While the individual storylines AEW tell can be incredibly intricate and dense (sometimes drenched in history with other companies and/or countries and playing on things only a certain few will know from a decade in the past), the premise of the whole company is pretty simple. Give the people what they want. Put wrestlers they like watching on TV and let them do things people will like. And then do it again. And then do it in the next match. Except if you want more time for women wrestlers. Then you’ll still be found wanting.
Sometimes that means letting Keith Lee just throw people through some rafters. Sometimes it’s letting Bryan Danielson or CM Punk just live out their wrestling fantasies. Sometimes it’s Malakai Black falling deeper and deeper into a Sleep album or letting FTR put together the greatest tag team run simply because they can.
And sometimes it’s just letting two bruisers chop the shit out of each other until both of their chests look like a plate that had pasta on it two hours ago but has been sitting untouched in the sink since:
In case you don’t know who these two nutjobs are, one is Samoa Joe, yet another refugee from WWE with a huge following from his work on the indies, ROH, and NXT. Joe was signed to AEW/the new ROH just a couple weeks ago after the familiar tale of not being appreciated by the powers that be In New York (along with some injury problems), basically to spearhead and legitimize ROH’s rebirth under Tony Khan. While he is extremely agile for a man his size, his rep is built on being completely vicious both in the ring and on the mic.
The other dude, the one who looks like Satan’s uncle, is Minoru Suzuki, a legend in Japan with NJPW who has become the world’s favorite Murder Grandpa. Suzuki’s legend has been built through matches that are not based on workrate or acrobatics or even complex storytelling, if there’s even any storytelling at all. Suzuki’s matches are just measures of how cruel he can get, how cruel he can make his opponent in concert, and how much either can stand from the other. Because Suzuki’s gimmick is that he enjoys pain and misery, either distributing or receiving equally, he’s generally seen as the last person anyone would want to get in a ring with. His facial expression is constantly one of “last thing you see before you die.” Even if you win, you’ll leave pieces of yourself behind, and it’s mostly the skin from your chest.
So when Khan announced that this would be the main event of last night’s Dynamite, most fans were expecting something like this. But of course, the credo of AEW and Khan is while giving you want you want they also need to exceed expectations. And they usually do (again, unless it’s the women’s division).
So while we all knew that Suzuki and Joe would have some sort of chop-off or strike competition, few imagined it would be right at the beginning and last for over two minutes of skin-slapping echoing around New Orleans’s Lakefront Arena. But to reiterate, AEW gives you what you want and generally without any bullshit. These two are known for being merciless in the ring, they have direct, htting styles, so why the fuck would we wait around? It’s wrestling’s version of “GET TO THE WORKIN’ OVERTIME PART!”
Even if you’d never seen AEW before, you’d know exactly what these guys are about two minutes in. Suzuki is a cult favorite and only occasionally pops across the ocean to star in AEW, but watching him hammer some dude who outweighs him by 100 pounds and make him like it and becoming the dominant force in the match, all while grinning like he just committed some sort of ritual sacrifice (and in some ways he did) would almost certainly want to make you see more.
Even being the clearly bigger guy, anyone would have been captivated by Joe’s turn becoming the underdog in this match simply by seeing what a demonic creature Suzuki is, how willing he is to out-suffer his opponent (there’s a piece to be written connecting Suzuki to Atlético Madrid one day but I’m not in the mood) and watching Joe get through it. You can’t watch this match and not immediately want to see what Joe does next (though AEW did kind of biff the post-match by introducing some character no one had ever heard of with the overused houselights-blackout and appearance gimmick, all for the benefit of European and Asian TV deals).
Give the people what they want. Sometimes that means watching two guys beat each other into burger.