There’s something to be said about All Elite Wrestling – they know how to put on a live show. On February 5, I attended the AEW Dynamite broadcast from Huntsville, AL – a city that typically doesn’t see many live televised wrestling events. In the 90s, WCW would make annual stops in Huntsville with a Nitro or Thunder broadcast. A live AEW Dynamite episode in this particular city feels like a small, southern wrestling homecoming – considering its legacy ties with various executives (Cody, Chris Jericho), talent (Tony Schiavone, Jim Ross), and its network (TNT). This episode marked AEW’s first-ever live event in Alabama, and for those who were able to attend, it was a fun, lively show to experience.
AEW has, correctly, positioned its two biggest stars in a hot program for the World championship with Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley. The live broadcast opened with Moxley entering and strutting through the crowd, driving the Huntsville crowd into a frenzy. It’s the kind of exuberant energy that you only see when a real star enters the arena. Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle positioned themselves at commentary, drawing a reaction from the crowd that was just as frenzied as Moxley’s entrance. Huntsville even sang “Judas” to Jericho as he took his seat. We were in for a good time.
Moxley and Ortiz worked their match, with Ortiz drawing some of the loudest boos of the night. After Moxley’s victory, and a botched beatdown attempt from the Inner Circle, Moxley drove a key into Santana’s eye and exited through the crowd. The segment had the energy and context of a main event or show-closer – Chris Jericho screaming from the ring while Moxley posed with the fans across the arena. The kind of energy that audiences used to see every week during the Monday Night Wars. The episode felt special already, but it would keep the pace for the next two hours.
Best Friends w/ Orange Cassidy lit up the Von Braun Center in their tag match with SCU. Orange Cassidy is easily one of the top 5 most over workers on the roster, and his chemistry with Chuck Taylor and Trent is infectious. They turned in a fun tag match that kept the show’s momentum going into Dr. Britt Baker, DMD vs. Yuka Sakazaki. Baker is a terrific, natural villain in a live setting – talking trash to the crowd during commercial breaks, and knocking out a tooth out of Sakazaki’s mouth. Even for the most jaded fans in attendance, her heel antics struck a chord and elicited varied reactions.
The clear match of the night was the 8-Man Tag between The Elite (Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page) vs. Butcher and the Blade & Lucha Bros. For yours truly, any time I get to see Omega, The Young Bucks, Lucha Brothers in person, it genuinely feels like a special event. The Big Fight Feel™ carried over into this match, with one insane spot after another – all while setting the seeds for a bigger story amongst The Elite. Everybody involved in this match is working at the top of their game and Huntsville recognized that all the way. Exemplary TV match. “Superbad” Kip Sabian and Joey Janela had the unfortunate task of following up with a cool-down match, but that led to a unique final segment.
Closing a show with a Ten Lashings beatdown is an old school NWA/WCW decision – an inspired move. It was unclear how this segment would play out, but once MJF and Cody were face-to-face, the tension in the arena grew in unexpected ways. It goes without saying that MJF might be the best heel in the US right now. His posturing, his attitude, his trash talk, even his cadence are top-shelf villainy. Pairing an uber heel with a well-liked babyface like Cody is only natural, but this segment has, somehow, generated even more goodwill and sympathy for Cody. Every lashing was stretched out and De Palma’d to the Nth degree. Entrances from Arn Anderson, Dustin Rhodes, the Young Bucks, and Brandi Rhodes ramped up the drama. And Cody’s flailing and agonized expressions drew a rousing, engaging rally from the Huntsville crowd. A segment that I couldn’t wrap my head around going into the show played like magic in real-time. One of the best-booked angles I’ve seen at a live taping.
It’s abundantly clear that AEW is starting to hit its stride with Dynamite. Every single match and segment moved a storyline forward and engaged the crowd in ways that WWE really should take note – except for NXT, they’re still doing great things over there. There were many in attendance that were watching AEW for the first time ever and walked away energized, impressed, and probably hooked. This episode was one of the best-paced wrestling broadcasts I’ve had the pleasure of attending, and I would recommend you check out the AEW live event nearest you.
All pics and videos courtesy of Anton Jackson