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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Feb. 23, 2022): Kingston’s savior

AEW Dynamite (Feb. 23, 2022) emanated from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. The show featured Chris Jericho dropping truth bombs to help elevate Eddie Kingston, Bryan Danielson fighting a common enemy with Jon Moxley, and the Elite continuing with their dramatic storytelling.

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

Kingston’s savior

Eddie Kingston has a chance to establish himself as a main player thanks to Chris Jericho. Sure, Kingston is a fan favorite, but he’s also not a serious threat at the championship caliber level at the moment. They met for a face-to-face confrontation, and it might be Jericho’s best work for his AEW career in building a star.

Both men are masters on the mic, so it is no surprise that they spoke with passion and emotion to hype their beef. It went deeper into personal growth when Jericho discussed Kingston being his own worst enemy. Jericho told a story about how he’d never heard of Kingston before arriving in AEW. When he first saw Kingston, he understood why. The man looks like a jobber. No lies there.

After watching Kingston’s debut match against Cody Rhodes and hearing his promo, Jericho realized Kingston had special qualities that could take him to the top. The thing holding Kingston back is that deep down he doesn’t believe in himself. He has a fear of success. Jericho claimed that Kingston comes from a family of failures and views it as his destiny to follow suit. Kingston was getting hot under the collar, but he never denied any of this.

After Kingston challenged Jericho to a match at the Revolution PPV on March 6, Jericho continued his stinging analysis. Kingston can’t win the big one, and wrestling Jericho is as big as it gets. If Kingston does manage to win, then Jericho will shake his hand knowing that he helped Kingston conquer the thing that is holding him back.

Kingston quipped a few wisecracks throughout, then he closed strong. Don’t bring silly mimosa Jericho to the PPV, or else he will eat him alive. Kingston wants peak Jericho. He wants the man that has won world championships. Jericho closed equally strong by acknowledging the look in Kingston’s eyes. Le Champion can tell Kingston lacks confidence in victory and views himself as a loser.

Damn, the material from Jericho was so strong in that promo exchange. When Kingston lost to Bryan Danielson and CM Punk, I wondered how he would recover as a serious threat to the top. They ripped him apart as lazy, fat, and undisciplined. Losing turned those comments into fact. It boxed Kingston in with a clear ceiling.

Jericho just gave Kingston the opportunity for growth to reach new heights in his career. When this feud started, I figured it would be two veterans duking it out. I didn’t anticipate Jericho could become Kingston’s savior.

Now, of course Kingston has to win for the evolution to occur. Jericho taking credit win or lose was a master mind game. It makes me wonder what Kingston would find more frustrating, losing to Jericho or knowing deep down that Jericho deserves praise for taking him to the next level.

As the Elite turns

This week’s chapter in the Elite soap opera involved a battle royale and story time with Hangman Page.

The tag team battle royale opened the program to find one of the opponents for Jurassic Express in the three-way title defense at Revolution. Ten teams competed with rules requiring both members to be dumped before official elimination. Basically, it was regular battle royale rules. The lineup was Young Bucks, reDRagon, Best Friends, Santana & Ortiz, FTR, Alex Reynolds & John Silver, 2point0, Gunn Club, Private Party, and Butcher & Blade.

For the Elite, tensions seemed to sooth between the Bucks and reDRagon during a showdown with FTR. Bucks and FTR stared intensely at one another, then reDRagon walloped FTR from behind. The Bucks and reDRagon shared a fist pound as pals. Later, Nick Jackson save Kyle O’Reilly from being tossed by FTR. That good will was flushed down the toilet for the final four.

As O’Reilly was fighting Dax Harwood on the apron, the previously eliminated Bobby Fish returned to kick the leg out from under Harwood. Dax crashed to the floor extinguishing FTR’s chances.

On the other side of the ring, Matt Jackson battled John Silver. The Dark Order meat man ran wild with offense. O’Reilly assisted the lone Buck, but he hurt his shoulder in the process. He told Matt to dump Silver over the ropes. O’Reilly’s injury miraculously healed, and he eliminated Matt from behind to win. reDRagon advances to the PPV.

Afterward, the Bucks were angry at being deceived. Tension increased, then Hangman’s music hit. He stormed the ring to beat up reDRagon as payback for last week’s ambush. The Bucks stood idly by allowing Hangman to release his rage. Even though the Bucks didn’t help reDRagon, it was clear they weren’t supporting Hangman either. The Jacksons let the situation play out.

Enter Adam Cole. Hangman caught his superkick and unleashed a pounding. reDRagon pulled Cole out before the buckshot lariat could connect. Silver hit a flipping cannonball and sent O’Reilly into the ring to eat a buckshot.

Hangman grabbed a mic and took a seat to steal Cole’s story time gimmick. Cole is a smug prick who became world champ everywhere he went. As his world was crumbling, he crawled back to his friends to arrive in AEW. Hangman painted of picture of putting Cole in the grave with a buckshot lariat. The imagery made me wonder if the match was veering toward a buried alive match, but nope. At least not yet.

