AEW Dynamite Grades and Analysis

Was AEW’s premier dynamite?


AEW Dynamite premiered Wednesday on TNT | Photo by: AEW/Revenge of the Fans

Matthew Rago, Editor-in-Chief

For the first time since 2001, professional wrestling returned to TNT. Ushering in a brand new era, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) unveiled “Dynamite” in hopes of providing wrestling fans with an alternative to the monotony of WWE. The card featured a six-man tag main event, the crowning of the inaugural AEW women’s champion, matches between performers in the upper echelon of the promotion and more. Let’s see how AEW did.

Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara

Result: Rhodes defeated Guevara with an Inside Cradle after he countered Guevara’s Shooting Star Press

Summary: Rhodes was greeted by a raucous crowd that showered him with appreciative applause for the executive efforts that made AEW a reality. It was apparent that both Rhodes and Guevara understood the significance of this match, as poor execution could have  potentially derailed AEW’s momentum before it even started. The two competitors dug deep into their arsenals, trading modified cutters and sacrificing their bodies in crowd-pleasing spots. Rhodes hit an Avalanche Reverse Suplex from the top rope for a two-count. Guevara springboarded to the top rope and executed a picture perfect Spanish Fly. The effort and precision exhibited by the competitors deserved the applause that accompanied the match. From a booking standpoint, Jericho attacking Rhodes from behind was a brilliant development that laid the foundation for AEW’s foremost rivalry.

Analysis: Despite a strong performance, Guevara’s inclusion in such a big match seems like premature effort to build a new star. Despite his best efforts, Guevara prevented this match from being the show-stealer it could have been. Guevara is a cruiserweight masquerading as a middleweight and the size difference was apparent, even when opposite a relatively small opponent. Guevara’s in-ring mannerisms weren’t offensive, but they added nothing to the contest. Rhodes, on the other hand, is a star. Since rebranding himself on the independent scene, Rhodes possesses the confidence and in-ring prowess to potentially lead AEW to the top of the mountain.  

Grade: B-

Brandon Cutler vs. MJF

Result: MJF defeated Cutler via submission

Summary: Cutler is a heck of an athlete, but this match was just an excuse to showcase the 23-year-old MJF, who commentator Jim Ross described as a prodigy. About two minutes into the contest, Cutler tweaked his knee performing a Tope Suicida, allowing MJF to go on the offensive and submit Cutler with his Salt of the Earth submission.

Analysis: At only 23-years-old, MJF is one of the hottest young performers in professional wrestling. However, on a night with so much at stake, putting a quasi-squash match second on the card seems like a gross misstep. Furthermore, Cutler should be relegated to the undercard in order to prevent AEW from being perceived as an indie promotion.

Grade: F

PAC vs. “Hangman” Adam Page

Summary: Two of AEW’s bright young stars lobbied for position within a company that spent the night emphasizing the importance of wins and losses. The match suffered from a lackadaisical start before picking up the intensity midway through. PAC (formerly Neville) glided through the sky, proving once again that his aerial prowess is unmatched. Page held his own, hitting a flapjack cutter before negating PAC’s aerial advantage with a series of hard strikes. However, PAC regained the advantaged following an illegal kick to the groin that allowed him to hit his Black Arrow finisher before transitioning into his Brutalizer submission for the win.

Analysis: PAC continues to pad his resume, making a legitimate case for being mentioned amongst the best wrestlers in the world. He’s technically proficient, possesses superb in-ring psychology and has a deeper aerial arsenal than anyone not named Ricochet. Page has the potential to become a legitimate main event competitor, but seemed a step behind PAC on this night. AEW would be wise to showcase these two front and center moving forward

Grade: B+

Riho vs. Nyla Rose for the AEW Women’s Championship

Result: Riho defeated Rose via pinfall to win the AEW Women’s Championship

Summary: Nyla Rose and Riho contested a disjointed, sloppy match in pursuit of becoming to inaugural AEW Women’s Champion. Nyla attempted some high-impact maneuvers early on, laying Riho on a pile of steel chairs before attempting an unsuccessful Cannonball Senton to the outside of the ring. The audience gasped as Riho attempted to counter a powerbomb into a back body drop, only to buckle at the knees in what seemed like a legitimate injury at first glance. Rose executed a Death Valley Driver that saw Riho land precariously on her neck. However, after a series of near falls, Riho was able to pin Rose to win the AEW Women’s Title.

Analysis: Who decided to book this match? The competitors worked tirelessly to bail out AEW creative for such faulty booking. Nevertheless, Rose vs. Riho is such a gross mismatch that it all but sabotaged the believability factor. Had this match been executed a bit cleaner, it would have actually detracted from the entertainment value. Credit both Rose and Riho for an admirable effort, but right now, the AEW women’s division looks like a caricature of WWE’s. Furthermore, starting a historically underappreciated division with Riho as champion seems like an odd choice. Also worth celebrating is AEW’s willingness to showcase a transgender performer in their women’s division.

Grade: A-

Young Bucks and Kenny Omega vs. Jericho, Santana and Ortiz

Result: Jericho, Santana and Ortiz defeated The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega

Summary: This match was a fundamental six-man tag, fast paced with some exciting spots thrown in. However, it was the outside interference that defined this match. Jon Moxley slid into the ring and ambushed Omega. The two scrambled into the crowd before Moxley laid out Omega with a Death Rider- essentially an elevated version of Dirty Deeds- through a glass table. The match devolved into a three-on-two contest, with Matt and Nick Jackson doing their best to overcome diminished odds only to see their offensive flurry cut short by Jericho’s Judas Effect. After the match, Cody Rhodes reappeared to help the faces, only to be incapicated by a low blow from Guevara. Dustin Rhodes ran to the ring, but was blindsided by a debuting Jack Hager (formerly Jack Swagger), who teamed with the heels to decimate the faces.

Analysis: This was Vince Russo-era booking done right. Ambrose’s callousness and brutality helped elevate a match that was entertaining yet devoid of stakes. Hager’s debut affords AEW a legitimate athlete to build around, similar to the way WWE showcases Brock Lesnar. Jericho and Rhodes furthered their budding rivalry, adding heat to their AEW title showdown at Full Gear. If AEW opted against debuting its weekly program with a megacard, leaving fans with a cliffhanger to discuss what comes next is the next best option, albeit a far second in this writer’s opinion.

FINAL ANALYSIS: AEW still hasn’t convinced me that it’s a top-tier promotion worth investing in. Its foremost issue is that, aside from perhaps three wrestlers, its main event scene is a random assortment of WWE midcarders, undercarders and indie talent. Dustin Rhodes is still being featured in a prominent role at age 50. AEW’s World Champion is a past-his-prime Chris Jericho, who turns 49-years-old in November. Sure, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks are some of the best in the world, but Dynamite seemed more like an alternative to 205 Live than to Monday Night Raw. AEW will face an uphill battle convincing casual fans to consistently invest in their product. However, if it can successfully shed the perception that it’s a home for WWE outcasts, AEW may one day join WWE atop the wrestling mountain.