AEW Dynamite is back tonight at 8 p.m. ET, coming from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee (Alqoguin for “The Good Land”), Wisconsin. This is the last Dynamite prior to this sunday Forbidden Door joint pay-per-view (PPV) with New Japan Pro Wrestling,
AEW’s joint Forbidden Door PPV with New Japan must be very exciting for fans of both promotions – to see the top executives of one promotion clash with the top executive of the other. It’s a fantasy booker’s dream.
However, those who don’t consider themselves fans of NJPW may be feeling let down during this build for the past month.
For context, I don’t consider myself a current New Japan fan. I know them. There was a time when I watched semi-regularly, although it hasn’t been since Kenny Omega lost the world title. I know their key players, but I don’t know what those key players are doing right now. Men who stepped in to fill the void, like Switchblade Jay White and Will Ospreay, started making waves, but weren’t quite there yet. So I have no idea about them.
Even then I find myself struggling to give half of it Dynamite as they set up this PPV.
To be fair, it’s not like AEW assumes their entire audience knows these Pacific players. Excalibur explains who wrestlers are when they show up. But telling the insiders who people are and getting them to invest in them are two things. And that last one is something Dynamite and rampage missed the mark.
Take tonight’s main event, for example. Jon Moxley & Tanahashi v Lance Archer & Chris Jericho. Mox & Tanahashi will face each other for the AEW interim world title Bee Forbidden Door so this is AEW’s version of opponents trying to coexist before a match. Jericho is involved because he and his Appreciation Society will be meeting Moxley and a slew of others in Blood & Guts next week. Archer is probably involved because New Japan trusts him to work with Tanahashi.
It’s a competition that tries to serve multiple stories, but loses its excitement in the process. 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 in 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 like I know who Aussie Open is. It’s a lot of “Wait, who are these guys again?” Roppongi Vice is a team I have no affiliation with either. I prefer to see Trent as part of the Best Friends team I know. The match might be fun, but I certainly wouldn’t be mad if I missed it.
If I had to take a chance, I’m not the only one with my lack of knowledge of New Japan when it comes to viewership. The real base, which probably consists of people going to the shows, probably know more. But I bet that makes up about 25-33% of the weekly viewership. (If it were significantly higher, NJPW would have a US TV deal.) The ratings may confirm this, with poor viewing this week for both Dynamite and rampage† Dynamite was up against a Stanley Cup game that did well at the hockey level, but Dynamite also outperformed NBA games with better numbers than the NHL. (One major caveat is that ratings are weird and Dynamite was still #2 on cable. If ratings are bad again this week, that could indicate more causality.)
The lack of big stars like CM Punk and Bryan Danielson certainly doesn’t help. The combination of those absences and dedicating a significant portion of weekly TV to a whole host of people some of the fans don’t know has left Dynamite feeling duller than usual.
Fortunately, afterwards Forbidden Door this Sunday should be back in full swing with Blood & Guts next week.
The title scene
One story that was only in the AEW world last week was that the Young Bucks de AEW tag team championships in a ladder match against Jurassic Express. The Bucks are not yet booked for Forbidden Door, which is surprising and could change this week. But the real focus after that fight was Christian Cage’s excellent heel move at the expense of Jungle Boy Jack. Cage will discuss his actions tonight and continue what should be an excellent program.
Toni Storm will challenge Thunder Rosa for the AEW Women’s Championship Bee Forbidden Door, probably one of the few competitions with only AEW talent. (Stardom is not 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 killing the plaintiffs. Legal reform is not necessary here. Now he can focus on Scorpio Sky and the TNT Championship† Wardlow actually failed to beat Sky due to MJF shenanigans, but with all that behind him, I think War Dog is the clear favorite here.
Jade Cargill and her baddies have had problems with Athena and Kris Statlander. She will have to defend her TBS championship against at least one of those two at some point.
Since there are not enough titles in AEW with their own titles and the Ring of Honor titles floating around, they recently introduced the All-Atlantic Championship† Penta Oscuro takes on Malakai Black in a qualifying match tonight.
Other things to keep an eye on:
– Bryan Danielson has been absent lately, probably due to injury. But he’s coming back tonight to take on Zack Saber Jr.’s challenge. to tackle for Forbidden door. Since they’ve built it this far anyway, the forces that the American dragon must feel will be good to go on Sunday.
– Former champions Hangman Page and Adam Cole both want a match for Switchblade’s NJPW heavyweight title. But Jay has denied them both. This is probably headed for a multi-man match. My guess at first was just a tag match where Hangman might team up with Okada against White & Cole, but if that was the case then I think Okada is part of this story now. However, it sounds like someone is being added to this battle.
– MJF is still missing after his worked shoot weeks ago. I wouldn’t expect him back until… Forbidden Door is in our rearview mirror. They can’t wait too long or the buzz will wear off.
– FTR may be able to gain more tag gold at Forbidden By winning the NJPW tag titles (unless there are issues between AAA and CMLL about this). If they do, it should finally be time to set their sights on the AEW copies.
Dynamite airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. What do you pay attention to when tuning in?