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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Mar. 18, 2020): Matt Hardy completes the Elite

AEW Dynamite (Mar. 18, 2020) emanated from Jacksonville, Florida. In front of an empty venue, the show featured the Inner Circle and the Elite jockeying for position before Blood & Guts, the Exalted One revealed, and Matt Hardy with a surprise appearance.

Get caught up on all the Dynamite details with the excellent live results and play-by-play from Claire Elizabeth.

Matt Hardy is Elite

The big story weaving throughout this episode was to set up next week’s Blood & Guts match between the Elite and the Inner Circle. Nick Jackson was ruled out due to not being medically cleared to fly. That made the main event take on extra importance. The winning team would earn the man advantage during Blood & Guts. Seemingly down 4 vs 5, the Elite desperately needed the victory.

Before we break down the main event, let’s start at the beginning. Cody Rhodes welcomed us to the show with a rallying cry to stand together against the coronavirus.

Cody transitioned to asking the Elite to stand together. Matt Jackson needed to put aside his misplaced anger toward Hangman Page and instead bring his older brother wisdom to their team. Cody wanted Hangman to get over losing and be a difference-maker in the win. Kenny Omega needed to become the best bout machine. They need the Elite to be the Elite.

Jackson and Omega came down to the ring. They agreed with Cody. Then, they asked about Hangman. He came out sipping on whiskey. Jackson asked if Hangman will stand with the Elite? From the entrance ramp, Hangman mouthed, “Yep,” then walked away.

This was a very effective leadership moment from Cody for his team. All the fellows seemingly put their squabbles aside for the greater good. That only adds excitement for Blood & Guts knowing that the two teams will be bringing their A game. The best versus the best is all I can ask for as a fan for a match of this magnitude.

Main event time. Jake Hager, Santana, and Ortiz competed against Cody, Matt, and Hangman. Sammy Guevara, Kenny Omega, and Arn Anderson were ringside. Chris Jericho was on commentary.

The Elite were not a cohesive unit due to Hangman’s pouting. Whenever he felt he wasn’t being utilized enough, he would take a breather on the entrance ramp. I don’t believe he shared a proper tag once with Jackson.

The story of the match was Cody taking an extended beating until he hit Cross Rhodes on Ortiz. Hangman received the hot tag to clean house. On the floor, Cody tossed Ortiz onto MJF, who was watching as a fan. Wardlow goozled Cody. Anderson whacked his coaching clipboard across Wardlow’s back.

The action carried on as Jackson used a blind tag to get himself into the ring. He did his triple suplex spot then tried and failed to suplex Hager. Hangman scurried in to assist on a double suplex. That was the first time in a very long time Hangman and Jackson were on the same page. They started working together and set up the Young Bucks patented IndyTaker. Hager grabbed Hangman’s foot to prevent the move. Santana escaped Jackson’s clutches for a surprise roll-up win.

Jericho grabbed a mic to gloat about the Inner Circle earning an advantage for Blood & Guts. With Nick out, the Elite don’t stand a chance. Cody, Matt, and Hangman all looked like they were close to tears, but Matt would get the last laugh over Jericho.

What sounded like a swarm of bees turned out to be a drone; Vanguard 1 to be precise. Jackson phoned in a favor. Matt Hardy was revealed to be in the rafters.

Well, that appearance from Hardy was quite unexpected. I totally thought Jon Moxley would be the fifth member for Team Elite. That’s what made the choice of Hardy so surprising to me. That was a quality swerve by AEW to tease Hardy heavy as the Exalted One then have him be a pivotal point for this feud instead. I’m very glad Hardy was the choice over Moxley for Blood & Guts. Moxley doesn’t fit in this battle between the Elite and the Inner Circle. Moxley’s involvement would not give us an answer as to who is the better faction.

The choice of Hardy also makes sense if you have been following the multitude of media across platforms. In case the story confused you, this favor is payback for Hardy calling the Bucks to free him from Zenith on Hardy’s YouTube series, “Free the Delete.”

The tables are set for Blood & Guts. Anticipation is high. Time to count down the hours until the next Dynamite.

The Exalted One revealed

The other big story coming into Dynamite was the reveal of the Exalted One. Evil Uno came out to run his gums about the Exalted One being near. When he arrives, it will breath new life into the Dark Order. Christopher Daniels came out from the fan section to say he was sick of hearing about the Exalted One. He believes Evil Uno was lying and there is no Exalted One.

That’s when a vignette played on the big screen.

The big reveal was Brodie Lee (fka Luke Harper). He does what he wants and takes what he wants. If CD thought his jokes would go unpunished, then he would be mistaken. CD wouldn’t be the first out of touch old man not to believe in him, but he will be the last. Lee appeared in the ring behind CD and Kaz and began a beatdown.

I think the execution of the reveal was handled well, but it would have been aided by a popping crowd reaction. I’m not sold on Brodie Lee in this role yet. I’m going to need some backstory vignettes or promos about why he wants to destroy the Elite. Lee was with WWE a long time, so I need to know when his hatred for the Elite started festering. At least Lee can let his matches do the talking to keep me interested.

Empty venue

This show was filmed in front of no fans due to coronavirus concerns cancelling out large gatherings. There was worry that AEW minus the crowd wouldn’t be as exciting, since the cheers bring so much emotion. AEW made the best of a bad situation and turned Dynamite into an interesting auditory experience.

