AEW DARK: August 18, 2020

The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark, August 18, 2020, Episode 47.

From the AEW Arena.

Your hosts are TNT (Tony ‘n’ Taz), but guess what – Veda Scott is still here and is joining them!

Three bouts of various featuredness on today’s show! Billy Gunn faces Dark Order #5, Alan Angels! Kip Sabian tries to solve the insanity of Michael Nakazawa! And in our main event, Private Party and SCU battle the Butcher, the Blade, and the Bros! (Meanwhile, I battle my inability to remember which one’s Kassidy and which one’s Quen.)

Opening Match: Michael Naka – Naka – Nakazawa!! (3-2) v. Kip Sabian (12-10). Justin Roberts loves to oversell that intro, doesn’t he? Norfolk update: this week they don’t even have Roberts sound out “England”, just “Gholston”. Taz dares Tony to do the toothpick thing with his (Tony’s) wife.

Sabian with an armbar to start, taking him down and posing while holding the arm down. Nakazawa has the BABY OIL OF DOOM while Sabian takes time out to smooch Ford, and the next lockup goes predictably nowhere. Nakazawa slides out of a waistlock and drops Sabian, doing a spin cycle on him and more baby oil. Ford is disgusted. Sabian’s chop just slides off of Nakazawa, who knocks over Sabian and gets the Slip-n-Slide senton for two. Nakazawa gets thrown to the apron, and the Jericho triangle springboard sends him to the floor.

Sabian follows with a top con hilo and puts some of the baby oil in his own hair before smooching Ford again. Back in, Sabian stomps some more, but Nakazawa comes back with forearms only to be cut off with a kneelift as Taz explains Turkish baby oil to a nonplussed Tony and Veda. Sabian kicks Nakazawa, but Nakazawa stops a springboard to get a takedown for two. Olympic Slam by Nakazawa and it’s time to get the spare knickers. Tony: “It’s hard to call a Nakazawa match.”

Sabian and Nakazawa fight over the Thong Claw, with Sabian putting on Nakazawa before landing a Speingboard tornado DDT. Deathly Hallows ends it at 4:17. That fulfills my dietary needs of Nakazawa for the next month, thank you. 3/4*

Shawn Dean and Frank Stone (first time teaming) vs. Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela (6-1). Tony puts over the enhancement talent. Janela is wearing his mask wrong – not that he’s required to wear a mask in the arena since he got tested. Veda and Taz talk about how unorthodox teams can click.

Janela and Stone start, with Janela getting overpowered. He comes back with a low dropkick and shotgun kick to the head, and in comes Dean. Janela with a jawbreaker and he brings in Kiss, and the two do a SUPERKICK into Russian legsweep into Meteora for two. Stone and Janela in now, and Janela dropkicks down a posturing Stone for two. The partners distract the referee, so Janela gets caught by Dean. He goes after Dean, allowing Stone an avalanches and in comes Dean. Dean with a stalling suplex for one as Tony gets in a cheapshot on Joe Gomez. That’s not how you’ll endear yourself to us, Tony.

Stone with a belly-to-belly suplex, and Dean returns with an elbow to the neck. Janela tries to fight back, but Dean calmly cuts it off to bring Stone in. Dean and Stone do Demolition Decapitation for two. Stone into a front chancery, then a rib breaker. Janela catches a double back drop attempt with a double DDT, but he goes to the wrong corner. He improvises by leaping off Dean’s back… and smashing Stone’s. Lemonade from lemons.

Hot tag Kiss, and a Dropsault and rana to Dean follows. Handspring bitchslap by Kiss into a Party Foul with the splits, for two. Split Legdrop airballs, and Stone is back in. Stone and Dean do the G9 (Cryme Tyme’s old finish) for two (Dean even knocked Janela off the apron). Kiss forearms out of a Dean headlock, and Stone runs headfirst into a Janela SUPERKICK. Diving elbow by Janela onto Dean, and this time the Split legdrop hits for the pin at 5:41. Stone has earned a return. **1/4

Moxley vs MJF will main event All Out on Labor Day weekend! Order on PPV!

