The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark, Episode 60: The Last Stop on the Road to Full Gear!
From the AEW Arena.
Your hosts are Excalibur, Taz, and Anthony Ogogo.
TONIGHT! We go back to half-size editions of Dark, as most of the roster is saved for Full Gear! Even with that, there’s three feature bouts to talk about! Brandon Cutler looks to make it two in a row against Michael Nakazawa! Big Shotty Lee Johnson goes for his first win taking on the Kentucky Fried Gentlemen, Chuck Taylor! And Christopher Daniels goes one-on-one with Matt Sydal!
Plus, Dark Order, Big Swole, Griff Garrison, and Ricky Starks in showcase action!
Opening match: Tesha Price (debut) vs. Big Swole (10-4, #4 women). Price is from Michigan. Taz: “I love Michigan, I’m over huge there.” Excalibur and Ogogo say Swole may be the hardest pound for pound hitter in AEW.
Lockup goes nowhere to start. Round 2 sees Swole shove Price down. They exchange waistlocks, and Swole drives Price to the mat and adds knees. Price escapes and switches to a full nelson, but Swole easily breaks. Price smacks Swole and instantly regrets it, ducking out until she can get a cheap shot. Elbows in the corner and Price gets a snapmare for less-than-one. Price hooks a seated sleeper, shaking Swole back and forth until Swole elbows out.
Price with a knee kick and single-leg dropkick (Red Velvet style) for one, and it’s a straitjacket chinlock. Swole elbows out of that, too and uppercuts before they both criss-cross into a Swole lariat. High-low miss into a headbutt follows, and Swole adds a tiger driver into a cloverleaf for the tapout at 2:52. Yes, Dean Malenko works for AEW, I’m sure – that was his finisher combo. Hey, learn from the best. 3/4*
Matt Sydal (4-2) vs. Christopher Daniels (12-13 singles). Excalibur notes Sydal is usually a high-flyer, but he’s gone into submissions. In addition, Sydal and Daniels used to be teammates (in fact, they held the ROH tag titles together) so there’s a lot of familiarity.
Code of Honor to start (ironically initiated by Daniels). Lockup, and Daniels with a headlock into arm control over the shoulder. Sydal spins and flip out to reverse control, so Daniels reverses that to a headlock takedown. Sydal cartwheels out of a snapmare and gets some armdrags into a small package for two. Sydal with another headlock takedown and he works the headlock, but Daniels gets up and we go International~!, leading to a Daniels slam for one and a headlock. Now they do International~! Again, but Sydal’s slam is reversed to a small package by Daniels for one.
Sydal with a spin kick to Daniels’s nose, and a soccer kick to the back gets one. Sydal kicks at the hamstrings, with Daniels landing forearms to get space. Sydal with a clothesline and standing moonsault twist for two. That moonsault twist is the first move I haven’t been taught yet, so don’t tell me fancy moves are needed. Kick to the back gets two. Sydal into a cobra clutch, but Daniels to his feet to elbow out. Sydal kicks the hamstrings again, then flips out of a tilt-a-whirl only to be caught with an Exploder. Daniels begins the comeback, stopping a back body drop with an STO. Blue Thunder bomb gets two.
Complete Shot into a Koji Clutch by Daniels, but they’re close to the ropes and Sydal reaches them easily. Daniels with a headbutt and big chop. Blind charge by Sydal misses and Daniels goes up, but Sydal ranas him off and gets a leg lariat. Side suplex driver gets two. Crucifix variant to block the STO gets two, and Sydal back to kicking his leg out of his leg. Sydal stops Daniels coming in and goes up, but he lands into a uranage as TH2 come out just to watch. Daniels calls them in, which is enough for Sydal to recover with a prone kick and flying knee. Daniels tries the Angel’s Wings, but a rana cradle for Sydal wins it at 6:34. Even commentary is a bit put off by the distraction finish. Good match otherwise. **1/4 Sydal apologizes for the distraction and they share honors after the match.
Michael Naka – Naka – Nakazawa!! (2-4) vs. Brandon Cutler (1-25-2 career). Well, Nakazawa is next level up from Peter Avalon, so I guess it makes sense that he be the Von Kaiser to Avalon’s Glass Joe for Cutler. Yes, the BABY OIL OF DOOM is present, but not before the match. And there won’t be an Avalon run-in: he’s been repackaged. And in an interesting development, Nakazawa tosses the baby oil aside prematch.
We go International~! To start, with Cutler sliding under and flipping off the top rope, then catching Nakazawa with a kick and slingshot kick. Inverted DDT gets two. Cutler tries a suplex, but Nakazawa flips out. Cutler blocks an O’Connor Roll only to be knocked to the floor, with Nakazawa following with a double axehandle off the apron. Cutler blocks an apron smash and gets one of his own, then tries to slam him on the floor. Instead, Nakazawa runs Cutler into the barricade (and front row), then oils up those ropes.
