AEW Dynamite 6/8 — if you read Twitter — was highly divisive. To some it was an excellent installment of AEW television, while to others it was a jumbled, poorly-paced mess of an episode.
For this writer, the show was somewhere in the middle. There were parts that were utterly fantastic, while others missed the mark. Was it the best episode? No, that distinction lies to last week’s near-perfect episode in Los Angeles or the Brodie Lee tribute show. Was it the worst? Guys, did we forget the final Dynamite of 2019 with The Dark Order Creepers air punching Dustin Rhodes or the late night Dynamites in Jacksonville last summer?
This was a table setting episode. These type of episodes — whether on Dynamite or any episodic television show — aren’t always the sexiest episodes. In fact, they might not even be strong individual episode, but they could (and should) lead to something greater at the end of the season/storyline/whatever. Time will tell if the groundwork laid here will pay off, but if there’s one thing AEW has paid off more times than not — it’s short and long term storytelling with an athletic and emotional pay off.
Let’s break down what happened on AEW Dynamite 6/8:
The Casino Battle Royale: This is one of my favorite versions of The Battle Royale concept — mainly because it has an aspect of the Royal Rumble to it, but in clusters of five.
The major issue this match had was the lack of some of the major players in AEW. This royale was happening in order to determine the #2 contender (essentially) for the Interim Title. No Wardlow. No Hangman. No Miro. No Malakai. None of the other title holders in AEW or ROH. Plus no Jeff Hardy, Bryan Danielson or Adam Cole. That took some of the luster and stakes out of the match as it felt like everyone was wrestling to fight (and lose to) Jon Moxley at the end of the night.
Now had Tony Khan stated, when he was on Busted Open, that there would be a new title introduced on the show and that some of the top stars in AEW would be vying for it thus not being in the Casino Battle Royale — then that could’ve taken the bad taste out of things. Yet, if you look at it critically and from a ratings perspective — does this admission make the less important and people tune out? Damned if you, damned if you don’t.
Outside of this, the Casino Battle Royale delivered. AEW knows how to produce these matches — as everyone involved (literally everyone) had a moment to shine. Keith Lee, Darby Allin, Wheeler Yuta and Andrade stood out in their moments most in the match. Powerhouse Hobbs and Konosuke Takeshita felt more important than normal in this match, with Hobbs’ presence as a monster being solidly reinforced. The Acclaimed/Ass Boys (Gunn Club) stuff is the proverbial lemons into lemonade.
However, Swerve Strickland is the person that stands out the most. His ‘swerve’ (pun obviously intended) eliminating his “friends” Keith Lee and Darby Allin makes his character that much more interesting. Is this a full-fledged heel turn effective immediately? Is this the beginnings of a turn? Or is this reflective of his “mogul” character. I’m highly intrigued.
Hot Take #1: Wheeler Yuta is definitely on the path to become the Ricky Steamboat of AEW.
Hot Take 2: Push Takeshita to the moon, brother.
The All-Atlantic Title: This came absolutely out of nowhere and I still can’t decide if this title is absolutely necessary. This is because I don’t know the title means or stands for. AEW needs to deliver a video package spelling out what this title is going to be. Throughout the show Tony Schiavone tried to mention how well AEW does in the UK, but seemed to get cut off by Excalibur or JR. Is this going to be tied to the UK or all of AEW’s partners?
The bracket for this title is an absolutely filthy one. It explains why those big names weren’t in the tournament, which makes sense. Again though, we need to know why this title exists. If this is a traveling, international title, then whoa boy I am here for it. An AEW title that could be defended amongst AEW’s international partners? Yes, please and thank you. A title that could change hands internationally and we see this new champion show up on Dynamite — oh yeah.
Imagine the title being defended in AAA and someone red hot like Vikingo wins the belt and finally comes to AEW? Or one of the AAA leyendas like Cibernetico or Heavy Metal win and get their first American run on TV in forever? What about it being defended in RevPro or maybe even WXW in Germany (if they aren’t still affiliated with WWE)? What if goes DDT and Jun Akiyama gets the belt and we finally see Eddie Kingston fight one of his idols? What about if the belt is defended in New Japan? Imagine Malakai Black defending against Suzuki or Miro battling Shingo or Pac going face to face with Ibushi. All of this is so damn exciting.
However, if this is just another belt to have on AEW programming — not sure that’s as exciting. Listening back to the Arn podcasts on the Ad Free network you just hear how many belts Jim Crockett had and it was mind-boggling overkill. I think belts need to special and you don’t need a million on TV to make them special.
Buddy Matthews vs. PAC: Do you like professional wrestling? Then watch this match. It’s a chef’s kiss. No more words need to be said other than AEW needs to run this back as a multi-fall match or an Iron Man match.
United Empire Officially Arrives in AEW: I am very much enjoying the build to Forbidden Door. I’ve said this offline, but if AEW’s overarching storyline is the MCU (as Tony Khan has mentioned in interviews years ago) then Forbidden Door is AEW’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s going to interrupt the normal storyline flow and generate some really interesting stuff that could have implications to the grander story. Personally, seeing Will Ospreay in AEW was wild (but something I’ve wanted to see for a while), but what really got me amped was the almighty Aussie Open (Mark “Dunkzilla” Davis and “The Aussie Arrow” Kyle Fletcher) hitting the ring and rumbling with FTR. Put this in my veins. This will be a classic.
Hangman Page vs. David Finlay: There was a never a doubt Hangman was going to win this match. David Finlay was given a lot of time to shine, probably too much, and you could tell the crowd wasn’t really vibing with him. I don’t know what it is about Finlay, but he hasn’t found that next gear yet. Do I think he will? Yeah, most likely, but it’s gonna take something to get him there.
