The Dog Collar Match was important for Cody’s character and AEW as a whole, and it was an overall success.
The American Nightmare Cody has always been a fan of grandiose performances in AEW.
This is the wrestler who smashed a throne in a clear reference to Triple H at AEW’s first pay-per-view, was whipped on live TV by former friend MJF, and performed a moonsault on top of a steel cage. Cody has done everything in his power to make his appearances big and memorable, leading to much tragedy and triumph. One of his more recent matches, however, was marked with tragedy when Brodie Lee absolutely destroyed him to take the TNT Championship belt.
Then, things got a little weird. There was some whiplash with Cody going from leaving on a stretcher and being gone for a few weeks only for him announcing that he’d be co-hosting a game show before coming back soon after with jet black hair and a desire for revenge.
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The idea of Cody being out for a while made a lot of sense. His TNT Title defenses were consistently excellent on Dynamite, but giving him some time away would keep things from getting too stale. The game show announcement and quick return just felt awkward, and it was strange to see him tease a seemingly darker persona just as the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega were teasing their own darker personas.
However, despite the awkwardness, there was plenty of potential for Cody’s character with the announcement of a Dog Collar Match with Mr. Brodie Lee for the TNT Championship.
This of course made many a fan Google “What is a dog collar match”, and it is indeed a brutal stipulation. Cody did what he arguably does best and accepted the challenge in an emotional and fiery promo, and the match was set for Chris Jericho’s 30th Anniversary Special
Fun Fact: Chris Jericho himself participated in a Dog Collar Match at WCW Uncensored ’99. Coincidence? Maybe, but a nice one at that.
AEW Dynamite’s Dog Collar Match was brutal and action-packed
Arguably, the success of Cody’s new direction was dependent on the success of this match, so how did it go?
Well, it is absolutely commendable for Cody and Brodie Lee to not only do this match in the Florida humidity but to also have it be so brutal while keeping a sense of momentum and energy.
For starters, AEW always excels with their video packages, and the one that played before this match was no different. It was also cool to see Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who famously had a Dog Collar match against Roddy Piper, in attendance for the match.
Once the match started, the progression of brutality with the chain was outstanding. After an initial tug of war, the chain wasn’t used much at first, with Cody and Brodie going for more standard moves. However, that didn’t last too long, and the match got bloodier and crazier.
Brodie used his size to his advantage, often dragging Cody around. One particularly amazing spot early on was when Cody tried to go for a springboard cutter, jumping onto the top rope, only to have Brodie pull him back onto the mat. Need I remind you that the chains are around their necks?
Cody, on the other hand, was extremely creative with his chain use. At one point, while at ringside, Cody pulled Brodie off the mat and into a cutter in one of the most impressive spots of the match. He also wasn’t afraid to choke Lee with the chain and even give him a crotch shot with the chain.
There was a palpable air of tension and seriousness with this match. Even when compared to his attempt at revenge against MJF, Cody never quite felt this sadistic and violent. His fight with Mr. Lee felt extremely personal, which made it all the more entertaining. It was also to the surprise of no one that Cody started bleeding pretty early into the match, and Brodie started bleeding even more not too long after.
The match wasn’t without a couple of minor hiccups though. For anyone watching Dynamite on TNT, perhaps the most visually impressive and built-up spot in the match, where Cody put Brodie through a table moved next to the ring, happened while the show was in picture-in-picture. It also appeared that the chain at Brodie’s collar was having some slight issues, causing the referee to check on it a few times. However, for such a chaotic and action-packed match, some issues are almost to be expected, and it is again commendable for both wrestlers to put themselves through it all.
With violent spot after violent spot, Cody eventually got the upper hand once again, wrapping the chain around Lee’s face and hitting him with elbow shots, with the close-up of Lee’s face being just so perfect. Cody then hit Lee with the Cross Rhodes, leading to the win.
Cody once again did what he does best and grabbed a mic. His mini interview with Tony Schiavone was extremely emotional, silencing any doubters and reestablishing himself as a babyface champion, even if he had to go down a dark path to get there.
Admittedly, it was a little surprising to have Cody win back the title a little over a month after losing it. Brodie Lee winning the belt really established him and the Dark Order as a serious force to be reckoned with, and taking it off of him might make Lee look weak. However, Mr. Lee did not look weak in the ring. His resiliency, at one point kicking out of an earlier Cross Rhodes after a particularly tough beating after only one count, and the absolute hurt he dealt to Cody showed that he was still intimidating.
Between Brodie getting knocked out before submitting against Moxley and his performance in the Dog Collar match, Brodie has been stellar at looking strong even in defeat.
Even if his brief absence and quick return was somewhat clunky, this match showed Cody giving another high-level, dramatic performance, only in a way that felt fresh. The dog collar stipulation ended up not feeling like a gimmick, but more like a symbol of where Cody was at going into the match.
During his time in AEW, Cody has consistently fallen short. He lost to Chris Jericho via betrayal and lost to MJF after going through 10 lashes and a steel cage match. Even after he finally succeeded with the TNT Title, it was quickly taken away from him. He lost it all again, and was perhaps at a point where going heel would make total sense. And yet, Cody fought through the challenge and vowed to stay who he is.
The Dog Collar match, in all its brutality, was all about Cody conquering a foe from a place of doubt and darkness, making his ascent in victory a real feel-good moment.