AEW DARK: February 16, 2021

The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark Episode 75 (Tony Khan is Double-Parked), February 16, 2021.

From the AEW Arena.

Your anchors are Excalibur and Taz. Anthony Ogogo starts with us. You’re description from Excalibur: “Absolute unit of a show”!

TONIGHT! Our feature bout has Chaos Project squaring off against Bear Country! Plus, Jurassic Express, Butcher and Blade, Brandon Cutler, Nick Comoroto, Reynolds and Silver, Ricky Starks, Tay Conti, Eddie Kingston, Powerhouse Hobbs, and Shanna! But all that can wait, because we’re starting with the big guns – that’s right, JON MOXLEY IN DA HOUSE!

Jon Moxley (27-1-1 overall) vs. Jon Cruz (0-1 in 2021). Cruz is going first because he has to do double duty tonight. Moxley emerges from the parking lot, as is his milieu. Now, technically, Cruz and Serpentico are two different people, hence Cruz’s record.

Cruz jumps the gun with a dropkick and boxes Moxley, following with a headscissors. Moxley catches Cruz leaping into the corner, though, and gives him a German suplex. Vertical suplex drop follows, then some Yes Kicks, as we find out it’s Kingston/Butcher/Blade vs Moxley/Fenix/Archer tomorrow. Moxley with an outlaw cradle for two. He chops Cruz down in the corner before lifting him onto the buckle and ripping at his back. From there, he tries a superplex, but Cruz goes to the eyes to knock Moxley off the top. Flying double stomp is missed, and Moxley with the rolling elbow. Cruz ducks a lariat and dives onto Moxley, who catches him into a guillotine for the TKO at 2:13. That’s about as long as it should’ve been, really. 1/2*

Bear Country (2-1) vs. Chaos Project (7-8). You guys, I think they’re showing these out of order from how they were taped. Just a hunch. Taz says that Bear Mountain in the Catskills is in upstate New York. Excalibur: “You all think anything north of 125th Street is Upstate New York!” Commentary talks about how Chaos Project tried to ruin Brodie Jr’s birthday.

Boulder and Serpentico start. Luther distracts Boulder and Serpentico tries a headlock, but Boulder just looks at him and flattens him with a tackle. Serpentico escapes a corner charge only to bounce off of Boulder on a bodypress attempt, and Boulder gives him a military press drop that Ultimate Warrior would be proud of. Bronson in, Avalanche by Boulder before a clothesline from Bronson and Serpentico is hurting. Gory Special by Bronson, but Luther pulls him out of it and all four men enter. Chaos Project double-team Bronson and send him outside, where Luther throws him into the barricade.

Back in, Serpentico with a standing frog splash for two. Luther in, and he facejams Serpentico onto Bronson before using him to give headbutts to Bronson. Bronson fights back off of Luther, but eats a boot and Serpentico comes back in. He works on Bronson’s leg, trying a single-leg crab, but Bronson is able to use his weight to block. So Luther decides Serpentico should do a leg DDT and throws him down to do it. Luther with a corner clothesline on Bronson, and he tags in and whips Serpentico into Bronson… which doesn’t work. Bronson lariats down Luther, hot tag Boulder.

Clotheslines for everyone and slams on both guys in turn, then he gets a combination Samoan Drop on Serpentico and DDT on Luther. Bronson tags back in, but Bronson tweaks his leg coming in – or maybe he’s selling. Bronson goes up for the Totem Splash, but Luther pulls Boulder away and Serpentico gives a distracted Bronson a SUPERKICK. Senton bomb gets two, although Bronson’s kickout sends Serpentico about a foot in the air. Bronson fights both men off, but Serpentico grabs the leg and Luther gives a Vader attack.

Creeping Death is set up, but Boulder throws Serpentico off the top rope and Bronson sits on Luther while giving Serpentico an Island Driver. Totem Splash ends Serpentico at 6:20. The right team won. I feel real sorry for Serpentico and the moment he gets sick of this and walks out on Luther is going to be good… although given both men are end-of-career veterans, maybe this is just destined to be what they do. *3/4 Bronson: “AEW is Bear Country, because bears rule the world!” I don’t think Daniel Bryan will disagree.