In the end this was a perfectly fine match, but this match wasn’t here for just the wrestling, the whole story of Hangman’s confidence — something he’s battled with for years — was the focus. And of course this son of a bitch (respectfully, Hangman is my legit favorite wrestler) calls out Okada at Forbidden Door so he can win the IWGP Title. Yes, yes, and happy birthday to me (my birthday is in December, but you get the point). Adam Cole’s promo was confusing because it made it seem like he’s going to fight Okada, despite reports he’s going to be out till after Forbidden Door. That was a bit of cold water on the segment. However, If (big if) Okada retains against ol’ Switchblade, then we’re going to have a modern classic between The Rainmaker and The Hangman.
Wardlow’s Promo: Oh lord, this was the most divisive thing on the show. Wardlow got a much better reaction than in Los Angeles and he effectively delivered a mission statement of what he wanted to do. It’s nice to see a newly minted, red hot baby face do this, to be honest.
However, by saying that he’s waiting to beat Punk and that’s why he didn’t want to become interim champion — essentially takes a dump on the interim title and champion. Also, many have questioned why he wouldn’t want to win the interim belt, then beat Punk. Good question. This promo at times made Wardlow looks great, but also suffer from the curse of bad babyface logic.
Now, if he had said “I had CM Punk beat, but if it wasn’t for someone’s distraction (MJF) I would’ve had you beat. Punk even admitted that” then the promo is saved a bit. If I’m Tony Khan and (likely Jon Moxley) I remember this and use it to my advantage by stating no one is getting to CM Punk because the interim champ (again likely Mox) is going to destroy CM Punk or something like that.
Wardlow going after the TNT does make a ton of sense. They need to keep the War Dog hot and what better way to do that than have him salvage the TNT Title was has become a laughing stock of a title in 2022.
The Baddies: Malcolm Bivens is a national treasure and should be protected at all costs. He’s pure gold and him stepping in front of Tony Schiavone to cut a promo (and Schiavone giving his patented exasperated eye roll) was perfect. Jade Cargill is an absolute star, who is outshining a lot of people on the roster right now. This is helping not only Red Velvet and Kiera Hogan but their opponents — Kris Statlander (aka Kirsten Highlander), Athena and Anna Jay. More storylines for the women because AEW’s roster is light years better than it was even a year ago.
Thunder Rosa vs. Marina Shafir: Thunder Rosa finally gets a match on Dynamite … and it’s this. This wasn’t good, but thankfully Thunder Rosa willed this into a salvageable match. Shafir, unfortunately, was the “the problem” (yes pun definitely intended again). However, I don’t blame her as much as I blame AEW for slotting her into this position. Shafir has the pedigree of being trained in NXT and having an MMA background, but she that does not mean she should be positioned as a title contender on the big shows. She needs to be protected better and teamed with some like Serena Deeb in order to get her sharp, but also protect her from being exposed as someone who cannot put all the pieces together yet. Shafir’s best work was after the bell and that’s a shame, however this lead us to what we really want…
Toni Storm and Thunder Rosa.
Listen, this is why we tune in every week and why we pay to watch AEW PPV’s — great wrestlers having great matches. Storm and Rosa will have an absolute, as the poet’s say, banger of a match. They will beat each other senseless and deliver a hell of a match. AEW has to give this match time for promos, vignettes and letting Toni work up the ranks (including knocking Nyla Rose out of the #1 spot). This will be money.
The Bucks vs. The Hardys vs. Jurassic Express in a Ladder Match Next Week: Nope, nope nope. First off, they need to pump the brakes on The Hardys and putting them in high-risk matches like this. If their deal is a one-year run and AEW is getting all the mileage out of them that they can, I understand that but I don’t agree with it. Jeff Hardy has been banged up and does not need to be put into this match so soon after major injury.
Another issue is that the tag champs are once again the ride along for a three-way match. Why couldn’t this be a ladder match between The Bucks and Jurassic? Why throw another team in. Sadly, the expiration date on Jurassic as tag champs is long past due as FTR is the team to beat and there are other teams that could benefit from being in the hunt and/or being tag champs.
The Main Event of AEW Dynamite 6/8: Jon Moxley has always been considered a top guy in AEW. He’s got The Sandman-like entrance. He’s absolutely beloved by the fans. He’s in one of the hottest factions in the company. He consistently delivers really good-to-great matches and he as this undeniable aura about him. When CM Punk went down, it was a no-brainer to pull the trigger on giving Mox the run, in front of huge crowds, he deserves. Besides the circumstances of his first title run, Moxley has reinvented himself, bravely rehabbed himself and is undeniably the guy who can carry AEW. His match with Kyle O’Reilly looked to be an absolute nothing burger on paper. Mox was going to win and he’s going to fight Tanahashi (who’s going to beat Goto) at Forbidden Door. These were and are facts and I think everyone is good with these facts.
However, Moxley and O’Reilly went out there and threw doubt into the equation and they did this by beating each others souls out of their bodies. Moxley has had matches like this before, but something was different. Moxley ascended to a higher level of wrestling consciousness in this match and he became the #1 human being in AEW. Simply put, he became the guy. This was the first step towards what should be an incredible run. This new age of Mox is going to be incredible to watch. Fresh matches, fresh ideas and all with a new, more impactful version of Moxley violence. As the kids would say “Let’s fucking go.”
AEW Dynamite 6/8 was not the best product AEW has delivered, but it was a cross roads episodes (pun not intended there) — if some of these things hit it will be amazing, if they miss it’s going to be a rough summer for AEW.