AEW Dynamite 12/13/23: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "AEW Dynamite," the show where the super-special thing about this year's "Winter is Coming" episode is a fourth Continental Classic match! Are you not entertained? While not the most newsworthy broadcast in wrestling history, there was a lot of wrestling on this show, with the aforementioned boatload of tournament matches being joined by Adam Page vs. Roderick Strong and Riho vs. Ruby Soho. And while we have a few things to say about those matches, we definitely can't cover all of them along with all the non-wrestling segments. For that kind of comprehensive look at this week's show, we would need some kind of "live coverage/results page." Good luck with that.

Anyway, this column, unlike other hypothetical ones, is not for informing the public about objective facts — it's for informing the public about subjective opinions, specifically the ones held by the WINC writing and editorial staff. Is the Wardlow resurgence paying dividends? Are the Golden Jets killing it on the mic? And most importantly — wait, the Von Erichs are here? When did that happen? These are three things we loved and three things we hated about the 12/13/23 episode of "AEW Dynamite."

Hated: Wrestling royalty relegated to Rampage

"The Iron Claw" hits theaters across the country next week. I'm going to see it at the first possible showing in my area as part of some coverage I'll be doing for Wrestling Inc. The Von Erichs' tale of triumph and tragedy is as unique as you'll find, and their legacy as revered as almost anyone in the annals of professional wrestling.

I get corporate sponsorships. This is the wrestling business, after all. So thank the heavens that there were at least a couple of "Iron Claw" trailers shown during Wednesday's episode. But though an appearance from the remaining Von Erichs — Kevin and his sons, Marshall and Ross — in their home state of Texas had been previously announced, it came across as a nothing cutaway at best, with the payoff being that Marshall and Ross will be competing on "AEW Rampage???"

After commentary said absolutely nothing about what they were cutting to, nor mention anything about the Von Erichs or the film whatsoever previously on the broadcast, Renee Paquette, wrestling queen though she may be, kicked things off by saying, "I'm here with some of the Von Erichs," which, a lot of us wouldn't bat an eye at — but there are plenty of people out there who likely thought, "Who? Some? Where are the rest of them?" Just bad phrasing, really. Thankfully, Renee introduced all by their first names, primarily Kevin, who deserves singular accolades whenever he's on any screen, but the WWE Hall of Famer came across awkwardly when asked about the time he'd had at AEW thus far. He said something about "style," which, yeah, okay, they sure have a style, and then briefly mentioned having "so many friends" in the company before being interrupted by ... Danhausen, Orange Cassidy, and Trent Beretta. What a rub, eh?

The end result here was Cassidy asking Marshall and Ross if they'd team with him on "Rampage," which made no sense since he already has friends right there with him. But who cares about making sense when you introduce (well, sorta anyway) wrestling royalty, and your way of involving them in your product is to boot them right to a show that nobody watches? Absolutely shameful. Good for Marshall and Ross for the added exposure, I suppose, but it's "Rampage." They'd be better off promoting the movie literally anywhere else.

Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: A change of format

One issue a lot of fans have had over the years with AEW is the fact that the show can be quite formulaic. One example is "AEW Dynamite" almost always kickstarting with a match, which is the complete opposite of what WWE typically does. That decision can work well at times, as getting to the action right away is fun, and it can get the fans invested immediately if the match is good. However, when it happens every single week, it starts to become stale. This week, Tony Khan changed things up and took a page out of WWE's book, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Having Samoa Joe start the show with a promo instantly got people interested, as it was something different that played off of what happened last week with The Devil. That storyline has been the big hook each week, so it makes sense for that to be a priority.

Joe questioned if Adam Page was behind the attack of MJF, which led to Page and ultimately Roderick Strong coming out. It provided a seamless transition into an opening match between Page and Strong which gave fans the best of both worlds. There was a little entertainment and a build for an angle, while AEW wasted little time in giving the fans what they do best — wrestling. Shaking up the formula is never a bad thing, because it keeps audiences on their toes and means they can't predict everything that is going to happen and when, which should be the case for a live wrestling show.

It also allowed the show to be nicely bookended, as Page was then attacked by The Devil and his goons at the end. Even though the episode didn't constantly reference The Devil, it did reward fans for simply being invested in the angle itself, and Page being taken out, proving Joe, adds an additional layer of mystery.

Written by Matthew Wilkinson

Hated: And so it's come to this (the sad state of the AEW tag team title)

This might possibly be the most fun I've had hating something in a long time. I am completely willing to admit that I took a certain level of smug satisfaction in watching Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega's spotlight-stealing duo struggle to stay afloat in a promo battle with a seemingly enraged Ricky Starks and Big Bill, who looked like he wished he was anywhere else by the end of the woefully misguided segment.

