Tony Khan had every right to tout the May 10 episode of Dynamite as a PPV on TBS. The match card was stacked. Ring of Honor World Champion Claudio Castagnoli faced off against ROH Tag Team Champ Rey Fénix, the AEW International Championship and the World Trios Titles would be defended, with a main event of Jon Moxley squaring off against longtime nemesis Kenny Omega in a steel cage. In between we’d get Anna Jay and Julia Hart in a No Holds Barred match and hear from Christian Cage and FTR.
On paper, it really did look like a PPV. But there’s a term in football: the game isn’t played on paper. Just because a card looks good, doesn’t mean it’ll stand up. One thing AEW does well is PPVs. Even when the company has had a rare dip heading into a PPV, it always delivers. So giving a nod to that standard for a TV show was adding pressure.
The opening bout between Fénix and Claudio had the stipulation that whoever won could challenge the other for their belt. Readers familiar with my opinions will know I’m not a fan of non-title matches where a champ can lose in order to serve as a qualifier (or “title elimination match”). It’s my view that if you’re fighting, the gold’s on the line.
Having said that, this was a smart compromise. It served as an eliminator, both could look strong regardless of outcome, and the Tag Titles being in the mix add another permutation. There’s more chance of finding a universe where Donald Trump is a quiet humble man, and Aqua followed up “Barbie Girl” with an album that surpassed Led Zeppelin’s excellence, than you are to come across one where Fénix and Castagnoli put on anything other than a high grade contest. If you don’t enjoy watching these two, you don’t really enjoy wrestling.
It started high tempo and never took a breath. Taz observed on commentary that they were only four minutes in, and there’d already been so much action.
Claudio winning is a shame in the sense it keeps Rey Fénix away from a big singles match but Khan is building the Swiss star into an indestructible force. It would be logical to assume he’ll choose Wheeler Yuta as his tag parter, and that’s who’ll eat the pin when the BCC face off against the Lucha Brothers.
The show definitely got off to a PPV-worthy start but this is where we should remember it is a television show. It would be remiss of Tony Khan to go all in [is that a pun? — Danny] on weekly programming as it’d make the big shows feel less grand. Unlike WWE PPVs that consist of extensive filler, AEW is more action packed which leaves little room for storyline expansion. With this being a TV show, there was need to punctuate the matches with developments.
We saw both Miro and Thunder Rosa return backstage and went to Tony Khan’s office. Both have been sorely missed. Yes, it’s a stacked roster but these two are world class talents. Thunder Rosa especially should be thrown straight back into the world title scene. Miro probably needs to earn some trust with Khan’s creative instincts before he’s main eventing.
Two different ways to progress a feud were also presented. FTR continued their troubles with Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. Mark Briscoe came out to announce he would be the special guest referee at Double or Nothing when FTR’s AEW World Tag Title will be up for grabs. In what was supposed to be a drink to toast the creation of the match, Sonjay Dutt spat the spirit (I’m guessing a fine tequila) into Dax Harwood’s eyes. A blinded Harwood acted on instinct, and during the ensuing melee delivered a piledriver to Mark Briscoe. At this point, it should be mentioned Dutt must be a genius because there’s not a character I despise more in all of professional wrestling.
Dax could play the role of impetuous hothead well. They should lean into his unhinged, hit-first-ask-later side more often.
Christian Cage went down the other path to build his issues with Wardlow. He delivered a speech that begs the question: is Christian the best at cutting a heel promo in the world? MJF has a strong shout but Christian’s are delivered with such callous precision, it’s a close call. He managed to get a dead dad remark in too, just so you know the level he’s aiming for.
There are two types of people in the world. Those who prefer Coke over Pepsi. Those who think Edge is better than Christian. I am not in the Edge camp. Christian is a legend who delivers to a higher standard in every department.
The Trios match between House of Black and Best Friends and Bandido never really recovered from a stipulation that wasn’t fully utilised. It was an average part of the show where no one expected Malakai and his crew to lose. Even Julia Hart won in the match beforehand over Anna Jay. That probably was a better bout than the Trios Title defence, and the women sold the violence well, but it wasn’t on the level we’ve seen from other hardcore female matchups.
Slightly above the middling matches was the Orange Cassidy International Championship defence against Daniel Garcia. Again, no one would have expected OC to drop the belt here. It’s clear that Garcia is in some kind of holding pattern. He loses title matches but always looks strong. He put Cassidy through the wringer, his cockiness being the downfall. For a man who slayed the American Dragon, he needs another notable win soon.
Let’s cut to the chase on the main event. It wasn’t the best steel cage match we’ve ever seen in AEW. But it would never be like the Bucks and the Lucha Brothers. It was always going to be brutal. Bryan Danielson said on commentary that Mox doesn’t even wake up until he’s bleeding. And the blood flowed from both men.
You’d be surprised to hear that Jon Moxely became a top rope specialist, that most of his work was done from said rope. He wasn’t doing is best Rey Fénix impression though, he disassembled the top rope and proceeded to use its hook inside Omega’s mouth before choking him with the rubber covered steel.
Eventually both men went through the front of the cage following a V-trigger. Omega actually took the brunt of the damage, landing awkwardly on the lower portion of the cage.
Next, we entered swerve city. Moxley rolled Omega into the ring, both men now drained from barbwire wrapped chairs and landing on broken glass, and produced a screwdriver. Enter Don Callis, he snatched the tool from Moxley’s hand, pleaded not to be hit, which opened the door for Omega to launch Mox into a turnbuckle. Omega hit the One-Winged Angel, and well, nobody kicks out of that. Technically, Mox didn’t but he wasn’t pinned as Don Callis broke the three-count by driving the screwdriver into Omega’s head.
The ultimate betrayal.
Was this episode PPV quality? Not quite, it lacked that unquantifiable ingredient that makes AEW PPV’s standout. This is okay. After all, it’s an episodic TV show and on that front we had storyline builds, returning wrestlers and still a couple of matches that were of the highest order.
The main event is one of those highly rated affairs. It wasn’t like the speed and art of the opening match, instead it was an exercise in violence and nuanced storytelling. Some may initially dislike the Callis turn but it is a masterstroke that fully opens up the rivalry between the BCC and The Elite. There is a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad, and it’s okay if you still want them all to win. With these two factions at loggerheads, the fans will never be the losers.
Moxley and Omega added another chapter to their rivalry and with this one, there will never be a thawing of the hatred. Mox has now broken up family. These two are AEW’s Batman and Joker, destined to square off forever, neither able to overcome the other in definitive fashion.