The Ups & Downs Of Dynamite

Last week’s edition of AEW Dynamite was fresh off of the Full Gear pay-per-view, an event that had some stellar matches and delivered a quality show that was worth the price tag. As mentioned, how the organization followed up on it was very important as well. As I’ve written several times before, not everything within All Elite Wrestling is perfect, and it would be unfair to expect it to be, but this particular episode highlighted some of the specific hits and misses of the upstart league.

Matt Sydal, who crashed to the canvas after a botched shooting star press during his debut a few months ago, had a terrific match against Brian Cage to open the show. Quite frankly, I was very surprised how solid this match-up was because it’s a rather odd pairing on paper. Cage got the win, which makes sense because of his continuing push as a part of Team Taz, but the performance might open the door for a new chapter in the career of Matt Sydal. Some might be unaware, but during his time under contract with WWE, Sydal sustained a very serious foot injury from a motorcycle accident, and suffered injuries in the ring prior to that, which ultimately led to a rather underwhelming run in the company. The combination of damage from wrestling and more specifically, the bike accident seemed to slow him down substantially in the ring. While his time on Impact a few years ago got him back on television, he didn’t quite have the spark in the ring he was known for. Thankfully, it appears that he healed up from those injuries and perhaps, the lighter AEW schedule will help him extend his career. All things considered, it’s nice to see Sydal get a chance to rebound in his career because for a period of time in the mid-2000s, the argument could’ve been made that he was one of the top high-fliers in the world.

The Bunkhouse match was memorable because of its blood and weapons, but I have to wonder if AEW is overdoing it with the gore, and more specifically if this particular angle justified this type of match. Keep in mind, Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley just had a brutal weapons match on pay-per-view. The feud between the Natural Nightmares and The Butcher and The Blade has been rather secondary, and wasn’t spotlighted on TV much recently since the primary focus of the stable was rightfully on the Kingston title feud, as well as the Lucha Brothers in number one contender tournament. This angle was based on The Bunny originally being aligned with Butcher and Blade before she jumped ship to the Natural Nightmares without any explanation. It appears that the only reason she was placed back with the original team was because Kingston’s arrival to form a faction gave a reason for her to be booked as The Bunny again. It’s not as though there’s some lengthy and storied feud between both teams. In truth, the storyline was based on The Bunny using QT’s credit cards and it wasn’t necessarily an angle that built over the course of months, it just because a better fit for her to be back in Kingston’s stable. I think the company might be using weapons too often and eventually it won’t stand out nearly as much as it has so far in the history of the company. Just because AEW doesn’t have the PG restrictions of WWE, the repetitive weapons and blood will lead to diminishing returns. If the blood and guts are saved for the more select angles, those matches become more memorable. QT Marshall has a reputation as a solid hand in the ring and a good trainer, but as far as being over on national TV, he’s just not at the level that justifies this type of match. The blood, ladders, etc. just seem unnecessary for a QT Marshall storyline. This type of violence should be used sparingly and be saved for pay-per-view in most cases, especially just days after a particularly bloody main event at Full Gear.

Jade Cargill made her AEW debut when she interrupted a Cody Rhodes segment before she was confronted by Brandi. I have to say, Cargill might have potential in the future, but she really fumbled this promo. I’m not sure if she got lost half way through it, but she dragged on throughout it and the point of the promo, the implication that Shaquille O’Neal will be involved in AEW, wasn’t nearly as impactful as it should’ve been. With an announcement like that, it must be delivered in the proper manner to create a moment for the promotion, but Cargill just wasn’t able to do that here. Brandi’s involvement to protect Cody makes sense, but too often, Brandi’s spots on the shows seem more like they’re shoehorned into the narrative just to get her on camera. The bigger story is Shaq potentially appearing for AEW, and most importantly, the press it could generate for the organization. Obviously, TNT is one of the primary networks that broadcast the NBA so the crossover fits well. If Shaq has a full match remains to be seen, but if he does, Cody would be an excellent choice to have a performance that highlights Shaq without exposing his inexperience as a wrestler. When you consider that the show airs on TNT and Shaq’s history in basketball, this will remind fans of the Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone appearances in WCW. While AEW is now a profitable venture because of the extension with TNT, it’s even more important for the organization to continue to expand its fan base, and a Shaq appearance could certainly bring new viewers to the program.

Finally, Pac made his return to the promotion after being stuck in his native country of England because of the COVID travel restrictions. This worked extremely well because as I wrote in an article about Full Gear earlier this week, I wondered if the company rushed Kingston to the main event scene since he wasn’t in the organization long enough for them to choose him to be the first non-WWE wrestler to win the championship. That spot appears to be for a long-term project in the company and might be Kenny Omega, who beat Adam Paige to become the number one contender. Just prior to the COVID shut down, Pac formed a stable with the Lucha Brothers, but with it being unknown when he would be back from England, the masked athletes were paired with Kingston. Pac’s return to confront Kingston works because it gives Kingston something to do so that his defeat in the title match isn’t seen as a plateau, and it allows Pac to be rejuvenated since he will be booked in a feud with a performer that garnered rave reviews for his work in the Moxley angle. A meaningful storyline gives both grapplers a way to continue to progress their careers under the AEW banner.

The Pentagon vs. Rey Fenix match was tremendous, and both of these luchadors have the potential to be major stars for the organization. Pentagon has a charisma that overcomes any perceived language barrier, and Fenix is one of the most spectacular athletes in the world today. So, while had some misses recently, the bulk of the product has the potential to continue to evolve and expand, which is the key to success for the company. Arguably, the most important aspect of AEW is how it has already shifted the industry and it will be interesting to see how that continues in the next few months.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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