I have attended many a wrestling show over the years sports fans. My first ever show was a WCW Thunder episode on February 4th, 1999; needless to say it didn’t go down as a historically significant event, although I did get to see Goldberg squash Bam Bam Bigelow in a dark match, a Konnan and Rey Mysterio Jr. victory over the legendary team Disorderly Conduct and a Super Calo-Lash Leroux match that apparently did exist (you’ll be stunned to know that a) Calo was the best part of this match and b) he lost it). Much more memorable were the Backlash events I attended years later, such as the 2003 one that featured Goldberg vs. The Rock, Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena and Rey Mysterio getting swung into the ring pole while strapped to a stretcher, and the 2009 Backlash that saw Randy Orton win the WWE Championship a month too late, John Cena being thrown through a strobe light, Chris Jericho vs. Ricky Steamboat and no luchadores of any sort (stunningly luchadores weren’t treated well at WWE shows back then. Or now!). They were all fun and all memorable in some sort of way, but I wouldn’t call any of them must see events or even historically significant events. I hadn’t seen any events like that…until the last month. First there was AAA’s Invading New York show in Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater, a show that a) fulfilled my goal of attending a lucha libre show and b) was the most fun I’ve ever had attending a wrestling event. At least it was until last week, when I made the journey down from Rhode Island to Washington D.C. to watch the first ever episode of AEW Dynamite.
Now normally I wouldn’t tell this story because AEW isn’t exactly a lucha libre promotion…but there are lucha elements in this story and Lucha Central said it was okay for me to write this so why not? In all honesty I never had any intentions of going to this AEW show, mainly because I was thinking more of going to the second show in Boston, a much shorter drive. But right before I journeyed down to the AAA show I was approached by my uncle, the great Todd Hoffert, about going to this Dynamite show after he had secured a suite in the Capital One Center. I’m ashamed to admit it took me five minutes to think it over before accepting, mostly because this was an easy choice. Todd and his brother, my uncle Shawn, are the two people who got me into wrestling back when I was a kid, when I wandered downstairs at my grandmother’s one night to see them and their friends watching a WCW Saturday Night taping. A few years later they hooked me for good when they showed me a tape of WCW’s Road Wild 1998 PPV and it all eventually led to me writing here on this site. The opportunity to go see a show with them (a historic show nonetheless) and spend some time with family (my grandmother and uncles all live in the Lexington Park/Hollywood area of Maryland, only about an hour away from Washington) was too good to pass up. It didn’t hurt either that Pentagon Jr. and Fenix, two guys who seem to be on every show I go to these days, would be there as well. So I hopped in the car with my great aunt Ann (who accompanied me to see my grandmother) and off to Maryland we went. Two days and a stop at a Buffalo Wild Wings later, there I was at the Capital One Arena with my uncles, my cousin Cameron and a group of their friends at AEW Dynamite.
So what do you need to know about this show that you don’t already know from watching it on TNT? For starters, it was different than any other wrestling show I’d ever attended, night and day compared to something like AAA’s Invading New York. That show felt like a big deal too (it was AAA taking a step forward in the US after all) but it was also a show that took place in a theater, giving it a more intimate feel. The moment I walked into the Capital One Arena it felt like I was at a house party, if a house party was somehow able to hold 10K plus wrestling fans freed from their shackles. There was an energy in the building unlike anything else I’ve ever felt at a live event, an energy that lasted throughout the show and could be felt all the way up in the luxury suite we found ourselves in. For those wondering what watching a wrestling show in a luxury suite is like by the way…well it’s the same thing was watching a wrestling show from the usual seats, only this time there’s a stove, a fridge, a table, a bar and a bathroom there with you. It was so wild that I think all fifteen to sixteen of us in the suite were in awe of it right until the matches started. There’s still a lot of time but I’m pretty sure there will never be a fancier experience watching wrestling than the one I had last Wednesday.
