Previously on the Ins and Outs of AEW Dynamite: Nyla Rose won the AEW Women’s Championship, and comments sections across the Internet were totally okay with it. Also, Dr. Britt Baker delivered an important message to central Texas about how they’re dying bums with “Whataburger faces.”
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.
And now, the Ins and Outs of All Elite Wrestling Dynamite for February 19, 2020.
All In: Tags; You’re It
First of all, let me just say right out of the gate that this week’s Dynamite felt special. I don’t know if it’s the fact that they were in Atlanta and wanted to go all out like WCW used to (except for that one time), or if they’re just on a roll and ramping everything up ahead of Revolution, but it’s a hell of an episode. If you missed it, find it and check it out. I think this is what Dynamite’s supposed to be, and I’m thrilled that the show finally feels like it’s standing on two, firm feet and sprinting forward.
This week’s show opens with a tag team battle royal, which fixes all of the problems I was worried about last week by presenting a wider variety of tag teams, showcasing what makes them all unique instead of having them blend into a big indistinguishable pile of fighting, and … well, putting them in a battle royal. Battles royal are my pro wrestling weak spot. They just do it for me, I dunno. This one did what the best Royal Rumble matches have done in recent years by pacing itself and telling a ton of different, intersecting stories in a single match.
For just a sampling of the stories this match told, we’ve got: Dark Order taunting SCU about Christopher Daniels saying he’d be there for them but being nowhere in sight, once again making us think Daniels is secretly their Exalted Leader (when at this point it’s probably Matt Hardy), leading to SCU’s elimination; Dark Order using the battle royal as a recruitment tool and giving CIMA a creeper mask; a budding rivalry between Best Friends and The Butcher And The Blade And The Bunny, setting up a couple of funny Orange Cassidy moments and culminating in The Bunny kicking The Bored in The Balls; Sammy Guevara lurking around ringside to help Santana and Ortiz eliminate some of the Inner Circle’s rivals, like Jurassic Express; and Nick Jackson getting eliminated early, setting up his brother Matt as a huge underdog against Proud and Powerful. On that note, here’s Sammy springboarding into the ring and getting “superkicked.”
I put that in quotes because if you watch closely, Matt actually catches Sammy in the face with his shin instead of his foot. Brother got Kinshasa’d. The Young Bucks win, setting them up as challengers to the Tag Team Champions at Revolution and, well, getting the Bucks on the pay-per-view card. Their opponents? We’ll get to that in a second.
This was really great, and let it be a style guide message to WWE: tag team battle royals should always, always require both members of a team to be eliminated before the team’s eliminated. Having referees awkwardly escort people out of the ring because their partner got tossed is and has always been dumb as hell.
Contextually I think it’s just, ¿arriba? Hangman Page chyrons are the Bojack Horseman misprinted banners of pro wrestling.
The Bucks’ opponents for Revolution are decided in a Tag Team Championship match between the champions, Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page, and the challengers, the Lucha Bros. I really appreciate that the tag team division has been booked so that the champions going into the pay-per-view aren’t a total given. The Bucks would probably face Omega and Page because of their association with The Elite and Hangman’s ongoing internal struggle between friendship and alcoholism (and we’re probably not getting a PPV without Omega and Page on the card), but the Bucks and the Lucha Bros are rivals who’ve already gone full-tilt bonkers against each other on pay-per-view. So you could write it to make sense either way. It’s not like Omega and Page were having a match to see who’ll face The Young Bucks at Revolution against Peter Avalon and Shawn Spears, you know?
So yeah, this match was something else. One of the things this episode did really well was remembering that every match on your card can (and probably should) feel different, so a MOVES MOVES MOVES tag team match plays really well as the lead-in to a one-on-one steel cage match built around the drama. I’ve written this a few times already, but AEW’s tag team division stands out the most — and the best — when it utilizes the inhuman timing and athleticism of its top performers and really leans into that. Page and Omega are both coming into their own as specifically AEW characters getting fan support based on what they’ve done in AEW, and while I hate to watch them lose as often as they do, Pentagon and Rey Fénix are two of the best in the world at creative, madcap Signature Move battles. For an illustration of that, watch how Fénix finds himself in position for Hangman and Kenny’s combo finish:
How many teams could pull that off as seamlessly as they did? How do you time something with that many flips and spins and variables? And that’s not even mentioning Fénix pulling off the most beautiful step-up headscissors over the ropes to the floor I (or you) have ever seen, the ridiculously unexpected set-ups to pretty much everything, or Omega and Page’s variation on More Bang For Your Buck. If you like this kind of wrestling, this is about as good as it gets. Hot fire.
All In: AEW Action Figures
These look really good. Look how excited Kenny is! The first line (as presented in this video, at least) appears to just be Omega, Jericho, the Bucks, and Cody and Brandi Rhodes, but here’s my shortlist of action figures I want:
- Bryce Remsburg
- a Librarian Leva Bates packaged with an actual book
- a Tony Schiavone that does this when you push a button on its back
- Sonny Kiss, but you can only play with it 30 minutes before you play with everyone else
- an Orange Cassidy action figure with no points of articulation so you can’t actually pose it or make it do anything
All In: Boop It
If Shanna is Goku and Kris Statlander’s supposed to be an alien, does that make her Frieza? Although with all those dots on her face, she looks more like Krillin.
Anyway, all you really need to know here is that (1) Shanna (“Portugal’s Perfect Athlete”) is still dressed in Dragon Ball cosplay for some reason, but I guess what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and that (2) Statlander defeats her with the Big Bang Theory after an intense, All Japan Pro Wrestling-style exchange of nose boops:
Statlander is building momentum™ heading into a hypothetical title shot against new AEW Women’s Champion Nyla Rose, as seen in the post-match bit where she interrupts Rose’s promo about Breaking Bitches (this fall on FX) to confront her and boop the title belt. This also brings out Big Swole to puff up her chest and get in Nyla’s face, so maybe we’re setting up a triple threat for Revolution and giving Nyla the chance to simultaneously break multiple bitches.
