AEW Dynamite Nights in New Jersey and the Search For Mercedes Mone'

At the Prudential Center during AEW's New Year's Bash, there was one potential acquisition on the minds of many.

AEW Dynamite Nights in New Jersey and the Search For Mercedes Mone'

On Wednesday night, I sat next to one of my best friends at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, overlooking the AEW Dynamite ring as the crew got things in order. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the person sitting next to us google a specific sentence, "Is Mercedes Mone' showing up to Dynamite?" They seemed unfazed by the calls of "SECTION FIVE," which were a precursor to what would happen throughout the night. Expectations are a crazy thing. When you're starting something new, their floor isn't that high. At that point, you build up anticipation for your audience to seize on them if used correctly. If "lights out montages" were an actor, AEW would keep them booked and busy. At this point, the graphic "their floor" is a version of the Bat Signal that the citizens of Gotham have become accustomed to.

The magician will eventually run out of rabbits to pull out of that top hat, but alas, the whereabouts of Mercedes Mone' were on the minds of over 5,000 fans as engaged in the "Whose House? Swerve's House?" call throughout the night. I wouldn't say AEW was in transition. They were coming off the World's End pay-per-view that resulted in the big reveal of Adam Cole being "the devil" conspiring against former friend MJF. The mainstay stalwarts Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley headed to Japan for the WrestleKingdom festivities. The Elite were MIA. No MJF. Besides a brief video exchange, the new AEW champion, Samoa Joe, was nowhere to be found. Chris Jericho was also noticeably absent (given the ongoing things happening there, I would believe). If anything, this Dynamite was different because the company would have to lean on other stars to carry things along.

It's not like the fans weren't engaged - even if the atmosphere felt lighter. I had gone to the Prudential Center about six months before a live broadcast of AEW Collision. (let's call it the CM Punk collider era). The show was a little more packed, and the format of the show felt different. There were wraparound segments that started at the show's beginning and resulted in a conclusion at the end. Matches had a little bit more time to breathe and tell a story. The pace felt like Collision was drawing from "that other place." Wednesday's Dynamite looked to combine those two elements — "we want to tell stories, but get as much in as possible." I can still hear the big thud of Darby Allin's body hitting the mat on the receiving end of a super German suplex from Konosuke Takeshita. The Undisputed Kingdom segment was met with boos as Cole's explanation went on. My friend and I agreed Cole is better as a heel — even as his Wardlow declaration mirrored a similar story from "patriarch" Christian Cage and Lucha...I'm sorry, KILLSWITCH. The Prince Nana and Daniel Garcia dance battle was duplicated by two people in Devils jerseys near the front row.

Speaking of that, the cheers for Luchasaurus were probably the loudest of the night. Whenever that turn happens, it should be a good one. AEW has also stated a renewed emphasis on the women's division — welcomed and perhaps far overdue. If you want a fan base to care about something, you have to feature it. You have to show the talent, give them time, and conjure a bond between them and the fans. The fans took to Mariah May's debut well and cheered wildly at Deonna Purazzo's debut (Jersey born! One of us). I glanced at the person who was googling earlier, and they were also pretty happy. Yet, five minutes later, they returned to their phone, inquiring when Mone would make her debut at the bank.

It didn't make sense to me as to why Mercedes would make her debut on Wednesday. Naturally, I'd be selfish because I was at the show, and New Jersey gets a bad rap. We can be winners for the night. The fifth-anniversary show at Daily's Place would make more sense. However, I had a fleeting thought about how this would work. Deonna called her shot to get to the AEW Women's Champion "Timeless" Toni Storm. Mercedes would presumably do the same thing if she were to debut next week. You then have the logjam of debuts reminiscent of All Out 2021. In the short term, it may be worth bragging that a talented WWE mainstay is now at your camp, but a plan for that would be much better.

The internet was rife with anticipation as Mone's social media posts played to the frenzy. She hears the chatter, and so does AEW. I don't think the man dressed as Dusty Rhodes did, but I best believe others were waiting. As AEW moves into this new phase in 2024, they have to get this right and make sure they aren't left with a bill they'll have to work to pay off.