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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Mar. 29, 2023): Bryan Danielson heel turn

AEW Dynamite (Mar. 29, 2023) emanated from Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, MO. The show featured Bryan Danielson in a heel turn, Kenny Omega defending NJPW gold, MJF getting spicy about Jungle Boy’s love life, Adam Cole’s return to the ring, and more.

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

Bryan Danielson surprise

Bryan Danielson surprised the world in more ways than one on Dynamite. He made an unannounced return to AEW, and he turned heel in the process.

Danielson inserted himself into the feud between the Blackpool Combat Club and the Elite. This story had several parts playing out through the course of the show.

First was AEW doing the right thing to close logic circles on last week’s con job from Don Callis. He was proactive and claimed fault for the incident. Callis grabbed Hangman’s wrist, Hangman broke free, and Callis lost his balance. Callis said he would apologize to the cowboy.

The Invisible Hand wasn’t all noble in this scene. He did try to manipulate Kenny Omega’s mind by questioning why Omega would automatically assume Hangman was at fault for the violence. That shows Callis is still scheming to keep his gravy train latched onto Kenny’s singles career. The excuse from Callis was good enough to accept from my viewing perspective to overlook why Omega never watched a replay.

Next was the Blackpool Combat Club in trios action. Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, and Wheeler Yuta rumbled with Dalton Castle and The Boys. BCC attacked from behind on the ramp and never let up. Claudio tripped but played it off cool with a menacing muscle flex. Moxley and Yuta pummeled Castle and Boy Brent not allowing them to enter the ring. Claudio won the squash via powerbomb on Boy Brandon.

This was the most disappointing segment on the show. I was eager to see the style clash between BCC and peacock power. We got zero of that. It felt like a wasted opportunity of the unique matchup. I’m not asking for a 15-minute competitive contest. Just give me enough to feel the Dalton Castle experience. At least we can enjoy Castle’s entrance and Claudio stumbling.

Third on the list was Callis approaching Hangman to apologize. Hangman seemed receptive to Callis’ supposed sincerity. Callis held his hand out to shake, then BCC attacked Hangman. Callis stood there frozen the whole time with his hand still out. When Moxley eyed Callis, he tried to shake Mox’s hand. That resulted in slapping the sunglasses off Callis’ face and a punch to the head opening a bloody wound. To clarify, the blood came from Callis, not Moxley.

This scene was right in line with my preferences for wrestling stories. There was action and also comedy. The humor wasn’t jokey. It was more natural humor in the flow of context, such as Hangman’s ‘aw shucks’ gullibility and Claudio picking up Callis’ stylish sunglasses to wear on the way out. One story point of note, I’m not fully convinced that BCC was behind the original attack on the Young Bucks last week. AEW has framed it as obvious assumptions pointing to BCC, but nobody has been able to verify it. I assume AEW is doing this for a purpose. Time will tell on that one.

Fourth in the set was Kenny Omega defending the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship in a Forbidden Door matchup against NJPW’s Jeff Cobb. Omega started strong early, but he was overzealous trying to lift Cobb for a body slam. Omega’s ribs were taped, and pain kicked in as Omega collapsed holding that weight. Cobb roughed up the champ with power moves and made sure to target the tender ribs. Cobb tried to beat Omega at his own game using the V-Trigger and One Winged Angel, but Omega escaped. That led to V-Triggers and the One Winged Angel from Omega for victory.

Very good match. I like how they told an in-ring story to separate this match from the standard Forbidden Door cameos. It wasn’t just two dudes hitting moves. The one thing I wanted to see in the contest was the visual of Omega hitting a snap dragon suplex on a man the size of Cobb, and Omega gave us three of them. Thanks, champ! Cobb came strong in his own right with cool moves on a delayed vertical superplex and a standing moonsault. The reality is that Cobb is being brought in to lose these types of matches in AEW, but he was exciting enough to make me look forward to next time. Even though future results will likely be obvious, at least we know Cobb will put on an entertaining show.

All that build-up was for the pay-off of Danielson’s heel turn. Immediately after Omega’s match, BCC surrounded the ring like vultures to snack on dead meat. Danielson rushed into the ring telling BCC to stand down. The American Dragon went through the motions of helping Omega rise to his feet in an act of friendship. Then, boom! Danielson struck Omega with a Busaiku Knee. He added a LeBell Lock for good measure. Danielson shouted about how Omega is everything wrong with wrestling.

