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The 3 Rs: The Right, The wRong, and The Ridiculous of AEW Dynamite, WWE NXT, and WWE Smackdown

April 19, 2021 | Posted by Tony Acero


To 4! 1! 1!

It’s week one, and you already know why you’re here. Join me, Michael Ornelas, and Robert Winfree

By Tony Acero

Debuting next week!

By Michael Ornelas

I’m going to be completely honest and admit that I’m quite behind on NXT. I’d seen every episode up until the start of the pandemic last year, but the couple of months without any audience reaction whatsoever caused me to drop off. I’ve been working my way back through it on Peacock, but I’m still not current. All this to say that this review may overlook some context, and for that I apologize. Starting next week, someone else will be covering NXT so you only have to put up with it this one time.

NXT Tag Team Champions MSK def. Killian Dain & Drake Maverick [***]
Mercedes Martinez def. Jessi Kamea [¾* ]
KUSHIDA def. NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar [***¾]
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott def. Leon Ruff [***¼]
Bronson Reed, Dexter Lumis, Shotzi Blackheart, & Ember Moon def. The Way [***]

The End Is Here: Opening the show with a “the new champion has arrived” style promo is nothing new, but it’s a good tool to establish new champions. Karrion Kross is a mixed bag for me personally, and I almost think he’s too intense for his own good. But that’s personal taste, and I can’t objectively fault him for that. His entrance is always dope, and the message here was clear and dominant so it gets a Right from me. I’m curious to see who steps up to challenge him next.

MSK Retains/Post-Match Insanity: MSK had a fine little match with Dain and Maverick, defending their titles for the first time. I actually laughed out loud at the spot where Dain power bombed Maverick, intending to do it onto Carter, but Lee pulled him out of the way and it was just…a regular power bomb. Entertaining stuff from a pretty odd pairing. After the match, former Insanity stablemate Alexander Wolfe distracted Killian Dain before Imperium (sans WALTER) made a statement and beat him down. I’m not sure if this is the start of an angle or a continuation as I’ve been a little out of the loop, but I appreciated the move as there are many interesting directions it can go.

Stone Better Have My Money: A quick backstage segment with Mercedes Martinez looking for money she’s owed by Robert Stone sets up a match with Jessi Kamea. Stone’s gloves look ridiculous, but if he can afford something gaudy like that, presumably he should be able to give Mercedes her money.

O’Reilly vs. Cole Video Package: I haven’t actually gotten to see their match yet, but this recap video was HYPE! The fact that they both were hospitalized, and were stretchered in next to one another is such an amazing way to sell a brutal match. Cole’s trash talking made it even better.

Mercedes Gets Momentum: Mercedez made quick work of Kamea in a squash that lasted less than two minutes, but that’s not the story here. She got her money from Stone, and then put Raquel Gonzales on notice. The idea of Martinez in the title picture excites me. Where do I sign up?

The Emperor of Lucha Libre’s Open Challenge: Santos Escobar has that “It” factor to him. I loved him as King Cuerno in Lucha Underground, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen of him in NXT. His English isn’t too bad either! Handled properly, the sky is the limit with him. KUSHIDA answered his challenge and proceeded to take his championship just after Escobar established himself as the undisputed champion. The match was quite good, and KUSHIDA’s win doesn’t undercut Escobar in any way, shape, or form. Good stuff all around.

Ciampa & Thatcher Champing at the Bit: Ciampa reflects on what got them to this point as Thatcher points out that they finish what they start. MSK and the NXT Tag Team Championship are in their crosshairs, and I think that’s a good feud to further establish MSK.

Devlin Gets in KUSHIDA’s Face: I guess this is the episode where all champions are put on notice by future challengers. That said, despite feeling redundant since it’s the third time we’ve seen it on this show alone, this was a great backstage bit to set up a future match between the two. Devlin’s line “Just because you can run up a ladder faster than someone doesn’t make you the better wrestler” was the perfect line to make sure he doesn’t lose any shine following his loss at Stand & Deliver.

