On the second Dynamite episode of Dynamite we had the highly anticipated AEW Women’s Championship match between Riho and Kris Statlander. There had been many weeks of build to this match with much of the focus placed on Statlander and her rapid rise through ranks on way to becoming number one contender. Riho, on the other hand, has been targetted and criticised for being an absent champion. This line of storytelling had many expecting that a new and more focussed direction for the division was on the cards.
Did this expected seachange take place? Did the match live up to the hype? Let’s have a look at what went down.
The match was everything it was expected to be. A fast-paced clash of styles and sizes. Riho flew about the ring throwing stomps and knee strikes while Statlander used her size, strength and unique offence to throw her lighter opponent off her game.
With two skilled competitors in the ring in a match with such high stakes, one would think that AEW would everything they could do to add prestige and importance to it, however, Brandi Rhodes on commentary seemed to do everything she could to take focus away from the match.
Midway through the match, the Nightmare Collective interrupted and it was all about them from there. What was and could’ve been a great match in the ring quickly devolved into a mess of shenanigans from the hair-obsessed faction.
The introduction of a new character, Dr Luther caught Statlander off guard and she fell to a clothesline from Kong. Statlander’s prone body was rolled into the ring and the heels urged Riho to take advantage. Riho, however, chose to attack Dr Luther and continue the match to a big cheer from the crowd.
The match continued with some good offence with both wrestlers getting a number of big moves and near falls but the Nightmare Collectives’ villainy did not stop and Kong, unbeknownst to Riho, tripped Statlander allowing Riho to pick up the pin. Riho sat shocked and disappointed when she realised what had happened, then Kong attacked Statlander and Mel attacked Riho until Shida, who had been watching from ringside with Britt Baker, made the save to cheers and chants. Big Swole and Sonny Kiss would also assist in running off the heels, while Baker sat there and scowled.
We were finally given a reason to cheer for and get behind Riho. I’ve never had a problem with Riho as a talent and her in-ring skills but the booking, or lack thereof, hasn’t allowed the fans the opportunity to relate or connect to Riho as she has been rarely seen apart from in the ring and kept away from the limelight that being a champion should reflect. Because of this Riho has never felt like a champion because she was never given the chance to look or act like one, until now.
Riho looked great in the match playing up to her underdog status and allowing her opponent to throw her around the ring and look great in the process.
Despite the woeful angle, it gave Riho chance to shine by showing her ability and willingness to get involved receiving a great pop from the live crowd.
Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a newly prominent role for Riho as the AEW Women’s Champion and the one the division needs to be taken more seriously.
Losers: The Nightmare Collective
Amid the myriad of complaints directed toward AEW women’s division, you know what wasn’t the solution anyone wanted or asked for? More Nightmare Collective.
Everything from Brandi’s belittling of the in-ring action and competitors on commentary to Kong and Mel’s interference to the awkward reveal of “Japanese deathmatch legend” Dr Luther and the awful ending garnered no reaction from the crowd apart groans of disappointment and boos that cannot be construed as “heel heat”.
You would think that after the Dark Order debacle a few weeks ago the company would’ve leaned away from this type of angle and maybe even toned down the dark and twisted factions as there three groups all doing the same thing at the same time on the same show.
The angle was just plain bad and took what could have been a genuinely special moment and the opportunity to steer the division in the right direction and turned it into a convoluted, flat and uninteresting mess.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the women’s division seemed to be picking up steam and momentum through the new signings and matches the talent were putting on. This was AEW’s chance to reset and refresh the women’s division and deliver on their original promise of a legitimate and equal division, yet they decided to go with a mega angle involving nearly all of the roster.
The fact that it involves so many of the talent is very worrying as the angle will take centre stage throughout the women’s division will mean less and less focus will be put onto the AEW Women’s Championship. A title that already struggles for time and focus.
It was so bad that it didn’t even make me mad just very, very sad as I fear this a hole that the division will find very hard to get out of.
What did you make of the match, the angle and the fallout? Let us know below.