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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (May 18, 2022): Jokers wild

AEW Dynamite (May 18, 2022) emanated from Fertitta Center in Houston, TX. Wild card Wednesday featured surprise jokers in the Owen Hart tournament, MJF lashing Wardlow, and the Young Bucks igniting their feud with the Hardys.

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

Owen Hart tournament Jokers

The big draw for Dynamite was the reveal of two mystery opponents for the men’s and women’s Owen Hart tournaments.

Samoa Joe opened the show waiting for his Joker. Enter Johnny Elite, aka John Morrison.

This was the first time Joe ever wrestled Johnny. He made sure Johnny got a taste of chop fever with a hard slap across the chest. Speakers on!

Johnny didn’t back down. Slugfests aren’t his game, so he used speed to stick and move. Johnny’s athleticism was on full display with a variety of flipping attacks. He even flipped majestically when getting blasted on a shoulder tackle.

Johnny went for Starship Pain to finish, however, Joe got his knees. up. Joe exploded for heavy palm strikes backing Morrison into the corner for the musclebuster to win.

In the aftermath, Joe was attacked by Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt, and Satnam Singh. Trent, Rocky Romero, and Chuck Taylor made the save with chairs.

I have to admit that I was stumped at first when Johnny Elite arrived. I didn’t recognize the music, graphic, or name. Once the Shaman of Sexy walked on stage, it all made sense. Johnny is a man of many wrestling surnames, so it was a bit of fun to see him embrace that for an Elite moniker.

Entertaining bout overall, but the chemistry was a little off. Johnny had to visibly set up Joe for the right position on a few flashy flipping spots. One was to the outside, and you could see Johnny motioning with his hand. Another was on a 450 splash when Morrison sort of landed on his feet first before making impact for the splash. The in-ring storytelling was just fine though. The finish was explosive and emphatic giving Joe momentum as he moves on in the tournament. I was surprised Joe had so many lazy pinfall covers. It had me wondering if it was setting up to a purpose for the finish. Joe needs to clean that up if he wants to win the tournament.

The other Joker was Maki Itoh.

Itoh competed against Dr. Britt Baker DMD. This bout was more comedic in flavor. The match started with Itoh lying down on the mat to hand over the win to Baker, but Itoh used that as a trick for a sneaky roll-up. Itoh’s hard head also added laughs when she smashed her own skull into the turnbuckles.

Itoh went on a run for a tornado DDT and falling headbutt. Baker quickly rebounded for a thrust kick then the Lockjaw submission to win. Baker advances to meet Toni Storm in the semifinal.

Itoh’s charisma shined through. Even though live fans seemed lost as she sang her entrance song, she gained back support with cheeky antics. This was Itoh’s show, and Baker was along for the ride. Once play time was over, Baker turned up the heat for victory.

Johnny Elite and Maki Itoh were smart choices as the Jokers. Both provided a fun crowd pop of excitement, and neither lost any heat in defeat. I’m extremely impressed that AEW had no leaks spoiling the reveals during the day. That sense of mystery enhanced the viewing experience.

Those weren’t the only Owen Hart tournament matchups on the broadcast.

Kyle O’Reilly and Fenix dueled in a excellent contest. O’Reilly stuck to his gameplan of grounding Fenix. He focused on attacking the luchador’s elbow. That paid dividends when the pain prevented some of Fenix’s high-flying maneuvers. Fenix wasn’t going out easy. He fired up for a rope-walking hurricanrana off the apron. Back in the ring, Fenix went for a rolling cutter. O’Reilly’s instincts kicked in to counter into a submission. Fenix was trapped. Once O’Reilly pried Fenix’s grip free for full extension, the tap out came quickly. O’Reilly advances to meet Samoa Joe in the semifinal.

This bout was a barn burner. O’Reilly brought technical prowess, while Fenix brought creativity. The slams added oomph to the fight. Fenix had a cool wheelbarrow bomb, and O’Reilly’s butterfly suplexes were crushers. This result was a surprise in a good way. I figured Fenix would prevail as the favorite, but O’Reilly elevated his game by sticking to his strategy to pay off in the end. This was the type of win that put O’Reilly on the AEW map as a singles competitor.

