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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Jan. 4, 2023): Darby Allin hometown hero

AEW Dynamite (Jan. 4, 2023) emanated from Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA. The show featured Darby Allin as the hometown hero winning the TNT Championship from Samoa Joe, screwjobs galore in a Jeff Jarrett tag title match, Ricky Starks proving he belongs with the best by beating Chris Jericho, and much more.

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

Darby Allin hometown hero

Darby Allin returned to his hometown of Seattle to prove doubters wrong. Growing up, people told him that he could never become a wrestler. Allin wanted to regain the TNT Championship as a sign of success. He had a tough task ahead in taking gold from “King of Television” Samoa Joe.

Joe hyped the bout with a badass promo about the little dead boy who could. Allin will pay the price for insolence in Joe’s kingdom. Hot damn, Joe is so great at delivering menacing promos. I love it.

Allin entered first and paid respect to Nick Wayne, son of Allin’s trainer Buddy Wayne. Joe did the same, except his respect involved goozling young Wayne. Allin broke it up with a suicide dive. He used his skateboard as a weapon before the opening bell, so it was fair game. Allin executed an ollie trick off stage onto Joe’s back. Allin followed with a flipping cannonball off a ladder.

Joe eventually found his groove to dish out pain by catching Allin for a uranage onto the ring steps. The angle of impact was brutal.

Joe continued pummeling Allin around the ring. When Allin showed a spark of fire, Joe extinguished the flame. The tide turned when Allin was able to shove Joe into an exposed turnbuckle. Allin pounced for a Code Red, Coffin Drop to the back, and Coffin Drop to the front. 1, 2, 3! Allin surprisingly took home the TNT title with that blitz of offense. Sting came out to celebrate with his little pal.

That was a fun bout. Allin’s creativity for bumps is excellent, as is Joe’s ability to dish out an ass-kicking. I enjoyed the little touches of strategy throughout the contest. Allin was smart rolling across the ring out of Joe’s grasp to recover from the punishment. Likewise, Joe’s choice of attacks were smart as well to take away the quickness of the rapid squirrel. I would have preferred Joe’s run as King of Television to continue, however, Allin is a strong choice to dethrone the king. It helped make a better moment that it took place in Allin’s hometown. The fans erupted in jubilation to treat him like a superstar.

Jeff Jarrett cheated from gold

The Acclaimed defended the AEW World Tag Team Championship against Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. Shenanigans were ripe with chaos as Jarrett screwed and got screwed with a title win reversed into a title loss.

Billy Gunn, Sonjay Dutt, and Satnam Singh were ringside for the contest. The challengers played it smart for a cheap shot punch to Billy. Daddy Ass was fired up and entered the ring, so the referee ejected him. Double J celebrated to chants of, “Fuck you, Jarrett.” Some might argue that was go-away heat. I’d say it was Jarrett doing what he does best, which is getting under the skin of fans for them to have fun participating in vociferous jeers.

Down the stretch, Singh was caught chucking Max Caster into the steps. That earned the giant an ejection. The damage was already done though. Anthony Bowens countered a Lethal Injection with a discus forearm, but Jarrett came from behind for the Stroke. Lethal made the pin. 1, 2, Bowens placed his foot on the ropes, but the referee was out of position and counted 3. New tag team champs!

Or so we thought. The backup ref ran in to explain the situation, and the match was restarted. The Acclaimed didn’t waste time getting back in the game. Bowens was rolled up by Lethal with feet on the ropes for leverage. Caster pushed Lethal free, so Bowens could reverse position to sneak the win. The Acclaimed were still officially AEW tag champs.

There is certainly an argument to be made that this bout was overbooked to a detriment, however, I enjoyed how over-the-top it was. If the plan is tricky bullshit, then go full steamer ahead to the maximum level. That’s what AEW did. It felt like classic AAA wildness, which Jarrett is very familiar with. I thought the fake-out win was played well to goad anger and frustration from Jarrett haters. AEW pulled them like a yo-yo into a sense of intense satisfaction that the Acclaimed retained in the end.

Jarrett and Lethal will get a rematch in No Holds Barred on Battle of the Belts V, which is this Friday as part of a double-header with Rampage. I’m confused by the logic of a No Holds Barred stipulation considering barred holds had no factor in the result.

