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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Apr. 12, 2023): Night of surprise returns

AEW Dynamite (Apr. 12, 2023) emanated from UW–Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee, WI. The show featured a variety of surprise appearances, two title bouts, and a whole lot more.

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

This was a night of surprise returns. Some were short-term absences, some were medium-term, and some were long-term.

Jeff Hardy!

The biggest surprise return of the night was Jeff Hardy. He came to the aid of his brother.

Ethan Page demanded answers for Matt Hardy’s betrayal. Matt revealed secrets in the fine print of the Hook contract. Matt’s explanation was a little confusing. I think the idea was that Matt and Private Party are still contracted to the Firm, but they no longer have to take orders. Matt stated that there will be a match against Page with the stipulation that a win frees them from the Firm contract completely. Don’t ask why that wasn’t originally in the Hook contract. Page’s answer was to have Big Bill Morrissey and Lee Moriarty attack Matt and Isiah Kassidy. Send Hook! The Firm was still too strong. Send Brother Nero!

Bow chika bow chika bow wow wow. Jeff arrived with a chair in hand to clear the ring. Jeff landed a swanton bomb on Moriarty.

Jeff’s return was an electric moment. Based on the fan reaction, he is on that elite star level in AEW. This surprise came completely out of nowhere for me, since his presence wasn’t even needed for this story. Now that he’s here, let the good times roll.

The Elite!

The most important surprise return was the Elite. The boys are back in town, and they brought the ruckus to the Blackpool Combat Club.

Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli were in tag team action against the last two remaining members of the Elite. It was up to Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa to stand up to the bullies. They did their best, but they were no match for the trained killers. Even though Cutler and Nak were bloodied and bruised, they fought their hearts out. I mean that within reason. The result was never in doubt. Mox and Claudio took a few hits en route to delivering signature moves, such as the Death Rider and the giant swing. The swing was so giant that Nak’s shoes came off. BCC won via domination. The referee saw enough of the mauling to call off the bout.

For such a mismatch, this was executed tremendously well. BCC kicked ass so hard to a hilarious degree, such as dribbling Nak’s head on the apron like a basketball. Cutler and Nak had the crowd support roaring when they fired furious punches.

Earlier in the show, Kenny Omega sent a promo from his home. The Elite promised each other to handle this beef in the ring. Attacking Don Callis was like attacking family for Omega. That’s a line not to cross. Now, the Elite is out for more than blood.

That promo turned out to be a bit of a trick. After the tag bout, Moxley was on the mic mocking the Elite as glass bodies and glass egos. That’s when Omega arrived on stage. The Young Bucks entered the ring from the backside to ambush Claudio. The Elite ran wild on BCC. Matt Jackson pulled out a screwdriver to hand to Omega. Moxley luckily rolled out of the ring as Omega sprinted to do some stabbing. The screwdriver impaled the turnbuckle.

That was a hot scene for the feud between the Elite and the Blackpool Combat Club. Everything is falling into place for Blood & Guts. The hatred is real, the violence is ready to be unleashed, and all hell will break loose. The only drawback is that it’s difficult to take Omega and the Young Bucks seriously as hardened street fighters. No doubt that they are tough in taking pain, so they got that going for them, which is nice.

It’s Sting!

The sassiest surprise return was Sting. The Icon spoke his mind to support Darby Allin in the Four Pillars storyline for the AEW World Championship.

MJF was contractually obligated to appear in Milwaukee for Dynamite, so he decided to take some mic time to chat with Allin fresh off beating Swerve Strickland. They had similar talking points as Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara. MJF was accused of selling his soul for success, and Allin was staying true to himself for inner peace. MJF’s stance was that the other Pillars were gutless cowards without the intestinal fortitude to do whatever it takes to succeed. MJF wants to ensure his legacy will go down as the greatest ever. Allin’s legacy will be as Sting’s bitch. Enter the Stinger.

Sting’s message boiled down to his belief that Allin will become AEW world champion. Allin chimed in that he will end MJF’s reign of terror. MJF’s response was to spit in Allin’s face and bail from the ring.

