In 2019, the professional wrestling industry experienced a significant shakeup with the introduction of All Elite Wrestling. With WWE possessing a near-monopoly on the business for decades, AEW gave wrestlers another place to make good money and fans a major alternative product to the one they see on Mondays and Fridays. Two hundred episodes of Dynamite later, the company has established itself as a viable wrestling federation.
This week’s Dynamite wasn’t just a retrospective of the last several years; it also featured several pivotal matches, including a main event bout for the AEW Women’s World Championship. We also learned who Jack Perry’s first FTW Championship defense will be against and what will main event All In at Wembley Stadium.
All in all, it was a good episode.
These were three things that went right on this week’s AEW: Dynamite.
Hikaru Shida wins the AEW Women’s World Championship
It’s fitting that the woman who carried AEW’s women’s division during the pandemic would win the title back in the same building that seconded as WWE’s ThunderDome during that period, and seeing it happen in Dynamite’s main event made it feel even more special.
Indeed, Hikaru Shida — fresh off of defeating longtime rival Nyla Rose — challenged then-champion Toni Storm to cap off the 200th Dynamite. As expected, the two walloped each other for over 15 minutes and the Tampa crowd lapped it up. The closing moments played off of The Outcasts’ penchant for interfering to create a couple of great nearfalls, including when Shida kicked out of Storm Zero.
In the end, Shida countered a Storm rollup with one of her own to score the pin and win her second AEW world title. It was a heartwarming win, but not just for the standard “babyface triumphs over the dastardly heel” reasons. As mentioned, most of Shida’s first reign as champion happened in Jacksonville with no fans in attendance, so it’s nice to see her get another run in front of live audiences.
It was also encouraging to see the women in the show’s main event given the renewed (and rightful) criticism the promotion has received for its lackluster booking of the division. Of course, we’ve seen the “one step forward, two steps back” pattern before with the AEW ladies, so hopefully, this is a path toward a more focused creative vision and not a means to quell those who want to see AEW do more.
Swerve Strickland and AR Fox visit Nick Wayne
Perhaps the “ghosts” of Darby Allin’s past wouldn’t haunt him if he simply called AR Fox after signing with AEW. At least, that’s the reason Fox gave for turning on his former protégé last week. Now, the 16-year pro is aligned with Swerve Strickland, and the two commenced their partnership by showing up at Nick Wayne’s home and beating him to a bloody pulp.
This was a great angle that gives Strickland’s feud with Allin some added juice. Plus, the gruesome attack adds an element of danger to Strickland and Fox’s aura, turning what was already an intriguing storyline into, potentially, one of the best ones in the company.
MJF bares his soul and gives Adam Cole a world title shot at All In
For a self-professed “scumbag”, Maxwell Jacob Friedman makes for a compelling babyface. A few days after shocking the fans by not turning on Adam Cole at the end of Collision, the AEW World Champion opened up to the Tampa crowd about his trust issues and how that has contributed to his demeanor.
We’ve heard Friedman tell some of these stories before — particularly the one where bullies threw coins at him — but the deeper insight into his backstory and willingness to want to do better (and the honesty to admit that he’s not going to change overnight) made it easy to empathize with him. It makes you more willing to give him a chance, even if you think it’s another ruse, and Cole relating to MJF with his own history as a heel lent the segment even more credibility.
As it stands, Cole vs. MJF at All In appears to be babyface vs. babyface (or, at least, friend vs. friend). We will see if that tone maintains as the storyline develops.