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

Welcome to Wrestling Inc's review of "AEW Dynamite," the go-home show (well, the go-home "Dynamite," anyway) for All In at Wembley Stadium this Sunday! It was certainly one of the more action-packed go-home shows we've seen, for better or for worse; so much so that there's no way we'll be able to cover everything that went down. Some things we are not going to talk about include:

  • The Chris Jericho/Will Ospreay contract signing (it was fine, but did we really need to do the nonsensical Don Callis feud to get here?)
  • The opening "match" between The Elite and Bullet Club Gold (though we will talk about the Young Bucks)
  • The "main event" match between The Hardys and Aussie Open (though we will talk about MJF and Adam Cole)
  • The fact that Jack Perry wasn't on the show to retire the FTR Championship as advertised (presumably because they needed extra time for All In match-changing angles, and because it would be pretty messed up to have Perry trash-talk ECW the day Terry Funk died)

Of course, you already know what happened on the show, because you're a good and ethical person who reads our live coverage. But for our take on it, we present to you three things we loved and three things we hated about the 8/23/23 episode of "AEW Dynamite."

Hated: Swerved

Might as well get the biggest thing out of the way first. AR Fox was set to team up with Swerve Strickland against Darby Allin and Sting at All In. It was the kind of spotlight Fox has never known before, and the kind of spotlight he deserves after years of selfless giving to the wrestling business. Now it's not happening. And there's probably a good reason for it, we know that. A travel issue, a family issue, something. This isn't about assigning blame for Fox missing the show. But it does really, really suck.


What we will assign blame for is the way they wrote Fox off the show, which is one of the stupidest things we've seen in wrestling this year, and we watch all three hours of "Raw" every week. What's more ridiculous — the fact that Strickland kicked Fox out of the Mogul Embassy mere weeks after inducting him because he got pinned in a tag team match, or the fact that Darby Allin and Nick Wayne were immediately prepared to accept Fox back into the fold afterward? Imagine if the Bloodline story was done in three weeks instead of three years; that's what this was. Now, Strickland is teaming with Christian Cage, presumably because Tony Khan was hoping to distract you from the booking trainwreck unfolding before your eyes with the carrot of "Christian talks about Nick Wayne's dead dad." For many of you it worked, and we're happy for you. For us, it did not. And the funniest part is that at the end of the segment, you had Swerve, Christian, Brian Cage, and Luchasaurus on one side of things, with Allin, Wayne, Fox, and Sting on the other side, so it was totally unclear what the new match actually was, because it easily could have become a six- or eight-man tag based on what was unfolding on camera. They announced it was still a tag team match after the fact. So the segment essentially failed to do the one thing it was intended to do. Great job, everyone.


Loved: 2 Proud 2 Powerful

The Swerve Fox thing might have sucked, but Wednesday's other "Tony Khan scrambles to throw together some booking because one of the wrestlers he announced for Wembley can't actually make it" segment was much more successful. For one thing, it came on the heels of a fantastic match between Jon Moxley and Rey Fenix. For another, the way Fenix was written out of the All In Stadium Stampede match actually made sense, as it was the tried-and-true "heels put him in the hospital" trope. And for a third, it involved the return of Santana after more than a year away from the ring with an injury, reuniting him with Ortiz, his partner in Proud and Powerful, and adding them to the heel side of Stadium Stampede while removing Fenix from the babyface side to even things out at 5-on-5. Perfect solution. 10/10.


Ortiz himself hasn't wrestled for Tony Khan since April, and after all the rumors about bad blood between him and Santana, and between Santana and AEW, it's great to see them back together. The move even makes perfect sense for storyline reasons, since Ortiz and Eddie Kingston were pretty regular tag team partners in the last few months of 2022, and adding him and Santana to the mix gives us the potential for even more Eddie friendship drama, which is the only thing this match should be about, anyway. It makes so much sense that we're assuming Proud and Powerful were going to be announced as participants even with Fenix still involved, which means there was someone else involved in the original plan. Maybe the mystery partner teaming with CM Punk, Darby Allin, and Sting on Collision this week? We admit, we are extremely curious. But mostly we're just excited for Stadium Stampede at Wembley Stadium, starring Eddie Kingston's feelings.


Loved: The bad-ass returns

Santana and Ortiz weren't the only wrestlers to make their big return on Wednesday's "Dynamite." Also returning was Billy Gunn — not Daddy Ass, mind you, but "The Bad-Ass" Billy Gunn, who will team up with The Acclaimed one last time against the House of Black in an effort to take the AEW Trios Championship at All In.


This is awesome. Gunn cut a great promo where he referred to The Acclaimed explicitly as his kids and promised to bring back the side of himself that made him a WWE Hall of Famer, and we're just so excited to see him perform in front of that crowd at Wembley. Either he's back for good and they presumably win the Trios titles, or this is his last match and 80,000 people send him off in style. In either case, he deserves it. And we're thrilled for The Acclaimed, too — they also deserve a spot on the All In card for all the hard work they've put in to get where they are today.

