All Elite Wrestling (AEW) made its debut in Los Angeles, California last night. The fledgling wrestling organization’s flagship show AEW Dynamite was live from the Kia Forum in sunny southern California and there were definitely some explosions.
The live event came just days after AEW’s Double or Nothing Pay-Per-View which took place in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday at the sold-out T-Mobile Arena. Another town and another sell-out as thousands of fans packed the refurbished Kia Forum (old home of the L.A. Lakers) for 2 hours of what turned out to be darn good show.
The good vibes started in the parking lot. Fans with replica belts and t-shirts from all wrestling eras chatted as they made their way into the Forum. Everyone was excited. Everyone was power walking. This was something new and also something that doesn’t roll through Los Angeles often. The buildup to the 5pm show time felt like walking around the lobby at an All-Ages punk row show.
Then 5pm hit (the event was being broadcast live on TBS superstation) and the magic started. Cult of Personality blasted over the speaker and out came the newly crowned AEW World Champion, the hugely popular CM Punk!
CM Punk would fight in a triples tag-team match with FTR minutes later. Just some good ol’ fashioned technical wrestling to open the program and the fans loved every minute. Admittedly, The Best in The World looked winded and sloppy at times. Perhaps he twisted his ankle early on because it looked like his feet kept giving out on him. There was an instance in which Punk delivered something that resembled a power bomb but that was aimed at the bottom ropes (maybe). It’s quite possible he would have killed one of the Gunn boys had Papa Gunn not been standing on the ring apron to prevent his neck from snapping on the ropes.
Perhaps the most bizarre (yet thoroughly entertaining) moment came next. One of the AEW originals, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, or MJF as he is known, descended to the ring and unleashed a scathing promo, essentially calling his boss a loser and demanding to be fired. The bad blood between MJF and company owner Tony Khan has been spilling over into the public the last few months. In a nutshell, MJF feels he is not being paid what he is worth. Most of us can relate. As a fan watching, it was hard to tell what was fact and fiction. Especially when CM Punk limped out (he was wearing only one wrestling boot and appeared to be hurt both physically and emotionally) to try to calm him down. MJF ran out of the ring and into the audience at this point. That didn’t looked planned. Security wasn’t even looking and it was only after about 30 seconds that they were seen scrambling to find him in the crowd. These were clearly real security guards, not the guys Wardlow was beating up every week. MJF looked like he didn’t know where he was going and they never caught up with him. As a side note, we later found out that none of this aired on live television. Anyway, it’s not hyperbole to say this was a Top 10 live promo in wrestling history.
Things briefly felt weird after MJF’s tirade but the action picked up again and it was on with the show. The matches varied from fast and furious, to technical, to sports entertainment style. This brought great balance to the show. The hungry L.A. fans got a quick fix then were able to settle in. Some highlights from the event included the return of Miro, the debut of Fallen Goddess Athena Palmer, a bonkers 10-man tag match, and 2 Wardlow powerbombs.
The Jericho Appreciation Society was also on hand. Like most Jericho angles, it started out lame but is slowly growing on people. They let Judas go on a little longer than usual, maybe because it was Los Angeles!
The night ended with Jon Moxley and his ruthless aggression and a Chris Jericho run-in. A bloodied Mox helped set the stage for the upcoming Blood and Guts show.
AEW didn’t hit a grand slam with this event but they didn’t botch it either. If this were a college course, they earned a solid A- and it’s safe to say fans left satisfied. Walking back to the car, there was no negative buzz. Of course, it always helps when a guy like Mox takes the time to acknowledge the crowd after the cameras go off.
It felt like AEW and the L.A. fans left a good first impression on each other. Hopefully that means AEW will be back sooner than later.