Rather than dive into reviewing Dynamite prematurely and feeding into the ratings side of the Wednesday Night War, it was decided to let the dust settle. We were never going to understand everything after just one night, or two, but by three, we have a decent idea about what AEW is going to feel like on a weekly basis.
It was fitting that the debut fight saw Cody take to the squared-circle. He is a founder and face of the company. Unlike The Other Place, where connection to the powers that be buys unfair air time, Cody is legitimately a top tier star. He is World Champion level talent, he is recognisable as Mr AEW, he should be opening the first bout on TNT.
The match with Sammy Guevara helped build the stock of the youngster and storylines, with Chris Jericho entering the ring to give Cody a painful reminder of what to expect at the Full Gear PPV when the two face-off for the World Title.
It would take too long to cram all the matches from the opening three weeks into one article. Those have already been reviewed elsewhere. But to examine the tone and feel, we also need to consider direction. PAC against “Hangman” Adam Page gave us big hints. PAC made “Hangman” tap out, albeit after a low blow. It’s a sign the Geordie is well thought of in AEW. As for Page, is he destined to play the tortured nearly man for a period of time?
Of course, episode 1 saw Riho get the shock win over Nyla Rose. “Shock” is used sparingly there. Lots assumed Rose would get the strap first but that was based on the amount of media work and exposure. Riho, in many respects, was the safe choice. It builds another name and unleashes Rose as a person that wants to stomp through the division.
The first main event saw Jericho, Santana and Ortiz versus The Young Bucks and Omega. It was never a fair match. Moxley saw to that. He stole Omega from ringside, planted him through a glass table backstage, and the inevitable beatdown of the babyfaces ensued.
The Rhodes brothers ran to the ring, followed by Jericho’s newest buddies including the former Jack Swagger – MMA’s Jake Hager.
Which leads us into episode 2 and the best promo Jericho has cut in years. And that is saying something as Jericho doesn’t do bad promos. He derailed the crowd’s “We the People” chants, aimed at Hager. Jericho derided WWE and killed what could have become a career hindering, never going away chant in a simple but cutting line: “‘We the People’ sucks and it’s dead and buried. It was a stupid idea from bad creative and all that’s gone.”
The amusing thing is, the crowd lapped up the comment, Hager looked a little hurt. He’d been using the gimmick in MMA. Dense people of the Twitterverse, have remarked Jericho was a hypocrite in the promo. That he dogged WWE Creative while still hinting at his old gimmick, like The List. Jericho is his own invention. His creations did not require WWE Creative. He can recycle his old material to his heart’s content.
His latest creation is the stable now known as The Inner Circle. It looks like we’re heading for good authority figures trying to overcome an evil, dissident group that holds power.
The second episode allowed a few things to become clearer. Like, this is a wrestling show. The action goes at a faster pace. There are fewer segments than WWE. It’s in-ring action plus. I don’t want to say total, non-stop action as that would have a grossly unfair connotation. While we’re at it, the notion it’s WCW-lite is wrong too. This is new with a slight nod to the past.
Week two had a real sporting feeling. It wasn’t polished to within an inch of its life like The Other Place, to the point where a ring walk feels like a catwalk. This felt like combatants about to get it on. There was a big fight feel throughout. An atmosphere closer to a boxing arena than Vince McMahon’s circus.
AEW showed that shocks will come and not just for the sake of shocking. The Young Bucks – pre-tournament favourites – where eliminated in the first round tag match by Private Party. Also, expected results aren’t delivered with ease. Every win was worked for, from Moxley over Spears and The Inner Circle over Rhodes and Page.
The best compliment episode 2 received was from a friend who is a time lapsed WWE fan, he was genuinely enthralled and giddy with each and every match. This was without him knowing any of the characters beforehand. He took it on face value and said it was as good as WWE at its best.
Last Wednesday’s Dynamite completed the overview of how the show will run. The focus on in-ring action was underlined. It does seem to have a hard act on its hand of delivering top level matches, with its best talent, while avoiding over-exposure. Already, Moxley/PAC is announced for episode 4. That’s a PPV main event right there, given away on telly.
Mox went full Stone Cold and flipped a double-bird before delivering Paradigm Effect, setting up the beef. It’s also notable PAC undersold the finisher and needed a few more from the opponents of Omega and Page before swallowing the three-count. The win-loss record counts in AEW and PAC has a rep for not accepting defeats. Next week they need to avoid a convoluted finish to maintain integrity.
The Jericho/Allin Philly Street fight struggled with this. It was clear Allin was being put over during the inevitable defeat but it risked making Jericho look weak while giving the emerging star a 1 in his loss tally. Also, after WWE’s Hell in a Cell debacle, why risk the fans ire by having referee Aubrey Edwards call for a break during submission moves whenever Darby Allin reached the rope? The fans even shouted: “It’s a street fight”.
AEW has a great concept with Dark on YouTube. It needs to increase the length of that show and have jobbers fight one another more, building respectable records amongst themselves. These talents should then lose to big names on Dynamite, preserving the win-loss records of top tier stars. Otherwise, explicit jobbers will have records resembling 2-50, with the big names on the books having 50/50 stats at best.
AEW arenas have that big fight feel but big fights don’t happen weekly in UFC and boxing. Big stars need tune-up matches; in pro-wrestling context that means being fed jobbers.
This is a minor concern in an otherwise successful launch. Dynamite has a unique feel without being completely alien to lapsed fans. It satisfies those burnt by stupid ideas from bad creative. Now all it needs is time to build backstory and relax into not pulling out the big matches every single week. And that in itself shows how strong AEW has come out of the blocks: we’d be happy to see them apply the “less is more” rule.
Episode 1 – “Are You Elite” 2 Oct, 2019– 8/10
Episode 2 – “The Inner Circle” 9 Oct, 2019 – 9/10
Episode 3 – 16 Oct, 2019 – 7/10