HAMILTON, ON — For a variety of circumstances, I had never been able to attend an AEW show in person until Wednesday night, when I went to the live Dynamite event in Hamilton, Ontario.

Even though I’ve been watching AEW since the company started, I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard fan. On TV, I really like certain aspects of the show and really dislike others. So I was curious as to how the live experience would compare.

Here are my thoughts from the night:

  • The ticket said that the First Ontario Centre doors would open at 6 p.m., with showtime starting at 7 p.m. I arrived at the building at around 6:15 p.m., to find a line-up that stretched for a block and a half long on either side of the entrance doors. Many of the people around me were wearing Bullet Club or AEW T-shirts, many from this past weekend’s Forbidden Door event. In typical Hamilton fashion, there was this one kid — probably around six years old — dressed up in full AEW regalia from his mulletted head all the way down to his safety boots. Fortunately, the line moved pretty quickly, and I was in the building by 6:30 p.m.
  • In a funny moment, one security guard confused the crowd in line, directing people to a different entrance, saying that it was quicker. But when they went there, the guard at that door turned them away. I made a “forbidden door” joke, and the mullet kid’s parents laughed.
  • The merch table had a pretty good selection. They had some “I Was There” event shirts (which seem to be a blatant rip-off of similar WWE offerings), some talent-specific gear, autographed action figures, and even a replica AEW Championship title, for which the person in front of me happily dropped nearly a thousand dollars. As usual, I probably spent too much at the table — but was proud of myself to avoid the temptation to buy a Danhausen Hallowe’en mask.
Some of the AEW merchandise.

Some of the AEW merchandise.

  • After getting my merch, I ran into SlamWrestling.net photographer Steve Argintaru and we debated about the merits of Orange Cassidy (he argued that OC had some, putting Steve on the wrong side of history). The stands were pretty empty when we started talking, but by the time we made our separate ways and I got to my seat, the building was a lot fuller.
  • My hope was that the Rampage tapings (for airing this Friday) would have taken place before the live Dynamite, but that wasn’t the case, suggesting that it was going to be a long night.
  • Typical of Hamilton, the two guys in front of me were too big to fit into their seats. I was afraid they would stand up for the entire show; they were too tall for me to see the ring past them, and there were no video screens showing any of the action. But I guess that standing up was too exhausting for them, so they thankfully sat down and remained seated for most of the show.
  • At 7:20 p.m., they started showing videos on the jumbotron, including the trailer for the new AEW: Fight Forever video game (check out our review), and at 7:30 p.m., ring announcer Justin Roberts hit the ring to kick off the show.
  • In a pre-show Bonus Match, Preston Vance took on Ethan Page. Page got a huge positive hometown hero welcome, and they played that face-heel dynamic during the match. This was a good straightforward wrestling match that Page won with the Ego’s Edge.
  • A video message aired, warning people of all the reasons they could get kicked out of the building. After that, they warned the fans on the floor that they could be struck by flying bodies, barricades, or other objects, and would have to accept all associated risks, even if they tried to get out of the way in time but couldn’t. Somebody get Clarence Mason on the line — no way that holds up in court.
  • With about two minutes until bell-time, Tony Khan came out on the stage and welcomed everyone to the show.
  • The first match, Jon Moxley vs. Ishii, was exactly the kind of match that made me change my plans and not go to Forbidden Door. I just can’t get into the “strong style” of Japanese wrestling. And especially not when it looks weak and fake like when Moxley does his gingerly stomps and elbows. The match had a few highlights — Eddie Kingston’s arrival being the one that elicited the strongest reaction. But for the most part, it was a long, plodding slog.
  • The audio in the building was glitchy, so the live crowd couldn’t hear the video showing Adam Cole and MJF arriving until halfway through. Hopefully this pairing and the teased bonding trip doesn’t lead to another lame Vegas video like they did with the Inner Circle.
  • During the commercial break after the Moxley match, there was a ring attendant trying to scrub and bleach out the bloodstains in the ring. They should consider using multiple ring covers like WWE does. Looks more big league that way.
  • I can’t stand Orange Cassidy. At home, whenever he’s wrestling, I change the channel. Here, I had to leave the seats and walk around the concourse until it was done. I cannot and will not sanction his buffoonery by giving it the courtesy of willingly sitting through it. Here’s my view of that match:
Bob Kapur takes a photo of the concourse to avoid the Orange Cassidy match.

Bob Kapur takes a photo of the concourse to avoid the Orange Cassidy match.

