The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark, Episode 51, September 8, 2020.
From the AEW Arena.
Your hosts are Excalibur and Taz.
A small slate tonight, with your feature bout being Sonny Kiss squaring off against Serpentico. Also in action are Angelico, Ricky Starks, Anna Jay, Eddie Kingston, Brian Cage, and (for the first time as the featured wrestler) Will Hobbs.
Opening match: Sean Legacy (debut) vs. Will Hobbs (0-5). Legacy is a Georgia-based wrestler who has competed in physique competitions. Taz talks about how Hobbs got people’s attention in the Casino Battle Royal.
Legacy asks for a test of strength, but gets a kick before the full lock. Headlock by Legacy, and Hobbs runs HIM over as even Taz notices that’s not how the International works. Hobbs with a knucklelock to control Legacy, and he lifts him in the air before knocking him down with another shoulderblock. Hobbs no-sells a chop and just shoves Legacy down out of a crossbody, then chases him to the outside and throws him in. Hobbs with a stalling suplex, then a standard, then a front suplex. Hobbs runs into a back elbow, though, but recovers and catches Legacy in an Oklahoma Stampede for the pin at 3:01. If Hobbs isn’t AllElite yet, what are they waiting for? 3/4*
Tony Donati (0-2) vs. FTW Champion Brian Cage (#4 rank, 6-1). As of now, this is a non-title match. Excalibur reminds Taz that he’s a fan of Donati’s music… but Taz is a bigger fan of Cage’s. Again, Taz gets on Roberts’ case for ignoring the FTW Title.
Cage sidesteps Donati and smashes him in the corner before flinging him across the ring with a German suplex. Overhead suplex follows, with a single-arm capture, then a fallaway slam. Cage puts his head down and gets kicked, which is followed by desperation by Donati including forearms that get Cage off balance, but Cage with a SUPERKICK to stop it. Double powerbomb, the second into the buckle, sets up Weapon X (Gory Bomb/Flatliner combo) for the pin at 1:52. NR
Full Gear is coming November 7.
Griff Garrison (0-4) vs. Angelico (3-5). Yes, I’m totally looking forward to this one. Excalibur again calls Garrison the “Ivy League MVP” even though he’s from Winston-Salem (which is ACC country) and went to a D-3 school. Taz takes offense to this. Angelico’s walk to the ring is something else. “Angelico knows as many submission holds as Taz knows universities.”
Lockup into the ropes, but Garrison gives a clean break. Angelico gets the arm for a wristlock, which Garrison reverses, but Angelico spins back and for the reverse back. Garrison reverses and floats around him into a waistlock, but Angelico brings them down and gets mor arm control into an armdrag and relaxes on the mat. Garrison with a cradle for two off the lockup, then he ducks a right and floors Angelico with one of his own. Angelico ducks outside, then yanks Garrison into the middle turnbuckle.
Hammer throw floors Garrison as Angelico grabs a leg and puts Garrison in an air figure-four with sometrhing resembling a stump puller. He turns it into the Navarro Lock 2000, but Angelico’s caught using the ropes for leverage and told to break. Garrison fights from his knees and lands forearms as he stands, rocking Angelico. Angelico recovers with a back elbow and drop toehold into something resembling the Anaconda Vice / STF crossover. Garrison makes the ropes. Angelico runs into a clothesline as Garrison begins the comeback and gets a big boot.
Stinger Splash by Garrison, but the second one eats boot. Angelico goes up, but Garrison catches him into a torture rack powerbomb for two. Garrison tries an atomic drop, but Angelico catches the leg into an Indian Deathlock, which he spins to a heel hook for the submission at 5:50. I love Angelico matches, because I learn a new submission every day. **1/4
Skyler Moore (0-4) vs. Anna Jay (2-4). Excalibur says Skyler Moore is poised to break through and that tonight might be her night. The usual parade of Dark Order subordinates follow. Taz says he knows the numbering system of the Dark Order, but won’t share.
