AEW Dynamite 8/12 delivered another wall-to-wall two hour show of really fun in-ring action, an absolutely killer promo, a shocking win, and unfortunately the continuance of a bad trend within the company.
The Era of Orange Begins: One year ago (roughly), AEW announced they had signed longtime indie darling Orange Cassidy to a contract. The reaction from fans who loved the laconic legend’s blend of comedy and in-ring prowess were over the moon. But that crowd was much smaller than those who were confused as to why the guy with his hands in his pockets was being signed to a full-time deal.
One year later (roughly), he defeats Chris Jericho in the main event of AEW Dynamite 8/12. Some people will write this off as, “2020, right guys?” But it’s way more than an aberration brought upon by the pandemic. Orange Cassidy has been the prime example of someone All Elite Wrestling has built up into a star (Hikaru Shida being another – more on her later, though). He’s gone from the dude who randomly showed up backstage to the mascot for Best Friends to a man who got a Road Warrior pop when he first stepped into an AEW ring to wrestle.
His program with Chris Jericho has been one of the better feuds AEW has built in 2020 and Jericho’s willingness to play the fool to Cassidy as well as sell his ass off for Cassidy has truly made this feud so entertaining. Yes, this week’s match was not as great as their match from Fyter Fest last month — probably due to an awkward finish and Jericho’s recent decision to go play a God damn festival in the midst of a pandemic — I still found myself jumping out of my seat when Orange kicked out of what I swore was the finish and did it again when he won the match.
Will there be a third match in this series? I’m sure there will be as neither Cassidy or Jericho have much to do heading into All Out (unless Mike Tyson returns). Will it be tired the third time? Somehow, I think Jericho and Cassidy are both really creative and I think they can squeeze (pun not really intended) some more of this.
So Where Are the Women?: AEW needs to come right out and say they’re rebuilding the women’s division. Half the roster is not going to be seen in the U.S. in 2020 due to the pandemic, Kris Statlander probably won’t return this year due to her injury, and Britt Baker is hopefully coming back at All Out. That’s a lot of hurdles for a division, that was starting to right the ship earlier this year, to overcome. Just come out and admit that.
However, they haven’t. Bucks (not the Young ones) have been passed and we’re getting less than five minutes per episode for the women per week on Dynamite since Shida and Diamante had their match three weeks (or so – time’s an illusion these days). The Women’s Division has been wildly problematic since the jump and here’s my rant…
The division was never started, like the men’s singles and tag divisions, with a main event headliner. There was no Jericho, Omega, Young Bucks for the Women’s Division. It was three fairly unknowns — Kylie Rae, Nyla Rose and Britt Baker — along with a number of Joshi and international talent rounding out the roster. What were they selling the division on? It was Kenny Omega’s “vision” of women’s pro wrestling. To me, that’s such a bad move. The vision should be a piece of the appeal, not the appeal. NXT women’s division — and I know I said I would always avoid comparing the two — was not built on visions, it was built on bona fide talent (yes, I know WWE basically poached every big name female wrestler and didn’t need to do that much to make them stars, but you get my point). Also, the vision of a man about women’s wrestling … exactly.
My theory is AEW was intending to play the long game here. They’d build the division up around Britt/Kylie/Nyla and in Summer 2020 they’d make the run for Tessa Blanchard and place at the top of the division. Of course, none of that happened. As a New York Knicks fan, I can tell you the whole “waiting for a free agent to change your team” method never ever ever ever works.
So, this division has always worked from a deficit (especially after the departure of Kylie Rae). However, you can’t let the women go by the wayside. Yes, take the time to develop new talent on the new Women’s Tag Title Tournament. Yes, put them on Dark. But, they need to promote the hell out of them on Dynamite. Talk about Tay Jay (who people are really into), talk about Nicole “Lil Swole” Savoy, talk about Rachel Ellering, talk about Ivelisse and Diamante. 500,000 people tuned into the first installment of the tag tournament — people WANT women’s wrestling on Dynamite.
Hikaru Shida is a legit star for AEW. I think putting the belt on her at Double or Nothing 2020 was the wrong move. In order to give us a compelling storyline for All Out, Nyla should’ve beaten her in a straight up match (maybe with help from her manager Vicki Guerrero) and then do a whole “Road to #1” storyline with Shida culminating with her beating Nyla in a street fight at All Out. Gives the division something to sink their teeth into — along with a pay off for Swole and Baker.
But, here we are and Shida beats Heather Monroe (who’s super good and should be in AEW) in a few minutes then cuts a 30 second promo (if that) on her open challenge which has seemingly been forgotten.
AEW can, 100% can, turn things around in their women’s division. Hey Thunder Rosa REALLY wants to wrestle Shida and that’d be kinda awesome. Also, go buy a subscription to IndependentWrestling.TV and look at any of the women from Beyond or Women’s Wrestling Revolution (amongst many promotions) and call them up. Or go call Dave Prazak about Shimmer. There’s ways to make this work. But first, AEW needs to acknowledge the problem and make the strides to fix it.
That’s my TED Talk.
A Night of Tag Team Appreciation: You know what I love? Tag team wrestling. You know what AEW does better than almost anyone? Tag team wrestling.
The Young Bucks and Dark Order was exactly what it needed to be — a crazy competitive, fun match. These two have always had amazing chemistry and it showed out here big time. I think people forget, mostly because of The Dark Order gimmick, that Uno and Stu are absolutely awesome as team and I think they showed that tonight. The Bucks continue to be great and I think that they’ve matured as a team and have really found a nice balance between being all high spots or just all selling. They’ve found the groove and I love it.
The Jurassic Express vs. Kenny Omega & Hangman Page was a lot of fun. The ending was a bit abrupt, but I think these two teams had a real nice chemistry. Jungle Boy improves every time I see him and he’s 100% going to be the Surfer Sting of the company. Luchasaurus was the good again, and I’ll keep saying this — Hangman Page need to be the “guy” in AEW by year’s end. I mean, when we had live crowds he was the most over guy on the roster. I still think that holds true and the upside is even higher than even before. Kenny is a guy who is great, but I still don’t know where he fits in AEW. He should be the top guy, right? But he isn’t. He should. It’s confusing and weird.
The Angle: When you hear a “legends appreciation” segment you figure, “Welp, good time for the bathroom?” Or in my case, “Best refresh that drink.” It’s been a rough pandemic, guys. But, I guess we all forgot based gods (I have no idea why I made that dated reference) Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were in it. Arn and Tully absolutely elevated this segment. Tully calling out FTR and The Bucks for not having belts therefore not being the best tag teams was … chef’s kiss. FTR pile driving Ricky Morton? Of course that happened and it was great. Ricky Morton is always going to sell his ass off. And I guess we forgot FTR stands for F*** The Rock ‘n’ Roll. So much happened here and it’s a damn gold mine for angles. I am here for it.
Should’ve Been Sky: So Brodie Lee’s going to win the TNT Title. He has to. He, like Archer and Cage, is a big guy built up to the heavens and then brought plummeting down to earth after their first big time match. It’s logical and he needs it.
That’s cool and all, but Scorpio Sky deserved to win that match. Scorp is one of the best athletes on the roster, knows how to cut a promo, and he’s got star written all over him. He and Cody had a good match, but the abrupt ending — while logical — was still abrupt. Scorpio Sky needs to have a direction in AEW, he’s too important to waste away on secondary shows.
MJF and Mox: This’ll be a print money feud. I don’t even need to go further.