(Quick side note: They might have to give the AEW Women’s Championship a quick remodel, because it looks HILARIOUSLY small when held by anyone who isn’t Riho. Nyla Rose holding it makes it look like that sad little belt Lou Thesz used to carry. Unless the next champion is Shoko Nakajima, that thing’s going to forever look like a headband.)
All In: Bela Lugosi’s Friend
Whether it was his “AEW Debut” in a permanent sense or just a one-time appearance, Jeff Cobb looked really great on Dynamite. Having Tazz call his match was a great idea as well, because nobody in wrestling history knows more about being an average-or-smaller-sized guy who can effectively convince smarky wrestling audiences that he’s the baddest motherfucker on the planet. It’s hard to explain to anyone who discovered him in WWE how unbelievably bad-ass Taz was in ECW. Jim Ross hit him in the face with a candy jar and made him cry and how he’s a color commentator, but for a hot minute he was a stone cold killer.
Moxley and Cobb wrestle an interesting match here, as it’s kind of a David vs. Goliath battle, but David’s technically the bigger guy. I really liked the fact that Moxley never looked like he had Cobb beaten, and only got the win because he countered a superplex into an inside cradle. The Inner Circle (well, Jericho specifically) shows up during the match to help Cobb maintain an advantage he probably could’ve kept without them, and jump Mox after the decision. That brings out Dustin Rhodes and then the returning Darby Allin, who kickflips ass and takes names to send the heels packing. Really hoping this is setting up a six-man tag for next week, and that we get more cue card-based threats.
All In: Too Many Maxwells On Your Team, That’s Why You’re Wardlow
Finally we have the main event, and before I talk about anything else, let’s talk about how good that AEW steel cage looks. It covers the entire ring to the floor without creating any Hell in a Cell-style space around it, it’s unusually tall to make it look impressive on-screen and make jumps from the top look disconcertingly insane, and it’s got those trusses up the side to give it tons of support, make it easier to set up, and let people who want to climb it climb it without having to use the cage wall itself (or goofy looking hand-holds cut into the side). Really well thought out and put-together.
The second thing I want to mention is how impressive Wardlow looked. That guy’s kind of a beast, huh? It’s like somebody gave Thom Latimer Dominik Dijakovic’s agility and a hipster haircut. If WWE watched this show, the one thing they got out if it was desperately wanting to sign Wardlow. “Wardlow” is still a terrible wrestling name, though. It’s kinda like “Goldberg,” except Goldberg started as “Bill Goldberg” and got the primary use of his last name as kind of a reward for being a bad-ass. Maybe if he’d started as “Michael Wardlow” it’d be easier to just call him by the last name? Maybe he asked them to call him “Warlord” and they made a typo. He could be huge if they play their cards right, though, is what I’m getting at. Especially if he eventually pulls a Dave Batista (another example) and puts MJF in the ground.
The third thing I want to mention is that Cody Rhodes bled again, and that Cody has turned into the Rembrandt of bleeding during wrestling matches.
Defeating Wardlow in this cage match is the final stipulation standing between him and a righteous ass-kicking of MJF at Revolution, so he’s going to push through anything short of dude pulling out a pistol and shooting him in the face on live television. I like that they build the drama of the match not on constant kick-outs, but on the escalation of emotion. MJF gets progressively more and more worried on the outside until he’s passing diamond rings in through the cage, climbing halfway up the trusses, and threatening to punch Cody’s wife until Arn Anderson unceremoniously dumps him into the crowd. I also appreciate the fact that to get to MJF, Cody had to remember who he is, trust the people around him, and be the person he was when the company started. He got Brandi Rhodes back to normal a couple of weeks ago, and this week we get a Pharaoh cameo.
Wardlow won’t go down to a diamond ring punch and the Cross Rhodes, so Cody … uh, elevates his game.
Good LORD. Thank God he hit him with the arm, I guess, because if he’d come down with his knee on the top of Wardlow’s head it’d be the last time we ever saw Wardlow. It’s not the kind of moment you can really rehearse, but he’s apparently an ace at fearlessly backflipping off the tops of cages, so more power to him.
The show goes off the air with Cody standing on top of the giant cage with blood all over his face, staring down a cowardly little worm of a guy who can’t even stand on his own two feet. Professional wrestling, y’all.
All In: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
MJF really should have had a stipulation that if Cody bleeds one drop of blood, he loses his chance at a match. He would have been in the clear a while ago
Where’s my Aubrey figure with interchangeable facial reactions?
He never even looked back. That was alot of trust.
Plus infinity to AEW for deciding cage matches shouldn’t have 9 different ways to end
what is that
a belt for ants?
If Wardlow jumps ship to Raw, would he be Vikingdlow?
Too bad this wasn’t held adjacent to Atlanta so they could be in Cobb County for this match
Orange will save you from a) battle royale elimination and b) scurvy.
Jeff Cobb looks like Rhyno and Bo Dallas had a baby and then let Tazz raise it
Stone Cold: I love beer and hate my boss!
Hangman: I love beer and feel deeply alienated from my bosses who are supposed to be my best friends, leading me to drink even more in a futile attempt to close off the complex emotions that my hyper masculine “cowboy” persona hasn’t prepared me to deal with…
That does it for this week’s column. Thanks for reading about Dynamite! If you’re able to leave us a comment below, give the column a share on social media, and vote us Best Wrestling Media in the RSPW Awards, you’ll keep us from building an enormous cage, climbing to the top of it, and backflipping off onto you.
See you next week!