Will Hobbs (0-3) v. Shawn Spears (w/Tully Blanchard) (9-2). Poor Will has lost two singles matches in under two minutes. Can we give him something to do this time? Taz: “I bet you’ve never wrestled anyone as big as Will Hobbs, Veda.” With Spears’ record, you have to think they’re going either do something with him or feed him to someone soon.

Lockup, and Hobbs backs Spears into the ropes. A second lockup and Spears gets the headlock as Taz and Veda lawyer over the glove. Spears tries a shoulderblock, but Hobbs no-sells and Spears gets the worst of it. Spears gets a strategem from Tully and backs Hobbs into the corner, chopping him only for Hobbs to no-sell. Spears freaks out and runs for the outside, where Tully tells him the location of Baby Doll’s pictures or something.

Back in, Spears and Hobbs go for a test of strength, but Spears with a low dropkick and he goes at it in the corner again. Hobbs clubs out of the corner, but Spears stops him and works the leg over the ropes. Spears works the leg on the mat into a calf stretch and Garvin Stomp as Hobbs fights it. Spears tries to drag Hobbs outside, but Hobbs refuses, so Spears splashes the leg as he slingshots back in. Spears with a clip of the knee and he taunts Hobbs. Spears runs into a spinebuster, but the knee gives out and Hobbs can only get two off the cover.

Both men pull themselves up, and Hobbs goes for a running powerslam, but Spears gets out the back and kicks the leg out of his leg. Death Valley Driver by Spears ends it at 4:43. Match loses a half star for not ending with the Sharpshooter, but I’m happy to see Hobbs show off. *3/4 Spears wraps Hobbs’ leg around the post after the match and flips him off. The ref checks on Hobbs, so Spears loads the glove and gives Hobbs a shotei.

Ricky Starks talks about how getting his back shredded isn’t the end of him. He says he and Darby Allin are opposites, but Allin looks like he was raised on dog food and dope. Starks says he’s going rub Allin’s face across asphalt. Allin started the war, and now this’ll be Allin’s last supper with Starks.

The Initiative (Peter Avalon and Brandon Cutler w/Leva Bates) (0-9) v. The Hybrid 2 (1-3). Cutler rolled a 15, if you wonder. By the way, Cutler and company will be hosting a Twitch stream tonight at 11ET. Veda has to apologize for not understanding D&D. Evans is all flippy before the match begins, as always. Taz points out the Initiative is getting better even without winning.

Angelico and Avalon start, with Angelico getting a headlock. He works the arm, so Avalon reverses, only for Angelico to fight out and they do a cruiserweight “lots of jumping going nowhere” sequence. Cutler in now, and Angelico throws a roundhouse kick. Cutler is ready to go martial arts, so Evans comes in instead and is every bit as showy… before getting kicked in the head for one. Evans with La Majistral for two, then a hook for two, with Cutler getting a jack-knife for two, into the Backslide Clutch for two, then Cutler gets two, then Evans, then Evans with a rolling cradle for CLOSE two, then Cutler with one of his own for two, then they reverses two-counts until Cutler gets a faceplant on Evans (whew).

Avalon back in, and the Initiative double-team him with a snapmare into a double splash. It gets Avalon two. Avalon with a suplex for two. Evans flips over the top rope off a whip, only to turn around into a dropkick from Avalon. Avalon steals Leva’s book and wants to add a shot, but Cutler talks him out of it. Back in, Evans misses a 540 kick and Angelico uses the 5E MANUAL OF DOOM on Avalon’s back to take over. Evans gets two. Evans throws Avalon into Angelico’s boot, and Angelico in to get some wacky submission.

Cutler breaks it and is sent to his corner, so the Hybrid 2 double-team Avalon. It gets Angelico two. Angelico with a back suplex for two. Evans yaks at Leva as Angelico works over Avalon in the corner, then comes back to add a boot choke with the ref distracted. Evans works over Avalon as Taz compares Tony’s 80s stache to Avalon’s. Really, Taz? Evans misses a big elbow, but stops the hot tag and, showing he learned from last week, clubs him down. Leva jumps onto the apron to protest, which distracts Evans enough for Avalon to get an O’Connor Roll and tag in Cutler off the kickout!