What a shock. I must applaud AEW for how this turn played out. The emotion, the mystery, and the intrigue were high. I was worried how AEW would be able to bring Danielson back as a babyface after his dramatic exit home to be with his family. Now that he is clearly a heel, that whole idea doesn’t matter anymore. He can justify it however he wants to come out looking like an asshole. And speaking of heels, AEW has done a great job portraying BCC as the clear bad guys. At first, the effectiveness was debatable in execution. That is no longer the case. Of course, many fans will still cheer them since Danielson and Moxley are a pair of the biggest names in wrestling today. And frankly, the BCC chaos is entertaining. AEW can only control so much, and they did their job here for maximum effect.

World title scene

The Four Pillars set AEW ablaze with excitement when Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara confronted MJF for a shot at the AEW World Championship. The next step of the story played out on Dynamite.

Jungle Boy was in action to open the show against Matt Hardy. Ethan Page trifled ringside despite the protest from Hardy. It did help Hardy though to execute a Side Effect on the floor and a Side Effect on the apron. Page’s presence became overbearing, so Hook sent himself to deal with the problem. Hook and Page engaged in fisticuffs, Page accidentally punched Hardy, then Jungle Boy took control down the stretch to finish strong with a running elbow to the back of Hardy’s head for victory.

The match accomplished its goal of getting Jungle Boy a win over a notable name to enhance his status in the standings. The addition of Hook popped the crowd and continued his feud with the Firm. AEW added a neat touch of showing Allin and Sammy watching separately backstage and shaking their heads with disappointment at JB’s success. Commentary smartly explained that the win makes it harder for Allin and Sammy to separate from the pack for a title shot. That idea fans the flames of competitive juices and in turn makes the title shot more meaningful.

After victory, Jungle Boy pointed to the camera to say he’s coming for MJF. JB didn’t have to wait long, because MJF arrived for an impromptu promo session. The champ explained that he once had respect for Jungle Boy after their show-stealing match at Double or Nothing in 2020. He saw JB as someone who could be a potential rival for years to come. MJF swallowed his pride back then to offer advice. Nice guys finish last. MJF circled to today to explain how Jungle Boy only has himself to blame for not following that advice.

Jungle Boy massaged MJF’s ego by saying he wished he was more like him. JB wishes he could talk like Max and have more confidence like Max. A sweet smile crept across MJF’s face at the compliments. Then JB poured on insults. He wished he didn’t care about being a selfish, narcissistic piece of shit. MJF’s smile turned to a frown. Jungle Boy will win the world title his way, so he can look at himself in the mirror with pride.

MJF was ready with a rebuttal. He pointed out how that attitude shows Jungle Boy has a weak body, weak heart, and weak mind. And according to girlfriend Anna Jay, JB is also weak between the knees. That was the tipping point for Jungle Boy to throw blows. MJF was knocked on his keister but managed to roll out of the ring before serious pain.

That was a strong promo exchange. Jungle Boy held his own well. That might have been the best delivery of his career. Not once did I think about his promo game as a weak spot during this scene. JB’s passion had me focused in the moment to absorb the emotion of his words. I really hope this will be a turning point for Jungle Boy. More promos of that quality will show he is ready to be world champion.

One thing I didn’t like about the promo content was bringing Anna Jay into this. It blends the lines between story and reality in a bad way. Anna’s character is a lady of questionable conduct as a member of the Jericho Appreciation Society. Jungle Boy is a pure babyface. That clash in personalities makes me wonder why the JB character would associate with her, especially trusting her enough to be his girlfriend. The characters are too far apart from real life in that the reference ruins the illusion of babyfaces and heels.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Adam Cole defeated Daniel Garcia. This was Cole’s return match after 276 days on the injured list, and he was given the main event slot as a lead-in to the new All Access reality program. The story was Cole’s concussion health. Garcia dropped Cole on his head early for a piledriver to test the cranium. Garcia’s offense was focused on the head and neck region. Cole showed spunk to persevere and rally with a Panama Sunrise. He lowered the boom to win on a running knee strike.

