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AEW Dynamite Breakdown: The Road to All Out

This week’s edition of AEW Dynamite was the final show before their massive First Dance edition of Rampage. It also kept us going on the road to All Out, establishing some of the midcard stuff and setting up a championship match. I broke down was worked and what didn’t from tonight.


HITS

Plenty of good wrestling with a hot crowd

At its core, this is all I ask for out of wrestling television. As long as you put on a couple really engaging matches with an invested crowd, I’m down.

This show accomplished that, easily. The wild opener set the tone, with Sting and Darby Allin going all over the place in a really fun tornado tag. Next, ultra-babyface Sammy Guevara brought out the best in Shawn Spears. Finally, the match of the night was the Young Bucks’ title defense against the Jurassic Express.

I loved that tag title match for one reason in particular: It showed the Bucks’ creativity. This was their eleventh defense of those championships, and while most of them have followed a similar pattern (plenty of innovative spots concluded with an interference-laden finish), they’ve really escalated that formula recently. Jungle Boy was a mad man trying to dispatch every member of the Elite, and that unit’s obscene numbers advantage made for a really unique and engaging spectacle.

Whoever wins this Eliminator Tournament has a decent chance to dethrone the Bucks. If that’s the case, they’ve had one of the better tag title reigns in recent memory.

AEW’s use of veterans and legends

This week really crystallized to me why AEW has so much more of a positive perception as far as things like bringing in legends to wrestle than WWE.

AEW plays to its talent’s strengths. Sting is a no-nonsense killer, not a broken down past-his-prime joke. He’s not higher or lower than Darby Allin on the card; he’s right at Darby’s level. Christian Cage earned his title shot through winning matches, not just because he showed up and stared down the champion. Paul Wight was a pure and beloved babyface, not some wacky guy for people to mock for heat. And Chris Jericho put MJF over huge in the main event.

They all feel like organic parts of the roster, not temporary special attractions. That distinction is what allows me to truly enjoy and care about these characters.

MISSES

AEW’s recent overall direction

There wasn’t a segment that I particularly disliked this week. Everything was at least “fine,” but some segments were all the way up to “excellent.” Overall, I remain very confused at AEW’s overall direction and how they book and promote shows and feuds.

This show has so much going on. There are legitimately 15 or so distinct storylines and feuds happening at once. But even though most of it is good, almost none of it feels essential or can’t-miss or must-see. What will we remember from this show in a few weeks? Sting wrestling? That Bucks match? Paul Wight? I’m skeptical.

There was a ridiculous amount of heel heat that just runs completely contrary to what I like in wrestling. The sole match tonight that didn’t feature interference or cheating was Thunder Rosa vs. Penelope Ford. Assuming we include Brian Cage vs. Ricky Starks—a falsely advertised match that didn’t happen—four out of the six matches on this show saw someone get jumped from behind either before or after the match. Tony Schiavone appeared in seven(!) different segments outside of his normal commentary duties.

And despite it all, here’s what we know about All Out that we didn’t know a week ago: (1) Paul Wight vs. QT Marshall is happening and (2) The Young Bucks will defend their championships against the winner of a tournament in a steel cage match. That’s it. All Out is 17 days away!

The show just feels directionless, which is a cardinal sin when a pay-per-view is that close. What is this Dan Lambert/Lance Archer storyline? What’s next for MJF and Chris Jericho? Why does Miro suddenly want to fight Eddie Kingston? Speaking of Kingston, what were he and Jon Moxley going to say before they were attacked?

There is uncertainty coming with however AEW books the possible debuts of CM Punk and Bryan Danielson. In the meantime, however, there’s a pay-per-view to promote.

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