With its third show, AEW Dynamite seems to have settled into a groove. That’s not a criticism. In fact, it’s actually kind of miraculous that a show this young has been able to find its footing so fast by mixing promos, video packages, and matches in such a confident way.
AEW continued to build, build, build, with every thing on this show progressing some storyline, however big or small.
In its third week, AEW Dynamite has also settled into a comfortable ratings spot, obliterating NXT while hovering around the 1 million viewer mark, good enough for 5th best on cable in the 18-49 demo.
What worked on this week’s episode is maybe a little shorter than last week’s show, but this was still a very consistent show. There was a solid amount of high-level stuff, and the filler was more than passable, with very little out-and-out bad moments. In just three short weeks, AEW Dynamite has moved into “must-watch” territory faster than anyone could realistically have predicted.
Main Event Shit
–The best thing in the first hour of the show was the Cody video package. If it wasn’t clear before that AEW has a phenomenal video production crew, then it should be after this video. This blurring of the lines between storyline and reality, when done correctly, has the ability to deliver goosebumps and buy-in. And, boy, was this video package ever done well. Take five minutes and watch how something like this can create interest.
We get Cody training for his match with Jericho, and we get him in his kitchen not listening to Brandi. This was top notch and things like this honestly have the ability to set AEW apart from the competition.
I’m rooting for this type of thing every week, honestly. My only nit to pick is that we already know Cody. He got a similar video on the debut episode of Dynamite. Give me background on someone I don’t know. Let’s flesh out some of these other characters, so that I care about their journey too.
–Aside from JR putting his foot in his mouth every once in awhile, the announce crew continues to excel and be one of the better parts of the show. Between the JR, Schiavone, and Excalibur, they’re all three able to build characters that many viewers are probably not familiar with. They tell us, based on what we’re seeing, how to feel about the characters. They built up Santana and Ortiz as unhinged maniacs. They established Marko and Riho as small but fearless, and they pay attention to the crowd response in the building and help translate that to my tv screen. JR stumbles over some things, but, in all, this is a top tier crew. It’s honestly kind of amazing given their lack of work together.
–I’m not a big fan of Adam Page, but he came out this week and killed himself for our pleasure, especially as they were building up for the hot tag to Omega.
This was also probably the first time that I’ve seen glimpses of the old Kenny, the Kenny that I enjoy watching, on Dynamite.
To this point, there’s been nothing to latch onto, aside from him going through a glass coffee table courtesy of Mox. If I was a casual fan who had never seen his battles in New Japan but had heard about the “Best Bout Machine,” I would honestly have been wondering what all the fuss was about. But this week’s exchange between Mox and Omega was exactly what I had hoped for when both of these guys signed with AEW.
Likewise, Mox turning on PAC worked well and allowed for a clean finish that made sense and didn’t hurt PAC at all. These two should have a barn burner of a match next week.
–The main event of this week’s Dynamite has taken over the title of “best match in the history of Dynamite” from The Young Bucks and Private Party’s kickass display last week.
It’s a rare occurrence that I watch a match and think, “Man, I have never seen that before,” but Chris Jericho and Darby Allin pulled it off. Before I explain that, I think it’s important to recognize that this main event felt big. It was properly hyped, and the announcers did a hell of a job selling the storyline of the veteran Jericho vs. the young, unpredictable upstart Darby Allin.
Now, as to the match, it was a very good match for most of the way. However, once Jericho got out the gaffer’s tape from under the ring and taped Allin’s hands behind his back, things got taken to another level. It was one of those things where you think, “This is so awesome that I can’t believe I haven’t seen this before.” With his hands behind his back, Darby Allin sold his body out, delivering a performance that I honestly won’t forget.
Some of these moves simply speak for themselves in their insanity.
Truly, what a performance by this kid. The finish was marred somewhat by the Jake Hager run-in, but how else are you going to book this? Darby could have probably lost clean after all of this punishment. He certainly wouldn’t have been hurt long-term for doing so, but the Hager thing does protect him a little bit. Credit also goes to Jericho, who is amazing in his ability to reinvent himself while also being willing to give a young wrestler like Darby this type of moment. As I was watching this, I couldn’t help but think of all those years in WCW when the top guys, all older stars (cough, Hogan, cough), couldn’t be bothered to build up the younger guys. Here, Jericho did just that, all while still holding on to the belt. Really phenomenal stuff.
Mid-Card Mixed Bag
–This is perhaps a personal preference but I found this weeks tag tourney matches to be just OK. To open the show, SCU was attacked by the Lucha Brothers. After taking a piledriver to the entrance ramp, Christopher Daniels did a stretcher job and was replaced by a plainclothes Scorpio Sky in the match against Best Friends.
Although the teams and announcers did a good job of playing up Kazarian’s injured back and Scorpio’s lack of preparedness, the match went on too long for me. SCU got the predictable, against all odds win, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this match.
–The Jurassic Express vs Lucha Brothers match was better, at least from a freak show perspective. Marko Stunt, a long time controversial figure among fans (do a Twitter search if you want a taste), made his debut and got tossed around like the 5’2” rag doll that he is.
For the record, I have no problem with his role in this match or generally. I don’t really get the backlash against Stunt. The tiny underdog role is a long-standing archetype in the wrestling world. Think Spike Dudley.
That said, this match also went a little too long for my tastes. Listen, I get it. You have to build a match, tell a story, and not bury teams or wrestlers in the process. You don’t want to squash a name team, but these two matches didn’t necessarily make me want more of any of these guys.
UPDATE: You know, the more I think about this, I really think that these matches were probably fine, but I’m just not invested in these guys yet. I am only semi-familiar with the guys in these two tag matches, and I can’t say that that helps my level of engagement. This could fall entirely on me because AEW has ran video packages for both Best Friends and SCU in previous weeks. But something isn’t quite clicking for me yet. I don’t know if that says more about me or the character building of AEW creative. It’ll be interesting (for me, at least) to see if that changes in the coming weeks and months.
–A match that did work for me was, coincidentally enough, a squash where Santana and Ortiz destroyed a pair of local jobbers, which really doesn’t happen enough for my tastes.
After the match, Jericho (in full on hilarious smugness) appeared on the video board to talk for Santana and Ortiz, putting them over as psychopaths and to issue a challenge to The Young Bucks for a tag match at the Full Gear PPV.
–I liked the women’s title match between Riho and Britt Baker. This is almost exclusively because of Riho. You could argue that Britt Baker has been given as much attention (and maybe even airtime) as anyone in the company. She’s definitely the most promoted part of the women’s division. Not to belabor the point I’ve made in consecutive weeks now, but let’s move on from Britt. If we’re going to be the company that goes the organic route and doesn’t force angles or wrestlers, then please AEW, I’m begging you, trust your eyes and ears and realize that aside from being a dentist and Adam Cole’s girlfriend, Baker has very little appeal.
Riho, meanwhile, has been given little in the way of a gimmick other than “she is small and has wrestled since she was nine years old,” but is clearly over as hell and extremely talented. I am glad they put the strap on her from the get-go. Thankfully, she goes over here. She also had one of my favorite spots on the show, going from a submission hold to an immediate top rope curb stomp.
Beautiful and simple.
The quibbles listed above aside, this week’s show had no standout jobber-level stuff. Each segment had a clear purpose, with an eye towards the future.
The Final Bell
I keep waiting for the shine to rub off of AEW a bit, bringing my fandom back down to earth, but it certainly didn’t happen this week. The 2nd hour of this show was so much fun. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: When the fans still want more at the end of a two hour show, you’re doing something right. Another banger that ended, as it should have, with a little bit of the bubbly.