AEW's weekly television show, Dynamite, airs on TNT on Wednesday nights. But the two-hour show is not the only programming All Elite Wrestling has to offer. In order to get a fully well-rounded picture of where the promotion stands and is going, fans need to branch out to the myriad hours AEW features on its two YouTube shows, AEW Dark and AEW Dark: Elevation as well as Being The Elite.
Dynamite is easily one of the better two hours of pro wrestling available on television. However, AEW has a large and ever-growing roster and those aforementioned two hours aren't enough to feature all of them, particularly when it comes to providing involved storylines. Additionally, many members of that large roster are young or lack experience wrestling in front of cameras, making them not quite ready for TNT. But to get them to that point, they need to be given opportunities in some form or fashion, which is where AEW Dark and now, AEW Dark: Elevation come in.
The shows (Dark: Elevation on Monday nights, Dark on Tuesdays) regularly span over two hours and well over a dozen matches. Tag teams, singles wrestlers and trios are all featured in what is essentially wall-to-wall wrestling, though there are some promos and video packages allowing talent to further hone their characters and motivations. Often, the action on Dark and Elevation provides context for things we see on Wednesdays on Dynamite, as does Being The Elite, a short, episodic series that initially focused on The Elite — The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes — but now has branched out to become a show that primarily features The Dark Order.
AEW's non-Dynamite shows build context for major storylines
The Dark Order might be the strongest example of why watching only Dynamite paints an incomplete picture of everything going on in AEW. The group's evolution from a cultlike home to the misunderstood to foul-mouthed comedians — and from heels to faces — has been carefully documented by the not-exactly-AEW-endorsed show (it's not safe for work, to say the least). Being The Elite has humanized and added humor to The Dark Order, while their matches on Dark, in particular, have established an ur-rivalry between Dark play-by-play man Excalibur and -1, Brodie Lee Jr.
Also, without watching Dark or Elevation, Dynamite-exclusive AEW fans may not know that SCU are one loss from permanently breaking up, that Peter Avalon has gone frome "Librarian" to "Pretty Peter," or have background into the division of the Nightmare Family, with QT Marshall in the midst of an apparent heel turn. Additionally, AEW's womens division — oft cited as the weakest link in the company — is more frequently represented on Dark and Dark: Evolution and has been the main catalyst for Tay Conti's rise in the company in recent months.
AEW Dark: Evolution and AEW Dark are also the best ways to scout new talent. The shows regularly feature independent wrestlers that the company is trying out, giving them opportunities to make money (which, given the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult over the past year) and connect with a larger fanbase. This has led to many new signings, such as Powerhouse Hobbs, Red Velvet, Top Flight and others.
The trio of AEW in-ring shows also provides variety on commentary. Dynamite, with Excalibur, Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone, is a more traditional booth. On Dark, Taz and Excalibur pepper in banter, including inside jokes that pay off for regular viewers. On Dark: Elevation, Schiavone is paired with Paul Wight, who has proven in a few short weeks to be well-suited to commentary work.
It can be hard to convince fans to add another five-plus hours of wrestling viewing per week. But because Dark, Elevation and Being The Elite are on YouTube, they can be watched ala carte or piecemeal. AEW's roster is large and growing and the storylines being built by the company, by design, need shows like Dark and Elevation. Young talent needs reps and stories need additional time to create context and interest.
It's clear that AEW's YouTube shows are designed to create a wholistic picture of the company. And without watching Dark, Elevation and Being The Elite, viewers of Dynamite are only getting a small part of it. These shows aren't independent of Dynamite, but necessary complements that define what AEW is as a full-fledged, multifacted wrestling promotion.