Jeff Hardy battled Adam Cole in a semifinal bout for the main event. Cole attacked from behind on stage. He worked Hardy’s back throughout. Hardy ducked Cole’s knee strike finisher to gain momentum with a string of moves. Hardy aimed to close with the Swanton, but Cole rolled away. Cole lowered the boom to win and advance to the men’s final.

Cole impressed once again this week. He used some tricks to soften Hardy, but he relied on his own skills to win in a clean finish.

The show didn’t end there. Earlier, the Hardys warned the Bucks not to interfere in Jeff’s match or else fisticuffs will ensue. The Hardys weren’t scared of the wimpy, whiny cosplayers.

After the main event, the Bucks poked the bear. They were sneaking up from behind for a superkick party, but the Hardys turned around in time. The Bucks backed away, so Cole attacked with a double clothesline from behind. BTE Trigger to Matt Hardy.

Darby Allin and Sting ran in for the save, so reDRagon came out to help the Undisputed Elite. The bad guys stood tall after cracking Sting’s leg with a chair.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Hangman Page defeated Konosuke Takeshita. Hangman had momentum for a Buckshot Lariat, but he was eyeing CM Punk on commentary to send a message. That delay allowed recovery time for Takeshita to duck. The underdog had the champ in trouble after a powerbomb and running knee finisher. Hangman kicked out on the cover. In the end, Hangman rallied for a Buckshot Lariat then finished with a GTS.

Great action. Those German suplexes by both men were brutal. Takeshita came out looking like a star rising up against AEW’s top wrestler. Hangman’s offensive outbursts showed why he is on the elite level of this game. Add in the wrinkle of trying to one-up Punk to enhance the story of their feud. This finish was a nice tit-for-tat callback to last week when Punk used the Buckshot Lariat, but I didn’t particularly care for Hangman being too occupied with Punk at times. That lack of concentration is not cowboy shit. Hangman can’t allow Punk to lead this dance.

CM Punk was on commentary for that bout. He had some good lines, such as renaming Hangman’s finisher as the Punkshot Lariat. Punk credited the cowboy’s toughness, but he was still confident. When Hangman executed the GTS, Punk viewed that his own victory in the battle of mind games. After the match, there was a long-distance staredown that got closer and closer. Hangman left before any physicality broke out. I found it interesting that fans were loudly in Punk’s favor during that scene.

Swerve Strickland & Keith Lee defeated JD Drake & Anthony Henry. Swerve and Limitless took care of business with entertaining moves to win via a double stomp powerbomb teamwork maneuver.

The real story was in the aftermath. Swerve and Lee are ranked in the tag team top 5. Ricky Starks and Will Hobbs interrupted with ridicule about being in front of those jabrones for a tag title shot. Swerve dished out insults, then Christian Cage interrupted him. He proposed a three-way title defense for Jurassic Express at Double or Nothing. Christian also proposed an opportunity for Jungle Boy to get his win back in a three-way with Starks and Swerve next week.

Christian got the job done to book the tag title bout for the PPV. In terms of compelling storytelling, this whole thing was weak. Swerve and Lee have beaten nobody of relevance in the tag team division to deserve this spot. Jurassic Express is welching on their arrangement with Team Taz. Starks did his part defending the FTW title against Jungle Boy, so they should have a standard tag bout for the titles. Team Taz’s feud with Swerve and Lee has been built up strong. Inserting Jurassic Express feels out of place for this story. No matter what happens at the PPV, nothing will be settled between Team Taz, Swerve, and Lee. The saving grace of these three-ways is wanting to see Jungle Boy rebound for greater success.

10 lashes to Wardlow. No physical retaliation or else Wardlow would not have his match against MJF. Maxwell spit in Wardlow’s face to get things started. Lash 1. Wardlow laughed. Lash 2. Wardlow flexed his pecs. Lash 3. MJF lost his composure and whipped furiously with the belt until Shawn Spears pulled him away. Lash 8. Spears took a turn. No reaction by Wardlow. Lash 9 by Spears. Wardlow finally showed signs of pain. Lash 10. MJF took a big wind-up, then he kicked Wardlow in the groin. MJF whipped like crazy as Wardlow was on the mat.

