Last week AEW Dark went by faster than Joss Whedon’s credibility. This week it was back to its old longer self and I for one couldn’t be happier! While the show did dip a little as it went along (and had my first dud rating), the first half of the show was super, full of great performances, good matches and one exceptional match in the style of an old school All Japan bout. Oh and Excalibur and Taz ruled. As if you didn’t expect that. If you missed all this doing whatever it is one does on Tuesday, here’s the scoop.
Brian Cage defeated John Skyler after pinning Skyler with the Drill Claw. Well at least we got to see Skyler’s entrance! This match was so quick that Hook once again didn’t get to do anything. Come on AEW; it’s Hook! The people want the Hookplex. THE PEOPLE NEED THE HOOKPLEX! Other than that it did what it needed to do. NR
Lee Johnson defeated Serpentico after pinning Serpentico with a Blue Thunder Bomb. I’m not sure what I’m happier about; Lee Johnson getting his long overdue first singles match or that a Blue Thunder Bomb was a finisher in the year 2021. I was shedding a single tear like Spartacus in the “I’m Spartacus” scene. Anyways, this was good stuff! Lee Johnson rules, Serpentico is really good and they predictably worked a well paced match that built to Johnson getting some great offense towards the end. He didn’t break out any dives but there was a Fisherman Neckbreaker that was incredible and do I really need to rave about the Blue Thunder Bomb any more than I already did?! Very good match and happy for Lee. He’s going to be a star. But you already knew that, to quote the worst person alive. *** ½
Eddie Kingston defeated JD Drake after pinning Drake with the Backfist to the Future. Mother of puss bucket are you going to want to stop reading this review and go watch this match immediately!
This was a 90’s All Japan/2000’s Pro Wrestling NOAH match that somehow found its way onto Dark. Thank Grodd because it ruled. JD Drake, an EVOLVE veteran who many expected to go to WWE, looks like a cross between Trevor Murdock and Dusty Rhodes while wrestling like Big Van Vader and Kensuke Sasaki. He was TREMENDOUS in this match; great chops and for his size incredible athleticism. Kingston was just as good, getting to do his best All Japan impression while providing his usual intensity. I have no idea what AEW’s plans are for Drake but they would be wise to bring him back immediately. This was great. ****
Leyla Hirsch defeated Brooke Havok after submitting Havok with a Cross Armbar. Brooke Havok unfortunately tore her ACL in this match; I could see her in pain at a few points but she never had a limp and moved around well all match so I can’t say for sure when it happened. Big ups to her for gutting it out and she honestly looked really impressive separate from that. This wasn’t a great match; they basically moved nonstop, the selling was minimal and Havok is definitely green. Even still the moves were largely smooth, Havok showed some nice offense for only her third match in and Leyla was solid as always. Solid sprint and speedy recovery to you Havok. ** ½
Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus (Jurassic Express) defeated Angel Fashion & VSK after Jungle Boy pinned VSK with the assisted Powerbomb. Jungle Boy’s entrance lasted longer than this match. They entered, Taz sang the song, they kicked ass, they hit the powerbomb and we were all back to singing Tarzan Boy yet again. I’m fine with that quite honestly. Good squash. What lasted longer you think; the match or my review of said match? I’m guessing the match. NR
QT Marshall defeated JJ Garrett after pinning Garrett with a Diamond Cutter. This was SIGNIFICANTLY better than I thought, mainly because I thought QT was going to send Garrett to the showers immediately. Instead Garrett, a semi-GCW regular notable for his similarities to a young Scott Steiner (both in look and style) got a lot in and he was just as impressive as JD Drake was earlier. He showed some great athleticism, great strikes, some really good suplexes and some really unique offense; I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure he did a rolling senton out of a Vader Bomb! Beautiful stuff. QT deserves a lot of credit for feeding him as much as he did, and also had some nice strikes of his own. I can’t give any more praise to QT though, at least until he stops ducking Fuego Del Sol. Then and only then will QT praise resume! *** ½
Max Caster defeated Marko Stunt after pinning Stunt with a Flying Elbow Drop. Borderline good match. The best part of the match, as per usual with The Acclaimed, was the pre-match rap, where Caster made a Wild Thornberrys reference and asked why Jungle Boy had been left in the dry. Caster was impressive in the ring too, with a leaping Superplex spot that looked awesome. Marko was solid too. Honestly that may be the only downside about the match. It was solid, Caster and Marko had good moments, and other than the rap and the Superplex I’ll remember nothing about it. ** ¾
Alex Reynolds & John Silver (The Dark Order) defeated Chris Peaks & Louie Valle (Batiri) after Reynolds pinned Valle with the Dark Destroyer. Fun fact; in another life Chris Peaks and Louie Valle went under the names Obiyarion and Kodama in a promotion called CHIKARA, where they were a team known as Batiri. This was a reunion tonight and I am favor of more of these given how good they were.
But seriously; this match was super fun. How could it not be when Reynolds and Silver are involved? They made the Sandlot look good on Silver’s new YouTube channel earlier today for crying out loud. Silver in particular was awesome, showing off some impressive power spots (DOUBLE SAMOAN DROP!) and kicking Peaks really hard a few times. Both Peaks and Valle (GET IT?!) delivered too; Valle has appeared on Dark before and hasn’t looked as impressive as he did here, and Peaks delivered some great strikes and sold really well. Enjoyable tag match! *** ¼
Kip Sabian defeated Fuego Del Sol after pinning Del Sol with the Deathly Hallows, which looks an awful lot like Super Dragon’s Psycho Driver. What do we say about Fuego Del Sol hitting the Tornado DDT?
