Previously on the Ins and Outs of AEW Dynamite: Kenny Omega brought a barbed-wire broom to the ring to have a sword fight with Jon Moxley and then PAC hit him in the back of the head with a chair. PAC is the only one who understands me.
If you’d like to keep up with this column and its thinly veiled Best and Worst format, you can keep tabs on the Ins and Outs of AEW Dynamite tag page. Elle Collins is also covering AEW Dark for us, and you can keep track of all things All Elite here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
And now, the Ups and Downs of All Elite Wrestling Dynamite, episode three: Revenge Of The Stiffed.
Mostly In: Tag Team Turmoil
This week’s Dynamite features two more matches in the AEW Tag Team Championship tournament, and while neither comes close to reaching the heights of last week’s Young Bucks vs. Private Party, they’re both pretty fun. Interestingly, they also both involve the most important member of the tecnico team getting hurt and having to sub-in a replacement at the last second.
The first is SCU, who I still can’t totally admit I understand, against Best Friends. The Friends are sans Orange Cassidy this week, as AEW still hasn’t given Orange a weekly showcase spot on their live television show yet despite him already clearly positioning himself to be a household name. I don’t see any adorable children with front row seats dressing up like dentists and Jake Hager, do I?
Anyway, it’s supposed to be the Friends vs. Stone Cold University, but SCU gets jumped from behind by The Brothers Luchador and Christopher Daniels gets the entire top of his head jammed into the ramp by a pissed-off ninja skeleton. Booking Pentagon and Fenix as intense, violent dickheads who have use their lucha libre heritage and privilege as a means to suggest that they are related to lucha libre itself is great. Honestly, we should never have an in-universe reason to cheer for samurai Skeletor and his immortal brother beyond, “look how shiny and cool they are.” They’re gonna give us plenty of reasons, though, because they always look like they have so much fun doing flips and kicking ass.
Nothing really stood out from this for me about the match-up itself, but I appreciated a lot of the little details. Scorpio Sky not being in his gear because he has no reason to think he’s gonna be in a match is good, as is him taping up as he’s lost somewhere between making a save and taking up a spot on the team. I also dug CIMA showing up to check on Christopher Daniels. As always, the crowd is what elevates a lot of this, as everyone going to these early Dynamites is SUPER INTO EVERYTHING. That makes the shows better, you know? Plus, it shows anyone flipping channels that everyone who paid to see this show is getting their money’s worth, as opposed to that awkward, mausoleum silence some Raws, Smackdowns, and WWE pay-per-views can reach in their middles. Not trying to pull a comparison here, as one’s been on TV for three weeks and the others have been around for decades, and WWE crowds can be as hot as any. Just pointing out how valuable it is for a wrestling promotion to actually encourage their fans to like it, instead of just expecting it.
Lucha Lucha and Luigi Lucha are back later in the show for their own tournament match against Jurassic Express. When it was signed, the match-up of Luchasaurus and Jungle “Jack Perry” Boy looked great. Then Luchasaurus pulled a hamstring, and got pulled from the match. That subbed in Marko Stunt, and … well, the entire dynamic changed. Let me handle this from two distinct points of view.
As an analyst: Marko Stunt is certainly an interesting presence, isn’t he? The Lucha Bros. “lowered” themselves a little and wrestled a little weaker than they should’ve to make Stunt look like a legitimate threat to them, because wrestling’s not real and that’s what you’ve gotta do sometimes. Sometimes you’re Batista and you’ve gotta sell those little thigh kicks from Rey Jr., you know? Marko and especially Jungle Boy held their own, dazzled with some more innovative and creative offense, and things ended up playing out a lot more evenly than you would’ve expected. Jurassic Express saves face because they had to call a major audible but put up a good fight, and the Lucha Bros probably looked better for having defeated a team they had to try a little to pin.
