Write Forever: AEW Dynamite Grand Slam 9/20/23
It's a night of title matches and redemption stories with three championships on the line in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Can Samoa Joe complete the gauntlet of running through the eliminator tournament to become the new AEW World Heavyweight Champion, or is MJF going to right the wrong of being shoved in a hallway eight years ago?
The Mad King Vindicated
On commentary, the quartet (Excalibur, Taz, Tony, and Ian) recalled the shared history of not only Eddie and Claudio but referee Bryce Remsburg. This rivalry goes back over a decade and spans multiple promotions, the catalyst for this particular story point being that Eddie resents Claudio for leaving the indies for WWE without doing business the right way on his way out.
For Eddie Kingston, this was a chance to solidify himself in AEW/ROH by finally becoming a World Heavyweight Champion. For Claudio Castagnoli, it was an opportunity to shut Kingston down and prove once and for all that he was the better man.
Early in the match, Claudio's knee ricocheted off of the railing off of a whip from Eddie which played into things a bit the rest of the match. For Eddie, it was a Claudio headbutt into an attempted backfist followed by a leaping stomp onto his hand reducing the power of one of Eddie's most important weapons.
Late in the match, Kingston countered a Ricola Bomb into a hurricanrana for a two-count before kicking out of a successful Ricola Bomb. Eddie bounced back with a pair of urakens followed by a half & half suplex, another uraken, and a Northern Lights Bomb but that all only earned him a two.
With one final uraken and a follow-up powerbomb, Eddie finally did it – he covered Claudio for the three as the New York crowd exploded. Eddie Kingston finally solidified himself as the real deal and a World Heavyweight Champion at the expense of one of his most hated enemies (editor's note: Eddie Kingston has several hated enemies).
Keeping his promise, and the Code of Honor, Claudio shook the hand of Eddie after the match and handed him the ROH World Heavyweight Title before departing.
Any and every good thing for Eddie Kingston for the rest of his life.
Of Friends and Necks
In the ongoing saga of Neck Health and Neck Health Awareness, Roderick Strong laid in a hospital bed with The Kingdom at his side. The Kingdom had to leave as Taven (I'M MATT TAVEN) explained that they had to prepare to become number one contenders for the ROH Tag Titles with Roddy wishing them good luck. Adam Cole arrived late and had a few words for Roddy before telling him he had to leave in support of MJF, to which Roddy complained.
As Cole walked away, Roderick raised his incredibly noisy hospital bed reminiscent of WWE ruining then-Aleister Black's entrance by adding a creaky sound effect. He told Cole to just leave before lowering his bed back down.
In a match I wasn't necessarily clamoring for, Chris Jericho defeated Sammy Guevara. Building off of all of the tumult within and around the Jericho Appreciation Society, Jericho and Guevara decided that the best move would be to face each other to settle their differences before setting their sights on tag team gold.
Jericho won what was, unsurprisingly, a pretty good match. The two embraced post-match before Guevara punted Jericho below the belt. As the crowd rained boos down upon Guevara standing over Jericho, Don Callis sauntered down the ramp with his bulbous red head.
Callis patted Guevara on the back and the two left together, the assumption being that Guevara is the newest acquisition of the Don Callis family. After the break, Callis and Guevara blew off Renee Young and said more answers would come Friday on Rampage. A frustrated Daniel Garcia confronted the duo but Callis ushered Guevara off, telling him "that kid's money!"
It'd be great to see these guys all get out of the orbit of Chris Jericho, who seems to absorb wrestlers for months on end into storylines about or surrounding him. This feels like somewhat of a new spin for Guevara as he sets off with Callis at his side, but I'm not so sure Guevara, Callis, or Garcia will be escaping the gravitational pull of The Ocho just yet.
I wouldn't be mad about a serious run for the trios title with 2point0 and Garcia, or Garcia being the guy who eventually dethrones Jon Moxley for the International Title. Garcia became a favorite of mine on the indies before coming to AEW but his stock has really risen since signing. He's developed much more of an in-ring/on-screen personality than he had prior to joining AEW and it's only made him a much more well-rounded wrestler (not sports entertainer).
Hey, nevermind that shit I was saying about Garcia being the guy to beat Moxley for the International Title. In the International Title Match, Rey Fenix upset (in my opinion) Jon Moxley to become the new champion!
This makes two-thirds of Death Triangle who have held the International Title. Again, unsurprisingly, this match slapped. The ending came awkwardly and abruptly; Fenix hit his Fire Thunder Driver and went for the cover. Referee Rick Knox counted one, two... and then stalled before hitting the three count despite Moxley not having moved a muscle. He feigned checking for space under Moxley's shoulders, but the crowd in person and at home knew something was off.
Fenix picked Mox up and planted him with the move a second time, cradling Moxley for the successful three before the ringside doc got into the ring to check on Mox. Not sure at the writing of this if this was pure referee goof 'em up or Mox not kicking out of the first piledriver when he should have due to injury, but it deflated the ending quite a bit.
All in all, a bit strange on not just the ending of the match but also the timing of a Moxley loss. Mox just beat Orange Cassidy, who ran through everybody for weeks upon weeks as a fighting champion. If Mox wasn't meant to lose here, then it makes a little more sense that a guy knocked out by a piledriver just couldn't kick out. If he was meant to lose, it just feels like a little too soon for a title change.
