Although I am 2-3 weeks late on this, I felt it needed to be written. On October 2nd, 2019, the inner wrestling fan marked out hard due to the debut of AEW Dynamite.
For so long, I reluctantly watched WWE knowing I would be disappointed. In the first year, it has been everything I was hoping for and more. They don’t reach for the cheap pops. They don’t take the pops to craft short term satisfaction. They build for longevity. They allow rivals to build through months of programming. They let their talent use their own creative ability to tell the stories. It has been a huge success in year one.
Although it is still in it’s infancy. Let’s unpack how it stacks up to WWE. Of course it doesn’t directly compete with Monday Night Raw or Smackdown (I don’t even remember which day that is coming on now). However, it has competed against NXT on Wednesday Nights. NXT is WWE’s developmental territory which many die hard wrestling fans enjoy more than the premiere shows. For the record, when I say developmental, let’s not pretend WWE hasn’t been actively trying to compete. They have brought the likes of Finn Balor back. They have refused to call up Adam Cole. They even had Pat McAfee wrestle as both had PPV dates coming up.
WWE is very aware of the problem they are facing with AEW, which is why they moved it to USA to directly try and drown out AEW. They have failed miserably so far, to the point where WWE has talked about moving to Tuesday. Get fucking bent Vince.
Recapping 2020 thus far, AEW not only beats NXT for ratings, they have murdered them. AEW has taken home more viewers 36 out of 42 head to head shows. Not only have they smoked them in overall viewers. NXT has failed to beat AEW in 18-49 demographic just once. AEW has beaten them and obliterated them in most weeks all 42 airings. This ultimately led to Chris Jericho being called “Demo God” and MJF the “Ratings Ruler.” Respect the GOAT and future GOAT baby! Get fucking bent Vince.
Keep in mind, this is navigating through a damn pandemic. A brand new organization knocking the only top dog on it’s ass since launching even through empty arenas. To say this company has been a success in year one would be a monumental understatement.
Since launching, I have never been bored with the product. Tony Khan, Cody, The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega have allowed total control to the talent. They don’t script their promos. They don’t force their hand in making guys say what they want them to say. They let them do their thing and it shows. We see bigger spots in the ring. We see better promos on the mic. Talent like Mr. Brodie Lee, FTR and Jon Moxley have all alluded to this on Talk is Jericho. These were all underutilized and underappreciated talents in WWE who left for greener pastures.
Wrestling is at it’s best when you know it is scripted, but it doesn’t feel scripted. That is AEW in a nutshell. I want to highlight some of my favorite parts of AEW and then close this with my Top 15 Moments of AEW thus far.
Chris Jericho and The Inner Circle
They are the IT stable of AEW. They run roughshod on anyone who steps in their way. They also do this while losing matches and putting others over. Giving Jericho the first AEW World Championship plus a stable to start your brand, win. It allows Jericho to conserve the in-ring time he has left while letting his fellow inner circle members get over. They could not have picked a better group.
Proud and Powerful’s Santana and Ortiz are fucking psychotic and I love every second of it. Jake Hager is obviously their enforcer although his AEW record is poo poo. Then you have Sammy Guevara, who is one of my favorite young stars AEW has. He is a cocky little shit in the best way imaginable. Plus he and Jericho is the best wrestling bromance I have seen since Kevin Owens.
The Tag Team Division
They already had a 6 star tag team match in their first year of weekly programming. At AEW Revolution, Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page took on The Young Bucks in an absolute barn burner. I watched it with some friends (some into wrestling, some not). I literally said halfway through the match, “there is no way Dave Meltzer doesn’t give this 5 stars.” He gave it fucking 6. It is tied for the 3rd highest rated match by Meltzer in wrestling history.
In addition to The Young Bucks who are arguably the greatest tag team of all time, the list is endless for great tag teams in AEW.
One of the ideas I love in wrestling is stables. I love giant groups who can go to war with one another until one is left standing. AEW has made an emphasis on aligning their talent. Another great part of utilizing stables is talent doesn’t get buried. Someone may not wrestle for weeks or a month, but you don’t see it as weak because they are constantly on programming within the confines of their stable.
Holy shit. I knew about him long before AEW was a thing. Meltzer basically busts a load every time Omega gets in a ring. I now know why. He is easily one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time now that I have been able to see him perform. Everything he does in the ring is so damn crisp and smooth. Last week in the tournament for a shot at Moxley’s AEW World Championship, he destroyed Sonny Kiss with the V-Trigger and then nailed his finisher, the One Winged Angel. I fully expect Kenny to win it. The Cleaner has returned! Side note, my little dude loves his theme Battle Cry and the One Winged Angel. Proud dad moment.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman aka MJF aka The Salt of the Earth
What a dick. I salivate over what he can be for AEW. He is only 23 years old for God sake and he could go down as one of the best heels of all-time. AEW clearly knows what they have in him. He is special. He is great in the ring in terms of story telling. He is incredible on the microphone and now HE WANTS TO JOIN THE INNER CIRCLE!
Although, he hasn’t won gold yet, he will. He won the Casino Battle Royale for the right to face Moxley and ultimately lost after a botched attempt at cheating from his bodyguard Wardlow.
While I can probably share every moment between he and Jericho, one of their first interactions was this gem.
Remember when I said AEW builds long term. This is one of things that epitomizes it. The promo above is from November 13th. This is what happened last week…
The American Nightmare, Cody
Wrestling has more than one royal family and you better fucking believe it. I couldn’t be happier for him as a performer. In WWE, I always loved Cody Rhodes and what he did for them. Even when they gave him the damn Stardust gimmick. He ran with it and did it well. He was always looked at as a mid-card filler and never a main eventer. He got tired of the WWE system so he along with some help, built his own. Thank you Cody.
Closing Thoughts Before the Awards and Best Moments
I could go on and on about all the great things happening in AEW because there really is just so much from guys like Darby Allin, The Dark Order, Mox, Eddie Kingston, Ray Fenix, Cody, Brit Baker and more. Most importantly, it is nice to be able to turn on wrestling each and every week and know I won’t be disappointed or fast forwarding.
Best Match – The Young Bucks v Omega and Page
Best Face – Jungle Boy
Best Heel – MJF
Best Theme – Judas, Chris Jericho
Best Gimmick – Orange Cassidy
Best Catchphrase – Little Bit of the Bubbly, Chris Jericho
Best Finisher – Buckshot Lariat, Hangman Adam Page
Best Tag Team – Private Party
Best Wrestler – Kenny Omega
Best Promo – Cody – Undesirable to Undeniable
Top 15 AEW Moments Since Dynamite Debuted
15. 10 Lashes
14. Omega and Moxley Get Hardcore
13. MJF and Billy Gunn (1:00)
12. FTR Debut
11. Darby Allin Returns
10. Sammy Run Over By Golf Cart
9. Every Single Time Orange Cassidy is on the Screen
8. Brodie Lee is the Exalted One
7. Jericho Cruise Singing Judas
6. Cage Moonsault
5. Matt Hardy Debuts
4. Sammy Guevara 630 Senton
3. Undesirable to Undeniable
2. Inner Circle Forms
1. Jon Moxley Returns
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