For the past two years, Wednesday nights on the most part (damn you, you pesky NBA) means Dynamite is on our screens and the wrestling world has changed since the 2nd of October 2019. We've seen things that were thought to be unachievable even five years ago, we've seen some of the best television wrestling ever and just two years since its debut, Dynamite is a regular holder of the most watched show on a Wednesday night in the 18-49 demo (the most important demo of course). So, to celebrate the second anniversary of the first AEW Dynamite on TNT, I'm going to rank the top ten episodes of Dynamite so far. To separate this from the normal Top Ten listings that you see on the web, I have used the following set of criteria:
Cagematch ratings for each episode of Dynamite
Dave Meltzer's star rating system, giving out points with each rating (10pts-*****, 8pts-****3/4, 6pts- ****1/2, 5pts- ****1/4, 4pts -****, 3pts-***3/4, 2pts ***1/2, 1pt- ***1/4
The 18-49 demo rating of an episode
Historic events that shaped the future of AEW in the kayfabe canon of All Elite Wrestling and also the business future of the company.
Also, we are dating the episode using the UK system (dd/mm/yyyy) to avoid any confusion.
So, Light the fuse. Bring the Boom. 4, 3, 2, 1.......
1- 30/12/2020- A Celebration of Mr. Brodie Lee's Life
Different from any normal wrestling show, different from any tribute show to a fallen member of the wrestling family, the December 30th episode of Dynamite was a show that will probably never be taken off the top spot of the greatest Dynamite show of all time. But it's not the 9.84 rating on Cagematch. making it not only the best rated Dynamite of all time, but also the best rated AEW show and also the second best rated show from any company of all time, with The Hana Kimura Memorial Show being number one, that sets it apart from any other show. It's the impact that it had on the company in the months after.
"I heard something over the past week or something that one of the things that really turned Punk was the Brodie Lee show. That was also one of the things that… I saw it. And so many of us loved him so much, and so we saw how special it was, and we saw, ‘Okay, we’re gonna stop what we’re normally doing and do that’. And I thought that was really special to me. So that was when I really started kind of thinking about it (joining AEW), knowing that my contract was coming up.”
Bryan Danielson talking at the All Out Media scrum- 5th September 2021
Each match included a member of The Dark Order teaming with a member of the AEW roster apart from TayJay who teamed to beat Britt Baker and Penelope Ford with the highlight being the team of Alex Reynolds, John Silver and Hangman Adam Page beating MJF/ Santana and Ortiz which included Brodie Lee's son, Brodie Jr, hitting MJF with a kendo stick and a cameo from Brodie's teammate from WWE, Erick Redbeard (not Rowan despite what Jericho slipped in on commentary) helping thwart the interference from Wardlow.
977,000 people watched The Celebration of Brodie Lee's Life with a 0.40 rating in the "key demo" putting it fourth on the day with only College Football Bowl Games placing higher. This would be the most amount of people to watch a Dynamite until NXT moved to Tuesday nights ending the "Wednesday Night Wars". Those people on the second to last night of a wretched 2020 saw that at the end love will always win out even when grief can be so overwhelming.
2- 22/9/21- Grand Slam
When AEW announced that the September 22nd episode of Dynamite would take place at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the home of the US Open, many heads were turned. AEW was going to New York and trying to sell out a 20,000+ arena. But they did sell out Arthur Ashe. But even with a sold out arena, an 20,000 arena in the biggest city in the US, the traditional market of the historic number one promotion in American wrestling needed a card that justified the arena and they got one.
A dream match between Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson opened the show, getting the 5-star treatment from Dave Meltzer. Brian Pillman. Jr and MJF would face off in a grudge match. Cody-Malakai II and Sting/Darby Allin vs FTR made up the second hour with a AEW Women's World Championship match in the main event between the champ Britt Baker and Ruby Soho.
Rated 8.80 on Cagematch, the matches on the card accumulated 17pts on the Meltzer rating system with Sting and Darby vs FTR getting ***3/4 to add to the 5 star classic between Danielson and Omega. Finishing first in the cable ratings, 1.27 million watched the show on TNT with 0.48 in 18-49, making it the third most watched show in Dynamite history with the 0.48 the joint second since the end of the Wednesday Night Wars. The show itself saw AEW break into the New York market in a way that WCW or JCP struggled to do when they tried to hit the Big Apple.
3- 02-12-2020- Winter Is Coming
Winter Is Coming was a gamechanger in the in-ring story of AEW with the shocking end of the show when Kenny Omega beat Jon Moxley to win the AEW World Title, turning heel and hinting at defecting to Impact Wrestling. But the biggest story coming out of Winter Is Coming was Sting's debut with the Stinger trending on twitter ahead of the main event.
The hype surrounding the main event led to a 18-49 rating of 0.42, its highest since the first month of Dynamite's existence.
