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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Aug. 23, 2023): Go-home surprises for All In

AEW Dynamite (Aug. 23, 2023) emanated from Gas South Arena in Duluth, GA. The Fyter Fest special featured thick tension between MJF and Adam Cole, a surprise return for Stadium Stampede, Billy Gunn ready for a fight, Swerve Strickland shuffling the deck for the coffin match, and more for the go-home to All In.

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

AEW is heading to London for All In at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, August 27. The card was pretty much set, but AEW ironed in some wrinkles to add surprises in storytelling throughout Dynamite.

Brochachos to explode?

MJF and Adam Cole are set on a collision course for the AEW World Championship at All In. Tensions almost reached a breaking point before cooler heads prevailed. The question will be if that brotherly bond will survive the pressure of the main event in front of over 80,000 fans in attendance at Wembley Stadium.

Renee Paquette sat down to interview each competitor separately. MJF understands the opportunity to stand with wrestling’s greats if he can win at All In. He is feeling the nerves, but he is still confident nonetheless. MJF and Cole have had their ups and down, but they are brothers who hug it out in the end. MJF’s words felt wholesome and genuine by accepting his flaws as a scumbag, but as our scumbag.

Cole came across as cool on the outside but boiling on the inside. He snapped at Renee when she questioned the turmoil of their friendship. Cole was annoyed at everyone doubting that they can trust each other. He walked out of the interview in a huff. Something doesn’t sit right based on Cole’s sensitivity. Could he be feeling guilty about a future screwjob?

Roderick Strong chimed in with a prediction. At the end of All In, the world will find out the real MJF and the real Adam Cole.

MJF and Cole had one more appearance to close the show. Aussie Open defeated the Hardys in the main event, then they cut a promo about their ROH tag title defense against the brochachos. There will be no double clothesline, and there will be no kangaroo kick. Pause for a moment. I want to point out how such a ludicrous statement about a kangaroo kick brought me so much joy thinking about that move in glorious execution. Who would have ever predicted the kangaroo kick becoming a footnote in wrestling history?

MJF and Cole arrived in the ring for a staredown. Fisticuffs erupted, however, Aussie Open escaped the double clothesline and the kangaroo kick. MJF held Fletcher for a superkick. Cole unloaded, Fletcher dipped out, and MJF caught Cole’s foot. The old miscommunication trick sent turmoil into the minds of MJF and Cole. MJF reacted by teasing a Dynamite Diamond Ring punch, but he thought better of it. The friends hugged it out, however, Cole had those jealous eyes on the Triple B to close the show.

AEW has played this story perfectly for maximum intrigue. As much as I can believe MJF will turn, I can build just as strong a case for Cole to turn. There might even be no turn. So many options, and that’s the beauty of it. Their scenes weren’t flashy for a go-home show, but they were still very effective. The drama is high, and I can’t wait for resolution at All In.

Santana & Ortiz surprise return

Stadium Stampede just got spicier. Eddie Kingston challenged the Blackpool Combat Club to find partners for the All In match. Little did Kingston suspect that his former allies would shack up with the BCC. That’s exactly what happened when Santana and Ortiz returned and aligned with Jon Moxley’s crew.

Moxley was fresh off victory putting Fenix too sleep. Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta rushed the ring with a crowbar to do damage to the luchador. Eddie Kingston, Pentagon, and Alex Abrahantes moseyed down stage for the save, however, Ortiz popped out from the crowd to block their path. Santana received the big screen music treatment to announce his injury return. Tension was teased for a few seconds wondering which side Pride and Powerful were on, then it became clear when they attacked Kingston.

Orange Cassidy and the Best Friends arrived, so the bad guys scattered. In the midst of this chaos, Yuta swung the crowbar cracking Fenix in the head. AEW did a stretcher job to take Fenix away. (Rumors suggest visa issues prevent Fenix from traveling to the UK, so this was a way to write him out of the All In match.) Nothing sells the sincerity of the scene quite like Excalibur going into a solemn ad read for Draft Kings as Fenix was wheeled out of sight.

Stadium Stampede is now five-on-five. Moxley, Claudio, Yuta, Santana, & Ortiz will rumble with Kingston, Pentagon, Cassidy, Trent, & Chuck at All In.

Backstage, Fenix was loaded into an ambulance for transport to a hospital. Renee Paquette tried to get word with Kingston about these happenings. Kingston shoved the mic out of his face with an attitude toward Renee, who was just trying to do her job. Kingston made a vague threat of violence that he is going to fix this at Wembley.

