“‘If he THINKS he floats off the floor, and if I simultaneously THINK I see him do it, then the thing happens. … It doesn’t really happen. We imagine it. It is hallucination.’ … What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds? All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens.”
For those that listen to the Flagship Podcast here on Voices of Wrestling, it has been stated on many occasions that AEW Dynamite is the best-televised wrestling show in North America.
And not simply in the current pro wrestling landscape, but an all-time great that stands up to any televised wrestling show available in the United States, at any point in history. In full disclosure, I agree with this sentiment: AEW Dynamite provides us with a level of in-ring match quality that was reserved for pay-per-views in years past, and in truth, not even then during the era of WWE monopoly through the first 20 years of the 21st Century. But Dynamite also provides us with the sorts of storytelling that pro wrestling enthusiasts crave and had been deprived of in an era of sports-entertainment.
However, for the praise that I and others give AEW Dynamite for being the best wrestling show available in the U.S., there’s a deep irony in the United States being the least beneficial place to watch AEW programming.
For most Dynamite viewers, one is used to the format of segments followed by commercial breaks. And for most of the in-ring action: a picture-in-picture window during the course of (most) commercials as they run. This allows viewers to keep abreast of the action while AEW pays some bills, though it’s hard not to get at least somewhat distracted by the ads, and sometimes lose track of the match regardless. As well, many times, the picture-in-picture offering doesn’t persist through the entire ad break. Despite this, AEW fans are treated to a bounty of top-notch contests, many of which outshine what other American promotions offer on pay-per-view or premium live events.
And yet, this is not the experience for most of AEW’s international fans.
Fans outside of the U.S. have the option of viewing AEW programming via AEW Plus, through FITE. AEW Plus offers content that U.S. fans can enjoy with one single, distinct difference: a lack of commercial breaks. And this difference makes for an entirely different AEW experience that is of a significant quality better than watching AEW programs on TBS or TNT. For those that watch via AEW Plus, the cameras keep rolling as Excalibur announces the commercial – and the commentary booth also stays on the call. As I was compiling my list of 2022 Voices of Wrestling MOTY Candidates, it became quite stark just how much we actually miss in the U.S. live broadcast. With the action in full-size, we never have a chance to be taken out of the action, no encouragement to buy this or that in our ear. Instead, we have the booth continuing with the action in-ring, and the announcers have the leeway to begin making easter-egg mentions for the hardcore fans, banter that comes off with more humor and genuine rapport, and of course, the wrestling. Matches with the likes of the Elite, Death Triangle, Bryan Danielson, and guest stars like Will Ospreay – without interruption. You get to see in whole what’s being offer on live television, and in its full context, one is even more astounded by what this wrestling promotion is offering us. Even Rampage, which is subject to a fair amount of critique, is elevated by the AEW Plus format. It doesn’t fix all of the #2 AEW show’s problems, but it’s still improved compared to its TNT broadcast counterpart.
Unfortunately, AEW Plus isn’t available to fans in the United States. Which is truly a shame in that those that are most invested in the AEW product aren’t able to view AEW content in its best, and most pure format. Fans who tune in weekly simply for the love of pro-wrestling, columnists and commentators like myself who miss some of the nuance which we base so many words and articles about, for the historians and trivia geeks who miss the small nuggets of acknowledgment for past angles, indie runs, or other bits and pieces that aren’t the best fit for the portion of the live broadcast – we miss small slivers of AEW programming. But this small portion is like what a chef calls a Hanger Steak. It’s prized as the most flavorful and delicious cut of meat that the chef will save for themselves. And to experience this small piece of what makes great AEW programming ascend to another tier of quality – one cannot be a fan living in the country where AEW has planted its flag.
While a service like AEW Plus will likely not ever be available for American fans of AEW programming, one can hope that we’ll be able to watch these matches from Dynamite and Rampage uncut in some form. At least one day. Until then, it’s regrettable that while we have some of the best wrestling content that has been on free television for a generation, if not even longer, that it is not as good as it could actually be. That there’s more, both in the ring itself and added by commentary that makes what we already know to be good, even so much better, seems like an unnecessary waste. And perhaps, that speaks to how well AEW spoils us, its fans and viewers. That even with commercials and some level of incompleteness – we’re still treated to the best wrestling on TV, and in light of that – we as fans could possibly want even more.
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