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My Dynamite notes seemed to go down well last week so I figured I’d keep it going.
- I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Jake Roberts is killing it with his promos. Jake is making Lance Archer sound like an absolute wrecking ball and Archer is backing it up in the ring with devastating offence, this is exactly how you build a monster. expect big things from Archer and wouldn’t be surprised if he wins this tournament.
- Even though he lost I really enjoyed seeing a more serious side of Colt Cabana, it was a nice rounding out of his character and reinforces the point I made a few columns ago about AEW creating three dimensional characters.
- Britt Baker continues to make massive steps forward, trouncing a ‘local competitor’ and continuing to build her feud with Hikaru Shida.
- All that said the best AEW match this week wasn’t on Dynamite but instead was on Being The Elite, the original Youtube show that launched this whole venture. For episode 199 they had a number of very fun matches from the ‘BTE Compound’, including the excellent ‘Under The Limit Battle Royal’ the winner of which gets to headline episode 200 of the show in a match of their choosing. The match itself had such a great vibe, it felt like a bunch of friends, who also happen to be amongst the best wrestlers in the world, messing around trying to amuse each other. It was pretty light hearted but the perfect tone for the show and the exact tone I needed with so much going on in the world right now. If you haven’t seen it then here is a link.
Hager v Moxley: A Perfect Build For A Not So Perfect Match
The much hyped main event of Dynamite this week was the Empty Arena, No Holds Barred, Falls Count Anywhere, AEW Championship match between Jon Moxley and Jake Hager. The critical reception of the match has certainly not been friendly however after watching the match twice now I would like to offer something of a defence for it but also a warning for AEW.
Firstly this match was pitched and promoted so well. I am an MMA and boxing fan and the build to this match over the last few weeks and throughout Dynamite this week with video packages featuring various pundits promoting the fight were incredible. Having commentators and journalists like Ariel Helwani giving their picks and Tazz breaking down Hager’s signature head and arm choke gave this match a real big fight feel. AEW has done these kinds of pieces before, notably in the build up to Kenny Omega v Chris Jericho and Cody v Chris Jericho and for me they are one of the things that set AEW apart from any other promotion. This is the first time they have got MMA journalists like Helwani in on the fun which lent credence to Hager as a legitimate two-sport athlete. Other parts of the packages built up the tenacity of Moxley, the champion’s pechance for brutal violence and potential for this No Holds Barred match to become a bloodbath.
However all of the build in the world could not help the match once it started and unfortunately the level of hype that AEW built to could only be fulfilled with a truly great match. An Empty Arena, No Holds Barred Match conjures images in my mind of the brutal Terry Funk and Jerry Lawler empty arena match in 1981 or even The Rock v Mankind in 1999. When you add the wild card of Jon Moxley to the mix the imagination immediately takes a turn for the morbid, especially considering what Moxley has done to the likes of Joey Janella and Kenny Omega in past hardcore mathces. Yet while this match had some hard hitting strikes and really enjoyable grappling sequences, in terms of bloody violence all the match had was some brawling on the outside and a few chair shots. It was a performance reminiscent of some of Moxley’s New Japan G1 matches against the likes of Juice Robinson, Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito or even his most recent match with Minoru Suzuki. These are all matches that featured Mox’s brawling style and received critical praise even without the over the top violence of the Omega match. However given what this match was promoted as, it simply didn’t live up to the expectation that was created or the legacy of the matches it was positioned alongside of. By no means was this a truly bad match but it was most certainly a match that failed to live up to what was promised.
The saving grace on the night was of course the AEW Champion Jon Moxley’s performance. He brought intensity to the match with his performance and sold everything Hager did like his MMA opponent was the beast he had been built up to be.
Unfortunately the fire that Moxley brought was not met by Hager, who has surely now proved he will never reach the heights so many expected him to early in his career. Billed as a hybrid between The Wrestling Machine, Kurt Angle, and The Beast, Brock Lenar, what Hager delivered was a performance that failed to capture any of the intensity or power of either of those performers. Where those two exude an aura of intensity and danger, Hager constantly looked like he was unsure of his next move and where those two seem unafraid to work as stiff and snug as they can get away with, Hager’s strikes and slams land with all the force of a soggy piece of bread.
The worrying thing of course is that this match was pre-taped, so the AEW brass knew exactly what it was but it still received all the hype the AEW machine could muster. Tony Kahn even tweeted before it that the match would be “the most brutal & memorable match we’ve put on TV”. You can say shame on me for falling for a typical wrestling marketing job, however until this point AEW has done all it can to act with transparency and good faith and as a result has created enormous goodwill amongst its fanbase. It is the kind of trust that so many fans find hard to give WWE after years of their less than admirale promotional and booking tactics and it is something AEW should be desperate to hold on to. This is just the first time they have truly broken faith like this but it is a slippery slope and one that does not end in a good place. So of course I will be watching again next week but the magic has certainly dimmed ever so slightly. Let’s hope this is a minor stumble and normal service will resume shortly.
That wraps it up for this week, what did you think of Jon Moxley v Jake HAger? Let me know in the comments below. You can also chat to me further on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or in the AEW section on the LOP Forums.
Missed my last AEW column? Check it out here.
How Many Ex-WWE Wrestlers Should AEW Hire?