I liked this! The Kipper went and got married, frosted his hair and suddenly turned into a strong style junior heavyweight. It suited him; I liked the new intensity, I liked the strikes; consider me intrigued in the new and improved Kipper. Fuego Del Sol was good as always and it was nice to see him do more. Not too much though; have to save that for the day he gets that gigantic win over QT with that dastardly Tornado DDT. Anyways, this was good! I must be in a good mood tonight with all these threes. ***
Brian Pillman Jr. & Griff Garrison (Varsity Blondes) defeated Carlie Bravo & Shawn Dean (The Initiative) after Pillman pinned Bravo after a Missile Dropkick/Powerbomb combo. Another match that exceeded expectations! Pillman and Garrison have developed into a quality team so it wasn’t surprising to see them do well, but this Carlie Bravo/Shawn Dean team was very impressive. Bravo, to the best of my knowledge, has only wrestled three or four times, yet he’s got a good moveset, he’s really smooth and never looks out of place. And obviously the Captain is the Captain! In their second match they already seem like a well oiled team, and I expect that will only continue to improve the more Bravo learns. Borderline good match here that set up the Blondes well for their match tomorrow. ** ¾
Ryan Nemeth defeated Aaron Solow after pinning Solow with the Rude Awakening. I do not get this Lil Ziggler thing at all. He’s appeared on Dark or Dynamite a handful of times now and the only thing impressive about him is how orange he’s able to make his tan look. He was exceptionally boring in this match, leaving poor Solow to try and make something out of it. He tried his best, had some good moments, but it was to no avail. After the match Peter Avalon and Cezar Bononi came out to align with Nemeth because there is no Grodd. Lee Johnson, QT Marshall and Nick Comoroto came out to save Nightmare Family member Solow, which I guess means they are next up to try and make Ryan Nemeth look good. Grodd bless them. DUD
Diamante & Ivelisse defeated Miranda Alize & Renee Michelle after Ivelisse pinned Alize after she and Diamante kicked Alize’s head into the third row. When Diamante and Ivelisse were in control this match was good. When Alize and Michelle were on offense it was not so good. With Alize I think it was just a bad night as I’ve seen her have better. For Michelle this was her second straight unimpressive performance on Dark; her timing just seemed off and she was tripping over herself at times. The big thing here was the history between Alize, Diamante and Ivelisse, which Excalibur and Taz played up at the booth. I was almost expecting Alize to turn on Michelle and side with Diamante and Ivelisse but instead she fought them, had a few heated confrontations and then go wiped off the face of the earth. Will be interesting to see if they do more with that or not going forward. Hopefully Alize has a better partner for that occasion. * ½
Bear Country (Bear Boulder & Bear Bronson), Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss defeated Aaron Frye, Daniel Joseph, Levi Shapiro and M’Badu after Bronson pinned Shapiro with the Assisted Splash. If you had told me one day that there’d be a budding faction between Bear Country, Sonny Kisa and Joey Janela…actually yeah I’d have bought that. It’s Joey. Everyone but Penelope Ford loves him.
This was a good squash. The jobber squad didn’t really do much for me; M’Badu looked impressive and Shapiro, a Championship Wrestling from Hollywood alumn who looks like he time traveled from the set of Days of Thunder, also had something but both Joseph and Frye were just kind of there. Fortunately Janela was a ton of fun as always, Sonny Kiss looked good and Bear Country continues to impress. I like this unit and I hope they not only continue on but add JD Drake as well. Bear Country for Bad Boys! I want rights for the name Tony Khan. * ¾
Cezar Bononi & Peter Avalon defeated Baron Black & Ryzin after Avalon pinned Black after Bononi picked up Avalon and threw him into Black for the Marti-knees. I’m going to choose to call that finish the White Russian after Taz jokingly referred to it as such. Solid match. Avalon is always entertaining unless he’s going 9 minutes with Cody Rhodes (seriously, WHY DID THEY DO THAT?!), Bononi works well as his muscle and Ryzin remains one of the most dependable Dark jobbers. The story again though was Baron Black. He has really turned a corner recently and this was another impressive performance from him thanks to a great hot tag. More opportunities for Baron Black! I decree it. ** ½
KiLynn King defeated Tesha Price after pinning Price with Kingdom Falls. Borderline good match. This was easily the best performance I’ve seen from Tesha Price since she’s come to AEW and you can chalk it up to a rise in intensity. It seemed like AEW was trying her out as a heel so the attitude change was necessary anyway, but it really seemed to suit Price a lot more than as a random babyface, and her work felt more impactful as a result. KiLynn King is really good and this match was no different from her; great fire, great power moves and great intensity in her own right. Just what the doctor ordered for both ** ¾
Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian (SCU) defeated Angelico & Jack Evans (TH2) and Matt & Mike Sydal after Kazarian pinned Evans after a Scorpion Death Drop. Poor Jack; he misjudged the distance on his Phoenix Splash last week and now this week couldn’t get his Sasuke Special in because Christopher Daniels had to interrupt it with a knee. Life is hard for the man, the myth, the legend Jack Evans from the heavens. Well at least he’s not getting sacrificed to any gods I guess.
This was a very good main event. It had a few sloppy moments here and there that kept it from getting too good but on the whole there was a lot to like. Kazarian was great in this match, especially with Evans and Angelico, who bumped their asses off for his tremendous offense. Daniels was predictably reliable (and got a nice Arabian Moonsault in), Mike Sydal had a second straight solid performance and Matt Sydal remains one of the best. We have got to get this guy against Kenny Omega sooner than later; I have a feeling that match would blow the roof of Daily’s Place, if Daily’s Place in fact had a roof. Very good close to the show; SCU remains a team! *** ½
There you have it sports fans. I’ll see you on the flip side!
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RELATED NOTE: AEW Dark Episode 76 (02/23/2021)