After a tumultuous start to the year in terms of culture and ratings, tonight’s edition of AEW Dynamite took place on the first “normal” Wednesday of the year. And after weeks of TV specials, we’re all of a sudden on our way to another one: next week’s Beach Break. Was tonight’s Dynamite a success on the road to Beach Break?
Omega, Young Bucks, Good Bros., & Mox: Keeping it all connected
One of WWE’s biggest modernmissteps is their complete unwillingness to link stories together. They spit out a segment, stuff happens, and the show moves on.
In contrast, AEW makes so much of their storylines feel organic. They’ve given viewers a really remarkable example of that phenomenon with the show’s current main event angle. It has to be extremely difficult to do that with so many moving parts and individual motivations to keep track of. Somehow, it all works.
Kenny Omega wants to focus on the AEW championship, but Don Callis is constantly whispering in his ear and scheming. The Young Bucks want to focus on their tag titles, but they also know how successful the Elite and Bullet Club have been. Moxley was screwed out of his championship, but his character is also just one that loves to fight. Even Fénix and PAC make sense here storyline-wise after Fénix’s failed championship challenge earlier in the month. And then we have tangential wrestlers like Hangman Page and Penta El Cero Miedo. What might their involvement be?
With every little vignette, promo, and match, a new development arises regarding this story. It’s all entertaining on its own, but part of the entire package, this could end up being one of the most satisfying stories in the company’s short history.
Dynamite: The most consistent in-ring TV show in American history?
The people in charge of AEW have correctly identified that exciting, competitive matches – with or without a compelling story—are what draw viewers. Every single week on Dynamite it feels like there are at least one or two matched well worth going out of your way to see, and they almost never put on a match that’s less than adequate.
This week’s show was no different. Jungle Boy and Dax Harwood, two tag team specialists, were given a chance to show what they could do in a singles setting. They surpassed expectations, wrestling a long (15 minutes!) back-and-forth contest with a clean finish.
And the main event was even better, with a classic Young Bucks spotfest formula that I absolutely loved. The Dark Order were fantastic bases for the heelish Bucks and the Brothers, as they’re major babyfaces. Silver and Grayson have two of the best hot tags in the business, so the match agents (correctly) decided to ignore basic wrestling psychology, allowing them both to grab a hot tag.
I watch wrestling shows for wrestling matches, and no show has ever filled that need better than Dynamite.
Sting, Arn, & Taz: Using legends to build new stars
My two favorite non-wrestling segments of the show both involved legends in wrestling adding credibility to young talent. Obviously, Sting’s association with Darby Allin shows that AEW has big plans for the skater. But involving numerous other talent in the story, including Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, and HOOK gives them a major place on the show as well—not to mention they’re managed by a minor legend themselves in Taz.
I adored Arn Anderson’s promo about Cody Rhodes’ potential match with Shaquille O’Neal. But the best part was strapping a rocket to Red Velvet, who has loads of potential, and throwing her into the mix.
A great little touch is that after all these segments, the focus wasn’t on the legends: the most memorable images came from the young talent. Allin threw his skateboard through a window. Brian Cage tossed a worker like a lawn dart into a truck. Red Velvet closed the segment calling Jade Cargill a “bitch-ass.” And they all come off as a big deal because of who else is there, looking on.
Difficulty adhering to long-term stipulations
It is incredibly tough for a weekly episodic TV show to make a permanent stipulation and stick to it. But that’s the thing: if you can’t stick to it, don’t make the stipulation.
Two stips came to mind this week that hindered the show’s storytelling. The first was more minor: Santana and Ortiz and Sammy Guevara and Jake Hager’s insertion into next week’s tag title #1 contender battle royal. While I actually prefer their involvement in the match. It will probably lead to some exciting developments in the Inner Circle story. It raises the question: What was the point of the Inner Circle three-way match to designate the group’s official tag team?
A more egregious example comes from a team who is absent from the battle royal: SCU. I assumed big things were in store for the veteran tag team after they announced that they would break up upon their next loss. In fact, I was almost positive they would be next in line for a tag title shot, and should probably win them. But unfortunately, since then, they haven’t been featured on the show in any real way. It makes no sense, booking-wise, that the inaugural AEW tag team champions wouldn’t be in next week’s battle royal.
If you have no immediate plans for a stipulation like that, it becomes a crutch, and therefore shouldn’t be used until the time is right.
Honestly, this week’s show was really good. Aside from those booking questions, I can’t think of much else to improve on. The road to Beach Break was a successful one, as AEW should expect a big rating next week.