AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Shahid Khan, and TNT
Last night AEW finally made the leap to weekly television with DYNAMITE; a name that conveys a clear purpose of intent to blow away everything we know about wrestling and rebuild it for the modern age! That or they just wanted a word that was catchy and sounded cool. In any case, let’s take a look at the inaugural episode!
Cody Rhodes Vs. Sammy Guevara
The very first match on AEW’s new show (and the first wrestling match on TNT since 2001 as the announcers helpfully point out) is a pretty straightforward affair. The deal is that if Cody loses this match he loses his chance against the current AEW champ Chris Jericho at the next PPV, but really it’s just an exhibition match between two talented wrestlers. Now this isn’t a problem since you don’t really need any buildup for matches on regular TV the same way you expect for PPVs, but the problem I just keep having whenever Cody shows up is that I have no idea what his place is in all of this. Sammy Guevara is simply a young wrestler looking for his big break, but Cody? He’s the Executive Vice President of the company, he’s friends with the most heelish of heels MJF, and Brandi ends up interfering in the match. It sounds like he’s tailor made to be a bad guy, and yet it never feels like we’re supposed to boo him. Perhaps it’s the fact that he still comes off as an underdog when compared to Vince and the WWE, but within AEW it feels like his character is a bit muddled. He eventually wins the match which gets a respectable pop from the crowd, but then Chris Jericho jumps in to beat the crap out of Cody and assert his dominance in the AEW hierarchy. I was actually pretty down on Jericho being the AEW champion considering how much great new talent they have which is being overshadowed by a guy THIS deep into his career, but he actually looks a lot better than he has in a while and this is the kind of jerk move that a heel champ should be pulling, so kudos to that guy for turning it around so quickly for me!
Randy Cutler Vs. MJF
See, now THIS is what I want from TV! Maybe I’m just so used to the way WWE does things and this feels the most like a standard Raw or SmackDown match, but MJF going up against whoever the heck this Cutler guy is was one of the highlights of the show. MJF is just so talented at being exactly what he needs to be which is a goofy heel with great mic skills, and Cutler does a great job of stepping to the side and letting him shine. He’s definitely a talented guy and I wouldn’t mind seeing what else he has to over down the road, but for right now that’s not his role and I respect any wrestler who’s willing to use their immense skills to build someone else up and even if MJF is supposed to be a goof, he needs to be taken at least somewhat seriously if he’s going to stay in the spotlight and giving him a win here does a lot to cement his place on TV. It’s a short match as well which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned because one area where AEW could improve is in its match length as EVERY PPV managed to drag out by the third hour mark, so not overstaying their welcome here shows some definite improvement.
After the match we find out that Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes are in the audience to promote their new movie which apparently has Chris Jericho in it playing a villain of some sort. For a guy who’s been in front of the camera and on podcasts for so long Kevin seems a bit stiff here, but honestly it’s just a minor distraction while we get ready for the next match. We also get an update on the Tag Team tournament coming up with appearances from Angélico and Jack Evans who yell at Jason Mewes, Private Party who just wander around in the crowd, and SCU and The Lucha Bros who get in a pull apart brawl on the ramp. My money’s on SCU going the distance, but as long as it’s not The Dark Order I’ll be happy.
Hangman Adam Page Vs. Pac
I was pretty meh on this match to be honest. It could be the placement as its right in the middle of the show and I’m ready to tune out a bit for a bathroom break or a snack run, but I don’t know; it just feels kinda basic. Even with Jericho being a great heel, I feel like a lot of the wind has been taken out of Adam Page’s sails since he lost his match at All Out and Pac still feels like an afterthought wrestler. He’s just kind of around to fill spots which is fine against an opponent with real heat on them, but Page just isn’t doing it for me now; especially at the end of the match when he LOSES yet again. It’s not even like the wrestling itself wasn’t impressive as both guys are clearly giving it their all here, but when the wrestling is so consistently at that level, even GREAT stuff starts to feel mundane if it doesn’t have the engrossing characters or stories behind it. We’re still very early into all of this so there’s PLENTY of room for him to grow and for his star to rise, but for the moment I’m just not feeling it.