Monet is Money: Remember what I just said about challengers putting champions on notice? It happened again. But I ain’t mad. Franky Monet made her debut in the bougiest way possible. Her Pomeranian was just chillin’ and she made an impression. She debuted interrupting a congratulatory promo between Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzales, but what closed the segment was even more celebratory as Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair made an NXT homecoming. It was a cool moment, but wholly unnecessary. Not complaining in the slightest, but the only real takeaway from this was the debut of Monet.

Roddy’s Resignation: I love that the implosion of the Undisputed Era has real stakes, and has cost Strong his desire to even be on the same brand as his former allies. Good storytelling and I hope Strong doesn’t get lost in the shuffle on the main roster, but given that he’s not a great promo, I’m scared.

Swerve and Leon Rough Each Other Up: Leon Ruff has such amazing underdog fire. I got way more into this match than I expected to. You’ll see my thoughts about the Swerve promo from earlier in the show below, but this match may have sold me on him as a heel. The little dickish things he did, like grinding his forehead against Ruff through the ropes so he could talk trash where we’re used to seeing a boot to the throat…it was great. He got some big shots in against Ruff, and Ruff had several hope spots to make me believe in him as well. This was great.

Ruff’s Revenge: Quick and effective backstage beatdown from Leon Ruff to continue things with Swerve. This showed an intense side of Leon I didn’t know existed and I dug it.

Swerve in the Lab: I’m on the fence about a heel Swerve, or at least this heel gimmick specifically. He’s got such a natural babyface charisma. I said the same thing about Sami Zayn though when he turned, and I’ve been proven wrong there. We’ll see where this goes, but this little segment talking about his upcoming match with Leon Ruff was right in the middle for me.

Pete Dunne is ALSO Here for Championships: Nothing against the actual content or delivery of this promo but JEEEEZ! This whole show is just people saying they want championships! Don’t get me wrong, I love making the titles feel important, but can we maybe spread it out over a few weeks while those who declared their intentions this week attempt to build momentum before someone else throws their name in the hat? I’m not going to put this in the wRong, but it’s diminishing returns.

It Takes Eight to Tango: The main event was a mixed bag for me. First and foremost, the action was largely good, with fun spots and the women getting to shine by doing spots on one another and the men. The Indi Hartwell/Dexter Lumis crush angle is all types of weird, and while her physical comedy game is on-point, I found it hokey. And I’m certain I’m a hypocrite because if AEW did something like this, I’d eat it right up. But they’ve also established themselves as a brand that has comedy integrated right in, so it wouldn’t be as off-putting in that setting. This wasn’t bad, but it was a good match with a jarring angle, so I’m going with purgatory.

The Way Promo: Man, this backstage interview is the first new Johnny Gargano promo I’ve seen in ten months…is he a comedy act now? The members of this group are talented, but this little interview to preview their 8-person tag later in the show did nothing to make me want more of this. I know the act isn’t new, but it’s new to me, and seeing Austin Theory as a stooge to Gargano, who’s also kind of a stooge bothers me. Gargano is a top talent in the world of wrestling, and I know he’s done it all in NXT, so maybe this is what he wants, but the semi-goofy vibe of this group doesn’t sit well with me.

Zoey Stark Sets Her Sights on Gold: New face, same promo. I swear, everyone on tonight’s episode wants to make it known that they want to be champion. I get it. You all should want to be champion, that’s part of the gig. But can we get some variety? At least Mercedes Martinez also takes exception to Stark’s title aspirations so that we can have a contendership bout.

By Michael Ornelas

Hey wrestlefrendz! Thanks for joining me for another edition of the 3Rs! This week, I’m bringing you my thoughts for AEW Dynamite. AEW: the easiest wrestling show to watch this side of the Pacific! Let’s jump to it so I can spend all this Khan money.

