AEW Live:Parking, Pyro, & Pro Wrestling

After a global pandemic and almost two years, All Elite Wrestling brought Dynamite back to Pittsburgh, a city known almost as much for its wrestling as the steel it once produced. Similar to the initial Dynamite event in Pittsburgh, I had tickets to the show yesterday and went to the event with one of my wrestling pals, the great Pat MacLaughlin. As we know, the company returns to the Peterson Event Center, the venue that hosts Pitt Panthers basketball, tomorrow night for the debut edition of Rampage. Before the world shut down, AEW ran its fourth episode of Dynamite in the steel city and we were there in October of 2019 for the event that primarily featured some stellar tag matches that were a part of the original tag team title tournament. Despite being past his prime, Mac is older and wiser, and he’s a mentor that has helped me a lot. With permission from Mrs. Mac, the real boss of the family, Pat and I departed from the suburbs of Western Pennsylvania toward the city at around 5:45 PM with the hope that most rush hour traffic wouldn’t be in the direction of event.

Ironically, the thirty minute commute to the building went smooth and there were no obscene gestures exchanged because of road rage. However, finding a place to park was about as difficult as trying to make sense of Vince Russo’s WCW booking in 2000. Those that follow me on Twitter might see an occasional reference to it, but I have a physical disability, which is something that being a fan of professional wrestling has helped me deal with throughout my life, but that’s a different discussion for a different time. The point being, spring boards and dives aren’t my strong suite. Mac was nice enough to call ahead to find out where the nearest handicapped parking lot was to the venue so that I had minimal walking to do before I witnessed the action on TNT. So, with a Red Bull, the tickets, a mask, and the handicapped parking tag, (Side note, if you park in a handicapped spot without a valid reason, you deserve to be chased by Nick Gage with a pizza cutter) I was prepared for Dynamite. Unfortunately, we asked three parking attendants in three different locations and were given three different answers about the status of accessible parking. Two of these fellows didn’t appear to want to look up from their phones, with one replying, “none” while the yokel at the next place gave us directions to a non-existent parking garage. The other attendant gave us some useful information, but traffic barriers made it impossible to actually get to the lot. As the Royal Rumble of cars continued, a nice police officer pointed us in the direction of a garage, but it wasn’t close to the venue. Finally, we settled on a place to park because we had a better chance of winning the power ball than finding the rumored handicapped parking Mac was told about on the phone. So, we had to walk a few blocks, and it was like watching six hours of Great Khali matches, you will survive, but it won’t be fun. But, walking a few blocks and up a few flights of steps are worth it in the name of the prosperity of pro wrestling, right?

We arrived at our lower level seats, a section right next to the floor that had a close view, during the Joey Janela/Alan Angels bout that was taped for Dark. I won’t discuss too much detail about the taped matches in case those reading this don’t want to know the results. Just as we sat down, I was surprised to see the great Mike Sorg, video producer for some of the local events that I do commentary for, sitting in the row behind us. Sorg mentioned to me that The Mane Event, the Pittsburgh-based tag team of Ganon Jones and Duke Davis, opened the show with a match taped for a later broadcast, I’m not sure what Youtube show it was for, though. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to call many of their matches on the local scene, and they are top talent. For my money, Duke and Ganon are the best unsigned team on the independent circuit today, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they land a contract somewhere. The majority of the bouts taped before the live broadcast were basically just squash matches so there’s not too much to detail, but Pac had a match and his athleticism is incredible. The way he can make a dive look so effortless is poetry in motion. The legendary Jim Ross got a great ovation from the crowd when he was introduced to the fans before the show went on the air.

The opening six man tag with The Elite vs. The Sydals and Dante Martin was fun. Granted with their status as champions and the build toward the pay-per-view, the result wasn’t in doubt, but the bout had a lot of action so it was a good way to start the show. Side note, being as close as our seats were to the floor and the stage, the heat from the pyro is something that will surprise you being live at the event. Also, there was an occasion during the course of the night when the unexpected pyro surprised me and I almost fumbled a $5 bottle of Sprite. Thankfully, the expensive beverage was sparred. Something to take note from this match, while it’s disappointing that Darius is injured, Dante is a very talented athlete. He would have to continue to develop as an overall performer, but assuming that he continues to learn the finer points of the craft, he has the ability to be a star for the organization in a few years. The Elite got the win, and Christian got a solid reaction from the crowd when he interrupted the stable.

