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AEW Dynamite Breakdown: Arcade Anarchy

This week’s AEW Dynamite was more noteworthy than most, with multiple surprise returns, excellent matches, and shocking angles. Here, I break down what worked and what didn’t.


HITS

Anything can happen on Dynamite

I enjoy promotions like New Japan because I can count on their great matches with storytelling that’s easy to understand. American promotions are different because they have to draw ratings week after week. As such, companies in the US tend to rely on surprises or hotshot booking to account for their weekly television audience.

With both AEW and WWE, I get a feeling that anything can happen when I watch either show. With WWE, that’s a bad thing, because I’m completely indifferent to whatever happens. I have no faith that it’ll be good, so even if I’m “shocked” by something like the Hurt Business breaking up, I won’t care, because that’s a bad booking choice.

AEW does the opposite. I had no idea that Kris Statlander or Trent would make their returns tonight. I had no idea QT Marshall and the Nightmare Factory would turn on the Rhodes brothers. AEW provided a vague conceptualization of what “Arcade Anarchy” would entail, but it ended up being so much more than that. When a weekly wrestling show surprises me, a jaded fan, it ends up as must-see television.

The Inner Circle is back

It was great to see Chris Jericho and company return in an excellent segment that the Inner Circle beat the daylights out of their new rivals, the Pinnacle. Jericho’s voice is so synonymous with Dynamite at this point that his absence loomed large, even after just two weeks. I can’t wait to see how these two titanic stables will try to one-up each other in the coming weeks.

The segment itself was awesome. It felt a lot more feasible than so many of AEW’s cut-and-paste backstage brawls. Each Inner Circle member was matched up with their Pinnacle equivalent and emphatically laid each one of them out, with Jericho giving MJF an actual swirlie on national television to top it all off.

QT Marshall’s new stable

I’m dubious about a QT Marshall-led stable working as a ratings draw, but I couldn’t help but get a little excited at this angle as it was presented tonight. I love that finally a talent from Dark other than Powerhouse Hobbs or Red Velvet got a chance to appear.

The turn was well-done, with Dustin bleeding as usual and Cody selling like his arm was legitimately destroyed. Nick Comoroto comes across as a bad dude, Solow is a great in-ring talent, and Ogogo adds some unique legitimacy to AEW’s pro wrestling fantasy.

But the best part is the continued elevation of Lee Johnson, of whom there may be no bigger fan than I. The fact that he’s paired with the Rhodes’ shows how high the company is on him—as they should be.

MISSES

No follow-up on storylines

It’s ridiculous that Thunder Rosa just wrestled (and won!) perhaps the greatest women’s match in American history but has yet to speak on AEW television since. What’s the point of giving her that massive victory if there’s no follow-up plan? And why is Britt Baker still calling her out even though that feud is ostensibly over?

This type of thing happens all the time on AEW. Matt Hardy cut a promo talking about how starting April 1, he’s able to make all of his money back, so the only payoff of his Big Money gimmick against Hangman Page was a 30-second skit about a lawnmower?

Speaking of Page, where was he this week? Or Lance Archer? And why hasn’t there been any mention of Shaquille O’Neal’s disappearance? Or about Fénix and PAC, who are still the top contenders to the tag titles despite winning  contendership last month?

Dynamite doesn’t need to devote a segment to every storyline in the company each week, but considering they did such a great job with video packages last week on the live show, I have no idea why they couldn’t do it this week as well.

I thought this was a really good Dynamite show overall, and nothing stood out as particularly bad, but rounding out  storytelling beats like this could improve the show from being “really good” to “great” each week.

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