I have mixed reactions for the story of this match. On one hand, it showed that Cole can push through the physical pain and mental block of taking damage to his head. On the other hand, he talked a big game about making a statement as top dog. I would say he failed in that regard. Cole was controlled by Garcia for much of the match, then he hit three moves to win. This performance was no emphatic statement. Plus, Cole was aided by the referee stopping the action several times to check on his health. That is one of my pet peeves. Even though the referee’s heart is in the right place, it provides an unfair advantage to the person in pain. If Cole was really hurt that bad, then call off the match. Otherwise, do a quick check and get out of the way. I find this idea of pausing the match to be quite annoying when they are trying to portray it as a real sport.

Afterward, Dr. Britt Baker ran out to celebrate with her lover man. Chris Jericho retrieved Garcia while teasing a stink eye toward Cole. Cole versus Jericho seems the obvious direction.

Ruby Soho defeated Willow Nightingale. Saraya and Toni Storm offered interference often. When Willow was on the turnbuckles with offensive momentum, Storm shook the ropes. That allowed Soho to pull her off-balance opponent into a No Future Kick. Soho added a second No Future Kick, but Willow kicked out on the cover. Willow escaped a Destination Unknown to run the ropes for a big shoulder tackle. The mean girls interfered again leading to Soho with her feet on the ropes for the winning roll-up.

Good back and forth as former friends, which was shown through defensive familiarity of signature moves. Soho cemented her heel status. It’s not like there was any doubt, but she made it crystal clear there is no turning back. Raking the eyes, grabbing hair, and emotional trickery were a few of her dirty tactics. Willow performed well with that babyface fire for offensive rallies.

Afterward, the mean girls tried to break Willow’s ankle with a chair. Riho and Skye Blue ran out for the save, but the numbers game got them. Jamie Hayter was fashionably late to the party to clear the ring. The champ offered her hand to Riho in friendship despite being adversaries next week in a title match.

One thing that bugs me about this Outcasts versus Home Grown story is how we’re all supposed to love Hayter and Dr. Britt Baker DMD just because they represent AEW. In my opinion, they have done very little in reforming their behavior to be viewed as babyfaces. Willow and Riho are more in line as true heroes. Hayter made that first step here by extending an olive branch to Riho. Baker is still a heel in my book, although, her absence could be explained as supporting Adam Cole in the locker room. The point is that Baker’s character needs work over time to be presented as a real babyface, and I hope AEW doesn’t lose sight of that.

AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy retained against Butcher. Blade was ejected before the opening bell, but he came back anyway to hit OC with a crowbar. Best Friends ran out to neutralize Blade. Butcher went outside to help his pal. Best Friends pounded both mercenaries. Upon reentry by Butcher, Cassidy took advantage for a superman punch and Beach Break to win.

Little man versus big man style. Butcher was believable when tenderizing Cassidy like a bruised orange. Cassidy scored flashy counters to show fighting spirit. The finish was just desserts. This was fine as a filler bout.

Notes: Daddy Magic and Cool Hand took The Acclaimed out on the town to recruit them for the JAS. Jericho’s cold hard cash was footing the bill. They had a jolly time scissoring and being served milkshakes by Jake Hager. So, are they in or out? The Acclaimed said they would make their decision next week. I like when wrestling uses local venues for these types of scenes to advance stories. It was quick, simple, and amusing. That’s sports entertainment!

The Gunns hyped titles versus career against FTR next week. It took FTR 19 years to be the best, and it only took the Gunns 2 years. FTR used to be their heroes, but now the Top Gunns hate the Top Guys.

Mark Sterling threatened a lawsuit if Taya Valkyrie continues to use Jaded (Road to Valhalla) in her match on Rampage.

Juice Robinson is going to make an example out of Action Andretti on Rampage. Ricky Starks better be watching to see what’s in store for his Rock Hard ass-kicking next week.

Will Hobbs was honored by East Palo Alto with Powerhouse Hobbs Day on March 24. The Book of Hobbs states that the TNT Championship will never leave his waist.

No QTV. As much as I poo-pooed it, I hope they don’t give up on it yet. The dirt sheet gimmick has potential to bring chuckles in a quick video each week. The primary criticism is to separate Will Hobbs from QTV.

Stud of the Show: Jungle Boy

Excellent work in a breakout promo.

Match of the Night: Kenny Omega vs. Jeff Cobb

The Forbidden Door concept lived up to the fun once again. I enjoy how AEW books these unique matchups, and it is even better when the match delivers excitement.

Grade: B

Solid show with strengths in the Four Pillars and Blackpool Combat Club storylines.

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

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