This story is taking the necessary steps to go through the motions. Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara had their turns battling MJF on the mic, and now Allin had his go. There was no new material hashed out here. I’m ready for the next stage of this Four Pillars story. Something needs to happen next week to put a world title bout in the works. So far, it’s been talk and jockeying for position without a set path.

The bonus of Sting was a pleaser. I hope we can get some sort of tag match against MJF before Sting’s retirement. Sting kicking MJF’s ass for a little bit would blow the rough off the building.


The most destructive surprise return was Wardlow. The wardog destroyed Will Hobbs’ new ride.

Hobbs made short work of Silas Young in a TNT Championship open challenge. It was actually a letdown to see Young get squashed so thoroughly. Hobbs finished with a torture rack slam.

Wardlow popped up on the big screen to smash the windshield of Hobb’s new car, which was a gift from QT Marshall. Wardlow drove a forklift into the vehicle to tip it over.

Hobbs was going to take his frustration out on Young by powerbombing him off stage. Wardlow unintentionally made the save by storming onto stage. Hobbs and Wardlow threw fisticuffs. Security broke it up. Wardlow powerbombed Aaron Solo off stage through a table. The former champ stood tall holding the TNT title.

Maximum chaos is always fun. Wardlow became an afterthought in his absence, then he immediately re-injected hoss fight fever to resume the feud. QT has some explaining to do with the way Wardlow got his hands on the TNT title. His one job should be to protect the gold.

It was announced that Wardlow will challenge Hobbs for the TNT Championship next week on Dynamite.

Shawn Spears!

Can’t leave out the perfect 10. Commentary mentioned that Spears returns for a match against Jungle Boy on Rampage. In a social media promo, Spears explained his plans to beat JB to get closer to a match against MJF.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Darby Allin defeated Swerve Strickland. The story was Swerve injuring his ankle on a flying foot stomp to Allin hanging off the apron. Allin focused his attack on Swerve’s pain, and he even removed Swerve’s boot to bite his foot. Allin is weird like that.

The move of the night came when Allin executed a reverse rana off the apron down to the floor. That impact earned a genuine reaction of, “Wow!”

Allin continued with a Coffin Drop in the ring. Prince Nana ran in to place Swerve’s foot on the ropes to break the three-count. Brian Cage arrived as well to protect Nana. Swerve benefit from the distraction to land a flying double stomp. Due to the foot pain, Swerve was slow to cover, and Allin kicked out. Cage tripped Allin, so referee Aubrey Edwards ejected the Embassy. Allin pounced for a Code Red and Last Supper pin to win.

This match was one of several instances on the evening of something booked well in a nutshell but not so hot for the big picture. Allin scored major points for his case to challenge for the world championship. Beating Swerve is an impressive feat. Allin did it with intruding outsiders, no less. Allin had Jungle Boy and Sammy Guevara observing the monitor backstage for the Four Pillars story. I like how all three are proving themselves worthy for the grand opportunity.

On the negative, Swerve took a step back to Jabroniville. Swerve himself is not a jabrone, but the failures of his crews diminishes his star power. This was the first night for the Mogul Embassy to make an impact as serious players, and they looked like dunces. What’s the point of having all these numbers if you can’t win? It is clear that the Mogul Embassy are not a force to be reckoned with. I’m not saying that Swerve should have beaten Allin on this evening. Allin’s value is too important for the Four Pillars storyline. Based on the circumstances, this is a match that probably shouldn’t have been made for this show, let alone Allin overcoming the odds to win.

AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy retained against Buddy Matthews. The story was Cassidy’s hand injury. Matthews repeatedly stomped OC’s hand throughout the contest. Cassidy was too slick and opened his bag of tricks for victory. He planted Matthews with three consecutive high-impact DDTs. The first was avalanche off the turnbuckles, the second was a suicide dive on the floor, and the third was diving in the ring. Mathews kicked out. Cassidy did hit the superman punch, but it apparently wasn’t as effective with the injury. Matthews thought he had the edge down the stretch, but Cassidy was too savvy. The champ countered a pumphandle into the Mouse Trap pin to retain.

