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AEW Dynamite recap & reactions (Jan. 24, 2024): Samoa Joe needs fresh meat

AEW Dynamite (Jan. 24, 2024) emanated from Enmarket Arena in Savannah, GA. The show featured the world title rankings race heating up for a crack at Samoa Joe, Adam Copeland in a super fight, and more.

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

World title rankings race

Samoa Joe stands tall as AEW world champion, and he awaits fresh meat as the next challenger. That opportunity won’t be given. It must be earned. Hangman Page, Swerve Strickland, and Wardlow jockeyed for position to get the next crack at Joe.

Joe opened the show with a promo to explain as much. The race for the next challenger will revolve around the resurrected rankings. Except as Joe explains it, the prize will be an unmerciful beatdown at the hands of the Samoan Submission Machine.

Once Joe said his piece, Hook entered the scene with a warning. Hook acknowledged Joe as the winner from last week’s title bout, however, he will see Joe again in the ring. Joe rightfully dismissed the young lad and called for security to clear the unworthy from the ring. Hook proceeded to suplex innocent security guards.

Joe’s promo set the story for the evening. This episode was match heavy, however, the carrot of earning a title shot provided a shot of motivation and also added valuable stakes to each bout. These were basically de facto eliminator matches.

Hook’s involvement tied a bow on his story from last week. It kept him in the public eye and planted seeds for long-term storytelling down the line when Hook eventually conquers Joe. I doubt Joe will still have the world title by that time, but it is the symbolism of victory that would matter most to boost Hook. Personally, Hook’s appearance made me cock an eyebrow. He had his moment in the spotlight last week, and it was a good one at that. But the truth is that Joe pummeled him hard. Hook clearly isn’t on that top guy level yet. He’s still a prospect with room to grow. I hope AEW keeps pushing Hook for bigger matches. Just keep him away from the world title scene for the time being.

On to the relevant matches for this topic of conversation.

First up was Hangman Page defeating Pentagon. Joe sat in on commentary. His giddiness was contagious when gleefully observing aggression. Hangman blitzed the luchador with a stampede of offense in the end. A Deadeye piledriver on the apron was followed by a moonsault to the floor. Penta ducked the buckshot lariat, but the cowboy kept running to fire back with a standard lariat. Hangman galloped for the buckshot lariat to earn victory.

Rowdy action. Pentagon put up a heck of a fight. He had no fear and showed it. Hangman kept his focus on moving forward. No matter what Penta dished out, the cowboy reached for an answer in his arsenal. Both looked strong, and that enhances the value of Hangman’s win. The finish was a nifty way to change up the standard formula. It wasn’t just a buckshot lariat to seal the deal. They added an extra two-step to feel fresh.

Next up was Wardlow smashing Trent Beretta. Wardlow imposed his mammoth will despite Trent showing heart to fight. Trent took advantage of a referee distraction to hit Wardlow with a chair. He followed with a tornado DDT and a piledriver, but that couldn’t keep Wardlow down. That sequence was Trent’s best chance at winning, and he couldn’t get the job done. Wardlow caught Trent in the air for a powerslam. War Dog loaded his opponent onto the turnbuckles for a hanging knee strike, then he finished with a marching powerbomb.

Damn, that was an impressive showing from Wardlow. Trent has been on a roll lately. Even though success has eluded him, he took top talent to their limits. That wasn’t the case here. Wardlow showed why is on a pedestal as a power player. This pays off on Trent’s hard work by elevating Wardlow above the field. One thing to keep an eye on, Trent shoved Orange Cassidy out of frustration after the match. Best Friends squashed the incident, but this is another breadcrumb on the trail of tension from Trent.

The third man in the world title hunt is Swerve Strickland. He prevailed over Jeff Hardy. The intensity was physical from both sides using their surroundings to dole out pain. For example, Hardy executed a Twist of Fate on the ring steps. The enigma went for the kill on a swanton, but Swerve rolled away from impact. After a House Call dropkick from the mogul, they tussled a little while longer until a flying double stomp to win.

Hardy brought his best for this bout. He tested Swerve, and thus the win looks more impressive. Swerve is so smooth in the ring. Even when he’s working hard, his movement looks so effortless.

All in all, the rankings story is coming along nicely. AEW is putting forth creative matchmaking with the context to add purpose. Winning streaks are building with genuine momentum to create an effect of believing Joe’s title reign could be short-lived. AEW has had a problem in the past with PPV world title defenses feeling like a holding pattern while waiting for the real threat to emerge. Revolution is shaping up for an unpredictable vibe in the world title scene.

Hangman and Swerve are the clear front runners with Wardlow in the mix as well. At first, signs pointed to a potential three-way challenge for Joe, however, I think AEW needs to be careful if they go that route. Having a tie at the top between Hangman and Swerve would feel like a cop-out flushing down the investment in time watching the story expecting one man to rise.

The first edition of the rankings drop at the end of the month. That leaves one more week for Hangman and Swerve to separate from the pack. With that in mind, AEW booked dealer’s choice. Hangman will pick Swerve’s opponent, and vice versa. I like that element of surprise to spice up the story.

Cope Open super fight

Adam Copeland is working his way back to the TNT Championship with the Cope Open challenge. The latest to answer the call was a Japanese legend. Minoru Suzuki arrived for a super fight.