Cutler sends Angelico the stage and dives onto him, but Evans tries to suplex Cutler in. They fight over a German and the Hybrids collide, allowing Cutler to springboard with a Phenomenal Forearm to Evans. Black Hole Slam gets two. Avalon back in, and he blocks Evans’ kick into a knee to the head. Marti-knees by Avalon, into the big elbow from Cutler, and Angelico has to save. Avalon gets dumped, and Evans with a Mutalock into a soccer kick from Angelico. Assisted 450 by Evans gets a surprise only two.

Angelico comes back in, and Evans takes out both men with a moonsault to the outside. He tosses Cutler in, but Leva gives him a rana after a swing and miss from the book. Cutler escapes Splash Mountain and catches Angelico, and a Gut Check into a split-legged moonsault… requires another save! It’s BONZO GONZO but Avalon misses a dive to the corner. Evans kicks Cutler out of the ring, and Angelico catches Avalon with a Splash Mountain to the corner. Evans with a 630 to win at 10:41. This match deserved a crowd. **3/4

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Red Velvet (0-2) v. Abadon (3-1). As a reminder, Red Velvet is one of those with a fake hometown: “Straight outta yo mama’s kitchen”. Commentary hypes up that Velvet is the daughter of a pro boxer in Colombia. Taz is terrified of Abadon. Abadon gets camera effects for her entrance.

Velvet kicks away and tries a flying armbreaker before kicking in the corner. She chokes Abadon in the corner and mugs for the camera… but that allows Abadon to stop the choke and throw her away. She kicks Velvet down and screams, freaking out Bryce Remsburg (the ref), but that allows Velvet to try chops. Abadon just stops one chop and glares at her, giving her a headbutt. Velvet freaks out and tries to run away, then gets her boot up in time. She boxes Abadon in the corner , adding a roundhouse kick to the back of the head.

Abadon is merely dazed, but Velvet adds a kneelift only to be thrown into the post. Abadon shrieks before dropping Velvet’s arm on the apron. Abadon then stalks Velvet on the mat before slamming Velvet’s head into the mat over and over. Velvet flips out of a back suplex but gets knocked over anyway, and Abadon adds a choke throw to the corner. Avalanche follows, then a corner clothesline after a hammer throw. Widow’s Peak (called the Cemetery Drive) ends it at 3:55. Okay, this was better than before, in that Velvet never really controlled the match and all her offense felt like desperation, but I’d like a little more squash in this please. *1/4

D3, Ryzin, and Faboo Andre v. The Dark Order (Alex Reynolds, John Silver, and Colt Cabana). Tony: “What a collection of talent we have here.” Veda: “Collection’s the right word, isn’t it?” UPDATE: Anna Jay comes out with the Dark Order, but unmasked, and gives the Dark Order salute. Both teams make their six-man debut tonight.

Colt and Andre start. Colt with a headlock into a snapmare. He slams on the brakes as Andre does a leapfrog, and Colt helps him up. Colt with a Superman pin for one on Andre as the two dance a little. Ryzin tags himself in and gets a headlock, and we go International~!… but Silver cuts off Ryzin, much to Colt’s confusion. Silver tags himself in and they argue, allowing Ryzin a cradle for one. Silver is caught in the other corner as D3 whips Ryzin in, but Silver moves and gives everyone a SUPERKICK. Reynolds in, and a Gorilla Press / cutter combo follows. Reynolds kicks away on D3 and chokes him against the ropes, with Colt asking him to stop. Reynolds distracts the ref so Silver does some choking, and Colt doesn’t want that either.

D3 fights out after the miscommunication only to run into Death By Elbow. Reynolds with a back suplex and Dark Order salute. He tags Colt in and tells him to go put the boot up, but Colt declines and asks Reynolds to leave. D3 fights out of it, but runs into some right hands and the Flip Flop and Fly to all three men. Colt brings Reynolds in, and Reynolds/Silver do a Chaos Theory into Colt’s hip check. Double Destroyer DDT wins it on D3 at 4:09. I see Cabana still has to read a little of the literature, but hey, a win’s a win. *1/2 Reynolds and Silver are unhappy with Colt’s antics, but he tries to remind them everything worked out in the end.

