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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Mar. 31, 2021): Retaliation

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AEW Dynamite (Mar. 31, 2021) emanated from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, FL. The show featured the Inner Circle returning for retaliation, QT Marshall ripping the Nightmare Family apart, and surprise returns in Arcade Anarchy.

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

Inner Circle retaliation

The best moment by far during Dynamite was the return of the Inner Circle. After a brutal attack at the hands of the Pinnacle, it was only a matter of time. That time was now.

MJF hopped aboard his gift train for the Pinnacle. He brought in a fashion stylist and an interior decorator to turn the Inner Circle’s former locker room into a lavish den. Unfortunately for MJF, his plans were torn asunder when he opened the bathroom door to see the Inner Circle waiting inside. A mini cinematic brawl ensued.

Sammy Guevara hit a GTH knee strike to Shawn Spears and slammed a door in his head. Hager sent Wardlow through a massage table via flatliner. Santana and Ortiz dumped Cash Wheeler into an ice bath, beat up Tully Blanchard, and opened Dax Harwood’s head into a bloody mess. Chris Jericho flushed MJF’s head in the toilet for a swirly. Jericho then smashed MJF’s head through the glass door of the Pepsi fridge. The Inner Circle reclaimed their locker room.

Wowee! That retaliation was so badass. That’s the Inner Circle I love to see. Jokes and pranks can be fun, but it is the intensity that makes me a fan of their fisticuffs. There were comedic moments, however, it was blended perfectly with the violence. When I watch that segment over and over, it pumps me up with anticipation for the fallout next week. That feeling is often missing from modern weekly wrestling programs.

The surprise appearance was excellent timing for maximum effect. I was not expecting the Inner Circle to run roughshod on this evening. The standout was Santana not caring about the blood all over his white shirt. That’s the mood I want for this faction warfare. The Inner Circle is back, baby!

Arcade Anarchy

The main event of the evening was Arcade Anarchy between Miro & Kip Sabian and Chuck Taylor & Orange Cassidy. Arcade games were set up around the ring as instruments of violence. The match was a mixed bag of entertainment. There were some neat spots, such as Cassidy being dropkicked through a wall and plunder being piled on top of Miro.

There were even a few surprise appearances out of nowhere. Kris Statlander returned to bludgeon Penelope Ford.

Statlander caught me so off-guard that I didn’t recognize her at all until commentary screamed her name. I thought it was supposed to be some random debut. Statlander did work with a spinning driver to Ford off the apron through an air hockey table.

The next surprise was the return of Trent. He was driven to the arena by his mother, Sue. Miro fought them as best he could until the numbers game got him. Trent speared Miro through a table. Chuck took the win with a running powerslam off the stage to Sabian.

The action and Best Friends super reunion was enjoyable, but it overshadowed the heat of the fight. Trent’s arrival was a cheat tactic for the supposed good guys. AEW did the same error with the parking lot fight between the Best Friends and Santana & Ortiz when Cassidy popped out of the trunk to get involved. One of the down sides is that there is no resolution. Miro should want revenge or else his entire AEW run has been a waste of time. I suspect the Best Friends were booked to win, so Cassidy’s new Pixies theme song could play to close the show. I say that half-jokingly.

On the positive side, I like that all the little extras for the match came full circle. I appreciate the attention to detail for stuff like Sue’s van. Also, thumbs up to the overall creativity of the plotting.

Nightmare Family fractured

Cody Rhodes thought he was booked for a simple exhibition against QT Marshall. Boy, was he wrong. Chaos erupted in the aftermath, and the Nightmare Family will never be the same again.

Arn Anderson was the referee for Cody versus QT. Several members of the Nightmare Family were ringside. The disrespect was strong from the start as Cody received a full entrance while QT was given the jabroni jobber treatment.

QT came to prove he was more than just Cody’s friend, but Cody was often one step ahead. Tension picked up when QT focused his attack on Cody’s injured shoulder. Despite the action becoming a bit chippy, Cody lived up to his word about not wanting to hurt QT. He forewent a figure-four and a Cross Rhodes when in prime position to strike. QT slapped Cody across the face. QT then attempted a crossbody. Cody sidestepped to send him tumbling out of the ring.

The crowd began picking on QT with chants to mock him. Cody opened the ropes for his friend. QT entered and made a beeline to sucker punch Anderson right in the face.

QT immediately exited with a look of remorse. As the Nightmare Family tended to Anderson, a shocking swerve unraveled.

Aaron Solow clobbered Billy Gunn with a chair. Anthony Ogogo and Nick Comoroto joined Solow in violently clearing the ring. QT watched with wide eyes then began barking orders. Comoroto powerbombed Lee Johnson over the ropes onto the stage. QT smashed Anderson’s arm into the guardrail. QT hit a piledriver to a bloody Dustin Rhodes onto the steel steps. Ogogo unloaded body punches to Cody. QT wound up a chair to bash Cody’s skull, but Red Velvet ran out to prevent the impact. QT and his crew exited without doing further damage.

That angle certainly caught me by surprise. I sensed there was potential for turmoil, but I never considered a mutiny would take place. It started with a bang. I laughed so hard at QT punching Anderson, then my attention quickly perked at the beatdown in the ring. This is an interesting piece of storytelling that has potential to evolve into something great.

There is one major problem though. QT’s crew lacks the star power to match Cody and Dustin. I’m all for watching the younger talent fight among themselves. Eventually, there has to be a blow-off and QT is nowhere near Cody’s level. The story could be white hot, but that endgame isn’t all that riveting on paper.

Elite soap opera

Welcome back to another chapter in the saga of the Elite. It weaved through several segments with a variety of players.

