t’s not an exaggeration to say that on Wednesday night, pro wrestling entered a new era. The pot had been simmering for at least a year, as rumors of disgruntled WWE performers shirking their contracts with plans to form a new league heated up on the internet. The tensions have now boiled over: All Elite Wrestling debuted its weekly television program at the same time WWE moved its more minor brand to a rival network — at the same time slot.
After being positioned as the first legitimate challenge to WWE in years, All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite has already been declared the winner of the first round in what is likely to be a series of battles between the new brand and its older, more conservative rival. The new show quite pointedly trounced NXT in ratings.
But as far as the future of these two companies goes, nothing could be less certain.
The first show was a mixed bag. Filled with startling disappointments and unparalleled excitement in equal measure, perhaps AEW has less of a coherent plan than had previously been assumed.
Let’s start with the bad: Nyla Rose’s loss to Riho was the biggest letdown of the night. The match, which by any standard was the best of the card, probably should have been the main event. The fight did a good job of setting up long-term storylines for the future; there’s no question both women will someday be hailed as legends.
But if AEW wants to position itself as a younger, fresher alternative to WWE, there would have been no better way to do this than by establishing Rose, who is transgender, as their first women’s champion. This is a missed marketing opportunity — LGBTQ media would have been feverishly competing to cover such an accomplishment — that could have potentially reached new demographics. In one fell swoop, AEW could have easily proven it wasn’t disingenuous when it came to its heartfelt statements about diversity, thus positioning itself as the more progressive of the major wrestling companies, daring to go where WWE simply won't.