We are not even a month into 2021 and we may already have the AEW Dark episode to beat! What a show this was sports fans. We had a walk off right out of Derek Zoolander’s fever dreams. We had six women’s matches with strong performances from Shanna, KiLynn King, Abandon, Ivelisse, Red Velvet and Madi Wrenkowski (just to name a few). A Rey Fenix-Baron Black match stole the show. And then AEW Dark commentary, already the best in the business, got even better in the form of a surprise guest who I will not reveal until the opportune time! Don’t worry; it’ll be soon because the review is starting now. If you missed this magnificent beast of a show figuring how to write the next scene for you dystopian sci-fi screenplay set in an underwater metropolis, here’s the deal.
Miro defeated Fuego del Sol after submitting Fuego with a Game Over to end all Game Over’s. Like he bent him like one of those terrible mall pretzels one used to get during normal times. As you can tell, this was glorious annihilation. Miro destroyed poor Fuego, who got to tease a Tornado DDT before then going back to getting wiped off the face of the earth. He sold great though and Miro looked great pummeling him so it was entertaining. Also; I’ll never not pop for “Charles Taylor.” Don’t ask me why; it just gets me. * ¾
Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus (Jurassic Express) defeated Aaron Solow & Lee Johnson after Jungle Boy submitted Solow with the Snare Trap. Two submissions in a row to end matches?! It’s turning into Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport over here and OH DEAR GRODD BARNETT IS GOING TO HUNT ME DOWN FOR THAT COMPARISON!
This was good, though these teams could probably have an even better match with more time and a crowd. Other than the overall lack of atmosphere though this was well worked. Jungle Boy and Lee Johnson worked very well together, shocking to only those who haven’t seen either guy work. Luchasaurus had his usual strong hot tag and is there anyone who’s more of a pro’s pro on Dark than Aaron Solow? You know you’re getting quality out of him every time you see him and tonight was no different. He has good chemistry with Johnson too so it wouldn’t be a bad idea if AEW made them a tag team to add to their already “the cast of Magnolia” good tag division. Good stuff. ***
Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian (SCU) defeated Terrell and Terrence Hughes (TNT) after Kazarian pinned Hughes after a Best Meltzer Ever. Very, very good stuff here. TNT have been a delight every time they appear on Dark and they worked as well as you’d expect with the strong veteran presence of Daniels and Kazarian on the other side. They also were given a ton to work with as well as Daniels sold his ass off for the both of them during the middle point before getting Kaz in for the hot tag. The storyline of SCU needing to keep winning or else they’re done continued here, though the result was never in doubt. Even still this was well done. If AEW wasn’t stacked to the gills I’d be campaigning for TNT to be the young boys of Team Taz. Hell let’s do that anyway. They can be Hook’s partners and help him rule the world when the time comes. *** ¼
The Butcher & The Blade defeated KC Navarro & M’Badu after Big Butch pinned M’Badu after a Powerbomb/Neckbreaker combo that Anthony Ogogo called Drag the Lake. Who am I to argue with Ogogo, especially when an awesome name like that?! DRAG THE LAKE! It’s like a line out of Veronica Mars or something. In fact it is! This was solid if very one sided. Big Butch and the Blade dominated, with Navarro only existing primarily to get tossed around while M’Badu spent most of the time on the apron. He did get in to tangle with Butcher for a few, leading to a few cool hoss moments before he was promptly put away. Really Big Butch was the most impressive guy here; ever since he slimmed down he’s gotten faster, smoother, has a bit more punch in his strikes. I loved the dude already but he’s even cooler now. **
Rey Fenix defeated Baron Black after pinning Black with a Fire Thunder Driver. MY GOODNESS THIS MATCH! I was expecting maybe a fun but quick match and instead it was a legit great match. Baron Black had career best work here; he’s been incredibly reliable as an AEW Dark jobber but here he looked like an absolute stud. He showed off great technical wrestling, great pace and for a guy not known for basing worked tremendously well with the livewire that is Fenix. Of course Fenix is one of the best wrestlers in the world so that definitely helped and he was virtually flawless here, save for a missed arm drag in the corner midway through. There were so many great moments here but none better than towards the end where Fenix went for a moonsault, Black moved, Fenix landed on his feet and then rolled into a cutter as only Fenix can do. Tremendous. An early front runner for AEW Dark match of the year. ****
