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AEW Dynamite Breakdown: CM Punk is here

After his one-of-a-kind Rampage debut, CM Punk followed it up with an excellent, tantalizing promo tonight. That was the marquee item from Dynamite this week, but here are the hits and misses from the entire show.


HITS

CM Punk is already the biggest superstar in AEW history

What a legend. Punk somehow followed up that beautiful first appearance in AEW with a much more focused promo that continued his trend of putting over young talent.

One of the things I haven’t seen talked about much about Punk is his tone. Justifiably or not, Punk was seen as incredibly bitter towards his time and treatment in WWE to a point where he lost his passion for pro wrestling. That still may be true, but instead of coming in with a chip on his shoulder, pissed off at the world, he just seems happy to be here, wrestling for the first time in seven years. It’s clear that even he wasn’t prepared for the universally beloved reception he received upon return. The Danielson tease was a ton of fun, too.

It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to Punk vs. Allin. Nobody’s going to boo Punk, but Allin’s one of the top babyfaces on the roster. He’s accompanied by Sting! Either way, Allin’s spot as Punk’s first match is an incredible rub for someone who has a chance to be the face of the company.

Dan Lambert and the Men of the Year

Lambert’s out of his mind in the best way. Tonight’s promo may have been his best yet, with Lambert calling out “soy millennials” and “safe spaces.” He’s a complete caricature, but not to the point where he’s operating in fantasy land. And he’s a perfect heel for this audience, as the uniquely AEW characters like Orange Cassidy are the type of things that AEW fans get deeply defensive about.

Who knew pairing him with the Men of the Year would work out so well? I pretty much considered Sky and Page dead in the water after their match against Sting and Allin, but they are rejuvenated here. Lambert and the Men of the Year don’t really seem to match up that well against Archer, so what happens with this act going forward is something to look out for.

Jamie Hayter and Red Velvet made the most of their time

I swear, AEW, if you would just put more than one women’s match on television, they nearly always deliver. Outside of the strange moonsault spot, this seven-minute match was the best contest on this week’s Dynamite.

Hayter impressed in her return to the company with some great physicality and power. Meanwhile, Velvet has established herself as a division mainstay with her gift for selling and babyface fire. Pretty much every single match tonight had a suicide dive, but Velvet’s may have been the best!

MISSES

Very little wrestling worth watching

I can’t call this week’s Dynamite a success because it missed the mark on AEW’s top selling point: Wrestling.

It’s clear that one of AEW’s top priorities week after week is getting people like Jon Moxley, Eddie Kingston, Darby Allin, and Orange Cassidy to wrestle on weekly television. That makes sense; they’re all major crowd-pleasers who always get over. But to me, matches between stars and jobbers just aren’t engaging in the slightest.

This week’s two marquee matches, Cassidy vs. Matt Hardy and the Lucha Bros vs. Varsity Blonds, both fell well short of expectations. The former was legitimately boring whereas the latter was very sloppy. The other three men’s matches featured jobbers. I get that Tony Khan likes this format (get the stars on TV, but you have to pay to see them actually compete), but to me, it’s pretty much antithetical to what I like out of wrestling in 2021.

Over the last six months or so, WWE NXT has been more reliable on a weekly basis in providing a stellar match than Dynamite. That’s unacceptable, considering the talent and autonomy AEW’s roster has. It’s a wrestling show; don’t forget the wrestling just because Punk is here.

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