Would KENTA’s AEW in-ring debut live up to the hype? I looked at what worked and what didn’t work in tonight’s AEW Dynamite Breakdown.
KENTA: Even better than advertised
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) February 11, 2021
While I still find flaws in their storytelling and program timing, in 2021, AEW has established itself as a place where viewers are practically guaranteed to see an outstanding main event. Kenny Omega and KENTA vs. Jon Moxley and Lance Archer in tonight’s main event was a spectacle, and a perfect debut for KENTA.
Even more so than in other weeks, tonight’s main event was must-see television. Every single participant played their part: Omega was slimy but decisive, standing up to Archer until he couldn’t, so he had to call in the Good Brothers. Moxley was at home in his element with the “unsanctioned” element of this all-star brawl. Archer wrestled like a complete monster in his best AEW performance yet. And KENTA, more importantly, showed none of the sluggishness we’ve occasionally seen from him in NJPW.
All four men worked ridiculously hard. Couple that with the falls-count-anywhere stipulation, the interference from the Good Brothers and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, plus the manic energy of the announcers, and you have a formula for great pro wrestling television. The talk of “opening the forbidden door” is trite at this point, but both AEW and NJPW should be thrilled with the start of their partnership.
Sammy Guevara leaves the Inner Circle
One of the things I love about AEW is that they understand that logical booking is something to strive for. A well-written story that plays out naturally is so much easier to sink your teeth into than a swerve just for the sake of it.
With the amount of scheming and plotting that goes on between the members of the Inner Circle, it wouldn’t be a shock to see some kind of “surprise” turn where someone we don’t expect ends up being the catalyst for the group’s eventual destruction. But those wouldn’t make near as much sense as poor Guevara, who has been the victim of MJF’s calculated cunning for months now.
Guevara has a ton of potential as babyface, and I’m completely behind him being the one to leave the group first. Look to Santana & Ortiz next week and, MJF & Chris Jericho at Revolution to be major markers in the breakup of the Inner Circle.
Lee Johnson picks up first win
When you have a show that’s as long as Dynamite but features so much filler nonsense, the good stuff really stands out. Johnson was the single best thing about Dark week after week. He is a phenomenally gifted in-ring talent that will dazzle when eventually called upon. His match with Ben Carter, who is now with NXT UK, is arguably the best match in Dark‘s history.
Tracking wins and losses allows AEW to tell simple stories like this: Johnson was 0–29 coming into tonight, so getting a win on Dynamite, even over “Pretty” Peter Avalon, is a huge deal. His promo afterwards was simple and effective, where he thanked the Nightmare Factory for training him in a relatable, realistic way. And no, the juxtaposition of him against WWE Performance Center washout Cezar Bononi wasn’t lost on me.
Little attention paid to upcoming Women’s Eliminator Tournament
While tonight’s first-round match between Thunder Rosa and Leyla Hirsch was solid, it feels like there’s more that could be done around this Eliminator Tournament going forward.
I’m extremely frustrated with how the Japanese side of the tournament was presented. If you only watch TV, you couldn’t know a single thing about half of these competitors. Why would a fan from the States know who Rin Kadokura is? Or Mei Suruga? Maki Itō has become a major online star; you’d think AEW would want to capitalize on that. Plus, the extremely general “taped in Japan” verbiage comes off as disconnected and unrelated to the rest of the AEW live broadcast.
Sting, Darby Allin, and Team Taz spin in circles
Beyond tonight’s unique bodybag gimmick, there’s just nothing new for Sting, Allin, and Team Taz. Get this: in five of the last seven weeks, either Team Taz has interrupted Sting, or vice versa. That’s ridiculous. There has to be something new you can do.
Sting has been with the company for two months and including video packages he has cut three promos total. Three! You know why? Because they keep booking Team Taz to interrupt him when he’s about to speak! Sting is a one-of-a-kind presence out there who could be putting over this upcoming match with his words alone, but instead, AEW continues to run the exact same segments with maybe a one-off gimmick to give them some sort of uniqueness.
I’m a fan of every single competitor involved in this storyline, and I want it to elevate them to a more established place on the card. That’s not going to happen if these segments keep going the exact same way.
Who are these people on Dynamite?
With only two hours of television every week, I completely understand that AEW is strapped for time. It takes time, resources, and focus to create video packages and interviews for everyone, but it is impossible for me to care about a match at all if I know nothing about who is wrestling.
The hybrid main roster/Dark talent are the biggest victims of this trend. Check out this list of wrestlers: Ryan Nemeth, Peter Avalon, Cezar Bononi, Leyla Hirsch, Lee Johnson, Danny Limelight, Chaos Project, Nick Comoroto. All of these people have wrestled on Dynamite over the last few weeks, but viewers don’t know much about any of them. All it would take is a 20-second package to give these people some sort of identity, backstory, personality, anything that would elevate the TV match I’m watching beyond “one of these guys is on the roster, one of these guys isn’t.”