AEW Dynamite 08/16/23: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s review of "AEW Dynamite," where we are 11 days away from Wembley Stadium, and you know what that means: It's time for some awkwardly rushed card-building! We're doing things a little bit differently than usual this time around — instead of trying to squeeze the entire show into six items, which has been an issue with several shows recently, we are going to focus on what we liked most and what we hated most, and as a result, some stuff is gonna get left out. Don't worry, we will absolutely talk about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Death Match, but there are a couple things we won't be covering, including:

  •  Britt Baker vs. The Bunny (it was fine, but there wasn't much to it and we all knew who was going to win, and we'd just be saying the same stuff we always say about the AEW women's division
  • The Young Bucks vs. The Gunns (the match was pretty boring and we don't have the energy to try and interpret the Bucks winning by grabbing the ropes and how that may or may not be a shot at CM Punk)

You can still read about the show in its entirely via our live coverage, as you well know! But for this review, we're just going to give you three things we hated and three things we loved about the 8/16/23 episode of "AEW Dynamite."

Hated: Booking you'd need rich guy drugs to understand

This week, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that, with 11 days left until the biggest show in AEW history, Tony Khan remembered he had to fill out the card with some more matches. And he did! The bad news is that the way he got to those matches ranges from the head-scratchingly odd to the mind-numbingly stupid.

On the somewhat more sensical side if things, Orange Cassidy vs. Wheeler Yuta predictably led to a BCC beatdown, which led to Best Friends, the Lucha Bros, and eventually a returning Eddie Kingston making the save. A little weird and extremely hastily done, but Eddie has unresolved beef with Mox, so that part makes sense. Not sure why we're apparently doing a 12-man Spring Stampede match, but it's probably just "get everyone on the card" WrestleMania logic. Really not sure where the BCC is going to find three extra teammates, especially considering what happened last time they teamed up with people, but whatever.

On the less sensical side of things, Jay White and Juice Robinson attacked Kenny Omega for no reason, and now we're getting those two plus Takeshita against Kenny, Hangman, and Kota Ibushi. Sure? The fact that Omega isn't getting a singles match at All In is frankly mind-boggling, and Jay 'n Juice getting involved makes zero sense no matter what they said on "Collision," but fine, whatever. It's fine.

And then there's Chris Jericho, who made his decision this week and decided to join the Don Callis Family, explicitly because the JAS abandoning him made him realize he has to get back to his old heel ways (never mind the fact that the JAS were all heels until like a month ago). But Callis, anticipating that Jericho would turn him down (why have you been courting him this entire time then?) brought a picture into the ring of Callis holding Jericho's head, presumably so he could unveil it after the rejection. Instead, Jericho demands to see it, gets offended and asks Callis for the truth. Callis then runs down all the reasons he hates Jericho, which are all very good reasons to not spend weeks trying to get someone to join your stable. Then, during the ensuing brawl, a wild Will Ospreay appears, and we have another match for All In, a match where nobody has any reason to cheer for either competitor. Also Sammy Guevara eventually makes the save even though Jericho was out here ditching the JAS like yesterday's laundry five minutes earlier. Frankly we haven't seen a storyline make less sense since ... probably since the last time AEW did something that spit in the face of narrative logic. Good job getting Ospreay on the card though, it must have been hard to figure out how to do that, seeing as AEW certainly doesn't employ his blood rival or anything.

Loved: You don't tug on Billy Gunn's boots

It was a bit of a surprise seeing the House of Black return to "Dynamite," but we're certainly not complaining, and we're definitely not complaining about what we expect to be the final resolution of their feud with The Acclaimed. Based on how it all went down Wednesday night, we would imagine Billy Gunn will be coming back for (at least) one more match, and we couldn't be happier. If he's not actually retiring at all and is back for good, fantastic; Anthony Bowens not saying "Scissor me, Daddy Ass" was a truly depressing thing to hear, and hey, maybe if he's back to regularly performing, the Acclaimed will win the Trios titles. And if he really is retiring ... they're going to give him his last match at Wembley, right? That would be such an epic tribute to his career.

So weird how you can get people excited about something that's actually been built up for a while and has a story behind it, right? This one has definitely been muddled — the fact that it started as something oddly adjacent to the House of Black vs. Andrade El Idolo feud, which seems to have ended abruptly with the ladder match for the mask, didn't help — but it's got actual pathos and emotion behind it, which is more than you can say for a lot of the current All In card.

Hated: In other 'then what was the point' news

"The only thing better than being the greatest is being the last," Jack Perry said on this week's "Dynamite." First of all, we're not sure that's actually true. It sounds like something people might have said before, but we don't think it actually is. Second of all, if it is true and it is something people have said before, and those people were referring to wrestling championship reigns, surely they meant "I want to be the last person to hold this belt because I want to hold it for the rest of my life," not "I want to be the last person to hold this belt, which is why I'm going to retire it after being champion for a month. That will cement my legacy."

