(CBS Baltimore/CBS Local) — After months of buildup and hype, thousands of articles and constant buzz, the day that will forever change professional wrestling is here. All Elite Wrestling, the first viable competition for WWE in two decades, is set to make its television premiere tonight with AEW Dynamite.
For all the talk and string of sold-out events, AEW remains a relatively unknown and unproven commodity. There are so many questions yet to be answered.
Even though the promotion has the backing of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and access to his deep pockets, AEW is still viewed as David to the Goliath that is WWE. Any assertion to the contrary is plain naivety.
Playing the role of underdog is fitting though. In fact, that is actually the very foundation on which the company has been built. It was created by a group of wrestlers who were tired of the status quo. They were unhappy with stale storylines, the lack of upward momentum, being stuck in sports-entertainment purgatory, and felt that the powers that be had grown tone-deaf to the modern fan.
When Cody and Brandi Rhodes left the safe confines of WWE, they were gambling on themselves. The guarantees of a sizable salary and comfortable lifestyle were no longer enough to offset the frustrations at the office. They knew they could do better and decided to throw caution to the wind, leaving behind opportunities that people fight their entire careers for.
But the Rhodes family has never shied away from a battle. Their departures from WWE made a statement so loud that it reverberated in every locker room in the industry. Their message was received loud and clear: you can bet on yourself and win.
It also continues to echo, as we are seeing for the first time talents take back power in what had historically been a one-sided relationship with promoters. Salaries are at an all-time high, and plenty of others are bellying up to the table to place bets on themselves.
Unquestionably the gamblers have won to date, but with any bet comes a great risk. And with the beginning of the new “Wednesday Night Wars” between AEW and WWE’s NXT brand, the risk is growing greater. Vince McMahon’s company has upped the ante in a high-stakes prize fight for viewership and ratings. Indeed this is expected to be a donnybrook for the ages.
NXT got a two-week head start, running unopposed and throwing uncontested haymakers at AEW which had yet to debut. Maybe it should be no surprise that WWE made the decision to have women wrestle in the first match on the NXT premiere. After all, the women’s division has been a point of emphasis for AEW. Unlike with men’s roster, which is loaded with major former WWE stars like Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley (formerly Dean Ambrose) and PAC (formerly Neville), the women’s division is built around a group of relative unknowns. Other than Brandi and Awesome Kong, name recognition is at a premium among the women of AEW. But that doesn’t matter.
The division is being sculpted by Brandi and Kenny Omega, who are betting that the talent being signed will eventually grow to become household names. And at the very least they’re banking that it’s something different that wrestling fans are ready for.
The promotion will crown its first ever women’s champion on the premiere, and the favorite to win the belt is a transgender performer of African-American and Native-American heritage. Nyla Rose also happens to be from the Washington, DC area and trained to wrestle not far from Capital One Arena, where tonight’s show is being held.
That and so much more is on tap for the AEW Dynamite Premiere on Wednesday night.
AEW Dynamite Premiere Card
Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara
AEW Women’s Championship Match
Nyla Rose vs. Riho
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs. Chris Jericho & Santana & Ortiz
MJF vs. Brandon Cutler
Adam “Hangman” Page vs. PAC
Jon Moxley is also scheduled to appear.
There is a strong possibility that AEW will unveil a number of surprises on the roster as well.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.