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Dynamite recap & reactions: PPV build heats up

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AEW Dynamite (Feb. 15, 2023) emanated from El Paso County Coliseum in El Paso, TX. The show featured Jon Moxley and Hangman Page upping the stakes, Wardlow adding drama to his feud with Samoa Joe, the devious return of Christian Cage, and much more on the road to Revolution.

Get caught up on all the Dynamite details with the excellent play-by-play from Claire Elizabeth.

Heading into the show on Wednesday evening, AEW had only one match booked so far for Revolution on March 5. Several story directions solidified for the PPV during Dynamite. Let’s run it down in order of most effective sizzle.

Jon Moxley vs. Hangman Page in Texas Death Match

Both Jon Moxley and Hangman Page were in action for Dynamite. Moxley handled business with Claudio Castagnoli in a Texas Tornado bout against Rush and Preston Vance. Hangman dealt the dead man’s hand to Kip Sabian. Business picked up after the cowboy’s match.

The scene unfolded as a double bonus creating two matches I want to see. Sticking a stipulation onto another rematch between Moxley and Hangman was an easy sell. Creating genuine excitement over Moxley versus Evil Uno was an unexpected treat.

Moxley came out to the ring flanked by Claudio and Wheeler Yuta. He downplayed the idea of unfinished business with the cowboy. He pinned Hangman, so that’s settled. Mox admitted that Page earned respect, but he still has zero fear of him. There is no chance Hangman will beat him again, so his advice was to let it go.

Hangman snatched the mic with frustration over their rubber match ending in a roll-up. He thinks their series should end with only one man left standing. Moxley made a crack about the emo cowboy having no friends. Enter the Dark Order. Hangman didn’t want them in the ring for their own protection from the Blackpool Combat Club. Evil Uno told Hangman to get out of his face. Uno spoke sternly to Mox and pie-faced the lunatic. Moxley bottled his rage to challenge Hangman to a Texas Death Match at Revolution.

Oh, man. Moxley was so convincing in that promo exchange. This is a man that lives to fight, and it showed. The way he looked through the Dark Order to deliver the message of Texas Death gave me chills. Hangman is in this more for his own ego. Moxley does it for fun. It’s going to be a war when he fights Hangman on the PPV, and I can’t wait.

I never would have believed that I would be excited for Moxley versus Uno, and yet here we are. Uno has some brass ones treating Mox like that. The pie-face was the best moment of the show. I love when weaker underdogs step up to the plate with bravado. I fully expect Moxley to buzzsaw through Uno, but this is the type of action that can help the Dark Order grow beyond their joke status.

Hangman has turned into a conundrum of a character over time. He has both an inferiority complex and a superiority complex at the same time. Hangman never feels good enough, and yet he looks down at the Dark Order as a group of chumps. It’s condescending, especially when they are supposed to be friends. The Dark Order are grown-ass men (not to be confused with grown Ass Men) who are paid to wrestle professionally. Hangman doesn’t need to baby them, and they don’t deserve it. I kind of want to see Uno fight Hangman after this in a big brother versus little brother sort of way to gain respect.

Samoa Joe vs. Wardlow for the TNT Championship

Samoa Joe and Wardlow will duke it out for the TNT Championship at Revolution. Before this evening, I viewed Joe battling Wardlow as a primo hoss fight. Nothing more, nothing less. I personally didn’t have a rooting interest in favor of Wardlow. That changed when he shared a touching tale explaining a special motivation.

Wardlow sat down with Jim Ross to talk about the relationship with his father. They grew apart during Wardlow’s childhood then reconnected when Wardlow was a young adult. It wasn’t long after that when his father revealed that he had stage 4 cancer. Thankfully, Wardlow’s dad was able to watch his first match as a professional wrestler. His father died a short time later.

Wardlow was never one to grow his hair out. After seeing what cancer did to his father’s hair, Wardlow decided to embrace growing the power of his mane as a tribute to his father. Joe knew that story when cutting Wardlow’s hair off.

If there is only one video to watch from Dynamite, this is it.

Damn. That is a hell of a dramatic story weaving into a wrestling feud to create emotion. Wardlow’s incentive for revenge makes this match shoot up the charts on my anticipation scale. How can I not have any reaction but contempt for Joe? Go, Wardlow, go!