All Out. Buy it.

Lee Johnson (0-13) v. Ricky Starks (3-1 singles). Tony: “A man you know quite well, Taz.” Taz even points out that Johnson is in MJF’s security detail, though he’s none too thrilled with it. The camera is doing a good job of not showing his back, but it appears there’s no real scarring, or at least no visible stuff.

Johnson with a waistlock and snapmare, and the two men chain back and forth into a chinlock by Johnson. Taz is coaching Starks out of habit and apologizes. Starks switches to a headlock and catches Johnson on the leapfrog, but Johnson slides down the back with a schoolboy for one, then a dropkick. Starks resets and gets a headlock, and this time Starks with a dropkick and pose. Starks is caught trying to pull the hair, but off a whip they go again and Johnson with HIS dropkick. He adds a back body drop and Starks bails in frustration. Johnson follows and the chase is on, but Starks catches him coming back in with knees and stomps.

Big slam by Starks, then does a mocking Coffin Drop for one, cradled by Johnson for one. Starks throws an elbow in frustration, working over the gut and slapping him around. Johnson fires back and unloads with a boxing combo, ending with an uppercut and clothesline. Leaping reverse neckbreaker by Johnson and he kips up. He waits to charge in (which everyone calls him out on), but still catches himself with a springboard dropkick for two.

Taz during that near-fall: “AGH!” (pause as he realizes they heard him) “I’m fine! Wasn’t me! It was Veda.”

Johnson adds La Majistral for two. Johnson goes up top, but Starks was playing possum and crotches him. Roshambeau (Starks’ body vice into a front slam) gets the win at 5:21. Johnson looked all right, as you’d expect, but Starks was focused on Allin. *1/2

But before we go to the next match, Wardlow comes out and approaches Johnson… and asks him to put the pin back on. And you thought there’d be a beating.

Baron Black and Tony Donati (first time teaming) v. Santana & Ortiz (7-6). Baron Black calls himself the “EmpBro”. Commentary puts over the music used for Donati. Veda notes they’ve never gotten to the point where they’ve earned a tag team title shot, which is odd given their Inner Circle membership.

Black and Santana start, with Santana throwing Black down. Black with a hammerlock into a top wristlock, but Santana slaps him around and knocks him down with a forearm. He runs into an atomic drop and Backstabber by Black, but Santana comes back with a Claymore. Ortiz in, and Black gets double suplexed. Ortiz pushes Black into his corner to bring Donati in, and Donati gets a forearm. Lariat is blocked, and Ortiz smacks him around into a DDT. Butterfly suplex by Ortiz and he taunts Black. Ortiz chops Donati and distracts the ref, so Santana with some face washes. Donati misses a charge to Ortiz and Santana throws him into an Ortiz powerbomb into a Santana roundhouse kick for the pin at 2:41. Squash. 1/2* Okay, Ortiz, I get it, you think you’re the best.

Jon Cruz & Jessy Sorenson (first time teaming) v. Lance Archer (10-1) (w/Jake Roberts). Yes, THAT Jessy Sorenson. And Jon Cruz can’t be found in the entrance… because Archer beat him up backstage and drags him out to throw him into the corner and taunt him.

Sorenson chops away on Archer, who no-sells and pounces him. Cruz is back up, but Archer no-sells that, too, and gets choke suplexed. Archer runs back and forth between corners, smacking both with elbows in turn. Cruz escapes a choke slam and kicks Archer down, and both men try to fight him. Archer comes back with a double clothesline. Full nelson slam on Sorenson, and Cruz is given Catatonic. Archer chokeslams Cruz onto Sorenson (from an inverted DDT position) and covers Sorenson with one foot, Cruz “saves”. Cruz eats Blackout for his trouble and Claws both men, slamming their heads into the mat before pinning both at once at 2:51. That’s some good monster heeling. Total slaughter, bell to bell. DUD Roberts teases giving Sorenson a DDT, but it’s a fake-out.

Something something AEW Title. What, did we run out of action figure ads?

Billy Gunn (w/Austin Gunn) (5-2) v. Alan Angels (w/Dark Order) (3-6). Taz and Billy do NOT like each other. Billy gives Aubrey Edwards a hug during his entrance. I think Anna Jay’s officially in, but no mask unlike the men. No Brodie either.