Sixth in the Cagematch list with 8.76, Meltzer only gave one match a rating of four stars or above, giving Omega-Moxley four and a half stars but it was the Sting debut plus the show opening Dynamite Diamond Battle Royale continuing the MJF-Diamond ring storyline that gave this show so many plaudits.
Highest 18-49 demo number in 2020
1- 09/12- 0.45
2- 02/12- 0.42
3- 30/12- 0.40
4- 15/01- 0.38
5- 09/09- 0.37
4- 19-2-20- Cody vs Wardlow
The second-to-last show before Revolution, this show set the scene for what was an awesome PPV. The Young Bucks won a very fun battle royal while Hangman Page and Kenny Omega beat The Lucha Brothers to set up their classic on the PPV. Jeff Cobb wrestled his only AEW match against Jon Moxley and in the main event, Cody Rhodes beat Wardlow in AEW's first Steel Cage Match to earn the right to face MJF at Revolution.
With two 4-star matches and a ****3/4 match, 16 points were gained by Meltzer's ratings and a rating of 9.45 put this episode second on Cagematch's listing of Dynamite episodes.
Highest rated episodes of Dynamite on Cagematch (as of 5/10/21)
1- 30/12/2020- 9.84
2- 19/02/2020- 9.45
3- 12/02/2020- 9.00
4- 18/03/2020- 8.83
5- 22/09/2021- 8.80
6- 02/12/2020- 8.76
7- 26/02/2020- 8.68
7- 10/09/2020- 8.68
7- 21/10/2020- 8.68
The overall tv rating of 839,000 is 21st all time in Dynamite's history tying with NXT in the over 50's demo (old people like Cage matches I guess). To put this in perspective on how good this number was, Cody vs Wardlow went up against the Democratic Primary Debate on MSNBC, which drew nine million viewers.
5- Homecoming- 1-1-2020
After the events of the 18th December 2019 (Dynamite ending with the Elite-Dark Order angle and the victory NXT had in the 18-49 demo), both shows had a "bye week" thanks to Christmas. AEW would be back on the first day of 2020 while NXT filled their timeslot with a best of 2019 show and AEW would take advantage. 967,000 people would watch the New Years Day show, an increase of 284,000 with a 0.36 in the 18-34 demo, an increase of 0.11 from the fortnight before. All this while the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl were on ESPN with viewership north of 9 million.
Episodes with the biggest increase in overall viewership
1- 14/04/2021- +531,000 (first Dynamite post NXT move to Tuesday)
2- 01/01/2020- +284,000
3- 08/09/2021- +272,000
4- 30/06/2021- +234,000
5- 05/05/2021- +201,000
5- 02/12/2021- +201,000
7- 25/08/2021- +197,000
8- 04/12/2019- +188,000
Three weeks later, TNT give AEW an extension to their deal with this show being reported as a factor in the new agreement.
As the calendar turned to 2020, the win-loss records were reset to zero as is the tradition in AEW now and in the stories being told in AEW, a reset was happening that would reshape AEW that is still being seen today.
Arn Anderson would make his debut as Cody Rhodes' coach. The start of Britt Baker's heel run would come at the conclusion of Riho's title defence in a Four Way Match against Hikaru Shida, Nyla Rose and Baker. MJF put down his stipulations for accepting Cody's request for a match and the main event saw the start of the storyline arc of Hangman Page that would see him become one of the most beloved wrestlers in AEW.
Cagematch gave this show a rating of 8.20 with the main event of The Elite vs Death Triangle getting 4 and a half stars and Cody-Darby II getting four from Meltzer but it was this night that "The Wednesday Night War" would change to AEW's favour
6- 16-9-2020- The Parking Lot Brawl
The 50th edition of Dynamite was main evented by a fantastically chaotic Parking Lot fight between Santana and Ortiz and Best Friends with a cameo from everyone's favourite wrestling mom, Sue. The match got a 5-star rating from Dave Meltzer topping off a accumulation of 20pts for the show after a four star match between Adam Page and Frankie Kazarian and two ***3/4 matches (Jurassic Express and FTR, Jericho/Hager vs Private Party)
AEW Dynamites with the most points from Meltzer's ratings
1- 8/7/2020- 20 points
1- 16/9/2020- 20 points
3- 1/7/2020- 18 points
4- 22/9/2021- 17 points
5- 19/2/2020- 16 points
5- 18/8/2021- 16 points
7- 22/7/2020- 15 points
8- 7/4/2020- 14 points
8- 6/1/2021- 14 points
8- 23/10/2019-14 points
Cagematch's 8.68 puts this show 8th in their listing of best Dynamite shows so far but the 18-49 number of 0.34 was a drop of 0.02 which was not as much as the overall viewership drop of 130,000 from 1.01 million to 886,000 thanks to the show being head to head against NXT for the first time in 2 weeks after NXT was pre-empted by the NHL playoffs returning to the average number Dynamite was doing before September.