Christian Cage returns

Christian Cage is back, and he returned like only he can. Jungle Boy just finished a hard-fought victory over Brian Cage. As he exited up the ramp, Christian made his presence known still wearing a sling for his injury. JB rushed up, but Christian had a plan. He pulled out mace to spray in Jungle Boy’s eyes. Christian then removed the sling and executed the Kill Switch on the ramp.

Jungle Boy versus Christian has not been announced yet for the PPV, but it sure seems like a certainty. This was a great way for Christian to reignite his dastardly heel heat in an instant. Christian heats up crowds faster than a cup of noodles.

AEW world title scene

Bryan Danielson went through five different opponents to earn his shot at MJF for the AEW World Championship in a 60-minute Iron Man match at Revolution. The work is done, but AEW still needs to give them face time each week to keep the tension hot.

In the aftermath of Danielson’s win last week, he spoke about MJF’s desperate acts knowing that the Boogeyman is coming to take the title away.

MJF’s plan for a promo backfired when Christopher Daniels rejected an envelope of cash in exchange for bad-mouthing Danielson. Daniels put over the American Dragon as the best wrestler in the world. MJF was not pleased. That led to a low blow kick and an armbar. Danielson arrived on the scene for the save.

Danielson and MJF tread water this week for their upcoming clash. The segment did more to sell me on desiring MJF versus Daniels than the Iron Man PPV bout. I hope AEW books that for TV soon. MJF did have a good line recognizing the difficulty of beating Danielson to show he’s not delusional, just arrogant about his ability to win. I don’t think many believe MJF is the better wrestler, but I do think it is easy to buy into the idea that MJF will find a way to win. On top of the jibber-jabbering, MJF was amusing in his disdain for the fans by stealing kisses and throwing beverages. To sum up, the small picture was entertaining, while the larger picture was not advanced.

Gunns tag title defense

The Gunns know their fate for Revolution. AEW announced a three-way tag title defense. Battle royals over the next two weeks will determine their opponents. The Acclaimed chimed in for the rematch clause to make it a four-way.

So many teams vying for the prize will make for maximum chaos. One small thing that can turn major over time is that I hope AEW doesn’t start relying on mandatory title rematches. It leads to forced matchmaking that gets stale in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with having the former champs rebuild momentum to earn the rematch.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Orange Cassidy, The Acclaimed, & Billy Gunn defeated Jay Lethal, Jeff Jarrett, Sonjay Dutt, & Satnam Singh. Wild 8-man action breaking down in the end for the Acclaimed to drop the hammer on Dutt’s nuts with Shiver Me Timbers to win.

Fun opener with so much side activity to enjoy. The Gunns were on stage goofing off, Cassidy teased a showdown with giant Singh, Billy hit a Fameasser on Singh, Taz blared scissor sound effects on commentary, the obnoxious Dutt took the pin as comeuppance, Max Caster was eager with energetic pelvic thrusts for the finisher, and even Singh did the strut on the apron. Good times. This was more about the party than a meaningful result.

Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli defeated Rush & Preston Vance. Texas Tornado rules in effect. Rugged brawl with blood from Mox and Vance. Mox finished with hammering elbows then wrapped a chain around Vance’s neck to choke him for a submission.

This fight was intense. There was a fair share of brawling on the outside before the match even started. The slobberknocking intensified as the match wore on. My favorite spot was Rush and Vance trying to pull Mox’s arms off his body in different directions. It looked like a medieval torture device. Claudio and Rush going at it makes me yearn for that ROH world title fight. If not at the next ROH PPV, then that would be a dandy for Battle of the Belts. I love when Claudio gets extra aggressive. He was in an ornery mood punching Vance with the chain. Even though the giant swing is always fun, the rage in Claudio’s eyes adds an element of danger that elevates him to top guy status in my view. He doesn’t always bring that attitude to the ring each time, but watch out when he does.

Mark Briscoe defeated Josh Woods. The Lucha Bros made a surprise appearance to help Briscoe even the odds from Mark Sterling’s jabroni squad. Briscoe reached for the sky to land the froggy bow for victory.

