AEW 2023 Week 1 Recap
Welcome to the new Renegade Cinema weekly recap for AEW. The way this weekly column will work is that the week’s AEW events (Dynamite, Rampage, and any PPV or specials) will be slightly recapped. However, a large portion of the column will look at how the shows affected storylines, how good the matches that week was, and my thought on how the company is progressing through the year.
As long-time readers might know, I have been following AEW since its inception and have interviewed several stars over the years for this very site. While my coverage has been non-existent the last year, that will change here in 2023. With that said, let’s jump right into the first week of 2023 for AEW.
AEW Dynamite Results
There was a lot to like about AEW Dynamite this week because the company focused on the youth in the company. This also came with a newly designed set. It wasn’t groundbreakingly different, but I liked the look of it. There are separate video screens and the audience can no longer see the entrances. I do like that they still kept the babyfaces coming out on one side and the heels on the other.
- Absolute Ricky Starks def. Chris Jericho (w/Matt Menard & Angelo Parker)
Chris Jericho is an MVP in AEW, whether some fans want to admit it or not. When he lost clean as a sheet to Action Andretti a few weeks back, he helped make a new star. He then lost clean as a sheet to Ricky Starks tonight. When Ricky lost to MVP, he needed something big to make sure he didn’t get buried. Beating Jericho did just that. With Action making his return with a steel chair, he proved he was here for the long run as well. While they got beat down, that is okay. The fact is Ricky won and Action is not scared to go after the entire JAS.
- Hangman Adam Page & Jon Moxley face off
Jon Moxley and Adam Page were good here. While Adam has never been a great promo, he has really stepped it up lately and his work here was solid. He called out Mox for making jokes after his comeback and set the stage for Mox being a jerk. It is little, but their feud is progressing nicely into a heated one – which is important since they are both technically babyfaces. They are supposed to fight next week if Page gets medically cleared.
- AEW Tag Team Championship: The Acclaimed (w/Billy Gunn) def. Jay Lethal & Jeff Jarrett (w/Sonjay Dutt & Satnam Singh)
The Acclaimed did the best they could but this match just had too much going on. I did like that the referees came out to force Singh to leave, which explained why Audrey Edwards was there to reverse the decision when Sonjay Dutt interfered. This was really just to set up a rematch at Battle of the Belts on Friday.
- Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter had a sit-down interview with Tony Schiavoni.
They are heels cutting promos sounding like babyfaces, so that is weird. I smell a double-turn coming.
- Jungle Boy and Hook are a tag team now.
That happened. They will fight The Firm next week. On Friday night, Big Bill & Lee Moriarty were named as their opponents.
- Bryan Danielson def. Tony Nese (w/Mark Sterling & Josh Woods)
Up next is Bryan Danielson, who is a major star in anyone’s eyes. He beat Tony Neese, with little problems, as he should. Then, he called out MJF. The crowd was molten for Bryan, as it was his home state. Then MJF came out and did his usual schtick of making Daniel jump through hoops for a title shot. After Daniel swung for some low-hanging fruit in a battle of insults, he really laid it in thick on MJF, saying he won’t wrestle because he knows he isn’t that good. Daniel was amazing here and MJF is bringing out the best in his opponents on the mic since winning the title.
- Swerve Strickland (w/Moguls Inc) def. A.R. Fox
The matches were almost all solid from top to bottom. The biggest surprise for some fans was Swerve Strickland vs. A.R. Fox, but that is only because people don’t know their past. They were bitter rivals in Lucha Underground and this match proved they know each other like the back of their hands. The match was amazing.
- Saraya, Toni Storm, and Hikaru Shida had a sit-down interview with Renee Paquette.
Saraya and Toni Storm completely disrespected Hikaru Shida here. The double-turn seems really likely. Anyway, Saraya chose Storm as her partner to fight Britt and Jamie. This might be a swerve.
- The Gunn Club had a ceremony to bury FTR.
The worst segment of the night was easily the Gunn Club coming out to bury FTR. This was just about the Gunn boys acting arrogant since they beat FTR and claiming the tag team is now dead and gone. They even used the fake-out with the FTR music starting, and them not showing up. Shawn Michaels did it better years ago. AEW wants The Gunn Club to be something, but they have been jokes for so long, it is an uphill battle.
- Red Velvet & Jade Cargill def. Skye Blue & Kiera Hogan
The worst match of the night was the women’s tag team match, as it was all about story progression with it being all about Jade Cargill losing her Baddies. It wasn’t terrible, but it was just story progression.
- TNT Championship: Darby Allin def. Samoa Joe (new champion)
Darby Allin pinned Samoa Joe in an incredible match that really felt like a special moment. I like that Joe didn’t lose his title back to Wardlow because I like the big guy better without a title to hold him down. I love that it was not only Darby Allin, but it was in Darby’s hometown. That is something AEW does better than WWE, which prefers to bury its wrestlers in their hometowns. Darby has been drifting aimlessly for the last year, so starting off 2023 with him winning the title is the right move by far.
AEW Rampage Results
- Jon Moxley & Bryan Danielson def. Top Flight
Bryan Danielson matches twice in one week? That is amazing. The fact that this was Top Flight once again fighting the Blackpool Combat Club was also great. They already lost to Mox and Claudio, while looking like a million bucks. They just did it again. Even in the loss, Top Flight looks like one of the best tag teams in AEW, hands down. As long as they stay healthy, they might even win tag team gold in 2023.
Page said he has been cleared for next week’s match with Jon Moxley. That should be a huge match on what looks like a jam-packed show from Los Angeles.