The promo that set up the Impact world title match became somewhat of the theme of the night. It wasn’t intentional or a lack of effort from anyone of the card, but rather the logistics of the event. This particular episode of Dynamite was used more to promote upcoming events than major happenings on this specific show. If I had to guess I’d say it’s an unintentional consequence of the few weeks before of a Texas death match, the wild Gage-Jericho bout, Juvi’s appearence, and then the build for the arrival of CM Punk next week. The Pittsburgh Dynamite unintentionally got sandwiched between all of that so despite being prime time, it was clearly the “B-show.” for the Pittsburgh market. That’s more an indication of the show’s importance in the grand scheme of things, not a jab against the quality of the matches.

Daniel Garcia vs. Darby Allin was a good in-ring bout, but the live crowd didn’t seem too familiar with Garcia. Another type of unintended consequence so to speak, is that right now might not be the best time to introduce new talent to the television audience, specifically because with the upcoming arrival of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, it will be very easy for newer wrestlers to get overshadowed or lost in the shuffle. Similar to the opening match, this bout seemed more like a showcase match for Darby and didn’t really have anything at stake in terms of rankings or progress with the product.

There was another six man tag on the card with Orange Cassidy, Wheeler Yuta, and Chuck Taylor vs. The Hardy Family Office. Orange Cassidy got a MAJOR reaction from the crowd, and he was one of the most popular performers on the show. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I’d say that critics of Orange Cassidy are misguided. His style or presentation might not be for everyone, but when a performer is that popular and generates that type of reaction then it will draw money. With as popular as he is, it’s fair to say that Cassidy has a lot more to do in AEW and when he eventually gets a bigger spot on the crowd, the fan base will want to see him be successful, which is a trait of an over babyface. Similar to the opener, this match had a lot of action and was a fun contest. Matt Hardy got the win.

Nyla Rose vs. Kris Statlander was an entertaining contest and both seem to have evolved as performers during their time in AEW. This is meant as a complete compliment, but Nyla’s inexperience on television showed through occasionally during her early work in AEW, but you can really see how the valuable chance to work in front of cameras on a regular basis has polished her skills. Statlander got the victory with an impressive 450 splash, and considering her ability, it’s safe to say that she has a bright future in the women’s division.

The Impact tag title match was fine, but nothing too spectacular. The crowd didn’t seem too invested in the result of the Impact belts, but The Dark Order got a nice reaction. That being said, I think the main reason for the initial lack of response to the tag titles was more based on the fact that the crossover is tailored to the television audience instead of the live crowd. The Good Brothers retained the belts.

Britt Baker did an in-ring promo, and the biggest takeaway from this segment is that Baker is undoubtedly a star. She got possibly the biggest crowd reaction, second only to maybe Chris Jericho in the main event. Similar to Nyla and Statlander, you can really see how the experience of working on TV allowed Baker to polish her skills. In my opinion, Britt Baker might just be at the start of the prime of her career so as long as she can avoid major injury, she has an extremely bright future in AEW. The Red Velvet confrontation was another example of this particular episode being used more to promote upcoming events than anything else.

I understand the point of the Tony Schiavone/QT Marshal segment, but it was basically just cannon fodder. Generally, The Factory as a stable is a direct example of when there are too many wrestlers on the roster and the group got lost in the shuffle.

The main event was basic, but very entertaining, and as mentioned, Chris Jericho was the biggest star on the show. Walking the few blocks, up the steps outside of the venue, and then down the steps inside the venue was tough, but getting to be a part of the entire building singing the Judas lyrics made it worth it because it was such a fun experience. The world has been divided and crazy the past year and a half so it was nice to see even a brief moment of unity for an entire arena of fans. Jericho won to set up the match against MJF next week.

The night finished up with two more matches taped for Dark and then an off-the-air promo from Eddie Kingston. Kingston is one of my favorite wrestlers so it would’ve been cool to see him in a match, but at least there was an appearance. Overall, there wasn’t a bad match on the card and it was a really fun experience. We won’t be at Rampage because schedule conflicts, but the first two weeks of the Friday night show are definitely “must watch” television. If there was a negative to the episode of Dynamite in Pittsburgh it was that names like Cody, Malakai Black, FTR, Adam Page, Jon Moxley, Santana, Ortiz, or Andrade weren’t there live. Still, the show was fun and that’s the point of pro wrestling, right?

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta