After four straight weeks of AEW Dynamite specials, this was the first “normal” episode of Dynamite in over a month. But as Don Callis, the so-called “Invisible Hand,” guides Kenny Omega down a path involving not just the AEW World Championship, but also the AEW Tag Team Championships and IMPACT Wrestling, this week’s show set the stage for major shake-ups down the line. As always, I examine what went well and what missed the mark on this week’s AEW Dynamite Breakdown.
Don Callis, “The Invisible Hand,” guides Kenny Omega throughout the show
While I don’t exactly miss much from wrestling television from the past, one thing I wish writers would return to more and more is the concept of a “self-contained story.” While long story arcs are a hallmark of thoughtful booking, I feel as if wrestling companies too often ignore that weekly TV is episodic. The vast majority of weekly TV shows create individually engaging episodes while building towards a finale; the wrestling equivalent would be a pay-per-view or a television special.
As such, I absolutely loved the Don Callis story in this week’s Dynamite. Watching him try to weasel his way out of a confrontation with the Young Bucks, bait them into a fight, and complain to Omega later in the—all in a believable, but despicable—was like popcorn entertainment for me. Him being present for three segments helps get across that this isn’t just a wrestling show where segments happen completely unrelated to each other: instead, the Invisible Hand guides Kenny Omega, the world champion, through each of his decisions.
Aside from a couple matches, nothing specific is advertised as a result of Callis’ actions—which is completely fine. The draw of this style of writing isn’t necessarily anything in particular: to me, the draw is that we may get more Dynamite episodes formatted this way.
Matt Hardy and Private Party making heel turns matter
In WWE, wrestlers turn face or heel all the time, nonsensically, with no real catalyst or build to the turn. It’s terrible, and it completely ruins any investment in the characters.
With Omega (and now Matt Hardy and Private Party), AEW has shown that they know how to do it right. It makes sense for Hardy to turn: he’s absolutely insane. But it’s also natural for a team like Private Party to resort to cheating: they were screwed over by Hardy, and since they signed away a huge portion of their earnings, they may as well listen to what he has to say. And while this wasn’t brought up, there are other ways this makes sense: Private Party has spun in place since their huge win over the Young Bucks, and other teams (like the Acclaimed and Top Flight) have taken over their role as the up-and-coming hot tag team.
You can count on one hand the number of acts who have turned heel in AEW. And each and every one of them was for a specific reason, with genuine build up to the turn, making them truly matter. Because if you’re going to turn an act, there better be a specific reason; otherwise, it’s impossible to care about them as characters.
Inner Circle saving the actual wrestling portion of the show
Leading into the main event, I was worried that this would be the show to break a streak of many weeks where at least one Dynamite match made my “great matches” list. Luckily, the three Inner Circle tag teams delivered a very enjoyable multi-man tag.
It wasn’t perfect – Chris Jericho seemed weirdly out of form, and it’s now been many months since he’s been a part of a truly great wrestling match, but everything else hit the mark. Jake Hager foiled Jericho and MJF’s attempts at cheating. Santana and Ortiz were the workman-like, rock-solid tag team we’ve come to expect. And Sammy Guevara was the clear star of the match, flying all over the place before eventually eating the pin.
Aside from being a fun match, this main event also continued the Inner Circle dissension storyline. It’s clear to me that AEW is setting Guevara up for a major babyface run once the Inner Circle breaks up, and matches like this are the way to do it.
Storylines continue to spin in circles
It’s to the point with AEW that their inability to forward many of their own storylines has extended itself onto my AEW Dynamite Breakdown. I sound like a broken record with this point, but there is still just nothing new as far as Darby Allin & Sting and Cody Rhodes & Shaq. Even other storylines that could have easily wrapped up by now (Thunder Rosa & Britt Baker, Miro, Kip Sabian & the Best Friends, and Jurassic Express & FTR are all feuds that have been going on for months) continue to persist, with maybe a new promo or match to show for it, but no real twist or hook to keep the viewer invested.
If a story requires a really long arc, then it’s completely fine to use all the time you need. Kenny Omega, Don Callis, and The Elite is a clear example of a story with so many moving parts and factors that it needs time to breathe. But most storylines don’t need that. This was now the eighth show with Sting appearing, and we know *nothing* about his character beyond the fact that he’s aligned himself with Allin. Jade Cargill made her first appearance in mid-November; aside from one Shaq appearance, what does AEW have to show for devoting all that time and energy to that act?
It’s time for AEW to become a little bit more urgent when it comes to storytelling that doesn’t need months of build. We just had four straight weekly TV specials. It’s baffling to me that the vast majority of feuds from those shows continue to persist. Revolution is just a month away, and we have no idea what the card for it will look like. Let’s get going.
A transitional show isn’t an excuse to put on poor wrestling
Aside from the main event, I wouldn’t rate any match on tonight’s show as better than merely “adequate,” which is something I almost never say about Dynamite. Part of the problem is that much of the talent involved (Top Flight, Chaos Project, Peter Avalon) just isn’t that established on Dynamite.
I get the justification for using those acts this week: if you’re not going to pop a big rating, then you may as well give some under-utilized talent a chance. But that talent is under-utilized for a reason. I’m sorry, but Peter Avalon is never going to be a money-drawing act; if you throw, for example, Scorpio Sky in there, and he loses a competitive match to Cody, nothing is lost, because Sky’s not in a main event program right now. The match, however, would have been much better and not feel like a complete waste of time.