Cody Rhodes and the Real Winners and Losers of AEW DynamiteAugust 23, 2020
Cody Rhodes and the Real Winners and Losers of AEW Dynamite
Online fans were restless as 6 p.m. ET came and went and AEW Dynamite, already bumped from Wednesday to Saturday, was further delayed by the NBA playoffs. But patient fans were rewarded with a show that built momentum throughout and culminated in one of the most shocking upsets in the promotion's short history.
There is a lot to unpack here as storylines, seemingly stuck in quicksand for weeks, finally began to move forward in time with the company's decision to open its shows up to paying fans.
Who were the real winners and losers from the afternoon? In wrestling, it's never just a matter of wins and losses. Losers can win in the eyes of fans, and wrestlers who get the duke can lose momentum if the match is found lacking. It's chess, not checkers, requiring deep thought and discussion.
Let's take a look together and see who owned the night and who is struggling to make their impact on AEW's flagship show.
There was likely a brief opportunity to capture some new fans who were still lingering on TNT after the NBA game finally finished up. AEW had one chance to win them over—and the Private Party-FTR match was a pretty good choice to turn heads that don't normally consume wrestling of any kind.
It was a fast-paced, fun match that saw the artists formerly known as "The Revival" in WWE get another win on their way to the top. They also officially introduced Tully Blanchard as their new manager, complete with a wicked satin jacket with his name on it, making it clear this is no temporary allegiance.
Later in the evening, the pair made their best pitch yet to "Hangman" Adam Page. All told, the episode positioned them strongly, and they delivered as called upon. And, honestly, that's all winning in wrestling really is.
Not only was MJF forced to use a Burberry-themed walker after Jon Moxley's brutal attack the week before, but his campaign volunteer Nina's smile also seemed to flicker from time to time. That's what losing looks like in politics, fake smiles and awkward looks leading to inevitable disarray and eventually to a blowout so bad that CNN announces the winner before midnight, sending everyone to bed early.
Here's the thing—not only did Moxley win the physical battle last week, but he was also able to follow that up by winning the war of words Saturday. That's where MJF is supposed to be strongest. It's where he thrives.
If he can't even get one up on his foe when tongues are wagging, what chance does he have when fists fly?
Winner: The Independents
Moxley and MJF, as different as they are, remain two sides of the same coin. To borrow the political metaphor they've injected into our wrestling, they are Democrats and Republicans, established corporate brands the suits in the back are happy with no matter the outcome.
Eddie Kingston is something different. He's a true third-party candidate, someone with nothing to lose and decades of grievances to air.
The best thing about handing Kingston a live microphone is that there may be a few uncomfortable truths aired on national television. And the business needs that kind of danger to thrive. Kingston is the perfect vehicle to keep everyone in the business on their toes, a man capable of helping the promotion find that careful balance between the haves and have-nots.
Winner: Brandi Rhodes
AEW has mostly remained beyond criticism from its core fans. It's been an extended honeymoon, with the promotion almost always delivering what its customers want to see.
The women's division has been the lone exception, slow to launch and unable to meet some of the lofty goals established early in the promotion's media rounds.
The recent tag team tournament was one example. On one hand, it was an opportunity for women to make a mark and impress decision-makers. On the other, it was positioned on YouTube and almost invisible to fans on TNT.
Opinions, as you might imagine, varied.
But the tournament final aired on television, and it fitted in just fine with the rest of the matches. It wasn't exceptional wrestling—but it also wasn't bad wrestling. And that's a big win, both for winners Ivelisse and Diamante and Brandi Rhodes, the face of the tournament in the media.
Loser: The Cleanup Crew
A Mimosa Mayhem match? Wow, AEW is sure trying to squeeze everything it can out of this Orange Cassidy and Chris Jericho feud.
"Orange" you glad you clicked on this article?
Anyway, The Inner Circle beat up poor Orange and his friends and someone is getting tossed in a vat of liquid at All Out. Not sure what to make of it, but it has some "appeal."
Winner: Ricky Starks
"I don't need face paint to be somebody. I am somebody."
Sure, Ricky Starks is probably eventually going to put Darby Allin over. But he's going to look super cool doing it.
Some people just exude star power. Starks is one of those guys, a total package who has the looks, athleticism and articulation to be something special. This, friends, is just the beginning.
I don't know where this story is going. All I know is that coach Arn Anderson set an aggressive schedule for poor Cody Rhodes, and Saturday he paid for it.
Rhodes wrestled tough matches with independent standouts like Eddie Kingston and Warhorse and defended the belt against homegrown standouts like Scorpio Sky and Sonny Kiss as well. It wasn't exactly a murderers' row—but it was a consistent grind.
Rhodes and AEW World champion Jon Moxley both won title matches on May 23. Since that time, Moxley has defended twice. This, by contrast, was Cody's ninth defense.
Brodie Lee was the benefactor of that questionable strategy. He didn't just win the TNT title—he dominated, squashing Cody and then continuing the beating long after the match was over.
Not only did he lose his title belt, but Cody was also victimized for what felt like forever, knocked off a stretcher and humiliated. Worse, no one came from the back to lend him a hand. At his lowest, he faced adversity without a single friend willing to step up and help.
I can't help but think that this will end up being a life-altering match for Rhodes, one that shows that there is truly power in numbers.