AEW achieved this by having wrestlers in attendance in place of fans. MJF was interviewed early to explain that he was going to rest this week. As salt of the earth, he would allow the mid-card talent to get time on television. MJF was then shown gambling with Shawn Spears, so both would have a rooting interest and make noise during matches. Wardlow, Tully Blanchard, Jake Roberts, and Lance Archer were also on the heel side.

For the babyfaces, several were present to scout and have a good time. That list included Colt Cabana, Sonny Kiss, Joey Janela, Christopher Daniels, and Frankie Kazarian. Dustin Rhodes, QT Marshall, Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn, Best Friends, and Orange Cassidy came out for the main event. It was a good mix of charismatic loudmouths to add energy.

I also have to wonder how much the acoustics of the venue benefit Dynamite. Daily’s Place is an amphitheater and that should help sound carry better to create a louder atmosphere.

If AEW follows that same formula for future shows of this nature, then the viewing experience should be fine. Not perfect, but definitely more acceptable than complete silence.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Lucha Bros defeated Best Friends. PAC was not present. Perhaps he was affected by travel restrictions. Orange Cassidy was on commentary. Of course, he did not speak. OC did have a moment when he caused a distraction to the Lucha Bros setting up their teamwork package piledriver on the entrance ramp. Chuck Taylor knocked them down to the floor, and OC took flight off the stage.

For the finish, Pentagon kicked Trent in the cojones behind the referee’s back. That led to the flying stomp package piledriver as Pentagon pinned Trent. After the match, Chuck Taylor challenged the Lucha Bros to a parking lot brawl for next week. That match was later made official.

It is always nice seeing the Lucha Bros have success. Despite their fame, they still need wins right now to bolster their new Death Triangle faction. I like the parking lot brawl idea, but I have to question if Chuckie T. has every watched Lucha Underground. Pentagon had several ultra-violent matches in the Temple. If Pentagon is unleashed by the powers that be and allowed to go buck-wild, then the Best Friends are going to be in a lot of bloody pain. Sign me up to watch.

Hikaru Shida defeated Penelope Ford, Riho, and Kris Statlander in a four-way. Kip Sabian was ringside to interfere. He would pay the price on occasion when the women clobbered him. The move of the match was Ford with a springboard reverse rana.

For the finish, Shida nailed Ford with a Falcon Arrow slam. Ford kicked out of the cover. Shida continued with a running knee strike. That put Ford down for the three count as Shida was victorious.

This match wasn’t the cleanest, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Shida surprised me with the win. I figured this bout would be used to fast-track Ford to a title shot, so she could get beat down by Nyla Rose. Nope. Thanks, AEW, for keeping it unpredictable. If Shida doesn’t get a title shot soon, then I don’t know what else she needs to accomplish. She just beat the #2 and #5 ranked women in that match. Shida deserves a shot at the champ.

After that four-way, Tony Schiavone interviewed Colt Cabana. Cabana praised Ford and said she would be better off without Sabian. Sabian overheard that remark and shoved Cabana. Cabana responded with a slap to Sabian’s face. It seems like a match between those two will be the near future.

Tall man in a short car. Jon Moxley had a promo taped prior to the show. He wasn’t medically cleared to enter the venue. Moxley warned the Inner Circle that he will be in their blind spot. He won’t be missing Blood & Guts. Moxley then humorously squeezed into his fancy automobile and sped away.

Jurassic Express defeated Blade & Butcher. Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy represented Jurassic Express. Marko Stunt was not there. Nor was Bunny for her boys. The big moment was Luchasaurus cleaning house on a hot tag.

For the finish, Blade and Butcher had momentum until MJF started shouting strategic orders to finish Jungle Boy. That distraction allowed Jurassic Express to spring up and win via a teamwork wheelbarrow cutter.

Don’t ignore Jake Roberts and Lance Archer. Roberts and Archer had a message for Cody. They paid respect to Cody, but Cody has ignored them. That is like spitting in their face. This wasn’t supposed to turn personal. Now, it has. Cody had his chance to meet them straight on. They will get his attention.

Up next was a vignette of Archer entering a backyard wrestling area and demolishing about 20 dudes.

I really like the effort put forth with the vignette, but I felt it was lacking in violence. Since it was pre-taped, AEW should have upped Archer’s ferociousness by having him break bones and spill blood. This was a missed opportunity to establish Archer as someone scary.

Stud of the Show: Matt Hardy

Hardy takes this honor for such a surprising appearance. I did not see that coming at all. Credit to AEW for the twists of this story.

Dud of the Show: MJF

This is specifically for MJF costing Blade and Butcher their match. They were in control until he stuck his nose where it did not belong. Yes, it fit his character, but it also made Blade and Butcher look bad when they lost.

Grade: B

This was a very solid show. The wrestling was entertaining and stories were advanced. Blood & Guts has been set up nicely. AEW did well operating without a crowd, but the two big reveals might have been better with massive pops from the fans. It could have made those moments more memorable.

We’ll close with Sammy Guevara crooning and MJF grooving to Chris Jericho’s theme song.

How do you rate this episode of Dynamite? What was your favorite moment?

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