Well sports fans, with AEW Dark: Elevation and GATOH Move’s ChocoPro #120 going back to back tonight, I thought it would be a ton of fun to do a mega review of both shows. Four hours later…yeah still good idea. But barely! This has nothing to do with show quality mind you; Elevation was a solid show and ChocoPro, which was a one match show centered around their hottest feud, was magnificent. But by Grodd that ChocoPro ending was harsh. Quite harsh. It’s the kind of ending that recalls the end of Buffy Season 2, the sort of soul sucking experience that makes you want to listen to Three Days Grace. And that’s not good because who would normally want to listen to Three Days Grace? In the words of Whistler, you’ll see what I mean. First we’ll read about the light hearted stuff from Elevation though. Let us review.
QT Marshall defeated Robo after pinning Robo with a Diamond Cutter. Fun fact; I listened to Jade Cargill’s theme music while watching this match. IT’S PRETTY GOOD! Better than this match in fact, although this was what I’d call a borderline match. Robo looked good in his first AEW appearance last week and he clicked very well with QT here. Then again it’s QT; if you look up “pro’s pro” in the dictionary or the phrase dictionary or wherever it is, there will be a picture of QT and his blueberry costume right there. They worked a very solid, very back and forth match for about five minutes here, with the only thing really holding it back was how abrupt the finish was. Otherwise this was close to good. ** ¾
Abadon defeated Leila Grey after pinning Grey with the Cemetery Driver. And now I have that My Chemical Romance song in my head again. I MISS YOU! I MISS YOU SO FAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
The squashiest of squashes this was. I’m pretty sure Leila got maybe one punch in and was otherwise was turned into mulch. The plus is Abadon continues to show improvement in these spots. When we first saw her a year ago she had the gimmick, while the work was, quite frankly, below average. I wouldn’t call her a great worker now but she’s made huge improvements, has expanded her moveset and is showing more confidence in the ring. Frankly as long as she continues to do that and AEW uses the gimmick wisely she’ll be a valuable commodity for a long time. Match did its job. * ½
Thunder Rosa defeated Ashley D’Amboise after submitting D’Amboise with the Peruvian Necktie. Rosa is really trying to get that submission over, which can only mean that Hikaru Shida or Britt Baker is getting locked in that bad boy soon and is then getting out of it. That’s wrestling 101 sports fans; I don’t make the rules here! Match in the solid range. Thunder Rosa is great every time she walks out there and this was no different. She gave a lot to D’Amboise here and you could see some potential in her while also a ton of rough edges. D’Amboise is new to the business so it’ll take some time to see what she really has, but there is at least something there and that she didn’t look that out of place against Thunder Rosa is a good sign for her. It wasn’t anything earth shattering, but its further proof at how strong of a talent Rosa is. ** ¼
The showcase segment this week focused on The Gunn Club! As it is every week, whether it’s with Paul Wight or a video package, it was great. Billy Gunn came off really well as the aging veteran hanging around to help out his kids and both Austin and Colten came off really well describing growing up sons of a wrestler, getting into the business after graduating from college (a request from their father before they broke into wrestling) and more. I say it every week and it remains true; this is among the best things AEW does each week.
Lee Johnson defeated Daniel Garcia after pinning Garcia with the Braindog (Brainbuster to the Knee). Man poor Daniel Garcia; last week Joey Janela wiped him off the face of the Earth with the gnarliest Death Valley Driver you’ve ever seen, then this week Lee Johnson lands on his head hitting on the follow through of a dropkick, turning his lip into the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. We are definitely a long way from Garcia’s Magic Mike routine in the Grey Sweatpants Battle Royal.
This was a good match, though it wasn’t as good as that Janela match last week. Garcia is really, REALLY good at this wrestling thing, and he proved it again here by actually working slower and still being a lot of fun. Lee Johnson was really strong too; frankly this was a match that could be great and probably could’ve come close if these two hadn’t gotten so little time. It honestly felt like Johnson was just getting going when they went right to the finish; imagine if they got a few extra minutes and they were both really allowed to cut loose. Perhaps some other time. For what they got though it was good. I imagine Garcia will be scooped up pretty quickly by someone, so if you’re a fan of Dark or Elevation you better enjoy this time. Unless he signs with AEW, then you have nothing to worry about. ***
Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky cut a promo declaring their taking over all the divisions. No singles star is safe, no tag team is safe, Hikaru Shida isn’t even safe. Actually they backed off that one. Good call by those two; Shida would go through them like shit through a goose.