Is the story here that Jack Perry is delusional? Like actually delusional, like he experiences an entirely different reality from the rest of us? This whole thing started because he promised he'd hold a title in 2023. Now he wants to willingly give that title up? He's already been schizophrenic about the whole thing, saying the belt is worthless one minute, saying he's elevated it the next. RVD wanted to win it and then retire it because he's 52 years old and doesn't actually work here. Perry wants to retire it because, what, he thinks he's going to lose it if he doesn't? Is that a thing that should be happening in his brain after his very first title defense? What exactly are we doing?

Don't get us wrong, we would love to see the FTW Championship retired and have it go away forever, but this is ... not how you tell stories, Tony. It's just not. It doesn't make any sense. Congratulations though; we didn't think it was possible to bungle the Jack Perry heel turn more thoroughly than you already had. Once again, here you are, proving us wrong.

Loved: Texas Chainsaw Mania

We were fully prepared to hate the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Death Match. Like, fully prepared. We're not a fan of either wrestler, and we're not a fan of death matches, so this seemed like a recipe for us to have a bad time.

On the contrary, and much to our astonishment, this match was delightfully stupid. The Jericho stuff and the Jack Perry stuff was dumb in a bad way — this was dumb in the BEST way. Calling it a "match" is honestly giving it more credit than it possibly deserves. It was a prolonged backstage brawl that eventually got to the ring, but not before Jeff Jarrett had blood dumped all over him, because horror movies! Everybody who could possibly be involved in this match was involved, from Matt Hardy and Ethan Page to Satnam Singh and Jay Lethal to f***ing Leatherface, who literally chased Karen Jarrett away with a chainsaw. We were dreading a death match along the lines of the stuff that gives Jon Moxley an erection, but this match shared more DNA with The Final Deletion or a Bray Wyatt vignette than it did with GCW. We had a great time watching it, and the fact that it probably pissed off a bunch of wrestling purists on the internet made it even better.

Oh, and Jeff Jarrett won the match and was presented with a Leatherface championship belt. 10 out of 10, replace the worthless TNT title with this one immediately.

Hated: Apparently the joke is on us

As regular readers are doubtless aware, we're not huge Sting fans under the best of circumstances, and if this is "Joker Sting," which is apparently a thing people like, we hope he stays in Arkham for a very long time. Was ... was this supposed to be scary, or something? Was it supposed to be intimidating? Sting basically kidnapped Prince Nana so he could talk at him in a stupid voice and make weird faces for a while before just letting him go. Was that it? Is that all you got? Because we don't know about you, but if we were Nick Wayne, who was watching the whole thing unfold, we would be like, "Uh, yeah, that was cool and everything, but these guys broke my face with a picture of my dead father, could you maybe have done something more impactful than scrunching up your face and doing some silly laughs?" Like, this is Darby and Sting's response to Swerve Strickland going full supervillain on an 18-year-old? A brief but somewhat uncomfortable headlock?

We are very, very happy that Swerve and AR Fox get to wrestle in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium, but boy, do we ever wish they had different opponents. We are about as over Team Cool Goth as it is possible to be.

Loved: Maybe you only need one good story if it's the best one

Shocking precisely no one, we loved the Better Than You, Bay Bay segments this week. MJF and Adam Cole just continue to be the highlight of all AEW programming; the story is so good that we have a hard time squaring it with everything else this company does.

As has become fairly standard, we get two major segments: A cinematic comedy segment depicting MJF and Cole going somewhere together, and an in-ring segment that's more about the dramatic tension building up between them. (Technically we got a brief third segment of MJF and Cole arriving to the arena, which featured Roderick Strong kicking their car and hurting his foot in the process; that man is a national treasure.) The cinematic segment started at Outback Steakhouse this time before moving back to the arena, and was basically an excuse to make as many jokes as possible about the fact that they're fighting a team called Aussie Open on the All-In pre-show. The highlight, of course, was Tony Khan taking them to task for hitting the double clothesline on some guy backstage in what is by far his best on-screen appearance in history. Let the jokes about how Tony should try exercising some of that backstage control in real life commence (just kidding, we are already knee-deep in those jokes).

In what has, again, become the standard for these two, the comedy stuff was excellent, but the in-ring segment contained the real gold. In this case, after doing their tag team routine to kick things off, Cole and MJF transitioned into dueling promos about what winning/retaining the AEW World Championship in the main event of All In would mean to them. It was the apotheosis of MJF's tendency to advance storylines via anecdotes from his life and wrestling career; this time, he was doing it specifically to one-up Cole's anecdote from his wrestling career, and to make it plain that no matter how lovable he's become over the last month or two, he is still willing to do whatever it takes to keep the world title. It was a great moment between the two of them, because it felt so authentically like two friends who still love each other, but who will be competing against each other for a prize that each desires desperately.

That said, we can't help but notice that MJF consistently calls Adam Cole "my best friend," while Cole consistently calls MJF "one of my best friends." And after a brief and unsuccessful Aussie Open run-in, Cole finally started to show a hint of his true colors, looking for all the world like he was about to superkick MJF while the latter's back was turned. It didn't happen, of course, and the two ended the segment with a hug, but we're getting closer, and we suspect the Cole turn is happening at All In.

Or, you know, MJF turns instead, because if a wrestling promotion tells you repeatedly that they don't understand storytelling, it might be wise to believe them. Someday we'll learn our lesson.