Sports

Wednesday Night’s Alright: Nothing Good Happens In Parking Lots

After four weeks being moved around due to hockey and basketball, AEW Dynamite and WWE NXT are finally back on the same night, which means the premise of this column finally makes sense again. So let’s look at the highlights from both shows.

Nefarious Heel Behavior: The Young Bucks just randomly attack referees now

Dynamite opened with Jurassic Express in the ring, ready for their match with FTR. Then Matt and Nick Jackson came out in street clothes and superkicked the referee. Then they went straight to the back and tossed Tony Khan a wad of cash for the fine. So I guess they’re bad guys now, huh? It’s interesting that we’re all expecting a Heel Elite situation, but the stuff with the Bucks is still being kept relatively isolated from what’s going on with Kenny, even when they share scenes.

It’s also worth noting that so much current wrestling discourse, including stuff we’ve heard from AEW, regards the boundary between face and heel as no longer particularly relevant. “Just cheer for who you like and enjoy the stories,” people say. But when a team goes from not randomly attacking officials for no reason to doing that whenever they feel like, I don’t think we can deny that they’re heels now in the most traditional sense.

And honestly, who are we kidding anyway about AEW not having traditional heels? They’ve got Chris Jericho, MJF, and Britt Baker, for a start. They’ve got Lance Archer and Kingston’s faction beating up randos from the crowd just for fun. And now the Young Bucks are heels too, something they were always great at on the indies. That means we’ll need heroes to challenge them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s when Jurassic Express finally cashes in their underdog story.

Runners Up

In addition to all the audience member beatings this week, we saw Jake Hager employ Floyd the Bat to help get win for himself and Jericho over Private Party. That’s exactly the kind of win those two should be getting in the Tag Team Division, especially against such a promising young team.

MJF’s new gimmick, since Jon Moxley cheated in their title match, is to demand that he be called “The Undefeated, Undisputed, Uncrowned AEW World Champion of AEW Wrestling.” The extra “AEW” in there, which he repeated more than once, is a great comedic touch. He’s also hinting that he wants a faction of his own, which could lead somewhere interesting.

Over on NXT, Johnny Gargano was shopping online for a new TV to replace the one that got broken in the fight with Tegan Nox last week. Candice, meanwhile, was trying to cut a promo on Tegan, but Johnny kept interrupting to talk about TV specifications. I think anybody who lives with a male partner understands what a Husband Heel Move this was.

Emerging Hero: Hangman Adam Page

Former tag team champion Adam Page is a singles wrestler now, and this week he fought Frankie Kazarian in a match that turned out to be really good even though it had no stakes outside of Hangman proving himself as a solo act. He definitely seems more promising in that regard now than he did when they first tried to slot him in at the very beginning of All Elite Wrestling.

Now that he’s gotten over with fans in a tag team, I think he really can become a top singles guy, although I hope they don’t rush it. This feels like the beginning of something big for Page.

Runners Up

Also on Dynamite, new AEW signee Will Hobbs came to the aid of Jon Moxley against the combined forces of Taz, Jake Roberts, and their guys. Next week, Hobbs will join Moxley and his youthful ward Darby Allin against Lance Archer, Brian Cage, and Ricky Starks. Getting a rub from Mox seems like a big deal for Hobbs, and I hope it means we’ll see big things from him soon.

Kushida is making a habit out of beating up the NXT guys that fans are turning against for real-world reasons. I don’t know if that’s planned (seems unlikely) or just coincidence, but beating up Velveteen Dream and now demolishing Austin Theory in a squash match ought to win some people over to Kushida, if there’s anyone left who hasn’t already realized how cool he is.

Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter are making a name for themselves as tag wrestlers in NXT, which is cool. This week they beat Jessi Kamea and Xia Li. It was a fun little face vs face match, but Xia got really mad and stormed out after the finish, which may lead to something new for her. In the meantime, I’d love to see Kacy and Kayden get a match against Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for the Women’s Tag Titles.