Wrestling With the Week ad.

The Butcher and The Blade (2-0 in 2021) vs. Sage Scott and Jake St.Patrick (first time teaming). As a reminder…

Actually, we’ll get back to that, as Butcher and Blade clear the ring before intros are done and destroy the men on the outside. Butcher throws St.Patrick in (so NOW the match starts) and gives him a fac slam. Blade in, and a lawn dart knee strike has St.Patrick half-dead. Blade throws St.Patrick to the corner to bring in Scott, who gets mauled by Blade. Big chop to Scott, but Scott flips out of a back suplex and slaps Blade. Big mistake, and Scott runs for his life only to get run over by Butcher. Butcher tags in now, and he gets an avalanche on Scott into a spinebuster by Blade. Drag the Lake ends it at an official time of 1:42. Butcher never took his robe off, and frankly he looked better keeping it on. NR – too short

AS I WAS SAYING, as a reminder it’s Kingston/Butcher/Blade vs Fenix/Moxley/Archer tomorrow. Butcher and Blade are out to hunt bear – no point for interpreting that one.

Shanna (3-1) vs. Renee Michelle (debut). Say, isn’t that Drake Maverick’s wife? Was that marriage ever consummated? Renee doesn’t even get a hometown.

Lockup, and Renee with arm control to keep Shanna down. Shanna springs through, landing on her feet and getting a reversal. She goes to a hammerlock, but Renee takes her down only for Shanna to kip up. Hairpull sends Shanna back down, so she kips up again. Shanna kips up a third time and this time returns the hair favor. Armdrags by Shanna, into a misdirect into the headscissors. Shanna clubs down Renee and tries the Tiger Driver, but Renee escapes and punches Shanna with rights to stagger her.

Shanna goes into the turnbuckle and kicks away, adding a boot choke. Shanna tries to fight back, but a single right and Shanna’s dead weight. Renee stands her up for a headscissors into the Black Widow, but Shanna powers out into a side slam. She did it way better than Dino Bravo. Clotheslines cue the comeback, but Shanna’s equilibrium isn’t the best. Chops in the corner leads to a Steinerline, and an Implant Buster gets two. Shanna is sent into the corner, but a blind charge hits boot and Shanna cradles for two. Stunner by Shanna, and she asks for your spirit before getting the bottom rope shotgun dropkick. Tiger Suplex (with Shanna releasing the hold rather than bridging) gets the pin at 4:28. Taz covers for her by saying Shanna over-rotated Renee but was smart enough to go for a regular cover and not a bridge. If she gets that bridge down regularly, she’s going to be a star. *1/4

John Silver and Alex Reynolds (1-0 in 2021) vs. Eric James and VSK (first time teaming). As expected, the entire Dark Order accompanies the team out of the tunnel. Excalibur is nervous about this match, because he wants to make sure Brodie Jr doesn’t run to commentary, but the kid’s nowhere to be found.

James and Reynolds start. James controls the arm early, but Reynolds slides all around into a hammerlock to snapmare to crucifix for two. Armdrag by Reynolds, and Silver comes in with a double hiptoss catch into a facejam for two. James with a straight right and a chop to recover, but Silver runs the ropes (REALLY fast) and bowls over James.

VSK gives Silver a knee to the back, and James tries a suplex, but Silver reverses to an O’Connor Roll only to run into a big right from VSK. James with a neckbreaker for two. VSK in, and James whips him into an uppercut, followed by James getting a Superman punch, then James with an oshigoroshi, then VSK gets a soccer kick. All that gets James two. Silver kicks VSK in the chest, but VSK catches him in a release German. Silver lands on his feet, hot tag Reynolds. Running back elbow into a spinning back elbow and dropkick, and Reynolds kips up. Discus elbow to VSK, then a neckbreaker out of a cravat for two. Silver in, and James gets cut off so the double-team can begin. DDT Destroyer gets the win at 3:22. This match was at 90 miles an hour and made it much better. *3/4

A Little Bit of the Bubbly ad.