As a fan who used to watch Lucha Underground: Motherfucker are you expecting me to buy four-foot-one, 22-pound Marko Stunt as an opponent for PENTAGON and FENIX? Brother. BROTHER. Maybe my Lucha Underground fandom has me thinking of the characters as their former selves and not as their AEW equivalents, but shit, Pentagon should be able to just yank Stunt to the middle of the ring by the hair and break his little arms in less time than it takes the referee to notice and yell, “ONE!” I appreciate pro wrestling having a wide variety of believable and unbelievable characters and I’d probably be delusional if I told you Marko Stunt seemed unbelievable when he’s literally subbing in for a wrestling dinosaur, but at some point suspension of disbelief goes out the window, and you’re left watching one of the most bad-ass dudes in wrestling sell for the industry’s closest living equivalent to Mr. Poopy Butthole.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Long story short, it’s a good match and I get what they’re going for, and I appreciate it, and everyone did a good job. But it also shouldn’t have gone 12 minutes. It probably shouldn’t have gone five.
In one of those “nobody’s really sure how this wins and losses thing is supposed to work” stories, Chris Jericho pops up onto the video screen to challenge the Young Bucks to a match at Full Gear on behalf of Santana and Ortiz, who would’ve done the challenging themselves, but are too busy yelling THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST! like they’re Dave Grohl. Santana and Ortiz want to show that they’re the best tag team in the world, so they challenge the team that we just saw lose the first episode’s main event, and then lose in the first round of the Tag Team Championship tournament. I mean, okay. The match is gonna rule, I’m not complaining. I just … I hope y’all get a statistician for Christmas or something.
The best tag team match of the night ends up being (surprise!) the one with all the really good wrestlers in it. It’s PAC and Jon Moxley, aka POXLEY, aka a really bad idea for a tag team unless you’re EXPECTING them to get pissed off and turn on each other, against ol’ Cleanhorse, Adam Page and Kenny Omega.
Every exchange between Omega and Moxley is, well, dynamite. This is the closest Omega’s come to looking like “Kenny Omega” on AEW TV so far, I think. Everything he did was quick and impactful, and he wasn’t bogged down in melodramatic posing and emoting. Jon Moxley is a joy to watch wrestle, especially when you think about how many years in a row “Jon Moxley” didn’t exist, and PAC is legit the only guy in AEW who seems to understand how AEW works. Him sitting in on commentary to talk about how the wins and losses thing seems like bullshit because he’s sitting back watching 1-3 people get title opportunities when he’d been pinned one time in two years was choice, and he brings it back here by actively going into the ring, separating Moxley and Omega from their performative bullshit, and pleading with Moxley to use his goddamn brain for a tick and not get them disqualified. Moxley, being Moxley, Stone Colds him and power-walks away, leaving him on his own. HE’S TRYING TO HELP YOU, JON.
I’m not sure I think Adam Page belongs in this foursome, at least not right now, but like the Dustin Rhodes match, he can only learn and grow from it. I’m not trying to make a joke here, but I keep waiting for Adam Page to kick it into the next gear. He’s good, but I guess putting him in there with the “Best Bout Machine,” a dynamically hungry and thirsty performer looking to find his pro wrestling soul again, and one of the best Dragon Gate and NXT Champions ever is an unfair peer group. It’s like trying to scout a local band, but they go on after DragonForce and Tool, and before Queen. Your brain is just all over the place.
All In: Riho Does Some Basic Scouting
AEW Women’s Champion Riho illustrates the two-step plan for avoiding Dr. Britt Baker DMD’s mandible claw, which she’s calling “Lockjaw,” and we’re informally calling DENTAL DAMN. Firstly, try not to open your mouth. The key is to pretend that your parents are trying to make you eat your vegetables and you don’t want any damn vegetables.
If that doesn’t work, capitalize on nobody having ever countered the hold by planning to maybe get caught in it ahead of time — like a person going into a fight against someone with specialized attacks might, especially if they do this for a living on a championship level — and learning how to reverse it. Here, Riho just rolls over and traps Baker on the mat in her own hold. Because like I always say, pro wrestling is stronger than dentistry.
