It’s been a while since I sat down and dedicated time to watching wrestling without working on my phone or computer in the background.
It’s also been a long time since I’ve written about wrestling, as I didn’t have anything positive to say and I don’t want to be that guy that just complains about how bad wrestling is while still begrudgingly watching it.
Enter All Elite Wrestling: since the announcement of the company in January, I have been looking forward to seeing what they would do. I watched some highlights of their debut pay-per-views like All Out and Double or Nothing and waited with bated breath for their debut on TNT.
On Oct. 2 I went in blind only knowing some of the bigger names like The Elite (Cody, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega), AEW Champion Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, The Lucha Bros. and some of the former TNA guys like Christopher Daniels.
However, after being introduced to so many new and innovative acts such as Private Party, Jurassic Express, Santana/Ortiz, Darby Allin and many more, I am All In (pun intended) on AEW.
So as someone who has been turned off of WWE for a while, here are my thoughts on the company as a whole following the first chunk of television leading up to the Full Gear pay-per-view.
Things I Enjoyed
- Commentary: Broadcast legends “JR” Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and a masked man I’ve never heard of called Excalibur handle the commentary duties on Dynamite. It’s surreal to hear the former two calling major wrestling again, and they both have great chemistry. Excalibur is no slouch either, as he provides a lot of context for who the wrestlers are and calls the majority of the moves. It’s a good team that elevates everything going on.
- Other Ringside Players: The other choices in the ringside players are interesting as well. Veteran Earl Hebner is a referee and Justin Roberts (of WWE fame) returned to making the ring announcements. Audrey Edwards is one of the main referees and she does a great job balancing getting fans into the action while staying out of it. It is nice to see such a balance of seasoned personnel mixed with new young talent.
- Tag Team Wrestling: AEW truly gets tag team wrestling and has a very solid group of performers in the division. Every show had at least one standout tag match. Private Party vs The Young Bucks is probably my favorite one, as that was my introduction to PP. Marq Quen is something else and that 450 splash is a thing of beauty. The other teams are awesome as well and the tourney to crown the first AEW Tag Team Champions was a lot of fun to behold.
- Time Limits: This is an old school staple of wrestling and it is nice to see it brought back for AEW. Time limits give a match urgency, create drama when time begins to run out and provides a way to make both competitors look good and open the door for future matchups if a draw occurs. They’ve been put to good use so far.
- Overall Production Value: The Dynamite set looks great and I love the colorful aesthetic used in all of the marketing and logos for the show. For the most part, the actual cinematography of the shows is good as well. There are a few moments when the cameraman misses big moves, but I expect that to get better with time. The backstage vignettes are wonderfully produced and are of high quality. I’d love to see more of them.
- The Matches: Overall, the quality of the wrestling on Dynamite has been fantastic.
What Needs Work
- The Matches: While the matches on Dynamite have been exciting to witness, they can air on the side of self-indulgence. Not every match needs to be 15 minutes long with nothing but big kickouts. Some squash matches to establish superstars or short, competitive matches would benefit the show. There is no reason Trent? vs Pac should’ve gone nearly 20 minutes.
- The Women’s Division: The women’s division is very small at the moment, and the only real standouts are Dr. Britt Baker and champion Riho. The rest of the roster seems like an afterthought, and they aren’t given a lot of time to show their characters or what they can do. They get some match time on Dark, but I still don’t have a grasp on their characters beyond the surface level.
- Unnecessary Shots at WWE: Regardless of what you think of AEW, they are above taking petty shots at WWE, either through Twitter beefs or displays such as Cody destroying a throne at Double or Nothing. It only makes them appear more minor league than anything and doesn’t allow the product they put out to stand on its own merits.
- Who Are These People?: One thing Dynamite needs is more video packages to explain who these wrestlers are and what their goals, motivations and characters are. Many wrestlers are just thrown in there and viewers are expected to know/care about them. I love Orange Cassidy, but when I first saw him on AEW: Dark, I had no idea what his shtick was. Outside of The Elite and bigger stars like SCU, Jericho and Moxley, I’m coming in blind to many of these acts.
Those are really the only problems I have with the show, and they can be rectified pretty easily. The Nov. 13 episode finally started to find a nice balance between a variety of match lengths and promos and character moments.
I also know that a lot of character building moments are done on the YouTube channel Being the Elite. Yet I shouldn’t have to watch that show to better understand the characters, and some of the highlights from the show should be implemented as part of Dark or Dynamite.
Overall, if you are a wrestling fan that has been turned off from WWE lately, AEW is a nice, widely available alternative that stresses simple storytelling and matches that have stakes, and some of the most athletic and entertaining wrestling I’ve seen in a while.
Give it a shot, or at the very least, find Cody Rhodes’ promo on the go-home show to the Full Gear pay-per-view.
Stay tuned for weekly reviews of AEW Dynamite, including a live report from tonight’s show in Indianapolis.