If Collision communicated one thing... It's that CM Punk is back and this is his show. But if it communicated a second thing it's that this is not another two hours of Dynamite and it's a very distinct show. We're now in a position that a number of AEW wrestlers, the ones that are now on the show, will want Collision to succeed because they were either unsatisfied with the direction of Dynamite or because they feel their talent deserved more.
The match quality between the shows was quite different. Dynamite had better highs but Collision's lows were lesser.
Cagematch Ratings for both shows plus each show's average:
Adam Cole vs MJF and the BCC vs Page/Bucks both broke the 8/10 mark for Dynamite which is a strong show any day of the week. Collision going in relatively cold in comparison to the build to those two matches and achieving two scores approaching an 8/10 is a great achievement on night one.
In a damning indictment of Wardlow or, perhaps more pertinently, the booking of Wardlow and the TNT Title is that Wardlow's two defences saw the two lowest ratings of both shows. A slightly weaker version of that statement is also true of the women's division and the ratings those matches earned.
My own personal reception of the match quality across Dynamite and Collision was that Dynamite kept its high end stuff high but its lower end stuff needn't be let off the hook for being so poor. Whereas Collision did a good job of hitting a respectable mark of quality just out of the gate and especially by differentiating itself with a, stylistically, memorably different main event.
The Cagematch ratings are a nice, clean way to see what a sample of more engaged AEW fans thought of Dynamite and Collision. With 223 and 253 votes cast by Cagematch users for Dynamite and Collision respectively we see Dynamite coming in with a 8.98 rating out of 10 compared to Collision's 7.65. Both a great rating for any wrestling show; Dynamite, and a respectable score for a first episode for Collision. Interestingly, Dynamite's debut show came in at a similar 7.68.
The big win for Collision is the TV ratings, gaining an overall viewership comparable to Dynamite on it's first outing with a time-slot with significant competition. That's not all though, Collision edged out Dynamite in the demo meaning more young people tuned in for CM Punk's return show compared to Dynamite's episodic build to Forbidden Door.
Another headline here is that Collision drew 9280 fans to the United Centre, which is almost double Dynamite's 5200 in Washington. Dynamite's 5200 is a decent number in the 2023 AEW landscape but 9280 is a monster number for a TV show. We have to highlight the necessary qualifiers, it was Chicago and they won't be able to do that every week. However the ability to return to Chicago and that special Punk-Chicago connection is a huge pro for Collision.
Bookending a show with two well-received matches; one involving arguably AEW's best wrestler of the year and the other involving a collection of AEW royalty, is an incredible luxury. The rest of the first hour of Dynamite was string before having a serious lull with two matches that struggled before the main event. However the show was littered with intrigue even when the action lulled as Forbidden Door matches came together.
Bookending was the theme of Collision as they used their lynchpin to do so as Punk opened with a divisive promo and closed with a somewhat divisive match. Unlike Dynamite, Collision struggled for intrigue elsewhere with it's only other spots of interest coming from a well-worked Matthews/Andrade match and the return of Miro.
Dynamite is the big winner in this category as it was a great experience on the night but was also filled to the brim with Forbidden Door ramifications and story-building events such as the Sting/Jericho showdown and the amassing enemies of Kenny Omega. Collision struggled with this as the House of Black's attack on Andrade was the only event that really even hinted at future ramifications. This show must be careful not to rest on the benefit of 'what will CM Punk do/say next week.'
This week is a victory for Dynamite. Despite Collision's pros; CM Punk anchoring the show and the hoard of eyeballs that brings (on night one at least), Dynamite was a show that delivered on the night and delivered huge story-beats adding to larger stories. This may seem harsh on Collision, and it would be hard for that show to come out on top right out the gate, but I feel Collsion did not maximise its new show feel.
People will protest that Collision had better business metrics; the TV audience and the in building audience itself, however this has been true of all AEW shows upon launch and a novelty factor does not make a show strong but instead is an opportunity that must be taken advantage of.
Whether Collision's contrast to Dynamite in terms of feel is enough to make up with the creative shortcomings of an episode that's manifesto should have been to kick off the serial nature of the show is yet to be seen.
Dynamite 1 - 0 Collision