We are now six weeks into AEW’s Dynamite era. Let’s delve into some strengths of AEW so far and what they can work on to improve.
Strength: Cody Rhodes’ entrance
For my money, I’m picking Cody Rhodes entrance as the best in current pro wrestling. (I wouldn’t argue against Bray Wyatt though.) I’m talking the regular week to week crew, i.e. not special appearances like the Undertaker.
If you haven’t seen Cody’s entrance before or want to watch again, you can check it out at the beginning of this video below.
It is so cool how the lights go out, the middle section raises, and Cody comes up through the floor surrounded in smoke. That truly feels like a big deal on each and every occasion.
Strength: Vignettes/video packages
AEW’s production game is strong on vignettes and video packages. They are slick, visually pleasing, informative, and cut to the core of the characters. I’m pretty sure every single one has pumped me up. It is like watching those UFC or HBO specials before a big fight. It also helps the subjects come across as stars.
That leads me to the next topic...
Needs Improvement: More promos
While the top guys get the bells and whistles of video packages, the rest of the roster is lacking in promo time. One issue I have with AEW is why should I care about these people. Most of them I’ve never seen before. We’re six weeks in and I couldn’t tell you much about most of the roster. Commentary will spit out some tidbits, such as Shanna being born in Portugal and residing in France. That’s not good enough to hook me as a fan.
All I’m asking for is short 20-30 second cuts. Some could be played during entrances. You never know what could pique interest or turn into a hot catchphrase. AEW likes to tout the idea of creative freedom. Short promos would be a good way to take advantage of that.
Needs Improvement: Theme song hooks
I really like the wide variety of tunes for entrance themes in AEW, but they seem to lack the pop in that first ten seconds that makes my eyes widen in anticipation of who is about to enter the arena. Perhaps it is me not knowing the songs well enough yet.
Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, and Excalibur do a good job calling the action in a sporting manner. They provide analysis, strategy, and names of maneuvers. The trio isn’t perfect (such as JR comparing Sammy Guevara to the Diaz brothers, no f-ing way), but they excel more often than not.
The look of the crew is pretty sweet too. Their matching AEW jackets are a nice touch. I always get a kick out of seeing Excalibur in his mask. I also enjoy when Justin Roberts announces “TV time remaining” as the time limit for main events.
Needs Improvement: Inside jokes
I’m not even sure if inside jokes is the appropriate term for what I am about to describe. This is another one that might be on me rather than AEW. Often times, I’m left feeling like that meme of John Travolta as confused Vincent Vega looking around. What’s all the hubbub?
For example, I’d compare it to my experience of watching the Wayans brothers movie Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. The first time I watched it, I thought it was one of the stupidest movies I’d ever seen. The problem was I didn’t understand the references. Fast forward about six years, and I laughed heartily when watching the movie again. By that time, I had seen most of the films it was spoofing.
I get that feeling at times when watching AEW. I don’t have a suggestion for how to fix this, but I do think that fans similar to myself shouldn’t have to travel down a YouTube hole to find answers. To be clear, I’m not saying AEW should stop, because that is part of what increased their popularity. It may end up being something I’ll have to live with as an AEW viewer.
The majority of matches have been interesting and entertaining. Everyone looks strong. With the lengthy window of time, there is enough action for all to get their stuff in. The finishes are generally rocking.
I will say that one thing I’m adjusting to is the dramatic kick out style after a logical finishing sequence. There have been times when the progression of moves sets up what feels like the proper moment to finish in the ring, but nope. Kick out, and the contest continues. It kind of throws me off, not necessarily in a good way depending on the match. I think I may have to alter how I view their wrestling product. If I go in treating it like video game wrestling, then those kick out moments might not faze me anymore.
Needs Improvement: Sporting aspect
The sporting aspect of AEW has been a major disappointment so far. They did a lot of preaching about how wins and losses will matter. It hasn’t felt that way yet. For example, the Lucha Bros are getting a free tag team title shot after losing their previous bout. The loss had no repercussions in their case. Frankly, it is unfair to SCU.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how well the win/loss record gimmick will work long-term. For example, Kenny Omega is currently 5-4 overall. That record does not look good optically next to the name of one of AEW’s top stars. He’ll need to go on a fifteen match win streak to overshadow those four losses. Another example is the Hybrid 2. Jack Evans and Angelico are 0-3 in tag action, but they are talented enough to challenge for gold. They need to go on at least a seven match win streak to smooth out their record. AEW may have to chop down the win/loss record to last 5 or last 10 matches. That might make it easier to build win streaks for storytelling.
I will give AEW the benefit of the doubt for now. We’ll see if AEW ups their game in this regard once the Full Gear PPV passes. I expect rankings and meaningful matchups post haste.
Grade: A in entertainment
AEW really nails the big moments. Jon Moxley driving Kenny Omega through a glass table was epic. The same for Cody Rhodes punching through a glass door to get to Chris Jericho. I’ll remember those for years to come.
The matches tend to be engaging, and the two-hour episodes seem to fly by without having to check the clock. The roster has a nice variety of wrestlers that mesh well from high-flyers to brawlers to oddballs and more.
Dynamite is off to a solid start, but there is room to improve.
What do you think are AEW’s biggest strengths? What do they need to improve?