And the truly incredible thing is, The Acclaimed vs. House of Black has quietly been a really well-timed and nicely-built feud! Unlike basically every other All In match except MJF vs. Adam Cole, this actually feels like the right time and the right place to blow this thing off based on how it's gone so far, which is just insanely refreshing. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is, and we'll take it.


Hated: The elephant gun in the room

Somewhat the opposite of how The Acclaimed vs. House of Black has been built is how The Young Bucks vs. FTR has been built, which is weird considering the latter seems to be the bigger match by a wide margin. But aside from the opening salvo where FTR challenged the Bucks in the first place, it's just been a bunch of babyfaces passive-aggressively saving each other from otherwise uninvolved heels — including this week, when FTR came out to save the Bucks from Bullet Club Gold. The one thing they've really done to add meaning or stakes to this match came later in Wednesday's episode, which featured a sit-down between the two teams, and even then, it wasn't much of anything. Matt Jackson was able to work up a little passion and talk briefly about how FTR wouldn't have jobs if it wasn't for them, but mostly the segment was about legacy and being the best and feeding your family and blah, blah, blah, who cares?


The net result of this now, of course, is that the only thing anybody is thinking going into this match is "I bet the Young Bucks are winning because Cash Wheeler got arrested the other day." There's your story; hope you like it, because it's the only one you've got.

Hated: Yet another middle finger to the women's division

Were you wondering how many women's matches happened on "Dynamite," and whether it was one, like always? Were you wondering what time that match took place and whether it was 9:30pm EST, like always? Were you wondering, now that the "tournament" to earn a women's title match at All In had concluded, how much time and effort AEW would deign to spend on any further build for that match, and whether it was zero, like always? Well, you're in luck! "Dynamite" featured one women's match at 9:30 EST that spent zero time or effort on further build for the All In match! Hooray!


None a single one of the four women booked for Wembley Stadium this weekend appeared on "Dynamite." They'll be in a tag team match against one another on this week's "AEW Rampage," which is definitely not a step down, or a lesser platform, or a ratings travesty. Instead, we got Ruby Soho vs. Skye Blue on "Dynamite" this week, and from what Ruby was saying, it seems like AEW could be doing their most hastily-booked All In match yet, with Ruby taking on Kris Statlander for the TBS Championship. Of course, that hasn't been officially announced yet, and why would it be? It's just the women's division, guys, it can wait until a day or two before the show. Or maybe they'll give it an extra week of "build" and run it on All Out instead the following weekend. It would be a shame to have more than one women's match at Wembley, after all — especially when even putting one women's match on that card apparently takes more effort than AEW would prefer to be spending.


Loved: The fireworks factory cometh

It will surprise absolutely no one to learn that we loved all things MJF and Adam Cole on this episode. It was a departure from recent weeks — there was no "Adam and Max hang out at a random establishment" vignette, and there was no in-ring promo segment between them. What we got were two individual sitdown interviews with Renee Paquette, both of which featured her digging into uncomfortable questions about the nature of their relationship, and one final segment after the main event. That placement was important, as the Cole/MJF story has rarely been featured in the main event spot of "Dynamite," and Renee's digging was important too, as it set the stage for what was to come in more ways than one.


We're still pretty sure turning Cole heel is the way to go, and hopefully it's the plan. MJF came off as very sincere in his interview, saying he's new at this whole "being a good person" thing, but he's doing his best. It was a radical departure from the end of 2022, when he pretended to turn babyface in the lead-up to Full Gear and his championship victory. This feels different. It feels genuine. Cole's interview felt different. Whether it was lines like "MJF made me remember who Adam Cole really is" or Cole getting angrily defensive at the idea that there were any problems between them, it felt like a person who's going to betray his friend on Sunday. And in the main event segment, Cole's primary action — accidentally (almost) super-kicking MJF despite apparently aiming for a member of Aussie Open — was that of a heel pretending to be a babyface, while MJF's primary action — thinking about hitting Cole with the Dynamite Diamond Ring, but ultimately deciding not to — was that of a newly-turned babyface trying not to be a heel.


It all adds up, it all makes sense. The only question is, will AEW follow through on that logic and give this story the next chapter it deserves at Wembley, or will they opt for a swerve, turn MJF heel again, spit in the face of the concept of character growth, and essentially tell everyone who's cared about this story that we were wasting our time? We certainly don't think Tony Khan is above the latter, but we're hopeful. We're optimistic. This one last stand-off between Cole and MJF did the one thing it needed to do: Close the show on the image of the only two people who truly matter on Sunday and remind us why they're main-eventing one of the biggest wrestling shows of all time. Swerve or no swerve, we're almost to the fireworks factory. Let's f***ing go.