The build-up to the Wednesday Night War is finally over. One year and some change removed from All In, Cody Rhodes’ and the Young Bucks’ gamble that they and their peers were capable of promoting a successful show, All Elite Wrestling debuts on TNT with Dynamite. In a week overstuffed with professional wrestling, AEW’s premiere stands out as one of the most important shows of the year, if not in the 18 year stretch between now and the last episode of WCW’s Monday Nitro, which was also on TNT.
What makes this show special? Well, after a succession of pay per view events meant to whet the appetite of wrestling fans hungry for an antidote to WWE’s long-unquestioned monopoly of the industry, AEW’s launch as an weekly, ongoing concern is the first show of its kind since the first episode of Nitro back in 1995, a bold statement that this company isn’t merely an alternative to Vince McMahon’s empire, but a viable competitor with deep pockets and the determination to present something different. To do that, they’re running a card that is, on paper, as strong as any of their pay per view offerings thus far. Here’s what’s happening on Wednesday night.
Cody vs. Sammy Guevara
Dynamite’s first match is a bit of classic wrestling storytelling, as the overconfident eventual challenger to a major championship squares up against a young, hungry upstart who doesn’t know that he’s being overlooked. Cody, who has the air of a guy who has done WrestleMania and the Tokyo Dome like it’s no big deal, plays the overconfident role extremely well. Guevara, by virtue of his youth and relative big match inexperience, is a classic young, hungry upstart.
This match sets the tone for AEW Dynamite, which has the task of reintroducing established stars to a television audience while introducing wrestlers who are largely known by their exploits in much smaller promotions. The pressure of national television is nothing new for Cody. Guevara, on the other hand, is making his American television debut.
Prediction: Given that win-loss records count in AEW and that Cody is the number one contender to Chris Jericho’s title by virtue of his, it’s not too hard to see where this is going. Still, Sammy Guevara has an opportunity to make a huge impression and could pull off an upset, particularly if Jericho decides he’d rather face someone like Guevara at Full Gear than wrestle Cody.
AEW Women’s Championship: Nyla Rose vs. Riho
For as solid as AEW’s tag team and men’s singles divisions are shaping up, its women’s division is largely a cast of unknowns. Before signing with AEW, Nyla Rose was an independent wrestler building her resume by touring Japan. Riho, a seasoned veteran who began wrestling at nine years old, has held titles in Ice Ribbon, Stardom, and DDT, but outside of joshi aficionados and Kenny Omega deep cut obsessives (she was his regular partner in intergender tag matches), she is a largely unknown quantity to the AEW audience.
While neither woman seem unlike first choices to anchor a new women’s division, this match more than any other backs AEW’s claim that they’re bringing a diverse brand of professional wrestling to national television. That goes beyond the fact that Nyla Rose is a trans woman, the first to sign with a major American wrestling promotion. While WWE boasts a roster with several of joshi’s biggest stars from the past decade, Riho comes to AEW without the benefit (or burden, depending on where you stand) of being put through a performance center style training regimen to acclimate her to the demands of an American wrestling audience. Regardless of the outcome, AEW’s women’s division will be like anything we’ve seen on TV before.
Prediction: Nyla Rose will avenge her surprise loss to Riho back at Fyter Fest and win the AEW Women’s Championship in front of her hometown. Also, a lot of straight white dudes are gonna write about how significant a moment this is for the transgender community, so score one for us trans women.
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs. Chris Jericho & Two Mystery Partners
Kenny Omega and his pals the Young Bucks are coming off of tough losses at All Out. Omega’s been in a general funk of late, and the Bucks came just shy of beating their arch rivals the Lucha Brothers in a ladder match for the AAA World Tag Team Championship. Chris Jericho, on the other hand, is flying high. Not only was his All Out match against Adam Page one of the best of his career, he won the AEW World Championship, celebrated with a bit of the bubbly, lost the title at a Longhorn Steakhouse, recovered it days later somewhat miraculously, and wore a scarf in a hot tub. If he’s not your favorite wrestler right now, I don’t know what your deal is.
This match hinges on who Jericho brings with him to Washington D.C. Will it be Santana and Ortiz, who debuted at All Out by taking out the Bucks and the Lucha Brothers after their grueling war? Will it be the Dark Order, who let Jericho borrow one of their creepy pervert costumes so he could sneak attack Adam Page? Fellow mall goths Jimmy Havoc and Darby Allin? Sean Spears and, uh, someone else who wants to beat up The Elite? Jericho hasn’t been much for friendship lately and the AEW roster isn’t fully announced yet, so Jericho has the psychological edge over his the Young Bucks and his arch rival.
Prediction: This is the kind of match that ends in a double count out or disqualification, and that’s what I’m guessing is going to happen. Presumably Jericho and Omega’s eventual rematch is being kept on the back burner while whoever Jericho teams with will be a thorn in the side of the Young Bucks and a top team in the upcoming tournament for the Tag Team Championship. Also, I live for situations that frustrate live audiences, and an inconclusive finish in a match with four of AEW’s top stars would make me so, so happy.
MJF vs. Brandon Cutler
MJF is the easiest wrestler in the world to hate. Maybe you hate bros who wear Burberry scarves. Maybe you play Dungeons & Dragons and were stung a little when he intimated that people who do aren’t in shape. Or maybe you’re me and you’re a bit unsettled that he looks like one of your former roommates, if said roommate lived at the gym. While I’m sure this will change soon, Cutler is a wrestler who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, making him one of AEW’s lowest profile signees. Cutler was surprised with a contract on an episode of Being the Elite and participated in the Double or Nothing Casino Battle Royal, but this, a singles match on AEW’s debut TV show, is the break the Young Bucks say he deserves, unquestionably the biggest opportunity of his career.
Prediction: Unfortunately for Cutler, MJF thrives on ruining special moments–just revisit his scathing takedown of Bret Hart at Double or Nothing if his dressing like one of Starfleet’s finest made you forget. Someone will shut him up eventually, but it won’t be at Dynamite.
Adam Page vs. Pac
Page and Pac were scheduled to wrestle each other at Double or Nothing in May, but Pac pulled out of the match allegedly for the sake of protecting his reign as Dragon Gate’s Open the Dream Gate champion. Page instead showed up in Nottingham, England to answer Pac’s open challenge that month and won by disqualification, as Pac was wrestling with an aim towards injuring Page and not beating him. Page’s knee has bothered him ever since, which put him at a disadvantage against Chris Jericho in the main event of All Out. So this one’s about revenge, pretty much.
Page showed himself capable of hanging with a hall of famer at All Out and it feels like he’s on the verge of becoming a huge star. Pac, by contrast, has largely wrestled in Japan and his native England since departing from WWE in 2016, and the “creative differences” that led to his removal from two AEW pay per views have not engendered him to the AEW audience. That didn’t phase him during his match against Kenny Omega, which he won, but Pac’s story, like Page’s, is that he’s a man trying to prove himself worthy of being a main event level star. They’re just coming at it from different places, one of them a gorgeous himbo, the other a terrifying bastard.
Prediction: Pac is wrestling like a man who’d rather die than lose, and the prospect of him chasing the World Championship is tantalizing to me, a woman who appreciates men who are as muscular as they are miserable. I’m going with him, in what has to be the match of the night.
ALSO: Jon Moxley, who had to pull out of his match against Kenny Omega due to a MRSA infection, is scheduled to appear. It’s doubtful that he will do so in a wrestling capacity given his looming IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship defense against Juice Robinson at NJPW’s King of Pro Wrestling, but he might look to pick up where he left off with Omega.