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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Feb. 2, 2022): Better than Punk

AEW Dynamite (Feb. 2, 2022) emanated from the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL. The show featured MJF and CM Punk finally fighting one-on-one, Bryan Danielson with an interesting proposal for Jon Moxley, and Lance Archer causing a ruckus in advance of his world title fight with Hangman Page.

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

Better than Punk

It’s official. MJF is better than CM Punk, and you know it.

MJF and Punk met in the main event in front of the partisan Chicago crowd. The opening bell rang with 40 minutes remaining in the broadcast, so they had their work cut out for them to put on a compelling contest worthy of demanding our attention. That they did with creative workarounds to maximize drama.

The first act of this play began with Punk beating MJF from pillar to post. Punk landed seesaw punches to enthusiastic cheers.

MJF tried his best to create space for recovery. He thumbed the eye, punched on clean breaks, rolled out of the ring, and ran up the stairs. Punk would not be denied the satisfaction to dish out pain and took charge with body slams.

The tide shifted in favor of MJF when Punk charged into a ring post. MJF focused on damaging Punk’s injured arm. Punk gutted out the pain to hit his closing stride of maneuvers. He dished out a flying crossbody, punches, neckbreaker, running knee in the corner, and a bulldog. MJF smartly rolled out of the ring to avoid a GTS. Punk kept up his fury for a Pepsi Twist clothesline.

15 minutes into the match, the story took a curious turn. As Punk charged forward, MJF pulled referee Bryce Remsburg in the way. The fink used that distraction to pull out a garotte from his tights. MJF applied the rope weapon to strangle Punk and hid the object under the guise of a sleeper hold. Punk shockingly passed out. MJF was declared the victor.

Not so fast, my friend. As Remsburg raised MJF’s hand, the foreign object fell to the mat in plain sight. The referee corrected the injustice and restarted the match.

After those shenanigans, there were still about 20 minutes remaining for the show. Later in the match, Punk connected on a suicide dive but tweaked his knee in the process. Punk was in major trouble with both injuries on the left side. It visibly hindered his submission game and ability to complete his signature GTS finisher. Punk’s fighting spirit shined through when he landed a Pepsi Plunge double underhook facebuster off the turnbuckles.

Unfortunately, Punk was in too much pain, so MJF was able to roll out of the ring to avoid a cover. Punk took control again with a roundhouse kick and flying elbow drop. When Punk riled up the crowd for a GTS, MJF rolled out again.

This time, Wardlow made his presence known. The big man walked down to the ring with tension whether he would support MJF or turn on his boss. Wardlow stood face-to-face with Punk then took a step to the side. It seemed to imply that Wardlow would not interfere. Oh, how wrong that assumption was. MJF clocked Punk with the Dynamite Diamond Ring to steal the win.

In the aftermath, replays showed Wardlow slyly hand off the foreign object. MJF sat cross-legged in the ring to soak in his success.

For a roughly 40 minute match, MJF and Punk put on an engaging show. They held my attention for the majority of the bout. The first cheating finish was a nice ploy for shock value. It also had genuine purpose to keep the story fresh. I have a mixed opinion on the second cheating finish. After seeing these two gladiators compete for such a long time, I really wanted to see who was the better man. It turned out to be MJF, but with an asterisk. I loved the first instance, because MJF did it on his own accord. The second instance was a cheap backup plan that put more focus on Wardlow than the actual finish.

I have to give a lot of credit to Wardlow for being sneaky about his assistance. He played us all for fools. It is obvious that Wardlow still finds MJF unsavory as an employer, but he followed through for the paycheck.

The feud is ripe for a rematch if AEW chooses to proceed in that direction. If not, MJF should be close to world title contention.

Alliance of superstars?

The most shocking moment of the evening came courtesy of Bryan Danielson. The American Dragon made an intriguing proposition to Jon Moxley.

Moxley’s night began with singles action against Wheeler Yuta to open the show. Orange Cassidy and Danhausen were ringside in support of Yuta, and they provided mild distractions to assist their friend.

The story was Yuta performing better in a rematch after being obliterated by Moxley in the past. Yuta was shifty to score offense, but Moxley was too rugged for the young boy. Mox was also one step ahead strategically in several exchanges due to veteran savvy. Yuta’s momentum was extinguished when Moxley countered a cazadora into a sleeper. That set up a lariat and vicious elbow strikes for the Paradigm Shift finish for Moxley to prevail.

Afterward, Danielson appeared in the ring as Moxley was celebrating. Danielson was not looking for war. Instead, he came in peace looking for a partner. Danielson realized they should be fighting together. Danielson painted an appealing picture of running AEW, winning whichever championships they wanted, and taking youngsters under their wing to mentor the next generation. Danielson wanted Moxley to think it over.

