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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Dec. 27, 2023): Samoa Joe betrays MJF

AEW Dynamite (Dec. 27, 2023) emanated from Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, FL. The New Year’s Smash special featured Samoa Joe making a deal with the devil to betray MJF, Eddie Kingston slaying the American Dragon in dramatic fashion, Jon Moxley bringing 100% effort, and more.

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

MJF duped by Samoa Joe and the masked devil

MJF versus Samoa Joe for the AEW World Championship is set for the main event at Worlds End on December 30. But first, the rivals had a little business to handle. Asses were to be kicked when defending the ROH World Tag Team Championship against the devil’s henchmen. Oh, if only it were so simple. Treachery was afoot, and MJF was the victim.

MJF entered first for the match. The trickery started when Joe was shown backstage clutching his knee in pain after an apparent ambush by the devil’s squad. We didn’t get to see the actual attack, just Joe on the floor. MJF was determined to follow through with the title defense. MJF cruised until a third goon came out from under the ring to hit the champ’s injured shoulder with a steel pipe. Heatseeker piledriver on MJF, pinfall with feet on the ropes, and new champs were crowned!?!

The evil plot proceeded to unfold in the aftermath. As the hooligans stomped MJF, Joe limped out with a chair to make the save. The ruffians leisurely departed with no fear of Joe’s compromised mobility. The devil appeared on screen with the message, “Pleasure doing business with you.” Boom! Joe hit MJF with the chair. The Samoan’s knee was just fine. It was all a ruse. Joe added a musclebuster as insult to injury heading into the world title fight.

This is a tough scene to reflect upon because of all the swerving. I was already rolling my eyes at the circle jerk of teasing the cancellation of the match for the second time, but MJF went through with it. The goons were not impressive at all, so that was disappointing. There was nothing about their performance to make me interested in seeing title defenses. The big reveal of Joe making a deal with the devil saved the logic somewhat, but I was already mentally checked out by that point.

I suppose the idea was to build a deeper layer of emotion from MJF (due to breaking his promise to Adam Cole in losing the ROH tag titles) to fight Joe, but the match didn’t need any of that. The work was already done to present it as a hot PPV main event. I’d argue that this evening made it worse, because MJF has a clearly injured shoulder now. He was already the underdog in terms of stature, so it looks like another case of super MJF overcoming impossible circumstances to retain. That doesn’t sell me at all. In that sense, this devil story is starting to feel like MJF’s Dungeon of Doom opus. Is Kevin Sullivan under the mask?

Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston advance to Continental Classic final

Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston are heading for a showdown in the final of the Continental Classic tournament. Moxley prevailed in a triple threat over Swerve Strickland and Jay White, while Kingston finally beat Bryan Danielson.

The Gold League three-way had the standard no disqualification rules for that type of affair. The chaos played out early as Moxley, Swerve, and White brawled through the crowd. Mox and Swerve pretty much played it clean, whereas White was blatant with chairshots throughout.

Near falls came on a 450 splash from Swerve on White with Moxley breaking on a curb stomp, Moxley choking White with Swerve making the save, and White hitting a Blade Runner on Mox with Swerve making the save. That Blade Runner had me thinking it was the end. The match continued by fooling me again when Swerve rolled up Mox and grabbed the belt for leverage as a callback to Moxley’s win over Swerve. That would have been an appropriate finish, but Mox kicked out.

The climax came when White shoved Swerve off the turnbuckles. Switchblade tried to pounce for a Blade Runner on Moxley, but the Death Jitsu expert countered for the Death Rider to win.

That was an exciting match with several close pinfalls. There was a case to be made for each man to win, and I never got a sense of foreshadowing during the contest. That only enhanced the drama. I could have done without the No DQ action. Yes, that’s the rules for a triple threat, but it went against the spirit of the tournament dedicated to wrestling. Thankfully, it didn’t really affect the result. Moxley turned out that to be the chosen one, and that is a solid choice as one of AEW’s top stars. Swerve should be fine as long as AEW keeps his momentum hot, and that is a genuine worry with their awkward stop-and-go booking. Swerve versus MJF is the fight fans are hot for, however, it may take a long time to get there with Wardlow and the masked devil next in line with sights on MJF. Will the iron still be hot by the time AEW gets to Swerve versus MJF?

As far as I was concerned, the Moxley win did not provide any hints one way or the other to predicting the Blue League final. Mox versus Danielson is the biggest match the tournament could make, and Mox also has an unfinished story in his tense friendship with Kingston. Both matchups in the finale made sense, so there was an extra element of drama to determine his opponent.

Kingston was a house afire early with an exploder suplex and a suicide dive. The Mad King pummeled Danielson from pillar to post. Danielson rolled with the flow to take control with superior technical ability. He dissected Kingston with precision strikes. Danielson played into the character work by starting ‘bum’ chants about Kingston. Danielson also spit in the face of his opponent to increase the level of disrespect.

Kingston rallied with a surprise Northern Lights Bomb, but Danielson kicked out. That was Kingston’s first mental hurdle, because the same move that put away Andrade was not good enough here. Kingston’s next hurdle came when he kicked out of the Busaiku Knee. That moment was pretty shocking. Danielson poured on the pain with kicks and stomps. Kingston looked done, and he threw up the middle finger in defiance. Danielson smiled at the idea of Kingston quitting mentally. Not so fast, my friend.

Danielson charged for the Busaiku Knee. Kingston sprang up to connect on a spinning backfist as a countermeasure. Danielson still had his wits, so Kingston had to knock them out with a suplex, two more spinning backfists, and a powerbomb to win. The king of the underdogs did it.