Ricky Starks is no experiment

Ricky Starks is absolute. He proved that he is no fluke, no flash in the pan, no experiment. Starks outdueled Chris Jericho as the better sports entertainer in the opening bout of the evening.

The match had its fair share of working the crowd, such as Starks stylishly strutting across the top rope. Yes, this spot is hokey with the assistance from Jericho for balance. It doesn’t matter though. Starks makes it work as a charismatic moment.

The match also had some painful thumps, including a suplex from Jericho off the apron down to the floor.

High drama kicked in for the finish. Starks became a made man with his display of intestinal fortitude while trapped in the Walls of Jericho. Starks struggled to inch toward the ropes, and Jericho would pull him back to center. JAS sensed it wouldn’t be enough to finish Starks, so Cool Hand created a distraction for Daddy Magic to clobber Starks with a baseball bat. Jericho maintained the submission hold all the while. As the referee lifted Starks’ limp arm, he began to show signs of life. Starks feasted on the crowd’s energy to finally escape.

Starks landed a tornado DDT on Jericho and punched the JASholes on the apron. Pretty Ricky ducked a blow from Jericho to run the ropes for a spear. Boom, pin, win. Starks was victorious.

The aftermath was not so sweet for Starks. The full JAS crew ran in to stomp a mudhole. Action Andretti returned from the Wizard’s fireball to clean house with a chair. Anna Jay and Tay Melo took advantage of Andretti’s manners not to hit them by stealing the chair and hitting a low blow. Jake Hager finished the beatdown to powerbomb Starks off the apron through a table.

That entire match was electric. Jericho played perfectly into Starks’ strengths to let Absolute shine. Starks picked up a huge win to continue cementing his place in the AEW pecking order. Starks is super over on the character side, and these are the types of victories that present him as genuine world title material. The post-match attack did well to keep Andretti hot and also build a strong desire to see Starks get revenge. Even though Starks just proved himself as better than Jericho, I’m still intrigued by a rematch.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Hangman Page medical update. The cowboy is still not cleared to wrestle Jon Moxley next week, however, there is hope if Page can pass the next set of scans. Hangman promised to knock Mox’s dick in the dirt. Enter Moxley to engage in trashtalk. He was tired of the sympathy for Hangman. It’s a dangerous business with frequent knockouts. Playing the victim makes Moxley sick. Hangman clarified that he wasn’t mad about being KO’d. It was the jokes from Mox that got under his skin. Hangman threatened to fire buckshot lariats once they finally meet in sanctioned combat. Moxley was itching to fight but visibly showed restraint.

This was a mixed scene. The excitement and eagerness to build the fight was there, however, the words fell flat. They’re starting to talk past the point of sale. I don’t need no dime store psychology from Hangman analyzing his opponent. Hangman actually made me laugh at him unintentionally by trying to say his piece in Mox’s face as Mox was pacing. It reminded me of a Parks and Recreation scene with Ron Swanson at a circle desk. Mox was Swanson in this matter ignoring Hangman’s complaints. Good thing this match should take place next week, so the talking will be over.

Saraya’s mystery partner revealed. Jamie Hayter and Dr. Britt Baker DMD weren’t worried. Baker claimed that Saraya doesn’t get what AEW represents. Both Hayter and Baker had rocky beginnings and worked their way to the top. Baker tossed in the word ‘boss’ as a tease for Sasha Banks to appear, then they closed with their new name of The Killer and The Pillar.

Later, Saraya sat between Toni Storm and Hikaru Shida explaining her choice for next week’s tag match. Saraya was impressed by both talents and chose Storm as the best in the world. Saraya appeared dismissive of Shida by turning her back to discuss plans with Storm. Shida clearly noticed the slight.

First off, it was smart for AEW to squash the idea of Sasha Banks as the surprise partner. Banks is too big of a star that fans would be deflated if left hanging with the notion of the Boss arriving in AEW. That doesn’t mean Banks won’t show up in a different capacity as a surprise, so the hope is still alive. It just won’t overshadow the tag match. Second, Saraya continues to be unlikable in my view. Her arrogance has to be on purpose at this point. Treating Shida like that will hopefully have consequences, because Shida is too good to be floating without a story. Credit to Shida for showing personality through non-vocal expressions.

Bryan Danielson defeated Tony Nese. Danielson had little trouble in overcoming Nese. The American Dragon finished with a Busaiku knee, head stomps, and the Regal Stretch. Nese was already out by the time the submission was applied.

