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‘All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite’ Premiere Review: A Really Strong First Step for AEW

All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite

All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite was a really strong first step for AEW.

AEW has been both the beloved and the bane of the wrestling world (depending on who you talk to) since the company was formally announced via Being the Elite on January 1, 2019. The company’s four pay-per-view events have been met with tremendous praise, but with that praise comes the slings and arrows (both justified and unjustified). The expectations for the premiere event, were just as high as the excitement level the fervent AEW fanbase drummed up on social media in the days and weeks leading up to Wednesday night October 2.

Even yours truly, a 30+ year fan of pro wrestling, could not contain my excitement for the premiere of All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite. This is in no way a knock against any other wrestling promotion out there, but this is the first we’re seeing a wrestling company of this magnitude start from Day 1. Since 2000 I’ve seen the birth of Ring of Honor, TNA/Impact, and MLW — but none of them started with this high of a hype factor, and premiere on this large of an international platform.

AEW needed to do a number of things in this premiere. First, they needed to actually successfully get through their first television production. While Kevin Sullivan (no, not that one) and Bruce Mitchell have been in the wrestling TV game for a long time; the majority of AEW’s team have not. AEW needed to make sure they had this show locked down in terms of timing, pacing, and production, while also maintaining a high degree of in-ring quality.

Second, they needed to improve on a number of glaring issues like the quality of their commentary team, making sure their audio mixes weren’t washed out, and that the cameramen weren’t missing shots. Finally, they needed to prove that they could tell a cohesive story not just in the world of this premiere, but to build to next week, and every television event down the road.

The result was, as previously stated, a really strong first step.

This episode proves that AEW can create a damn entertaining two hour television program. Yes, there were bumps in the road, and some things did not work — but those are necessary moments this company needs to have in order to grow, and eventually create a tight and terrific Wednesday night television show.

The production of the premiere was the strongest the company has had to date. The theme music was mixed really well, and projected loudly through the speakers. While this sounds like the silliest thing to point out — what’s one thing every wrestling fan loves? Great entrance music. Entrance music can be iconic. It can bring an audience to life. It elicits immediate reactions. It’s vital to a show. Previous AEW efforts seemed to have issues with the sound and the music sounded fairly generic and sometimes barely audible. Tonight, the themes were loud, they were clear, and it turns out they’ve got some good music in AEW — something we should’ve heard earlier.

The camera work was terrific throughout the night as the glaring “how could you miss this?” gaffes that plagued the previous PPVs were nowhere to be seen. Again, maybe it sounds weird to critique camerawork for a wrestling show, but if you’re missing a big move that the audience goes nuts for it absolutely kills the viewing experience.

The commentary, something my previous columns have harped on, was light years better than anything they’ve heard before from them. The addition of Tony Schiavone seems to be the elixir they were in such dire need of. The trio of Schiavone, JR and Excalibur have a great chemistry, and everyone knew their roles. No one talked over each other, everyone was audible, and everyone had a defined role. JR has really come into his own as that John Madden senior analyst role while Schiavone and Excalibur did a nice job pivoting as play-by-play guys. Tony also handled the role of promoting in-house stuff like upcoming tapings, the Full Gear PPV, and more. This team will only get better with time, and I believe this for this first time out, having never worked together, was really terrific.

With the good, does come the negative. You could definitely see the nerves out there, particularly in the first two matches. Sammy Guevara and Cody wasn’t the smoothest of matches, and as Cody matches can be, it went a little too long. Brandon Cutler and MJF never got out of first gear as it seemed Cutler legit injured himself. The Kevin Smith segment, while, ran a bit long. The SCU/Lucha Brothers live angle was a bit meh. Riho and Nyla wasn’t overly smooth. The use of the “Being the Elite” theme instead of The Young Bucks or Omega’s theme killed their pop (at least on TV). The first hour’s pacing was a little uneven too.

Luckily, these things can be ironed out. Do I believe they can be ironed out? Well, if the company was able to dramatically correct commentary, camerawork, and all the pacing issues of previous shows — all within a month — I’d say it’s a safe bet they will. Now, if you were expecting perfection in the premiere, you weren’t being realistic heading into this show. AEW is going to take its lumps, and have hiccups, and not every show is going to be an A+. But the learning curve they’re on is vital, and they seem like a company dedicated to improving on every aspect. Let’s hope they follow through on it.

Now let’s quickly look at the matches:

First, it has to be said the crowd definitely helped make this show. They were jumping out of their skin, and were white hot for literally everything. They amplified every entrance, every spot, every finish and that kind of atmosphere makes you not only want to tune into next week’s AEW show, but to buy a ticket to one.