And here I thought the only counters for Lockjaw were ibuprofen, a heating pad, and some soft foods. Great work, champ. Somebody book Riho vs. Shayna Baszler in the battle of people who realize they’ve got YouTube and entire networks of content devoted to close-up, high-definition footage of their opponents winning and losing wrestling matches.
All In, Except That Finish: Streetfights Of Philadelphia
I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
Saw my reflection in a window and didn’t know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away
In the street fights of Philadelphia.
Finally, we have the fantastic main event between AEW Champion Chris Jericho, crown regent of Turner Network Television, against skateboarding half-ghost Darby Allin. It’s a street fight for the strap, created after Allin won last week’s number one contender match and skated into Jericho’s business at the end of the night.
Two major notes here, one positive, and one negative.
Positive: Darby Allin is IT, man. The kid’s a better pro wrestler with his arms tied behind his back than most people are with full articulation. Watching him basically be Serious Orange Cassidy and survive this street fight was a trip, as was him believably setting himself up for victory at the end. Part of me wishes they’d just put the belt on him here to shake up everything and surprise everybody, just to see what’d happen and where he’d go with it.
He’s an ideal foil for Jericho, too, not only because he’s a small and reckless cruiserweight — Jericho’s favorite snack since like 1996 — but because he’s actually very cool and not just SUPER pretending to be, like Jericho’s various characters have been since we met him. Jericho’s not wearing scarves and sunglasses in the hot tub and painting up his face like that and wearing fedoras and shit because he actually thinks it’s cool. Jericho’s always been coolest when he’s wildly uncool, teasing his hair, doing This Is Spinal Tap and Monty Python bits, and reading a printed out list of moves he knows during an entire commercial break. Current TNT Jericho is former TNT Jericho, and it RULES.
Negative: Man, AEW really likes its run-ins, doesn’t it? I wish there was a way to convince wrestling promotions that there’s probably newer and fresher ways to make wrestling fans feel sadness, anger, and disappointment than by just robbing them of their joyful experience, but I guess the classics are classics for a reason. Jake Hager just can’t stop ruining wrestling for everybody, so he shows up and punches Darby to end his rally and give Jericho the match. It’s … fine, I guess, I just feel like we’re already maybe settling into a New World Order-style show domination bit before we’ve even gotten a chance to meet all the players.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
Britt Baker: “Here comes the airplane… I SAID HERE COMES THE AIRPLANE!”
A Philly street fight is just a regular street fight, but with Cheez Wiz on it
PAC caring about his W/L record makes him the most logical person in wrestling…which would also make him the biggest heel in WWE.
“Hey, MJF why are you sharpening that knife during this interview”
”shut up, mark”
I think it’s the outfit, but Riho reminds me of Krieger’s hologram wife on Archer.
Post match, Darby charges at Jericho in the parking lot
Jericho: “Hit me and I sue!”
Darby: “Sue me for what?” sweeping uppercut with skateboard sends Jericho flying onto the hood of his limo
Sorry, it’s the only way I’ve ever seen a Philly Street Fight end.
Joker vs Two-Face!
I’m looking forward to Britt Baker’s inevitable heel turn where she comes out to the dentist song from Little Shop of Horrors.
Darby has studied under the master, Orange Cassidy.
Baron Von Raschke
Viewer tuning in to AEW for first time: Boy…Riho, huh? She’s the smallest wrestler I’ve ever seen….
AEW: Here’s Marko Stunt!
Viewer: I stand corrected.
Next week it’s Adrian Neville vs. Dean Ambrose in a …. wait, hang on, I’ve got this upside down.
Next week it’s PAC (pronounced “pock”) vs. Jon Moxley (pronounced “macks-ley”)! Plus The Young Bucks are in action, Britt Baker returns to Pittsburgh to put her fingers in somebody’s mouth, and we get the next two matches in the AEW Tag Team Championship tournament that the Lucha Bros. totally didn’t foreshadow the results of too hard by starting beef with and then attacking SCU. See you then!