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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Apr. 15, 2020): No grunts barred

AEW Dynamite (Apr. 15, 2020) featured tournament competition between Lance Archer and Colt Cabana, Orange Cassidy with a new foe, and Jon Moxley grunting Jake Hager for gold in an empty arena no holds barred bout.

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

No holds barred

The main event for the evening was Jon Moxley defending his AEW World Championship against Jake Hager. The title fight was contested in an empty arena (Daily’s Place in Jacksonville) with no holds barred.

AEW rolled out the red carpet to get the big fight feel. Ariel Helwani, Taz, Ron Funches, Mike Goldberg, “Big” John McCarthy, Excalibur, Dan Soder, Ortiz, Sammy Guevara, Josh Thomson, and Santana provided predictions. Taz also examined the technical aspects of Hager’s choke finishers.

These “Technique by Taz” segments are always excellent. It is informative and treats professional wrestling like a true sport. I hope AEW uses this every week.

The main event took up the final 40 minutes of the broadcast. It spanned over three commercial breaks. Moxley and Hager worked a grapple style. The majority of the bout was the two men tenderizing each other as they sought windows for submission attempts. The early high point was Moxley locking in a figure-four around the handrail in the fan seats.

Later, Hager had his opportunity for victory by sinking in an arm-triangle choke on the mat. Moxley had hit Hager with a DDT, but Mox was too exhausted for the pin cover. By the time he got on top of Hager, Hager was revived enough to counter into the choke. Moxley made it to the ropes for a break.

The next big moment was the finishing sequence. Hager snatched an ankle lock. Moxley refused defeat. He cussed up a storm by exclaiming that he wouldn’t lose to this (expletive). Moxley rolled out of the hold and sent Hager through the ropes. When Hager came back in, Mox struck with a DDT and guillotine choke. That wasn’t enough to put the big man down. Hager got free, so Moxley threw a chair at Hager’s face. Moxley pounced with a Paradigm Shift on top of the chair to win.

This can be a difficult style of match to pull off. Grappling is not going to be enjoyed by everyone. I think a key is to have exciting flurries of action. This match was too plodding without that many maneuvers nor cool mat transitions. I was only intrigued at the very end when time was running out.

I do like that AEW tried something different. It was also nice for the bout to be on TV rather than a PPV. I would have graded it harsher if I was paying big bucks to watch.

One aspect I enjoyed was probably unintentional. A benefit of an empty arena is that we can hear all the noises that could be drowned out by fans. In this case, Hager and Moxley were grunting up a storm. So much so that it made me laugh considerably. The grunts did kind of sell the physicality and exhaustion of the contest, so that’s a plus.

With Hager out of the way, I guess that means Jon Moxley has vanquished the Inner Circle. There will always be an easy way to re-ignite the feud if needed. For now, I’d like to see Moxley move on. The big question will be who. Hager and Jericho have already lost. Cody can not compete for the World Championship again while he remains a babyface. Darby Allin needs to go on a winning streak to be worthy. That means he would win the TNT Championship. Title vs title seems too soon. MJF is missing in action. Kenny Omega is milling around without Hangman Page during these coronavirus times. I’m drawing a blank for Moxley’s next challenger, which would presumably be May 23 at Double or Nothing.

Lance Archer rages on

Lance Archer faced Colt Cabana in the first round of the TNT Championship tournament. Archer came in angry as he punched some dude in the crowd and clocked Cabana before the opening bell. Colt unloaded some strikes of his own, but he couldn’t knock Archer off his feet. Cabana used his wily veteran experience to evade and try to get in Archer’s head. That only lasted for so long.

Archer would eventually manhandle Cabana. The turning point toward the finish was a big crisscross shoulder block.

Archer followed up with a chokeslam. The Murderhawk Monster picked up the win by grabbing Cabana out of the corner for his Blackout finisher. Archer advances to the second round.

One little touch I appreciated were the occasional camera angles to show how huge Archer is. Cabana is not a small man, and Archer towered over him. It added mystique to Archer.