Cody vs. Sammy Guervara: So the result of this match seemed fairly obvious when it was announced. However, they did a fairly good job of building an iota of doubt in the result. Sammy and Cody were really tight in the opening of this match, to be expected. Sammy looked solid here, as they definitely let him get his big moves in which impressed. However, in the moment it felt disappointing because it at the finish it felt like “Okay, I guess Sammy’s a good guy?” which felt flat. In hindsight, these were terrific breadcrumbs for later in the night. Oh, and Cody is slightly over. Slightly. (That’s sarcasm) AEW has done one hell of a job taking a guy who a lot of people were lukewarm on, and made him a bonafide star. Cody, despite the cynics, is not a crowbarred into the main event-er because he’s an EVP. Listen to the crowd, the people have invested in Cody, and Cody has put the work in, in all aspects of his game to be on that level. Makes sense he gets the win and heads to Full Gear in the main event.

Brandon Cutler vs. MJF: The weakest match on the show hands down. Cutler, who is an impressive wrestler, had a cool tope suicida, but after that looked very hesitant in the ring. The potential knee injury he suffered did not look good, so that might be why they had an abrupt finish. MJF didn’t get too much time to shine here, in-ring wise. Luckily his mic work is always on point.

Adam Page vs. PAC: This one needed a bit of a refresher in terms of re-establishing the feud between these two. There was that post-interview jaw jacking between Pac and Page at All Out, but since then it’s been radio silence from both. A little something would’ve gone a long way. Regardless, these two put on a hell of a fight. Oh, remember when everyone was like “Hangman isn’t that over!” and “Is Hangman really any good?” Yup, he proved it here tonight. PAC was terrific here as the menacing heel. The pacing seemed like it was slow, but hindsight it showed this was just PAC’s way to build to the finish — which was an explosion of violence. Let’s run this back in a few weeks, and maybe have something more between these two. Technically, they’re 1-1 in matches…and wins and losses matter (even if Page’s win was on a U.K. indie show).

Riho vs. Nyla Rose: This too seemed like an obvious finish. Nyla Rose was going to win this one. However, we got Riho taking the title home. I was a bit shocked, but the crowd was really behind the Joshi staple, and quite frankly she put on one hell of a fight. Riho showed more fire, more charisma, and a ferocious never say die attitude than we’ve seen in AEW. Previous matches she was more finesse and skill than heart and fire. Nyla losing was a bit of a let down since it would’ve been crazy historic. However, I think we see a rematch down the road, and Nyla takes the belt home. Having Kenny separate Nyla and Riho popped the crowd, but I would’ve rather have seen Britt Baker do it, and set up her and Nyla for a match. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out because Riho (for now) does not have the strongest personality, nor (unless Nakazawa is her mouthpiece) is she great with promos. It might be an uphill battle for her.

The Elite vs. Santana, Oritz & Jericho: This was wild, and a fun way to close out the show. Moxley coming out was great. However, the logic gap here is: Shouldn’t have Team Jericho been DQ’ed since Mox laid hands on their opponent? If you’re going to be about “rules” you have to follow them. Now, the Omega/Mox brawl was crazy fun, as it showed a new shade of Kenny. Moxley’s elevated Death Rider DDT through a GLASS TABLE was bonkers. It’s especially bonkers when you realize that his elbow which was filled with a MRSA infection not long ago went through the glass first.

Back in the ring, The Bucks and the former LAX have such a ludicrously good chemistry. Let’s have them feud for the rest of the year. Jericho was in his ascended form of douche bag heel Jericho. He was a coward, he was a braggart, he was a bully, and he was hated. The final sequence where Santana and Ortiz hit dives into the corner on Matt Jackson then whipped him into the Judas Effect was killer.

Post-Match: The end brawl was the stuff wrestling fans love — lots of action, lots of surprises, and plunder aplenty. Cody coming out to fight Jericho got the monster pop I don’t know if anyone was truly expecting. Dustin Rhodes getting an equally huge reaction, might’ve been even more surprising. Sammy Guevara coming out and kicking Cody in the balls was great, and truly cemented him as a heel. Yet, the biggest surprise of them all was the audience getting super into the debuting Jake Hager fka Jack Swagger. Hager was rumored to be signing with the company, and JR has not been shy about dropping his name in regards to people he thinks should be in AEW. Hager actually looked good in the ring, and he seemed amped to be there. If this is now going to be a faction (Jericho, Santana, Ortiz, Hager, Sammy), I am here for it. If Cody’s statement about not every talent being at every TV is true, this strength in numbers approach for this potential stable, actually works.

In closing, All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite was a promising glimpse into the future of AEW. It wasn’t a perfect show, but it proved this company can produced entertaining and compelling television, and when the problems are smoothed out, it’ll be an elite (yes, pun intended) wrestling program.

All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite will repeat on TruTV on Saturday morning, is available to stream on the TNT app, and the series will air every Wednesday at 8 p.m. on TNT.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


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