AEW Dynamite 9/20/23: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s absolutely illustrious weekly review of "AEW Dynamite," which took the form this week of the annual "Grand Slam" event at Arthur Ashe stadium in New York. With four championships on the line, there was a lot at stake, with some feuds seemingly being settled while others continued down the road to WrestleDream. Two of those titles even changed hands — though it was probably only supposed to be one. And there was always the question of whether we would see the AEW debut of Edge (no), Mercedes Mone (also no), or anyone else (nope, nobody debuted, no big surprises were delivered).

But hey, in terms of everything that did happen on the show, you can read about all that in our live coverage. Right now, it's time for opinions and analysis on the show from voices across the WINC team. In other words, it's time for three things we hated and three things we loved from the 9/20/23 "Grand Slam" episode of "AEW Dynamite."

Loved: Eddie Kingston Finishes His Story (Ross Berman, WINC news writer)

Eddie Kingston is the underdog's underdog. Even before he made his debut in AEW in a loss to reigning TNT Champion Cody Rhodes, Eddie's legend was written in defeat. Which made his victory on Wednesday so thrilling.

Dressed in the colors of fellow legendary underdog Toshiaki Kawada, Kingston bested ROH World Champion Claudio Castagnoli with Kawada's trademark powerbomb. In his hometown of New York City, just months after winning the NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship in Korakuen Hall, Kingston became a double champion after an emotional bout, getting revenge not only for his loss at Supercard of Honor in March but for a long and bitter rivalry with Castagnoli that has spanned decades and promotions alike.

Opening the show with Kingston's triumph gave a lasting serotonin flood that helped buoy an uneven show. "Grand Slam" was full of twists and turns that left many scratching their heads, but for those beautiful, dramatic 15 minutes at the beginning of the show, American wrestling's purest distillation — a charismatic, trash-talking, regular joe — made fans believe in the power of the common man in a way not seen since Dusty Rhodes.

As long as AEW is represented by MJF, the rich-boy scumbag that everyone loves, wins like Kingston's will mean that much more. He's an endearing look in the mirror for so many of us — a minority of wrestling fans are born with the privileges of MJF, but almost every wrestling fan has a wrestler that they love as much as Eddie Kingston loves Toshiaki Kawada. 

Actually, scratch that last remark. No one loves anyone as much as Kingston loves Kawada.

Hated: Matches are made via styles and stories, and Guevara/Jericho had neither (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

I get it, the mentor vs. the protege. Former tag team partners now pitted against each other. Two-time stablemates now respectfully getting after it in the ring to see who's best. But this just didn't deliver. The crowd wasn't hot for it and neither was I — but I'm not big into ripoffs, and I was going to be a hard sell from the moment we kicked this one off with Sammy Guevara's answer to Chris Jericho's iconic light-up jacket.

In announcing the match, the pair acknowledged mutual animosity, but that it was okay because they were still brothers. With the match, then, we'd learn who was the better man, blah, blah, blah. If we had to blow this off (as we did the Jericho Appreciation Society in its entirety), we could've gone with something less ... I don't know, paint-by-numbers.

The story was lacking, and the execution failed to impress as well. Styles just don't match sometimes, and that was clearly the case here. Maybe Jericho from 15 years ago could have kept up with Guevara; instead, this was a slog, with Jericho's slowed down, calculated pace misfiring against Guevara's athleticism. This made certain high spots seem anything but at best, and sloppy, if not dangerous at worst. From a slo-mo Spanish Fly to a tribute Codebreaker from Guevara, it just didn't click.

Now listen, I take nothing away from Jericho. At his age, just to be able to do what he does at the level at which he does it is commendable. And not everything absolutely sucked. Guevara's nod to Jericho's classic with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIX via his gear was a thing (though the post-match mimicked Jericho/Michaels beat by beat, so yeah, ripoff). Guevara's Jericho-esque nutshot turn did, however, set up an alignment with Don Callis and possibly something with Daniel Garcia in the near future. But with the crowd actually cheering the Guevara turn, it doesn't appear we're ready for a face Jericho, and more than that, all of this also likely means another match between the two. So we'll all just have to hold out hope that the return engagement goes a bit better than this one — via stipulation or something? — or gets aborted altogether. Either is just fine by me.

Loved: Roderick Strong Channels His Inner Tim Robinson (Berman)

There is no such thing as "too much" when it comes to professional wrestling. If something is working, especially if it's funny, then you have to take it to the limit and let it go by. A strong case for that is the ever-heightening emotional and physical agony of Roderick Strong.

What started as a vague Stanley Kowalski homage — constantly shouting for his former friend — has curdled into maybe the most pathetic man on wrestling programming right now. Wrapped in a neckbrace, laid up in a hospital bed, Strong was all pouting lips and whiny voice on this week's "Dynamite." The desperate lengths that Strong seems to be going to get Cole to feel bad for him have the same energy as any of Tim Robinson's loud, cartoonish sadsacks on the sketch show "I Think You Should Leave." Meanwhile, Adam Cole, Mike Bennett and Matt Taven are all right there with Strong throughout the segment, sharing the weight of being the straight men to the clown in the hospital bed, and later in the show, Strong calls Cole, certain that he's going to die, his neuroses clearly rotting out his brain and straining Cole's friendship with AEW World Champion MJF.