Archer is now one step closer to Cody Rhodes. That was a powerful win, but it was not very efficient. Archer made lots of mistakes with whiffed strikes and missed high-risk maneuvers. I don’t think this performance struck fear in Cody at all. Cody is probably encouraged by his chances. It won’t be an easy fight, but I’m sure Cody and Arn Anderson can formulate a solid gameplan to take advantage of Archer’s wildness.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Role model, D.M.D. Britt Baker taught us the first rule of being a role model. Always fight fair.

She fought valiantly against Hikaru Shida with an excruciating deviated septum. Baker’s grit, passion, and dedication to always be the face of the women’s division makes her the true winner.

Britt Baker defeated Cassandra Golden. Baker squashed Golden with a superkick then a curb stomp with Golden’s mouth on the bottom rope.

Baker trucked through her larger opponent in impressive fashion. It looks like that bloody nose lit a fire in Baker. Baker with an violent edge is working well for her character. It makes her more serious as a threat in the ring. Combine that with her highfalutin role model rules and she continues to produce entertaining TV.

The Bubbly Bunch. The Inner Circle struck comedy gold again. Gold might be too high. Let’s say bronze. The fellows talked trash about the Elite and Matt Hardy via video conference from each of their homes.

It was an amusing little skit to pass time. Silly and ridiculous in a fun way. The highlights for me were Hager telling his kids “earmuffs” while using swear words, Chris Jericho not paying attention to pour orange juice all over the counter, and Jericho’s posse of hounds.

Sammy Guevara defeated Pineapple Pete. Pete is actually known as Suge D. The Spanish Sex God played with his meat then carved Pineapple up with a running knee and an inverted fireman’s carry into a big knee to win. Sammy grabbed a mic to give a spoiler for his tournament match against Darby Allin next week. Sammy will beat the shit out of Darby. Sammy attacked Suge D again as an example. Darby ran out to chase Sammy away.

This was another squash that made the winner look like a star. Sammy’s not a power guy, but he pushed around Pineapple Pete. It was like a professional athlete against a ham-and-egger. Suge D probably thought he could hang, but he was completely outclassed. It served as a reminder that there are levels to the game of professional wrestling.

Kip Sabian defeated Chuck Taylor. Penelope Ford and Orange Cassidy were ringside for support. All four and more were involved in the finish.

Taylor had momentum, so Ford hopped onto the apron to seduce Sexy T. Kip made use of the distraction. OC returned the favor to mock Ford and distract Kip. All of a sudden, Jimmy Havoc hopped the guardrail to attack OC with a cradle DDT on the floor. With referee Aubrey Edwards’ eyes on Havoc, Ford flew in with a hurricanrana to Taylor. Kip then won via roll-up.

The finishing sequence made me pop. It was great use of Ford and OC. Havoc’s interference was a positive surprise. If you are wondering the connection between Sabian and Havoc, they are flatmates. Kip picked up momentum for next week’s tournament match against Dustin Rhodes. He’ll need all the help he can get.

Shawn Spears defeated Justin Law. After monkeying around, Spears used the C4 for the win. Watch out. Spears is on a win streak. It will be interesting to see who gets the rub of knocking him off.

Stud of the Show: Jimmy Havoc

I’ll always cheer when a wrestler wrecks Orange Cassidy. It brings me so much joy. For that, I salute, Jimmy Havoc. Let’s hope Havoc gets to play with some toys in next week’s match against OC.

Dud of the Show: Length of the main event

I thought main event between Jon Moxley and Jake Hager was satisfactory. The problem with being satisfactory is that satisfactory doesn’t warrant 40 minutes. The pace was a bit stodgy, and it felt like a chore to sit through at times. A more condensed match could have been more exciting.

Grade: B

There were two important matches and the rest was entertaining filler. Mileage will vary about the enjoyment of Moxley versus Hager. I’d slot Lance Archer versus Colt Cabana as the best match. Britt Baker and Sammy Guevara maximized their minutes to build their star power.

Share your thoughts about this episode of Dynamite. How do you rate it? What was your favorite moment? Who would like to see video of Tony Schiavone doing the splits in leather pants?

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