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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Feb. 9, 2022): Cowboy champion

AEW Dynamite (Feb. 9, 2022) emanated from the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The show featured Hangman Page digging deep for cowboy shit against Lance Archer in a Texas Deathmatch with the AEW world title on the line, CM Punk came hard with a mystery partner to frustrate MJF once again, and debuts were plentiful with Keith Lee and “Switchblade” Jay White.

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

Cowboy champion

Whoa dandy. The main event of the evening surpassed my wildest expectations in entertainment. Hangman Page versus Lance Archer by itself earns my interest. Add in the AEW World Championship on the line, and I’m hooked even more. Make it a Texas Deathmatch, and I’m counting down the minutes to showtime. Hangman and Archer delivered strong. They beat each other bloody with crazy moments.

The action erupted early with Archer attacking backstage. Hangman was in control as they made their way to the ring. Buckshot lariat! The champ hit his finisher in the opening minutes. Archer rolled out of the ring down to the floor. Per the rules, a winner was determined by submission or knockout. Referee Paul Turner started a ten-count. Archer was back to his feet at 9.

The mere mention of Dan Lambert may make some involuntarily regurgitate their dinner, but he brought in a stroke of tactical brilliance on this match. Lambert unscrewed the top turnbuckle, so the top rope fell down. That eliminated the possibility of another buckshot lariat from Hangman Page, or so we thought.

As the match progressed, Jake “The Snake” Roberts got involved. He nailed a short-arm clothesline to Hangman on the floor. When Jake went for a DDT, Archer pulled him away. He wanted to win on his own accord.

Things got gnarly when Archer stabbed a fork into Hangman’s forehead. The Murderhawk Monster licked the utensil clean. The true ‘holy shit’ moment came next. Archer tossed Hangman into the air on a Blackout outside onto the ring steps.

Hangman turned the tide toward victory by using a piece of barbed wire to wrap around his fist and forearm for strikes.

As the referee bent over to retrieve the wire, Hangman used the ref’s back to vault into the air for a buckshot lariat. The impact knocked both men off the apron crashing through tables. Hangman rose at 9, and Archer remained down at 10. Hangman retained his title in a badass contest.

That fight was so freaking good. The intensity, aggression, and fighting spirit left me emotionally drained. Hangman and Archer fought so hard that I’m exhausted just watching their exertion of energy. They started with a bang and never slowed down. I loved the idea of taking down the top rope. It was genius strategy, added a level of doubt for Hangman finding a way to win, and fit in well visually with the chaotic vibe. The finish was executed with creativity and shock. I never would have anticipated the buckshot lariat coming off the referee’s back.

Archer lost again in the big match, but I think his performance puts him more over than ever in my book. Before, he was cool as a wrecking ball spectacle. I’m at the point now that I genuinely want to see what Archer does next.

After the match, a new challenger emerged. Adam Cole walked to the ring, snatched the title belt from the referee, and placed it over Hangman’s shoulder. No skirmish occurred, but the message was clear. Cole is coming for gold.

Punk’s mystery partner

The feud between CM Punk and MJF is far from over. The next chapter included a supremely awesome tag team match with a mystery partner.

MJF was out in the ring celebrating with the Pinnacle about beating CM Punk twice in Chicago. Punk entered the scene with Sting, Darby Allin, and baseball bats as backup. He came out looking for a fight, but it wasn’t MJF he sought. Punk called out Wardlow as the man who really beat him. FTR chimed in that they want a rematch with Sting and Allin. MJF was so confident in FTR that he offered an arrogant proposition to Punk. Punk can choose any partner besides Sting and Allin. If Punk wins against FTR, then he can name the time and place for a rematch with MJF.

The opening promo set the stage for the show’s mood. Having Punk aligned with a mystery partner was a perfect fit for the vibe in the air. Story beats continued with little verbal barbs at Wardlow. Punk calling him out was a nice swerve. It made Wardlow feel important like a star and also worked mind games on MJF.

When the time came, Jon Moxley arrived as the surprise.

Punk, Moxley, and FTR settled in for a barn burner. There was violence, such as a double back drop driver from FTR to Moxley through the timekeeper table. There were tag team theatrics, such as Moxley working for the hot tag to Punk. There was tactical strategy, such as FTR working as a mischievous unit. And then there was drama, so much drama on numerous close pinfalls.

Moxley and Punk hit the Doomsday Device, but Dax Harwood kicked out.