That was an impressive effort from AEW weaving in all these personalities through one extended segment. The battle royale nicely set up the duplicitous swerve from O’Reilly. The Bucks watching Hangman beat his ass was classic comedy. It also kept alive hope for a reunion down the line. Hangman’s promo set the mood for his upcoming title match.

Later in the broadcast, the Bucks were angry about the double cross from reDRagon. That will motivate them for next week’s qualifier opportunity, so they can kick reDRagon’s ass on PPV. Cole stood in the background with mouth agape at this partnership crumbling. Once the Bucks exited, Cole firmly instructed reDRagon to make nice with the Bucks. After all, they are on the same team.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Bucks will win next week to advance to the PPV. The wrinkle would be if reDRagon lends a cheating hand to help.

Back to the battle royale, the pace was more a war of attrition rather than flippity floppity flash. I’m of the opinion that there is never a bad battle royale. This one had all the elements to produce excitement. Easy crowd pops, like chanting, “Ass Boys.” Cleaver saves. Orange Cassidy came from underneath the ring to save Trent with a seat on his shoulders. Story continuation. Matt Hardy saved Isiah Kassidy from falling down to the floor only to see Kassidy immediately eliminated after. Hardy lost his patience and ditched Private Party again. And drama down to the wire.

The full order of elimination was:
20. Alex Reynolds by Blade
19. Blade by John Silver
18. Austin Gunn by Ortiz
17. Colten Gunn by Santana
16. Butcher by Chuck Taylor
15. Chuck Taylor by Kyle O’Reilly
14. Marq Quen by John Silver
13. Isiah Kassidy by John Silver
12 & 11. 2point0 by Santana
10. Ortiz by Young Bucks
9. Nick Jackson by FTR
8. Bobby Fish by Trent
7. Cash Wheeler by John Silver
6. Trent by Matt Jackson
5. Santana by Kyle O’Reilly
4. Dax Harwood by illegal Bobby Fish
3. John Silver by Matt Jackson
2. Matt Jackson by Kyle O’Reilly
Winner: Kyle O’Reilly

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

MJF better than Punk. MJF cut a passionate promo about being bullied as a child and loving professional wrestling. MJF was close to tears. The day he met CM Punk motivated him to be the best in the world. When Punk quit wrestling, MJF was crushed. If Punk couldn’t make it, then MJF had no chance. Maxwell went to college, but a photo of Punk with Bryan Danielson reignited his passion. MJF was livid and vowed to become the best in the world in spite of Punk. MJF will not quit in the dog collar match. If he quits, then he’ll be no better than Punk.

CM arrived on the scene asking off mic if that story was true. I believe MJF mouthed, “That’s true.” He shed a single tear before exiting.

This promo kept with the same pattern of zigging when you think they will zag for this feud. MJF’s story felt like a babyface promo, which seemed odd watching live. It wrapped around to explain a deep motivation held by MJF, which was another step in selling the match. Punk’s quiet guilt as crushing a child’s dream was what turned it into an intriguing moment. If MJF is lying, then he is a master of mind games. If MJF is telling the truth, then Punk feels like a sack of crap. Win-win either way for MJF heading into the dog collar match. My biggest question was how did MJF control his tears for just a single tear. That is amazing.

Kings of the Black Throne defeated Death Triangle. PAC beckoned for the arrival of Penta Oscuro. Penta rose from behind a grave stone holding a shovel. Alex Abrahantes was by his side as a ghoulish cryptkeeper.

Down the stretch, Malakai Black went for black mist. Penta put his hands over Black’s mouth to prevent spittage. As Black was forced to swallow the sludge, Penta scored a roll-up for victory.

The match had decent action with PAC hitting a 450 splash and Brody King wrecking shop like a madman. This bout was more about the supernatural story with Penta Oscuro’s entrance. The part on stage was pretty cool, but it looked cheap by the time he entered the ring with one small smoke machine adding weak visual effects. I was disappointed that Penta wrestled as the same luchador. There was no change in attitude or skills to demonstrate he was a darker persona. The contest turned out to be a setup for the post-match surprise.

Buddy Matthews debuts. Black and King were destroying Death Triangle in the aftermath of defeat when the lights went out. Lights on and Matthews was in the ring.

The newcomer teased protecting PAC and Penta before siding with the House of Black. At the order of Black, Matthews curb stomped Penta onto a chair.

AEW is giving the people what they want. Many fans were excited by the idea of Matthews joining the House of Black, and here he is. Matthews didn’t seem fully committed to the level of violence desired by Black, but he went through with it anyway. That makes me want to re-read the House of Black rules to see if it pertains to Matthews in coming weeks. It can add an element of development to Matthews.

