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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Dec. 15, 2021): World title draw

AEW Dynamite (Dec. 15, 2021) emanated from the Curtis Culwell Center in Dallas, TX. The show featured Hangman Page and Bryan Danielson competing for the AEW World Championship, Hikaru Shida and Serena Deeb duking it out in a grudge match, as well as MJF and Dante Martin vying for the Dynamite Diamond Ring.

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

World title draw

Dynamite surprisingly opened with the AEW World Championship match between Hangman Page and Bryan Danielson. That was a good decision, so the epic encounter could be given as much time as needed without rushing at the end. It also prevented telegraphing a finish as time neared 10 pm ET to close the show. As the opener, I knew we were in for a lengthy bout, but little did I anticipate that AEW would order up a 60-minute time-limit draw.

The first 45 minutes were a chess match. Danielson worked mind games early by pecking at Hangman, leaning through the ropes for unnecessary breaks, and gloating whenever he won an exchange. It was quite effective in making sure fan support was strongly behind Hangman instead of a mixed bag. Strategy unfolded with Danielson attacking the arm and Hangman attacking the leg. That played a role later with Hangman’s lariats being weaker and Danielson’s kicks being weaker.

Highlights include Danielson locking in the Romero Special submission, Hangman with a slingshot plancha to the outside, Hangman with a fallaway slam, Hangman with a moonsault to the outside, and Hangman countering a crucifix for a DVD. My favorite part of the first half was Danielson with a leglock on the mat and throwing punches at Hangman. Danielson pounded the gut. When Hangman blocked low, Danielson would punch him in the head. When Hangman changed to block high, Danielson would punch him in the gut again. It was a little piece of comedy gold.

In a match of this magnitude, of course there would be blood. Danielson shoved Hangman off the turnbuckles crashing down on the apron and to the floor. Danielson followed by repeatedly ramming Hangman into the ring post. That’s what cut open the cowboy.

Later in the contest, Hangman surprised Danielson with a tombstone piledriver. That was the first close call toward a finish.

Danielson scored a pair of close pinfalls from suplexes on a bridging shoulder capture and a super back drop. Danielson aimed for pain with a Gotch piledriver on the apron, however, Hangman countered for a Deadeye piledriver. Hangman wasted his momentum by crashing into a table when Danielson evaded a flying attack. Danielson pulled up the mat on the floor for a DDT to exposed concrete.

Under the five minute warning, Danielson stomped Hangman’s head in. The challenger crouched in anticipation for a running knee finisher. Hangman sensed it coming and caught him for a Deadeye piledriver. 1, 2, Danielson kicked out.

Hangman dished out payback in the form of stomping Danielson’s head in. Hangman waited for Danielson to rise so he could launch for the buckshot lariat. Once Hangman took flight, Danielson ducked and hooked the LeBell Lock. The champion refused to lose. Hangman finally escaped to catapult Danielson into the ropes. Danielson charged back right into a thunderous clothesline. Hangman landed the buckshot lariat, but time expired before a three-count could commence. The official result was a draw.

It pains me to say this. I did not enjoy Hangman versus Danielson. I really, really wanted to, and that’s what makes it such a bummer. The technical quality was fine. The strategy was fine. The storytelling was fine. The crowd work was fine. However, the pace was such a slog to watch. The match wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t interesting either. There were zero near falls in roughly the first 45 minutes. There were barely any big moments in that span. Neither man worked toward a finish as they both resigned themselves to battling in a war of attrition. They didn’t provoke any emotion from me during that period. It became easy to zone out.

The bout finally started cooking down the stretch. That was high drama. Hangman provided excellent babyface moments by flipping out of a super back drop suplex to start a rally. Stomping Danielson’s head in was badass. The crowd went wild for the buckshot connecting in the closing seconds. One thing I didn’t like about the finish was the lack of urgency. Both men wasted precious time playing games of bravado.

Running with a draw was a bold choice. The live crowd booed the lack of a winner and chanted for five more minutes. I’d argue the finish did no favors for Hangman. Danielson controlled him for the majority. Hangman was often one step behind mentally. That could be a testament to Danielson’s mastery at strategy rather than a knock on Hangman. For that reason, I would actually favor Danielson 8 times out of 10 in the future. It can be argued that Hangman was on path to victory, and I’d counter that almost winning doesn’t count. For all we know, Danielson may have kicked out on the cover.

Dynamite Diamond Ring

The main event of the evening was the Dynamite Diamond Ring competition between MJF and Dante Martin. Technically, that was the main event since it closed the show.

MJF kicked it off with a promo to taunt CM Punk. Punk mentioned his desire to chase the AEW World Championship, but MJF didn’t realize Punk was championship material. An undefeated streak in underwhelming matches versus underwhelming opponents makes Punk the new Ryback.

In the match at hand, Martin rocked the ring with aerial feats.

Martin connected on his springboard moonsault finisher. Ricky Starks ran in out of nowhere to place MJF’s foot on the rope for the break. Martin lost focus, and MJF capitalized on the distraction for the Salt of the Earth armbar to win.