Cash Wheeler smashed Punk in the head with the ring bell. Harwood followed with a brainbuster. Punk kicked out. Punk’s GTS was blocked and countered into a Big Rig. Moxley was able to make the save on the cover.

FTR set up a spike piledriver, but Moxley came from behind to choke Harwood. Punk transitioned to trap Wheeler in the Anaconda Vice submission. Wheeler tapped out frantically, however, referee Aubrey Edwards was occupied trying to clear the ring of Moxley. That allowed Tully Blanchard to step in to break the hold. Punk responded with a GTS to Blanchard.

Wheeler took advantage for a quick roll-up grabbing the tights. Punk kicked out then grabbed Wheeler for a GTS. Moxley intercepted Harwood for a Paradigm Shift to ensure Punk’s pin went clean. MJF had been watching backstage and threw his champagne glass upon the bell of victory for Punk.

What a tremendous match. All those potential finishes were believable endings. The drama kept increasing to a fever pitch as the match carried on. Going in, there was a strong feeling Punk would win. By the end, that wasn’t even a thought in my mind. The action engrossed me fully to the point of being lost in the moment.

Most of all, I’m impressed with how AEW has kept this feud fresh. They don’t use the impromptu match often, which I appreciate because it makes the show feel more professional to have a set itinerary while also building anticipation for big contests. AEW hit it out of the park with this one. The mystery element was a smart choice to capitalize on the huge hype of debuts. Even though Moxley is tried and true in AEW, it still went over well as a surprise. The end result was creating even more desire to see Punk’s rematch against MJF.

HUGE debut

Tony Khan spent the week hyping a major debut. When the time came, Keith Lee walked out on stage. That is a literal huge debut. Lee is enormous.

Lee competed against Isiah Kassidy in a qualifying bout for the upcoming Face of the Revolution ladder match. Lee displayed power and agility by tossing Kassidy across the ring and also hitting a slingshot crossbody. Kassidy used quickness to fight tough, but he couldn’t outrun a huge shoulder block.

Even though Kassidy received assistance from Marq Quen, Lee prevailed in the end with an emphatic fireman’s carry slam. Afterward, Quen attacked. A Private Party double dropkick knocked Lee out of the ring, but he recovered to catch flying attacks and slam them down to the floor.

That was one heck of a debut from Lee. He should be a good fit within AEW by helping to fill out the big boy athlete side of the roster. Lee looked like a superstar. His blend of size and swiftness was impressive. Lee’s powers of destruction left me yearning for more. Take a seat, Adam Cole. I want to see Lee wrestle Hangman immediately.

Credit to Kassidy and Quen for executing their roles well. They flipped and flopped excellently to make Lee look savage.

Also of note, Matt Hardy saw enough from Kassidy and bailed through the crowd mid-match. He has teased that changes might be coming if Private Party keeps losing. This might be a direct line toward eventually introducing Jeff Hardy into AEW.

Double HUGE debut

Keith Lee wasn’t the only huge debut on the evening. “Switchblade” Jay White walked through the Forbidden Door. As the Young Bucks and Adam Cole took cheap shots on Trent and Rocky Romero, White sauntered on camera to the surprise of the Bucks. He smashed Trent into the trailer to share good times with the former Bullet Club members.

White is the current leader of the Bullet Club. Seeing him on screen shows how he is deserving of that position. White oozes cool compared to the Bucks and Cole. His appearance was an exciting side treat.

White will be present for Rampage as well when the Bucks collide with Roppongi Vice. The Bucks were in the dark about his presence, and it turned out to be orchestrated by Cole. Even though White was archenemies with Kenny Omega, Cole said he could be trusted. Bullet Club for life.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Wardlow defeated Blade. The mercenary clipped Wardlow’s knee, but the muscle man would not be denied his symphony of powerbombs. Blade is tough to keep down, so it took a little time for Wardlow to finish with four consecutive powerbombs for victory.

Wardlow did his thing to the delight of the crowd. The subplot was the intriguing part. Shawn Spears wanted to interfere physically, but Wardlow told him to stay put. Spears obeyed until after the match when he squeezed in a chair shot to Blade for good measure. The Chairman cometh in ecstasy. Wardlow was annoyed at that act of defiance, but he has no power to do anything about it at this moment in time.

