In the first month since the burgeoning brand’s TV debut, All Elite Wrestling has consistently surpassed the WWE in ratings, although the margin by which they’ve defeated their rival has been steadily slipping. The excitement for a potential industry revolution catalyzed by All Elite Wrestling has been invigorating, but keeping up that kind of enthusiasm will be an immense challenge for Tony Khan and Cody Rhodes’s team. With AEW: Dynamite already beginning to drag a bit, it’s a striking peculiarity that the company’s bonus content is actually besting the main show in both diversity and quality. AEW Dark, a short YouTube program released for free every Tuesday, might be the more exciting product.
In wrestling slang, “dark matches” have referred to usually un-televised bonus fights, offered as an extra attraction for a live audience. In the age of digital streaming services, these matches sometimes later get put up on YouTube or exclusive networks for the sake of creating a ceaseless stream of content. And while many of these dark matches—especially on WWE, where they’re often collected into sub-par episodes of a little-watched show ironically titled “Main Event”—are sometimes afterthoughts, AEW has used these bouts to establish character-building feuds and introduce new personalities that haven’t yet made their way to television.