Gone are the days when wrestling fans thought a character like The Undertaker slept in a coffin between matches and was impervious to pain. That principle of kayfabe (or staying in character) has been lessened since the onset of social media. Now fans know wrestlers' real names, their spouses, and that they have separate lives outside their weekly personas. There have been shows like Tough Enough and Total Divas. As a wrestling company, All Elite Wrestling has shown a propensity to blur the lines between what’s reality and fiction. Sometimes, that can be a good thing if used sparingly. It builds intrigue within the product and storylines. If used too often, it can damper the thin veil created within the sport.
The AEW: All Access premiere begins two weeks before their Full Gear pay-per-view last year, right before Rampage in Atlantic City, NJ. It’s been a couple of months since the highly controversial happenings of the post-media scrum at All Out between C.M. Punk and The Elite (comprised of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega). If you’re looking for the episode to address what happened on that fateful night, it’s very much looking at things from the perspective of moving ahead. (Nick Jackson briefly ruminates and says he doesn’t want to discuss it). The Young Bucks return from a two-month suspension and speak on how it was one of the most prolonged layoffs they’ve had in their career.
If there’s anything that the introduction to All Access wants to accomplish - it’s to be a personal introduction to some of the many faces you see on Wednesdays and Fridays. Injuries and relationships are big throughlines. We briefly get to see Sammy Guervara and wife, Tay Melo, while they try to figure out how to angle their relationship into being bad guys on screen. Britt Baker is nursing a back injury while still trying to wrestle. Within that, there are discussions within figures of the women’s division around the championship status. Toni Storm was considered the interim AEW women’s champion at that point. There was growing resentment of Thunder Rosa’s injury and why she was not around to make any appearances.
Adam Cole (Austin Jenkins) suffered two concussions within three weeks. With an ambitious timeline to return before the pay-per-view, the show displays how hard it is on him and his real-life girlfriend, Baker. You can see conversations where they work out their fears and lean on each other for strengths. It’s the central story that moves the episode along – showing the actual cost of this form of entertainment. The body can only take so many falls to an extremely hard mat before something gives.
Many fans might tune in to see if there is more drama to be had (or possible footage to be shown). Well, there isn’t. You might get more out of that by watching an actual episode of Dynamite. Perhaps they tease some fireworks due to happen later in the season, but the first episode of All Access is rooted in a more humanizing process of those you cheer and jeer.