Cue New Edition from its first comeback, because it feels so good to be back where I belong. Thanks to Dale for keeping the AEW Dynamite beat warm while I proved for eight weeks I have no future as a racer, but I’m looking forward to jumping back in. The action tonight originates from just outside Austin, Texas, live as always on TBS.

The announce team promises the crowd is red hot tonight, and “Cult of Personality” leading things off is a good way to make sure they stay that way. We’re starting with in-ring action so let’s not waste any time.

CM Punk vs. Dax Harwood

For everyone who appreciates the art of pro wrestling, this is a good opener. The announcers get a little distracted and start talking about Wardlow and his status with MJF, which … come on, gentlemen, plenty of time for that as this night goes on. Both men have some difficulty hitting moves off the top rope, but Harwood finally connects on a superplex that leaves them both on the canvas. Harwood follows with a diving headbutt, which since he doesn’t go upside down, presumably stays true to FTR’s “no flips, just fists” ethos. Punk manages a high cross body off the top as well, so now everyone is having success up there. The Anaconda Vice is next, setting off a series of counters. The GTS isn’t immune to counters either, so Harwood must be timing the triangle button just right. Punk reapplies his submission hold and eventually gets Harwood to tap out. Punk makes the iconic combat sports belt gesture after the bell, leaving Excalibur to wonder what title he might have his eye on.

Winner: CM Punk by submission

My son asked me what happened to the Inner Circle. Well, they’re gone, but that doesn’t mean Chris Jericho doesn’t have a crew. He appears with the Jericho Appreciation Society to deliver a warning to John Silver and Alex Reynolds, and while they’re wary of an attack by Eddie Kingston, Santana and Ortiz, the coast is clear. For now.

Sting, Darby Allin and The Hardys vs. Private Party, The Butcher and The Blade – Tornado Tag Team Match

This is chaos (this is Sparta!). Not only are all eight men in action at once, the fighting quickly goes all over the arena, and since it’s also no DQ, Andrade El Idolo is able to lend his team a hand, and before long, Allin is getting thrown down a flight of stairs to the concourse. A small flight of stairs, but still! Private Party send themselves and Matt Hardy crashing through a table. Not to be outdone, Sting and Jeff Hardy are out in the lobby, where Jeff scales a ladder and does a Swanton Bomb to smash Butcher and Blade through a pair of tables. That move was so hardcore it knocked out the video feed out for a sec. Something cool is going to end this one as well, and a Scorpion Death Drop/Twist of Fate combo counts in my book. That was fun.

Winners: Sting, Darby Allin and The Hardys by pinfall

Tony Schiavone is in the back with FTR, who are fired up at the Gunn Club for reasons I’m not clear of since I missed all AEW programming last week. Alas.

“American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley (with William Regal) vs. Varsity Blonds

The Blonds pretty consistently are in the “good game, good effort” role, and that’s probably what we can expect from them here as well. Regal joins the announcers to make it clear he’s not a manager sponging off the efforts of wrestlers, he’s a legit mentor. He even claims to be OK with Wheeler Yuta standing up to him face to face since he showed spirit. They don’t get to discuss too much more before both Danielson and Moxley are getting guys to tap out, rendering any question about who was the legal man moot.

Winners: Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley by submission

Mox gives out some high praise after the match, telling the fans the only person whose seal of approval he ever cared about belongs to Regal. He figures he earned that badge of honor, as did Danielson. Interestingly, Moxley sounds like he’s asking for more people who think they can stand beside them. Can anyone reach down deep into that place where you love pain? And are we calling them the Blackpool Combat Club for real now?

Flanked by Shawn Spears, MJF has a brief message for Wardlow before turning his attention to Punk, accusing him of cheating to win at Revolution. He doesn’t know where or when it will be, but MJF vows they will have another match and he’ll give Punk the most embarrassing loss of his career — but it won’t be over until MJF attends his funeral and pisses on his grave. One yike. But back to Wardlow! He seems … incredulous that “Piggy” would ask to be released from his contract, saying Wardlow signed a deal with the Devil, and all of the Devil’s deals are ironclad. “I’ma strap Wardlow to a cross just like Jesus.” WOW. Hey Maxwell, maybe you’re taking it a bit too far? Wardlow strides down the ramp, quickly running through the security detail MJF has guarding the ring … for a second. More men emerge and they finally restrain him. MJF says since Wardlow works for him and not AEW, he’s trespassing, and Friedman plans on paying Wardlow to stay home until everyone forgets he ever existed.

