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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Mar. 3, 2021): Match of the Year

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AEW Dynamite (Mar. 3, 2021) emanated from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, FL. The show featured Tully Blanchard returning to the ring, Shaquille O’Neal in a match of the year contender, and copious amounts of mayhem in the go-home toward the Revolution PPV on March 7.

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

Match of the Year Contender

Professional wrestling is a funny thing. At the beginning of the year, if I would have told you that Shaquille O’Neal will be in a match of the year contender for AEW, you would have laughed at me. And yet, here we are. Shaquille O’Neal wrestled in a match of the year contender on Dynamite.

The opening contest for the evening was Cody Rhodes & Red Velvet versus Shaquille O’Neal & Jade Cargill. Electricity was surging for this mixed tag bout. Cody came out first to a rowdy reception. Velvet was next and owned the stage of her first big match. Jade followed with the presence of a superhero. Shaq was last and dwarfed everyone in sight. He was a true giant.

Cody and Shaq locked up to kick off the action. Shaq shoved Cody away like a child. Cody used his quickness to slap the big man, but Shaq tossed him into the corner for a devastating chop across the chest. Shaq put Cody down on the mat with a high-altitude back body drop.

Shaq was in complete control when Jade demanded to take her turn. The switch was a good call to keep Shaq’s aura of invincibility roaring early.

Jade was a brick house of muscle, while Velvet was a firecracker of fury. Jade tossed Velvet across the ring then did pushups. Velvet came back with a flying crossbody, but Jade rolled through to transition for a fallaway slam.

After Jade pie-faced Cody, that’s when things got wacky. Cody ran across the ring for a cheap shot to knock Shaq off the apron. Austin Gunn grabbed a chair to hit Shaq in the back. Shaq channeled his inner Thunderlips from Rocky III to go berserk. He manhandled Austin and his brother Colten, along with QT Marshall.

In the mix up, Velvet landed a moonsault down to the floor on top of Cody, Jade, and QT.

The match progressed to Jade locking in a figure-four while flexing her bicep. Later, Shaq powerbombed Cody. Shaq mouthed off, so Cody jabbed an uppercut from off his back. Cody showed his work in the weight room with a medium body slam to Shaq. The giant pressed Cody up into the air on the cover.

The women took over throwing heavy blows. Velvet ran into a spinebuster. Cody was able to break up the pin. Cody then poked Shaq in the eyes leading to an epic running crossbody over the ropes as both men crashed through two tables.

The finish came down to Jade and Velvet. They went back and forth countering positions until Jade crushed Velvet with a Glam Slam chickenwing wheelbarrow facebuster for victory.

Afterward, Shaq was still unconscious and loaded into an ambulance. When Tony Schiavone went for a medical update, he rudely opened the door and Shaq had mysteriously vanished. I can only assume this means Shaq will return with evil facial hair to take over the AEW world.

That was sports entertainment at its finest. I was excited going in, but this match rocketed high above my expectations. The action and showmanship were electric. The action stayed simple without lots of fancy moves. The big hits were executed with great emphasis to pop a reaction.

Cody Rhodes and Shaquille O’Neal delivered an outstanding effort to portray Shaq as a real, living giant. I loved how Shaq showed his power with ease. That table spot was bonkers. Chalk that up as something I will always remember with a grin on my face.

Two new stars were made in the women’s division. Red Velvet and Jade Cargill still need to keep improving to be great, but their lights are shining extremely bright at this moment in time. Velvet’s passion is off the hook. Jade’s physical charisma is riveting. I can’t wait to see more from them.

Tully Blanchard’s return to the ring

There were two feature attractions that made this show special. The first was Shaq. The second was Tully Blanchard returning to the ring. He stepped foot inside the square circle with FTR by his side against the Jurassic Express trio.

Blanchard started the match across from Marko Stunt. He bullied Stunt around then tagged out. Later, Blanchard teased a suicide dive, only to pull up short to strut instead.

At one point, Blanchard was able to execute his signature slingshot suplex.