Spears held Wardlow up for a Dynamite Diamond Ring punch from MJF. Spears also added a C4 DVD.

That was a perfect way to make Wardlow look like a badass. Compared to Cody Rhodes in tears when MJF lashed him, it took Wardlow’s hoss aura to a higher level. The first nine lashes played out exactly as I hoped with Wardlow barely hurt. MJF flying off the handle was executed well when his plans for torture backfired. The tenth lash was set up perfectly for a nice mini swerve of MJF being ruthless. Wardlow is tough, but not even he can withstand the pain of a low blow. All in all, the segment increased anticipation for Wardlow to wring MJF’s neck.

Next week, Wardlow will compete in a steel cage match against Spears with MJF as special guest referee. I’m curious how AEW treads the line of not allowing MJF to make it a 2-on-1 fight. I strongly assume MJF will provide physical interference at times. If he goes too overboard and Wardlow still wins, then what hope would MJF have in a singles match?

Sports entertainers versus professional wrestlers. Chris Jericho and the Jericho Appreciation Society stood on stage addressing William Regal, Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz. Jericho went down the line with insults. His words for Regal cut deepest in terms of going over the line. Jericho viewed Regal as an example of wasted potential. He could have been a world class champion. Instead, he’s a world class addict.

Moxley had the best line from his group by wanting no part of a Stadium Stampede match. He refused to be sucked into the sports entertainer vortex. 10-man gang warfare was on the menu. Jericho seemed to accept. Kingston didn’t want to wait for the fight, but Danielson got in his way. Shoves were exchanged between Kingston and Danielson to show how they are not a cohesive unit on the same page.

There was some good bantering back and forth, but the best part was the skirmish between Kingston and Danielson. That adds an extra layer of intrigue to the story. Jericho could easily play them against each other during combat. I’m not sure if it would matter though. Let’s say Regal’s squad ends up fighting amongst themselves mid-match. They all like violence so much that they could just as quickly refocus to fight the JAS. One thing for sure is that I’m interested in finding out how this shakes down.

Serena Deeb angry. Deeb was mad that Tony Schiavone and Dustin Rhodes picked her to lose to Thunder Rosa. The champ eventually came out. Dustin prevented a fight. In the hullabaloo, Deeb cracked Thunder with the title belt.

The good is that the women’s championship is getting more shine with an in-ring promo segment. The bad is that Thunder Rosa took a backseat once again as champ.

Notes: Brian Bosworth was in the front row. The Boz!

Fuego del Sol called out the House of Black for Rampage. He brought in Evil Uno and 10 to even the odds. This is an example of slow stories having a negative effect. Fuego hasn’t been on screen consistently enough, so I don’t remember why he has beef with Malakai Black in the first place. I’m sure the match will be fine, but there is zero momentum in this story to create heat.

Red Velvet versus Kris Statlander in the Owen Hart tournament is booked for Rampage. Velvet said their past friendship has sailed. Statlander viewed this bout as strictly business. Jade Cargill entered to talk smack at the alien. As the Baddies exited, Jade stopped to tell Tony Schiavone to cut the shit. Nice way to squeeze in that catchphrase.

Trent and Rocky Romero are back together full-time as the Roppongi Vice tag team. Their focus is the ROH tag titles. Trent and Rocky called out FTR to challenge for the straps. They added a few Bret Hart references, so those jam-up guys would accept. Smart way to keep FTR occupied out of the AEW title picture for now.

Matt Sydal and Dante Martin challenged the Blackpool Combat Club to tag team action on Rampage.

Stud of the Show: Wardlow

Taking those lashes without any concern was badass.

Match of the Night: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Fenix

I’m torn between O’Reilly versus Fenix and Hangman Page versus Konosuke Takeshita. Both were really good matches. Without context, I think Hangman’s bout has the edge. High stakes of the Owen Hart tournament steers me toward choosing O’Reilly’s victory. The importance of the contest added an extra sense of excitement in the air.

Grade: B+

Dynamite was entertaining throughout. Some story beats were a little slow or a little repetitive this week, but everything is progressing nicely toward Double or Nothing.

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

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