Leading up to October 2, I was actually starting to get excited about the launch of All Elite Wrestling’s new flagship show on TNT, Dynamite. All-In last year was a pretty good show, and I thought there was some definite potential with Double or Nothing, despite the fact that I felt that the performer/owners spread a little too much agenda into the show, but the wrestling was solid.
I like the idea of there being a solid alternative to the WWE, as I definitely feel that they’ve gotten very stale and more predictable than ever, and the only good shows now in my opinion really are NXT and NXT UK. And with the WWE, despite the fact that they’ll never admit it, preparing for competition with AEW, by putting the WWE Network original NXT on the cable USA Network, they effectively bone cord-cutters like me who don’t want to have to pay for cable television.
For those not aware, the USA Network’s app does not show any WWE programming, for whatever reason; at least not live. App users can watch old episodes, back a month or so, but for the intent of watching it live, it’s not an option. As the arrival of AEW Dynamite approached, I was curious on whether or not TNT’s app would show professional wrestling live, and I was optimistic and pleasantly surprised when I realized that I could watch wrestling on Wednesdays again.
So as I began settling into watch the new alternative, I already began envisioning myself watching AEW regularly, since the WWE still hasn’t figured out what it’s doing with NXT yet, since at first it was one hour on USA, one hour on WWE Network and then it was all hours on USA and fuck you WWE Network, and then in preparation for episode 1 of AEW Dynamite it was entirely on USA with limited commercial breaks (also fuck you WWE Network).
The show starts off with Cody Rhodes versus some guy I’d never heard of before, Sammy Guevara, who actually thought was a woman at first, when he came out wearing like a Pablo Sandoval panda hat, but turned out to be a pretty decent worker. My first impressions were that I thought it was interesting that AEW maintains that they’re going to keep track of wins and losses, which is hilarious considering professional wrestling is predetermined, so I can imagine the creative walls that AEW will get backed into when they try and push someone who’s like 4-10-3 and try to sell that they’re a contender for a belt and not a jobber with ten losses.
And they’re claiming to have time limits; like old WCW. I can’t wait to see how flustered fans will become when they start having time limit draws instead of definitive finishes. I hope fans start pelting the rings with trash like they used to in old WCW. Speaking of WCW, Tony Schiavone fucked up on two different instances that I bothered to catch and said “WCW” when he clearly was meaning to say “AEW.” He also called a fallaway slam a blockbuster; making me realize just how much I missed Tony Schiavone and his complete lack of knowledge of professional wrestling moves despite being in the industry for like three decades.
As for the match itself, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wouldn’t have been a match that I would’ve picked to have started a brand new flagship show with. As a performer, I think Cody Rhodes is a solid worker, and can have some good matches, but I think his ring work is a little overrated; he’s a lot like Randy Orton in the sense that he kind of has a script and checklist in his head while he works, and I don’t think he’s the type that can work on the fly.
Don’t get me wrong, Cody is still good in the ring, but his mind for the business is clearly his superior strength; not just anyone can start a wrestling promotion and actually get it off the ground and on cable television. But I think Cody being the first match of Dynamite was a little bit of a power play that wasn’t necessarily the best decision to be made for business.
Cody vs. Guevara kind of set the tone for the entire night, which was a surprisingly slow pace. When the match was announced as having a 20 minute time limit, I didn’t anticipate it going so long that there would have been a five minute warning actually announced. But after the match ended, the surprise beatdown of Cody at the hands of Chris Jericho went nearly as long as the match itself, and through one really long, picture-in-picture commercial break.
Speaking of commercials, AEW desperately, desperately needs some good TV producers and show-runners to help out with the timing of their commercials. All through the night, commercial breaks would overlap with the starts of matches, or run throughout the duration of entire matches, or worse off, picture-in-picture over a match where the best action was reduced to a 30% sized screen off to the right with zero commentary or context. Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone also talked about commercial breaks and whether or not they’d be picture-in-picture or not, and the whole topic of commercials got more mention than half the matches on the card.
Which brings us to the matches on the card, to which there were but just five matches in an entire two hour show. I’m pretty sure the last one hour episode of NXT UK had five matches, so to have five matches in two hours is a pretty substantial waste of time in my opinion.