This was a pretty cool match with the story revolving around Cassidy’s injury and the superman punch. The finish was very well done with the baiting mind games. One thing I like from AEW with fighting champions is that they tend to wear down over the weeks. It makes the sport feel more real, and adds a sense of vulnerability to future matches. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Cassidy is establishing himself as world title material. He has the fan support, he can put on great matches when in serious mode, he has shown the toughness to grit through pain, and he has demonstrated the champion spirit.

Matthews kicking out after all those DDTs was overkill. I was thinking that Jake “The Snake” Roberts can’t get no respect. The standard DDT has already been devalued into dust. Here we have three heavy-duty DDTs in a row, and the move still can’t finish the job. The DDT is on hard times, daddy.

Back to the topic of booking, this was a strong win by Cassidy in the small picture. This was a bad loss by Matthews in the big picture. He still needs to be established as a dominating force, and he failed to beat an injured man. Matthews made matters worse by gloating that he was so close to victory. News flash, slick. That was your best chance at beating Cassidy. The man was damaged goods, and you still couldn’t win.

Toni Storm & Ruby Soho defeated Riho & Skye Blue. Saraya was ringside for physical interference. The match broke down into a blitz of moves. Storm picked her spot to ram the running hip attack on Blue and finish with a piledriver. Blue was the standout with her energy.

Afterward, the Outcasts spray painted Riho. Jamie Hayter ran in, but the numbers got her. Dr. Britt Baker DMD ran in to clean house and duel with Saraya. Baker stood tall in the end.

The post-match melee was over-produced with the music cues, and, as a result, it prevented Hayter and Baker from a true babyface moment. I understand wanting the pop of the crowd for each song, but it didn’t do Hayter and Baker any favors in terms of the story. Hayter took her sweet time until after Riho was tagged with an L. Same for Baker. If Hayter and Baker were sincere as locker room leaders, they would have been present at gorilla position ready to rock. The spray paint is no surprise at this point. It is what the Outcasts do. Since Hayter and Baker were so late on the scene, it left me feeling like they don’t actually care about the other home-grown wrestlers. Their purpose was more in line with hatred of the Outcasts rather than cementing their babyface turn.

Chris Jericho defeated Keith Lee. Daniel Garcia was ringside for distractions. Lee powerhoused Jericho all match long. Jericho is no easy out though. The big spot was Lee catching a Codebreaker to counter for an impressive powerbomb.

The end had cheating, but it wasn’t from the JAS. Swerve had teased unfinished business. He scurried in to whack Lee with a foreign object. Lee was out cold, and referee Aubrey Edwards was befuddled as to why. Jericho made the cover to win.

Afterward, Adam Cole interrupted Jericho’s time to celebrate. Cole appeared to give words of encouragement to Lee, and they shared a fist-pound. Cole exited mimicking Jericho’s slight stare over the shoulder.

The dynamic of fighting was interesting for this match. Lee’s hoss status was a clear and present danger. Jericho had to rely on making it a hockey fight, for lack of a better term. Unfortunately, that was a low-energy close to the show. The interference finish sucked the air out of the room, and Jericho did nothing to earn the pin to bring the energy back. I suspect that the respect between Cole and Lee was supposed to be a big deal. I don’t watch NXT, so that moment went over my head. Credit to AEW on the attention to detail for Cole’s shoulder look to build the feud. It wasn’t all that exciting though as the final image of the show.

Notes: “Switchblade” Jay White and Juice Robinson introduced Bullet Club Gold. Their goal is to take over AEW for the greatest era of the Bullet Club. First up is Ricky Starks.

Christian Cage and Luchasaurus were still in the red light district with a message that some things have changed.

Best Friends challenged Aussie Open for the IWGP Tag Team Championship on Rampage. This scene also had amusing interactions with Renee Paquette.

Studs of the Show: Brandon Cutler & Michael Nakazawa

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, that’s what Cutler and Nak earned from me. They showed great courage standing up to the Blackpool Combat Club. Cutler and Nak knew an ass-kicking was coming, but they stood their ground anyway.

Match of the Night: Orange Cassidy vs. Buddy Matthews

Interesting story of grit and determination for a classic babyface win.

Grade: B

Good action in the ring, as usual. The stories are advancing with baby steps. The way some of the results played out made the losers look weak when that wasn’t necessary. This episode in particular had a lot of effort into making moments.

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

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