Monday, September 18, 2023

AEW Dynamite Grand Slam 2023 Preview & Predictions

Time for the third annual AEW Dynamite Grand Slam, from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY!

As with the first two Grand Slams, the Wednesday lineup is quite stacked and promises to deliver multiple bangers.  Now if we can just get people to buy these damn tickets again....  As anyone who's been following the business side of things is aware, AEW's live attendance numbers in the States are in bad shape.  Lately both Dynamite and Collision have been struggling to draw 3000 people to NBA arenas, and I'm not sure what needs to happen to make this product hot again.  Back-to-back Show of the Year-caliber PPVs, one in front of over 70,000 people hasn't done it.  The MJF-Adam Cole storyline hasn't done it.  The focus on young stars hasn't done it.  AEW needs something that galvanizes the fanbase and gets a real, positive buzz about the company again.  Maybe all the backstage drama surrounding CM Punk's firing turned some people off (and I'm sure his cult of fandom that refuses to hold him accountable for his actions simply stopped buying tickets).  But the company needs an Austin vs. McMahon, not in terms of the boss vs. talent story, but in terms of a white-hot angle unlike anything wrestling fans have seen before.  That and a more focused presentation.  

Anyway enough bad news, fortunately Dynamite's ratings have held steady (Collision's have yet to reveal a pattern since Punk's departure) and this week's show should get a boost because it's a special two-part event.  Let's look at the lineups.


Chris Jericho vs. Sammy Guevara

It's a first-time meeting between these Inner Circle buddies, and the idea is for them to get out their frustrations with each other so they can go back to being tag partners and chase the titles.  Somehow though I don't think they'll end up working things out.  To me this feels like the start of a feud that will lead to more matchups.  Sammy really needs the win here as he's had the most trouble of all the Four Pillars in gaining traction.  A clean win over Jericho would signal that he's poised to be more than Chris's sidekick.  The match should be quite good as both guys will be motivated like crazy.

Pick: Sammy

AEW Women's Championship: Saraya vs. Toni Storm

The former Outcast partners clash for the big belt, at the very venue where Saraya made her AEW debut last year.  Saraya's had very few singles matches since coming in, so this will be an interesting test.  Storm is so good she should be able to make up for any holes in Saraya's game.  The title win at Wembley felt to me like an honorary one, just as Hikaru Shida's win a few weeks earlier turned out to be.  With Storm tapping in to a new, highly entertaining character I could see her taking back the gold here.  Then again a loss would feed into said character, and Ruby Soho could interfere.  I suppose if Saraya retains that keeps this story going, with Toni becoming more and more unhinged.  This is the hardest one for me to pick.  Could there be a Mercedes Mone sighting?

Pick: I guess Saraya retains

ROH World Championship: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Eddie Kingston

This should be spectacular; their match at last year's Final Battle was great, and they've built up this feud a lot since then.  I'd say there's no real mystery over who's winning this, it's Eddie on his home turf.  But the fight and the celebration afterward should be quite memorable.

Pick: Eddie

AEW International Championship: Jon Moxley vs. Rey Fenix

Another banger of a match, this'll be the bruiser vs. the acrobat.  Again the result isn't much in doubt, but it's gonna be a helluva lot of fun watching the match unfold.  

Pick: Mox retains

AEW World Championship: MJF vs. Samoa Joe

I'm guessing the original plan here was MJF vs. Punk for the Undisputed Title, and Max would've finally gotten his rubber match win.  Alas plans change.  But Joe has stepped up huge, becoming an absolute beast in the process.  Going up against a monster heel in his home state should make Max a mega-babyface here.  The variables are whether Roddy Strong and/or Adam Cole get involved and how much that figures into the result.  I don't see Max losing the title, but does Cole attempt to help and does it backfire and create a rift between the two best friends?  Should be another excellent, story-centric title defense for MJF.

Pick: Max retains


AEW Trios Championship: The Acclaimed/Billy Gunn vs. The Dark Order

Speaking of things that need a shakeup, The Dark Order needs a new leader and a sense of purpose.  It's been almost three years since we lost Brodie Lee, and I don't think it would be disrespectful for the cult to get themselves a new preacher.  Lee can still be the group's patron saint as it were.  Their association with Hangman Page kept the group relevant, but that ended a long time ago.  They just aren't credible threats anymore.  Anyway, everyone's favorite scissor-themed trio just won these titles so they aren't dropping them yet.

Pick: The Acclaimed/Billy retain

ROH Trios Championship: Brian Cage & Gates of Agony vs. The Elite

It's odd that both Trios titles are on the line on the same show.  This should be a helluva match.  Only problem is I'm not sure which result would be beneficial.  Either you're jobbing out your most popular trio or you're putting secondary titles on them.  Of course MJF and Cole are the ROH Tag Champs so putting ROH belts on top AEW stars isn't unheard of.  Also the Bucks and Page are feuding with the Mogul Embassy so this should play into that.  I guess Cage and friends retain via nefarious circumstances.

Pick: Embassy retains

Darby Allin & Sting vs. Luchasaurus & Christian Cage

Three of these four had a wild, entertaining match at All In and I expect something similar here.  But Cage's excuse for losing at Wembley was that he had to tag with an unfamiliar partner in Swerve Strickland.  Still the result will be the same - Darby and Sting win another crazy brawl.

Pick: Darby & Sting

I expect a couple more Rampage matches to be added on Wednesday but that's all that's been announced so far.  Both shows should be quite good, Dynamite in particular.  Hopefully both shows will further these stories and get some real momentum going again.  AEW needs a shot in the arm.

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