Cody Rhodes, who is not only the son of professional wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes but is an executive vice president at All Elite Wrestling, recently called October 2, 2019 “the most significant night in wrestling in my lifetime.” Why? Because it was the kick-off of AEW's live, two-hour weekly wrestling program Dynamite, marking the first time professional wrestling has aired on TNT since the WWE bought World Championship Wrestling in 2001. It was also the first night that WWE's NXT brand, which recently moved from the WWE Network to a weekly, two-hour live show on the USA Network, and the first time both shows went head-to-head on national television. The main question on everyone's lips was could AEW, who's only lived in weekly YouTube series and a handful of (well-attended) pay-per-view events bring the noise...and after sitting through their debut program, it's safe to say that AEW isn't screwing around.
With legends like Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross on commentary, fans who grew up during the heydays of the WWF/E and WCW were greeted with veteran voices that mattered, calling pro wrestling the way they felt it needed to be called: like an actual sport. They provided a solid mix of play-by-play, color and humor, really selling everything from Sammy Guevara's spectacular moves during his opening bout against Cody to the mayhem that closed out the show—featuring everyone from AEW World Champion Chris Jericho to Jake Hager (the MMA star formerly known as WWE's Jack Swagger) decimating the Elite—with the utmost importance. It might feel like a given, but if you spend time watching other wrestling programs, it can be difficult to follow the action when the commentators are either focusing on things that have nothing to do with the action at hand or not fueling the stories going on in the squared circle.
The presentation was top-notch, but if you've watched the events AEW has thrown in 2019, you should expect it. It had a feel of a WCW Monday Nitro, but instead of people just wanting to chant with the nWo and throw shit in the ring, the fans were diehard invested in the action. With the idea of wins and losses mattering in AEW, each near fall truly feels like it could shift the momentum for each of these competitors, and its dope to see fans on their feet in disbelief of a near-fall or giving the strong performances inside the ring their props.
That said, the in-ring action was up there. Cody and Sammy opening the show made sense; of course Cody wanted to set the tone for the evening. That said, he let Sammy really show off his aerial style, with loads of moonsaults and top rope insanity going down. That's mixed with Cody's more theatrical style, and even featured his wife Brandi getting into the mix (as she is known to do from time to time). "Hangman" Adam Page and Pac low-key had the match of the night, with Pac showing why he's just as deadly from the top rope as he is when it comes to submission wrestling. We also got to see Rhio crowned as the first AEW Women's Champion, defeating Nyla Rose in stellar fashion. The main event, with the aforementioned Jericho teaming with Santana and Ortiz to take on Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, was when the AEW's finest took center stage. Sure, the match ended in all of the heels taking out the Elite, but having Jon Moxley interrupt mid-match to continue his long-brewing feud with Omega, or showing why Jericho is still a devious threat after all of these years in the business did wonders in not only establishing the sides that these performers are taking, but helping build a foundation for these storyline strands to flow along in coming weeks. Keep in mind, we didn't even get a proper tag team match (which AEW has said they will be focusing on as a company), although SCU and the Lucha Bros coming to blows during an interview segment has us wondering if these two squads will be meeting up for the AEW tag titles in coming weeks.
Dynamite just felt important. One of the biggest complaints many had was that, if you aren't watching "Being the Elite" on YouTube, you might not know who any of these wrestlers are. Dynamite did a fantastic job building their younger stars in matches that showcased their skills, while also giving you enough to want to see how things will pick up in the near future. For two hours, it felt like the wrestling mattered. No shade to the WWE, but sometimes the "entertainment" in sports entertainment can trump everything else (do you remember how insane Twitter was on Monday night after witnessing Bobby Lashley return to slob down Rusev's wife Lana for what felt like hours?); AEW is entertaining, but the debut episode of Dynamite feels like they put the "sport" first.
That's not to say that AEW and NXT can't coexist; NXT puts on some of the best pay-per-views in the game today, and has a roster brimming with talent that fans have grown invested in over the last few years. A little competition is always good, especially when you can get different sides of the spectrum just by flipping between channels for two hours. That said, any doubts you may have about All Elite Wrestling bringing the pain in this Wednesday Night War should be gone after checking out Dynamite.