First off, hell yeah for the return of Santana. That was an awesome surprise. I’m a big fan of Santana’s style. I hope he rises higher this time around, whether that be with Ortiz in a tag team or running solo.

Second, Santana and Ortiz are a good fit with the BCC for Stadium Stampede. Not only is it mind games toward Kingston, but they have the skills to mesh with BCC. I wouldn’t mind seeing that as a longer partnership.

Third, it’s interesting that Santana chose to side with Kingston’s enemies. That is a story that needs to be explored. I’m tired of Kingston fighting Claudio. Give me Kingston versus Santana.

Basically, this scene was a home run in building intrigue for Stadium Stampede and beyond.

Billy Gunn is back

Billy Gunn isn’t retired yet. He’s coming for the House of Black. Daddy Ass is taking a seat, and Badass is filling in.

The Acclaimed demanded a fight with the House of Black. They ghoul crew obliged and stomped the numbers game. Billy arrived to even the odds. He was originally intent on retirement. Things changed when HoB attacked his boys and destroyed his boots in an effort to tear down his legacy. He’s coming to All In with the Acclaimed for the trios titles. Billy clarified that he’ll be wrestling as Badass Billy Gunn.

This retirement story for Gunn was nicely executed. They circled around without ever tipping its hand. The story left me unsure of the legitimacy of Gunn’s retirement the whole time. And now, we get at least one more match for Billy. Win or lose, the fans get to savor this moment. A win at Wembley would be electric. Losing in his last match (if it is his last match) would be equally as memorable. Bottom line is that AEW has me hooked with interest for this trios title bout.

AR Fox is fired

AR Fox is gone from the Mogul Embassy. Swerve Strickland fired him and quickly found a replacement for the coffin match against Darby Allin & Sting at All In.

Swerve & Fox came up short losing to Allin & Nick Wayne in tag team action. Swerve put the blame on Fox as a loser. Prince Nana gave Fox his walking papers, and Brian Cage sealed the dismissal with a discus lariat. The Machine added a Drill Claw for good measure. Allin and Wayne came back out flanked by Sting to save Fox. Allin squashed his beef with his friend in Fox.

When Allin questioned Swerve about finding a new partner for the coffin match, Christian Cage came out. He unleashed hell on Wayne about his deceased father with despicable insults. Christian is stepping in to join Swerve for the PPV match.

Of all the interesting angles on Dynamite, this story turn was the one misstep. AEW had something interesting for Fox to thrive, then they pretty much buried him here. He’ll be fine in terms of putting on entertaining matches, but he’ll need major character rehabilitation to reach a higher level of success. Shoehorning Christian into the match fits (due to the TNT title feud with Allin) without making much sense. Swerve has no reason to trust Christian. He would have been better off choosing Cage.

On the positive side, Christian’s heeling was hilariously evil. He went so hard with the disrespect that the video is worth checking out, if you are interesting in his shtick.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

Elite versus Bullet Club Gold. Kenny Omega & the Young Bucks were scheduled to wrestle Juice Robinson & the Gunns in the opener, however, the match never officially started. It was thrown out as a no-contest. The Jacksons launched an attack before the bell. Juice was loose with a chair, but referee Rick Knox snatched it away. Juice responded by coldcocking Knox. It was a melee from there with Jay White, FTR, and Konosuke Takeshita in the mix. The finish of the segment came down to Omega lifting Takeshita for a One Winged Angel, but the Callis Family disciple escaped to safety.

That was a fantastic way to start the show. The scene was fire with excitement. The Bucks kick-started the donnybrook in a fitting way for previous attacks on the Elite. Bullet Club charisma shined through the fisticuffs, specifically from Juice as a wild man. That brawl was so much fun that I was hoping to see the match rescheduled for later in the evening or on Collision. Sadly, that was not the case. In terms of All In, the stories were crossing together all over the place. In terms of starting hot, it was aces. The crowd was jacked and never let down in enthusiasm.

Jon Moxley defeated Fenix. This match was a banger. Mox hit an avalanche Death Rider, but Fenix kicked out on the cover. Moxley went straight to a rear naked choke to send Fenix to sleep.

