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AEW Dynamite Breakdown: “One last chance”

After last week’s newsworthy St. Patrick’s Day Slam special, this week’s edition of AEW Dynamite had much to live up to. Here’s what worked and what didn’t on this week’s show.

HITS

Great wrestling up and down the card

Sometimes, all a show needs is some really good wrestling. There were six matches on this week’s Dynamite, and each were really good, with three of them at the ***1/2 mark. Two of the other matches functioned to put over the winners big time, while the other was an effective squash for a big star.

Kenny Omega vs. Matt Sydal was excellent, exactly type of spectacular match you’d want out of a world champion. The six-man tag with the Young Bucks and the Lucha Bros. dazzled, with unbelievable displays of athleticism from every man involved. Darby Allin vs. John Silver was, well, a Darby Allin match, meaning he wrestled his unique style to full effect.

Engaging in-ring material is fundamental to a wrestling show. Without it, I’d be better served watching any other sort of storytelling medium; AEW understands this as well as most.

More video packages enhanced storytelling

AEW relies too much upon common storytelling tropes like post-match beatdowns, so I often write about how I want to see more video packages instead, because those can serve whatever  purpose necessary for AEW.

Production took advantage of that fact this week. Lance Archer, Thunder Rosa, Team Taz, Jade Cargill, Eddie Kingston & Jon Moxley, and Scorpio Sky all received dedicated video promos or vignettes this week. Cargill’s was the best, but each was effective.

The beauty of using these videos is that they can be laser-focused towards a specific storytelling goal. Unlike with another post-match beatdown or promo interruption, Archer’s video, for example, clearly laid out his issue and his mission going forward. Plus, it makes the actual post-match beatdowns by default, like Kenny Omega’s, that much more impactful. More of this, please!

The Pinnacle: A true throwback

Tully’s role in the Pinnacle is unique in that he’s a grounded presence among the younger and larger-than-life characters.

What I loved the most tonight was how their against the Varsity Blonds & Dante Martin was layed out. While I almost always enjoy AEW’s wrestling, it’s true that their matches are often patterned: big moves or chain wrestling at the start, a heat segment through a commercial break, followed by a major comeback to end the match.

The Pinnacle’s match tonight didn’t do that. The babyface team, despite having two great comebacks in Martin and Griff Garrison, received no such comeback; FTR simply cut them off, allowing Spears to hit the C-4 and win. Tonight was not the night to allow upstart rookies to make a name for themselves. Instead, it was about establishing the Pinnacle, and it came off wonderfully.

MISSES

Cody Rhodes vs. QT Marshall: Who is the babyface?

While I find Marshall to be an underrated in-ring worker, he’s just not that compelling of a presence to anchor a long interview segment. He stumbled over words a few times, and the main conceit of the promo, his wife, wasn’t believable. Didn’t she see him chasing after the Bunny for months?

It didn’t help that the storytelling got convoluted here. Cody Rhodes came out, the ostensibly calming babyface presence, but the tone was patronizing, like he was trying to calm down a disgruntled employee, rather than talk to a genuine friend. And how does it make sense to have Arn Anderson, Cody’s manager, be neutral as a special guest referee?

It’s fine to have complex stories, but fans need someone to root for. After this segment, I wasn’t behind either man.

Matt Hardy as the next TNT Championship challenger?

After Darby Allin’s fun TNT title defense against John Silver, Matt Hardy and co. attacked him, which turned lead to a massive brawl. I thought the segment ended with a whimper after such a great main event, with AEW relying on the “show-closing brawl” trope too much here.

I like and respect Hardy as a competitor. He has destroyed his body for decades performing this sport. But his time has passed. AEW has a stacked roster at this point, filled to the brim with up-and-coming talent. It’s time for somebody else to be in Hardy’s upper midcard position.

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