Jurassic Express (Luchasaurus and Jack Perry w/Marko Stunt) vs. Baron Black and John Skyler (first time teaming). Everyone sing along to Tarzan Boy! Luchasaurus’ mask is missing horns still. We cut back to Jungle Boy beating Dax Harwood…

..as in real time, Perry dropkicks Black! Skyler comes in and tries to control, but Perry with an armdrag and Saurus with a big boot. Saurus nails Black with a Tailwhip kick and Skyler with a headbutt, then a double-team kick/brainbuster destroys Skyler. Backdrop powerbomb combo ends Black at 48.2 seconds. They ain’t wasting time tonight, are they? NR – too short

Tay Conti (4-1, #4 women) vs. Vertvixen (0-2). Not to spoil the outcome, but one of these women is in the tournament and the other isn’t. Anna Jay joins Conti at ringside, and I kind of like that Jay can be Dark Order but have friends outside of it.

Lockup, and Conti with a flying jujigatame attempt but Vixen cradles her for one. Double-arm throws by Conti and she rolls over to keep arm control before kicking Vixen in the head. Conti’s “What, is something wrong?” shrug is great. Vixen finds herself stuck between Conti and Jay on the outside, but ducks Conti and throws her into the apron. Back in, Vixen catches Conti with kicks, but Conti catches a roundhouse and gets a rising knee. Another flying knee after a Hammer Throw follows, then another big knee out of the corner. Conti: “She’s done.” And yes, this leads to Bite of the Dragon for the submission at 1:56. That’s THREE matches that are too short to give a fair rating for.

Young Bucks book ad, which I think lasts longer than Jurassic Express’s match.

Eddie Kingston (7-6) vs. Aaron Solow (0-1 singles). I wonder if this will be competitive, given that Solow is under contract and a part of Team Nightmare. Then again, Solow doesn’t get an entrance, so don’t bet on it. Apparently, Solow tripped getting into the ring off-camera, because Excalibur makes a point of asking his commentary team if they did that.

Kingston with arm control, which he uses to get a hammerlock into a headlock takedown. Solow fights to the headscissors and prevents Kingston from kipping out, forcing him to go to the ropes (and complain about a hair pull). Lockup again, and Kingston backs Solow into the corner only to miss a chop as Solow boxes away (Ogogo loves it). He goes off the ropes only to get knocked over by Kingston, who adds a kick to the back for no reason. Elbowdrop gets one. NOOGIE OF DOOM by Kingston as he controls Solow with the hair, then a boot choke on the bottom rope. Kingston is unimpressed with the ref’s admonishments, but he takes his eye off the ball as Solow fights back.

One chop by Kingston ends that, though, and Kingston with a suplex slam for two. He gets a crossface chinlock on Solow, who fights to his feet and lands some rights to daze Kingston. Solow sticks and moves, but Kingston catches him into a butterfly suplex for two. A gratuitous headbutt by Kingston leads to a soccer kick to the back. Solow spins around Kingston’s back for an armdrag, then a dropkick and 540 kick to make the comeback for two.

Solow to the top, but Kingston catches him on the turnbuckle and chops him hard. A headbutt sets up Kingston following Solow up, and he tries a superplex. Solow with a headbutt of his own to floor Kingston, and the double foot stomp gets a very close two. Ogogo: “I thought he had it there!” Solow looks for a single-arm DDT, but Kingston fights out. Solow escapes and runs into the Kitchen Sink, and Backfist to the Future ends it at 5:33. Eddie Kingston is so good at making it look like a real fight and it adds credibility to his opponents. **1/4 Kingston even sells the back during his celebration.