Shanna defeated KiLynn King after pinning King with the Tiger Suplex. Boy did this match show off the difference between King and Marti Daniels. Shanna wrestled the latter last week, a match that culminated with Daniels taking a Tiger Suplex so wrong that Shanna had to do a do over. There were no such problems here with King, a much more polished worker who showed off some nice power and some even nicer kicks in this one. More importantly she just clicked with Shanna, who reverted back to looking world class in this match. They were smooth, they showed off some really nice moves (especially Shanna) and no Tiger Suplexes were botched in this match! Very good stuff that set up Shanna strong going into her match with Britt Baker tomorrow. Speaking of the doc! *** ½
Dr. Britt Baker DMD defeated Brooke Havok after submitting Havok with the Lockjaw. Brooke Havok is a graduate of the Nightmare Factory wrestling school run by Cody Rhodes and QT Marshall; she had taken part in the Nightmare Factory Showcase that aired earlier this year and this marked not only her first AEW appearance but, because the Nightmare Factory Showcase was a trainee show, her first ever match! Ain’t that some shit. Overall I thought she did a good job. Her job was pretty much to get squashed and hit a few moves but she hit her moves well (had a really good headscissors) and sold well for Britt, who did a good job shepherding the action. Obviously too soon to tell how much Havok has but there’s something there (we saw it on the training show and tonight) and given her level of experience I thought she did just fine. Decent squash. * ½
Ortiz and Santana did a promo warning the other tag teams in AEW.
Abandon defeated Vertvixen after pinning Vertvixen with the Widow’s Peak, now renamed the Cemetery Drive. Hey a move named after a My Chemical Romance song! I would’ve gone with “Thank You For the Venom” or “It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a F***ing Death Wish” but Cemetery Drive works too!
This was among the best Abadon performances I’ve seen. Even more impressive was that it was against Vertvixen, the Thunder Rosa student who is fine but not on the level of Jazmin Allure or Madi Wrenkowski. Still she was fine here and Abadon showed strong improvement, especially in how smooth she looked. Obviously they kept it quick but overall this was better than I expected when I first saw it. Also, I can’t not reward this match for the MCR reference. Why kind of fan would I be if I did that?! **
Lee Johnson defeated Pretty Peter Avalon in the Walk Off 27-24 after a fault in Avalon’s walk led to judge Jerry Lynn to give him a 6. They had to go to replay and everything to see that! I started laughing during the entrances and only stopped when this was over. This was BEAUTIFUL! The Zoolander reference at the beginning, Excalibur and Taz, the ridiculousness of the whole thing, Excalibur and Taz, Avalon’s promo AND DID I MENTION EXCALIBUR AND TAZ?! Just a complete tour de force of comedy here and much better than Avalon’s match with Cody on Dynamite last week. After the walk off Cezar Bononi, who I had been wondering about earlier today, re-appeared to take out Johnson and side with Avalon. I guess he’s PPA’s new sidekick? That was honestly the weakest part of the thing and only because I’d have gone with Anthony Ogogo instead. I mean my goodness; look how the man dresses! He’s totally PPA all friggin day.
Ortiz & Santana (Proud N’ Powerful) defeated Mike Verna & Ryzin after Ortiz pinned Verna after a Death Valley Driver/DDT combo. As The Who would say, this was a quick one (while she’s away). Ortiz and Santana basically got in there, ran over Ryzin and Verna and were out of there. Not that I was complaining; I was already behind on this review as is! Plus Ortiz and Santana needed a dominant win after their promo and, let’s be real, Mike Verna and Ryzin can afford to lose in about a minute once in awhile. Acceptable squash. NR
Tay Conti defeated Davienne after submitting Davienne with a move I’m calling the Brazillian Pretzel. Why? Because Tay basically turned Davienne into a gorram pretzel. Lot of references to pretzels in this review and I’m not even a fan. I was a fan of this match though! It was far more one sided than I expected considered Davienne is a Shimmer alumni but it still worked out because Tay Conti has gotten really good right before my very eyes. How WWE got nothing out of her for like three years only for her to become a budding superstar in AEW is a mystery that actually is easily solved because QT Marshall and Dustin Rhodes are prodigies and the WWE Performance Center is…what’s the word I’m looking for Immortan Joe?
