The SmarK Rant for AEW Dynamite – 04.29.20
So this was the last empty arena version of Dynamite before they moved permanently to Jacksonville, which is also the only episode in the entire run of the show that I skipped and decided not to review. At that point in the pandemic, I just couldn’t watch another empty arena wrestling show without completely crushing my love for the promotion and wrestling in general. Thankfully both AEW and WWE quickly figured out a way to simulate crowds again and things got marginally better. And with AEW at their all-time high right now, I figured I might as well circle back and finish off the run of Dynamite with the one I never watched.
Taped from QT Marshall’s secret lair in Atlanta
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Chris Jericho, with JR of course off to avoid potential exposure to Covid.
TNT championship tournament, semi-finals: Cody Rhodes v. Darby Allin
God, the atmosphere is SO awful and oppressive on this already, with an echoing warehouse feel and a few wrestlers scattered around ringside. If they hadn’t switched the venue I don’t know how long the show would have lasted. I think Daily’s Place legitimately saved the company. Cody works a headlock and takes Darby down for two while the announcers discuss amateur wrestling backstories and drop the name of a “young Austin Watson”, aka Xavier Woods. They head to the floor and Cody runs him into the apron, but Darby charges and accidentally takes out Brandi. She’s a future pregnant lady, you monster! Thankfully Billy of the Gunn Club is there to assist her to the back as we take a break. God bless you, Billy of the Gun Club! Of course he’ll probably have his way with her now, that dog. Back with Cody getting a cradle for two and putting the boots to Darby to set up a surfboard, and Cody continues stomping him in the corner. Cody suplexes him on the top rope for two and keeps putting the boots to him to set up a half crab. Oddly, Jericho was a heel at this point and was doing babyface commentary here, as opposed to today when he’s a babyface but does heel commentary. Darby fights back with a Code Red for two and tries for a heel hook, but Cody makes the ropes. Cody goes up and Darby cuts him off and hangs him in the Tree of Woe, and Cody escapes from that and heads to the floor, where Britt Baker hits Cody with a shoe on the way by. Tony is strongly disappointed in her, of course. Back in, and we take another break. We return with Cody hitting a lariat out of nowhere as we cut to the crowd and Jericho reminds us how much he hates that Pineapple Pete guy. How did we never get Orange Cassidy and Pineapple Pete teaming up as Fruit Salad? Cody with a disaster kick as Jericho strongly advocates whipping Darby with the weight belt, but Cody gives it up and goes with a small package for two instead. Darby hits his own Crossroads for two and goes to a figure-four, but Brandi limps back out, apparently done with whatever she was doing with Billy of the Gunn Club back there. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. All I’m saying is that we haven’t seen proof that it’s Cody’s kid and the timeline matches up. Darby tries a springboard coffin drop, but Cody catches him and puts him down with a clothesline, and then catches Darby with a Crossroads for two. Cody tries his own coffin drop and hits knees, and Darby gets the real thing, but Cody rolls him over and pins him at 20:43 to advance to the finals. They didn’t do a great job of making that finish clear, as it just looked like Darby was leaning back while doing the pin. I find these matches hard to rate but on the empty arena scale, they worked really hard and it would have clicked with a crowd, I think. ***3/4
Meanwhile, MJF is off at his estate, and right now we must all feel like we’re stuck in an Uber with a foreign driver who refuses to use the GPS: LOST. But thankfully Max saw his hangnail doctor and he went from being on death’s door to not only healing his hangnail, but OVER-healing it! But then he was shaving to prepare for his return, and he nicked himself. Sure, a normal man would bleed out and die, but he was still wanting to hop on a germ-infested plan and wrestle in front of “six or seven of his peers” so he could entertain us. Sadly, he cannot. Truly he is a beacon of hope to us all in the pandemic.