Ricky Starks (w/Hook) (1-0 in 2021) vs. KC Navarro (0-2). Take a drink every time Excalibur calls it AEW Starks. At Revolution it’s Cage/Starks vs Allin/Sting. Navarro winks to the camera before the match, as Taz thinks he’s too confident…

…and Navarro springboards into a spear from Starks for the pin at 4.78 seconds!! Holy crap! Starks, who hasn’t broken a sweat, goes to commentary.

Brandon Cutler (1-1 in 2021) vs. Misterioso (debut). Misterioso has the Scott Steiner chainmail for his gear. Excalibur talks about how he’s an LA luchador.

Misterioso with the headlock, then he backflips out of the ropes before getting a headscissors on Cutler. Cutler goes to the outside only to get nailed with a tope con hilo. Back in, Misterioso with a knees-to-the-top-rope senton for two. Misterioso tries a back suplex, but now Cutler escapes and heads to the apron, getting a springboard clothesline. He trips Misterioso and follows with a tope atomico and running legdrop for two, brother. Cutler stops a charge and kicks Cutler away, adding a rolling shotgun dropkick. Misterioso goes up top, but the moonsault hits the knees.

Gamengiri by Cutler, then another from the apron for two. Misterioso charges for a monkey flip, but Cutler dumps him and follows with a tope suicida. Back in and Cutler goes to the apron, with Cutler landing a springboard crossbody for two. Misterioso with a kick to the shin and he charges, but Cutler gets the boot up and a diving crossbody off the top gets two. Cutler goes up and over Misterioso, then comes off with another springboard crossbody, but again it’s two. Even Excalibur thinks it’s excessive. Cutler slugs away in the ropes, but Misterioso flips over Cutler’s back, ducks a clothesline and gets a low kick and SUPERKICK. It gets two.

Misterioso is gassed and goes for a Lionsault, but Cutler rolls away, but Misterioso lands on his feet and connects with a moonsault anyway for two and two. Misterioso kicks Cutler hard in the back and then the kneecap before putting Cutler up top. Misterioso follows, but Cutler knocks him off the top rope only for Misterioso to get an enzuigiri. Back up again, but Cutler throws Misterioso off the top rope, and the springboard elbow gets the win at 6:29. Dang, I wanna see more of Misterioso now, and Cutler is one HECK of a mechanic. **1/2

Wrestling With the Week ad #2.

Powerhouse Hobbs (w/Hook) (2-0 in 2021) vs. Ryzin. Hopefully this goes a little bit longer than the other Team Taz match. Ryzin is someone who’s looked impressive in the…

…never mind, Hobbs races over at the bell and squashes Ryzin in the corner. The straps are down, and Town Business ends the match at 25.6 seconds. Man, this has been a weird episode. NR – you know why. Starks joins Hobbs and Hook in yelling at the camera.

Nick Comoroto (2-4 overall) vs. Fuego Del Sol (0-2 in 2021). Comoroto is a member of Team Nightmare, and the Factory logo is on his straitjacket. Anthony Ogogo returns to commentary. Fortunately, no one charges the bell, so hopefully this gets time.

Fuego rolls away from Comoroto, sticking and moving, but he gets caught with a single-leg. Fuego escapes a slam, but a roundhouse kick does nothing. Dropkicks stagger Comoroto, but he catches Fuego in an oshigoroshi. (Am I saying that right?) Comoroto with CLUBBERIN, THEY BE CLUBBERIN TONY and she sends Fuego into the corner to jam the shoulder into his gut. A huge beal sends Fuego all the way across the ring as the crowd wants him to do it again. So he does. Hey, gotta give the people what they want.

Fuego with a chop that just angers Comoroto, so he sets Fuego on the top turnbuckle and chops him into next week. One-arm press, but Fuego escapes and catches a charging Comoroto with boots. He rolls away and boxes Comoroto, then ducks a clothesline and fires off elbows… until a knee to the gut stops him in his tracks. Hammer Throw, but a blind charge misses. The mythical Tornado DDT is loaded up, but Comoroto stops the momentum and it’s a press into an Oklahoma powerslam to end it at 3:15. Comoroto gets more fun every time I see him. *1/4

TOMORROW! LIVE!

