Welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright, my Uproxx Sports recap of the big events from wrestling’s biggest night, when AEW Dynamite on TNT goes up against WWE NXT on USA. I’m still finding the shape of this column, but I’m glad to be here with you and writing about two of the best wrestling shows on TV.
Nefarious Heel Behavior: Robert Stone insults Kayden to Kacy’s face
This was probably the strongest category this week, which says something about the lack of actual wrestling-related excitement in these episodes. It may be a controversial choice, but my favorite heel moment this week was on NXT when the delightfully sniveling Robert Stone started trying to recruit Kacy Catanzaro by insulting her best friend and tag team partner Kayden Carter, while Kacy and Kayden were standing right next to each other. That’s so much meaner than just insulting both of them.
It led to Kayden and Kacy playing third and fourth bananas in their own match, with Rhea Ripley and Shotzi Blackheart showing up at the end looking for revenge against the Robert Stone Brand. And that all makes sense right now, but I do hope Carter and Catanzaro get a spotlight of their own before too long. I’d love to see them go up against Sasha and Bayley for the Tag Team gold.
On Dynamite, FTR took part in perhaps the oldest and proudest tradition in Southern wrestling—they beat up Ricky Morton of the Rock N’ Roll Express for heel heat. Not that Robert Gibson got out unscathed either, but it’s the attack on Morton that’s most important, ritualistically. This was part of “Tag Team Appreciation Night,” when the Young Bucks and FTR welcomed the Brain Busters and the RNR Express into the ring to talk about their legacies. It was basically a naked attempt to establish FTR as the new Arn and Tully (a comparison that’s followed them since NXT) and the Young Bucks as the new Rock N’ Roll Express, which… sure, I can see how that makes sense too.
Then there was Scarlett casting a spell on the contract Karrion Kross had just signed before handing it back to Keith Lee, causing it to burst into flame in Keith’s face. I think that could work in theory, and I’m all in favor of Scarlett being a witch who casts hexes on people. This just didn’t work for me because it was a quick flash of light in the Champ’s face, and then they tried to sell it like he was horribly burned and might never see again. It was a lot to expect us to buy into.
Thing I Could Have Done Without: Another women’s squash match on Dynamite
I’m trying not to go on the same rant again and again, but here we are. All that was advertised for the women’s division was “Hikaru Shida in action,” so I was hoping for the Dynamite debut of one of the competitors from the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament on YouTube, like Rachael Ellering or Nicole “Lil’ Swole” Savoy, and maybe they’d even announce a signing. Instead it turned out to be a different guest competitor, Heather Monroe.
Monroe’s a fine indie wrestler in her own right, but she was clearly just there to do the job. Indeed, Shida made short work of her. There wasn’t even any attention to the Big Swole/Britt Baker feud this week. On the other hand, a friend pointed out to me that Shida’s constant refrain of “I’m ready to face anyone who challenges me,” points to a possible surprise opponent to come, and all I can say is, man, I hope so.
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to wrestlers accused during #SpeakingOut. I’m inclined to believe survivors who step forward publicly, because I know how much crap they get for doing it. But at the end of the day, I don’t have a guide to objective truth and ethical action. What I do know is that, personally, the celebrated return of Velveteen Dream, who’s been accused of grooming minors for sex, feels weird and off. Regardless of what we know or don’t know for sure about Dream’s past actions, it’s hard to look at him the same way with that thought in mind.
Best Promo: MJF
I haven’t been wild about the election trappings of the World Title feud on Dynamite, with MJF treating his bid to become Champion like an election, but his speech this week was undeniably great. I love how he kept calling Jon Moxley “Jonathan.” Is his name even Jonathan? It’s actually funnier if it’s not. MJF is a fantastic old-school heel, all the more impressive for his youth, but sometimes he relies on stuff like overt sexism to get heat, even though he’s too good to need it. He mostly avoided that here, which was also a plus. Yes, he told his female employee to smile, but personally I can handle some more subtle/realistic sexism in my heels.
Anyway, the whole segment was great, leading up to MJF sending Wardlow up in the stands to interrupted Moxley on his entrance, only for Mox to enter from the ramp for once and attack MJF from behind.
Dakota Kai and Io Shirai both had great video promos for their upcoming NXT Women’s Championship match. Io’s was particularly good, dismissing Kai as the same little girl who couldn’t stand up to Shayna Baszler. Love to see that level of long-term continuity in my wrestling. Cameron Grimes also had an outdoor promo this week, and while I can’t say I paid a lot of attention to what he said, I enjoyed his voice and accent, which both seem genuine and suit his gimmick perfectly.
Best Match: Scorpio Sky vs Cody
Scorpio Sky is a fantastic wrestler, and I hope this loss to Cody isn’t the end of his momentum. That worry actually affected my enjoyment of this match a bit, to the degree that I almost didn’t pick it, but ultimately the virtuosity of these two guys in the ring is a bigger deal that my concern about Cody’s ego, or the fact that he’s so clearly following a script with these matches. “Sell, sell, let the other guy look great and do all his stuff, okay it’s time to win now, win.”
But this was the transition of Scorpio’s solo run to Dynamite after he’s racked up a bunch of wins on Dark, so hopefully things are just starting for him. And hopefully Cody commits to a heel turn soon, or stuff like “the Prince of Wrestling” is going to get old pretty quick. But for now, try to ignore all that and watch these guys move. They’re really good at moving.
Damian Priest and Bronson Reed had a really solid match on NXT. Priest hasn’t always excited me that much, but I like Reed a lot, and they were both great this week.
Over on Dynamite, Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page face Jurassic Express, which of course was a solid and fun match even if it didn’t really move any needles or tell any stories. Sorry if I seem to have a lack of excitement for what I’m writing about, but the honest truth is this week wasn’t all that exciting on either show. I was happy to see the performers I enjoy, but it didn’t feel like much happened that was important or particularly exciting.
One thing that was important, story-wise, was Orange Cassidy’s defeat of Chris Jericho on AEW Dynamite. It was Orange Cassidy’s first major victory, and Jericho was doing his best to put the younger guy over. Unfortunately, I thought Jericho seemed really tired (perhaps because he’s currently on tour with Fozzy while also wrestling full time) and showed his age more than usual. And as good as Cassidy is, he had a hard time maintaining his usual effortless crispness with Jericho being sloppier than usual. Their match was better, but I was happy to see Orange get this big win all the same.
That’s all for this week. Next’s week’s going to be weird because AEW Dynamite is moving to Saturday, but I’ll figure it out.