MJF 2020 and the Real Winners and Losers of AEW Dynamite
For months AEW has set the standard for wrestling in the time of COVID-19. They tested the talent, talked about wearing masks and social distancing and brilliantly used their own wrestlers to simulate an enthusiastic crowd.
Although quarantine wrestling will never quite feel like the real thing, AEW came pretty close. As a result, the promotion has mostly maintained its core audience, losing fewer fans than its competitors at WWE.
But, in the last two weeks, it seems like AEW has lost its way a little bit creatively. While fans are still tuning in, many of the storylines don't really make much sense.
The shows are still packed with remarkable talent and some fun matches. Unfortunately, the pieces don't fit together in a completely coherent and satisfying way.
Let's take a look at what worked and what didn't, using our patented "Winners and Losers" format, and see if we can sort it all out together.
Winners: The Young Bucks
You can debate The Young Bucks' place among the best tag teams of all time. They certainly spend a lot of time inserting themselves in the historical narrative right alongside legitimately popular and trendsetting teams like The Hardy Boyz and The Rock 'n' Roll Express.
But those were national acts with long-term success. The Bucks have been on TNT for less than a year and mostly as a midcard team. Perhaps the Jackson brothers and other Hall of Fame teams are apples and oranges at this point when you consider work outside the independent circuit?
That's a conversation for another time.
The good news for AEW is that they can take The Young Bucks, toss them out there with just about anyone and get a fun 15-minute segment out of them. That makes Matt and Nick Jackson winners in my book.
Winner: MJF 2020
As we discussed last week, I'm not sure about saddling MJF with an election motif. But, whether it's the best way to build his bout with AEW champion Jon Moxley or not, he can pull it off and somehow turn it into a tremendous quarter-hour.
MJF is the most gifted orator of his generation—of course, he'll make it work. Like the best talkers in wrestling history, he's capable of taking absolute dreck, shining it up and making it into something special.
Especially cool was the callback to his time as an extra in NXT years ago. Back then, MJF was merely the nobody there for Samoa Joe to shove out of the way. In 2020, he's the man in the middle of the screen everyone watches.
That's got to feel pretty cool for a young wrestler still new to the rarefied air at the top of the sport.
Loser: Scorpio Sky
There was a lot of excitement for Scorpio Sky among hardcore fans, many of whom convinced themselves that Cody was going to lose the TNT Championship to the tag team specialist on a random edition of AEW Dynamite.
That, of course, was a foolish fantasy, especially when you consider the fact Sky had never won a singles bout on AEW Dynamite and his competition on AEW's YouTube show AEW Dark had a combined record of 1-25.
But, at the very least, I expected Sky to get an opportunity to shine. Instead, after a nice build to start the match, it just kind of petered out. Cody never appeared to be in danger of losing, and Sky never really seemed to reach that gear the great ones all have.
Ultimately, it was a middle-of-the-road bout in what has been a kind of aimless title reign for The American Nightmare.
The truth is, AEW is a promotion with more talent than opportunities. Sky is one of many waiting for a chance to prove their merit—and every new signing pushes him further from the television time that could change his life.
Losers: Kenny Omega and Adam Page
Kenny Omega and Adam Page defended their AEW tag team championship, dispatching Jurassic Express in a match that showed enough flashes of brilliance to make its flaws frustrating.
It was almost a great match.
Unfortunately, a few miscues and apparent potatoes occasionally left the wrestlers discombobulated and just far enough off-script to jar the viewer. The result was something that was fun but never anything close to the level of excellence you could sense was possible.
Winner: Tully Blanchard
Poor Kenny Omega and Adam Page. They've been AEW tag team champions for more than 200 days, establishing themselves as the most dominant duo in the promotion's short history.
But, despite this documented success, The Young Bucks and FTR spent significant time on live television discussing which pair was the best tag team in the world.
Eventually, WWE Hall of Famer Tully Blanchard had enough, pointing out that neither of the loudmouth teams could possibly be the best while someone else held the straps. It's a simple point, but one that for whatever reason Omega and Page haven't bothered to raise despite weeks of disrespect.
Only someone with the pedigree of Blanchard, once a member of the legendary Four Horsemen, could speak truth to power that way. And I'm glad he spoke up to put the other tag teams on notice—until someone beats them, Omega and Page are definitionally the best in the world.
Loser: The Women's Division
For the second week in a row, the AEW women's division was featured on Dynamite for fewer than five minutes. While the promotion discussed initiatives like AEW Heels and a tag team tournament on YouTube—both mostly centered so far around executive Brandi Rhodes—the flagship show continued to be a bro show.
Hikaru Shida, AEW's ultra-talented champion, had what amounted to a squash match. No opponent appears to be getting built for a future title match and, frankly, things seem dire for a division that once possessed so much promise.
Online, you'll see excuses about travel bans and plans that have gone awry. But there have been weeks to figure out a new direction. The fact that AEW hasn't says everything about how little this part of the show means to decision-makers in charge of tough choices about how to allocate television time.
Loser: Orange Cassidy
I know this is going to sound almost blasphemous—but Cassidy's big win over Chris Jericho didn't move me.
We've spent weeks building up to this blowoff. And, unlike some in the community, I legitimately love Cassidy's act. I should have been elated.
Instead, it just felt like something that had run its course and was still being dragged out because that's what wrestling does—it takes good things and makes you sick and tired of them.
In the 1970s, promotions would bring Andre the Giant into town for a week, attract a huge audience and then send Andre on his merry way before the crowd could become bored by him. Perhaps Cassidy is like Andre and other special attractions—a dish best served in small doses.