The fourth ever episode of Dynamite was the show in which AEW showed what makes them different from the WWE with a main event between Jon Moxley and PAC ending in a time-limit draw and Britt Baker winning in her home town of Pittsburgh and not getting beaten down for an attempt to get the heel involved any heat. The main focus of the show was the tag team division with the semi-finals of the tournament to crown the first AEW Tag Team Champions opening the show and The Young Bucks facing Best Friends.
The show also included a segment that saw Cody confront the Inner Circle who had taken up an executive box in the arena, smashing a window in the box to get to Jericho to build up their match at the Full Gear PPV.
Cagematch gave the show 8.44 with 14pts from the Meltzer ratings while the viewership was 963,000 with a 0.45 rating, the third best in the first 18 months of Dynamite but desperate the quality of the show, only on one more occasion for the next 57 weeks would Dynamite hit above 0.40 (13/11/19)
8- 18-3-20- The first Pandemic era show
It's a show that in reality no-one wanted to happen. One week earlier, as AEW were putting on Dynamite in Utah, Rudy Gobert was announced as testing positive for coronavirus and in the process the NBA shut down. The dominoes fell and other sports shut down. But as the graph of positive cases in the USA went up steeper than the route map for a mountain stage at the Tour de France, AEW and WWE did not take a pause. Whether or not All Elite Wrestling should have shut down is a debate for another time but while AEW followed WWE in putting on shows in an empty arena, AEW did something that WWE did not. They acknowledged that Covid-19 was a thing.
As the show opened, Cody Rhodes stood in the ring and talked about how recent events had put perspective to how he viewed his world, Kenny Omega joined him and talked about the world falling apart. It felt different to WWE where the real world happenings were described as "current circumstances".
The show itself, supposed to be held in Rochester, NY saw Brodie Lee unveiled on his debut as the "Exalted One" and Matt Hardy made his first appearance in AEW in the aftermath of Santana and Ortiz and Jake Hager beating Cody, Kenny Omega and Matt Jackson to get the man advantage in the Blood and Guts match that never happened.
Cagematch gave the show 8.83. In the television ratings, the show, going up against a NXT that was dedicated to the Tomassa Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano feud drew 932,000, the biggest number since 15th January with a 0.35 in 18-49 on a night which was dominated by the news networks reporting on the Covid-19 outbreak.
Margin of victory over NXT in total viewership during Wednesday Night Wars
1- 02/10/19- 518,000
2- 01/01/20- 419,000
3- 30/12/20- 391,000
4- 18/03/20- 390,000
5- 09/10/19- 350,000
6- 09/12/20- 336,000
7- 16/10/19- 302,000
8- 23/10/19- 265,000
9- 02/12/20- 255,000
9- 05-08-2020- Moxley vs Allin
It was either going to be the 5/8/2020 show or the 22/7/2020 episode, which was most famous for the Cody vs Kingston match for the TNT Title for this spot and it would be the 0.36 key demo number, the best number since the 5th Feb 2020 episode that break the tie.
Comparing 22/7/20 to 5/8/20
Cagematch rating Meltzer rating 18-49 number Position in chart
22/7/20 8.42 15pts 0.36 5th
05/8/20 8.47 11pts 0.32 5th
What also separates the two episodes are the two memorable angles in the 05/08/20 episode. Sammy Guevara almost decapitates Matt Hardy when he throws a chair at Matt's head almost making Hardy literally Broken. Orange Cassidy and Chris Jericho would engage in a debate moderated by Eric Bischoff which was the best thing in a feud that some felt underwhelmed considering its potential (the Orange Cassidy answer about climate change should be shown in schools btw).
The in-ring action saw The Elite and FTR team up in FTR's short run as babyfaces to face off against The Dark Order in a 12 man tag and Jon Moxley would wrestle Darby Allin with the show long story of MJF facing the winner of the title match at All Out with Maxwell being not shy about wanting to face Darby for the title. Also we get a HOOK appearance in MJF's entourage which adds brownie points to this episode.
10- 06-01-21- Omega vs Fenix
Main evented by the AEW World Title match between Kenny Omega and Fenix which would get the 5-star treatment by Meltzer which would also see The Good Brothers make their AEW debut and sow the seeds of the Young Bucks heel turn, the first Dynamite of 2021 which would also saw Hikaru Shida beat Abadon in a Women's World Title match, a 8-man match with SCU and The Young Bucks beating The Acclaimed and Hybrid2 (****) and Snoop Dogg hitting the second worst frog splash in wrestling history (that honour belongs to Dominick Mysterio) saw the television ratings completely tank with a 662,000 overall viewership and a 0.26 in the key demo. The reasons why? Earlier in the day, an attack on Capitol Hill in Washington DC shocked America and the world with televisions all tuned to the events in the nations capital.
AEW was 48th in the charts with news programmes accounting for 44 of the Top 47 programmes on that particular day. So we can completely disregard the television ratings when comparing this show to others and we can put this episode on this list based on the in-ring action solely and the main event alone which helped give the show a 8.29 on Cagematch.