  • After spending some time catching up with some friends to skip the OC match, I headed back to my seat. Just in time, as it turns out, to have to leave again so I didn’t have to sit through a Young Bucks match. Those two are not my cup of tea so much that they’re a different beverage entirely. Everything I said above about Orange Cassidy applies to them.
  • During the breaks between matches, Justin Roberts introduced various members of the ring and production crew. One guy was named Bob and the crowd started chanting his name. Next time that happens, I’m going to record the audio and tell everyone it was for me.
  • That was the best promo Jungle Boy ever cut. And maybe the most interesting thing he’s ever done in AEW. That was the highlight of the night so far.
  • It’s great to see the local stars get opportunities to wrestle for a global audience. Alexia Nicole is a friend of the site, and deserves all sorts of success. Even if it’s in a losing effort like in the match against Ruby Soho. This was fine for what it was.
  • During the break before the main event, Justin Roberts introduced Aubrey Edwards, and they Scissored to a loud ovation.
  • I’m not going to say it’s fun to sing along to “Judas.” But I’m not not going to say that either.
  • The main event was a fun little brawl. I was going to say that I worry about Darby Allin’s health and welfare, but that is equally appropriate to say about Sting as well, especially when he does things like do a Diving Splash from a ladder. Wow.
Sting at AEW Dynamite at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Photo by Steve Argintaru, Twitter: @stevetsn Instagram: @stevetsn

Sting at AEW Dynamite at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Photo by Steve Argintaru, Twitter: @stevetsn Instagram: @stevetsn    MORE PHOTOS IN OUR AEW DYNAMITE GALLERY

  • After Dynamite ended, Darby took the mic and thanked Sting, which the crowd did as well through a “Thank you, Sting” chant. Then Sting took the mic and reciprocated, thanking the crowd, thanking Tony Khan for allowing him to continue competing in the ring, and then thanking Darby, crediting him as being Sting’s best tag team partner ever. Sting then led the crowd in an “AEW” chant before he and Darby left.
  • This was a good closer to the show and to the night. Or would have been, but for the fact that they had to tape all the matches for Rampage.
  • As they were cleaning up the ring and ringside area and changing the ring skirts for Rampage, Tony Khan came out on the entrance ramp to scream about the upcoming Rampage matches, and Thursday night’s taping of Collision, which will be taking place in the same venue. The coffee in catering must be pretty strong, because homeboy was hyped. My guess is that he doesn’t use real cream or sweetener in his coffee, but rather just the powder.
  • As for the Rampage matches (results are at the end of this story), they were typical of many Rampage shows: adequate, unremarkable, and ultimately forgettable.
  • The first three all felt like something you’d see at an independent show, or in a developmental company. The problem is that all of the participants were names and veteran talent (with the exception, maybe of Brother Day and QT). This show could be a good place to train up newer talent by putting them in matches with bigger stars – kind of like Dark and Elevation, but better. It’s not like anyone is watching the show anyway, so why not use it to improve the company before it inevitably gets cancelled?
  • The last of them — the ROH Championship match — was very good, but nobody thought a title change was going to happen, so it also felt kind of meaningless. And couldn’t they have done this on, you know, the actual ROH show?
  • The show finally ended at about 11:20pm, nearly five hours after I arrived.

Overall, my first AEW experience was about what I expected. Some good, some bad, but overall a fine and a fun way to spend an evening. And, I expect, not the last one I’ll attend.

Rampage Tapings – spoilers

Here are the results and my thoughts about the Rampage tapings from Hamilton, Ontario, to air this Friday night.

1) QT Marshall and Johnny TV (w/ Harley Cameron) vs.Matt Hardy and Brother Zay

During the QTV crew’s entrance, Harley sang their theme song, which was something. Between Johnny and Zay, there was a ton of glitter on their gear. The match was a pretty standard tag team match, with everyone getting a chance to do their things. The crowd particularly was into Matt Hardy, giving a lot of “Delete!” chants. Harley interfered and that led to TV hitting Starship Pain on Zay for the pin. After the match, Ethan Page came out and got beaten up by Marshall and TV. Billy Gunn and Anthony Bowens ran in for the save. Billy cut a promo afterwards, blaming QT on getting Max Cantor’s flight cancelled. He and Anthony led the crowd in a big Scissor party.

Before the next match, Tony Khan came out and scream-hyped the rest of the matches to come.

2) The Blade (w/ The Butcher) vs. Shawn Spears

This was pretty short and innocuous. Spears won with a Death Valley Driver.

3) Taya Valkyrie vs. Hikaru Shida

I don’t really get the appeal of Shida, but there’s no denying her popularity with the AEW faithful. I’m a big Taya fan, but she hasn’t really had any standout moments since joining the company. Nothing about this match was bad, but it didn’t really change my mind about either woman either way. After what felt like too long, Shida won.

4) Claudio Castagnoli (c) vs. Komander (w/ Alex) – for the ROH Championship

They started this one with pyro and the opening Rampage video, so it looks like this will start the show on Friday, despite being taped last.

This was a clash of styles, with Komander using speed and gymnastics against Claudio’s power. Claudio did the Big Swing early on, but only for nine revolutions, which people were disappointed over. Claudio tried to heave him from the floor over the top rope but that kind of got botched.

A nice Hurancarana off the top later in the match looked great. They did some big moves and exchanged pinfall attempts. In the end, Komander went for a big move off the top but got caught with a European Uppercut by Claudio, who had removed his elbow pad earlier, and was knocked out. The ref declared Komander unable to continue and awarded the match to Claudio. This was a good match, and I thought the finish was a good way to end things in a non-customary and effective way, but others will argue it felt anti-climactic.

After the match, Tony Khan came out to the ramp and enthusiastically cheered for Komander, raising his arm and was giddy as if he was Komander’s biggest fan. Which, come to think of it, he probably is.


Steve Argintaru’s AEW Dynamite Hamilton Photo Gallery

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