Best Promo: Eddie Kingston

Eddie Kingston is one of the best talkers in the business, and I’m already enjoying his work in AEW way more than I ever did in Impact. He comes out with three points to make: He didn’t really lose the Battle Royal, his faction is a family, and the Blade needs to get his house in order. I assume that last bit has something to do with Allie. She’s married to the Blade in real life, but suddenly making that part of the show when she’s been kayfabe dating QT Marshall for months seems like a weird move. Still, I’d probably rather see Allie join the Kingston Family than continue with the Nightmares. We’ll see where it goes.

The point is that this was a really good promo, and I’m enjoying this whole angle. Honestly, any situation that involves Eddie Kingston giving inspirational but heelish speeches on a regular basis is one I’m here for.

Runners Up

We briefly saw Kip Sabian and Miro on Dynamite, who of course were lifting weights and talking about gaming. Miro wants to get in the ring and be a beast, but Kip says it’s not time yet. I’m curious if Miro will turn Kip Sabian babyface just by being next to him and insanely charismatic, or if they’ll break up the team once there are enough people in the crowd to make it clear that nobody thinks of Miro as a bad guy. He proved that in WWE, and now he’s in a company that occasionally listens to crowds.

Finn Bálor and Austin Theory both had pretty good promos on NXT, but nothing really dramatic. It was cool to hear Finn talk about being champ again after so many years, and how much the brand has changed. Back on Dynamite, Jake the Snake got weirdly sexual again, which despite my affection for him is something I could live without.

Best Match: The Best Friends vs Santana and Ortiz in Parking Lot Mayhem

This was probably my favorite match in a parking lot of all time, or at least of the modern era. We got to see a new, brutal side of the Best Friends, which is a fascinating evolution for them. Santana and Ortiz have always been hardcore guys, but they seemed caught unawares when Trent and Chuck showed up to play. At one point Ortiz was laid out under the hood of a car, and Chuck Taylor jumped on top of the hood. Then he does it again. Being an adult who knows how wrestling works, I keep trying to work out in my head how that wouldn’t hurt like hell, and I just can’t come up with it.

Orange Cassidy had a great cameo, popping out of a trunk and delivering a chain-enhanced superpunch. I liked how it was reminiscent of those early Cassidy spots, before he started wrestling, when he would just appear in some random place for a laugh. But now when he appears in a random place, he can unleash a devastating attack, so I guess it makes sense that his best friends the Best Friends have become badasses too.

Runners Up

Thunder Rosa and Ivelisse had a banger of a match on Dynamite. And as fun as that was, it led to an attack on Rosa from Ivelisse’s partner Diamante and a save by Hikaru Shida, which means the two Women’s Champions are teaming up against Ivelisse and Diamante next week. I’m really glad they’re getting the most out of Thunder Rosa’s visit. I do wish they’d announce the signing of Ivelisse and Diamante, though. They’re only the closest thing AEW has to Women’s Tag Team Champions.

The other best women’s match of the week was Shotzi Blackheart challenging Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship. Of course Io retained, as we all knew she would, but Shotzi came out of this match looking like a star with real main event potential, which is exactly what she needed. This match gives me hope that we will eventually see Shotzi as Champion, despite how crowded with talent the NXT Women’s Division can get.

Breezango defeated Imperium in a rematch for the NXT Tag Titles, in a really strong match. Breezango are the ultimate foils for Imperium, because they’re silly and irreverent, but then they’re also great wrestlers, so Imperium’s usual “I beat you up to prove I’m right” technique doesn’t work.

Damien Priest and Timothy Thatcher had a good main event for the NXT North American Championship, but I have to admit that neither of these guys is quite doing it for me yet. I’m honestly not sure if that’s on me for not giving them the attention they deserve (especially in the months before I started covering NXT, when I only watched sometimes), or if it’s a problem with either of them. I’m going to pay attention and give it some thought, and we’ll see if my opinion evolves.

That’s all for this week. Next week we have a special AEW Dynamite on Tuesday (which I’ll probably cover separately) and then both shows in their regular slots on Wednesday. NXT’s having a women’s battle royal and Orange Cassidy is fighting Mister Brodie Lee for the TNT Championship, so it should be a good week.

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