AEW Dynamite 09/27/23: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s not-at-all rambling weekly review of "AEW Dynamite," the show so intense a guy got stabbed in the hand with a pen and accidentally signed a contract in blood. Very death metal. We're on the doorstep of WrestleDream, the newest AEW pay-per-view, which debuts this Sunday in Seattle, Washington, and while "Dynamite" hasn't been the official PPV go-home show since "AEW Collision" became a thing, Wednesday's program still had a lot to do, including setting up a new PPV match and massaging another one as a result of an injury.

Are we covering everything we saw Wednesday night in this particular column? Of course not. This is an opinion column, and who could possibly have an opinion about Nick Jackson pinning Brian Cage? You can find all the info on what all actually happened via our live coverage. This is what the members of the WINC staff on duty considered the best and worst of the evening — in other words, three things we hated and three things we loved from the 9/27/23 episode of "AEW Dynamite."

Hated: Glitches Galore (Ross Berman, WINC news writer)

"AEW Dynamite" was a bigger mess than the only toilet at a Texas chili cookoff. Stained with audio glitches, the show's production issues climaxed in a cut-to-black towards the end of the show that left viewers at home with more than a few seconds of dead air. It cannot be understated how slipshod and amateur the episode felt without turning into a raving, ranting lunatic, so in the interest of professional responsibility, let me be blunt: AEW has to get their s*** together.

On live cable television, the audio glitched into odd-robotic tones repeatedly, undercutting Adam Cole's emotional revelation that he broke his ankle, or MJF's war of words with "Switchblade" Jay White, or any of Excalibur's breathless exposition and promotion, with only a minor apology at the end of the broadcast and seemingly nothing done to fix the myriad of issues. The show had the same jittery, addled energy of an early episode of SNL — one of the episodes they bury in the vault or cut to ribbons because everyone involved was either too stoned, too tired, or too wired to do a professional job. AEW already has a reputation as a lackadaisical promotion where wrestlers go into business for themselves, fighting as much in the locker room as they do on television and sometimes doing both at once, as best exemplified by Jack Perry's outburst over "real glass" at the historic All In event.

AEW can't seem to get out of its own way in this regard, with any success clouded by the reckless stewardship of Tony Khan, who seems to let any issue metastasize until it cannot be ignored and threatens to kill any momentum the fledgling promotion has. AEW has spread itself thin over three nights of television, as well as a couple of hours on HonorClub, every week, and if rumors are true that WBD is pushing for more PPVs from the promotion, they need to get their house in order and fix these glaring issues or else run the risk of the whole thing collapsing on them.

Loved: The best of a bad situation (MIles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

AEW seems to have had uniquely terrible injury luck over the last couple of years, so in some ways it's no surprise that one half of their hottest act, ROH World Tag Team Champions MJF and Adam Cole, broke his ankle on last week's "Grand Slam" episode despite not being the one actually wrestling. It's one hell of a setback, and Tony Khan does not have a good track record with improvisation. However, I actually thought AEW handled Cole's injury pretty well on "Dynamite" this week, and I think there are now a few different ways it could actually be made into a (relative) advantage.

The most important thing AEW did on this episode was immediately figure out how the injury impacts MJF as a character; namely, that he feels guilty because Cole was injured coming down to the ring to help him against Samoa Joe, a match MJF wouldn't have won without Cole's presence at ringside. Perfect. 10/10. Now, even if Cole is just not seen again until he's healed, MJF can tell the story by himself for a while. But of course, Cole doesn't necessarily need to have an extended absence from AEW TV. "Dynamite" aired another Cole/MJF brochacho vignette this week (guest starring Captain Insano himself) — while I personally am starting to feel like these productions need to either evolve in some way or become less frequent, they are undeniably a major part of the Better Than You, Bay Bay playbook, and a broken ankle doesn't prevent Cole from doing those. It's also helpful that Cole has established relationships with other members of the roster, meaning that even in his absence, you can tell his story through Roderick Strong, The Kingdom, and even Britt Baker if you want to. And Cole can always hang out ringside, cut promos, do interviews, etc; one of the benefits of being the AEW feud that relies least on actual wrestling for its storytelling is that an injury doesn't have to be as crippling to the story as it might be otherwise.

Or, you know, just take Cole off TV and put everything on the backburner until he's healthy. That's fine too. The act is in a place where it really needs to grow past "MJF thought about hitting Cole with the Dynamite Diamong Ring again," or risk becoming over-exposed. Absence makes the heart grow fonder — take BTYBB away from the fans for six months, then see how massive the pop is when Cole returns. 

Hated: MJF & Jay White Say A Lot Without Saying Anything (Matthew Wilkinson, WINC news writer)

A certain pocket of wrestling fans are always hoping to see more promos and character-building moments on AEW television, but there is such a thing as talking in circles, and that's exactly what Jay White and MJF did this week. The idea for the two of them to have a confrontational promo segment to establish White as MJF's next challenge for the AEW World Championship was a good one on paper, but the two men didn't execute it well.