First up was Jon Moxley. He was in an irritated state of mind due to the Good Brothers breaking Eddie Kingston’s ankle, the Young Bucks being wishy-washy, itchy skin from healing burns, and other such maladies. Mox aimed to take it out on Cezar Bononi in their match.

It took Moxley a little while to get the job done, because it was basically 3-on-1 with Ryan Nemeth and JD Drake ringside to physically interfere. Mox triumphed with a Paradigm Shift to Nemeth then had a sweet pumphandle escape to lock in a rear naked sleeper. Bononi could not break free and collapsed down to the mat as the referee called for the bell.

The contest was an efficient way to extend the duration for Moxley to overcome the odds and kick butt as only he can. It was also good practice for future confrontations with Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers.

Cut to Don Callis having a chat with the Young Bucks. He spoke with Matt Jackson about breaking Kenny Omega’s heart last week. Callis slapped Jackson across the face to get a sign of emotion. Rage bubbled up, but Jackson declined to act on it. Callis was sick to his stomach at this version of Jackson.

That was a very good exchange, especially from Callis. It is interesting to observe the story through two different viewpoints. Callis is a jerk, but he’s not wrong about the feelings of the Elite family breakup. Jackson’s meek constipation face actually worked well in this moment to portray conflicted emotion.

Time for Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers to compete in the ring. They battled against the Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid. What a battle it was. These teams are good foils in style to work with one another. The contest was a fireball of action with high energy from the start.

As you would expect, the match broke down with moves aplenty. Laredo Kid was close to victory after an enzuigiri followed by a rope-running soccer kick from Fenix followed by a Michinoku driver to Omega, but the champ is the champ for a reason. He willed himself to kick out. Laredo missed a Phoenix splash. Omega exploded for a V-Trigger and One Winged Angel for the three count.

The aftermath is when the Elite soap opera took a turn. Moxley sauntered out on stage looking for a fight. He was outnumbered but not for long. The Young Bucks flanked his side. The unlikely trio charged the ring as Omega and his goons scattered.

Moxley & Young Bucks versus Omega & Good Brothers was announced for next week’s Dynamite. Due to all the hemming and hawing over the years from the Young Bucks, I still don’t fully trust them to have Moxley’s back. A weasel shift to the evil side would not surprise me.


Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Christian Cage defeated Frankie Kazarian. Christian made his singles return after 7 years away. In story, it looked like father time took its toll. Kaz controlled the pace and came close to winning on a springboard leg drop and a Spanish Fly variation. Christian used veteran savvy to sucker Kaz ramming into the ring post. Kill Switch earned the win.

Very engaging opener. It had me on the edge of my seat a few times. In reality, Christian looked good. He was spry, fluid, and athletic. His stamina was strong. In story, yikes. That is not a man who is ready to challenge for the AEW World Championship against Kenny Omega. For all the hullabaloo of a big signing, Christian has major work to do to make me believe he deserves to jump the line for a title shot, let alone main event a PPV. Credit to Kaz for being a rock of consistency. No matter the opponent, he always puts on an entertaining outing.

Bunny & Nyla Rose defeated Tay Conti & Hikaru Shida. Matt Hardy’s full stable and Vickie Guerrero were ringside, so the Dark Order evened the playing field by supporting Conti. The bout broke down allowing Bunny an opportunity to hit Conti with a kendo stick and earn the win on the Down the Rabbit Hole elbow drop.

Even though the action in the ring was a bit overshadowed by the outside numbers, the women did well to create drama, show intensity, and pop some cool moves. I loved Shida using Conti as a stepping stool for a running knee strike.

Notes: Darby Allin was joined by Sting for a vignette addressing Matt Hardy. The truth is that Hardy’s body is breaking down, and he doesn’t have what it takes anymore. Hardy used to earn respect. Now, he has to buy it. Allin professed that money doesn’t mean squat to him as he joined Sting to throw cash off a bridge.

Jade Cargill saw that Red Velvet was shook. When Cargill showed up, she walked, talked, and looked money. Nobody can beat here. Great display of confident emotion from Jade.

Later, Velvet spoke about having Cody’s back. Cargill interrupted to toss Velvet into furniture.

Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky are frustrated at being overlooked. It is time to start taking. They will tag together against the Sydal brothers for Dark: Elevation on Monday.

Team Taz returned with the message that everything is fine and dandy. Ricky Starks had a great time winning as a trio on Dark. Brian Cage was a little uppity about not getting tagged in sooner. Taz played peacemaker to soothe the savage beasts.

Dr. Britt Baker DMD threw shade at Thunder Rosa wrestling of Dark: Elevation. Their Lights Out match wasn’t sanctioned, so it’s like it never counted. Baker will continue to put AEW on the map while Rosa toils away on Elevation to earn some wins. I’m ready for this feud to move on. The Lights Out finish was perfect for a break.

Jungle Boy talked smack about Bear Country for the tag team match next week. Those teams are getting a prime spot being presented by advertising for the Godzilla vs. Kong movie.


Stud of the Show: Jon Moxley

Moxley’s choke transition was a thing of beauty.

Dud of the Show: TNT title shot for JD Drake

It was announced that Drake signed an open contract to compete against Darby Allin for the TNT Championship next week on Dynamite. What? That might be the most ice cold title match in professional wrestling history. Drake has done absolutely nothing on Dynamite and barely anything of note on the Dark shows. It should be entertaining enough, since Drake can put on a show and Allin can crash into his bulk. Too bad there is absolutely zero build to draw interest.

Grade: B-

Solid effort with an up and down flow. Some parts were a little slow, while others were rocking hard. Drama continues to escalate in an intriguing manner. The assortment of surprises were the highlights of the broadcast.

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