You only get one chance to make a first impression. And AEW Dynamite made a pretty good one.
It wasn’t perfect by any means. But it was a breath of fresh air that pro wrestling desperately needed.
Ten months of hype have brought us to this point, as wrestling fans have eagerly anticipated All Elite Wrestling’s maiden television voyage.
Let’s break down the hits and the misses for the first episode of AEW Dynamite.
HIT — The Nightmare Sets The Tone
The opening match between Cody and Sammy Guevara wasn’t a mat classic. But it was an excellent showcase for what AEW can be as a television product.
Cody didn’t exactly make Guevara look like a chump, but he didn’t make him look like a million bucks, either. And that’s a good thing. For a TV debut, you want to show new viewers who your heavy hitters are.
At the end of the match, Cody remained undefeated in singles competition on his way to a title match with Chris Jericho at Full Gear in November. But it was the attack from Jericho after the match that set the tone not only for AEW Dynamite but, in the eyes of new viewers, the promotion as a whole.
It was a signal that keeping the stories running is every bit as important as the action in the ring.
MISS — MJF Has It. Brandon Cutler Doesn’t
AEW Dynamite rolled forward with MJF taking on a debuting Brandon Cutler. And Brandon Cutler was utterly exposed.
MJF is easily the best heel in all of pro wrestling. Within a year or two, he’s going to be world champion. And he needed a big stage to work on. Cutler, a childhood friend of the Young Bucks, is talented, but he wasn’t a good choice for MJF’s first televised opponent.
But Cutler just couldn’t come across as a credible opponent.
And unfortunately, that translates to MJF, a building block of the company, being introduced to a national audience by beating a nobody on the first AEW Dynamite.
HIT — Snoochie Boochies
I still feel like WWE missed the boat by not involving Jason Mewes in an angle with Matt Riddle.
I’m not a fan of Kevin Smith anymore. At all. Despite there being a paper trail on the internet to suggest the contrary. So why is this a hit? Because this was AEW taking a page from WWE’s playbook. They may not be the biggest celebrities in the world, but they’re a big deal to AEW’s target demographic.
Kids and teens who are ripe to look at a Clerks movie as a philosophical wonder that shows them the world.
It’s a good sign that AEW knows its audience, or at least the audience it wants to draw.
P.S. Clerks isn’t anywhere near as good as you remember it.
HIT — Page Vs. Pac: Better Late Than Never
“Hangman” Adam Page taking on Pac was supposed to be one of the marquee matches at AEW Double Or Nothing.
Issues with DragonGate and Pac prevented that match from happening on AEW’s pay-per-view debut, but it wound up being a signature piece for the AEW Dynamite premiere.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) October 3, 2019
The match was slow and methodical (which seemed to confuse JR and Tony Schiavone), but it told a good story (copyright Bruce Prichard), and it was another sign that AEW knows its audience.
It capped off the first hour of the show and carried it into the second, which shows that AEW also understands programming.
And considering this was the opening salvo of the Wednesday Night War, that’s critical knowledge.
Page and Pac destroyed each other for around 10 minutes, and it was a great combination of current spot-wrestling and ’90s brawling. Some said that Page was exposed in his main event match with Jericho at All Out, but there’s something of a young Steve Austin in the Hangman. If he stays healthy, he could fulfill the promise that “Stunning” Steve Austin had in his pre-WWE days.
MISS — Nyla Rose Gets Sloppy
One of the selling points for the debut of AEW Dynamite was the match to crown the first-ever AEW Women’s Champion. And Nyla Rose nearly killed it and her opponent.
The match between Riho and Nyla Rose was a chance to sell the AEW women’s division to a wider audience. And Rose was flat-out not ready for it.
The scariest moment was a powerbomb that, an inch or two one way or another, could’ve paralyzed or killed Riho. That moment kind of dulled the shine of what should’ve been a huge moment for Riho.
And it’s bad for the division and the company. Rose, rightfully, is at the center of AEW’s commitment to diversity. This was a performance that, if not addressed, could derail that goal.
Also, the girls in my junior high class had snap bracelets bigger than the AEW Women’s Championship belt.
I’m elderly, you see.
HIT — The Main Event
This is a grudging “hit.”
There was a lot going on in this segment. It was great to see Jericho teaming with Ortiz and Santana (i.e. NOT LAX) against Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks. The in-ring action was fantastic.
But it was a little too all over the place. Moxley attacking Omega, Cody attacking Jericho, Guevara (who seemed a good sport in the opener) attacking Cody for no reason. There was just a lot to unpack there, and it smacked somewhat of your average WCW Monday Nitro finish.
And the debut of Jake Hager (Jack Swagger in WWE) was a big deal for wrestling fans but not so much the rank-and-file channel-flipper. Hager made his debut sneaking into the ring and taking out Dustin Rhodes, who had come out to help Cody. It was kind of cool, but as far as making history goes, Lex Luger showing up on Nitro it was not.
What saved it, though, was the around-the-arena brawl between Omega and Moxley. They essentially did the finish of Double Or Nothing all over again, but this is for a new audience. And there were roadblocks that prevented us from getting that match at All Out. Hitting the reset button was a must for the sake of building their match at Full Gear.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) October 3, 2019
And yet, as overbooked as it was, it was all streamlined. Every element of it had something to do with an ongoing story. Not LAX and the Young Bucks have a story. Jericho and Cody built on their rivalry. Moxley and Omega took their rivalry through the roof. And we had a major debut to build a feud between Hager and Dustin Rhodes.
It was a little sloppy, but it was the kind of train wreck that makes you want to tune in for the next week’s AEW Dynamite.
Should WWE be scared? Not really. But they should definitely be taking notice.
AEW Dynamite debuted with a bang. There were no dead spots, and there was no wasted airtime. Every segment meant something.
The sky is the limit for AEW.
AEW Dynamite airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.
All images courtesy of All Elite Wrestling.
AEW Dynamite - October 2, 2019
- A debut that sets the tone for the promotion
- Built or expanded stories with every segment
- Solid wrestling action on a marquis show.
- Jon Freakin' Moxley
- Missed opportunity with MJF
- Nyla Rose was exposed
- A little too much going on in the main event