High-flying luchadores are often viewed as finesse players. Even though Fenix sported the sweetness as usual, his moves hit harder than usual. He was forced to increase his power points to match Moxley’s rugged offense. In doing that, Fenix showed why he is one of the best luchadores today. He was forced to adapt his moves for maximum bang. Fenix pulled out creativity to stun Moxley on several occasions. Moxley upped his game as well once realizing the difficulty of the fight. Great performances all around.

Chris Jericho contract signing. Jericho committed to contracts to wrestle Will Ospreay at All In. Don Callis explained that Ospreay was a better investment, and that’s why he turned on Jericho. Ospreay has the motivation to prove he is the best in the world. He smartly tied in a monetary inspiration to boost his free agent value when his NJPW contract runs out in six months. Jericho shot back with talking points about being a legend. A skirmish ensued when Jericho slapped Ospreay.

For all the talking, those three held my attention. They added personal elements and rivalry elements to enhance the tension. That contract signing strongly sold the importance of the match to each man. Shout out to the crowd for drowning out Callis with boos.

Darby Allin & Nick Wayne defeated Swerve Strickland & AR Fox. Texas Tornado rules in effect. Wayne survived an onslaught of punishment to sneak out the roll-up win when Fox missed on a 450 splash.

The action rocked hard in this match. Fox excelled with creativity on offense. Unfortunately, this match left a sour taste in my mouth. AEW pushed Wayne to a ridiculous level of toughness in this match. He was already badly beaten, then he kicked out on a corkscrew brainbuster, a cradle driver, and Swerve’s dropkick finisher in succession. It comes to a point that it takes me out of the illusion with fakeness. To be clear, this is a personal objection. The live crowd loves what AEW is doing with Wayne. On a story level, Wayne’s resilience can be justified as inner drive for payback when Swerve and Fox ambushed him at his home gym. That makes the superhuman effort understandable in theory.

Ruby Soho defeated Sky Blue. Soho kicked out of Blue’s Sky Fall to rally for a No Future Kick and Destination Unknown.

This was a feisty match. The aggression was heated, and the pace was non-stop. Let’s hear it for Soho winning on her own. She has her eye on Kris Statlander and the TBS Championship. The way that victory unfolded makes me believe Soho can get the job done as a credible challenger.

ROH World Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open retained against the Hardys. The Hardys were on a roll for a superplex to flying splash combo on Kyle Fletcher. Mark Davis made the save. The tide turned when Fletcher thwarted the Hardys’ efforts for a double superplex to Davis. Fletcher powerbombed Matt down to the mat, then Aussie Open focused on finishing Jeff. A teamwork cutter sealed the deal.

Impressive win from Aussie Open. That performance showed them hitting their stride at the right time heading into All In. They have to be the favorites on paper against MJF & Adam Cole. The match itself was entertaining to showcase Aussie Open as a contender for best tag team in the world. The Hardys popped the crowd to much enjoyment, even though, they ate the loss. I have trouble envisioning the Hardys as tag team champions in AEW, but it isn’t for lack of fan support. The legends appeal is still kicking strong.

Notes: The show opened with an in memoriam message for Terry Funk.

The special was Fyter Fest. I’m not quite sure what that theme had to do with anything on this episode. The All In material overshadowed whatever appeal the Fyter Fest brand has in AEW.

Daddy Magic, Cool Hand Ang, and Daniel Garcia confronted Sammy Guevara about backing Chris Jericho. Sammy stated his case for friendship above all, but they reminded Sammy that Jericho is never there for him when needed. I like the JAS subplot giving these fellows something to work with rather than being lost in the drift without Jericho.

FTR and the Young Bucks had a sitdown interview. This match will be about legacy. Matt Jackson veered heel when losing patience with Dax Harwood’s ‘aw shucks’ bit. Matt took credit for FTR even having jobs in AEW. This was an odd turn of character when the Bucks are supposed to be super babyfaces with the reformation of the Elite.

The segment for Jack Perry to retire the FTW title was pushed to Collision.

Stud of the Show: Nick Wayne

Yes, I thought it was ridiculous that Wayne withstood so many heavy moves and still won. However, it was to be recognized in a story aspect that he was unbeatable on this evening. Wayne’s fighting spirit would not die, and that is commendable.

Match of the Night: Jon Moxley vs. Fenix

Badass fight with a clash of styles.

Grade: A

Excellent go-home episode. Fun overflowed on tap. There were so many twists to keep viewers engaged, even though, the All In card was pretty much set beforehand. The story development built up feelings of rowdiness in anticipation for the PPV.

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

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