I usually take Wednesday off but the debut episode of AEW Dynamite on TNT had me intrigued enough to watch the show for the purposes of a recap. I wanted to see what they would do with what they promised would be a monumental shift in the pro wrestling landscape.
I don’t know that it was that, but it was a fun show!
As much as anything, I wanted to see just how different it would be. Cody Rhodes kept talking about a revolution, like AEW would change the game as we know it. There were always questions to ask regarding how much a wrestling show even could be revolutionized, and the answer was clear right away -- not much! At least not in in this case.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. The open was solid, they went right into a heavily hyped match with a strong video package, and Cody and Sammy Guevara delivered a fun showcase to kick things off. Rhodes won, of course, because he was always going to win, and there are questions to be asked regarding just how much future shows will be about the guys running the company. For now, though, it’s smart to lead with the big stars and make them look as big as possible.
And I’ll be damned if the crowd didn’t treat the stars like they couldn’t shine any brighter.
-- The stage set up looked fantastic. It’s significant in the sense that WWE has only really had TNA as television competition in the pro wrestling space over the past 15 years and Impact always looked minor league. AEW’s entire stage set up, look, and feel was comparable to WWE. In the case of NXT, I would argue it was even better. For as good as NXT is and can be, it still looks small time at Full Sail.
- They did a fantastic job of putting over the entire cast of characters via various programs that aired online and the countdown show on TNT because the live audience reacted big to EVERYONE. There’s great value in that. Pro wrestling shows have as much weight as the live audience gives them. This crowd was all in on everything. We’ll see if that’s the case for future shows. If it is, that already gives them an advantage.
- SCU and the Lucha Bros are fantastic. The old WCW style interview at the entrance ramp leading to a brawl between the two sides felt like a nice throwback. More of this!
- Jay and Silent Bob showed up! Hey, it’s a very WWE thing to use celebrities to put your show over but the way they were used here made sense both in how they got involved -- which is to say, they mostly didn’t -- and the fact that they chose Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes as the celebrity guests. Those two are not what you might call “mainstream.” They occupy a wonderful niche space with an organic fan base who would live and die for them. Sound familiar?
- There was clearly a big emphasis on focusing on the wrestling in the ring, as they promised there would be. Hangman Page vs. Pac was a good match that saw the latter defeat the former clean. Commentary put over just how significant it is that Pac is now 2-0 with wins over Page and Kenny Omega in his young AEW career. His upside, especially with this heel character he’s working now, seems limitless. Page isn’t really my cup of tea personally, but there’s a real belief in him among many others, including the decision makers there. A loss here, then, is interesting, especially considering he already lost in his title shot.
- On a night that featured a lot of great wrestling from the big stars on the card, Riho vs. Nyla Rose may well have been the best match of the evening. That may be in part because I didn’t expect as much but Nyla has improved greatly in a short period of time while Riho is establishing herself as a standout performer. A pending match with Britt Baker sounds like another possible show stealer.
- The main event, a six-man tag match pitting Chris Jericho & Santana & Ortiz vs. The Elite saw it turn into a 3-on-2 handicap match when Jon Moxley showed up to drag Kenny Omega around the arena for a wild brawl that culminated in the two going through a glass table backstage. It meant lowering the potential match quality while also setting up the bad guys for a win over The Young Bucks. It also gave Cody an excuse to run in on the end of the evening. Then Sammy Guevara showed up, and that gave Goldust an excuse to run in! Then, because we needed at least one surprise appearance, Jake Hager, the artist formerly known as Jack Swagger who is currently fighting for Bellator, showed up to the party and started rocking all the babyfaces. He may not have the biggest name value, but any surprise was going to be a big hit in front of this crowd.
- As far as production goes, there were no major issues. The camerawork could improve but even that is a nitpick. I always missed Tony Schiavone on commentary, thougn your mileage may vary there, so I thought he was good alongside Jim Ross and Excalibur.
There were quite a few wrestlers on the roster who weren’t used on this show. That means everything was given time to breath and be what it needed to while also ensuring not everyone is going to have to work every week. That’s good for everyone.
As a debut effort, this felt almost like a pay-per-view event. In that sense, it was great. Is this what the show will be like every week? Can they possibly sustain that pace? Certainly not, and we’ll get a better idea of what this show will and can be when the hype isn’t as strong and they settle into whatever groove they’re going to settle into.