One of the things I like about AEW is the structuring of the show. Dynamite is usually well paced, making sure that you rarely get bored by any one match. It makes sure that certain segments (usually) don’t dominate the entire show. However, there is one element in particular that I absolutely love about AEW’s pacing and that is the opening segment.
More often than not, AEW immediately hits you with a match. There is often little to no talking before the wrestling starts. If there is a promo, it’s a short 30 to 60 second long skit before the opening match. AEW makes it clear right away what this show is: first and foremost, this is a wrestling show. That’s important to establish when you have people tuning in from whatever was airing before Dynamite. If you want to ensure holdovers from the last show stay tuned in, having someone cut a promo for 10 minutes isn’t the way. It’s to show some action, show something cool, get their attention.
Take for instance just a couple of weeks ago when AEW was following up a NBA game (I’m told it’s a “real” sport? Or something?). A large portion of people who hadn’t watched wrestling in a long time were online tweeting about it. Was it all good stuff? No, not really, it was mostly “why is Jericho so fat now and why is he in a knockoff WWE?”, but they were still keeping the TV on in order to comment on it. Could this have been purely because people were just confused why Jericho was still around? Perhaps, but I believe AEW could use circumstances like this to their advantage.
But this is not the actual reason I love AEW’s decision to have a match right away. The main purpose to do so is to be able to highlight a match. Only one match can be the main event, so what do you do to highlight another? Well, put it at the start of the episode.
Cody’s open challenges last year with the TNT Championship run were always placed forefront at the start of the episode. At last year’s new year’s bash was Cody vs Darby, (their second match together) was at the start of the show too; the match which showed how equal they truly were to make their match at Full Gear that much more tense. Something of that importance was at the very front of the episode.
Recently we have also seen the opening spot used to highlight the Dark Order and/or Hangman page, a plot that AEW rightfully wants to heavily highlight. The weeks leading up to the Best Friends/Proud and Powerful parking lot fight, we saw a match or two involving one or both of the teams. AEW also often uses the opening match to highlight and show off a new addition to the roster, such as FTR.
This is not to say that AEW always uses this spot for a big name — sometimes it’s more to show off someone they want to or are thinking about pushing. Sometimes they simply use the time spot to try to elevate a match. Does this always work? No, not always. But then again, not every match in the main event time slot is guaranteed to be a banger either.
However, the dynamic that they have with this time slot is one I really like. Unlike with WWE’s main card, I know the moment I sit down to watch wrestling I am going to get something big, something exciting, and/or something that advances a plot. On top of these things, I know I’ll get wrestling. The fact that there are no commercials during this slot only helps put forward the importance of the match.
Since I mentioned WWE, let’s talk about them. WWE’s goal at the start of each episode is to keep people wanting to stick around for the end by teasing it at the start. Usually, WWE starts with the current champion of the biggest name of that brand coming out and cutting a promo. They often confront whoever they will be dealing with for the night and after 10 minutes or so the main event has been scheduled. Even for the biggest fan, a 10 minute hint of what’s to come two and a half hours from now can be a stretch.
And so, AEW really stands out when it comes to the way they open a show. When you put this strategy in conjunction with the way they announce matches beforehand, it makes for a hot start to the show. It doesn’t tease you of things to come in 2 and a half hours. It gives it to you now, and tells you to stick around because there’s going to be more stuff just like it.
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