Anna sends Moore to the corner and fires away, then throws Moore into another corner. A hammer throw follows, and Anna taunts Moore. Moore finally blocks a turnbuckle throw and gets one of her own, then an armdrag cradle for two. Another armdrag follows, then a Strongest Slam as Anna bails. Anna returns and kicks a charging Moore before throwing her into the buckle again. Another hammer throw, but this time a forearm to the back of the head follows. Okay, Anna, we’ve established the turnbuckles.
Anna with a running leg kick and another cross-corner whip, but a charge eats boot and Moore gets her comeback. She goes for knees, then a gutwrench suplex gets two. A charge by Moore gets kicked away, and Anna hooks Moore in the turnbuckle before raking her back and stomping her out of mid-air. Sleeper ends it 3:26. Excalibur says it’s called the “katah-annajay”. I wonder why Anna has been training for a year and doesn’t have a more diverse offense. 1/4*
AEW Heels ad.
Lee Johnson (0-14) vs. Eddie Kingston (0-1). So now that MJF 2020 ended in defeat, what’s going to happen to Johnson? Taz and Excalibur are in a difficult position, trying to emphasize what a great athlete Johnson is when he can’t buy a win. Kingston bullies Justin Roberts before the match. Taz criticizes Eddie’s outfit – the orange belt – and Joey Numbers gets namedropped.
Johnson with a headlock, but the tackle goes nowhere. Kingston demands Johnson tries again, and it goes nowhere. So Kingston throws Johnson with a release pumphandle suplex and stomps away. Johnson tries to fight back, but Kingston just boots him down. Kingston chops Johnson hard in the corner and begs Johnson to get up while kicking at him. He asks if this is all he gets before picking Johnson up and chopping him down over and over.
Hammer throw, but the blind charge hits the elbow. Johnson buys some separation and springboards in with a dropkick. He lands forearms and uppercuts before getting a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Johnson runs into a Kitchen Sink knee from Kingston, and Backfist To The Future ends it at 3:17. Kingston is a heck of a brawler, but that makes him hard for him to do a squash for some reason. 3/4*
Serpentico (2-6) vs. Sonny Kiss (9-12). As a reminder, Serpentico lost to Kiss’s partner Joey Janela in the Buy-In. No sign of Luther or Janela for this match. Commentary talks about how Kiss saved Janela from Chris Jericho and did not back down when Jericho wanted a piece of him.
Cat-and-mouse to start, ending when Kiss gets an armdrag into a splits armdrag. Shot to the gut and a backflip, but Serpentico tricks Kiss into the splits and smokes him with a thrust kick for two. Kiss fights back to his feet, including a rolling elbow, but Serpentico gets sent over the top, lands on the apron, and nails Kiss with an apron knee strike. Slingshot double stomp gets two. Kiss again fights up, but Serpentico with a snapmare, soccer kick, and short elbow for two. Serpentico makes sure to stare into the hard camera as he covers in a neat touch.
Serpentico with a knee strike to the head, and a headlock with knee control. He strikes the back to maintain control, but runs into a boot. Serpentico adjusts his head, but gets hit with an ax kick and enzuigiri. Bottom-rope split-legged legdrop gets two. Serpentico with a rising knee, but Kiss comes out of a back suplex and gets a dropsault and exploder suplex before kipping up.
Handspring palm strike, and he catches Serpentico in a Flatliner for two. Kiss goes up, landing on his feet on a moonsault, but Serpentico stomps the Matrix, and a low DDT gets two. Serpentico slithers to the far corner and charges, but a roundhouse hits Serpentico and Kiss with the Molly-Go-Round for the pin at 4:43. I did not have these two smashing each other for five minutes, but I’m glad they did and I wish they had more time. **
Full. Gear. Are. You. Ready.