I’ll be darned. That was an outstanding swerve of storytelling. Danielson made a fantastic sales pitch. He was spot on saying fans don’t like him, but they would like to see him unite with Moxley. I was extremely eager for this feud heading toward a PPV clash, and now I’m completely into the idea of a stable headed by Danielson and Moxley. The possibilities are tantalizing. Danielson name-dropped Yuta, Daniel Garcia, and Lee Moriarty as potential mates. Yes, yes, and yes. It would be believable that every prospect on the roster would strongly consider accepting an offer to join them. Moxley’s reaction was tough to read. I viewed his facial reactions as a little on the exaggerated side to come across like he smells bullshit.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Paige Van Zant returns. Brandi Rhodes was interrupted by Dan Lambert. Insults were exchanged with poor Ethan Page getting the worst of it. Brandi claimed he was signed as a way to entice Josh Alexander aboard. Lambert made a sexual joke, then Brandi slapped him. Paige VanZant came out to defend her coach and start a skirmish with Brandi. The women’s locker room emptied to separate the two.

File this segment in the ‘so bad that it was good’ category. I didn’t know what was going on storywise, but I had a smile the entire time. It all made sense when VanZant appeared. The issue with her physicality against the Inner Circle was that there was no angle for comeuppance. Enter Brandi into the mix to continue the American Top Team versus Nightmare Family feud. She’s perfect to partake in the spectacle of sports entertainment against VanZant.

Malakai Black & Brody King defeated PAC & Pentagon. Death Triangle was in control, but King shoved PAC off the turnbuckles crashing down to the floor. Black spit BLACK MIST into Penta’s face to finish with the teamwork Dante’s Inferno slam.

Exciting match with fast-paced action and flashy moves aplenty. The contest began by PAC wearing the blindfold, anticipating Black’s attacks to offer counters, then revealing he could see. It was a neat homage to the blind master characters from martial arts films. That unique moment set the tone for a fun match.

It’s amusing that PAC’s vision is recovered, and now Pentagon will be on the injured list with blurry sight. Death Triangle needs to head back to the drawing board to conjure up the ultimate defense for black mist. Perhaps they can give Papa Shango a call for advice.

Nyla Rose defeated Ruby Soho. The Native Beast was down after the No Future kick finisher, but Vickie Guerrero placed her client’s foot on the ropes to break the pin. Down the stretch, Nyla blocked the No Future kick then crushed Soho with a flying senton and Beast Bomb to win.

This match was on the sloppy side, but it worked out alright with those moves resulting in hard impact. The story of power versus heart was engaging throughout. Soho’s feistiness carried the excitement. This was a valuable win for Nyla to remain a wrecking ball of fear within the division.

Notes: Matt Hardy was disappointed that Private Party failed to win the tag titles, but he called out Sammy Guevara’s TNT Championship open challenge for Isiah Kassidy. Marq Quen wanted the match, however, he was being punished for taking the pin in last week’s loss. Hardy was also curious when Andrade would be signing Darby Allin to AHFO. Andrade claimed it was a simple matter of more money.

Adam Cole is still undefeated. His Lights Out loss to Orange Cassidy was unsanctioned and does not count on his record. Cole feels that he hasn’t been shown the level of respect he deserves, so he will unleash a new side against Evil Uno on Rampage. Cole will take what he wants from now on.

The Gunn Club surrounded Jungle Boy backstage. He tried to attack, but Billy Gunn stuffed his advances. Austin Gunn and Colten Gunn beat up JB on the snowy streets of Chicago. The Gunn Club ran away once Christian Cage and Luchasaurus appeared. I love the use of outside surroundings to enhance the scene. That little touch helps their world feel more real and unpredictable.

Hangman Page didn’t want to wait for next week’s Texas Deathmatch against Lance Archer for the AEW World Championship. The cowboy was itching for a fight now. Dan Lambert and Jake Roberts ran their mouths before Archer stomped toward the ring. Hangman launched for a suicide dive. Lambert grabbed a chair, but Hangman caught him in the act. That allowed Archer to wallop the champ in the back with the chair. Archer continued to decimate his adversary with a chokeslam onto the ring steps and a Blackout through the timekeeper table.

Chris Jericho demanded a team meeting for the Inner Circle next week. Attendance is mandatory. He felt Santana and Ortiz acted disrespectful to him last week, so he wants to hear the reasons why.

Stud of the Show: Lance Archer

Archer’s abuse on Hangman Page sold me hard on the possibility of a title change next week. My mind’s telling me no, but my body’s telling yes. I think there is close to zero chance that Archer becomes world champ next week, however, the Murderhawk Monster opened the door to believe. It is easy to get lost in the emotion of the match when Archer is destroying Hangman with violence.

Match of the Night: MJF vs. CM Punk

Drama, action, and swerves to keep me guessing.

Grade: B+

AEW built the mood up well promoting the main event often. It felt like an epic occasion by the time the MJF and CM Punk took the ring. The rest of the show offered quality action in the ring with promos advancing agendas.

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

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