Friday, September 23, 2022

AEW Dynamite (Sept. 21st, 2022): The Most Important Night In The History Of All Elite Wrestling

Well, there's a bit of ground to cover regarding this episode and I feel we need to establish the backstory before we get to the main show. Let's take care of that after the break.

Three weeks have passed since the events of All Out weekend has gone down, which saw CM Punk, fresh off winning the AEW World title over Jon Moxley in the PPV main event, launch into a verbal tirade over various individuals that would later lead into a backstage brawl that has led to the suspension of all involved, with news breaking out and tainting what was supposed to be a big night of wrestling for the company.

Fast forward to that week's edition of AEW Dynamite, where the show opens with president and CEO Tony Khan announcing that, without mentioning why, he had been forced to vacate the AEW World championship as well as the new AEW Trios titles, which were won by Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks to become the inaugural champions... only to be involved in that aforementioned backstage brawl that would see those titles needing new champions... again.

That same night on Dynamite, new Trios champions were immediately crowned in the form of PAC and the Lucha Bros - collectively known as the Death Triangle - in a competitively fierce match over the Best Friends. The night saw a kick-off of a tournament to crown a new AEW World Champion, which would culminate at the Grand Slam Dynamite show taking place in Arthur Ashe Stadium. To somewhat paraphrase an often-parodied tagline from Tony Schiavone, this is going to be the most important night in the history of the company.

So far, AEW has done a more than fine job trying to shift gears - something that they haven't done all that often considering how they like to plan their shows well in advance. More often than not, whenever one of their key components is out, the story they're part of is put on hold until they come back - the reason we've got Trios Title as late as we did was because Tony Khan wanted the Elite to be his first champions... only for shit to happen and be forced to crown new champs anyway. WWE often does this sort of thing whenever things go awry - shifting gears from one component to another whenever necessary. AEW hadn't demonstrated this ability until now and so far, it's been a good run.

Once we've got a new AEW Champion - and given the choice between Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley, I dare not opine on which is the better option because I honestly do not know - the important thing is where we go from there. As important as it is to crown a new champion, the equally (or perhaps even more so) vital task follows to bring that World title back to a level of respectability. AEW has done a fantastic job of maintaining the prestige and importance of "Pretty Platinum" since its inception in 2019, but it's fair to say that that title has taken a bit of a hit in the past few months.

From Chris Jericho's inaugural championship reign to CM Punk's first, the title has changed hands four times over the course of roughly three years, making the top prize that much valuable and every title change seem like a really big deal. Three months later, we've seen the title change hands four more times, which makes the prize seem far less important. I make fun of the hokey red/blue toy belt in WWE, but Roman Reigns has held that thing since 2020 and whatever you want to say about the journey along the way, the guy has made that title seem genuinely important and highly regarded, to the point where whoever ends up being the one to dethrone the guy for THAT title (or even both, as he also holds the WWE World title) is going to be a really big deal.

AEW's World Title hasn't felt like a big deal these past few months. It's time to fix that; it begins with this Dynamite show.

A show that saw Chris Jericho defeat Claudio Castagnoli to win his first Ring Of Honor World title on AEW Television in a pretty good opener, the Acclaimed defeat Swerve In Our Glory to win their first AEW World Tag Titles, the former Paige (now Saraya) make her All Elite debut after a four-way match for the Keep The Women's Belt Warm Title that saw Dr. Britt break her nose again... methinks she does that on purpose to get people talking about her; just saying. A show that saw PAC retain his new title over the Orange guy, and in the main event, Jon Moxley defeating Bryan Danielson to win his third AEW World title and getting only seconds on air to celebrate before the show closes, making the moment seem pretty trivial in retrospect. And that's a feeling you don't want to have following ANOTHER major title change in three months, which is why I hope they hold off the MJF title win that's going to happen for next year rather than hotshot at the next PPV; give Mox some time with the belt before he drops it and then he could go on vacation for a long, long, long time because the poor bastard deserves it for the work he's done these past few months.

Watching the show and digesting it after the fact, I've come to realize that it was a good show, without question. But for such a vital and major show that promised to redefine professional wrestling, something was noticeably missing. Not so much in terms of talent because the show proves that AEW could run just fine without certain individuals, but in terms of grandeur. For a show that is supposed to be an important stepping stone, this sure as hell didn't feel it. And I'm struggling to figure out why.

AEW going forward, I feel, is going to be just fine. They've got some issues, but they're going to be fine and they're making attempts to fix it. However, they're going to have to do more than be just fine, because they're no longer dealing with a giant corporation run by an out-of-touch old man. It's being driven by the McSon-In-Law who has been wronged and embarrassed by past transgressions and is clearly out for revenge. This show was a chance to prove that AEW could take to that proverbial next level and I don't know if they actually did that.

Boasting about million dollar gates and record ratings means fuck all to the average viewer who could easily watch some random bottom of the barrel sitcom. Boasting about great wrestling with great talent seems trivial in an age where great wrestling with great talent can be found pretty much anywhere. And boasting about being the place where everyone wants to be feels a bit hollow in a year where some of your talent is itching to go back to the other company because of a change in management. I usually try to avoid the doomsayer path with AEW because I enjoy their shows, but unless AEW starts to make that next step up the ladder, they're going to be forgotten sooner or later and go down the path of Impact Wrestling or worse.

I'll be posting Smackdown thoughts tomorrow afternoon if you want to check those out. I promise that I'll be brief there.

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