AEW’s Dynamite Debut: What Lit Up The Wrestling World & What Fizzled Out
Yes, wrestling is back on TNT. Feels like I’m walking into Cheers and I see Norm, Cliff, Sam and maybe even that Seattle stranger in Frasier as I turn the knobs of my 1988 Zenith TV set back to channel 35 (that was TNT in Ridgway, PA) to watch Scott Hall deliver a fallaway slam to Blitzkrieg. As a Nitro guy back in the days of spray-painted backs, Diamond Cutters and vultures creeping in the rafters this indeed felt like a coming home party, but the house has been renovated. The carpet’s been replaced, the walls repainted and the kitchen’s got plenty of new appliances, but guess what? There’s still some familiar pictures on the wall. Same location, but new residents in the neighborhood. And a new name on the doormat: Dynamite.
The debut episode of Dynamite indeed lived up to its name (actually, you can thank Tony Khan for that bit of trivia). I thought the program was tremendous, plenty of fuses being lit and only a few things that needed some tweaks.
What “Lit Up”
Production & Presentation
If you missed that unique feel of a wrestling show being kicked off in prime-time television, you had it back with Dynamite. You had the intro video, you had the paint color mist happening and you had the packed arena with an excited crowd. This felt big and it felt like something special. The graphics that were used throughout the evening had still studio shots of the wrestlers even floating in anticipation of their upcoming matches, it was a neat touch and hearkened back to the days when WWE did the cool pre-fight promotion screens with the opponents showing a bit of their personality as they turned to face the camera with their names under them. It got you excited for what was to come and your intelligence wasn’t insulted by the vibe of “hey, we’re just coming up with these matches on the fly! We kind of didn’t plan any of it because we want to be unpredictable when in all actuality, the 70+ year old owner just made all these changes like 40 minutes ago.” The camera shots were cool and stylish, yet didn’t distract you from the action (with a few exceptions, more on that later). Just immediately Dynamite has it’s own personality, which leads me to…
The Announcing: Familiar Voices, Classic Vibe, New Stage
Hearing Jim Ross intro off a wrestling television show is something timeless and it’s something that holds a lot of water to fans both of the ardent and casual nature. Then you add Tony Schiavone back into the equation along with a new voice like Excalibur and you have something classic with fresh feel. Everyone was polished, everyone was smooth and everybody had attention to detail, something we haven’t been getting on WWE commentary in one very long time. No one was tripped up by Orwellian speak, corporate buzz words, or focusing on bullying one another – each individual was just themselves. I truly received the feeling that either one of the three could take the lead role if needed be, but they all worked hand-in-hand while adding their own vital element to the product. This trio got me excited for weekly wrestling again, particularly…
It’s like the voice of my youth never missed a beat and if Cody was any indication, I wasn’t the only one happy to see him back on TNT. He did everything: commentary, in-ring interviews, on-stage interviews and talent interaction (how dare that Jericho shove him). He was, if anything, the most valuable non-wrestling commodity that all of professional wrestling had that evening. His voice in the booth was stand-out, being the one to particularly break down every decision or misstep made by the in-ring competitor and not shying away if that competitor happened to be babyface or heel. He was that much needed voice of reason and common sense that wrestling fans have been yearning for for quite some time and it just so happens that Tony never goes out of style…
— Matt Schiavone (@KingofAthens11) October 3, 2019
Well, almost never. Damn, it’s amazing to have Tony back.
Jammed Packed With Jericho
Oh, yes. You better thank him and AEW showed their thanks by making their Heavyweight Champion the primary face you saw on the screen throughout the majority of the evening. I’ll tell all you ageists out there right now, that there is zero wrong about it and everything right. Jericho out of anybody is leading the way for more eyes to get on this mostly “new to mainstream” roster and he provides the perfect top star/chicken-shit, yet still kinda badass heel to highlight the enemies and allies around him. Thanks to “Le Champion,” I’m sure those TNT execs broke open a bit of the bubbly after getting those rating news.
This is more of a fuse with a longer length because it will take time to develop, but the sports-like seeds have been planted. Whenever you’d see a competitor enter, you’d get his or her win/loss record right by their name. Sports nerds love their numbers and most wrestling fans are nerds (I can say that since I’m a card-carrying nerd myself) so this will be an added element to digest over time. Another aspect of this were the inclusion of pinfall and submissions in every match. It was jarring to see faces like Brandon Cutler and Hangman Page be forced to tap out, but just like MMA, submission is just the name of the game. It may be a tough pill to glog down at first, but overall it provides what Khan and his crew are looking for.
The Ignition Of Nick Jackson
My biggest takeaway from that night’s main event wasn’t the surprise reveal of Jake Hager, nor was it the Moxley glass table Death Rider, but it was a short sequence of athleticism and presence shown by Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks. One-fourth of the AEW EVPs has always been amazingly talented, but what I saw from him in that headline match on TNT spoke “future top singles star” to me. Granted, both brothers I feel have that ability, but I really saw it with Nick Wednesday night.
Me too. https://t.co/Znryyp4gJz
— The Young Bucks® (@NickJacksonYB) October 3, 2019
Left You Wanting More
From Jurassic Express to Darby Allin, plenty of the talent was not on the main television card, and that’s fantastic because you know what? I felt extremely satisfied and I still didn’t get to dabble in Bea Priestley, Joey Janela or Awesome Kong. Plenty more irons in the fire.
What Fizzled Out
So like I said earlier, the missteps are far and few in between with no serious damage done, but from what I picked up on these two were my only gripes:
No DQ After Mox
If a non-competitor climbed over the cage of the octagon to get involved in a fight he was not a participant of (I mean yes, it happens post-fight), that bell would ring quicker than you could say Cris Cyborg and I understand that this is pro wrestling three-man tag match and there are the matters of “referee’s discretion,” but this run-in did interfere with that sports-like principle that was praised earlier.
Too Many Crowd Reactions
I 100% understand the idea that you want to get across the point that fans are super invested into your wrestling product, but there were a few moments where seeing “Fanman Frank” pull his hair in shock took away from the action in the ring. And let’s be honest, WWE opened this Pandora’s Box of the fans getting themselves over. Most of those fans with their hands on their heads, their jaws dropped or their eyes bugged out want that camera on them and while maybe once and awhile it provides a good visual, too much can take away from the intended goal.
Thoughts? Transgressions? Intimate feelings? Express them to me on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo and lemme have it.