Cutler slips off the apron and is VERY angry, but when he gets back in, Nakazawa low-bridges him to the apron. Cutler returns with a springboard clothesline, but a charge easts elbow. Spear by Nakazawa gets two. Angle Slam try, but Cutler escapes and gets Nakazawa hooked up. Nakazawa tries to escape with the ropes… but it’s the oiled-up ropes so he can’t grip. Total Party Kill wins it at 3:01. That’s all the Nakazawa I need. Nothing wrong with this as a showcase for Cutler. *
Dasha interviews Frankie Kazarian asking what he was going to say on Tuesday. Kaz, after apologizing for TH2, says he can do it all singles or tag. That’s how he proves he’s elite enough for AEW. Thing is, he’s not a star; he’s just a wrestler, and he wrestles better than anyone else. It’s not a chip on his shoulder; it’s a block of ice, like the ice in his veins that makes him focused to get to the top. And if anyone doesn’t like that, prove him wrong.
A Little Bit Of The Bubbly ad.
Ariel Dominguez (debut) vs. Griff Garrison (2-11). If you watch wrestling on YouTube, yes, that’s MLW’s Ariel Dominguez. He’s a pretty good young lion, and I’m sure he was brought in on recommendation from the common link in this match – Brian Pillman. Excalibur gets “Ivy League MVP” out of the way in the intro – there’s no way this isn’t a running gag now.
Staredown (or up, in Dominguez’s case) for a start. Ariel slaps Garrison, who throws him into the ropes and gives him a massive back body drop. Ariel ducks a lariat and gets a headscissors from the grond. He goes up and over Garrison, but runs into a KICK OF FEAR. Garrison with a Stinger Splash (big distance on the jump), but Dominguez avoids the second one and goes up. Garrison catches the crossbody and gets a discus forearm and torture rack bomb for the pin at 1:43. NR That’s the kind of match he needed to show he’s more than just a conduit for Pillman.
Uh-oh… Lance Archer’s music plays and Garrison looks around in confusion. Archer comes out and Roberts tells him to run, but Garrison stands his ground. Archer says leave, but Garrison takes the fight to him only to run into a big boot and clothesline to send him out. Archer then gives Dominguez a fallaway slam for good measure (Roberts: “You didn’t throw him over the top?”)
Roberts says he and Archer want one more chance at that world title. He watched the face to face between Moxley or Kingston, and were they there to fight or to… anyway, they were close to each other. Tomorrow night, they’ll get after each other, but Roberts says if Kingston wins, Archer wants next. Even if Roberts has to DDT Kingston’s mother, they’ll GET that shot. Roberts never got a title shot back in the day and wondered why. Must have been because they were afraid. When you’re afraid, you take your ball and go home. There’s tons of open contracts for a match with Archer, but no one will take one!
Archer is having fun in Dark. He trick or treats all over AEW like it’s Halloween. But he won’t go anywhere, and that should scare everyone. A raging bull might, a pack of wolves might, a runaway train might… but an ordinary man will not stop the punishment. Moxley and Kingston are so emotional and worried about mothers, which is a mistake. They should pay attention to the predator in the weeds, because he will rip them apart. He with butcher the Butcher, break the Blade, and burn the Fenix. It’s just gonna be Archer and Kingston when it’s over – blood for blood. Good promo by both guys. Everyone wins in this segment. Well, except Dominguez.
Sean Maluta and Ryzin (first time teaming) vs. Evil Uno and Stu Grayson (11-2). Taz says all four guys can go when the bell rings, though Ryzin may be out of his mind. The Dark Order arrives as a unit as always, but they’re sent to the back.
Grayson and Maluta charge at the bell, and Grayson runs Maluta over. Uno in with chops and forearms, and he sends Maluta into the turnbuckle… but that’s a Samoan head so no damage and Maluta fires back. Some things never change. Maluta catches Uno with a headscissors off the an up and over, adding a hangman’s neckbreaker for one. Maluta controls the arm, and Ryzin comes off the ropes to sledge on it. Ryzin continues the armwork, but Uno hooks the nose to break and bring in Grayson. Grayson sees his uranage countered to an armdrag, and Ryzin adds a leg lariat and Northern Lights suplex for one.
Back to the arm on Grayson, but Grayson shoves Ryzin out of the ring (with Uno holding the ropes and running Ryzin into the apron on the outside). Uno in, and Demolition Decapitation gets two. Uno claps the ears and gets a running chop, then a big boot. Grayson in now, and it’s a backbreaker into an apron senton. Back in, Ryzin ducks out of a suplex and gets a Rude Awakening on his knee. Hot tag Maluta, but he runs right into a Grayson flying knee. Electrict chair bomb and Ryzin is sent into the barricade, then Uno hooks the ripcord Flatliner on Maluta for the pin at 4:06. Just a walk in the park for the Dark Order. 3/4*
Trevor Read (debut) vs. Ricky Starks (11-2). Read’s entrance video looks like something out of Tron. Then Excalibur calls him Trevor Lee, which I’m sure NXT will be thrilled about. Taz calls Starks arguably the most successful member of the AEW roster and wants him to move from New Orleans to Brooklyn. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Or should.
