AEW DARK: March 9, 2021

The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark, Episode 79 (No Wrestling Rings Were Exploded In The Making Of This Episode), March 9, 2021.

From the AEW Arena.

Your hosts are Excalibur, Anthony Ogogo, and Taz. Excalibur: “Pay no mind to the fact that we are wearing the exact same clothes as Saturday night.” Taz: “You know how much dry cleaning costs?”

TONIGHT! Coming off of Revolution, it’s a lighter show than normal, but we still have a great main event! Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss take on the Inner Circle’s Santana and Ortiz! Aaron Solow finds two students to join him in tackling Ryan Nemeth, Peter Avalon, and Cezar Bononi! Carlie Bravo looks to do the Infantry proud as he faces Kip Sabian! Fuego Del Sol finally gets his wish – he goes one-on-one with QT Marshall!

PLUS – Abadon, SCU, Dark Order, Varsity Blonds, Lee Johnson, Diamante, and Powerhouse Hobbs!

Opening match: Powerhouse Hobbs (w/Hook) (3-0) vs. (0-1). So I guess this is how they say “We won’t be talking about Revolution because from our perspective it hasn’t happened yet.”

Fashion jumps at Hobbs, who catches him and does shoulder rams in the corner. Body blows by Hobbs as he holds Fashion up by the hair, then an overhead suplex. Fashion dodges a charge and tries to fight back, but he runs into the SPINEBUSTER OF DOOM from Hobbs. THE STRAPS COME DOWN and we get an avalanche in the corner. Town Business ends it at 1:24. Taz: “Too easy.” NR (For the record, both announcers pronounce “business” and “bidness”.)

Excalibur and Taz, from whatever studio they record in, recap Revolution’s results. (Noteworthy: they don’t show the explosion in any way, but do show Kingston trying to save Moxley.)

Azriel & Danny Limelight (first time teaming) vs. SCU (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) (#2 team, 5-0). Limelight and Azriel get an entrance, which makes sense because Limelight has been a winner in the past. Azriel faced Penta last week. If, somehow, Limelight and Azriel pull off the upset, SCU will disband.

Kaz and Limelight start. Lockup, and Kaz goes to a front facelock. Limelight reverses to a hammerlock, but Kaz slides out into a top wristlock. Limelight bridges to avoid a takedown, then armdrags Kaz before adding some salsa moves. Limelight tries a waistlock, but Kaz gets a drop-down leg cradle for one before going to a front facelock again. Limelight with a double-leg takedown and he goes for the ride, with Kaz getting a monkey flip and drop toehold before going back to the front facelock. WRESTLING!

Azriel fakes tagging in as Limelight distracts the ref, and after Kaz nails Azriel, Limelight gets some kicks. Kaz comes back with chops and avoids a charge in the corner, getting a German suplex for two. Daniels in, and SCU gets a flipping neckbreaker for two. Daniels with a suplex for two. Limelight flips out of another suplex try and gets an enzuigiri, and Azriel in with a running dropkick. Azriel goes up and over Daniels, but runs into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two.

Daniels ducks a cheap shot from Limelight, allowing Azriel to dump him and Limelight to kick him in the gut a bunch. Back in, and Limelight tags in with a soccer kick and running front kick into a somersault double stomp. It gets two. Azriel with a back suplex for two. Azriel with a hangman’s neckbreaker, and Limelight in with a tope atomico and running frog splash off Azriel’s back for two. Azriel chops Daniels and gets a running cutter for two. We HIT THE CHINLOCK as Daniels fights to his feet, then comes out of the ropes with an O’Connor Roll for two allowing him to be ejected into the hot tag to Kaz.

Leg lariat to Azriel, then a flying jalapeno. Sole butt and lariat takes care of Limelight, then he escapes the corner with a JBL style clothesline to Azriel. Guillotine legdrop to Limelight, and Daniels returns with a top-rope curbstomp-like move, Limelight saves on two. It’s BONZO GONZO now, and SCU goes high/low on Limelight to take him out. Celebrity Rehab gets the pin (VERY close to the ropes, but not close enough) at 7:36. Skycam confirms that Azriel did indeed fail to get his arm under the ropes. It lacked something you usually get in SCU matches. *1/2

Aaron Solow, Brick Aldridge, and Dean Alexander vs. Peter Avalon, Cezar Bononi, and Ryan Nemeth. Both teams are together for the first time. Solow and company come out in Nightmare Dojo jackets, as Solow is officially in Team Nightmare. Much like last time, Bononi pulls Avalon out of the tunnel. Nemeth wipes the sweat off Bononi’s brow. This trio has “and then the bell rang” written all over it.

