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AEW Dynamite Breakdown: Chaos at Beach Break

It seems like All Elite Wrestling outdoes itself every single week with a show more newsworthy than the last. This week’s edition of Dynamite contained the Beach Break special, and it lived up to that standard. With a shocking show-closing angle with New Japan’s KENTA attacking Jon Moxley after what happened on NJPW Strong last Friday, the wrestling community is abuzz with talk of the “forbidden door” perhaps opening in the future. But beyond that, did the Beach Break chaos make this edition of Dynamite worthy of its “television special” moniker?


HITS

Jon Moxley vs. KENTA and its implications toward an AEW-NJPW relationship

KENTA’s shocking run-in at the end of the show tonight was actually the first appearance by an NJPW-exclusive talent on AEW programming. As by far the two most popular non-WWE wrestling promotions in the United States, many fans have clung to the hope that they may intersect at some point, moving beyond one-off appearances from people like Moxley and Chris Jericho towards a stronger working relationship.

I want to qualify this with a mild “pump the brakes” request: I have a sneaking suspicion that if there wasn’t a pandemic limiting travel to and from Japan, Moxley wouldn’t be allowed to appear on American NJPW programming. However, that doesn’t mean Tony Khan was forced to let this Moxley-KENTA angle happen on AEW television. He could have easily said “No, I’m not interested in that,” and forced Moxley to hold onto the IWGP US Title until issues are cleared.

What this angle showed is that there’s at least some willingness between AEW and NJPW to work together. The curious factors holding up the relationship from before seem to be on the back burner for now. And for wrestling fans who have seen NJPW’s talent exchanges lead to breakout stars like the Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables de Japon stables, it’s a tantalizing idea.

Whomever booked and planned the angle did so with perfect execution. People need to see an AEW-NJPW relationship to believe it, and KENTA’s appearance was brief but impactful. If this relationship is real, KENTA needs to physically be there most weeks; it shouldn’t be a program watered down by interviews and surprise video packages. Is it frustrating that we don’t have a solid “yes” or “no” regarding AEW and NJPW’s working relationship? Absolutely. But it’s all in service of the story, and one that’s been told quite well so far.

The AEW Women’s Championship Eliminator Tournament participants

What a group! I watch a ton of joshi wrestling (just look at my list of the best matches from January), so if you’re unfamiliar with the Japan side of the bracket, let me tell you: It is stacked.

I named Maki Itoh as my 2021 Breakout Star in last year’s Fight Game Media awards. She’s an unbelievably charismatic performer who intuitively knows how to get over with an audience. Meanwhile, Aja Kong’s presence will add real legitimacy as a true joshi legend. Meanwhile, Emi Sakura, Mei Suruga, Yuka Sakazaki, Ryo Mizunami, and Veny (known as ASUKA/朱崇花 in Japan) are among the best in the world.

I’m not disappointed by any of the announced entrants. AEW’s women’s division has stepped up their game recently, and this tournament feels like an extension of that. Just tonight, Britt Baker, not known for her in-ring work, put together a strong performance against Thunder Rosa. And while Riho feels like the presumptive winner of the tournament, it should be filled with great matches.

Omega & The Good Brothers vs. Moxley, Fénix, & PAC

Lost in the hubbub around KENTA’s return is the fact that this main event was sensational. While it did start a bit slow before the commercial break, it really picked up from there. It marks a streak of every single AEW Dynamite main event making my “best matches” list, which is unheard of for a television product.

Every single wrestler brought their A-game for this match, but it was the supplemental players that showed up and showed out. Anderson has looked every bit the 2012 G1 finalist that he is since joining IMPACT alongside fellow Good Brother Doc Gallows. PAC worked harder than at any other time since his return. But the true star of the show was the fiery-hot Fénix, who dazzles each and every time he wrestles. There is nobody out there who does the things he does. He has the most terrifying and spectacular suicide dive in the business. And more than anything, his matches have become absolute can’t-miss TV.

MISSES

Kip Sabian & Penelope Ford’s wedding

As pure entertainment, I didn’t mind the segment. I thought everyone did their jobs well, there were some funny moments, and I’m genuinely happy for the newlyweds.

But I’m puzzled as to what storyline or business purpose the wedding serves. The only real justification I can think of is the old wrestling adage that “weddings draw television viewers,” which isn’t enough justification for me. Tony Khan and company clearly take pride in emulating wrestling TV traditions, but just because something is a tradition, it doesn’t mean that tradition is worth keeping up. Sabian & Miro have been feuding the Best Friends for four months. I think it’s time to move on.

Lack of direction in mid-card storylines

I need more to AEW’s non-title feuds than simply “We don’t like each other” as the story. Why didn’t we get any extended promos from Eddie Kingston or Lance Archer/Jake Roberts about their match series over the last few weeks? Kingston and Roberts are two of the most engaging talkers on the roster; the amount of work they can do in two minutes adds so much life and flavor to an otherwise dry program.

Even though it ended up being really good, Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa’s match suffered the same problem. The entire feud was built around Baker distracting Rosa in a match months ago. We never got any motivation or explanation as to why. They just hate each other now.

Jurassic Express vs. FTR is an example of a midcard feud done right. FTR have a legitimate gripe with Jurassic Express, and even though they are laser-focused on the tag titles, their hatred of Jungle Boy and co. drives their every move. And even if the Marko Stunt kidnapping is extremely far-fetched and wacky, it’s still something that both talent and viewers can sink their teeth into. That forward momentum is key to maintaining viewer investment and attention. Little things like that continue to upgrade Dynamite from a good program to a great one.

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