Everyone wonder going into AEW Dynamite if Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson would deliver a “Grand Slam.” Fans didn’t have to wait long as AEW flipped the script and opened the show with the highly anticipated dream match. It was perfect booking on multiple fronts.
Going on first guaranteed Omega and Danielson time to tell a compelling story. Omega’s AEW World Title was not at stake, giving the only title match on the card featuring Britt Baker against Ruby Soho the main event spot.
While the announced 30-minute time limit practically gave away the finish, the journey from bell to bell was anything but predictable.
The bell rang, and the crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium gave both wrestlers a near-standing ovation before they even touched.
Omega’s cold stare and Danielson’s genuine smile were worth one thousand words as they took in the moment. Their lockup popped the crowd like the finish of a classic match.
Omega and Danielson traded blows early, which turned quickly into a game of one-upmanship. As the match progressed, it slowly took on a more violent form that we’re accustomed to seeing Danielson in, but not before he dusted off his old submission finishing maneuver for the first time in 10 years, Cattle Mutilation.
Outside the ring, Omega turned the tables with a snapdragon suplex to Danielson on the rampway. “The American Dragon” slid down the LED portion of the ramp upon impact, which made for a concerning visual due to Danielson’s history of neck problems.
Omega followed up with a sprinting V-Trigger that sent Danielson to the floor just in time for the picture in picture commercial break.
Oftentimes, AEW doesn’t manage those spots well, with key action squandered on a shrunken screen. AEW worked it perfectly this time around as Danielson sold his injured shoulder while Omega taunted him and delivered damage to the shoulder.
The in-ring action resumed right as the show returned from the commercial. A metamorphosis of both wrestlers began to take shape as the tempo of the match increased.
Daniel Bryan ceased as the Bryan Danielson of old emerged. Meanwhile, Omega switched gears, going from the cocky leader of The Elite to the “best bout machine” that garnered his staunch reputation.
A quiet and odd-sounding cue from ring announcer Justin Roberts informed viewers there was one minute left in the contest. Omega and Danielson traded strikes, going toe to toe as the final seconds ticked away. The bell rang, and we had ourselves a time limit draw.
While most of the audience read the tea leaves, some were shocked and disappointed with the result. Tony Kahn saw this coming and planned for it impeccably.
Faint boos for the finish turned to more significant boos and cheers for the next part of the story. The Young Bucks and Adam Cole ran out at the bell, and The Bucks drilled Danielson with a superkick. Christian Cage and the Jurassic Express then ran out and sent The Elite packing.
It’s cliché to say that Omega/Danielson didn’t live up to the hype but exceeded it. However, it perfectly defines the occasion. No outside interference from Don Callis (Omega’s manager) was a nice touch. Tony Kahn covered all of the outside elements, allowing the two artists to take their time and create.
Neither man having an advantage at the final bell was a draw in the truest sense. It was a refreshing taking on a scenario that usually shows one wrestler getting saved by the bell. In the case of Omega/Danielson, we have no idea who’s the better man, making a rematch all the more exciting.
Some quick tidbits about the rest of the card
CM Punk’s promo serving as the cool-down segment was a great call. Punk is money on the microphone, and we’re still in the honeymoon phase of his arrival in AEW.
MJF tapped out Brian Pillman Jr.: The match was fine. MJF’s heat carried the emotion of the bout. Pillman Jr. is someone you can’t help but cheer. However, he lacks intensity in the ring, causing some of his moves to fall flat. He’ll get there. Experience is everything.
Malakai Black beats Cody Rhodes: The match was a little sloppy at times, but they got their point across. Black got his Great Muta on and sprayed mist into Cody’s eyes, and pinned him with an inside cradle.
Cody fancies himself as Superman, but it’s time to become General Zod. He needs to be careful, however. Some of his creative decisions have generated go-away heat instead of “I want to pay to see him get beat up” heat.
Sting & Darby Allin defeat FTR: If Omega/Danielson wasn’t your cup of tea, Sting had your back as he stole the show. The coffin drop/scorpion deathlock combo was a hell of a finish! FTR made the 62-year legend look like a world-beater.
Baker submits Ruby Soho: Winning with outside interference from Rebel and Jamie Hayter felt like a bad idea, but it worked because it’s consistent with Baker’s character. Ruby Soho proved she belongs in big match situations, and Baker is the top heel in AEW. Yep, I said it.