FTR came down to celebrate with their boy, Maxwell. Lights out. Lights on. It’s Sting! And Darby Allin too. The painted faces raised a ruckus on the Pinnacle trio until MJF low-blowed Sting, and the numbers game took over.

Punk arrived on the scene with a bat in hand. The Pinnacle didn’t want that smoke. Punk is going to give it to them anyway next week in trios action. He announced it will be Punk, Allin, & Sting versus MJF & FTR. Allin didn’t look too enthused to shake Punk’s hand.

MJF is a three-time winner of the Dynamite Diamond Ring, and I am pleased as punch. That’s not so much about MJF winning or cheating to win. It’s about creating a special prize with significance. It is going to be super sweet when someone finally dethrones MJF with the ring on the line.

The action was enjoyable with Martin continuing his star trajectory and MJF being a fink at all times. The finish wasn’t all that gratifying in terms of fighting spirit. Martin was bamboozled then promptly submitted. There was no build to soak in the moment. Bing, bang, boom, over.

The arrival of Sting and Allin was cool. It veered toward cliche when Punk came out. He made up for it with the big match reveal. I’m curious if there is more to the story of Allin leaving Punk’s handshake hanging, or it being a simple case of Allin not liking anybody except Sting. I do believe Allin acquiesced right as the show went off the air.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Wardlow defeated Matt Sydal. Sydal actually had Wardlow rocked a little after connecting on high kicks, but Wardlow caught him for a heavy powerbomb. Wardlow added a second powerbomb. Shawn Spears grabbed a mic telling Wardlow to pin him. Wardlow nailed a third powerbomb to win the short match.

Afterward, Spears added an orgasmic chair shot to Sydal. Spears received a phone call from MJF instructing Wardlow to pick up champagne for MJF’s victory celebration. Spears offered to drive.

Wardlow is winning fans with beastly powerbombs. I’m a little confused about Spears’ critique, but I suppose it is setting up Wardlow to split from the Pinnacle. His first action could be to powerbomb Spears repeatedly. I won’t get my hopes up though. AEW has been teasing tension with Wardlow for a long time.

House of Black. The best promo of the bunch went to Malakai Black. This is one that needs to be watched several times to pick up on all the metaphors and imagery. Black’s primary message was to embrace the human spirit for violence. The bottom line is that Black appears to be recruiting new members to the House of Black. The final line whispered to Black’s disciple was, “Now, you’re so much more than a king.”

On the plus side, intrigue and black mist. On the negative side, AEW has yet another cult leader character in their short history.

Hikaru Shida defeated Serena Deeb. Deeb’s ploy to expose turnbuckle steel backfired in the end. Both women teased viewers about who would collide into the object. Shida used her foot to push Deeb crashing into the corner for a jackknife pin to win.

Decent match with intensity matching the spirit of the feud. Unfortunately, the bout never reached that extra gear toward greatness. The finish was unsatisfying as a cheap way to close a grudge. It doesn’t feel like the story is over. I’d wager that Shida won’t be fully satisfied until she smashes Deeb into a pulp.

Notes: The Young Bucks, Adam Cole, & Bobby Fish challenged Orange Cassidy, Trent, Chuck Taylor, & Rocky Romero to an 8-man tag on Rampage. Cole also teased a special Christmas present for next week. Goofy kazoo carols playing in the background was what stuck out to me in the scene. That and Matt Jackson threatening to superkick Sue. Yes, please.

Tay Conti is sick of Penelope Ford and Bunny using brass knuckles to win. She challenged Ford to a submission match on Rampage. Ford was not concerned with the stipulation and remained confident.

Griff Garrison wants a piece of Malakai Black. Brian Pillman Jr. cautioned Garrison to cool his head. Garrison wasn’t having that. He was irate about Black’s treatment of Julia Hart. Garrison plans to break Black’s jaw in a match next week.

Hook received the hype package treatment for his debut win over Fuego del Sol last week.

Eddie Kingston arranged a 10-man tag for Rampage. Kingston will team with Santana, Ortiz, Fenix, and Pentagon against 2point0, Daniel Garcia, and two partners of their choosing. That turned out to be the Acclaimed. So, Fenix is cool with Kingston now? Did I miss the memo?

Stud of the Show: Griff Garrison

I love seeing young wrestlers step up with courage. Garrison did that by sticking up for Julia Hart to challenge Malakai Black. Garrison has always been pleasant but a bit of an afterthought. Now, he’s giving us a reason to care.

(Time to retire the weekly pick for Dud of the Show. It has been harder and harder to choose lately. In its place will be the Match of the Night. AEW usually has enough good matches on each show that it should produce debate regularly.)

Match of the Night: MJF vs. Dante Martin

Even though the finish felt abrupt, Martin’s amazing high-flying gave it the nod above the rest.

Grade: B

The world title match was half the show. If you loved that, then a strong A is a logical grade. If not, then a lower grade makes sense. That’s where I stand. Other matches had solid action with flunky finishes.

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

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