AEW Dynamite is back tonight at 8 PM ET, emanating from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee (Alqoguin for “The Good Land”), Wisconsin. This is the last Dynamite prior to this Sunday’s Forbidden Door joint pay-per-view (PPV) with New Japan Pro Wrestling,
AEW’s joint Forbidden Door PPV with New Japan has to be very exciting for fans of both promotions – to see the top guys from one promotion collide with the top guy from the other. It’s a fantasy booker’s dream.
However, those who don’t consider themselves fans of NJPW may be feeling left behind the last month during this build.
For context, I don’t consider myself a current fan of New Japan. I’m familiar with them. There was a time I watched semi-regularly, though that hasn’t been since Kenny Omega lost the World title. I know their main players, but I don’t know what those main players are currently doing. Men who have stepped in to fill the void such as Switchblade Jay White and Will Ospreay were starting to make waves but not quite there yet. So I’m not clueless to them.
Even then I’m finding myself struggling to care about half of Dynamite as they set up this PPV.
To be fair, it’s not as if AEW assumes their entire audience knows these players from the Pacific. Excalibur makes sure to explain who wrestlers are as they show up. But telling the initiated who folks are and making them invested in them are two very things. And that latter bit is something that Dynamite and rampage has been missing the mark on.
Take tonight’s main event for example. Jon Moxley & Tanahashi vs. Lance Archer & Chris Jericho. Mox & Tanahashi will face each other for the AEW interim world title did Forbidden Door so this is AEW’s version of opponents trying to co-exist prior to a match. Jericho is involved because he and his Appreciation Society will face Moxley and a slew of others in Blood & Guts next week. Archer is involved likely because New Japan trusts him to work with Tanahashi.
It’s a match trying to service multiple stories but loses its excitement while doing that. In this case, there may be enough star power to make it work. (And to be fair, Tanahashi vs. Moxley is the match I’d be most interested in at the PPV.)
Will Ospreay & Aussie Open vs. Orange Cassidy & Roppongi Vice is an even better example. Even though they’ve been on TV multiple times, I still don’t feel I know who Aussie Open is. It’s a lot of “Wait, who are these guys again?” Roppongi Vice is a team that I don’t have any attachment too either. I’d prefer to see Trent as part of the Best Friends team I’m familiar with. The match may be fun, but I surely wouldn’t be upset if I missed it.
If I had to venture a guess, I’m not alone in my dearth of knowledge of New Japan when it comes to the viewing audience. The true base, which likely makes up folks going to the shows, probably knows more. But I’d venture that makes up about 25-33% of the weekly viewing audience. (If it were significantly higher, NJPW would have a US TV deal.) It’s possible that ratings back this up, with a poor showing this week for both Dynamite and rampage. Dynamite was against a Stanley Cup game that did well on hockey standards, but Dynamite has also done better against NBA games that had better numbers than that NHL one did. (A major caveat is ratings are weird and Dynamite was still ranked #2 on cable. If ratings are bad again this week, that could indicate more causality.)
Lacking major stars such as CM Punk and Bryan Danielson definitely doesn’t help matters. The combination of those absences and dedicating a sizable portion of weekly TV to feature a slew of folks a portion of fans aren’t familiar with has left Dynamite feeling more lackluster than usual.
Luckily, after Forbidden Door this Sunday, things should be back in full swing with Blood & Guts next week.
The Title Scene
One story that was solely in the AEW world last week was the Young Bucks winning the AEW tag team championships in a ladder match against Jurassic Express. The Bucks aren’t yet booked for Forbidden Door, which is surprising and may change this week. But the real point of note after that bout was Christian Cage’s superb heel turn at the expense of Jungle Boy Jack. Cage is set to address his actions tonight, continuing what should be an excellent program.
Toni Storm will challenge Thunder Rosa for the AEW Women’s championship did Forbidden Door, likely one of the only matches featuring only AEW talent. (Stardom isn’t part of the show despite also being owned by Bushiroad.)
Wardlow just won his class action lawsuit against Smart Mark Sterling and AEW security by beating the shit out of the plaintiffs. No need for justice reform here. Now he can focus on Scorpio Sky and the TNT championship. Wardlow actually failed to defeat Sky due to MJF shenanigans, but with that all behind him, I think War Dog is the clear favorite here.
Jade Cargill and her baddies have had issues with Athena and Kris Statlander. She’ll have to defend her TBS championship against at least one of those two at one point.
Because there aren’t enough titles in AEW with their own titles and the Ring of Honor ones floating about, they recently introduced the All-Atlantic championship. Penta Oscuro will face Malakai Black in a qualifying match tonight.
Other Things to Keep an Eye on:
– Bryan Danielson has been absent recently, likely due to injury. But he will be back tonight to address Zack Saber Jr.’s challenge for Forbidden Door. Since they’ve build it up this much anyway, the powers that be must feel the American Dragon will be good to go for Sunday.
– Former champion Hangman Page and Adam Cole both want a match for Switchblade’s NJPW heavyweight title. But Jay has denied them both. This is likely headed to a multi-man match. My guess initially was just a tag match where perhaps Hangman teams with Okada against White & Cole, but if that were the case, I think Okada would be part of this story by now. It sounds like someone is going to be added to this fray though.
– MJF is still missing after his worked shoot weeks back. I wouldn’t expect him back until Forbidden Door is in our rearview mirror. They can’t wait too long on it or else the buzz will wear off.
– FTR may be able to win more tag gold at Forbidden Door by winning the NJPW tag titles (unless there’s issues between AAA and CMLL regarding that). If they do, then it should be finally time to set their sights on the AEW ones.
Dynamite airs tonight at 8 PM ET on TNT. What will you be watching for when you tune in?