AEW Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks def. Death Triangle [****¼]
Jade Cargill def. Red Velvet [**¾]
Anthony Ogogo def. Cole Carter [*]
Chris Jericho def. Dax Harwood [***¼]
Kris Statlander def. Amber Nova [*½]
TNT Champion Darby Allin def. Matt Hardy in a Falls Count Anywhere Match [***¼]

Bucking Decency: The show cold opened with a pre-tape from the Young Bucks addressing their “official” heel turn last week and it’s clear the trigger was finally pulled. All the criticism about their will they/won’t they attitudes should be a thing of the past now that they’ve made a decision. And I’m here for it. The opening tag team contest was a coming out party for the heel Bucks in AEW, and what a celebration it was. The match was incredible. Rey Fénix and Pac put in work as the sublime athletes they are, while the Bucks showed up in the character department. I want to punch them both in the face, and I suspect that will be the case for quite some time. If you didn’t catch this match, it’s worth seeking out.

Hangman Dodges What’s Important: It’s nothing new that Hangman’s head isn’t in the game. He was asked about being number one contender and Omega’s realignment with the Young Bucks, and his answer deflects. He talks about Jon Silver’s rehab (did you see how high he was able to get his arm?? Go Jon!!), and walks off. When Page finds his confidence, it is going to blow him up as the face of the company. He’s doubted himself as the proverbial second fiddle to Omega since before their tag team even started, and it’s led him to the bottle. He’s slumming it with the Dark Order, but I think the friends in low places are going to get his head in the right place, and we’re going to see Cowboy Shit dominating the top ranks of AEW. And it’ll only take one well-timed interruption of Omega to pop the crowd huge for his arrival as a serious contender. But we’re still a ways away from that. I’m just enjoying the ride until then.

Yo’ Mama’s Kitchen Gets Jaded: Before Cargill’s in-ring debut, everything she did made me cringe. But wow has she stepped up as an actual talent. She’s still green, but there’s a ton of room to grow. And Red Velvet made this match hot right from the get-go. She’s an underrated plucky babyface talent in the women’s division, and I want to see more of what she’s capable of outside of this feud. Put her against Britt; it did a lot for Big Swole before she had to take time off for Crohn’s Disease complications. This match wasn’t a classic or anything but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Velvet’s suicide dive looked great, as did Jade’s fallaway slam into the front row.

Britt Baker Is Climbing the Ranks: Short but sweet backstage segment both hypes up Dark: Elevation and Baker’s intentions to become champion. Nobody has grown as much as Baker since her AEW career started, and I’m excited for the day when she’s champion.

O-go-go Gadget Fist: I just about sat up out of my seat when a punch to the gut finished off a jobber. Ogogo has my attention, and that’s a good thing. That is the way to get over the strikes of a debuting Olympian.

Miro Puts All Champions on Notice: The build of monster Miro continues as we got a wicked intense promo where Miro is all but ready to ditch Kip Sabian and move on to fulfill his destiny of winning titles. The momentum is on Miro’s side and I. Am. Here for it.

The Enforcer Enforceth: I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a special guest enforcer do what they were brought in to do like Mike Tyson in the Dax Harwood vs. Chris Jericho match. He took away a chair and a bat from The Pinnacle and the Inner Circle. He kept the outside interference outside. I’m pretty sure there was a moment where Harwood was pinning Jericho and Guevara was positioned to pull Aubrey out of the ring, but then suddenly he didn’t. It was off-camera, but I think Tyson put a stop to that. And then when the big brawl spilled out to the ringside area, it looked like we were about to get the typical heel finish where Cash got the interference through…but Tyson cut him off and knocked his ass out! The overbooking made Tyson look incredibly competent and made the most of his role, and I appreciated that. And then there was the match, which was good! Dax Harwood is wrestling’s secret weapon, and Jericho had a pep in his step to keep up with him. Most importantly, this chapter in the feud made me want to see more, so mission accomplished.

Bullet Club United: Quick outside interview with Callis, Omega, The Good Brothers, and The Young Bucks which established that they’re all on the same page finally, and they talk trash about being the best, doing things their way, and having more surprises to come. They were douchey, they gave motives, and they progressed the story along.