Not much to this bout. It was a showcase for Danielson to play the hits in front of his hometown crowd. Business picked up afterward.

Stipulations for MJF and Danielson. The American Dragon felt froggy for another fight and called out MJF. The champ ducked competition from Danielson to claim he needed to earn #1 contender status. MJF spoke to Tony Khan, and the boss man decided that Danielson could wrestle each week until February 8 to be granted a title shot at the Revolution PPV on March 5. Danielson initially declined the offer as a bit of mind games, then he flipped the script for a stipulation of his own. Danielson wants the PPV bout to be a one-hour iron man match, so he can show without a doubt that MJF doesn’t have the skill to hang with the best. An agreement was made.

This was a dud of a segment. The live fans enjoyed it, but I did not. Weak trash talk played into the same tired story of MJF’s trials. Danielson even recognized it, and he still went along with the con. It’s like AEW hears the criticism of repetitive MJF angles, and they rolled with it anyway. The entire ordeal was long-winded and didn’t amount to much. I suppose the positive will be weekly Danielson matches. He starts next week against Konosuke Takeshita. Chalk up yet another loss for the rising talent. This will be one of those stories that will probably be decent along the way in a vacuum, but the larger picture will produce little enthusiasm toward the iron man match.

Swerve Strickland defeated AR Fox. Cool flips to start for a stalemate. Fox had a nifty sequence leaping through the ropes for a front chancery into a corkscrew brainbuster. Swerve had a dope German suplex counter to Fox’s rolling cutter attempt. Fox had the crowd in the palm of his hand rooting for victory when he landed a 450 splash. Swerve kicked out and received shady assistance in the end. Parker Boudreaux slipped the mogul a foreign object to clock Fox. Swerve capitalized with a super DVD onto the apron and a flying double stomp inside the ring to win.

Very fun revisit to Lucha Underground rivals. They packed a lot of action into the time frame of the match. I’d like to think Fox impressed those not too familiar with his work. Swerve was ruthless on the finish. That DVD was brutal. Swerve is establishing his character as doing what it takes to rack up W’s and dish out violence.

Side thought, I’d like AEW to address how Top Flight and Fox spent their $300,000 from winning the Christmas battle royal. Just a little side package to add some personality to each character.

Jade Cargill & Red Velvet defeated Kiera Hogan & Skye Blue. Jade dominated with power to make a point at Velvet. Lil Cupcake dropped off the apron dissing Jade on a tag attempt. Hogan almost scored a roll-up win, but Jade popped out to land a pump kick for victory.

This story needs more promos. Why is Hogan good, aside from being fired from the Baddies? What is Velvet’s problem with Jade all of a sudden? Why did Jade accept this match when Velvet has clearly shown attitude issues toward the Baddies boss? At this point, I’m rooting for Jade, because she’s stayed true to character. Hogan and Velvet haven’t shown anything for me to embrace them as babyfaces in this story.

Notes: AEW ushered in a new era for the new year with a new intro video and a new set. I found it interesting to note that Dr. Britt Baker DMD was the first wrestler shown and MJF holding the world title was last. The light effects looked like a laser show. The vibe was clean and blended into the background once my initial curiosity wore off.

Jungle Boy thought he had nobody to count on in AEW, but he spoke too soon. For one night only, JB will team with Hook to wrestle Big Bill Morrissey and Lee Moriarty next week.

The Gunn sons held a moment of silence for FTR’s legacy. They spewed backhanded compliments and shed crocodile tears. Top Gunns out.

On the surface, Rampage and Battle of the Belts 5 have serious questions about the matchmaking. I prefer to wait and see how the matches play out before jumping the gun with harsh criticism.

Stud of the Show: Darby Allin

Beyond the hometown shine, Allin took some wicked bumps to make me wince in pain. Battling back from that beating by Samoa Joe showed admirable grit.

Match of the Night: Ricky Starks vs. Chris Jericho

Energy on high in another star-making performance from Starks. It takes two to tango, and Jericho did his share to elevate Mr. Absolute.

Grade: B+

Very strong action overall in the sports entertainment vein. Emotion of promos was engaging, however, the message was often muddled.

Share your thoughts about Dynamite. How do you rate it? What were your favorite moments from the show?

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