And of those five matches, the only one that was truly worth it was undoubtedly the Hangman Adam Page vs. Adrian Neville whom for some reason is going under the moniker “PAC.” Page to me is one of those guys that I think is a little overrated, but is still a talented worker; in fact, I’d probably rate him higher than Cody, on account of a lot of the agility he displays, but like Cody, not really a guy I’d build a company around. And then PAC is someone I’d put on an otherworldly tier, as someone who can fly with the best of the aerialists, but has the strength and mass to not look out of place against bigger opponents too. The two of them unsurprisingly put on the strongest match of the night, and I can say without any real hesitation that it was downhill from there.
MJF is basically a roided-up Miz, and the steroid back-acne all over him is disgustingly distracting when the camera zooms in on him, but the formula is tried and true, and it should be pretty easy for him to get over with the arrogant douche gimmick, and it’s pretty understandably why he was featured.
The Riho vs. Nyla Rose match was a struggle to watch, as the whole match felt like a counterfeit version of a Kairi Sane vs. Nia Jax, except with half the talent. When TNA was a thing, one of their undeniable strengths was their women’s division, but it’s painfully evident that AEW is likely to not have that same luxury. It should be noted that one of their top female contenders, Dr. Britt Baker was not long removed from getting squashed in NXT by Shayna Baszler, and it’s apparent they’re positioning her to take on the new women’s champion.
I’m fascinated by North American wrestling assuming Japanese women are the pinnacle of female wrestling, because I had hoped AEW wouldn’t also be a bunch of weebs and push the Japanese chick to the top like WWE always tends to do.
And then we have the “main event” which was Chris Jericho and the guys that used to be LAX in TNA, versus Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, both of whom I guess were making their North American television debut, unless you actually count Ring of Honor or their numerous pay-per-view appearances prior to AEW.
The whole thing was a great big schmozz where neither the Bucks or Omega got nearly enough time to do their thing, as the latter was taken out by the former Dean Ambrose, Jon Moxley, leaving the Bucks to get their asses beat for the next 15 minutes. I actually left the room to go chop some vegetables in the kitchen, but I heard Chris Jericho get the pinfall one of the Bucks, and then could hear Tony Schiavone losing his trademark shit over the post-match shenanigans, involving the inclusions of Cody Rhodes, Sammy Guevara, Dustin Rhodes, and then the big reveal of the night, the arrival of Jake Hager, who used to be the WWE’s Jack Swagger.
When Jack Swagger is the big shock moment of the night, I can’t possibly believe that AEW is taking this competition remotely seriously. Swagger was a failure of a world champion in the WWE, could barely get over with fans, and his speech impediment made him a huge liability on the mic. I’m going to have a really hard time buying into Jake Hager as a legitimate threat, and I can’t help but point out the reliance on all these WWE has-beens that AEW is using to try and jumpstart their promotion.
Episode 1 of AEW Dynamite was a colossal below-average effort, that would’ve been close to a failure if not for the Adam Page vs. PAC match.
It should be noted that on USA, NXT was not fucking around one bit, as the show opened up with Adam Cole vs. Matt Riddle for the NXT Championship, which was easily better than any match on Dynamite, capped off with a fairly clean win by Cole. Also throughout the stacked card were Johnny Gargano vs. Shane Thorne, Pete Dunne vs. Danny Burch, the Street Profits vs. the Undispiuted Era, and both the Io Shirai vs. Mia Yim and Shayna Baszler vs. Candice LeRae matches made a mockery of Riho vs. Nyla Rose. Their surprise moments included the return of both Finn Balor to NXT, as well as Tommaso Ciampa’s return from injury.
I made a joke with a friend that AEW dropped a turd on purpose in order to make NXT blow all their ammo and show their hand, with the idea that AEW can see how high the bar is and know what they have to do jump it, but my friend simply retorted that the WWE has unlimited ammo.
The point is, AEW Dynamite’s first episode was really not that good, and for all the shit talking that they’ve been doing about how they’re going to be legitimate competition, I don’t buy it for a fucking second anymore. But there’s still a lot of time for things to develop, so we may revisit this topic in the future.