Musa v. Wardlow
Musa charges in and that’s about the high point of the match for him, as he’s laid out right after and Wardlow goes to work. Wardlow tries a powerslam as Jericho rants about loincloths, but Musa slips out and hits a handspring kick, then puts him on the top rope and hits the knee strike on the way down. And then the F10 finishes at 2:21. ½*
The Bubbly Bunch is tired of being locked down, so it’s time for a good old fashioned MANITOBA MELEE, as they remotely fight each other via Zoom bumps, giving us a variety of hilariously random cameos like Lou Ferrigno (with a tazer), Kevin Smith and Vickie Guerrero. Nice to see them having fun in one of the low points for the business.
The Best Friends v. Jimmy Havoc & Kip Sabian
Man, Havoc got wiped off the face of the earth in short order, didn’t he? This is no-DQ and no-countout, which is pretty much every match in AEW history to that point. Trent quickly hits a tope on the Brits, but Havoc hits Orange in the face with a chair for no reason, and they all brawl at ringside, where Havoc suplexes Chucky on a pile of chairs while Sabian hits Trent with a dive. Back in, the English double-team Trent while Jericho mentions the Bill Murray on Trent’s kneepads for the first time I can recall, and speculates that maybe Bill is Trent’s secret dad. Hey, we only figured out that Cody’s baby was actually the bastard child of Billy Gunn in this very rant, so anything is possible. Havoc bites on Trent’s ear and they go to work in the corner, actually turning this into a tag match with tags and stuff for some reason. They do a funny spot where Havoc gives Trent the two fingers and Kip dropkicks Trent in the back, resulting in an eyepoke. That was pretty clever. A ladder gets set up in the corner, but Trent fights back and misses a splash, and the UK Express dogpiles him for two. They put Trent in a chair in the corner, but Sabian charges and lands on it and the Friends do a Conchairto on Havoc and stop for the hug. There’s no people to give what they want, though! Sole Food/Half and Half gets two. Sabian comes back on Chuck and runs him into the chair in the corner, but Trent spikes him with a tornado DDT in the corner and then dropkicks the chair into Kip’s face for two. Havoc fights Trent to the top, but he slips and lands on the ladder in a nasty spot. And then Havoc puts some chairs sideways in a pile and slams Trent on those in a horrific spot, but Chuck makes the save at two. I HATE those sideways chair spots. Havoc tries a tiger suplex on the chair, but Chuck reverses to a Michinoku Driver on it, and then piledrives Sabian on the chair for two, with Penelope making the save this time. Havoc backdrops him onto the ladder to break that while Orange dodges a flying Penelope and gets involved in the match, diving onto Kip and Penelope. And then Chucky hits the Awful Waffle on Havoc, onto a pile of chairs, for the pin at 13:28. Pretty much a perfect pandemic match, just crazy chaos that didn’t need any crowd interaction. ****
Meanwhile, Dr. Britt Baker DMD continues training Rebel to be her makeup artist and offers more tips for being a role model. Unless you’re a doctor, don’t wear glasses. Fat people need to suck it in for photos. Photostop is your friend! And if your teeth aren’t perfect, don’t smile. Sadly, poor Tony Schiavone is used as the example for all these. Well we can’t all be perfect.
Shawn Spears v. Baron Black
Good name on the jobber, as Jericho thinks that he saw “Baron Black” at a death metal festival in Norway and they were TERRIBLE. Black goes for a headlock and Shawn takes him down to escape. Spears works him over with chops in the corner and stops to twerk for the ladies in the house, and then hits Black with a spinebuster and beats on him. Snap suplex gets two, with an arrogant cover dedicated to Jericho. Another suplex is reversed by Black and he fights back, but promptly walks into a boot and gets C4’d and put away with a Sharpshooter at 3:38. Your basic Dark squash here. *
Brodie Lee v. Marko Stunt
Marko has no Jurassic backup due to Covid restrictions, and Brodie throws him around and puts him down with a big boot. Brodie beats on him with chops and steps on him, then hurls him across the ring again. Marko tries to come back with a dive, but Brodie just catches him and puts him down with a superkick, barely even bothered by him. Jericho notes that he’s gained a lot of insight into Lee since his AEW debut, and he’s an eloquent gentlemen and not just a “goofy southerner” like he previously thought. Plus he leads a cult, so there’s that. Back in the ring, Marko tries something and gets hit the Bossman slam and powerbombed at 3:08. Good, destroy that little shit. ½*
Meanwhile, Jon Moxley is off in some kind of dystopian desert and reflects on how the world has changed so rapidly, but he promises that one day fans will be back and he’ll be swearing and bleeding for them again. He’s thankful for his wife putting up with him, and for a chair. Because typically a DDT on a chair is better than a DDT not on a chair. AND DON’T FORGET TO CALL YOUR GRANDMOTHER. Duly noted.