Blanchard brought the sizzle, but the rest of the competitors brought the steak to make it a satisfying contest. Jungle Boy ran wild with Snare Trap submissions. Luchasaurus pressed Stunt onto Blanchard. Cash Wheeler had a swinging DDT on the floor. FTR hit their superplex to flying splash combo. Luchasaurus unloaded a tail whip kick to Tully’s dome.

Jurassic Express had momentum when a masked stranger clobbered Jungle Boy in the air on a suicide dive. That same mystery man smashed Luchasaurus with a camera. The interference allowed FTR and Tully to find victory via triple-team spike piledriver. The masked man revealed himself to be Shawn Spears with blond hair.

Great outing from Tully Blanchard. He played to his strengths and hid his limitations. The end result was pure awesomeness. I want to be careful clamoring for more Tully in the ring, but I can’t help myself. He was so entertaining.

It was a cool touch to have JJ Dillon accompany Tully then see Arn Anderson observing with a Four Horseman salute after the match. Also, Shawn Spears is back. That’s something that happened. At least it was notable that he joined FTR and Blanchard as a full unit for the first time.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

PAC & Fenix defeated John Skyler & D3. Squash. A 450 splash from PAC and a Fenix Driver from Fenix put down Skyler.

The energy was still through the roof from the Shaq match, so this was an effective cool down segment. PAC and Fenix wasted no time dropping dope moves to keep the entertainment flowing without much need for the viewer to focus.

Young Bucks invade press conference. Chris Jericho and MJF answered questions about their attack to Papa Buck last week. It was a display of amusing insults to build heat. Eventually, the Young Bucks interrupted to cut a passionate promo about what their father means to them and the business. That led to superkicking Jericho and MJF. A donnybrook broke out culminating in a crazy double table dive by the Bucks onto Santana and Ortiz. It should be pointed out that the Good Brothers fully assisted their fellow Biz Cliz brothers.

I think we can all agree that the table spot was entertaining. The rest felt like a love or hate segment. Overall, it was a bit too long. Your mileage will vary with the comedic retorts from the Inner Circle. The Bucks did their best to bring emotion into the mix. Unfortunately, there are some things that will never click with you as a fan. For me, it is the Bucks on the mic. I just can’t buy into their angry expressions and threats. They have zero physical charisma in terms of being badasses.

I thought the most interesting aspects were ones that weren’t really involved in selling the PPV match. There was a question about Sammy Guevara being let back into the Inner Circle. Jericho angered at the mention of Guevara’s name. MJF revealed that it was Santana’s idea to beat up Papa Buck. That little piece of information really elevates Santana into devious mastermind territory. He’s not just a lackey for Jericho.

Women’s tournament final: Ryo Mizunami defeated Nyla Rose. Vickie Guerrero was ringside to support Rose. Hikaru Shida watched intently from the floor. This bout was a theatrical slobberknocker. The first half was a little slow, but the second half roared with life.

Mizunami found success on a flying guillotine leg drop on the apron. Rose beat the count back into the ring at 9. Mizunami was waiting perched on the turnbuckles for an second guillotine leg drop. That was an excellent piece of strategy that I don’t think I’ve ever seen used before.

Rose couldn’t put Mizunami away after her patented flying knee drop to her opponent hung over the ropes. Mizunami came back with an exploder suplex. Rose answered with a superplex. Mizunami had the last laugh for a German suplex, spear, and a third flying guillotine leg drop to win.

After the match, Shida presented Mizunami with the trophy cup. Mizunami shook hands then blasted Shida with a forearm across the face. Mizunami dared the champ to strike back. That Shida did and planted Mizunami on her butt.

That was a fitting finale to a great tournament. Effort, energy, and fury were all there. I’m pleased that Mizunami was victorious, so we can see a fresh PPV matchup for Shida. The quick duel of strikes sold me with desire to see more of that fire. Shout out to Rose for a cool flipping senton.

