The world of pro wrestling takes a bionic elbow straight to the noggin next week when All Elite Wrestling’s first TV show, All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite, launches on TNT. The nationwide, prime-time show premieres on the former home of WCW on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 8 p.m. ET, and will turn AEW into an active, full-time wrestling promotion after running four special events from May to Labor Day. It’s an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, not just because of AEW’s debut, but because of how this upstart company has already impacted other promotions and the wrestling industry at large. We’re on the cusp of the most fruitful era of professional wrestling in decades, and AEW is but one part of that. If you have the right cable package and live in a market that carries Ring of Honor’s syndicated show, you could watch at least 15 weekly hours of original, first-run pro wrestling starting next week—and that doesn’t count shows that only air online or on streaming networks like New Japan World and the WWE Network. That’s a lot of wrestling, more than any human outside of Dave Meltzer should ever be expected to keep track of, and so it makes sense to pick your spots. Based on the momentum it’s built up this year over a string of excellent live events, it seems likely that a large swath of wrestling fans will be making time every week for AEW’s TV show. Here’s everything we know about that first episode so far.
Dynamite was heavily rumored to be the name of AEW’s TV show for months before it was officially confirmed last week. I don’t think any name will make or break a wrestling show, but this is a perfectly fine one to have. Obviously it has that powerful, explosive connotation that works well with combat sports, but it also evokes WCW’s old Nitro show, which was a massive ratings powerhouse on TNT in the mid-to-late ‘90s. And obviously it goes along with the name of the network it’ll be airing on, as well.
TNT and AEW made the smart decision of not going head-to-head with either of WWE’s flagship shows, picking Wednesday as Dynamite’s night instead of Monday or Friday. Of course WWE has been committed to destroying all competition since Vince McMahon bought the promotion from his dad in the early ‘80s, so it was no surprise when it was announced that WWE’s third brand, NXT, would be jumping from the WWE Network to USA with a weekly two-hour show on Wednesday nights. So now fans will get to relive those glory days in the ‘90s when they had to (annoyingly) flip between stations to keep track of what was happening in both WCW and what was then known as the WWF. NXT traditionally puts on a good, classic wrestling product, but WWE has made it abundantly clear that the brand doesn’t really matter when compared to the main roster shows of Raw and Smackdown, so it’ll be interesting to see if it present real competition to AEW.
Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone were both the main voice of World Championship Wrestling at different points in that company’s history. Ross went on to be the lead announcer for WWF during its most popular period, and to millions of fans simply is the voice of pro wrestling. He’s served as one of AEW’s main commentators at its first four events, sharing the booth with play-by-play man Excalibur. (He’s a former wrestler who performed under a mask, and in keeping with wrestling tradition continues to both wear the mask and use his wrestling name.) Schiavone, meanwhile, has joined AEW in a production role, and will be hosting pretaped control center segments where he previews events and recaps storylines.
AEW was formed when five of the wrestlers who formed the faction The Elite left New Japan and Ring of Honor to start a company with billionaire Tony Khan. Four of those five wrestlers—Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson)—were all given office jobs and creative power within the company, along with Executive Vice President titles. They’ve been a primary focus for the company throughout its short lifespan, and all four will be wrestling live on the first episode of Dyamite. Cody will be wrestling against Sammy Guevara, a young star from Texas who has the look of a potential superstar, in what will be the first match in Dynamite history. Omega and the Young Bucks will be teaming up against AEW World champion Chris Jericho and a mystery tag team (who may or may not be former Impact tag champs LAX, who debuted for AEW in late August). AEW probably wouldn’t exist without the Elite, and the company’s wasting no time basing its TV show around these top stars.
Perhaps the biggest match on the first episode will be the AEW Women’s title match between Nyla Rose and Riho. AEW’s women’s division is an interesting combination of wrestlers from around the world, and its first champion will be either the imposing heel Nyla Rose or the 22-year-old joshi star Riho. Nyla Rose has been pushed hard from the start as one of AEW’s top stars, but Riho is a tremendous wrestler and sympathetic babyface, so it’s impossible to predict how this match will go. Women’s wrestling is no longer a sidebar or special attraction, but an integral part of most prominent wrestling promotions today, and AEW is no different.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman, aka MJF, might be the best pure promo guy in wrestling today. He carries himself perfectly as the classic cocky heel, both in promos and during off-the-cuff interviews with the media, and also has the look of a star. He’s about as close to a can’t-miss prospect as any other young star in wrestling today, and AEW has been pushing him prominently throughout its short history so far. He’ll get to introduce himself to a larger audience on the first episode of Dynamite, when he faces Brandon Cutler.
AEW’s two biggest signings so far have both come straight from WWE. Chris Jericho was a day one signee for AEW, and went on to become the company’s first World champion. Jon Moxley, who was a main eventer, member of the Shield, and World champion in WWE under the name Dean Ambrose, made a surprise appearance at the end of AEW’s first event, Double or Nothing, attacking Kenny Omega after the Cleaner’s brutal match with Jericho. An injury has kept Moxley from following up on that angle with a match, but he’ll be making a live appearance on the first episode of Dynamite, so expect the Moxley / Omega feud to continue.
The biggest question about All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite won’t be answered by a single episode. Can AEW keep the momentum going now that it’s booking and producing a weekly, two-hour TV show? Can it maintain its image as the younger, cooler alternative to WWE now that it’s on a legacy cable network that has pretty much the same reach as the USA Network? We’ll find out in the weeks to come.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.