Nyla Rose defeated Robyn Renegade after pinning Renegade with the Beast Bomb. Vickie Guerrero continued her thing of running Justin Roberts off before the match, followed by Rose just dominating the match. It’s like the Nine Inch Nails song; every day is exactly the same. Then again Nyla Rose did beat Britt Baker in that women’s tournament so perhaps AEW is just keeping her strong until they can run that match. For now though Rose seems to be in a holding pattern and this squash highlighted that something fierce. * ¼
Ethan Page defeated Alex Reynolds after pinning Reynolds with the Ego’s Edge. This was a well done slow burner of the match. They got a lot of time to work with here and used every minute of it, with Reynolds getting control first, Page then working Reynolds over for a long time before things went back and forth till the end. It wasn’t a dynamic match that some may have wanted and there was nothing overly memorable I can recall from the match even a few minutes later. It was really just two good wrestlers working a smooth, well wrestled old school match. Tht may be a turn off to some and it certainly wasn’t a MOTY contender, but I thought it was good for what they were going for. ***
Tay Conti defeated Queen Aminata after pinning Aminata with the DDTay. The closest thing to a squash that I think we’ve seen from a Tay Conti match. Kind of a shame too because Aminata, making her AEW return, looks like a very promising talent. She moves well, the brief amount of offense she got looked good and she bumped really well for Conti. It would’ve been nice to see her get a bit more to do than sell. She did sell well though and Conti continues to impress whenever she appears. She’s also learning to not show everything she can do in one match, saving some of her more impressive stuff for the big spots. For what they were trying to do this was a success, I just wish they had gone a different direction because I think a competitive Conti-Aminata match would’ve been a lot of fun. * ¾
Penta El Zero Miedo defeated Mike Sydal after pinning Mike with the Package Piledriver. On behalf of Lucha Central I’d like to extend Pentagon a congratulations on getting his thirtieth career AEW victory. One more and he’ll have passed the number of arms he broke in Lucha Underground. Somewhere, many LU alumnists are nodding sadly.
This was very good. For two guys who are generally considered the “lesser” of their respective teams, both Pentagon and Mike Sydal put in good work here. Sydal in particular strikes me as a guy who is really underrated on the whole; most people I know think he’s not that good at all and yet week in and week out he’s having good matches across all three AEW shows. Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure that points to the dude being pretty damn good. Certainly didn’t hurt here that Pentagon was his opponent, and the former two time LU Champion put forth a really strong all around performance, complete with the strikes, the chops and those devastating high impact maneuvers. It’s unfortunate Fenix is hurt right now, but it is at least nice to see Pentagon get some alone time to remind people that he too is a great worker, even when weapons aren’t involved. *** ½
Scorpio Sky defeated Five after submitting Five with the Heel Hook. You know Alex Reynods vs. Ethan Page was a well worked match that wasn’t dynamic at all? This match was that except with some pop to it. That’s what happens when you get two guys who work a more athletic style and work at a faster pace. Five and Scorp did just that and combined with decent storytelling and smooth work this match really clicked for me. A year ago Five was a good worker with a lot of potential and now he’s legit bordering on being a great worker. Everything he does looks really strong and with some nice punch to it. And while Scorpio Sky doesn’t always cut the best promos, this was a nice reminder that he’s as underrated a performer in the ring as they come. A highly enjoyable encounter. *** ¼
Matt Hardy cut a promo on Fuego del Sol. I didn’t catch most of it as I was too busy booing Hardy and getting the “CONGRATS ON YOUR FIRST WIN FUEGO!” banner ready. That didn’t backfire at all. Nope.
Matt Hardy defeated Fuego Del Sol after submitting Fuego with The Leech. Have I congratulated Matt yet on developing a cool submission finisher some twenty five years into his career? No? Alright then congrats Matt; good on you. This was solid stuff but it was far more one sided for my liking. Fuego got some offense in and it looked decent, but this was mostly Matt working over his left arm and Fuego getting in bursts before being grounded again. Then again Matt is in the Casino Battle Royal this Sunday and Fuego is going to be watching the show with myself and my pal Joe Brown so I suppose it all makes sense. In the end it was a solid squash, but it was another match where I was hopeful for more. **
Ren Narita defeated Royce Isaacs after pinning Isaacs with a Bridging Belly to Belly Suplex. Can’t say I’ve seen that one before, which makes no sense because that’s a move that someone should’ve been using eons before Ren Narita did. Why am I losing my mind over this? Who can say for sure. In any event this was really good shit, I dare say even borderline great. I saw a ton of Master Wato in CMLL and I can tell you right now that the poor bastard never had as good a showing there as Narita had here on AEW. It’s a YouTube show so it’s not as big a stage as Dynamite or even Arena Mexico, but this was still a decent situation and Narita showed just how well rounded he already is at 23 years old. Provided New Japan doesn’t screw it up this kid is going to be a star, and hopefully AEW will get to use him a bit more. Royce Isaacs really impressed as well; he’s been fine in previous AEW appearances but hasn’t looked as dynamic as he did here. He really stood out more here with Narita than he had in other appearances, and that should guarantee him some more looks (well that and he now has music and a Titantron video). *** ¾
Rocky Romero defeated JD Drake after pinning Drake with La Casita. Afterwards The Wingmen decided to beat down Rocky for this transgression, prompting a Roppongi Vice reunion as Trent?, Big Dust, Orange Cassidy and Kris Statlander came out to make the save, do the high five and the hug while the Roppongi Vice theme played. To say this was a top ten AEW Dark: Elevation moment of all time would be like saying The Green Knight trailer is better than the Eternals trailer.