Sting! Sting thanked Brian Cage for powerbombing him. That knocked off all the excess rust in Sting’s game. He is ready for the street fight. Ricky Starks came out to sass. He admitted that he was wrong about Sting. Starks saw a fire in Sting that he didn’t think was still there. However, Starks still stands firm in belief that Sting is no icon. Slap! Starks gave Sting five across the face. The Icon fired back with a Stinger splash and Scorpion Deathlock.

Will Hobbs and Hook assisted Starks, while Cage ran with a powerbomb in mind for Sting. Darby Allin made the save in exciting fashion.

Fun skirmish to get the juices flowing for the street fight, but the timing of interactions were sloppy. Logically, Team Taz should have been at the ready to rescue Starks. Likewise, the same for Allin saving Sting. These men have been involved in the same dance for months. You’d think they would be better prepared.

Max Caster defeated 10. The winner qualified for the Face of the Revolution ladder match. The competitive bout came to a close with a little help from Jack Evans. He smashed 10 in the head with Caster’s boombox. Evans’ motive became clear when Matt Hardy handed him an envelope for $4,200.

Decent contest, but it never quite reached that next level.

Hangman Page & John Silver defeated Matt Hardy & Marq Quen. Hardy tried to avoid Hangman’s wrath throughout the main event. He would only tag in against Silver or when Hangman was in a compromising position. Hangman eventually took matters into his own hands with a slingshot plancha down onto Hardy. Silver and Page ran a train on Quen with a Buckshot Lariat winning the match.

The bout had its moments, but it was just a standard match overall. The back and forth between Hangman and Hardy was amusing. Hardy did well to remain creepy enough to want to see him destroyed and destitute at the PPV.

Go-home mayhem. After the main event, Hardy pummeled Silver and Page with a microphone. Dark Order ran in for the save. Tons of tag teams in the Revolution battle royal spilled out and filled the ring. PAC and Fenix had their own entrance with music, but I didn’t notice them do anything of consequence. The show closed with the ring full of bodies.

This was an iffy choice to wrap the go-home show. Given the lineup, it made the most sense being that Hangman and Hardy were the biggest names with a match on Dynamite to sell the match on Revolution. It still felt a bit underwhelming though. The Young Bucks promo and table spot would have been a hotter send-off, but you can’t main event the show with a press conference segment. It was a tough position AEW boxed themselves into.

Notes: Fellows from Barstool Sports, Conrad Thompson, and Eric Bischoff made appearances during the Inner Circle’s press conference.

A hype package played for the EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATHMATCH with words from Atsushi Onita.

Paul Wight made his debut appearance in AEW to hype the upcoming Dark: Elevation program. He entered to generic Dark music while wearing a, “No more BS,” t-shirt. I’ll admit that it took me a few seconds to catch the wordplay for Big Show and Bull Shit. That was pretty clever. Wight announced that AEW will be signing a Hall of Fame talent at Revolution. It’s not who we think. I didn’t realize there was someone we were supposed to have pop up in our heads at that statement.

Scorpio Sky was on commentary for Caster versus 10. He came across as very cocky. If I didn’t know he was a babyface last time we saw him, then I’d assume he is heel.

Miro is disappointed that Chuck Taylor couldn’t face him like a man to give an answer about coming back. Miro has no other option but to give the people what they want. Destruction!

On social media, AEW had vaguely teased that Tony Khan would announce the 6th participant for the ladder match. I got the impression it would take place during Dynamite. It did not. The final entrant remains a mystery.

Stud of the Show: Shaquille O’Neal

Any of the four participants in the opener could have been in this spot. I’m giving it to Shaq for looking like a natural. He excelled in his role.

Dud of the Show: Production

In a climactic moment, Red Velvet speared Jade Cargill. Unfortunately, the cameras completely missed it on our screen.

Grade: A-

This episode of Dynamite had something for everyone. Epic sports entertainment, nostalgia pops, heated mic work, and much more. I thought half the show was A+ all the way, while the other half lost steam into the B territory.

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

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