It has now been one year since AEW Dynamite and NXT kicked off Wednesday Night Wrestling and to celebrate the Wrestling Headlines Super Powers, me and JCool, collide with a look at the top five matches from each TV show’s first year on the air. This week is part two, AEW Dynamite, in case you missed it you can find JCool’s Top 5 NXT matches here.
Sam: Into my territory JCool. Before we get started I wanted to ask you if you’ve been watching any AEW, and what your overall impression of the company has been in its first year of TV?
JCool: Once my parental leave ended in mid-October, and I got back to the regular teaching schedule, I found I wasn’t able to keep up much with AEW beyond reading results and catching clips and comments on social media (“Bring out the bubbly!”). I like what I’ve seen and I especially enjoy the presentation of records, rankings and match time limits. The sport element catches my attention, for sure.
It looks like they’ve done a lot of things well and, if I had more free time, I’d gladly follow it more closely.
Sam: Before we get to the top five I did quickly want to list out some Honourable Mentions that didn’t make the watchlist.
Nyla Rose v Riho (2.10.19): Off the very first Dynamite to crown the women’s champion. I went in not caring at all but through pure wrestling skill, Riho managed to draw me in and have me on the edge of my seat in the final exhilarating act. Still possibly AEW’s best ever women’s match.
The Young Bucks v Private Party (9.10.19): The upset that rocked the tag team title tournament with the rookie Private Party beating out the company EVPs. Absolutely blistering match with an awesome ending moment that saw Private Party jumping the barricades and celebrating with the crowd.
SCU v Adam Page & Kenny Omega (21.1.19): I couldn’t leave off the best match from the Jericho Cruise episode. A back and forth affair that saw the crowning of Kenny Omega and Adam Page as tag team champs in front of a red hot crowd, in one of the most unique wrestling locations you will find.
Cody v Eddie Kingston (22.7.20): In the early rounds of Cody’s fantastic run as TNT Champion it often felt like Cody was fighting wrestlers not quite on his level. That all went out the window when Eddie Kingston marched out, mic in hand and cut one of the best debut promos you’ll ever see. A bloody brawl of a match that climaxed with Cody being powerbombed into thumbtacks, it was the pinnacle of the TNT Championship Run.
Best Friends v Proud & Powerful – Street Fight (16.9.20): One of the most unique matches on the list, set in the parking lot of Daily’s Place and featuring two middle of the pack teams that seized the moment to do something very special. Your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about gimmick matches but if you want to see something that feels like a violent parking lot brawl, then this is for you.
Now onto the top five.
5. Kenny Omega & Adam Page [c] v The Lucha Bros
AEW Tag Team Championship Match (19.2.20)
Sam: One of the constants for AEW since Dynamite launched has been an absolutely stellar tag division so it is quite fitting that we are starting with two of the highest-profile teams in it. This particular match came off one of my favourite episodes of Dynamite that also included a great tag team Battle Royale, Jon Moxley v Jeff Cobb and Cody v Wardlow in a steel cage match.
It is really no surprise that these four wrestlers, who could all be top singles stars in their own right, managed something pretty special. However, the icing on the cake is how seamlessly they manage to merge together and perform as tag teams. Lucha Bros are effortlessly smooth together while Omega and Hangman are purposefully slightly clunkier but equally as effective.
This match is a real hidden gem and gets overlooked for the incredible Hangman & Omega v The Young Bucks at Revolution just a week and a half later. On the night though this match felt like the coronation of Omega and Hangman as the top act in the tag team division.
JCool: Such precision in the high-flying action from all four men in this match. I enjoyed the peaks and valleys of this match, and just how animated the crowd was throughout it all. Pentagon Jr’s gravity-defying hurricanrana to the outside was a jaw-dropping moment for me. When Omega kicked Fenixx in the face when Fenixx jumped off the top rope, it made me wonder why more guys didn’t do that. Stopped him in his tracks and led to a successful title defence for Omega/Page.