So yeah; this was a really strong performance by Tay. Wish we had seen more from Davienne but she did well with what she was given and quite frankly did a hell of a job bumping around for Tay given the size discrepancy. For a squash, this was high end. ** ½
10 defeated Ray Jaz after pinning Jaz with the reverse Rainmaker. This match was fine and no one cares because this match was all about Brodie Jr. (-1) calling the action with Excalibur and Taz and somehow making the greatest announce team in the game today even better! I was dying listening to these three; the kid dropped more H bombs than a DMV worker, shat all over Excalibur, put over Taz and also called the match pretty damn well! Needless to say I was sports entertained and am putting -1 ahead in the clubhouse for Commentator of the Year. Just incredible stuff and he was just getting started! I suppose it did make it tough for the match but like I said it was fine; 10 actually looked really good at times and Jaz was solid for a guy that I honestly thought was going to be exceedingly mediocre. The Power of -1 compelled him to be good I guess! ** ¼
Red Velvet defeated Madi Wrenkowski after pinning Wrenkowski with that running side kick. One day Red Velvet will get a new finisher…but it is not this day. THIS DAY I COMPLAIN ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET! Not too much though because this was a borderline good match that once again featured Excalibur, Taz and -1 stealing the show on commentary. Wrenkowski has really impressed me ever since she showed up and aside from taking a bulldog wrong was once again very impressive here. She’s definitely the standout of Thunder Rosa’s Mission Pro girls to this point. Red Velvet, as per usual, was very strong and part of the reason I continue to not love the finisher is because the rest of her move set is so good! Like if you keep the kick but use one of the other moves (like one of those other kicks she does) as the finisher then we’re golden. Eh what do I know; I’m just one man with a review and a podcast where I wear hockey hats. In the end I enjoyed this and you will too, both for the match and -1. ***
Danny Limelight defeated Sean Maluta after pinning Maluta with the PK. This was faster than Stewie Griffin in bad, a shame because a) it deprived us of more -1 and b) this was a really good match on paper. Granted for the time it got it was still pretty solid, with Limelight in particular impressing again thanks to breaking out the Soberano style tornillo dive over the ropes and to the floor. The problem is the match basically ended right after that! Thus while the action was solid, the fact that it went two minutes basically kept it from being anymore but fun and too fast. * ¾
Ivelisse defeated Jazmin Allure after pinning Allure with Vertigo (Tornado Kick). I was all excited for -1 to call an Ivelisse match and what does AEW do but pull the kid from the booth! WHAT GIVES TONY KHAN?! Because I’m a forgiving person I’m going to choose to believe AEW decided that the world couldn’t handle the awesomeness of -1 marking out to Ivelisse kicking Allure off the face of the earth and made the conservative call to just go with Excalibur and Taz. If I found I’m wrong though I’m going to be after Tony Khan more than -1 will be after Excalibur for those $5 he’s owed, which I expect he’ll hound Ex for in a series of Better Off Dead like vignettes.
Like most Ivelisse matches this was strong stuff. It didn’t have the length to be good but it got enough time that we got to see Ivelisse deliver that awesome arsenal of great kicks, not to mention the best work we’ve seen from Allure since she came into AEW. The influence of Ivelisse helped (we’ve seen her get strong work out of Alex Gracia before in a similar situation) but Allure certainly stepped up here, looking far smoother than her previous two Dark appearances. When you think about it that’s really where most of the improvement comes from for these returning workers; they start off sloppy, get some more reps and slowly but surely begin to look more crisp, especially when they get in there with better workers. This was one of those times. A solid match and given that Excalibur promoted the upcoming women’s tournament and wondered out loud about Ivelisse’s participation makes me think she’s in. I’m Eric and I approve of that booking. ** ½
Powerhouse Hobbs defeated Jake St. Patrick after pinning Patrick with a GORRAM PUMPHANDLE EMERALD FROSION! The World’s Strongest Slam is nice but upon seeing this beauty I can safely quote the Grail Knight in saying that Hobbs chose wisely with his new finisher. This was a rare squash in the Dark main event spot (probably because that six man got removed) but it worked because Hobbs is awesome and St. Patrick bumped like a mad man for him. And also we got another bit of offense from HOOK, who hit St. Patrick with a capture suplex right out of his dad’s playbook. Between this and -1 earlier in the night I can just imagine Tony Khan sitting backstage, unable to believe all the money he’s going to make with -1 vs. Hook matches ten years from now. But that’s ten years from now! This is now and this was a satisfying squash to end a wildly entertaining Dark. * ¾
There you have it sports fans. I’m now off to talk about wrestling on the internet, only on camera this time. TILL WE MEET AGAIN!
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RELATED NOTE: AEW Dark Episode 72 (01/26/2021)