In a world where sports content has gone dark because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, there are those who soldier on regardless. This was the case Wednesday for All Elite Wrestling’s weekly TV broadcast of Dynamite.
I tuned in to the empty arena shows that their competitors at WWE produced for Friday Night Smackdown and Monday’s Raw. As a result, they were incredibly disappointing, crowd or no crowd. And the kicker: no live wrestling from Dynamite’s Wednesday night competition, WWE NXT. They opted to air some documentary garbage with replays as if they wanted to be ESPN’s 30 for 30. Dynamite opted for live-action before an empty arena at their corporate headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla.
Not the Dynamite we wanted, but something we truly needed
This week’s Dynamite broadcast was not the one we wanted, but rather the one we needed in this time of crisis in this nation and our world. Kudos to Cody Rhodes and members of The Elite for tackling the crisis at hand, then going into the show.
The inclusion of roster members sitting near ringside brought forth a never-before-seen viewpoint of the show sans the crowd. MJF and Shawn Spears gambling on matches. Sammy Guevara and MJF singing Chris Jericho’s theme “Judas”. “Boom Boom” Colt Cabana doing what he does best.
Sure, the matches weren’t the greatest. Keep in mind – this was their first empty arena show. It was an empty arena show that still chose to debut talent that night. We saw Brodie Lee (fka Luke Harper) debut as the Exalted One of the Dark Order.
The next debut was somewhat predictable. The recent #FreeTheDELETE episode on YouTube had Matt Hardy asking his drone Vanguard 1 to lead him to his Arcadia. Following the match between Inner Circle and The Elite, Vanguard 1 lands in the middle of the ring. Right there, in the upper deck, was Matt Hardy in his BROKEN form as Damascus performing his signature DELETE move. Chris Jericho looked like he saw a ghost and was about to cry.
It was an empty arena show that netted AEW roughly 200,000 viewers more than last week in Salt Lake City. Bryan Alvarez from Wrestling Observer Live reported that Dynamite picked up 932,000 viewers compared to NXT’s 542,000. NXT’s result officially became the worst since its debut on USA Network last fall.
WWE, you blew it
WWE NXT had an opportunity to rise to the occasion Wednesday night and they blew it by airing some documentary garbage. They can shift the blame anywhere they’d like, but the blame lies on WWE management for choosing to do nothing. They embarrassed themselves by putting out sub-par content instead of wrestling.
With the status of WrestleMania 36 uncertain, who knows how disastrous an empty-arena WrestleMania would be like. In one media circle, a two-night WrestleMania is under promotion to be live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. There are predictions of the “granddaddy of sports entertainment” postponing to June 7, relocating to New York City’s Madison Square Garden in another. There are even reports of WrestleMania postponing to a May date.
I’m not going after my fellow freelance journalists about these reports. I am equally as confused as you are. One WWE insider says one thing, and another insider states another. It does not leave much room for credibility in sports journalism with so much misinformation.
This is a joint commentary for Heartland Newsfeed, Midwest Sports Network, Ambush Sports Network and Overtime Heroics.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.