The Alien Has Landed: Kris Statlander made her in-ring return and made quick work of Amber Nova. The match was perfectly fine to re-introduce the audience to her moveset and character. The outside support from The Best Friends adds to her presence and makes her click. I popped for Orange half-assing it when raising her arm in victory, only for her to correct it and force him to hold her arm all the way up. Nova did her part to make Kris look good, and got some of her personality through. Good stuff, quick match, and the segment did what it was supposed to do.

Hobbs’ Time to Shine: I was a big fan of the decision to leave Starks and Brian Cage in the back so that Will Hobbs gets the chance to establish himself against Christian. Christian is such a pro, so Hobbs looked great here. Christian turning down Team Taz was the obvious move, but the fact that he gets a match with Hobbs out of it was not. I’m looking forward to their match next week now.

Utilizing the Falls Count Anywhere Gimmick: This match has components that are going to end up in all the categories below, so bear with me. The main event Falls Count Anywhere match between Matt Hardy and Darby Allin for the TNT Championship was wild to say the least. The brawl spilled to the outside, to the stage, and even the Gorilla position. I appreciated that they actually went backstage, as it’s the best way to make FCA matches distinct. The action between Hardy and Allin was intense, and it was clear Matt did everything he could to put over Darby decisively. This is exactly why AEW needs veterans in the company, and I’m glad they’re choosing to go there. The finishing Coffin Drop was bomb too.

Team Taz Backstage Drama: This isn’t puRgatory for the booking or story direction. It’s for performance. I know Starks has potential and loads of upside, but his delivery in promos needs work. He’s a caricature right now and I want a character. Caricatures are fine for the midcard (see Jon Silver, who I freaking love), but I feel like Starks is destined for more than the midcard, so my expectations are higher. Regardless, I’m excited for the eventual implosion and to see what happens with them in the aftermath.

Stable Wars: The main event had a bit too much of this for me. The Hardy Family Office’s involvement made a lot of sense because their leader is challenging for the title. Sting’s involvement? Absolutely, he’s had Darby’s back. The Dark Order? Sure, they’ve been feuding with the Hardy Family Office, but they don’t really have ties to Darby, so now it’s an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” type of situation. Lance Archer…kind of? He’s trying to prove himself to Sting, but he’s also not been on the same page as Darby before. Regardless, I’m glad he was even on the show after his frustration last week where he talked about being booked one week but not the next. It’s important to keep up his visibility as he’s truly been a great talent for AEW. And then lastly, there’s Page and Scorpio…why? Why here? Why this match? More on them later. Overall though, there was so much going on here that even if there were character motivations for most of them, it was just too much. It didn’t really hurt the match, so I’m not going to say this is wrong. But it sure as hell wasn’t Right.

Ethan Page & Scorpio Watch from the Cheap Seats: The roster bloat is real. Ethan Page debuted at Revolution as a big deal, despite coming up short in the match that Sky won, and he’s wrestled on Dynamite once, maybe twice since then? For what it’s worth, I think he has a star-like quality to him and I want to see more of him, but scouting from the rafters and joining a tag team that will probably never win gold isn’t it. I see them handling Page the same way they handled Miro upon his debut, where they put him in a placeholder tag team until it’s his time. It’s better than having meaningless squash matches, so I appreciate the effort to give him an ally and a story…but I would like to see somebody debut and be a big deal right off the bat. Or at least for the time being, maybe don’t have anyone new debut.

Darby Allin Kicks Out of the Chair-Assisted Twist of Fate: A wrestler’s finisher is supposed to be sacred. They get kicked out of from time to time, but that’s exactly why a wrestler would put some extra oomph on it and do a weapon-assisted variant. The superultramega variant of your finisher should never be kicked out of. Darby is portrayed as the stereotypical underdog, but he is able to kick out of pretty much everything. It’s hard to be both, but in this instance, I think they pushed it too far.

