My mother will turn 65 years old next month, and she can’t get enough AEW Dynamite.
Before explaining more about her affinity for AEW, I should provide a glimpse into her past wrestling fandom.
My brother and I grew up as wrestling fans in the late 80’s and early 90’s, so my mom at least had a basic awareness of what WWF was all about. In the 2000’s she began to watch enough WWE to develop a list of her own favorite performers. That included Steve Austin, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, CM Punk, AJ Lee, Paul Heyman, Dean Ambrose, and Kevin Owens. She’s indifferent on John Cena and Roman Reigns, sometimes rooting for them, and sometimes rooting against them.
Of course she knows that the outcomes are scripted, but my mom doesn’t follow wrestling on the internet at all. She doesn’t know entry level insider terms like heel, work, shoot, jobber, etc. She doesn’t know the name of this here blog that I write for, nor has she ever heard of longtime wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer.
Despite not hearing what any outside wrestling fans are saying aside from live audience reactions, my mother often asks me questions that I would expect to see come up on a fan blog like ours. Why do they keep making Kevin Owens look like an idiot? Why is John Laurinaitis in the main event instead of CM Punk? Why do they have Dean Ambrose lose more than the other Shield guys? Why do they keep letting Goldberg wrestle? What the hell is Bray Wyatt talking about? Why does Brock Lesnar do the same boring move over and over again? Was that real blood or fake blood in that match? When is CM Punk going to return?
When it comes to pro wrestling, my mother is here for exciting matches, and to see her favorites win. She generally is not into the sillier aspects of the show. For example, she hated Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” and “No!” obsession, and she never understood why so many fans chanted “Rusev Day!” She has no idea what Booty O’s and pancakes have to do with wrestling. Those gimmicks are a turn off for her, so she typically roots against Bryan, Rusev, and New Day, despite my assurances that they are all terrific.
She also doesn’t think about babyfaces and heels in the same way that a lot of us do. She doesn’t look at a storyline or match and wonder who is the the good guy and who is the bad guy. In each case, my mother identifies the wrestler who she is rooting for, and the wrestler who she is rooting against. That’s good enough for her, and she doesn’t spend any time beyond that classifying wrestlers as good guys or bad guys. In fact she just recently asked me why Jon Moxley referred to himself as “one of the good guys” on Dynamite last week. She was certain that he was not a good guy, because he’s the sort of person who likes to inflict savage violence upon his enemies using barbed wire. Yet it’s clear as day to me that Jon Moxley has been the top good guy in AEW throughout 2020.
Looking back at the last decade, her favorites in WWE all faded out of relevance to varying degrees. Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania ended in 2014, and she still doesn’t understand why they did that. CM Punk left WWE in 2014, and AJ Lee left a year later. Dean Ambrose was not often pushed like Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns were after the Shield broke up, and Kevin Owens lost a whole lot of matches. The part timer’s club of Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Triple H, and Shane McMahon were not doing it for her. There just wasn’t much keeping her on board with WWE’s product over the last couple of years, and she was watching less and less.
Once AEW popped up on the scene, I had her watch Double or Nothing 2019. As soon as she saw the former Dean Ambrose come out at the end of the show to beat up Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega, she was captivated and definitely wanted to see what was coming next for him. Fast forward a bit towards the advent of Dynamite that fall, and she was amazed by what she saw the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros doing in the ring. She had never seen anything before like Darby Allin flipping around the ring with his hands taped together. She immediately hated Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle, which led her into rooting for Cody Rhodes and his allies. She didn’t realize how good Goldust was in the ring. She respected how hard Jungle Boy worked his ass off every time out.
My mom wasn’t necessarily watching every segment on Dynamite yet, but that changed once the calendar flipped to 2020 and Jon Moxley began to chase Chris Jericho for the AEW world championship. Moxley was her favorite wrestler, and she was completely invested in his story.
The point where I knew for sure she was hooked on Dynamite even beyond Moxley’s story was in April, during the early pandemic episodes. I consider that month to be a rough period for Dynamite. They taped a month’s worth of episodes with half of a roster available and aired them throughout April, which meant a whole lot of Shawn Spears matches.
