Another week, another AEW Dark that was a whole lot of fun. What else is new? Well I guess the JD Drake showcase match is new. Boy that guy is good; he had a banger with Eddie Kingston last week and came back this week with an even better match with Stu Grayson. Throw in several other good matches, one great Acclaimed music video and THE RETURN OF NEGATIVE ONE TO THE BOOTH and well, what more can you ask for? Actually you could ask for a Laredo Kid appearance. Can always ask for that. But that’s for another time. For now let’s review the Dark!
Aaron Solow & Lee Johnson defeated Chris Peaks & Louie Valle after Johnson pinned Valle with the Blue Thunder Bomb. Aaron Solow’s first win! I believe this leaves just Shawn Dean, Baron Black and Fuego del Sol on the outside looking in. Good thing Fuego’s getting that W next week when he drops QT with the TORNADO DDT! I was cooking dinner during this match so I missed a couple moments but what I saw was solid. Solow had some nice mat work early, the former Batiri dudes Peaks and Valle (GET IT?!) had a strong heat segment and Johnson’s hot tag was so powerful it ended the match almost as soon as it began. That was really the biggest issue with the match; it was too short. Otherwise this is was a solid match, and it was nice to see Solow get that W. ** ½
KiLynn King & Red Velvet defeated Diamante & Ivelisse after Velvet pinned Ivelisse with the running dropkick. You may remember there was a Women’s Eliminator Tournament show last night that featured Thunder Rosa vs. Nyla Rose and two undercard matches. After watching this match I have no unearthly idea how this match wasn’t one of them. This was really good. Diamante and Ivelisse have been the top tag team in the women’s division (not there’s a ton of teams but still) and this was among their best work; Ivelisse in particular was like Nirvana while recording Nevermind. I liked the team work, I liked how they worked over King’s arm and they fed very well for the faces. King and Velvet (her last match before her life changes forever tomorrow) were on the money too, meshing very well as a team and looking strong individually between King’s power and Velvet’s athleticism. I really liked this and honestly would’ve put it on Dynamite last week in order to build Velvet up stronger before this match with Shaq. Alas it was on Dark and was quite good. *** ½
Dante & Darius Martin (Top Flight) defeated Fuego del Sol & Jon Cruz after Darius pinned Fuego after with The Icebreaker (an Assisted Bulldog, according to one Anthony Ogogo). What do we say when Fuego del Sol tries to hit the Tornado DDT before his big match with QT Marshall next week?
This was a lot of fun. Both teams worked at a great pace, Top Flight was Top Flight, Fuego unleashed some tremendous moves (how about that Cancun Tornado?!) and even Jon Cruz, a man who makes Serpentico look like Rey Mysterio in his prime, looked good. I almost fainted at that one honestly. Granted Top Flight work at the perfect speed for a guy like Cruz so maybe the match up draw was just what the doctor ordered. In any event this was a really good back and forth sprint between two teams that know how to fly. Now we just need Fuego to get the W next week. YOU CAN DO IT FUEGO! *** ½
Austin, Billy and Colten Gunn (The Gunn Club) defeated Aaron Frye, Angel Fashion and Tony Vega after Billy pinned Fashion after a 3:10 to Yuma. I remain amazed that Billy Gunn still looks this good at…is it 57 now? 58? Who cares; looks great for his age. Less great was this match, which I won’t remember five minutes from now. Austin Gunn did a good job selling and Billy was Billy, but the heel team contributed very little (a shame for Fashion, who actually is pretty good) and Colten Gunn was notably off in this match. It happens. It wasn’t the worst, it wasn’t the best; like most of Nancy Meyers’ output, it was there. *
Abadon defeated Renee Michelle after pinning Michelle with the Cemetary Drive (Widow’s Peak). It still tickles me to no end that Abadon’s finisher is named after a Three Cheers From Sweet Revenge era My Chemical Romance song. Tremendous stuff. This was a really good squash. Abadon is showed some nice improvement here with an expanded moveset (loved the Lou Thesz dive off the apron) and while the gimmick remains hit or miss for some I find it to be really intriguing. As for Renee Michelle this was easily her best work in AEW to date. She didn’t even really do much but what she did with her brief office and selling the fear of being across from Abadon was really well done. Exactly what you want from a squash. * ¾
Stu Grayson defeated JD Drake after pinning Drake with Knightfall. That’s right; Stu Grayson, he of 190 or so pounds, lifted up JD Drake, he of 300 or so lbs, and hit him with the same move Bane used to break Batman’s back.