Billy throws Angels down in the corner twice and shows off. Angels tries a German suplex, but he can’t lift Billy who knocks him down with a straight right. Billy tosses Angels into the corner and stomps away. Angels bails, and Billy walks out to stop a flurry with a kneelift. Back in, and Billy notes the crowd is split on him and plays it before giving Angels a Jackhammer for two. He argues the count with Edwards as Vickie Guerrero cheers Angels on. Angels fires back, but Billy no-sells and gets a slam.

Elbowdrop misses, and Angels with a roundhouse kick to stagger Billy. Dropkick sends Billy into the corner and he starts a chase, sending Billy into the corner and trying to punch away. Billy shoves him aside and gets a one-armed tilt-a-whirl slam. Avalanche on Angels, but the Famouser misses and Angels with an enzuigiri. Casadora is caught by Billy, and the cobra clutch slam gets Billy the win at 4:00. Why? 1/4* Angels stops Billy from leaving by grabbing his leg, and this allows Silver and Reynolds to attack and a triple-teaming follows. Austin Gunn and a chair clear the ring to save. Let’s see if this is a match for next week.

MAIN EVENT: Private Party (Isaiah Kassidy and Marq Quen) (6-5 as a duo) and SCU (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian) (3-3 as a duo) v. The Butcher, The Blade (11-5 as a duo), and the Bros (Pentagon Jr and Rey Fenix) (6-7 as a duo). Veda: “I am a fan of this team [Butcher and Blade]… from a distance.” I believe the heels are undefeated in Atomicos action… which is non-trivial, as they beat the Elite for one of their wins. Veda notes this is a collection of great and experienced tag teams. Taz notes in terms of cohesiveness, sure, but Private Party are a little young.

By the way, don’t tell me which one’s which. Quen’s the one with the haircut. I know.

Daniels and Butcher start. Veda notes the heels knew who was starting, while the faces had to talk it out. Butcher throws Daniels down on a lockup, but a blind charge misses and Daniels chops away. Butcher crushes Daniels in the corner, but flips over a backdrop attempt and brings in Kazarian. SCU goes high/low on Butcher, and Kazarian looks for a headlock, but Butcher throws Kazarian into the heel corner for a mugging. Blade chokes away with Penta’s help, then alley-oops Kazarian… onto his feet. Kazarian punches everything that moves, and Blade and Kazarian go International~!, with Kazarian getting a fireman’s carry cradle for one before adding a kneelift and lariat.

Spinning Russian legsweep gets one on Blade, and Kassidy in to do a Tope Atomico on Blade for two. Blade stops a whip and brings in Fenix, who does a knuckle-lock legtrip only to be caught with a rana and leg lariat. It gets two. Penta gets nailed with a drop toe hold on coming in, and Kassidy with a front facelock. Quen in, and Private Party go double-team crazy, ending in a camel clutch double stomp for two. Quen works the arm on Penta before bringing in Daniels, who drops the axhandle on the arm. Kazarian in and he does the same thing. Veda notes the irony of Penta’s arm being worked over as Kazarian with a top wristlock and Kassidy does a diving stomp on the arm for two.

We HIT THE CHINLOCK quickly, but he puts his head down on a whip and Penta gets Sling Blade. Speaking of, Blade is in next and goes ground and pound. Blade turns Kassidy inside out with a lariat, and Butcher in with a big kick to the gut. Backbreaker by Butcher, then a hammer throw. Butcher rakes Kassidy’s eyes on the ropes, and Penta in with a big kick to the arm. He sets Kassidy up and delivers a NASTY chop to the sternum. Fenix in with a springboard kick for two. He goes to a Mutalock on Kassidy, then brings in Blade with a snapmare to Kassidy.

Blade chokes Kassidy in the ropes and taunts Kazarian, who comes in as he and Penta exchange words. Blade takes advantage by choking Kassidy. Fenix in, but he SUPERKICKS Blade by mistake and we get the hot tag to Quen. He comes in with a crossbody and clears the apron before dropkicking both Lucha Bros in turn. Rude Awakening flipped into a DDT to Fenix, Penta saves. Kazarian with an inverted DDT to Pena, and Daniels with a T-Bone to Blade. Fenix back with a roundhouse to Daniels, and he and Quen exchange kicks for the everyone-tuple KO.