Riho Vs. Nyla Rose: Women’s Championship Match
If you want a better explanation for why I was so blasé about the Hangman/Pac match, then just watch this one because it has everything that was missing from that one. Both competitors have managed to build up a lot of momentum over the PPVs, so the match ended up having a lot of weight behind it that you can feel emanating from the competitors as well as the crowd. This easily had the best near falls of the night as the crowd went ballistic whenever someone almost won the belt, and it had a conclusion that I didn’t see coming! I was certain that this was Nyla Rose’s night to win, but Riho managed to come out on top and pulled the victory off rather convincingly despite the size difference and how much that was played up throughout the match. If there’s one thing I can point to as something of a negative, I think that Nyla Rose got a bit bogged down with heel gimmicks. She kept going for chairs for some reason I couldn’t even fathom, and yet she didn’t try to do it sneakily like a heel would. Out in the open in full view of the ref, she methodically looked for a chair and brandished it in Riho’s general direction before eventually being talked down under threat of disqualification. I mean, what did she THINK was going to happen? That minor quibble aside though, this was DEFINITELY the match of the night and I can’t wait to see what Riho’s reign is going to look like!
Oh and Michael Nakazawa shows up after the match to congratulate Riho, so in case this match wasn’t awesome enough we get confirmation that the baby oil dude is sticking around! Nyla Rose starts t beat up the both of them (of course) and so Kenny Omega rund out to break it up which is hopefully setting up some mixed gender tag team matches for the future. Apparently these two have been a tag team in the past and I’d love to see them work together!
The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega Vs. LAX and Chris Jericho
This was a great way to end the show, but the match itself is somewhat immaterial even if the two actual tag teams within it pull off some great moves. Why? Because within a few minutes of the match starting, Jon Moxley (YAY!) shows up in the ring which makes Kenny’s Omega sense start to tingle and the two pick up where they left off at Double or Nothing as they brawl outside the ring and into the back area where they start using mops, metal doors, and even a glass table to show us all that they mean business. I actually wasn’t sure if Moxley was well enough to show up tonight, but I’m glad he did because even if he’s not there every show he still brings the roof down whenever he appears. Even more so than Chris Jericho who is looking REALLY good here, he’s the best thing that AEW has going for it and the guy who’s gonna put eyeballs on the screen. I was actually surprised that the match continued after that as I figured Moxley getting involved would have ended it in a disqualification, but The Young Bucks tried valiantly to take on LAX and Chris Jericho on their own. After some impressive moves from both teams, Jericho eventually steals the win which you’d THINK would be the end of the end of the show, but AEW has one last thing to show us before they conclude their very first episode. After the match ends, LAX and Jericho start beating up on the Young Bucks which is enough to bring Cody out to fight back (especially after the butt kicking he got from Jericho earlier in the show) and that just starts a chain reaction of people coming out. Sammy Guevara comes out and kicks Cody in the balls (which confirms that he HAS turned heel), Dustin Rhodes comes out to avenge his brother, and then… someone else comes out who I didn’t recognize. Apparently his name is Jake Hager and used to fight in WWE as Jack Swagger which I’m sure means something to all those people who gave him a solid pop when he showed up, but my knowledge of wrestling is spotty at best so I couldn’t tell you if he’s that big of a deal. The most significant thing however is the final show which has Jericho, LAX, Sammy and Jake Hager standing over the crushed and defeated Elite which could mean a few things. Primarily we seem to have a heel faction forming, but with this being on TNT, the leader being a famous wrestlers who worked for decades in other promotions, and the fact that the announcers outright name checked WCW at the beginning of the show… maybe they’re going for an NOW homage? That’s probably a stretch as I doubt AEW wants to tie themselves THAT closely to not just a failed promotion from twenty years ago but also one owned by Vince McMahon, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming weeks.
So that was the first episode! Was it good? Yeah, it was pretty good! Sure there was a match that didn’t really do much for me, but that’s still usually a better track record than Raw or SmackDown a lot of the time, and even if its gonna take a bit of time to REALLY get things firing on all cylinders, they continue to impress with their focus on jaw dropping matches and investing in fresh and interesting talent. Let’s hope they can put on a show just as impressive next week; especially with the Tag Team tournament starting in earnest!