Putting aside any sentiments about Kingston, that match told a very good story as part of his overall character arc throughout the years. This was an effective example of show not tell. Kingston has long had his same weaknesses, but this match finally showed tangible growth in his mentality. When Kingston earned his big win over Claudio Castagnoli, there was no evident improvement there. It was just a case of giving him enough shots that he finally achieved success. But against Danielson, he kept his composure and never quit. If you’ve been following the backstage promos, then you could see the story unfolding before our eyes. Kingston’s growth paid off. It can be argued that he is not a bum anymore on the fighting circuit.

The Continental Classic finale is set. Moxley will wrestle Kingston for the triple crown at Worlds End. Mox entered the ring for a promo exchange. He demanded that Kingston bring his best effort. Kingston didn’t want to hear any condescending words. He is going to bust on Moxley and enjoy it.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Sammy Guevara returns. Don Callis celebrated Boxing Day with elegant artwork as gifts for Will Hobbs, Konosuke Takeshita, and Kyle Fletcher. AEW needs to post these on social media for the world to study the artistic detail. My initial favorite is Fletcher and Callis boxing kangaroos.

Sammy returned with an attitude. He was angry that Callis hasn’t reached out. Callis presented a group painting with Sammy’s baby. The Spanish God flipped out at the inclusion of his infant. Callis told a hard truth about being disappointed that Sammy dropped the ball with injuries and a prolonged absence from work. Dandy Don also insulted Sammy’s mental capabilities to be a parent. That insult caused Sammy to shove Callis, then the crew jumped Sammy. Chris Jericho made the save with a baseball bat. Le Sex Gods squashed their beef with a hug. Ricky Starks and Big Bill Morrissey ran in to attack. Lights out. Sting and Darby Allin made the save. AEW announced an 8-man tag for Jericho, Guevara, Sting, & Allin against Starks, Bill, Hobbs, & Fletcher at Worlds End.

Well, that segment was something alright. If the brain is turned off chowing on popcorn, it was a roller coaster of excitement. Bing, bang, boom, who’s next? The return of Sammy and his defiance to Callis made the crowd happy. The reunion with Jericho and the surprise of Sting were bonuses. Fun times.

Once the flicker of cognition fires up just a little, this was truly a WTF segment. So much past story was flushed down the drain. I get it as a way to scramble for Kenny Omega’s illness. Plus, Sammy probably would not have been jeered upon return from concussion and as a new father. Unfortunately, Sammy has made so many weird turns that he is losing credibility as a character. AEW needs to figure out a way for babyface Sammy to get over for a long stretch to build stability. And then there was the random involvement of Sting. It’s Sting! Always nice seeing the Icon, but this felt completely shoehorned into the story.

Final thoughts on this segment. I love the Callis artwork gimmick so much. It’s so over the top in a good way. I was actually saddened when the paintings were destroyed with the baseball bat. Also, I laugh so hard at how visceral the boos are toward Callis. It’s great how they treat him like a true villain.

Skye Blue defeated Kris Statlander. Julia Hart blindsided Statlander with a cheapshot on the turnbuckles. Blue capitalized with an avalanche Code Blue to win. Afterward, the spooky girls stomped Statlander. Willow Nightingale ran out for the save, and Abadon zombied on stage to cut off the retreat.

Even though the surprise cheating was weak, Blue’s super finisher was so cool as a power visual. Statlander was exciting when demonstrating hefty strong moves. The appearance from Willow sets the sides. Abadon was an afterthought. Her feud with Hart was rising nicely, then she was overshadowed by Thunder Rosa’s return and now Statlander’s story. It’s kind of like AEW is telling us not to care about the TBS title match at Worlds End.

Blue has yet to provide an explanation for turning to the dark side. That is inexcusable by AEW. There have been plenty of episodes to speak, and yet nothing. That shows how mismanaged the timing of this story has been. Just look at the booking of this match with Statlander. It should have happened a few weeks ago when the intensity was hot. Now, it felt like random matchmaking announced out of nowhere without the zest of their backstory.

Notes: Swerve Strickland was disappointed in defeat. He proved that he is one of the best but not the best. Swerve turned his attention to Keith Lee. They can rumble at Worlds End. Tony Schiavone had a contract to make it official.

Mariah May announced her debut for next week in the new year. Riho came out looking for revenge. Toni Storm ran in for a sneak attack. Riho gained the upper hand for a flying crossbody onto Storm and Luther.

Top Flight and Action Andretti spoke about their eagerness to compete in the trios division. Orange Cassidy overheard and viewed it as a personal challenge. OC, Trent, and Rocky Romero set the match for Rampage, while Top Flight and Andretti were confused. This clip is worth watching to see Andretti comically crush a water bottle for hydration. Fans will want to see Andretti do the hydration bit so often that he’ll have the constant urge to urinate.

With Andrade out of the Continental Classic, the path is clear for Miro to redeem El Idolo. The match was made for Worlds End.

Roderick Strong and the Kingdom presented a conspiracy board pointing to MJF as the devil. Strong’s mission is to prove this theory.

Christian Cage was kept waiting by Adam Copeland for a sitdown interview. When Copeland finally arrived, he physically assaulted Christian. The ROH locker room emptied trying to keep the peace. This brawl was cheesy fun.

Saraya’s holiday gift for Ruby Soho was the psychotic Harley Cameron.

Stud of the Show: Callis Family artist

How can so many majestic paintings come from the same hand? Simply beautiful artwork.

Match of the Night: Eddie Kingston vs. Bryan Danielson

Kingston’s valiant effort made for a feel-good moment.

Grade: B

The Continental Classic matches and stories were great as usual. Storytelling in the rest of the show was iffy at best. A lot of scenes felt like cramming people on screen.

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

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