Friday, March 20, 2020

AEW Dynamite (March 18th, 2020): The Empty Arena

So earlier this week, I saw WWE attempt to produce a three-hour RAW from their Performance Center with no crowd; the end result being a rather awkward and uncomfortably boring that had a replay of this year's Rumble, a quick match, and a bunch of promos. And while I gave credit for their trying, I kinda wish they just did replays and I dread how they're going to pull off an empty arena Wrestlemania... for two nights no less!

And then there's All Elite Wrestling; a few months into the television business, lacking the backlog or the experience to deal with a crisis of this sort... and also emanating from an empty arena; in this case, the site where two of their prior events took place. And I will admit that a part of me was dreading this... because these guys and gals were taking a huge risk given the current atmosphere. And, if I would be completely honest, I'd much rather they just took some time off, focused on keeping safe, and pick things up when we're at a point where things can be picked up. I didn't want to have that awkward feeling that I got watching RAW.

That having been said, the lack of a crowd and having to work around the current coronavirus world that we presently live in did not deter All Elite Wrestling from putting on another outstanding episode of Dynamite. Opening with a heartfelt promo from Cody about standing together while standing apart, about not living in fear, and parlaying that into a promo for next episode's Blood & Guts match between the Elite and the Inner Circle.

Even though there are no fans, there is an "audience" of sort comprising all the heels on one side of the ring (MJF, Shawn Spears, and a couple others who gamble on the matches and even invites ol' Tony Schiavone for a cut) and some faces on the other side (Colt Cobana and others). This gives us some background noise to give the illusion of a crowd cheering or jeering the action in the ring. What also helps is the "hard cam" set up in front of the main entrance set, so that we can hide the fact that the arena is empty. It works pretty damn well for the most part as a set-up and does a fair enough job of making an empty arena show more lively than usual.

By the way, this company has done television since October last year... and they were able to make an empty arena set up look good. Meanwhile, the company that's been around for over five decades can't be bothered to make their empty gym look better than usual.

So... quickly running down the undercard, the Lucha Bros beat the Best Friends in a pretty good tag-team match, which caused the Friends to challenge the Bros to a literal street fight in a parking lot. Then we have a women's four way featuring Hikaru Shida, Kris Statlander, Penelope Ford, and RIHO... a pretty decent little match won by Shida. And then the Jurassic Express beat the Butcher And The Blade (with The Bunny) in a fun little match that seems less so with no girls crying for Jumping Jungle Jack Hammer Perry Boy.

Main event featured a six-man tag match between the Inner Circle (Santana, Ortiz, and the Spanish God Sammy Guevara) and the Elite (Cody, Hangman Page, and Matt Jackson) with the man advantage for next Dynamite's Blood & Guts match (it's Wargames with the serial number filed off) on the line. Pretty fun match with Jericho on commentary, which makes it all the more fun... certainly better than Asuka screaming and raving on RAW (sorry, Kanachan). Match ends with Santana rolling up Matt for the win and the advantage.

Jericho then cuts a promo, banning all fans from future events, and taunting the Elite for their lack of teamwork and being down a man. Then the flying drone of Broken Matt Hardy shows up and we get the big debut of Broken Matt Hardy in AEW, which would've been a nice spectacle had there been a crowd... still, the lack of a crowd didn't mitigate the moment and I can't wait to see how Matt fares in AEW,

Speaking of debuts, the Dark Order's Exalted One was revealed to be Brodie Lee - the former Luke Harper - who proceeds to beat up on Christopher Daniels, who refused to believe in an exalted one. Also, this Brodie fellow is a pretty good talker for the role he's given. Wonder why he's not allowed to talk in his former place of employ.

There's also a quick interview with AEW champ Jon Moxley as well as a filmed vignette of Jake The Snake's new charge, Lance Archer, beating up a bunch of nobodies in a backyard wrestling ring. Kudos to the short for featuring a Cheatum-like ring announcer... nobody is going to get that, are they?

So if this ends up being the last episode of Dynamite for a good while, this was a strong showing to end it on until the foreseeable future. And for what it's worth, the board has been set for next time with the debuts of Brodie Lee as the Exalted One and Matt Hardy as part of the Elite team, the announcement of matches for the next episode of Dynamite - which they have been particular of saying "the next Dynamite" and not "next week's Dynamite." It also amazes me that AEW was able to put on a more entertaining empty arena show than WWE did that I was almost able to forget the current coronavirus world we live in.


Like I said, I'd have no problem with a suspension of live wrestling for the foreseeable future if it meant the folks could stay safe. But if they're able to pull this off for as long as they can while staying safe, then I can only wish them all the best.

Be safe.

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