Copeland and Suzuki ignited a slugfest from the opening bell. Suzuki was tougher. He cracked Copeland on the jaw a few times to drop him like a sack of potatoes. Copeland had to get crafty to stay in the game. When Suzuki applied a guillotine choke on the floor, Copeland rammed him through the barricade wall. Kaboom!

Somewhere along the way, one of the top turnbuckle pads was ripped off. Suzuki applied another choke, and Copeland’s face turned purple from the pressure. Copeland must have noticed the exposed turnbuckle, because he made a last-ditch effort to escape by forcing Suzuki to hit the steel. That tactic worked for separation, then Copeland pounced for the Kill Switch to win.

That super fight left me satisfied. It wasn’t what would classify as a banger, but it maintained that special attraction aura throughout. AEW made Copeland versus Suzuki feel like a big deal, and they delivered enough action to back it up. It’s interesting that Copeland barely escaped. Even though he won, it was through sneaky means. I can’t blame Suzuki for not accepting a post-match handshake. A win is a win for Copeland. It keeps his winning streak alive, while Suzuki is protected in defeat.

Let’s jam through the rest of Dynamite.

It’s Sting! Darby Allin cut a promo about Sting finishing his career on his own terms. That includes going after the AEW tag team titles. Sting is all in on that idea.

Ricky Starks and Big Bill Morrissey accepted the challenge. They plan to make sure Sting doesn’t make it to his retirement match at Revolution. AEW confirmed the championship contest for two weeks away.

Also of note, the Young Bucks resumed their roles as executive vice presidents. Matthew and Nicholas chided Top Flight about credentials. It was basically the Bucks being deluded buttheads to earn your ire when they eventually clash with Sting.

Ankle tattoos. Renee Paquette hosted a sitdown on stage between Toni Storm and Deonna Purrazzo. They hyped the idea of a women’s world title clash. Purrazzo mocked the notion that Storm lost her mind in this new character. The Virtuosa revealed matching ankle tattoos with Storm from when they roomed together. Purrazzo wants that version of Storm in the ring, not this starlet diva.

I’m a little confused at how this feud plans to play out. Obviously, there will be a championship bout. Beyond that, Purrazzo appears to be pressing buttons to snap Storm out of her stupor. The character is too fresh to break now. That has me wondering how Purrazzo’s talking points affect Storm. If there is no effect at all, then this segment would feel like a waste of time in hindsight.

Purrazzo still needs to earn her shot. Taya Valkyrie stepped up for a match next week. It’s great seeing Taya and Johnny again on television as a sultry couple. They ooze chemistry through the screen.

Thunder Rosa defeated Red Velvet. They went from technical exchanges to increasing the aggression for a fist fight. Velvet’s speed gave Thunder trouble, while Thunder had the edge in blunt force. La Mera Mera closed with the Tijuana Bomb.

Solid bout between Thunder and Velvet. Two matches into Thunder’s comeback from injury, and it seems like the finishes need polishing. The bouts were competitive, then it just ends. There’s not much of a transition building to the peak. One issue is Thunder adding a taunt of rubbing out a blunt on the opponent’s back. It takes too long on top of securing double underhooks. That comes back to the previous point of not doing enough damage to believe the opponent can’t escape during these theatrics. Plus, I never picked up a smoking vibe from her character, so it kind of feels out of place. Maybe Thunder hangs out with Cheech and Chong on the down low, for all I know.

AEW World Trios Championship: The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn defeated Mogul Embassy to retain the titles. Bullet Club Gold showed they are in for the new super group partnership. Down the stretch, Bishop Kaun tried to cheat with a steel chair. Jay White ran in to snatch it away, meanwhile, the Gunns lifted Prince Nana off the apron to powerbomb through a table. The champs cleaned up with a Fameasser and the Mic Drop combo on Kaun to win.

That was a fun match. I love watching the Mogul Embassy work their hoss game. It’s so physical. The heroes provided the feel-good moment in victory. Bullet Club Gold solidified trust with their new partners. All the moving pieces gelled well for maximum entertainment.

Notes: Orange Cassidy accepted Roderick Strong’s challenge to wrestle for the AEW International Championship at Revolution, however, he won’t stop defending the title. OC formulated a contender match of friends and enemies. Rampage will host Kip Sabin, Komander, Butcher, and Hijo del Vikingo in a four-way. The winner advances to face Cassidy at Collision.

Buckle up for another classic Jon Moxley promo. There are no victory parties in the Blackpool Combat Club, because there is always a bigger challenge around the corner. Mox leaves his heart and soul in the ring every time in honor of the people who paid hard-earned money to see wrestling. I’m not sure what the larger plan is for Moxley, but at least this gives him motivation for weekly matches.

Serena Deeb is ready with anticipation to return.

Stud of the Show: Wardlow

That was the type of performance that makes Wardlow look scary. Future opponents should be intimidated.

Match of the Night: Hangman Page vs. Pentagon

The cowboy and the luchador showcased style, strategy, and slobberknocking.

Grade: B

Very lively in-ring product, whereas stories inched forward. This episode was more about developing the emotion of angles rather than a big bang.

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

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