Starks rushes Read at the bell and pummels him in the corner. Chop against the ropes and he tries a slam, but Read slides out the back only to get hit with a back elbow and dropkick. Read lands on the apron, so Starks suplexes him back in. Taz pleas with Excalibur to agree Starks deserves a TNT title shot, but the match is already made. Starks stomps Read and works him over, but he jaws with the ref and Read comes back with crane kicks. Starks blocks one and gets an atomicdrop, then a huge spear and Rochambeaux ends it at 2:01. Starks didn’t even break a sweat. DUD Oddly, Starks doesn’t join commentary after the match even though there’s an open spot.
AEW Games will have something to say on Tuesday.
Main event: Lee Johnson (0-15) vs. Chuck Taylor (w/Trent and Orange Cassidy) (20-10 in 2020). Lee now has the Team Nightmare logo in his entrance graphics. Taz says he was caught completely off-guard by Nightmare’s recruiting, and it shows how entitled Cody is. Best Friends and Miro/Sabian’s rivalry is talked up.
Code of Honor to start. Taylor with the armlock, but Johnson gets out into a hammerlock and snapmare. Taylor goes to the ground with arm control, only for Johnson to try a headscissors. Taylor shoves off, so Johnson quickly switches to his own hammerlock. Taylor with a drtop toe hold and they exchange front facelocks before Taylor goes back to the arm. Johnson tries to roll out of it and we reset. WRESTLING! Taylor goes to the headlock and runs over Johnson before posing, with Johnson applauding his last flurry.
Back to another lockup, and Taylor backs Johnson into the corner before bringing him out. Johnson goes up, over, and rolling around, eventually getting a dropkick to a running Taylor. He gives Cassidy a thumbs-up before going back to Taylor. Taylor kicks down Johnson and stomps a mudhole in him in the corner (with his kicking leg needing a few extra to stop kicking – a Taylor trademark). Back suplex gets two. Big chop in the corner, but Johnson fires back, so Taylor sends him pillar to post. Blind charge eats boot and Johnson goes up, getting a lucha armdrag off the top only for Taylor to hold the arms and get an arm-trap head-scissors on the ground. Taylor uses the arm to cobra clutch Johnson, but breaks when no submission is evident.
Soccer kick to Johnson’s back, but a middle rope moonsault misses and Johnson goes for the comeback. Big running chop in the corner and he sends Taylor into the middle buckle with a drop toe hold. Johnson to the apron to kick the buckle into Taylor’s head, but he comes off the top into Taylor’s grip for Soul Food. Johnson recovers with a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Excalibur notes he didn’t hook the shoulders well enough. Johnson with forearms, but Taylor catches him in a pop-up powerbomb for two. Falcon Arrow gets two. Taylor is frustrated and goes up with a diving double stomp, but it’s still two. Taylor almost has to laugh at how this match isn’t over in a great touch.
Johnson goes to the apron, where Taylor pulls him up the corner for a Cesaro Superplex try. Johnson kicks Taylor away and springboards in with a dropkick. Taylor falls outside, and Johnson follows with a somersault senton (he even high-fives Cassidy, much to Trent’s surprise). Back in, Johnson runs into a flying knee, and a stuff piledriver by Taylor gets another two. Chuck’s facials are great. Taylor wants the Awful Waffle, and it connects to get the pin (finally) at 8:30. We need more “Princeton vs Georgetown” matches like this. Best Friends invite Johnson into the HUG IT OUT at the end. This is the kind of match that you love to see in a B-show main event. **1/2
Full Gear rundown! I’ll have more on this later.
This was a very businesslike edition of Dark, but at the same time, a lot of good came out of it. Setting aside Starks murdering a fool, we had two good (by B-show standards) feature bouts, plus the Archer segment following Garrison’s match not only made Archer look killer, but made Garrison look brave to take the fight to him. Cutler, Swole, and the Dark Order picking up wins helped keep them fresh – important especially for Dark Order after they’d been giving their last few enhancement foes some shine that they look dominant.
Now, about Full Gear – here is what the punters think the results will be right now:
- Orange Cassidy (-950) over John Silver (+500)
- Matt Hardy (-160) over Sammy Guevara (+120)
- MJF (-300) over Chris Jericho (+200)
- Cody Rhodes (-160) over Darby Allin (+120)
- FTR and Young Bucks (both -120) are a pick’em
- Hikaru Shida (-200) over Nyla Rose (+150)
- Kenny Omega (-500) over Adam Page (+300)
- Jon Moxley (-700) over Eddie Kingston (+400)
Hardy and Cody as favorites surprise me at this point. After Guevara’s week on both Dark and Dynamite, it would seem natural to give him the win here, although if he doesn’t come through it may be impetus for MJF to kick him out of the Inner Circle. Allin needs the title more than Cody, since he has the rivalry with Starks, but it is that very rivalry that may cost him – after all, Taz has promised Cage and Starks will be in the building and “do something” on Full Gear. The rest are pretty straightforward.
BELL TO BELL – 28:47 over seven matches (average time 4:07)
MATCH OF THE NIGHT – Johnson vs. Taylor
- Chuck Taylor
- Matt Sydal
- Griff Garrison
Enjoy Full Gear tomorrow!