Jericho has become a complete parody of himself. While claiming that he's not a clout vampire, Jericho managed to namedrop Enzo Amore, popular ROH star Billie Starkz, and a myriad of AEW factions that have failed over time, in a desperate, Daniel Plainview-esque attempt to drain as much clout from as many sources as possible as he floundered to find a good insult for Starks and Bill. Omega, never a great live promo even on a good day, drowned alongside Jericho, stuttering and stammering over lines that sounded like he came up with them days ago, tripping over himself as he excitedly tried to let them all tumble out of his mush-filled mouth.

A good promo segment is designed to make both sides look good, so that the victor beats someone worth beating and the loser loses to someone worth losing to, but when four men are simply not on the same page, what happens is all three just start trying to put the other down, as they spin in circles, finding barbs that grow more and more insular with each progression, until by the end, it's just a promo for an audience of four. No one looked good on Wednesday, everyone worked themselves into believing they could actually "win" the promo battle, and in the end, everyone lost, especially the fans who watched.

Written by Ross Berman

Loved: Wardlow on the rise?

It wasn't the greatest of video packages, but let's chalk up the small Ws when we can. It's nice to see Wardlow getting some love of late, including Wednesday night, where his intentions of destroying MJF (who he called "The Devil" in said package, for whatever that's worth) were re-emphasized beyond any confusion. And overall, he looked like the monster that he should look like throughout the highlights shown.

Of course, this high point can only materialize after having already completely blown the momentum AEW once had with Wardlow, coming off of his TNT Championship run when everyone was Goldberging him to the ring and salivating over the thought of a Powerbomb Symphony against anybody. But hey, credit where credit's due (I think — if this is headed where I think it's headed) in that they're trying to pump this guy back up again.

The big question remains whether or not Wardlow is involved with this Devil nonsense. He can't be him, I'd say, because he's too big to be The Devil we've seen to this point. And he shouldn't be simply associated with him (or her, I suppose, in the event that it's Britt Baker) because that would instantly make him not-that-big-of-a-deal-guy #27 on the AEW roster once again, just like that. But while I have little faith as to how the Devil storyline plays out, I'm fairly confident that Wardlow's MJF agenda is completely separate.

Since I'm being positive tonight, a round of applause for what I see as a step in the right direction for Wardlow.

Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: Riho takes the win over Ruby Soho

While Riho made her long-awaited return on last week's episode of "Dynamite," Wednesday saw her official return to in-ring action against Ruby Soho. "Timeless" Toni Storm was on commentary, and was accompanied by Mariah May instead of Luther.

Riho's return to in-ring action was simple, but effective. Having her face off against Soho on her first night back made perfect sense, considering Soho was the one to attack Riho from behind and drive her out of AEW on the April 12 episode of "Dynamite". Both women showcased their skills in an even match, and with plenty of near-falls on both sides, the contest never felt stale. Riho picked up a victory over Soho following a double knee strike. and it's important to note that this was a clean finish, so while Storm was present for the match, she did not interfere in any way.

This match was nothing extravagant, but it was incredibly meaningful in its simplicity. In one segment, Riho was able to end her chapter with Soho and begin a new chapter with Storm. The transition was seamless — Riho won, decisively, over Soho, and immediately climbed the turnbuckle to point at Storm and the AEW Women's World Championship. It was like flipping a page in a book, and because there were no outside shenanigans, there's no reason for this new feud to be about anything but Riho and Storm. This match did exactly what it needed to do: It re-established Riho's credibility, tied up any loose threads with Soho, and provided an immediate direction for Riho and Storm's imminent feud.

There is also something special about a ring full of women, especially on a show notorious for its predictable booking of the women's division. Between Riho, Soho, Storm, May, and referee Aubrey Edwards, it's clear that this segment was about AEW women, and nothing but AEW women. The women's division looks stronger because of it; women-led segments tell the audience that the women's locker room is capable of telling great stories on their own. AEW needs to go all in (pun intended) on women-led and women-prominent storytelling if they want to have a reputable women's division.

Written by Angeline Phu

Hated: Moxley defeats Swerve in the Continental Classic

I have the utmost respect for Jon Moxley, and I am always happy to see him pick up a win. However, I don't necessarily think he needed this win in his Continental Classic match against Swerve Strickland.

Strickland is red hot right now, and having him lose takes away from the momentum he's built up during his current run. If you needed any proof, just look at the pop he got Wednesday night as he made his way down to the ring. I get AEW wants to keep Moxley strong, but if that was the case, I would've been happy to see the match end in a draw and have each man earn a point to keep them tied for first.

This brings me to the more broader issue I have with the Continental Classic. All of the matches thus far in the tournament have been won with one of the competitors predictably going over the other to earn themselves three points, with no draw finishes to date. Just this Wednesday alone, Jay White beat Mark Briscoe, RUSH beat Jay Lethal, and Andrade El Idolo beat Brody King. While I concede that the majority of the matches should end with someone earning three points, it would be nice to see a draw just to change things up a little. AEW had a great opportunity to do the first draw of the tournament with Moxley vs. Strickland to keep two of their top stars both looking strong, but they opted not to take it.

Written by Olivia Quinlan