AEW’s first empty-arena show was well done, considering the circumstances. Stories were extended, characters debuted, and AEW was even able to make productive use of the wrestlers acting as the crowd. Let’s look at the booms and duds from the Mar. 18, 2020 episode of Dynamite.
Well, this was a different empty-arena show compared to WWE’s offerings last Friday and Monday nights. Even with no audience, AEW Dynamite didn’t seem odd or out of place. Rather, it was a pretty enjoyable show, something I couldn’t say about RAW and SmackDown.
There’s an argument this is due to the novelty of AEW still being such a new promotion. Maybe a lot of us are more willing to overlook the inherent weirdness of watching and hearing wrestling with virtually no crowd.
AEW, kind of in line with my idea of NXT wrestlers being dispersed through the crowd to “scout” their competition, had other wrestlers in the crowd (separated into heel and face sides) that provided their own entertainment throughout the night.
(Remember that it’s been reported that Tony Khan is letting wrestlers stay home if they have worries about the Coronavirus pandemic. This could account for the wrestlers who were present or absent last night.)
I’d say it has more to do with generally coherent and long-term storytelling coupled with an in-ring style that doesn’t necessarily need a crowd. The thing about WWE-style is it’s infused with playing to the crowd/cameras so much that the storytelling in the ring tends to suffer. That wasn’t the case with last night’s Dynamite.
Rather, the AEW formula seems to place more emphasis on the cameras being in the right spot to catch the action rather than the wrestlers being forced into the right angle for the cameras. This seemed to be for the worse through the first three or four months of the show, but there has been improvement with the production truck generally making sure their crew is in the right spot to record a great shot.
There was still a bit of that WWE-style in the main event, not surprising since both Cody and Jake Hager spent the majority of their careers in WWE. The long, drawn out babyface beatdown and heels cutting off the ring with grappling holds and corner work (through multiple commercials no less) building to a hot tag seems almost like a RAW main event formula.
Still, it was a good show. Was it good enough to be the second show I give only booms?
As a reminder of my criteria, I’m not going to run through each match/segment. Rather, I will identify a couple of segments that either worked (“boom”) or didn’t for whatever reason (“dud”).
My criteria includes quality of match/segment and how it starts and/or builds stories. After all, we watch partly to be caught up in the stories. If a great work-rate match happens with no context or bearing on the stories, it’s going to be a miss.
Also, just because something is a hit/miss doesn’t mean it was an overwhelming choice. The selection could be 51 percent hit, 75 percent miss, and so on.
There are other subtleties to my criteria, but those are pretty much the parameters.
We had the opening promo with Cody, Kenny Omega, and Matt Jackson (with an appearance by Adam “Hangman” Page); Lucha Bros vs. Best Friends (with Orange Cassidy); Penelope Ford (with Kip Sabian) vs. Kris Statlander vs. Riho vs. Hikaru Shida; The Butcher and The Blade vs. Jurassic Express (Luchasuarus and Jungle Boy); the reveal of The Exalted One; a Lance Archer vignette; and The Inner Circle (Santana, Ortiz, & Hager) vs. The Elite (Cody, Matt Jackson, & Page).