This week’s episode of AEW Dynamite was held in the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium in New York City. This special edition of Dynamite was dubbed Grand Slam.
The episode was the held in front of 20,000 people making it the largest crowd to attend an AEW TV event to date. It also featured the AEW in-ring debut of Bryan Danielson in a “dream match” against AEW Champion, Kenny Omega.
Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega (Time limit draw)
The show kicked off with a bang (Kenny Omega pun intended). At first I thought this was odd placement, but after a bit of thought it made some sense. If a time limit draw was to be the finish, the placement of this match was important, because it kept the audience, in attendance and watching at home, from watching the clock. We all assumed this would be the finish, but AEW did a great job in sowing seeds of doubt.
This was a non-title match, which was a very smart move. The standoff at the start of the match was epic. It built tension and the crowd ate it up. Danielson broke out all the moves with the Yes! kicks, running knees, and even a Cattle Mutilation. Omega dumped Danielson on his head multiple times including an Avalanche Dragon Suplex. Omega hit a massive running V-Trigger to the side of Danielson’s head which looked so gnarly! Another highlight was when Bryan turned Kenny’s attempt at a One-Winged Angel into a Reverse Hurricanrana.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) September 23, 2021
The match hit the 30 minute time limit. Honestly, it all felt like 10 minutes. I could watch these two wrestle for 60 minutes, for 90 minutes… I don’t care. It was awesome. I was worried about outside shenanigans, but none of that happened. AEW, smartly, let these two go at it clean. The action was fast and heavy as the clock expired. The timing did seem a little off at the end, but I won’t hold that against the competitors.
Grade: 4.75 Stars
Post match, Bryan put Kenny into the LeBell Lock. The rest of The Elite ran down to save Omega. The SuperKliq triple Superkicked Danielson. Cage and the Jurassic Express come down for the save to set up that 6-Man Tag scheduled for Night 2 of Grand Slam on Rampage.
CM Punk promo time to hype up his match against Powerhouse Hobbs. He said it’s been a while since professional wrestling was in New York City. (SmackDown was just at MSG. Shots fired.) It was a good one. Heel Punk teases. Feels like the honeymoon is almost over.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman def. Brian Pillman Jr
I wasn’t a fan of MJF’s promos during the build. As a child of parents who struggled with substance abuse, I had to tune out when MJF went on about Pillman Jr’s mother. Pillman was never once booked to look strong against MJF. He actually looked like a bit of a chicken when stepped to by Wardlow.
The match was fine. It was inoffensive. Pillman Jr. has come a long way, but still has a ways to go. MJF is a star and needed something to stay occupied. This filler feud should be done now.
Grade: 2.5 Stars
Malakai Black def. Cody
Cody is back! (Groan.) Brandi is back! (Groan.) Yup. Cody came out with Bionic Arm Arn Anderson and surprised us with a returning Brandi Rhodes.
For a match that was supposed to be the culmination of a blood feud, it started out slow and was so overly booked. Black did his impressive flip off the ropes into sitting cross-legged in the center of the ring. Brandi got in the ring, sat across from him, and flipped him off. Arn got on the apron in the wrong spot. Hell off the apron to the floor as he was trying to shimmy himself to the right spot. He got back up on the apron and took the inadvertent shot from Cody. Cody ran down to to the floor to check on Arn. Anderson yelled at him to go back to beating on Malakai. Black hits Cody with the black mist and pins him for the win.
It was an overly booked match that didn’t need to be. They’re trying to protect Cody in defeat, but Malakai needs to be booked like a monster heel (or tweener) and this isn’t the way to do it. I loved Black in NXT. He was wasted on the main WWE roster. AEW is doing a better job than WWE did in building his character, but they’re leaving a ton on the table. Maybe this will put this feud to rest and he can move onto bigger, better, and more interesting things.
Grade: 2 Stars
Sting & Darby Allin vs FTR
Sting is 62 years old and debuted in 1985. He did not look out of place in this match. I know FTR will make anyone look like a million bucks in the ring, but there was something special about the way Sting ran the ropes and took bumps. He looked like he was back in his TNA days. It was awesome. Darby plays the babyface in peril so well. FTR play the jerk heels like no one else can.
Tully wedged a chair in the corner that was meant for Sting, but Sting puts the brakes on and Harwood goes into the chair. Sting rolled up Harwood for 2 and then puts him in the Scorpion Deathlock. Wheeler tried to interfere on the outside and gets a Coffin Drop on the apron for his troubles. Dax taps. Darby and Sting stand tall.
Grade: 3.25 Stars
Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. (c) def. Ruby Soho – AEW Women’s Championship
I was so happy that this championship match was in the right spot on the card – the main event.
I used to enjoy watching Ruby Riot on NXT. Her time as Ruby Riott on the main WWE roster was pretty forgettable or, at least, I’d like to try to forget it. The backstage segments of them littering in the hallways. It was pretty sophomoric in the worst way possible.
Baker has been on a run this past year. She’s been an absolute star during the pandemic era and there appears to be no slowing her down.
My expectations for this match were pretty high. I must say, though, I was left a little disappointed. I understand the thought behind the booking. They wanted to make Ruby look strong in defeat, but they made Baker look weak in victory and made a, still relatively unknown, Jamie Hayter look like a clown instead of the beast they presented her as when she returned to AEW at the end of the Rampage debut.
The action between the two competitors was great. It was the outside interference that took me away from the match and didn’t do the story everyone involved was trying to tell any sort of justice. Overwhelmed by the goons, Ruby got locked up in the Lockjaw and tapped out to Baker.
Grade: 3.5 Stars
AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam
This was an excellent episode of AEW Dynamite. With Part 2 of the Grand Slam event to come with tonight’s Rampage, I feel like we’re off to a solid start. I like how TK and the crew puts in these special events to give them just enough of that can’t miss feeling to help build upon feuds, squash old ones, and/or build new ones between the PPVs. The opener was more than enough the help carry the show. There were some misses along the way, but we were all running off that hemp belt high with the in-ring debut of Bryan Danielson and were blessed with 62-year old Stinger Splashes. This was a mighty fine show. I cannot wait for Rampage!