TNT championship tournament, semi-finals: Dustin Rhodes v. Lance Archer
Brandi is already back after being ridden hard and put away wet by Billy Gunn earlier in the show, showing what a trooper she is. Most women would at least take the rest of the day off after getting impregnated in the back. Anyway, Jake Roberts is of course absent during the pandemic because unfortunately DDP Yoga can’t fight off Covid. I mean, as far as we know. Maybe that’ll be the next miracle cure after people shut the fuck up about the horse paste. Archer dumps Dustin to start, but Dustin comes back with a somersault off the apron and Archer retreats to think it over. Back in, Dustin tries for the powerslam, but Archer just STUFFS it and puts Dustin back on the floor with a Pounce. Jericho stops for another rant against PINEAPPLE PETE, because he hates that guy, and Lance smashes a chair on Dustin’s face to bust him open as we take a break. So I’m watching this on the Fite.TV archives, and I don’t understand why they don’t just edit out the commercial breaks after the initial live broadcast instead of leaving the filler music and graphics for three minutes. We return with Archer beating on Dustin and putting him down with a lariat. They fight to the floor again by the announce desk, and Jericho promises not to intercede because he’s in “commentary mode, not fighting mode”. Archer runs him into the post and leaves him laying while Brandi tries to rally him up. Jericho notes that he’ll never quit because he’s too stupid for his own good. Fair enough. Back in, Archer continues beating on Dustin and adds a suplex while Dustin bleeds all over the place and Lance literally has Dustin’s blood on his hands. He’d be the worst Big Brother player ever. Dustin comes back with the Shattered Nuts, but Archer shrugs it off and beats Dustin down again, then picks him up and puts him down with a short clothesline. And we take another break. Back with Dustin fighting out of a chinlock and he makes a comeback with a Code Red as Jericho clarifies that he’s a Rhodes and thus is too stupid to stay down. They slug it out and Dustin comes back with a lariat and a powerslam. I don’t know if there was editing funny business here, but Dustin’s makeup and cut look different after the break. Dustin goes up, but Archer catches him on the way down with a chokeslam for two. Archer goes up with the ropewalk into a moonsault for two and that sets up the Blackout, but Dustin escapes. Another chokeslam gets two for Archer, but Dustin rolls him over for two. Archer gets annoyed and boots him down again before ripping off a turnbuckle and ramming Dustin into the exposed steel. Where was Bryce Remsberg to stop him that time? QT Marshall wants to throw in the towel, but Cody won’t let him, so Archer puts Dustin in a clawhold and smashes his head into the mat a few times before pinning him at 23:30. I appreciated the guy at ringside yelling “Throw in the towel, you idiot!” This of course set up Cody avenging his brother and winning the TNT title tournament at Double or Nothing. The match was another one where it was good, I think, but felt artificially stretched out to fill time and didn’t really work in the absence of a crowd. Dustin’s act works best when he’s got a crowd to rally him for his amazing comebacks, and this just felt like two guys in a studio. I will give it the benefit of the doubt, though, because it was absolutely the best they could do under the circumstances. ***1/2
Which is kind of the theme for this show, as this was the last studio taped Dynamite before they moved to Daily’s Place, filled with long matches to use up their two hours because everyone was quarantined or couldn’t travel. They did the best they could at the time and watching it now, it’s a pretty good show, but my god I hope we never have to go back to this era again.