Welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright, my Uproxx Sports column where we compare AEW Dynamite and WWE NXT, the two shows that air on the best night of the week for wrestling. This week both shows felt a little odd and stitched together, which might be pandemic related, but they both had some really fun stuff all the same, so let’s dig in.
Best Potential Faction Evolution: MJF Maybe Joining Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle
They’ve done this before, which makes me think that this time it might happen for real. Chris Jericho kind of wants MJF in the Inner Circle, but he’s too proud to say that. MJF kind wants to be in the Inner Circle, but he’s too proud to admit that either, so they just go back and forth on it. But this time, MJF does show up with presents for all the Inner Circle members except Sammy Guevara (nobody likes Sammy).
I think the Inner Circle would be a great place for MJF to hang out, at least until it’s time for him to take another main-event shot at the AEW World Championship. Watching his ego clash with Jericho’s is always fun, and you know Maxwell would try to become the faction’s leader as soon as he joins.
If MJF and possibly Wardlow join the Inner Circle, that could also cause further shakeups in the membership. Personally, I’m hoping Santana and Ortiz leave pretty soon. They’re such a great tag team, and it seems like being in this faction has mostly held them back. Even if they want to have a manager, it makes no sense that they’d rather be with Jericho than their old friend and fellow New York Puerto Rican Eddie Kingston. I do like that factions in AEW aren’t racially segregated, as WWE factions so often are. On the other hand, I keep thinking that it would make an awful lot of sense for the Inner Circle to trade Santana and Ortiz to the Kingston Family in return for the Butcher and the Blade.
Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly are definitely both good guys now, which raises questions about the future of the Undisputed Era. PWInsider says that Roddy Strong and Bobby Fish are going to stay heels, so it sounds like the UE’s days are numbered, at least in its current form. At the very least, this is the most Disputed the Era has ever been.
Matt Jackson kicked Tony Schiavone in the face this week, right in front of FTR and Tully Blanchard. Then Matt acted like his brother Nick was standing next to him, even though he clearly wasn’t. I don’t think they’re doing a “Nick Jackson is invisible” angle or anything like that. They just seem to be trying to ignore the fact that he’s clearly taking a little time off for whatever reason.
Nick’s absence aside, I’m still wondering where things are going for the Elite. We didn’t see Kenny Omega this week, although we did get a little of Hangman Adam Page being sad about Omega’s newfound devotion to singles wrestling. And then there’s Cody, who looks very much like a heel now but still talks like a babyface. Everything seems to be going somewhere, but only time will tell if it’s all going to the same place.
Most Exciting Promise for the Near Future: Dog Collar Match
After a long stroll around the rhetorical block, Cody Rhodes accepted Brodie Lee’s challenge to a Dog Collar Match. In fact, it’s happening next week. Commentary talked about how rare dog collar matches really are, and personally I think I’ve only ever watch two of them: Roddy Piper versus Greg Valentine in 1983, and Shotzi Blackheart versus Zoey “Dust” Skye in 2017.
Based on those two matches (and the basic premise of two people chained together by the neck, it’s exactly the kind of old school hardcore wrestling violence that Cody loves and Brodie is incredibly well-suited for. So yeah, let’s do that.
Miro is planning Kip Sabian’s bachelor party, which leads to him expounding at length about the Amish practice of Rumspringa, which I found really, really funny for some reason. Then Billy Mitchell, the bad guy from the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, randomly shows up and offers to help. I have no idea where this is going, but from what we know about Mitchell it might involve hot sauce? We’ll see!
NXT ran another nightvision promo for whoever is returning on Sunday. Word around the internet is that it might be Bo Dallas, who I can’t say excites me, but if he’s doing something really knew, it could certainly be interesting.
Best Promo: Cameron Grimes
I might be the only one who likes listening to Cameron Grimes talk, but in my defense I’m also a weird hillbilly from the Southeast. I don’t own a top hat, but there was certainly time in my late teens/early twenties when I was probably at risk for buying one.
I just feel like Grimes is having so much fun being an unhinged carny weirdo that it’s fun to watch, and his whole “Cameron Grimes Invitational Stepping Stone To The Moon” thing is great, with his plan to prove himself by fighting a bunch of tiny men. Of course, after he defeats the first tiny man, a much larger man shows up, Ridge Holland, and ends Cameron’s fun.