  • FTR faces the Sydal Brothers!
  • Serena Deeb vs Riho in a USA Bracket Quarterfinal!
  • Tag Titles on the line as the Young Bucks face Santana and Ortiz!
  • Hangma Page and Matt Hardy go against TH2!
  • Kingston, Butcher, Blade! Archer, Moxley, Fenix!

Out of curiosity, was there a curfew in Jacksonville? I mean, yeah, once in a while having a match be an annihilation is fine, but this felt weird in that everyone was rushed. If my math is correct, this would have been taped two weeks ago, and I don’t know what the weather was like that night.

Hopefully this isn’t a trend – what makes Dark enjoyable is that people get the time to show off – but then again, if you look at who was on the losing end, it’s not like anyone can say they were ripped off. Well, okay, Sage Scott probably feels like he deserves another look, but Jake St.Patrick, Baron Black, John Skyler, Vertvixen, KC Navarro, and Ryzin are known quantities to the AEW brass. They’ve all had multiple matches on Dark. If you’re going to steamroll someone, they’re the right guys – a mix of “familiar to the people who matter” and “meaningless in the grand scheme of things”.

By contrast, Misterioso and Eric James were the unknowns. Misterioso got a huge chance to shine with Brandon Cutler, and while time-wise Eric James and VSK was quick, they made up for it by going full-blast. Meanwhile, Aaron Solow and Fuego Del Sol, who are at the Almost There level, were allowed a chance to get some of their stuff in (with Solow/Kingston really impressing), and Renee Michelle had a regular Dark match with Shanna (though calling her an unknown is a misnomer despite this being her AEW debut).

For the time being, let’s assume that there was a storm coming through or something and everyone had to rush to make sure they got in their matches. Now, you may ask, why do all those matches if time is of the essence? Well, it’s been discussed that Tony Khan wants to give everyone a payday and exposure that he’s promised a chance to, and he certainly did that here. That’s how you build trust and confidence in the locker room, and hey, given the indies are still just barely getting out of their coma, telling them “no matter what, you’re getting a rep even if it’s barely a rep” is a good thing for a promoter to do. The last thing you want is to have someone make the trip only to cancel.

As for what we did see, let’s talk about a concept people know in the business called “maximizing minutes”. I’m sure you’ve heard something similar in the NBA – a bench player only gets 10-15 minutes a game and he’d better show he’s worth it, if not more, in that time. The same thing applies to undercard wrestlers in wrestling. I’ve seen people who worked the pre-show match with the crowd filing in and doing the most with the 4-6 that they had that they were invited back and built up to 10-15 minutes. Heck, some of the people I’ve trained with have made this progression – and not just at our training fed either but in other companies. It’s something you learn from the beginning – I’ve been a part of “cards” in training where we’re all told how much time we get and we have to do what we got with it. If you’re given six minutes, you’d better make sure that you do everything you can in those six minutes without going over. Sense of timing is key.

So, for example, Fuego Del Sol and Nick Comoroto are told “You got 4 minutes tops for your match.” They know this, so they know to work fast, but they also know that in order to tell their story they have to move from spot to spot with a minimum of resting. So they cut out the chain wrestling and lockup struggle at the beginning and go straight to speed vs power. Throughout the match there wasn’t more than, say, 3 seconds of breathing before the next flurry. And if that doesn’t sound impressive, it’s like watching a Loyola Marymount game until the first TV timeout – you or I would get gassed trying it.

So this week was Something Completely Different. Just don’t make a habit of it.

STATS

BELL-TO-BELL – 36:37 over 12 matches (average time 3:03)

MATCH OF THE NIGHT – Cutler vs Misterioso

FIVE STARS:

  1. Brandon Cutler
  2. Eddie Kingston
  3. Aaron Solow
  4. Jon Cruz/Serpentico
  5. Tay Conti

Enjoy the double feature tomorrow!