By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
Wednesday night was the most exciting night of professional wrestling of the last decade. Sure, we’ve had countless great matches, the return of actual celebrity Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and beautiful production values. What wrestling has lacked, since 2001 when WCW went out of business, was actual competition. WWE has been the leader in wrestling since 1998 and it has been unchallenged since 2001. On Wednesday night, that changed.
AEW Dynamite, especially this premier episode, will mean more than most episodes they produce. Regardless of quality, this is the big disruption in professional wrestling. Whether or not AEW becomes a giant success, this singular episode of television is going to live on.
All Elite Wrestling put their best foot forward in the most important show they’ve produced yet on Wednesday. From the fantastic, colorful, and bright production to the wrestling in the ring, this was a show that delivered. If you watched as an excited wrestling fan hoping to see something truly different, you got it. AEW delivered variety, excitement, storytelling, and joy. This was a great episode of weekly wrestling television and it left me looking forward to more.
To kick things off, let’s talk about production. Live video production is my actual real life job, so I have some opinions. This show came off better than any of AEW’s pay-per-view or streaming broadcasts thus far. The camera work was excellent. The arena was filmed beautifully and looked major league (an important contrast for AEW to make, particularly with NXT on USA). The lighting was perfect, including helping to make the crowd look massive. AEW’s standard two tunnel entrance stage looked great. This was a well produced live event and television show.
On commentary, Tony Schiavone provided the perfect bridge between Excalibur and Jim Ross. He was plugged in and engaged, giving Excalibur a great partner to work with and giving Ross and familiar rhythm to fall into. This was the best AEW commentary has sounded.
For in-ring action, this show gave us a refreshing variety of matches. Sammy Guevara vs. Cody Rhodes was a good challenge for the veteran Rhodes. MJF vs. Brandon Cutler was a standard squash meant to do more for MJF’s personality than anything else. Adam Page vs. PAC was a preview of what both wrestlers can do and a way to establish both of their athleticism. Riho vs. Nyla Rose was the standout match on this show and the first great women’s match in AEW. The main event six-man tag was a wild brawl with a ton of star power. This show didn’t repeat itself and didn’t even need to break out AEW’s biggest strength: their tag division.
While some criticisms of this show are valid (see below), AEW set a tone for their weekly television show that no other wrestling show has set in years. They aren’t WWE junior. They aren’t a rehash of WCW. They aren’t trying to capture what wrestling fans lost in 2001. All Elite Wrestling is a brand new professional wrestling endeavor and they established their status as major league.
Everyone in All Elite Wrestling needs to look at Wednesday Night Dynamite’s first broadcast as a major win.
And now for some random thoughts:
– The opening video package for AEW Dynamite is very good and very pretty. I wish all wrestlers exploded with color when punched. It’s like combining the spectacle of a color run with the spectacle of professional wrestling. How fun!
– I didn’t know I missed Tony Schiavone, but I missed Tony Schiavone.
– The Cody Rhodes and Sammy Guevara video package was great. WWE is hesitant to use documentary-like footage on TV. Hopefully AEW won’t be.
– I am so confused as to what Brandi Rhodes’ role is in AEW. When she’s with Cody, she seems kind and like a part of his babyface act. When she’s alone, she seems like the vindictive final boss of AEW’s women’s division. It’s an odd dissonance to deal with.
– The theme of the night on this show was post-match attacks. Hopefully this is not the theme of AEW moving forward. Post-match interviews should not always be interrupted by attacks. This show could have used one or two fewer attacks.
– MJF’s personality-establishing squash match was exactly what it should be.
– Hopefully celebrity involvement in AEW is minimized and rethought, so it won’t be as awkward as the Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes confrontation with Jack Evans.
– SCU’s segment on this show didn’t impress me. The pull-apart brawl with Fenix and Pentagon was fine, but the purpose of it was unknown. Was this foreshadowing the tag tournament finals? Would a video package about the tag tournament have been a better choice here?
– I’d say Adam Page needs to be rebuilt in AEW, but honestly, he just needs to be built. AEW has approached him as an already established star and it has been a mistake. He’s a great talent, but he should be presented as something new.
– Britt Baker was super awkward on commentary. She wins the Alex Marvez award for being an actual robot with a headset on.
– Riho vs. Nyla Rose was my favorite match on this show. Nyla impresses me every time I see her wrestle. Riho fighting from underneath and overcoming was a great introduction to her character. This match was great.
– Nyla Rose needing to keep her heat with a post-match attack was awkward. We didn’t need another one on this show and Nyla can always come back next week and look dominant. This felt like a form of the 50/50 booking WWE is often criticized for.
– Kenny Omega was not presented as a major star on this show and that is a mistake. I know he’s on a major journey in AEW and trying to get his groove back, but his first national TV appearance was as Riho’s buddy. I don’t mind establishing the partnership, but this was not the night to do it.
– Omega followed up this first appearance by entering to a YouTube show comedy theme song and being eliminated quickly from the main event tag team match. Kenny Omega needs to be established to a new audience and this is not the way to do it. Of any criticism I could give this show, Omega’s presentation is the most frightening to me. Hopefully in the weeks to come we see what makes Kenny Omega special so new fans can grow attached to him.
– I understand AEW not wanting a disqualification finish in their first TV main event, but the lack of any explanation of why Jon Moxley’s attack on Omega didn’t prompt a DQ was poor. It felt like a “because wrestling” moment and AEW needs to avoid those as much as possible.
– The Young Bucks working down a man against Chris Jericho, Santana, and Ortiz was a nice introduction to them as fighting babyfaces. This worked and the last part of the main event tag was exciting.
– The show-closing chaos was reminiscent of WCW Nitro in a fun way. It won’t be as fun if it’s a regular feature of AEW.
– Alright, so we’re doing this Jake “Jack Swagger” Hager thing? I know AEW wants to give talented wrestlers an opportunity, but giving a WWE mid-carder who flamed out and has done nothing else a major spot on the first show was a poor decision. It was a bad final image for the show and was one of the only times AEW felt minor league all night. Hager isn’t the wrestler or character he needs to be for this slot.
Overall, what a night and what a show! AEW, with NXT as direct competition, delivered a great show and I can’t wait to see what they do next week.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.