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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Jan. 17, 2024): Hook thrives in spotlight

AEW Dynamite (Jan. 17, 2024) emanated from North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, SC. The show featured Samoa Joe as a boss level challenge for Hook, the Young Bucks explaining their motivation to target Sting, Dustin Rhodes stealing the show with Christian Cage, Bullet Club Gold winning gold, and more.

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

Samoa Joe versus Hook for the AEW World Championship

Samoa Joe put AEW’s top prize on the line against Hook in the main event. The question was how well would Hook perform. The cold-hearted handsome devil showed he has the chops to be a star, but it’s not his time just yet.

Justin Roberts rolled out the proper introduction to create a big-fight feel. Hook had has back turned in the corner the whole time. Ring, ring, ring. As soon as the match was underway, Hook exploded with furious offense. He had Joe back on his heels. Joe weathered the storm to knock Hook silly on a back elbow. The champ dominated from there.

Joe executed a vicious uranage onto the commentary table.

Joe added a powerbomb onto the apron, then he strolled a jolly strut.

Commentary put over hard how Hook had no quit in his spirit, and that was the story of the match. No matter how much pain Joe dished out, Hook wouldn’t stay down. Hook kicked out on a musclebuster for crying out loud. This was all setting the stage for Hook’s frantic comeback. The arena popped at his T-Bone suplex on the 300-pounder.

Hook went for the Redrum submission, but Joe countered for the Coquina Clutch. Hook tried to pry Joe’s grip loose. No dice. Hook passed out in defeat.

The show didn’t end there.

Hook rose to his feet as Joe exited the ring. The underdog challenged Joe to put him down again, so Joe obliged with a musclebuster. Hook got up one more time, and Joe was ready to dish out harm. That’s when Hangman Page arrived to restore peace. Swerve Strickland also appeared in the front row to tease challengers coming for the champion. Joe calmly left the ring with his gold.

Strictly speaking about the match, it was electric. Joe and Hook had the crowd rocking. Joe looked like a badass in victory, and Hook showed potential in the biggest challenge of his career to date. That T-Bone suplex was awesome. It goes to show how well they spent the match working to pump the crowd for an explosive babyface rally. But let’s be clear. As well as Hook came across, he still got his ass kicked. He looked like a boy against men when competing with the best of the best in AEW. That will prove worthwhile for Hook’s long-term growth. All in all, this challenge was a fun experiment to see how Hook stacks up, and he thrived in the spotlight.

On the criticism side, aspects of the moment felt silly. I thought commentary tried too hard to get the point across about Hook’s heart. It was like when WWE gets criticized for hammering viewers over the head with a piece of information. Hook’s appeal has been organic, and their words felt manufactured. Hook’s bravado after the match looked foolish. All that shit talking after losing, and it was for a finish where there was no debate. Joe was clearly the better wrestler and the tougher fighter. Heck, Joe could have choked Hook to his death if he wanted. Hook was saved by the rules and the prospect of murder charges, then he acts all tough. Come on.

Despite all that, it is crystal clear that Hook has a bright future. His style in the ring is unique for AEW. I don’t really understand the mass appeal of his persona, but there is no denying that the youngster is over like rover. Getting that kind of reaction is arguably the hardest part, and he already aced that test.

Young Bucks new angle

The Young Bucks made a surprise return last week with hints of being Sting’s last match at Revolution on March 3. This week, the Jacksons spoke on the topic.

As executive vice presidents, it was time to take the job more seriously. The Young Bucks instructed Renee Paquette to address them as Nicholas and Matthew. They heeled it up with arrogance in their answers before delivering the meat of this heel direction. AEW was created to change the world. Along the way, the culture shifted and toxicity crept into the locker room from cancerous superstars. The Bucks weren’t referring to Sting. The Icon is a role model employee, however, he represents a breed not in line with the company mission. It’s time to say goodbye to Sting and those like him.

I have to say that this interview fills me with hope. After displaying similar heel attitudes we’ve seen before, a new wrinkle was added. The Bucks’ logic angle is actually interesting. They’re protecting the company that they see as under attack. There is a lot of room to cultivate that idea to create intriguing feuds. It also has potential to expand in ranks. For example, Jungle Boy would be a perfect fit on their mission after his absence from the CM Punk fiasco. They can blend the lines enough to produce a compelling story.

Sting and Darby Allin didn’t provide an answer about facing the Young Bucks at Revolution, however, they did announce a goal in the meantime. Bring on the AEW tag team titles.

I have to admit that I have some concerns about this direction for Sting and Allin. I don’t want to see Ricky Starks and Big Bill Morrissey become cheap afterthoughts, and I hesitate to think it will foreshadow an obvious title win for the Bucks to retire Sting. Even though those thoughts are looming, it will be best to just enjoy the ride as Sting heads into retirement. One thing about Stinger in AEW is that he always delivers entertainment. Enjoy the journey while it lasts.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

TNT Championship: Christian Cage defeated Dustin Rhodes to retain the title. After Rhodes kicked out from a frog splash, Christian grabbed the title belt as a foreign object. The referee confiscated the gold, then Rhodes scored a sneaky roll-up. Too bad the ref was busy restoring order, because Nick Wayne entered to reverse top position for Christian. Rhodes kicked out. The Natural seized momentum for a suplerplex and a Cross Rhodes. Christian kicked out as a true champion.

Wayne caused a distraction. Rhodes took the bait, except he was ready for those lost boys. Luchasaurus goozled Rhodes, so a low blow kick set him free. Rhodes added a Destroyer to Wayne on the floor. Outside threats were neutralized.

Unfortunately for Rhodes, the flow of the match was not in his favor any longer. Christian sidestepped, and Rhodes collided into the corner. Christian capitalized for a spear and the Killswitch maneuver. Rhodes surprisingly kicked out, so Christian finished the job with a second Killswitch.