In between all of that there was the usual wrestling show stuff. I attempted to convince one of the kids with us to buy a Britt Baker shirt at the merch stand and somehow succeeded; turns out he’s a huge women’s wrestling fan. There was beer, or in my case gum because I don’t drink (it’s the straight edge life for me sports fans). And then there was a lot of wrestling. I still haven’t watched the full show back on TV (and I honestly may not) and I know that many who did felt the show was more very good than great, but live this show was off the charts. It wasn’t perfect; the Brandon Cutler-MJF match was hurt by Cutler’s nerves and the ending of the Jay and Silent Bob segment was weird but beyond that this was the perfect live experience from Darby Allin vs. CIMA all the way to SCU vs. Jurassic Express. As a Lucha Underground fan it was awesome to see so many former talents be featured in standout roles (in total, seven former LU talents worked this show and made up 20% of the workers on the card). As a straight up wrestling fan it was awesome to see Kenny Omega live for the first time, not to mention a rejuvenated and electric Jon Moxley. Perhaps the most impressive, in the age of “this is awesome!” and dissatisfied crowds, the Capital One Arena audience was perfect. There was only one “this is awesome!” chant throughout the entire show, there were no attempts to hijack, there was no silliness; it was a crowd that wanted to like this show, wanted to help this show succeed and did just that. In the words of Montgomery Burns, excellent.
As for what I loved about the show most, there were two things above the rest. The one will surprise no one was a match that aired on tonight’s AEW Dark program; an eight man tag match between the unit of Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta) and Private Party (Isaiah Kassidy and Marq Quen) vs. Angelico, Jack Evans, Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix. As a AAA fan, as a Lucha Underground fan; hell as a lucha libre fan it doesn’t get any better than an Sky Blondes/Lucha Brothers union, two teams that have a combine 5 AAA Tag Team Championship reigns between them. I loved seeing Pentagon and Fenix again for the third time in a month (they’re special no matter how many times you see them), I went absolutely crazy seeing Angelico and Jack, two of my all time favorites (if you hear someone cheering loudly for them it was probably me) and I loved the finish, which I won’t spoil for those watching tonight! Somehow even better than that was Nyla Rose vs. Riho. I’ve seen many great matches live over the years but this was the best I’ve ever seen from a live perspective. Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest, maybe it didn’t feature enough moves for some people, but I can tell you now that no one in the arena had any idea what to think of this match going in (they were respectful but quiet at the start) and by the end they were treating this match like it was Atlantis-Villano III in Arena Mexico. The storytelling, the drama, the heart of both Nyla and Riho (who both had something to prove going in mind you), the stakes involved…it was going to take something special to top the lucha talent for the lucha guy, and this match did just that. If the show had just been this match and an hour and a half of BTE skits I would’ve gone home happy.
In any event I did go home happy. So did everyone else in the suite, from the diehard fans like my uncles and my cousin (I’ve never seen someone more excited for a show than he) to the NXT fan Keith to the lapsed fans like my uncle’s long time good friend Maurice. I spent a few more wonderful days in Maryland with my family before driving back to Rhode Island with my aunt on Sunday, all the while trying to come up with a way to write about this whole experience! Unfortunately I cannot give you a deeper insight to what last Wednesday’s show will mean going forward, both for wrestling and lucha libre; I certainly believe we will see more lucha stars joining both AEW and WWE as a result of the arms race AEW’s formation has created, and we’ve already seen how AEW’s early success has forced WWE to try (and at least this past week, fail) to step up their game. But to paraphrase a former WCW legend, the only thing that’s sure about the future of wrestling is nothing’s for sure. What I do know for sure is that last Wednesday I went to a really important wrestling show with the two men who introduced me to this great world of professional wrestling (along with a great cast of friends and family) and had one hell of a time soaking in the atmosphere and watching some of the best young talent, lucha libre or otherwise, do what they do best. If nothing else ever comes from this, at least we can say the lucha guy went to an AEW show and he had one hell of a time with a good group of dudes. You can’t go wrong with that.
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