What started as an almost Barney The Dinosaur-level storyline about friendship is turning into one of the funniest parts of AEW television that doesn't involve Toni Storm throwing shoes. I'm sure that Strong will wrestle another match someday, but there is a sick, twisted part of me that wants to see how far they can take the character into his own personal hell of slapstick and melodrama.

Hated: Concussion Jon (MIles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

This is so just so ironic given the fact that he didn't bleed in the match, but okay, fine, I'll be that guy: People shouldn't wrestle with concussions, and that includes you, Jon Moxley.

The word going around the wrestling media is that Moxley is "okay" after a piledriver in his match with Rey Fenix rendered him unable to execute what was clearly a planned kick-out. That's great — it presumably means he didn't suffer a major injury to his neck, which is what you always worry about with piledrivers. PWInsider reported there was belief backstage that he'd been concussed, which, yes, I would believe that. I would also believe, and very much suspect, that Moxley was also concussed at the beginning of the match, when he took a dive from Fenix off the stage and ended up with his head being sandwiched between Fenix' body and the floor. And I know for a fact that suffering two concussions in a short period of time is bad.

Now, hey, maybe that's not what happened, but it sure looked like that's what happened. Following the dive, it took Moxley a while to get up; he was noticeably sluggish and not moving the way wrestlers typically move. At this point, even if he's not actually concussed, AEW should have someone on the lookout for telltale signs of a concussion and stopping the match if they see those signs (maybe the independent neurologist they supposedly employ). I'm not a doctor, but I can tell you that the NFL's concussion protocol has a list of observable signs of a potential concussion, and that list includes "slow to get up from the ground or return to play following a hit to the head," "stumbles, trips/falls, slow/labored movement," "blank or vacant look, and "disorientation." That looks an awful lot like what I saw from Moxley after the dive.

Moxley eventually seemed to collect himself and proceeded to wrestle about 12 more minutes, at which time Fenix spiked him on his head with a piledriver and he clearly either lost consciousness or lost control of his motor functions. And then, when the referee stopped his count after two despite the lack of a kick-out, Fenix hit Moxley with a second piledriver. Because that was a good idea. Shouldn't that be a violation of AEW's supposed safety protocols that require piledrivers to be cleared by management, rather than pulled out on a whim and delivered to someone who is clearly hurt?

And look, I get it. Wrestling is a physical endeavor performed by athletes who sometimes get injured, just like any sport. But when that happens, even just as a fan watching, I don't want to see the wrestler tough it out and screw stuff up and potentially suffer even worse injury. That's not entertaining. I want to see the match stopped and the injured wrestler removed. Moxley's whole rationale for bleeding all the time is that wrestling is supposed to be a realistic sport. Well guess what — in sports, in 2023, when you suffer a concussion, you're out of the game. That's realistic. This was just irresponsible.

Loved: Toni Storm hits a home run in a losing effort (Jordan)

She's a superstar through and through, even in this, her post-"WWE Superstar" era. With a freshly-polished gimmick, Toni Storm is crushing it — via her entrance, look, body language, presentation, and of course, her in-ring ability. And despite taking a loss Wednesday night, Storm shone through as the star of this show for me, hands down.

Coming out of her affiliation with the Outcasts following Saraya's win at All In, Storm's refresh as "The Illustrious" Toni Storm, a character out of Hollywood's Golden Age, is firing on all cylinders. Elegant music and an entrance in all black-and-white simply sets the stage for Storm to do her thing. And with a catch phrase for the ages — well, I'll get to that as best I can.

The separation from Saraya and Ruby Soho is a good course-correction, at least for Storm, who has the most potential of the trio and for whom big things are clearly being lined up in the immediate future. One loss doesn't take away from that. It was a great showing in a women's match that got some decent time (despite a lengthy picture-in-picture segment (something I will never miss an opportunity to rail on, as it is simply unwatchable). And it seems like this feud will continue, perhaps until WrestleDream — and maybe with Mercedes Mone in the fold by then, or shortly thereafter? — so Storm is only now positioning herself at center stage where she belongs. Saraya kicking out of the Storm Zero is lame, but whatever. Toni rules, and this is just the beginning. As the noble champion that she forever will be, she'll be back, chin up and tits out, and as we learned in this match, opponents will have to watch for the shoe as she surges for title gold once again.

HATED: Overbooking Takes Away From An Otherwise Fantastic Main Event (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

Look, let's get one thing straight: I thought that MJF and Samoa Joe put on a banger of a match with the AEW World Championship on the line, make no mistake. However, it just felt like there were one too many spots, to the point where it toed the line for me of being overbooked.

Take the fallout of MJF being piledriven by Joe onto exposed concrete as an example. The ringside physician and several random medical officials appeared to check on him to emphasize the impact of the move, but not even a minute later, Joe tosses MJF in the ring and tries to gain a pinfall. The spot was unnecessary to me, but even if you disagree, you have to admit that just having the ringside physician checking on MJF would have sufficed.

Things only got more chaotic and hard to follow from there, with the pair hitting one another with low blows, Adam Cole running down to ringside for just the last couple minutes of the match when he didn't need to be there, and MJF using the rope typically used for tag team matches to force Joe to fade.

Given that the build had taken place over the past few weeks, an added stipulation –- anything from No Disqualification to Street Fight to Hardcore to Falls Count Anywhere –- would have greatly benefited the match, especially as it seems the program won't be continuing. It also would've raised the stakes even higher and created a big match feel.