Face of the Revolution qualifier: Ricky Starks defeated 10. The style contrast was shiftiness versus power. Starks was in trouble when trapped in the full nelson submission, so he grabbed 10’s mask to free himself. Starks shot off the ropes for a spear to win. He joins Keith Lee, Wardlow, and Will Hobbs in the PPV ladder match.

That is the sort of dirty strategy I can appreciate. Ingenuity for the win. Starks relied on quick thinking for the underhanded tactic as opposed to waiting for Will Hobbs to assist. Starks should be a good addition to the ladder match. He’ll take hard bumps and make a funny face doing it.

TBS Championship: Jade Cargill defeated Bunny. Matt Hardy came out to delete Mark Sterling. Both managers played a role in the finish. Hardy tossed in brass knuckles to Bunny, while Sterling slid in the title belt to Jade. The champ used the gold to block Bunny’s loaded punch. The referee sensed chicanery and ejected both managers. Bunny tried to steal the win with a roll-up on the distraction. Bunny attacked with thrust kicks. As Bunny went for her finisher, Jade countered with the Jaded facebuster to retain.

I love how Jade gets the special entrance treatment. It is fitting for her star power. Her hair was green, because she’s money. This turned out to be a very entertaining match. I was half expecting a clunky semi-squash, but they brought the ruckus in the ring. Jade showed off new tricks in her arsenal with mat work attacking the arm. Bunny turned up the intensity with vicious moves. The Russian leg sweep into the barricade looked painful. Jade rallied with a furious fallaway slam and a sweet spinebuster. Overall, it was a rugged fight elevating the aura of the TBS Championship.

Afterward, Cargill ran her mouth about who is next. Tay Conti answered the call. The Brazilian tried to be menacing in the face of the champ, but Cargill kissed her on the top of the head as mockery. Bunny pounced on hated enemy Conti. Tay hit her finisher on Bunny. Jade took advantage for a pump kick to Conti’s mush. Anna Jay ran out with a chair to secure the safety of her friend.

Bryan Danielson defeated Daniel Garcia. The main event was a late addition to the card prior to air. They hyped the bout with promos from each man. Danielson was interested in luring Garcia into his tutelage. Garcia is impressive, but he won’t get better hanging with 2pont0. In response, Garcia stood by his papas and declared he would be the one to teach Danielson a lesson in violence.

Both men unloaded heavy shots with Danielson gaining the edge. Garcia turned the tide with a chop block and smashing the leg on ring posts. When Garcia went for a dragon screw, Danielson blocked and kicked his head in. The American Dragon closed with a triangle choke for victory.

It was a vicious battle indeed. They worked a snug technical style. The vibe fit in perfectly with Danielson testing Garcia’s mettle to see if he is worthy of being mentored. Garcia did well for himself by putting Danielson in trouble and showing no remorse by trying to damage the leg.

Jon Moxley! After the bout, 2point0 steamrolled Danielson by surprise. Moxley’s music hit, and he entered through the crowd to kick ass. Garcia grabbed a chair, but Danielson snatched it away. Moxley pounced for the Paradigm Shift on Garcia. Danielson accepted Mox’s challenge for a match. Don’t be surprised if Moxley is the only one bleeding.

The setup for the official PPV bout was simple enough. Two of AEW’s top dudes are going to beat the crap out of other until they bleed. I’m sold. Best of all, there’s still hope of a union to train the next generation of killers.

Notes: Dr. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa talked trash to promote their title match contract signing on Rampage.

Matt Hardy proposed teaming with Andrade and Isiah Kassidy to wrestle Sting, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara in trios action at Revolution.

Keith Lee was interrupted by Ricky Starks using a deep voice, which is reason enough to watch the clip. He warned Lee that Team Taz runs things in AEW.

Orange Cassidy wrestles Anthony Bowens in a Face of the Revolution qualifier on Rampage.

Stud of the Show: John Silver

Johnny Hungiee was the workhorse of the battle royale with four eliminations. He was also the spark plug for excitement throughout. Silver is a great competitor for battle royales. He possesses the strength to toss out large men, the squirreliness to hang with speedsters, and the compact size to stay low avoiding elimination.

Silver even outsmarted Tully Blanchard by eliminating Cash Wheeler. It’s not every day you get the better of a Horseman. Silver should celebrate on that achievement alone.

Match of the Night: Jade Cargill vs. Bunny

I have a suspicion that most will choose Bryan Danielson versus Daniel Garcia. They wrestled a quality bout exactly as expected. The reason I’m siding with the women’s match is that they performed better than expected. They left me saying, “Whoa.”

Grade: B

Dynamite was another promo heavy episode. Sometimes it starts feeling like a different product when there is that much talking. Since this is the build toward the PPV, just roll with it for story advancement. I thought AEW made the wrong choice for the main event selection. Danielson and Garcia wrestled a fine contest, however, the match was overshadowed by waiting for the answer to Moxley. House of Black versus Death Triangle would have been a better pick. There was Penta Oscuro’s entrance, a hot story, uncertainty of a winner, and the debut of Buddy Matthews.

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

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