Solow (obviously) and Nemeth start. Nemeth with a fireman’s carry out of a lockup, and he keeps arm control. Nemeth shows off, allowing Solow to recover with armdrags and an armlock. Aldridge comes in and keeps arm control as Ogogo says Aldridge can bench 550. Nemeth backs Aldridge into the ropes and gets a cheap shot, but runs into a military press. Nemeth slides out the back and gets a dropkick, and Avalon dives in only to get caught and given a fallaway slam. Alexander in, and he throws Avalon into the corner. Russian Legsweep gets two.

Avalon escapes an armlock and gets a right hand, then suckers Alexander into a Bononi shot. Bononi stomps away on Alexander as Nemeth taunts him. More punches in the corner, and everyone enters for a series of corner elbows into a Nemeth dropkick for two. Nemeth works Alexander’s arm (snapping his COVID bracelet, which Taz notes) and gets a hammerlock, bringing in Avalon for a chop in the corner. Bononi tags in and gets his own chop before adding body blows. Nemeth in with a knee to the exposed gut, then a Hammer Throw. Nemeth shows off before getting a spear in the corner and back suplex.

He sends Aldridge off the apron, but Alexander escapes and it’s hot tag Solow. He sticks and moves and Bononi before getting an uppercut on Nemeth and going back and forth on both men. Gamengiri to Bononi and SUPERKICK to Avalon, and Solow dives off the top onto Nemeth (Bononi moved). Bononi eats a 540 kick, and Solow dives onto Bononi but gets caught and suplexed out of a guillotine. Bononi tags everyone in, and Nemeth/Avalon whip Bononi in only for Solow to dodge. EVERYBODY INTO THE POOL as Bononi knocks over Aldridge while Avalon ties up Solow, and the Rude Awakening from Nemeth pins Alexander at 6:27. That ending was uglier than the pyro display on Sunday. 3/4*

Young Bucks book ad.

Lee Johnson (1-0 singles) vs. Baron Black (0-3). Okay, this could be a sleeper hit. Johnson is finally getting a few wins after a long losing streak, and we know Black is a very good hand for the established stars. Ogogo notes that these two know each other very well and it’s a tossup.

Black works the arm to start, which Johnson reverses to a hammerlock. Black reverses to one of his own and back to an armlock, which Johnson kips up out of to reverse. Black re-re-re-reverses and gets a headlock takedown, but Johnson returns in kind. Black with a headscissors and Johnson kips out. They get in a slapfest and go International~!, with Black faking out Johnson and getting a cradle for one before Johnson clotheslines him. Running chop in the corner by Johnson, and he sends Black pillar to post. Black with a Kitchen Sink and a NASTY chop, but he puts his head down and Johnson kicks Black before dumping him. He dives, but Black catches him and gives him an overhead T-Bone on the floor!

Black wants the countout while making sure his back is okay, but Johnson crawls back in. Black with a running discus lariat, but the overhead T-Bone is countered to a sunset flip for two. Black with the atomic drop into the backstabber for two. Black with a big chop in the corner, but Johnson ducks another one and returns fire. Black with a Hammer Throw reversal and pendulum backbreaker for two. Black wants a powerbomb, but Johnson slides out the back only to get his arm caught. Armlock and chop by Black, but he runs into a dropkick by Johnson (and a beauty) for a double down.

Black runs into a back elbow when they get up, then a boot in the corner. Johnson goes up and over Black, getting clotheslines to begin the comeback, then a leaping hangman’s neckbreaker and kip up. Johnson flips out of a German suplex and nails a SUPERKICK, then a Dream Valley Driver for two. Johnson needs a moment to collect himself before removing his wrist tape. He wants the Blue Thunder Bomb, but Black blocks and gets a kidney punch. Dragon screw by Black into a Texas Cloverleaf (though commentary notes it’s not ideally locked in).