That was a damn fine match. Damn fine match! Christian and Rhodes worked the crowd into a frenzy and had them hooked on the idea of Rhodes winning on nearfalls. I was fully along for the ride. This is the kind of performance I want to see from Rhodes when he receives title shots. Past challenges showed him as an old man trying for one last shot at glory, and he ended up being outclassed athletically. Granted, Christian is more on his level of speed, but this was the best Rhodes had to offer. He went in like a star and came out even brighter. Rhodes’ stock as a valuable veteran continues to rise. Looking strong in defeat makes him more credible at this point in his career, and he can pass that juice to anyone who beats him.

Orange Cassidy & Trent Beretta defeated Pentagon & Komander. This bout was set up backstage with substitute partners for Chuck Taylor and Fenix.

Cassidy saved Trent to hit a Beach Break on Penta. OC added a superman punch to Komander. Trent sealed the deal with a Strong Zero on Komander.

Afterward, Roderick Strong and the Kingdom confronted Cassidy about the AEW International Championship. OC wasn’t taking no garbage, so he was ready for an impromptu title defense. Strong backed off his strong talk and issued a challenge for the Revolution PPV. Strong wants to give Cassidy six weeks to marinate in the idea of his reign coming to an end.

High-octane action. The luchadores brought the magic, while Best Friends were a step smarter. It was a good rebound for Trent to earn the pin. That keeps him hot after looking good in recent losses. The bit with Strong and Cassidy has been simmering, and now the title bout is official. Little by little, these interactions are cranking up the intensity for the contest.

One issue I have is how the Undisputed Kingdom feel comfortable walking around at ease. It doesn’t mesh with the idea that they are wanted men for the devil’s backstage attacks. Bullet Club Gold and The Acclaimed have motive to go on the offensive, and yet they are taking their sweet time building toward retribution.

ROH World Six-Man Championship: Bullet Club Gold defeated Mogul Embassy to win the titles. Prince Nana tried to cheat with the title belt, but Anthony Bowens ran in for the save. That allowed Jay White to counter Bishop Kaun for the Blade Runner to win. New champs!

That fight was hard-hitting on behalf of the former champions. The Bang Bang Gang were manhandled until Colten Gunn provided a spark on a hot tag. Thanks to Bowens, the new champs overcame for victory. As much as I’m disappointed that the Mogul Embassy felt like placeholders despite such dominant reigns, I do like the idea of Bullet Club with gold. It gives them purpose to be on television more often with their zany brand of humor. The Acclaimed are thawing the ice for primo scissoring. As for the Gates of Agony, I hope AEW provides them opportunity. Kaun and Liona are beasts with a badass aura, and they deserve screen time.

Deonna Purrazzo defeated Anna Jay. During the climax, strikes were exchanged. Purrazzo ducked to counter for the Venus de Milo double armbar.

Toni Storm had joined commentary for the contest. Afterward, Purrazzo talked trash toward a title shot. Storm was outraged and sat atop Luther’s shoulders to voice her disapproval. Purrazzo and Mariah May threw shoes at each other.

Purrazzo is building her path to the top, and she’s showcasing her submission skills along the way. Anna put up a decent fight, but the technical savvy of the Virtuosa were too much to handle. Storm is a hoot in character with her wild speech. Climbing onto Luther was a hilarious visual. One missing ingredient thus far is believing Purrazzo could win the world championship from Storm. It makes sense on paper with Purrazzo’s résumé, but AEW needs to figure out a way to make the result feel in doubt before the women throw down in the ring.

Private Party defeated Top Flight. Marq Quen scored a roll-up and grabbed the ropes for leverage.

This was a nice display of high-flying ability. Top Flight were air traffic controllers until Quen showed his skills in return from injury. He went back and forth for a variety of dives. The finish was pretty hectic, and I had no clue who was the legal man. Private Party ended up hitting Gin & Juice on Dante Martin, then Quen figured out Darius Martin was actually the legal wrestler. This story has potential to develop into an exciting feud. That is the kind of material AEW needs to give more purpose to the mid-card.

Notes: Renee Paquette spoke with Swerve Strickland about going after the AEW World Championship. Swerve has all eyes on him as the most dangerous man in the company. He spoke highly of Hangman Page’s ability only to point out that the cowboy couldn’t beat him. There is no need for Swerve to prove it again.

Renee also spoke with Hangman. The world title is his focus as well. He claimed not to even think about Swerve, which I don’t believe for one second. Lies!

Chris Jericho is on a seek and destroy mission toward the Callis Family for their interference in the tag team title bout last week. Matt Sydal offered support with a singles challenge to get back in the ring. Do what El Ocho does best, which is wrestle. Jericho warned he has a lot of pent-up aggression.

Mark Briscoe and family honored the memory of Jay Briscoe, who died one year ago. Mark announced a positive blessing. Young Gracie Briscoe was in the car crash too, and she was told by doctors that she would never walk again. Gracie walked out on stage in an emotional moment. When it comes to these types of memorial moments, AEW always gets it right.

Adam Cole is focused on guiding Wardlow to winning the AEW World Championship. Cole phrased the title as property of the Undisputed Kingdom. When asked if Wardlow agrees, the answer was, “Boom!” I find it interesting that Wardlow didn’t reply affirmatively or negatively. It feels like he’s not buying Cole’s bullshit about sharing the title.

Stud of the Show: Hook

Hook showed he has that special quality as a wrestler. It amazes me how he continues to pass each test as a performer with increasing weight of expectations. In the biggest match of his career, Hook didn’t skip a beat.

Match of the Night: Christian Cage vs. Dustin Rhodes

Two veterans giving it their all to put on an excellent match.

Grade: A-

Good entertainment all around.

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

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