There’s some tension in the Best Friends camp, specifically between Yuta and Trent. Yuta says he’s trying to be the best wrestler he can be, and Trent either gets that or he doesn’t.

Adam Cole vs. Jay Lethal

Schiavone opines that this could be the show-stealer of tonight’s card, an idea that is hard to dismiss. Fan reaction is split here, with segments of the crowd chanting for each wrestler. After several minutes of fairly even competition, Cole hits the Panama Sunrise only to see Lethal kick out. With Lethal rallying, reDRagon provides a distraction from ringside, allowing Cole to hit a low blow as Lethal goes for the Lethal Injection. Cole hits his running knee strike to get the pinfall.

Winner: Adam Cole by pinfall

After the bell, Cole grabs the mic and says no one deserves the AEW World Championship more than him, and that Hangman Adam Page knows he will take that belt. Cole also calls Page a coward who won’t face the three of them man to man. Or man to man plus man plus man, one supposes. Page falls for the Back to the Future-style reverse psychology and wades into all three men, but is slowed by (wait for it) a Cole low blow. Cole grabs the belt and looks primed to use it as a weapon, then leaves with it once Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus and Christian Cage rush to the champ’s aid.

A video package promotes the upcoming showdown between Lance Archer and Dustin Rhodes this Friday on Rampage.

Even though Sammy Guevara no longer has his title, he tells Schiavone he still has the ring, as well as the ability to do things so crazy in the ring that people will stand up and chant “holy s–t.” He admits he can’t wrestle that style forever, but it’s worth it for now because of the reaction he gets from the people. That’s everything he’s ever wanted in this business … until now. Tay Conti takes over and says they want payback, and Guevara challenges “any of you two idiots” right now. He’s talking about Dan Lambert’s crew, of course, who comes out with the Men of the Year. Lambert has a funny burn on Orange Cassidy I won’t repeat here, and also calls Conti “Luchawhorus.” Welp. Guevara’s comeback is also pretty dirty, but humorous. Good work all around people.

More promotion for Rampage, as Swerve Strickland and Ricky Starks exchange dueling promos while reminding us that both are backed by very large men, Keith Lee and Powerhouse Hobbs, respectively.

“Legit” Leyla Hirsch vs. Red Velvet

The announcers frame this bout as speed vs. power, but it’s really a battle of friends turned foes. Both women are in the top five of the rankings (Velvet is No. 3 this week, Hirsh No. 5), so it’s important from that perspective as well. Interestingly, Hirsch cheats to win, something we’ve not seen a lot of from her, then tries choking out Velvet after the bell until Kris Statlander runs down to drive her off.

Winner: Leyla Hirsch by pinfall

Jade Cargill and Smart Mark Sterling plan a celebration that will put Thunder Rosa to shame. What will she wear? Something green, no doubt, to a celebration fit for a queen.

This is one of those nights where Schiavone is earning every dime he’s paid and more, introducing Rosa to a very warm reception in her adopted home state of Texas. A screech that can only belong to Vickie Guerrero cuts off her music, and she gives the champ a little bit of credit before accusing Rosa of insulting Vickie’s state. It’s all a distraction so Nyla Rose can ambush Rosa from behind and Vickie can call her client the “true” champion.

John Silver and Alex Reynolds vs. Chris Jericho and Daniel Garcia

This first real outing for the Jericho Appreciation Society gets off to a rocky start, but it turns slightly better when 2point0 manages to get the Dark Order members supporting Silver and Reynolds ejected from ringside. There are more hijinks still to come involving the non-participants, including Silver giving Jake Hager a hurricanrana on the outside. Impressive. Jericho catches him with a Codebreaker in the ring shortly after, but Silver manages to kick out. The Dark Order duo pulls off a really cool combo spot for a near fall, but Silver tries a tope suicida on Hager that turns out to be a tactical error. Jericho’s bat Floyd comes into play, and Garcia puts Reynolds in the Scorpion Deathlock to get a tap out.

Winners: Chris Jericho and Daniel Garcia by submission

I’m intrigued by a more underhanded Jericho leading a group of up and comers (and Hager) so not a band ending. See you in seven!

AEW Dynamite - March 23, 2022

H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Austin, TX

The first 40 minutes or so were legit dynamite, but the show lost some of its momentum in the second half. Still some intriguing threads and fun in-ring bits, and the Jericho Appreciation Society could lead to a real rub for its younger members.