Isaiah Scott and Santos Escobar had a side-by-side sitdown on NXT, where they both came off like serious contenders. The Garganos got a couple of opportunities to whine and put people down ahead of their main event match, which they always excel at. There was also a segment with their opponents in that main event, Damian Priest and Io Shirai, in which Priest was extremely impressed by Io, and Io is somewhat indifferent to Priest. That’s exactly the dynamic that team should have.
Kyle O’Reilly and Finn Bálor also had a sitdown, moderated by Shawn Michaels, which had some nice little moments in it (Kyle’s impression of Cameron Grimes was particularly amusing), but mostly they’re two calm guys who don’t really light the mic on fire when they talk.
Eddie Kingston brought his old Chikara buddy Bryce Remsburg out to the ring, to ask ref Bryce why he ended the match in favor of Moxley last week, when Kingston never tapped. Bryce, who has years more experience as a talker than you’d guess just from watching Dynamite, pointed out that Eddie was fully unconscious at the time, and that even though they’re friends, when they’re at work it’s Bryce’s job to protect Eddie from himself. Eddie was going to have his guys attack Bryce, but Moxley came out and Remsburg ran off. I’m curious to see if Kingston’s revenge on Bryce is still to come, and whose match it might come during.
Best Mini-Match: Kayden Carter vs Xia Li
There were a bunch of little bite-sized matches this week, some of which were quite good for their length, so I decided to give them their own category.
Kayden Carter versus Xia Li was my favorite, because I’m really enjoying watching Kayden develop as a wrestler, and I love the fun she has with Kacy Catanzaro (who was at ringside for this match). This also furthered the build to Xia’s heel turn, which I’m looking forward to. Considering the build, I hope it leads to more than just “she’s mean now.” She should at least get some new gear for the occasion.
Ridge Holland squashed Cameron Grimes after the aforementioned promo, which was a good reminder that although Grimes can win matches, he can also lose them, especially when fighting a strapping lad the size of Ridge Holland.
Over on Dynamite, Orange Cassidy took on #10 of the Dark Order, which was fine, although it would have been a challenge to find a guy on the roster that it was more obvious Orange would beat.
Kushida versus Tony Nese had a similar vibe, although it ended with an attack by that guy that nobody likes any more, with whom Kushida is currently feuding whether we like it or not.
Finally, Britt Baker returned to action this week, and Red Velvet was there to lose to her for the occasion. Britt seems to have her mojo back after her injury and getting drugged by Big Swole with her own needle in her own dentist office. Maybe next week she can face a less obvious jobber.
Best Full-Length Match: Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano vs. Damian Priest and Io Shirai
A WWE mixed tag match, even on NXT, is never going to be a clinic on technical precision. Instead, what it ought to be is a rollicking good time, which this absolutely was. The character contrast between Johnny and Candice, who are terrible people but love each other, as opposed to Damian and Io, who are decent people but barely know each other, gave the match an interesting dynamic. I also loved how ready Shirai was to pin Johnny, until the ref reminded her it doesn’t work that way in WWE. Then of course the Garganos won, because they’re both totally losing on Sunday (sorry, Garganos).
Dakota Kai and Shotzi Blackheart opened the show on NXT, with a match that mostly very good, although Shotzi took a bump on the apron that looked so nasty it was very distracting from the story being told.
Ricky Starks and Darby Allin kicked off Dynamite with a match that really showed what they can both do, and gave Allin a much-needed win against someone who matters.
FTR and SCU had what was probably the best match on Dynamite. I thought it would go to the 20-minute time limit, which meant an automatic win for FTR, but instead they won with the help of Tully Blanchard’s cheating somewhere around the 15-minute mark. I love a heel team who are great at wrestling but still cheat just because they can. And that’s exactly the sort of endeavor Tully Blanchard should be involved in.
Isiah Kassidy had a strong showing in a loss against Chris Jericho, which was mostly Jericho’s doing. Sometimes it seems like Chris Jericho has a wheel with all the young AEW guys on it, and he spins it to decide who he’s going to make look like star next. Kassidy has a ways to go, but you could really see his potential here.
The Butcher was Eddie Kingston’s choice to fight Jon Moxley, and they both did a fine job, but the storytelling seemed to veer right into every clichéd trope for this sort of “important guy versus bigger but less important guy” match. The Butcher dominates at first, and just when it seems like Moxley might be in real trouble he rallies, shows his considerably skill in taking back control of the match, hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle—I’m sorry, the Paradigm Shift—and wins just as the show comes to an end.
That’s all for this week. Join me next time, for that Dog Collar Match plus all the fallout from NXT TakeOver 31.