses

MISS: The Learning Tree 

The “Jericho Vortex” sucked all of the oxygen out of every segment The Learning Tree was offered, leaving little room for its participants to breathe. I can appreciate what Jericho is trying to convey, but his delivery lacks the nuance necessary to make this even remotely interesting. The saving grace was Matt Menard, whose authenticity almost made the segment feel candid. Otherwise, this was rough. The Learning Tree deserves the ax.

HIT: Bryan Danielson and the Owen Hart Cup 

After a rousing eight-man tag match between the Blackpool Combat Club (Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, Jon Moxley, and the returning Wheeler Yuta) and the stars of CMLL (Volador Jr, Magnus, Rugido, and Esfinge), Danielson was interviewed backstage — lamenting his recent string of losses, that culminated in Anarchy in the Arena at “Double or Nothing.” Danielson acknowledges that the curtain is closing on his career, but admits that Wheeler Yuta’s return has reignited the fire in his heart. So, the “American Dragon” impassionately declared himself for the Owen Hart Cup Tournament, where the winner will receive a shot at the AEW world heavyweight championship at “All In,” in London.

“This might be my last shot, but it’s going to be the best shot I’ve had in my entire career, and I’m going out on top.”

MISS: Everybody HATES the Elite 

While I must admit that a feud between The Acclaimed and The Young Bucks would be exhilarating, I’m still perplexed by how utterly ridiculous this angle is. Why didn’t the Interim Executive Vice-President Christopher Daniels intervene when the Bucks commandeered the monitor to wave off The Acclaimed’s in-ring segment? Why has Khan not “returned” when he clearly was present at “Double or Nothing”? I need answers. Until then, this will be a staple of the “missed” column.

HIT: The In-Ring Action 

The four-way match between Orange Cassidy, Jay Lethal, Kyle O’Reilly, and Rey Fenix to determine the challenger for Ospreay’s International championship, on next week’s episode of “Dynamite,” was a fiery exhibition of contrasting styles from four fantastic in-ring workers. Brian Cage faced the Ring of Honor world champion, Mark Briscoe, in a TNT Championship Qualifier match — where Briscoe perfectly executed the rope-a-dope strategy, finishing Cage with a beautiful frog splash from the top rope.

Mariah May faced Saraya in a contest that was initially scheduled for last week’s episode of “Dynamite,” which ended in submission. May fell victim to Saraya’s patented PTO, forcing both Toni Storm and Mina Shirakawa to intervene. Lastly, the aforementioned main-event saw Swerve Strickland defend his title against Roderick Strong, and the world champ predictably dispatched the former International champion.

All of these contests, including the BCC vs. CMLL eight-man tag match, were all incredibly enjoyable. In terms of pure in-ring quality, AEW continues to separate itself from the pack — especially on cable television.

HIT: MJF’s Return 

The devil’s in the details.

Like any great essayist, Maxwell Jacob Friedman laid out the source(s) of his frustration in carefully partitioned points:

  1. Kazuchika Okada calls himself the “Rainmaker,” but looks like he can’t afford a gym membership.
  2. Swerve Strickland is a self-proclaimed “business” mogul, who skipped his public speaking classes.
  3. Will Ospreay is a “cockney c*ckh*ad” who needs dental care.

I am paraphrasing, of course, but his oration was interrupted by Rush, “El Toro Blanco,” a former Ring of Honor world champion and CMLL light heavyweight champion. Their back-and-forth results in a pull apart, building towards a match at “Forbidden Door.”

MJF’s angle with Rush pales in comparison to the aforementioned wrestlers he criticized in his promo. Wrestling Okada, Strickland, and Ospreay could all be box-office programs for MJF — who seemingly has the Midas Touch.

For the first time in over a year, I am legitimately excited for AEW’s immediate future. Will Ospreay, Swerve Strickland, and Maxwell Jacob Friedman are three generational talents — who Tony Khan is lucky to have headline his roster.

Two matches were advertised for “Rampage”: Gates of Agony will take on Private Party and Virginia’s own Serena Deeb will test Mina Shirakawa’s mettle. The Bang Bang Gang and The Acclaimed will also be in action.

Next week on “Dynamite,” Rey Fenix will challenge Will Ospreay for the International championship, in a contest that I’m sure will exceed my wildest expectations.