This was satisfying as a fan favorite match for me. I know how good both Briscoe and Woods can wrestle from their ROH work, so it was nice to see Taz react positively in time. Taz was probably already aware that Briscoe and Woods can put on a show, but the idea is more like he represented viewers putting fresh eyes on these two. Taz laughed at Briscoe’s comic style with redneck kung fu and also respected Briscoe’s serious moves. For Woods, Taz appreciated the level of skill in his technical ability. Woods is a wrestler that I hope gets more opportunity for matches in AEW. He was peaking toward the next level of status right before ROH went on hiatus.

Jungle Boy defeated Brian Cage. It was speed versus power in the ring. JB poured on offense in the end with a spinning DVD, crucifix bomb, thrust kick, and running elbow smash to the back of the head to secure a roll-up.

Good match. Cage definitely got his shit in, and I mean that in a positive way. His power plexes were cool, and his power flexes were even better. No-selling JB’s chops to do a double bicep pose brought the chuckles. Cage also did a little shuffle step into a second pose later in the match. Jungle Boy’s winning rally was impressive. That was world title contender level.

Hangman Page defeated Kip Sabian. Mr. Box Head attacked the cowboy earlier in the evening with help from Butcher and Blade. Hangman came in angry looking to clean Kip’s clock. Sabian used wily evasion tactics to make it competitive. It was only a matter of time before Hangman connected on a hefty lariat. He finished with the Dead Eye piledriver.

Hangman kicked ass. That’s what we want to see. I was impressed by Sabian’s performance. He’s always had the flash. This match felt more about the substance in strategy. I actually took him seriously with the way to used his agility to set up offense.

Ruby Soho defeated Dr. Britt Baker DMD and Toni Storm. Three-way fisticuffs in the main event. The story was Soho choosing a side. She wasn’t interested in ganging up on Baker or Storm, so she chose to rumble alone. It was every woman for herself. There was no disqualification due to the rules, so Saraya took advantage to attack. Soho was trapped in a Texas Cloverleaf from Storm and a Lockjaw from Baker at the same time. Saraya booted Baker in the mush just because she could. Storm hit a DDT to Jamie Hayter on the floor. Baker ate a lightning spiral from Saraya and a running hip attack from Storm. As Storm set up a piledriver, Soho reentered to dump Storm out onto Saraya. Soho secured a roll-up on Baker for victory.

Afterward, Saraya slapped Soho upside the head wanting to know which side she is on. Soho was tired of the drama and celebrated her win alone.

Decent match with a rapid pace of action. It felt like a genuine three-way fight rather than rounds of one-on-one with the third resting. The story of the match with Soho standing alone was well played. Not so much for the aftermath. Tension was in the air for something to happen, but nothing did. No reward for Soho to get a title shot. No turns choosing Baker or Saraya. No friends rallying behind Soho. It just closed out awkwardly to end the show.

Notes: Dynamite was in memoriam to Jerry Jarrett, the father of Jeff Jarrett.

Adam Cole is happy to be back on the road, even though, a little part of him is discouraged that he is so close to wrestling again but not quite ready. Cole has learned to savor the little victories in his health improving. He has some ideas for a return opponent, but he’ll keep that to himself for now. The previous video packages made it sound like Cole would return at Revolution, however, I’m not so sure that is the case now. It doesn’t make sense in story to rush him back with week-to-week checks for medical clearance.

The Gunn Show is here. Billy’s boys mocked the criticism and the idea of not paying their dues on the indies.

Top Flight & AR Fox goaded the Elite into another trios title defense for Rampage.

Chris Jericho isn’t interested in giving Ricky Starks another match. Even though Starks got lucky, he’s not on Jericho’s level. Daniel Garcia plans to expose Starks as a fraud on Rampage. Good thoughts from Garcia. Too bad those same words have been used for the Danielson versus MJF feud. Get this man a thesaurus.

Stokely Hathaway threatened legal action on AEW for his injury when Hook twisted his arm. AEW responded by suspending Hook pending an investigation. Matt Hardy and Isiah Kassidy nodded to each other oddly as if a silent message.

Stud of the Show: Brian Cage

The Machine looked like a star throwing Jungle Boy around the ring. He added personality with various muscle poses.

Match of the Night: Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli vs. Rush & Preston Vance

This contest hit the spot of satisfaction for a slugfest.

Grade: B

Strong action in the ring with stories developing for the PPV. I appreciate the surprises and unexpected moments that arose during this broadcast.

Share your thoughts about Dynamite. How do you rate it? What were your favorite moments from the show?

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