By Robert Winfree

Rey Mysterio w/ Dominik defeated Otis w/ Chad Gable [**]
Kevin Owens defeated Sami Zayn via count out [**1.2]
Dirty Dawgs (Ziggler and Roode) retained the Tag Team Titles over the Street Profits [***]
Natalya defeated Shayna Baszler [DUD]
Cesaro defeated Jey Uso via DQ [***]

Paul Heyman talks: Heyman had two talking parts tonight, at the opening he built up Edge and Bryan as means of further puffing up Roman in expectedly excellent ways. The second one was almost better, his glorious narrative bait and switch about Roman possibly wrestling Cesaro only to insert Jey Uso should be studied. Even with the little switch there being very obvious the delivery and word choice were so good it kind of hooked you. Adjacent to this, Roman’s mic work continues to be excellent as well and he really seems in tune with his character. Just walking away from Cesaro like he wasn’t even there was a perfect move for him.

Bianca Belair talks: Belair doesn’t have a great character at the moment, and a ton of her promos in the build up to Mania felt like every generic athlete/fighter pre or post event interview ever. I genuinely kept waiting for her to pimp her after party. But her overall delivery helps push this segment up into the Right, and I really can’t stress enough how much Montez Ford helped here. Ford’s almost always at 11, but it feels more genuine when discussing his wife and I always appreciate how different wrestlers interact with each other like that. Way too much contemporary booking takes place in a character vacuum, so seeing how these three interact when there’s no program was a breath of fresh air.

Pat McAfee: There were some technical hiccups here, Pat’s mic sounded lower in volume than Cole’s, and there’s something about the quality of his voice that I struggle to follow. But he and Cole had decent chemistry, he actually cared about what was going on in the ring, and with a bit more experience he could be quite good.

They Fight and Bite, Fight Fight Fight, Bite Bite Bite: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had a match. It wasn’t bad, mostly because I don’t think these two can have a bad match with each other, but they’ve done this so often it’s become a blur. There was nothing bad, but nothing to actively distinguish it from any other encounter these two have had. The ending was weird too, Sami takes the count out loss but then eats a post match Stunner anyway. Odd choice.

The Tag Team Scene: I’m lumping a few segments together here. There are a whopping 4 tag teams on Smackdown right now, 2 faces and 2 heels. This means that whichever group isn’t fighting over the belts gets stuck together for whatever reason. In this case Los Mysterios and the Alpha Academy are still going back and forth because there’s nothing else for them to do, not because what they’re doing is story driven. The Profits and Dawgs have decent chemistry but are horribly over exposed to each other, their match here was fine but they’ve worked each other so much with nothing really differentiating most of their interactions that their stuff winds up here.

Cesaro push?: So Cesaro might finally be getting a serious push, and had a decent little promo after Heyman ran him down. This slots into purgatory because of the Rollins run in. I was really hoping those two would be one and done, not because they pair up badly but because the main event scene needs freshening up. Rollins and Cesaro continuing their program means we’ll get Bryan or Edge battling Roman at the next PPV and I’d just rather we move on. Plus WWE has got all of us so gun shy about actually pushing Cesaro that I’m not sure we’ll believe it until he’s holding the belt.

Crews debuts his Dora Milaje Omos Commander Azeez: Did someone decide that every show WWE produces needs this dynamic on it? I’m not opposed to Crews getting some minions, but we’re on our umpteenth “small worker teams with large awkward strong guy” iteration. It’s just lazy and repetitive at this point.

Women’s Tag Team Stuff: This is the 4th or 5th week in a row we’ve had some iteration of Natalya rolling up Baszler or Jax after shenanigans, occasionally the reverse, and I’m incredibly sick of it. This was pointless filler, more interested in Tamina and Nia Jax existing in close proximity to each other than anything to do with the belts or the other two women. Also we’re about 50/50 on Tamina and Jax just teaming up to be one horrible dangerous tag team that no one wants to work with. Can’t wait for next week when we do this same song and dance again, with probably even less payoff down the road since there seems to be more actual time devoted to turning Jax into a klutz on RAW with her and Baszler taking on the Barbie Twins.

There ya have it folks, week 1 of the 700th time this column has come back! I only hope to do Larry proud! Looking forward to your feedback