Johnson gets a small package for two to break. Johnson blocks a cradle and sits down for two, reversed for two, reversed for two, reversed for two. They go to a slugfest, ending in an enzuigiri by Johnson. But he celebrates, so Black gets a release German suplex and THE STRAPS ARE DOWN. Black charges… straight into a Blue Thunder Bomb for the pin at 8:05. Great athleticism, but the psychology was a little lacking. That comes with time, though. **1/2

Dark Order (Evil Uno, Stu Grayson, Alex Reynolds, and Colt Cabana) vs. Vary Morales, D3, Aaron Frye, and Jon Cruz. This is the first time for either atomic team in this grouping. Brodie Jr joins them at ringside. No indication why Colt and not John Silver.

D3 and Reynolds start. Reynolds with arm control early, avoiding a reversal and getting a snapmare and crucifix for two. Reynolds with a back elbow and dropkick off the ropes, and Frye tags in to face Grayson. Grayson runs over Frye a bunch, but Frye slips out of a powerslam only to run into some boxing. Frye’s cornered by the Dark Order, and Grayson runs Frye into Uno’s boot. Uno with a big chop on Frye, then more in the corner as Colt mocks Frye. Uno catches a boot on his charge and smokes Frye with a right hand.

Uno tells Colt to take it down a notch, but the diversion allows Frye a dropkick on Uno. Middle rope springboard back elbow, and D3 returns to kick away. Cruz in, and he gets Mongolian chops on Uno. Morales chops away too, but Uno wakes up and smokes Morales with a right. Morales blocks a back body drop and gets a DDT on Uno for two. Frye in, and he works the body of Uno. D3 enters next, but Uno sends Frye and D3 together and gets a neckbreaker on Frye.

D3 tries to cut Uno off, but it’s a Stunner and Colt gets the hot tag. He runs Cruz into everyone in the corner before escaping a crucifix and getting a bionic elbow. Flying Apple crushes Cruz, and with Reynolds/Uno’s help, he lifts Cruz for the Chicago Skyline… but first, Uno flatlines Morales, Reynolds Tombstones Frye, and Grayson gives Nightfall to D3. Okay, ring’s clear, NOW Colt does the Skyline to drop Cruz for the pin at 5:43. This was just a match to allow Brodie Jr to watch his guys win. 3/4* Wait, let me add another quarter-star for Brodie Jr’s kip up in the post-match celebration.

Varsity Blonds (Brian Pillman Jr and Griff Garrison) (1-1) vs. Cameron Stewart and Ryzin (0-1). Pillman is now wearing a cut-off tank top, while Garrison’s wearing a XXL shirt – Excalibur jokes that Pillman’s excess shirtwaist is around Garrison’s shirt.

Pillman and Stewart start. Headlock by Pillman, and he stops a whip attempt to get a takedown. Stewart stacks him for one, then uses the hair to whip Pillman, who just runs him over. They go back and forth as Stewart gets a legsweep for less-than-one, only for Pillman to get a roundhouse kick for one. Big chop on Stewart gets two. Pillman works Stewart over in the corner, then brings Garrison in for an avalanche to Stewart. Pillman back in with a swinging neckbreaker, and Garrison adds a legdrop to get Pillman two, brother. Ryzin distracts the ref to make sure Garrison’s tag doesn’t count, then clobbers Pillman and drags him to his corner so Stewart can tag Ryzin in. Boot choke by Ryzin (as the announcers applaud his ring presence) for one.

Front suplex gets two. Pillman elbows out of the corner and chops Ryzin hard, but Ryzin throws him into the middle turnbuckle and kicks the buckle into Pillman’s face. Good spot. Ryzin goes up top, but the swanton bomb hits the knees (in theory – more like Pillman’s ankles). Hot tag Garrison, and everyone gets clotheslined. Big boot to Ryzin and back body drop to Stewart. Stinger splash to Stewart, and Garrison wants a TKO, but Stewart escapes down the back only to walk into the Discus Punch for the pin at 4:22. This probably reads better on paper than it did in practice. That said, Garrison’s rolling strike is beautiful. 1/2*

Diamante (4-2) vs. Savannah Thorne (debut). No Ivelisse, though there is a nice ad for the women’s music playlist.

They invite each other on at the bell, then Diamante shoves Thorne away after a go-behind. Thorne does the same, so Diamate slugs her. Thorne with a back elbow in the corner, then a snapmare and Meteora for two. Waistlock by Thorne, but Diamante sends her into the middle turnbuckle and gets a German suplex. Crossface blows by Diamante flatten Thorne and get two. Thorne is sent into the corner, where Diamante gets a back elbow and sits her down for the hesitation dropkick for two.