Inner Circle breakdown. Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, and Jake Hager entered the team meeting. Santana and Ortiz made a fashionably late entrance with their own music. Jericho wanted to know why they disrespected him. Santana cut the corny shit to accuse Jericho of only caring about himself. Their days of playing second fiddle are over. If not for Ortiz, Santana would have dropped Jericho a long time ago. Jericho acted tough by threatening to kick them out of the Inner Circle.

Sammy stepped in to calm the situation. Bickering won’t help him be the greatest champion in wrestling. Sammy took off his Inner Circle vest and placed it in the center of the ring. If they can’t solve their issues, then the Spanish God is done with the group.

That led to Santana & Ortiz versus Jericho & Hager for next week.

Fantastic segment all the way around. For the sake of brevity, I omitted lots of little details. This is a must-watch promo session for those with interest in the Inner Circle soap opera. Santana, Ortiz, and Guevara finally had their own voice to act assertively. They stand out as bigger stars now because of that. Everyone expressed valid points for their case, but it was clear Jericho was being positioned as the heel. Threatening replacements and telling Sammy to shut up showed Jericho losing his cool to act as a blowhard deserving of a beatdown.

I’m glad Eddie Kingston didn’t show up. Santana and Ortiz proved they don’t need him as a talker. I don’t think they should align hard with Kingston. A loose relationship is a better fit. It is time for Santana and Ortiz to rise on their own, and I fully believe they have the ability to do so.

TBS Championship: Jade Cargill defeated A.Q.A. The newcomer answered an open challenge. A.Q.A. is 25 years old, trained by Booker T, and aiming to prove herself against the best in AEW. She struggled early with Jade’s dominating power advantage. A.Q.A. managed to rally with momentum for a shooting star press, but Jade kicked out on the cover. The champ caught a flying crossbody to counter into a swinging slam then finished with Jaded. Cargill is now 27-0.

Cargill was rock solid. I enjoyed her expanded arsenal of slams and suplexes. She even broke out the gorilla press. That’s one of those simple moves that looks cool for a powerhouse. AEW did right by A.Q.A. by providing a background promo video and allowing her enough offense to earn new fans.

Serena Deeb defeated Katie Arquette. The rookie lasted one minute in the ring with the Professor during the 5-minute challenge, and that included Deeb wasting time to flaunt her ability. A swinging neckbreaker and Serenity Lock submission sealed the deal.

This match succeeded in its purpose of portraying Deeb as a badass. Her prowess and ruthlessness are off the charts. It will be satisfying once Hikaru Shida returns for payback.

Notes: Andrade met with Sting about acquiring Darby Allin. Sting was perplexed why Andrade thinks he is Allin’s boss. Allin is his own man, and he has his eye on the TNT Championship. Andrade confidently stated that they now have something in common, because El Idolo will be the next TNT champ. Humorous meeting session while setting up future TNT challengers.

Pentagon teased a new character direction. When Malakai Black spit mist in his face, that was like spitting into his soul. Since Black likes to live in darkness, be prepared to face the consequences. Pentagon was in the cemetery with a shovel to reveal a darker mask. Time for Penta Oscuro (Pentagon Dark) to rise. Awesome little vignette setting the stage for Pentagon’s revenge.

Dr. Britt Baker DMD brought in Mercedes Martinez to take out Thunder Rosa. The Martinez versus Thunder rematch will be No DQ next week. The OG Badass works best with no rules. Thunder is not scared.

Sammy Guevara used his cue card gimmick to recognize himself as a fighting champion. He’ll be ready for Andrade, Allin, the Face of the Revolution ladder match winner, and whoever else.

Jurassic Express is bothered by the entitled attitude of the Gunn Club. The Ass Boys stated their case to deserve a title shot by being athletic and gorgeous. Papa Billy chimed in. If you’re not down with that, then he has two words for you. New champs. The tag title match is scheduled for Rampage on Friday night.

Stud of the Show: Hangman Page

The honor goes to Hangman for surviving that brutal Blackout blast on the ring steps and persevering for victory. Cowboy shit! That spot was insane and made me wince in pain.

Match of the Night: CM Punk & Jon Moxley vs. FTR

This bout was PPV main event quality. I think it has a chance to be in the AEW Match of the Year conversation when that discussion rolls around in December and January.

Grade: A+

The first half was light on wrestling but very strong on stories. The second half had two dynamite matches worthy of high praise. The debuts were hyped hard and even those were satisfying. This show left me in such a good mood that I’ll add on the plus.

Share your thoughts about Dynamite. How do you rate it? Who stole the show?

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