4. FTR & The Young Bucks v The Lucha Brothers & The Butcher & The Blade (8.7.20)
Sam: This match was a triumph in match structuring. Not only was it the first in-ring meeting of The Young Bucks and FTR after years of build up, it had the rivals teaming together, so had to show both cohesion and tension as they walked a tightrope against another equally eclectic pairing. However despite setting the difficulty level pretty high for themselves these four teams cleared it with ease, telling an enthralling tale of two teams that claimed to be complete opposites but who were in reality warped reflections of one another.
The action was all over the place and took clear cues from fantastic Revival v DIY v AOP triple threat as The Bucks and FTR teamed together to hit each others signature moves before simultaneously hitting their finishing moves, showing clearly how fatally intwined they are to each other.
Credit must be given to the Lucha Bros and The Butcher and The Blade for how they held up their end of this match, the focus was almost entirely on the other teams. These four men more than held up their end of the bargain and were the perfectly constructed obstacle for the two high profile rivals.
JCool: Say yeah! Pretty neat seeing FTR and the Young Bucks team up in this match. It served both teams well to wrestle alongside one another, whetting the appetite for a showdown between them. Who stood out to me here, again, were the Lucha Bros, of whom the AEW commentary team agreed, were presently underdogs in the division. They even got the win and that’s important against such elite opponents.
I prefer the previous tag match, Sam. Multi-man tag is fine and well, but the last match seemed to have extra energy, perhaps a function of the live crowd or the great in-ring chemistry of Omega/Page vs. Lucha Bros.
3. Kenny Omega v PAC
Ironman Match (26.2.20)
Sam: When Kenny Omega signed with AEW expectations for what he could potentially do on national TV were sky high. He was coming off an incredible 2018 that included one of the consensus greatest matches of all time, the 2/3 falls match with Kazuchika Okada. In AEW it has been hard for Omega to find an Okada to reach those levels opposite of, however, in PAC Omega found that man.
While Omega and PAC’s initial two outings left a little on the table, this half-hour did nothing of the sort, producing a pulsating athletic contest that also served its purpose as part of a greater story for both performers. After Omega took their second match it made sense that PAC would attempt to cheat early to gain advantage and look to wear down Omega’s already overworked shoulder and setup The Brutalizer finisher.
Even though it was doing through a very traditional setup for an ironman match, the actual action was as fast and spectacular as you’d expect from these two and the crowd absolutely lapped it up. It set a bar for athletic singles matches that has so far not been topped.
JCool: This was the opening match of the night. That’s a gutsy move by AEW to have a PPV quality match start the show. It likely ensured they had time to run it, including the brief sudden death period required to decide a winner.
Admittedly, it wasn’t until the second half that I really got hooked into this match. There was a huge Super Falcon Arrow by PAC on Omega to the outside that shocked the crowd. That got my attention after PAC got himself DQ’ed to beat up on Omega with a chair and tie the falls at 1-1. The submission attempt, by PAC, to close the 30 minutes was suspenseful. Finally, seeing Omega’s devastating chain of offence, including those snap dragon suplexes of his was a glimpse into why he’s called one of the best wrestlers in the world.
2. Cody v Wardlow
Steel Cage Match (19.2.20)
Sam: Even though AEW was established as theoretically a ‘workrate’ promotion, bringing the styles The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega to national TV, the true foundation of its main event scene in its first year has actually been based more around the grittier, characterful matches of Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley and the main man of this match Cody Rhodes.
This particular match came at the emotional peak of the gripping feud between Cody and MJF. A week after the incredible lashing of Cody, it was the final step Cody would need to overcome to earn his match with his former protege. It is so far the only steel cage match that AEW have put on and they immediately set it apart from the somewhat mixed WWE lineage of steel cage matches with a gritty and raw tone, noting that in AEW escape is not an option and that the cage is somewhere feuds go at their most intense.