But the clear dip in star power didn’t bother my mother one bit. She would still talk to me every week about the episode and tell me how great she thought it was. She was even curious about Matt Hardy teleporting around and having a drone by his side. That’s the kind of silly thing that I would normally expect her to reject, but I guess AEW built up a lot of goodwill with her by that point. More importantly, she despises Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara, who were the targets of Hardy’s aggression. She was thoroughly entertained by the Stadium Stampede match that took place at Double or Nothing 2020; my mother can deal with some over-the-top silliness as long as there is an interesting physical confrontation to go along with it.
Once she told me how much she still loved Dynamite throughout April, even without an audience, I knew there was no turning back. Every week she calls me to talk about the show, and I don’t think there has been a single instance where she had a negative overall reaction to the episode. It certainly helps that her favorite wrestler is the top star and wins all of his matches. She is on the edge of her seat with nerves every time Moxley wrestles. She expects him to get screwed over by his opponent each time, and is thrilled when he comes out on top.
But that’s really just part of the picture. No matter which match we are talking about, I can tell from her reaction that AEW’s wrestling style has the higher impact and more athletic presentation that she wants to see in pro wrestling. She’ll talk to me about a Frankie Kazarian match and point out details that I glossed over, which tells me that she is glued to the screen even when she isn’t very familiar with the wrestlers in the ring.
My mother is not interested in lengthy talking segments. She disliked Le Dinner Debonair, for example, because it was a bunch of singing and dancing that had nothing to do with a wrestling match. She asked me why AEW was taking a page out of WWE’s playbook.
My mom can’t stand Chris Jericho the wrestler, but she loves Jericho the commentator. She’s right there with him every time he rips on the other commentators, referees, or wrestlers. If it were up to her, Jericho would never wrestle again and instead just do commentary every week. But if he must insist on wrestling, then she’ll take great joy when he gets doused in orange juice and wears the same stained jacket for the next month.
She surprisingly found herself rooting for Orange Cassidy throughout the summer. Prior to Cassidy’s match with PAC at Revolution, she thought he was one of the dumbest wrestlers she had ever seen. But she was totally caught off guard by his match with PAC, and her opinion slowly began to turn from there. I’m not going to pretend that she’s in love with the guy or anything, but most weeks she does root for him to win and make his opponent look like a fool. She absolutely loved it when Cassidy popped out of a car trunk to help The Best Friends win the Parking Lot Fight.
My mother really enjoys watching Hikaru Shida wrestle, as Shida pretty much embodies the no nonsense ass kicking that my mother wants to see. Speaking of women’s wrestling, you can get a sense for how much my mother loves AEW when I tell you that she thought the match in Britt Baker’s dentist’s office with Big Swole was really good. Britt Baker did a great job during the summer of getting my mother to want to see her get her ass kicked, and so it was very satisfying to see Big Swole step up and put Baker in her place.
As you might imagine, there are plenty of references throughout Dynamite that go over my mom’s head because she doesn’t follow wrestling on the internet. Hell, I have trouble keeping up with some of the inside references myself, and I follow this stuff pretty closely. I try to explain the context to my mom as best as I can, but it doesn’t seem to detract from her enjoyment of Dynamite. Overall, AEW has opened her eyes to a different way of doing pro wrestling than WWE, and she has completely dropped WWE out of her viewing schedule as a result. In fact she just saw the WWE Thunderdome for the first time during Undertaker’s Final Farewell and asked me what that was all about.
The point of this post isn’t to praise AEW as a flawless product, or dump on WWE in comparison. I’m just here to point out that whatever AEW is doing is clearly working for my 65 year old mother, who doesn’t read about wrestling on the internet, doesn’t know any insider terms, and never heard of Kenny Omega or the Young Bucks prior to watching AEW’s product. I find it to be a fascinating experience each week when I talk to her about the latest episode of Dynamite. The phone calls consistently end with her saying some variation of, “It was great. I can’t wait to see what happens next week!”, and that always puts a smile on my face.