DETROIT – A commonly shared mindset of optimism suggests that All Elite Wrestling’s sole competition is the promotion in itself, and AEW encountered a challenge in returning to Detroit, Michigan on May 11; after a massively successful debut at Little Caesars Arena last year with Blood and Guts, expectations for the second event were high.
Apparently fearless AEW President Tony Khan had repeatedly dubbed Dynamite in Detroit a pay-per-view level card, headlined by a steel cage match between high-profile rivals Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley. While obviously not the equivalent spectacle of the double-ring cage, the main-event bout featured spectacular moments of its own.
Inevitable bloodshed and weaponry preceded Omega’s signature V-Trigger through the cage wall, allowing mentor Don Callis to climb through and ultimately sabotage him. The significant turn against The Elite had Detroit going wild, unsurprisingly, as the city demonstrated itself a consistently loud and energetic crowd.
Television may have construed it, but attendance was notably less than Blood and Guts with the entire upper bowl tarped for an estimated 9,000 fans. The Motown mass was lively from the start regardless – which television hopefully did justice. Replacing AEW Dark at 7 p.m. were dark matches, ironically, where Michigan boys Preston Vance and Ethan Page prevailed heroically against QT Marshall and Aaron Solo.
Rey Fenix and Claudio Castagnoli entered before 8 p.m. for an ideal Dynamite opener, instantly showcasing high-flying and technical prowess between two of the promotion’s best. In-ring quality probably peaked there, but the following matches delivered with House of Black in particular faring well over Best Friends and Bandido.
The dark atmospheric “House Rules” match showed a step in the right direction for notoriously frustrated Malakai Black, and similarly, Miro and Thunder Rosa unexpectedly returned to the program, albeit on the titantron.
Unfortunately, many of AEW’s biggest attractions were merely on the titantron – including all of Double or Nothing’s upcoming main event in Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, and MJF. The latter’s absence is very disappointing as the AEW Championship has evaded Detroit twice: CM Punk last year and MJF this year. The list goes on with Jay White, Adam Cole, Wardlow, Jamie Hayter, and countless others, but the criticism falls on AEW’s structure as a whole (which will evidently change soon).
A much calmer Rampage taping fit certain fan favorites in, as The Acclaimed and Daddy Ass popped the crowd with scissoring and rap bars. Jeff and Matt Hardy were especially embraced for the nostalgia, and The Mogul Embassy battled Dark Order to finish the card.
It’s difficult to consider Dynamite pay-per-view caliber with matches like Orange Cassidy versus Daniel Garcia and Anna J.A.S. versus Julia Hart, but Detroit clearly loved every segment – even the Christian Cage promo, which was practically unintelligible with how deafening and persistent the boos were.
With an undeniably passionate fanbase, Detroit deserves an actual AEW pay-per-view. And fans made Khan aware of that desire, chanting during his pre-show rah-rah speech. “I acknowledge that… that’s very realistic,” he responded. For now, AEW Dynamite looks to become a yearly tradition for Detroit, and a welcome one at that.
TOP PHOTO: A battered Jon Moxley recovers from breaking the cage wall. Photo by Brad McFarlin