Ben Carter (debut) vs. Ricky Starks (6-1). Carter is a British wrestler… well, from Jersey, but close enough. No, not NEW Jersey, an island in the Channel called Jersey. Starks mocks Carter for some reason on the way out – did Carter have a leg injury? Taz is still happy with how they hurt Darby Allin.
Starks blows kisses to Vickie Guerrero in the crowd before offering the Code of Honor. Carter accepts, only for Starks smokes him with forearms and gets a waistlock. He keeps the ride, only for Starks to reverse after a takedown. Starks uses the arm to get a snapmare, but Carter stops a chinlock for arm control of his own. Starks reverses to a headlock and takedown, trying to get a pinning predicament on Carter. Carter is up, so Starks changes to a wristlock only for Carter to reverse it into a hammerlock, headlock, spin-around and… well, after leaping over Starks, Starks catches him with a kick to the gut. Starks: “My house!”
Carter with a reverse of the whip, and after a few rounds, Carter dropkicks Starks (who kisses Aubrey Edwards’ hand as he recovers). Big chop by Carter, then an up-and-over into some gymnastics by Carter, but that just allows Starks to catch him in a back suplex. Starks stands on Carter’s head and pulls the arm. Starks throws Carter into the corner over and over as he asks if Vickie likes what she sees. Another throw to the turnbuckle is blocked, but Carter’s recovery flurry goes nowhere as Starks just pummels him. He chokes Carter against the middle rope, then casually does a “dirt off the shoe” kick to him.
Back elbow by Starks, but when he picks Carter up, Carter comes back with chops, including one to the mouth. So when Carter charges, Starks kicks him hard in the face and gets a back suplex for two. Hey, MJF’s campaign manager is smiling organically in the crowd! Starks with a ground armlock with an elbow to the eye (Excalibur: “Ocular cavity”), but Carter with a jawjacker to break it. Starks catches him again with a kick, but Carter gets out of a suplex and cradles him for two. SUPERKICK follows and Carter goes up, and a frog splash gets a VERY close two.
Taz is losing his cool at commentary, which is an awesome touch.
Carter goes up again, but a Phoenix Splash hits nobody and Starks measures Carter. Spear leads to the Rochambeaux for the pin at 7:22. I was questioning why this was the main event of Dark when it began, but holy cow those last few minutes were something else. **1/2
- Mr. Brodie Lee faces Dustin Rhodes for the TNT Title!
- Kip Sabian announces his best man!
- Jon Moxley speaks!
- Jericho and Hager face Kiss and Janela!
- It’s the Lucha Bros against the Jurassic Express!
We didn’t quite get the wrestling in volume that we’re used to on Dark, but we just had a PPV so this is forgiveable. It is disappointing they didn’t start anything or advance anything here (would an update on Avalon vs Cutler have killed them?), but I was excited to see Will Hobbs get the pin that signals he may join the roster more full-time.
Garrison continues to impress in defeat, but if you want to talk about impressing in defeat, you have Ben Carter. Is he a regular on NXT UK and no one told me? If not, how did he get away? He has a Brian Kendrick style look and yeah, I’ll admit he’s all flips on offense. But what caught me was the fire when he did hope spots and the comeback. It was enough to make you think that frog splash was going to be the finish. Taz freaking out on commentary helped a ton.
Speaking of commentary, they weren’t nearly as bad as they sometimes get. Maybe only having 7 matches kept them on target – especially when 2 of them are Taz’s guys – but it felt like they were trying to talk about the action and what that action meant going forward. At the very least, Taz only did diversions when it was about the person in the ring – such as Griff Garrison’s “Ivy League MVP” nickname not making sense or Eddie Kingston’s Yonkers roots meaning he couldn’t be trusted (no doubt a nod to Tommy Dreamer) – and it meant that rather than listen to Taz and Excalibur crack each other up, I was listening to action. More of that, please.
BELL TO BELL – 29:31 over seven matches (average time 4:13)
MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Starks vs Carter
- Ben Carter
- Sonny Kiss
And hey, we’re done in time for NXT!