HomeTelevisionAEW Dynamite 3/18 Review: No Crowd, No Problem as AEW Delivers a...

AEW Dynamite 3/18 Review: No Crowd, No Problem as AEW Delivers a Blowaway Show

AEW Dynamite 3/18 episode was both a reflection of the current state of the world, and just how pro wrestling can offer relief in this time of crazy uncertainty.

However, instead of delivering a “best of” episode (which they might still have to do depending on the status of the country) — they did what they always do — produced two hours of exciting wrestling and deliver on two massive surprises.

Now it truly was a shame that the surprises — the reveal of Brodie Lee (fka Luke Harper) as The Exalted One, and the reveal that Matt Hardy would be taking Nick Jackson’s spot in Blood and Guts — were done in front of zero fans. Imagine the audience reaction to Rochester’s own being revealed in AEW, or the fact Matt Freaking Hardy is in AEW. Or imagine next week when Matt entered Blood and Guts in Newark (where I definitely had tickets) and the reaction he’d get?

It sucks, sure. But let’s be honest here — this isn’t about individual needs — this about taking care of community and given my own health ridiculousness, and a mom who began chemotherapy, no live shows is for the absolute best of the world.

However, this lack of audience didn’t stop AEW at all. Maybe that’s because AEW did have an audience last night. In a stroke of brilliance, members of the roster surrounded the ring and offered a raucous, and often hilarious presence. Watching MJF, Sean Spears and Tully Blanchard laying bets throughout the show was terrific. Hearing Colt Cabana give running commentary, or seeing The Gunn Club yucking it up was pretty great. And despite it being maybe 10-15 spread around an empty, cavernous Daily’s Place — it felt like an AEW show. It felt like there was an energy and excitement to this show as opposed to other in-studio shows.

And please don’t take that as AEW fanboy banter. I reviewed Friday’s Smackdown for the site, and I will defend that as one of the best Smackdowns ever created to my final day. And hey, RAW was super fun too. However, AEW did what they’re supposed to do — be the alternative to the WWE.

Let’s break down the actual show…

Brandi Rhodes stepped in for Justin Roberts as the ring announcer, and it’s surprising to see some people are legit surprised Brandi did a great job. Did we forget how long she did this in WWE?

Cody Rhodes‘ opening promo may not have worked for everyone, but it worked for me. It was a nice blend of delivering a societal message of safety and hope, while also putting over the in-show storyline. The man has truly evolved into the face of the company and the person we needed to see open things up.

Taz, JR and Excalibur were a terrific three-man booth. Orange Cassidy’s work on commentary was astoundingly great. Put him and Asuka together in the future as a commentary team and we’ve got solid gold, baby!

I cannot put over how amazing Chris Jericho was on this show enough. He was genuinely funny, but he also gave such gravity and seriousness to the program between The Inner Circle, and The Elite, which has been a bit rushed. Him putting over Cody, Matt Jackson and Kenny Omega was really smart as it kept building up how big of a match Blood and Guts will be. Also, his reaction to Matt Hardy…chef’s kiss perfection.

The reveal of The Exalted One was done perfectly. First, it was a complete head fake for the Matt Hardy reveal later in the night. Second, it gave Brodie Lee a chance to cut the best promo I’ve ever heard him have. Third, it put Brodie Lee in a high profile position which has desperately deserved for years. Fourth, the payoff was definitely worth the wait, and did not disappoint.

Lucha Bros vs Best Friends was a hot opener, and the type of match the audience needed to snap us out of the realities of the cold open, and the fact we were in an empty ampitheatre. The idea of them doing a literal street fight is great.

Hikaru Shida vs. Kris Statlander vs. Penelope Ford vs. Riho was a terrific match. These four women put on a high octane match of the likes we haven’t seen in the AEW Women’s Division before. It reminded me of the one AEW did on New Year’s Day…but way better.

AEW’s use of Colt Cabana has been really good, and while he came off as a bit of a heel in the segment, I look forward to he and Kip Sabian locking up.

Butcher & Blade versus Jurassic Express was a bit of a mess, but strong efforts from the four men in the ring, and the commentary doing the work covered a lot of it up. Weakest match on the card, but despite some errors this stuff was fun.

Cody, Hangman Page and Matt Jackson versus Santana, Ortiz and Jake Hager had no right being that good. Hager has been light years better (maybe due to protection and positioning) than his WWE run (minus his teaming with Cesaro) and the former LAX continue to evolve into complete ring generals in every match. Cody sold like he hasn’t had to in AEW to date, and the “let’s put this behind us” union of Hangman and Matt Jackson was a nice touch. Ugh, the crowd pop on that.

Then … Matt Hardy. The master of all promotion and social media push out his finale of Free the Delete right after Brodie Lee’s reveal, and the episode ends with Vanguard 1 flying away…and ending up in Jacksonville live on TNT. The piano playing in the background, and the reveal of Matt Hardy, despite no crowd reaction, was goosebump inducing.

AEW Dynamite 3/18 was the right kind of wrestling show — it was action-packed and the improvised moments made for a unique show. As I thanked WWE last week, I thank AEW this week for producing content we so desperately need.

AEW Dynamite 3/18 is now streaming on the TNT website.



Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

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