Even prior to that this was the best thing on the show. You have to hand it to Rocky; he manages to get booked seemingly everywhere, has a lifetime gig with New Japan if he wants it and is quality at everything he does, including wrestling. It’s so easy to forget that because he doesn’t wrestle as much anymore but when he gets in there he can still go, and he went hard tonight with a capable performer in JD Drake. This was a slow burner, but Rocky is still very athletic so we had plenty of high spots, along with some bruising offense from Drake and a nice story of Rocky (the much smaller of the two) working over Drake’s arm in order to gain some sort of edge. And hey it worked as he beat Drake with a move that required him to hook the arm he had worked over. That, friends, is smart wrestling. The Wingmen also added a lot while at ring side just by being their wonderfully goofy selves. I may dock a point off in the future if Rocky never returns to give us the Roppongi Vice reunion we all deserve, but barring that this just nudged out Ren Narita-Royce Isaacs for the best thing on the show. Great stuff. ****
And now to ChocoPro we go!
Chris Brookes, Yuna Mizumori and VENY defeated Emi Sakura, Lulu Pencil and Minoru Fujita after Brookes submitted Pencil with an Octopus Stretch. I have some time to reflect on this one sports fans and I can conclude, with 100% certainty, that this may have been the most devastating match I’ve ever witnessed. And I watched the Streak end after the wrestling equivalent of Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This is the sort of match that, when it’s over, leaves you feeling like Crash and the Boys.
Of course, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, it was all depressing in a good way. First off, the match was excellent. I can’t say it was perfect because a) it’s a Pencil Army match so a lot of it was silly and b) not everything in this match was crisp. But my Grodd was the story just exhilarating, whether you come from the angle of Lulu Pencil trying to get revenge against that low life, dirty bastard Chris Brookes for betraying the Pencil Army or from the angle of Pencil Army (and Lulu in particular) just trying to win a damn match. As such that canceled out almost all the weak points of this match and raised things to another level. We had twists, turns, tables that would not break, Minoru Fujita being flipped out of a window and onto stools, flip dives out of the window, Lulu Pencil fighting spirit, Chris Brookes ripping fan messages off the walls; need I go on?! It had everything.
It also had three significant players and three supporting ones. Yunamon, Emi and Fujita all were great in this and all took a backseat to the main players. I believe VENY was supposed to as well, only VENY is so great that they basically forced herself into being a protagonist. It is effortless how great VENY is, to the point where we may have to start putting them in the Best in the World conversation. And then of course there’s Brookes and Pencil. Chris Brookes really has turned into the RSP of ChocoPro; he is so great at being this terrible, no good heel that everyone in ChocoPro (save his partners) hates and the perfect foe for Lulu to go up against. And while Lulu Pencil will probably never be the best wrestler, tonight was the shining beacon of why she is such an endearing figure. She is pure, she is likeable, she tries her heart out and she gets oh so close, only for that piece of shit Brookes to deny her. It’s tried and true wrestling storytelling and as it usually does it’s working without fail. Or it will should we ever (and we better) get Lulu beating Brookes at like ChocoPro #200 or something. So while I am saddened greatly by Pencil Army coming up short, it goes to show that what ChocoPro is doing is working. And that, coupled with the match quality and everything else, made this a tour de force. **** ¾
Of course it also had one other consequence; everyone else was so sad about what happened that Emi Sakura CANCELED JANKEN! CHRIS BROOKES MADE EVERYONE SO MISERABLE THAT JANKEN HAD TO BE CANCELED?! You know how everyone thinks Roman Reigns or MJF are the best heels in wrestling? Those two are Cal Hockley and the dude from The Master of Disguise compared to the real life Thanos that is Chris Brookes. If I were to run into him in the street, I’d yell obscenities at him, then run like hell before he stretched me like a pretzel. YOU WILL PAY FOR RUINING JANKEN CHRIS BROOKES! YOU! WILL! PAY!
And with that I’m off to wind down for the evening. Till next time sports fans.
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RELATED NOTE: AEW Dark: Elevation Episode 11 (05/24/2021)