I loved the Eddie Kingston vs. JD Drake match from Dark last week; this was better! Like I can’t get over how great it was. It had the All Japan influences again (it’s scary how much JD Drake reminds me of Stan Hansen), only with more athleticism thrown in because JD Drake is secretly an athletic freak and Stu is Stu. If I were Evil Uno I’d be very worried about letting Stu have more of these opportunities because he is a phenomenal talent. Power wrestling? He rules. High flying? He rules. Hell he even stood in there and traded chops with Drake like it was no big deal. Individually this may have been his best work in AEW, and Drake was right there with him. I know you have a ton of people already AEW but seriously; SIGN THIS DUDE! He jumps off the screen in a way totally different from all the other top level talent AEW has. What a match this was; easily one of the best you’ll see on Dark all year. **** ½
The Acclaimed did a music video where Caster rapped about Ten and humiliated “Dark Order member 100” in order to set up the Ladder match qualifier on Dynamite tomorrow. This ruled, the Acclaimed raps only get better and better as time goes on and, sorry Ten, I’m rooting for Caster tomorrow based off this rap. Bring Negative One to the ring with you tomorrow and I may change my mind, but for now I’m Team Acclaimed.
Bear Boulder & Bear Bronson (Bear Country) defeated Baron Black & M’Badu after Boulder pinned Black with the Assisted Splash. Between this match and JD Drake’s performance I dare say this was the night of the big men. Bear Country ruled in this match; great power moves from Boulder, great selling from Bronson and one hell of a suicide dive from Bronson that just flattened M’Badu. Baron Black continued his run of really strong work as well; sadly M’Badu didn’t reach his level. He tried hard and wasn’t bad, but there were a few iffy moments from him that were enough to hold this match back from being better. Even still this was another strong match, and the post match rivaled it with a nice attack from Butcher and Blade, who worked over Bronson’s arm with the help of Bunny and a chair. Now that’s a match I can believe in! *** ¼
Colt Cabana, Evil Uno and Five (The Dark Order) defeated John Skyler, Levi Shapiro and Ryzin after Uno pinned Ryzin with that awesome Flatliner variation he uses. This was inessential considering what followed it but was okay. I can’t say anything that bad about a match that featured Negative One being at ringside and then trying, and being unable, to tear his t-shirt off after the match. Don’t worry kid; Mike Tyson couldn’t do it either. Overall Five was the best in this match, zipping around the ring every chance he got, while Cabana provided some humor and Uno…honestly he didn’t do much till the finish. Maybe he was reliving Stu-JD Drake? The heel team didn’t do a ton, although for some reason this Levi Shapiro guy strikes me as having something. Then again maybe I’m delirious. Not a one among us can say. ** ¼
Max Caster defeated JJ Garrett after pinning Garrett with the Mic Drop (Flying Elbow Drop). The match began with Caster ethering poor Garrett with his pre-match rap and then ethering him again with an Ultimo Guerrero style pop up low blow, a twisting brainbuster and the finish. In between this was also good! If not for JD Drake JJ Garrett would be the best find AEW has made in recent weeks; he looks like Scott Steiner and he wrestles like how I’d imagine a modern BIG POPPA PUMP would wrestle. He really impressed here and frankly was better than Caster, who was not bad in the slightest! I hope Garrett doesn’t get lost in the shuffle because he really does deserve some more shots here on Dark. Good match! ***