- Britt Baker & Jamie Hayter def. The Renegade Sisters
Unlike the lackluster tag match on Dynamite, this was a really good match. Baker and Hayter are a really good tag team and the Renegade Sisters are improving every time they step in the ring. One day, Baker will betray Hayter, and it will be a great feud. For now, they look great as a tag team.
- House of Black and Eddie Kingston & Ortiz cut separate promos
House of Black and Eddie Kingston & Ortiz are feuding. In the House of Black promo, they talked about how they miss the tough no-nonsense Eddie. This followed up talking about Ortiz in complimentary terms last time they cut a promo. They are sowing the seeds of distrust, and Eddie & Ortiz are biting (their promo was actually on Battle of the Belts, but I put it here to keep them together).
- Preston Vance def. Sonico
Squash match. Preston ripped off Sonico’s mask after the match ended.
- TNT Championship: Darby Allin def. Mike Bennett
Darby Allin won this title on Wednesday night and he is already defending it two nights later. That is because Mike Bennett mentioned his old open challenge to him. What resulted was a great match, with the veteran Bennett doing everything he could to beat Allin, but the champion withstanding it in the end. Back-to-back main event matches for Allin is a good sign for 2023.
AEW Battle of the Belts V Results
- AEW World Tag Team Championship – No Holds Barred: The Acclaimed def. Jay Lethal & Jeff Jarrett
This is a rematch from Wednesday night, so the second time in three nights these two teams fight. This is no-holds-barred, so it made no sense that it was tag team rules and the referee forced tags. With that said, this match was a thousand times better than the one on Dynamite. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on, including everyone getting involved (Satnum Singh chokeslammed the referee and Billy Gunn hit him with a guitar), but that made the entire thing fun. Thankfully, The Acclaimed walked out as the champions.
- Powerhouse Hobbs is coming
He is going to hurt people.
- TBS Championship: Jade Cargill def. Skye Blue
After fighting in a tag match on Wednesday, Skye Blue now gets a title match. She put up a fight and Red Velvet came out to mess with Jade psychologically again. However, in the end, no one expected Skye to win and she didn’t.
- Ruby Soho & Willow Nightengale will fight Tay Melo & Anna Jay next week
The match will be a street fight. Ruby Soho wants to hurt them. Tay said she was Born on the streets of Brazil and Anna Jay likes barbed wire.
All-Atlantic Championship: Orange Cassidy def. Kip Sabian
This match was very different. Orange Cassidy was mad and he wasn’t going to mess around. He never did his hands in his pockets, play kick & chop, or mess around. He was all business. On the other hand, Kip Sabian did those moves to mock Orange, and it really got under his skin. It even looked like Sabian was going to win until The Best Friends showed up to attack Butcher & Blade at ringside and then Cassidy fired up and won. This was Sabian’s best match in a long time.
AEW: Week 1 – The Storylines
Let’s start off with Ricky Starks. He is a MAJOR star and AEW has realized this. There isn’t much he can do right now with MJF moving on to Bryan Danielson and Darby Allin as the new TNT Champion. Putting him into a feud with the JAS might be the right move. As long as Jericho puts Starks (and Action Andretti) over at the end of the feud, this could make Starks a main event guy moving forward.
Darby Allin also needed his title win. He spent the last year doing nothing but teaming with Sting and people forget he was one of the Four Pillars of AEW. He deserved better and beating Joe clean in the ring was a nice start to his rehabilitation. I love Sting, and always have, but they need to get Darby away from him finally. I don’t know what they can do with Sting, but there should be a place for him. It might be time for a Darby heel turn, and that could eventually lead to a Darby Allin vs. Ricky Starks feud, which could be amazing. The fact that he got two main event matches this week shows that 2023 is starting out for AEW as the Year of Darby Allin.
The women are in a confusing spot. I almost see, based on this week’s interview, Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter doing a double-turn with Saraya and Toni Storm. It is either that or Hikaru Shida will turn heel and cost Saraya the match against the champion. I also see, in the future, Britt turning on Hayter and that should be a great feud. However, something needs to happen during this match to clear things up. Honestly, this could lead to one very important moment. Shida could take out Storm before the match, setting up their feud, and Saraya could get a very different partner, one that might be a BOSS-level replacement.
The Acclaimed need to move on from Jarrett & Lethal now. FTR needs to come back and put The Gunn Club in their place. Eventually, FTR needs their match against The Young Bucks and then they need to finally win the tag team titles (although The Acclaimed are great champions).
I also think the Jade Cargill winning streak needs to end soon. The longer it goes, the less interesting she becomes. Having one of her Baddies beat her, with the other Baddies help, could be a way to end it and play off the storyline.
Jon Moxley vs. Adam Page will be a war, and I can’t wait.
There are also smaller storylines that are moving along. Preston Vance used to wear a mask, so having him rip off his opponent’s masks plays both into that as well as his team with Rush. Ruby Soho’s feud with Tay Melo seems never-ending, but it is giving Ruby something to do. It’s time for Powerhouse Hobbs to start wrestling again on TV after weeks of promos. It should also be fun to see Hook and Jungle Boy as a tag team. I can’t wait to see Hook wrestle Bill.
That brings us to Bryan Danielson vs. MJF. For the next few weeks, Bryan will fight every week on TV and that is a prize for the viewers. He will highlight almost every show and will show why he is the man who deserves to fight MJF for the title at the next PPV. That will then lead to the PPV and the Iron Man match, and that is where MJF can prove whether he can sink or swim with the big boys in the ring.
Overall, it was a great first week of 2023 for AEW, with three great shows and some really good matches. Hopefully, they can do even better next week in Los Angeles (Warner Bros-Discovery officials will be in attendance, so its an important show)