Daniels and Penta tag in, and clotheslines are a stalemate. They chop back and forth, with Penta winning that and getting a SUPERKICK on Daniels. Daniels with a uranage on Penta, but Fenix stops the BME. Private Party dive onto Butcher and Fenix, and back in, Penta with the Pentagon Driver to Daniels, Kazarian saves. Blade tags in, sending Kazarian out of the ring, and it’s the Suplex to the Knees to pin Daniels at 10:53. *** Interestingly, the Bros just walk off and don’t celebrate.

SATURDAY!

  • Brandi Rhodes and Allie face Ivelisse and Diamante for the Women’s Tag Team Cup!
  • Cody defends the TNT Title against Mr. Brodie Lee!
  • Et cetera!

This one felt like there was some character work thrown into the mix. You had the Bros and Butcher/Blade’s cohesion called into question; Cutler and Avalon still not on the same page as to how to win (and it potentially costing them); Archer being a monster; a good setup for Dark Order vs Gunn Club; Colt Cabana being a good guy in a bad group; and Abadon rediscovering the “force of nature” she seemed like on Dynamite all those weeks ago. Plus, Anna Jay quietly seems to have accepted her place in the Dark Order, whereas in the Tag Tournament, she refused to talk about it.

Now, since I have a hunch someone in AEW reads my reviews (how else did Pineapple Pete find my faux pas), here’s where this is important: sustain and follow through. You don’t need to use everyone on Dynamite, and hey, having Dark storylines to test the waters is fine. But if you want Dark to be a bigger deal, there has to be payoff. The Initiative look good in defeat, but which team is going to be the unlucky ones on the other side when it all comes together? Do you take one of the “name” women you have and feed her to Abadon? Acts like Shawn Spears and Butcher/Blade have very good records – will they get ranked or get title matches down the line like Scorpio Sky did? And that reminds me, are you going to follow up on Sky, or was that a one-off before you cool him back down?

Along those lines, look at some of the enhancement talent and see if they can move up. Someone like a Will Hobbs or a Frank Stone deserves a second look. Lee Johnson is in a storyline with MJF – do you pay it off with anything or is he just the campaign’s whipping boy? It might be worth cycling them up a little – promote them to jobber to the stars like a Michael Nakazawa or Alan Angels has become.

The big thing to come out of this is that there appears to be a “Dynamite” level and a “Dark” level to the roster right now. And that’s fine; nothing wrong with have a starting lineup and a deep bench. But if you’re going to put people in the B-level roster with the goal of saving them until they’re Dynamite-ready, test them with mini-stories along the way. Yes, Gunn Club/Dark Order is likely coming up, but I doubt anyone thinks Reynolds, Silver, Billy, or Austin needs storyline work. How about seeing whether Abadon can sustain it when she has someone in her crosshairs who refuses to go down (like, say, Lil Swole)? Let’s see if Kip Sabian demands better competition and gets it from someone (here’s where you could use Sky if you’re sending back to his kingdom of Dark). Or, if/when the Initiative get their first win, the poor team on the other end should be furious and demand a rematch – build on the momentum.

I’m offering constructive criticism here. Dark is, for the most part, a show with a lot of wrestling on it, and the wrestling is fine. There’s usually not a mis-step in the bunch (though I question the sanity of Billy Gunn in singles competition, even that leads to something down the line). But the thing is we’re used to Heat, Main Event, Velocity, Saturday Night, Xplosion, and so on being just a catalog of extra matches. Mix the formula up a little. I think it’ll work out in the end. At the very least, give me something to talk about.

STATS:

BELL TO BELL – 59:12 over 11 matches (average time 5:23)

MATCH OF THE NIGHT – The eight-man main

THREE STARS:

  1. Brandon Cutler
  2. Lance Archer
  3. Colt Cabana

Hey, since there’s no Dynamite tomorrow, I’ll be back to review the first two rounds of the Women’s Tag Team Cup! See you then!