Angelico & Jack Evans (TH2) defeated Carlie Bravo & Shawn Dean (The Initiative) after Angelico submitted Bravo with the Navarro Death Roll. One of the weaker matches on the show, which pains me to say because you all know how much I love Angelico and Jack. There just wasn’t a ton for them to work with here unfortunately as Bravo and Dean, who have been really good since forming a few weeks ago, had their weakest outting yet. Bravo was overall fine but Dean…I don’t know, it just felt like he was lacking some of the explosiveness he usually has. The match didn’t get that much time for the guys to really get a groove either so that contributed. It wasn’t awful, but for a match with Angelico, Jack and a rising team I expected a bit more. **
Orange Cassidy defeated Steven Stetson after pinning Stetson with the Beach Break. Total squash here, done Orange Cassidy style. It was nice to see him doing the whole hands in his pockets thing again, and he had some of his funniest moments in awhile that didn’t involve a wedding cake. Stetson got some offense and played off Cassidy’s shtick well, but I didn’t really see anything to warrant him getting many more looks. Plus, if you’re going to do the western gimmick you got to go all in. Less Rawhide, more Once Upon a Time in the West, you know what I’m sayng? * ¼
Chuck Taylor defeated VSK after pinning VSK with a Jumping Piledriver. Really Big Dust; couldn’t pull out the Awful Waffle?! Other than Chuck’s insistence on not doing his finisher this was pretty solid. There’s very few people in AEW more underrated than Big Dust and there’s few AEW Dark jobbers more underrated than VSK, who finally got to actually do stuff in this match and looked really good! They didn’t quite get enough time to make it good but for what it was this was solid stuff, peaking with Chuck getting the Falcon Arrow, VSK kicking out and Excalibur basically turning into PWG Excalibur for a minute (remember when he and Chuck were commentators for like, every BOLA ever)? Good stuff. Anyways, solid match as Big Dust closes in on getting his revenge on The Kipper and Handsome Miro. ** ½
Ten defeated Daniel Joseph after pinning Joseph with a Powerbomb. Poor Daniel Joseph; he came, he saw, he got his ass kicked and he wasn’t even the second most memorable part of this match. That would be Negative One, who was back in the booth again telling Excalibur to shut up while Taz cackled with delight. A shame this match was so short we didn’t get Negative One deliver a trademark line like his classic “this is what hell looks like for Ray Jaz” zinger. Speaking of Jaz, what happened to him? Did that line just erase him from existence Back to the Future style? NR
Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian (SCU) defeated Matt & Mike Sydal after Kazarian pinned Mike Sydal following the Best Meltzer Ever. Is it just me or are Matt Sydal and Christopher Daniels basically wrestling against each other every week now? It’s like they’ve both been transported back to mid 2000’s Ring of Honor or something.
This was a good main event, as one would expect given these two teams. SCU’s matches are a tad predictable these days as AEW isn’t going to put them in position to lose until they go against someone like the Young Bucks (which may be happening sooner than later), but they’re both so good that the matches can’t help but follow suit. Daniels is a marvel for his age and Kazarian seems to get better and better every time I see him; like Chuck Taylor he’s sort of an unsung hero on the AEW roster. Another unsung hero; Matt Sydal. He’s great, he’s always been great, he honestly should be doing better things than just being on Dark and he was exceptional again here. Mike Sydal ain’t half bad either; he’s not on the level of the others but he doesn’t mess anything up, he does the little things well, he can fly and he showed off some nice chops here with Kazarian. As far as tag teams go the Sydals are another strong addition to the roster. But yeah; good main event for a good show. *** ¼
That’ll do it sports fans. Will see you soon. TILL THAT TIME ARRIVES!
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RELATED NOTE: AEW Dark Episode 77 (03/02/2021)