We'll see where Fenix takes the title, though – it's not like he won't have incredible matches as champion, just that it's a weird time for that transition to happen.
After the break, Excalibur informed us that Mox did, indeed, leave the ring under his own power which is obviously the best you can hope for.
Of Friends and Necks But Also World Championships
Now completely embracing the starlet role, Toni Storm entered to dramatic 1920s strings and a black and white overlay with a choppy framerate. Toni Storm is great but something about this gimmick isn't fully hitting for me. Is it too silly? Too much of a weirdo character? I'm not sure exactly, but I'm not as in love with it as everyone else seems to be. Regardless, Toni Storm rules.
Living up to her warning of "watch for the shoe", Storm snuck under the ring at one point only to reemerge with a pair of slippers. She assaulted both Ruby Soho and Saraya with them, catching only a near-fall after smacking Saraya across the face with said slipper.
Saraya was out to prove that her neck is, indeed, in fighting shape by taking two draping DDTs from Storm – one on the ramp and one in the ring. The remaining Outcasts tried using a little spray paint chicanery to retain the title, but Toni kicked out at two after a face full of the green stuff and a Knight Cap from Saraya.
With a bottom turnbuckle which had its pad removed by Storm earlier in the match, Saraya couldn't bring herself to drive Toni's face into it. The two centered back up in the ring, Toni planting a kiss on Saraya before dropping her with the Storm Zero piledriver. Saraya kicked out at two, but Storm set her up for the hip attack in the corner.
Storm came charging in but Saraya moved, Toni trying her best to sell that she hurt herself by slamming into the exposed buckle despite not really hitting it at all. Saraya hit a rope-assisted Knight Cap for the pin and victory, becoming the first person to retain their title at this year's Grand Slam.
A very fun match with a weak ending. Could Saraya be turning the corner on her AEW run? She's not been incredibly exciting or impressive in-ring since coming back to the ring, but I can't put all of the praise on Toni Storm's shoulders here. This was easily Saraya's best showing and if we get more like this for the length of her reign, I'll stop complaining about it.
In the main event, MJF defended the AEW World Heavyweight Title against ROH TV Champion Samoa Joe. MJF is not only looking to right a wrong from roughly 8 years ago when Samoa Joe shoved him in an NXT backstage segment but also Samoa Joe's attacks on the champ himself and Adam Cole.
For Joe, it's a chance to solidify his AEW/ROH run by adding another World Heavyweight Title to his resumé. It's also a chance to prove himself right and Max and Cole wrong in the champion's hometown.
Joe got an entrance walking through the backstage area with security guards, none of whom he shoved. MJF got an entrance harkening back to an old Bret Hart WWF promo with his own scumbag twist on it. Just delightful stuff. They used some fancy lighting for the in-ring intros and it looked cool as hell. They should use that lighting for everything all of the time.
In a pre-tape promo earlier in the night, MJF arrived to the arena with Adam Cole. During the promo, Cole received an "emergency" phone call from Roderick Strong and exited. Despite telling MJF that he'd have his back and be in his corner tonight, MJF came to the ring alone.
Joe caught an attempted MJF dive to the outside with a kick through the ropes before drilling the champion with a Death Valley Driver angled onto the corner of the ring apron. Joe followed up with a uranage through a table on the floor and a piledriver on the exposed arena floor, but it was all only good enough for a two count.
An emboldened MJF spit in the face of Joe and countered a Joe lariat into a Liger Bomb! Incredible shit! Locked in a Coquina Clutch, MJF pulled the referee in to disguise a low blow on Joe. Reaching into his bag of tricks (and his bag of nuts), MJF revealed the Dynamite Diamond Ring.
The Champ was stopped before he could connect with the ring, leaving him open to a low blow from Joe as the referee deposited the ring outside. Joe delivered a Muscle Buster but only for a two count, prompting Joe to lock on another Coquina Clutch.
This brought out Adam Cole, who may have tweaked his leg jumping off of the ramp. He cheered MJF on and the champion fought out of the choke. Avoiding a charge in the corner, the referee dove out of the ring which allowed MJF to reveal yet another trick – a chain he wrapped around the throat of Joe.
MJF choked Joe out with the illegal object, disguising it with a legitimate choke and leaving the referee with no excuse but to call for the bell and award the victory to MJF via submission.
Post-match, Cole rushed the ring to hide the evidence of MJF's cheating. Joe rose to his feet and shoved Cole out of the way before offering a handshake to MJF, which was accepted. The show ended with MJF and Cole celebrating in the ring, Cole noticeably limping around the ring.
All in all, a hell of a show! The only two real sour spots of the night look to be actual injuries, or at least something being "off" – with Mox being dropped on his head in the Fire Thunder Driver and Cole possibly injuring himself leaping off of the ramp on his way to the ring. Even Paul Turner may have injured himself diving out of the ring in the main event!
I suppose all signs point to a run in with Roderick Strong for MJF now that Joe is in the rear view. Possibly The Kingdom & Roddy vs MJF, Cole, and a returning Kyle O'Reilly? We certainly didn't get any signs of a dissolving friendship between MJF and Cole tonight, which is where I think a lot of people are placing their bets. While he wasn't out there the entire match, Cole was there when it mattered and was able to help his friend.