The match itself was Cody Rhodes at the very peak of his powers as a face. There are very few people in wrestling that can muster the heart and fire that Cody posses and the always raucous AEW crowd it is impossible not to be sucked into the drama of his matches. This was only Wardlow’s tenth recorded match as a professional wrestler but he was the absolute perfect mountain of brute force for Cody to overcome on this night. Oh, and Cody did a Moonsault off the top of the cage to finish it.
This match was bloody, gritty and firey, just the way I love wrestling to be.
JCool: In the continuing discussion of what is most important in pro wrestling, may I nominate this match in the “Moments to Remember” category. If you’re a moments fan, and Sam, I’m thinking you might be, then I can appreciate why this match is #2 for the year. I honestly am stunned that this was a TV main event, and not a PPV match.
From what I can gather, this match helped build further animosity between Cody and MJF. I liked the moments with Coach Arn on the outside, defending Cody by using the cage door and then helping Brandi avoid a punch to the face later on. I liked seeing face Cody gain sympathy with a busted head and I liked how Wardlow played a very traditional big man heel role. I’d probably appreciate the match more had I followed the entirety of the feud, too, so great pick here, Sam.
1. Jon Moxley [c] v Darby Allin
AEW Championship Match (5.8.20)
Sam: One of the best things AEW has done in its first year is to use its platform to elevate new, previously underground talents to stardom. Names like MJF, Jungle Boy and Sammy Guvera immediately come to mind, however no wrestler has captured the hearts of the fans quite like Darby Allin. He is defiant, reckless and most importantly has bucket loads of heart, all of which would be on full display in this AEW Championship match.
The scene for it was perfectly set by a typically brilliant Jon Moxley promo earlier in the night, where the champ talked about how the reckless Allin reminded him of himself, saying while he appreciates the respect they have for each other, he will do anything he can to stop Allin if he has to.
The promo paid off spectacularly in the match with Moxley controlling much of it but the defiant Allin making a number of kamikaze attacks to try and inch his way back. However, it was the motives underneath the moves that truly brought the drama to this match. Throughout the bout Moxley maintained a constant stream of talk, telling Allin, “this is the part where I pin you” and “when I tell you to tap, you tap”. For his part the defiant Allin was equally direct, offering two middle fingers to Moxley’s attempts to make him quit, forcing Moxley to do “whatever it took,” to properly take him out.
I also loved how natural the injection of the number 1 contender, MJF, was to the match. In a great moment of shared universe storytelling, ge cut a promo saying how he hoped Allin would win so he could have an easier match and then went out to bloody up Moxley and make the next near fall that much closer.
For me, the ending shot of Moxley cradling Allin was the chef’s kiss on this match. It was violent, bloody and exciting but did it all in service of an incredible story between two lone wolves beating one another until they respected one another.
JCool: Both Moxley and Allin are two of the most intriguing characters to watch on Dynamite. They ooze charisma of a rebellious and angsty nature, which appeals to my inner teen as much as it appeals to me currently. Sam’s right, though. The promo is what made me buy into this match, positioning Moxley as the voice of reason, appealing to Allin not to be reckless. It set the tone for the entire match.
Allin threw everything he could at Moxley and didn’t give up until he could simply not stand any longer. Loved the moment where Moxley did the sign of the cross, knowing he’d have to hurt the kid with a Paradigm Shift to win the match. The run-in, from MJF, added to the “anything can happen” feeling that AEW is running so well with these days, but it wasn’t enough to stop Moxley from retaining the championship.
I see no fault, from what I watched on this list, in placing Moxley/Allin at #1. The storytelling and the fact that the title was on the line lift this a few notches above Cody/Wardlow for me.
That wraps it up the top ten AEW & NXT matches for their first year on TV, what were your favourite matches from year one of Wednesday Night Wrestling? Let us know in the comments below or you can find us on Twitter @JCoolWH and @Sir_Samuel.
You could even write your own list in the LOP Columns Forum. We’d love to see you give it a shot.