Both MJF and White are good talkers, have great facial expressions, and have the charisma required to carry a segment like this. However, they spent large chunks of time saying the exact same thing on repeat rather than being short, snappy, and to the point. It didn't help that AEW had already run a big promo angle immediately before with Adam Cole announcing his injury and Roderick Strong appearing — the fans' patience by this point was strained by another big chunky section of talking in the same segment.

However, had MJF and White gotten to the point sooner and then ended things, it would have worked perfectly fine, as the audience was initially intrigued. Instead, MJF rambled on about not wanting White to take shots at the audience, followed by the Bullet Club Gold leader talking a whole lot without saying anything of real substance. He made his point about wanting to take the title from MJF, and then did so again, and again, and again as the crowd reactions started to wane — not the hot start to the angle AEW was looking for.

Mysterious show-closing angle aside, it's important to remember that MJF is not facing White at WrestleDream. Considering this was a go-home episode for a PPV, it would have made more sense to cut some time from this segment and promote the matches that will actually be on that card.

Loved: I Can Finally Boo That Little Twerp Sammy Guevara Again (Berman)

Sammy Guevara has what scientists call "a very punchable face." The smarmy, cocky former TNT Champion looks and acts like he was created in a lab to simply make people say "I don't like that guy." For about a year now, Guevara has tried and failed to play a sympathetic babyface — an exploited young star, trapped in the shadow of Chris Jericho — and it has left me cold. Maybe there are people that want to cheer Guevara. I don't know, and frankly, I don't want to know. It's a fanbase I could do without.

AEW clearly agrees, as this week's "AEW Dynamite" featured Guevara gleefully proclaiming that he'd joined up with the lascivious scumbag Don Callis and his eponymous family. Viewers could barely hear Callis or Guevara, as both men were showered in the pent-up boos of so many AEW fans; uncorked after months of not being able to unload their animosity on Sammy.

After what feels like an eternity of Guevara spinning his wheels, waiting to find something that will actually made people like him, the young star has embraced his innate unlikeability and is once again a smug bastard who relishes the boos of wrestling fans — a role he was born to play. The wolf is finally free of his sheep's clothing and able to once again feed on the AEW flock in the pale moonlight of Don Callis's cold embrace, and this writer can't wait to once again boo the little a**h*** and his bloodstained teeth.

Hated: Where the hell is Toni Storm? (Schneiderman)

This episode was an absoutely outrage. Why, you ask? Because Bryan Danielson, Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley, and Eddie Kingston were all absent, despite the fact that this was ostensibly the go-home episode of "Dynamite" prior to a PPV where they all have big matches? Because the biggest stars on this episode outside of the literal world champion and his exceptionally quotable best friend were Adam Page and Swerve Strickland? Because we still haven't gotten a Zack Sabre Jr. appearance but somehow we have time for The Righteous?

NO. None of those things are the reasons this show was an outrage. The reason this show was an outrage is that it suffered from a complete and total dearth of Toni Storm. What on earth are you doing, Tony? Is it so bizarrely important that you only give the women's division the specific 10 minutes between 9:35 and 9:45 pm that you would decide to not feature the unquestioned MVP of your entire operation? I like Julia Hart too, and Matthew is about to explain to you how great a character she is, but "Dynamite" without even the promise of a Storm backstage interview where she throws a shoe at someone is a rough watch, y'all. You can't just be putting out episodes of "Dynamite" that don't have Toni Storm in them. Only a total psychopath would do that. Be better, Tony.

Loved: Julia Hart & Willow Nightingale Prove Character Is Still Key (Wilkinson)

Sure, I could harp on about the lack of women's matches, segments, or general storylines on this show, or the fact that the only women's match of the night was put in its regular pre-main event time slot, but there were a ton of positives to take from Julia Hart's encounter with Willow Nightingale.

In what was one of the strongest matches on the show, both women proved exactly what they are capable of and once again reminded people that characters are still king. While "AEW Dynamite" featured plenty of flashy moves, Nightingale and Hart kept things simple and allowed their personalities to be the driving force, and the live crowd ate it up. Hart has been one of AEW's best characters for a long time, dating back to the brilliant acting she showcased when transitioning from being a cheerleader to her current House Of Black role. While she may not have always been at the forefront of the division, often working ringside as a valet for the male members of the group, Hart has always commanded attention with her subtle facials or clever movements, and tonight was just the same.

Hart captured the imagination of the crowd, particularly knowing when to rely on Brody King to add further heat. However, Nightingale also held her own in that regard, playing up the impact that the mist had on her. From not being her usually bubbly self en route to the ring to the fact she was far more aggressive early on, it helped to tell the story that Hart had got into her head. It added extra layers to the match itself, and that's something that made this one stand out from the pack while effectively building Hart for her upcoming TBS Championship match at WrestleDream.

It's just another example of the fact that, even in a wrestling-centric company like AEW, characters are what fans crave the most, which is why the likes of Toni Storm, Roderick Strong, and Better Than You Bay Bay are some of AEW's most over stars at the moment. Long may it continue.