Diamante toys with Thorne, shoving her around, but it allows Thorne some shots. Kitchen Sink by Diamante stops that, and she just chokes Thorne down. She yells to the crowd, allowing Thorne a cradle for two, but recovers with a set of short-arm clotheslines. Big chop and casadora Stunner follow, then the Code Red ends it at 3:17. Another short women’s match on Dark, eh? Imagine that. 1/4*

Wrestling With the Week ad.

Fuego Del Sol (0-4) vs. QT Marshall (w/Nick Comoroto) (4-0). So from what I can gather, this match is set up because of stuff on Sammy Guevara’s vlog. Fuego gets a very nice pop on his way to the ring, while Marshall gets a few boos, which says to me that the trainees are in full force. And yes, the crowd chants This Is Awesome before the bell.

They slap each other to start, then go International~!, but Fuego pops up and shoves Marshall. Fuego unloads with punches, but Marshall pounces out of the corner with a clothesline. Hammer Throw in the corner, but Marshall eats boot on a blind charge and gets a step-up rana and satellite headscissors. Dropkick by Fuego and Marshall is rocked, with Fuego getting a running forearm in the corner. Tornado DDT is blocked and Fuego goes to the apron, but leaps right into a powerslam by Marshall. Marshall with an uppercut off of a whip for two. He hooks the nose, maybe going for the mask, as the crowd is angry.

A crossface blow and he picks Fuego up, but Fuego flips out of a back suplex and gets a spinning back kick. Marshall stops the Tornado DDT again and nails a pop-up forearm for two. Marshall puts Fuego on the top rope and slaps him, following him up and going for an avalanche Cutter. Fuego blocks and gets a Frankensteiner off the ropes instead as Marshall is caught WAY off-guard. Fuego begins the comeback by blocking Marshall’s rights and getting more of his own, beginning a slugfest. Marshall runs into a flying jalapeno from Fuego, then a pop-up dropkick.

Asai moonsault by Fuego gets two. Diamond Cutter is reversed to a schoolboy for two. Yoshi Tonic by Fuego gets a VERY close two. Fuego is ready to end it, but runs into the Lethal Combination by Marshall. It’s Diamond Cutter time, but Fuego with the handstand to stop it and he kicks Marshall away. He goes to the apron and lands a knee to Marshall, avoiding a Stinger Splash as he goes to the top rope. TORNADO DDT FINALLY HITS… but Marshall bounces to the outside on the bump. Aw MAN.

Poor Fuego has to recover emotionally from thinking he’d won it, and he rolls Marshall back in. Fuego wants to do it again, but his double jump flies right into the Diamond Cutter. A second one gets the pin at 7:47. I LOVE THIS MATCH! ***1/4 Am I overrating it? I don’t care. This told a beautiful story, had a great student/teacher vibe, rookie/veteran vibe, and plucky underdog face vs arrogant heel vibe. What more do you want?

Carlie Bravo (w/Shawn Dean) (first singles match in AEW) vs. Kip Sabian (w/Penelope Ford) (1-0). Bravo and Dean are quickly becoming another fun low-card tag team and, like the Acclaimed or the Varsity Blonds, I feel like I’m going to enjoy seeing them get better. This, however, is Bravo’s first solo outing, and Sabian is here coming off of a win at Revolution.

Sabian with a quick armdrag to start, and Bravo wants a knucklelock. Sabian obliges to a test of strength, turning it into a top wristlock. He lowers Bravo to the ground and SALUTES WHILE STANDING ON HIM. Oh, it’s on now. Sabian, though, controls Bravo with a headlock and prevents some Irish whips. Takedown by Sabian, and he casually kicks out of a headscissors. Bravo with his own headlock takedown, and he kips up out of headscissors and salutes him more properly. Big hiptoss by Bravo, and a dropkick, then a forearm when Sabian blocks a whip.

Sabian catches Bravo in mid-air with a single-leg takedown, then a dropkick causes Bravo to bail. Big kick off the apron to Bravo on the floor, and Sabian tosses Bravo back in. He stomps away on Bravo, first in the ring then in the corner, as Ogogo tries to get Taz and Excalibur back on topic. Hammer Throw by Sabian and he cuts a promo more or less before slugging away. Snapmare and stomp to the back, and the field goal is lined up, but Bravo dodges and cradles for two.

Sabian is furious and pounds away on Bravo before blowing Penelope a kiss. Sabian works over Bravo in the corner with another stalling stomp, then a jogging roundhouse kick sets up the snapmare and Penalty Kick. It’s up… and it’s good. Sabian toys with Bravo, then taunts Dean, but that allows Bravo to box Sabian’s ears to begin the comeback. Leg trip in the corner leads to a slingshot legdrop for two, Sabian grabbing the ropes. Shiranui try, but Sabian blocks and gets a big knee strike. Gutbuster and Deathly Hallow end it at 6:14. Bravo apparently has only wrestled for like four months, but he has some good selling and charisma. Sabian… I wouldn’t miss him. He was going at half-speed tonight. 1/2*

Abadon (8-2) vs. Katalina Perez (0-1). Now, I know I said I didn’t like it that women’s matches were short on AEW Dark, but Abadon should be the exception since her character is all about winning before the bell rings. Abadon spits up blood during her entrance. Perez looks somewhere between confused and unsettled seeing Abadon.

Abadon pulls down Perez, but Perez tries a drop toe-hold that Abadon blocks. A big right shakes Perez, and Abadon gets a hammer throw and running knees in the corner. Perez ducks a clothesline and nails Abadon with forearms that do nothing. A kick to the gut just makes Abadon do the slow stand and stare, and Perez runs away only to be caught with a release German suplex. Abadon smashes Perez a bunch and screams. She stalks Perez on the outside and nails a running lariat. (Neat touch: in the background, 300-pound JD Drake takes a step away from the guardrail.)

Back in, Abadon corners Perez and smashes her around. Perez with a clothesline to get a breather, but Abadon does the zombie sit-up and glares. Perez freaks out and runs into the ropes, but Abadon catches her with forearms and a tree slam. Cemetery Drive finishes matters at 3:03. Abadon is shorter than most, but she makes herself a believable monster through mannerisms and presence. She’s everything Vince wishes Alexa Bliss could be. 1/4*

Main event: Santana and Ortiz vs. Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss. Santana and Ortiz no longer have their individual music and instead come out to the Inner Circle music. Ortiz has his rather ample hair up in a bun, which I feel compelled to note for some reason. Once again, Janela goes over to steal Taz’s mic and praise Kiss’s posterior. The faces have Nasty Boys-inspired graffiti color gear.

Inner Circle jump the Jersey Boys in the corner to start, and Santana throws Janela into the guardrail on the outside. A big choip to Janela against the guardrail as Ortiz works over Kiss in the ring. Snapmare by Ortiz as Santana mauls Janela on the outside. Janela tries to fight back, but Santana stops him and launches him into the crowd. Back in the ring, meanwhile, Ortiz chokes away on Kiss, only for Kiss to recover with a step-up rana and Dropsault. Handspring slap (called the Rapid Kissmissal now), and Kiss adds a roundhouse kick to Ortiz and dropkicks Santana off the apron. (Janela is still in the crowd, by the way.)

Ortiz throws Kiss into a Santana kick, and a suplex/crossbody combo gets Santana two. Big chop to Kiss from Santana, then the Three Amigos (with Ortiz helping out on the third one). It gets Ortiz two as Janela is disoriented and going the wrong way. Ortiz grinds his wrist into Kiss’s face, then goes for the Gory Special. He walks Kiss over to the corner and brings in Santana for an abdominal stretch. Santana then hiptosses Kiss and gets a dropkick for two. STF by Santana, with a nose hook, then a boot grind. Ortiz in, and he gets a back suplex for two. Kiss tries to fight away and gets a discus forearm to Santana, then ducks Santana and tags… no one, as Janela is half-dead in the crowd.

Enzuigiri by Kiss gets two. Suplex by Ortiz, and Santana toys with Kiss because what’s he gonna do, tag out? Kiss kicks away from Santana and kips up, then lands a Complete Shot as everyone’s down. Finally, Janela finds his way to the apron and it’s the hot tag! He runs through both guys as the crowd should be very hot for this if there was any. Janela is too tired and can’t even kip up, but lands uppercuts to Santana as THE STRAPS COME DOWN… and Inner Circle give him a double boot. Janela low-bridges out Santana and sends Ortiz to the stage, then dives onto Santana and Ortiz in turn (with Ortiz getting a brutal landing).

Back in, Janela covers but Ortiz is in the ropes. Kiss tags in (though he’s not 100%), and they get an Inverted DDT and split legdrop combo, Santana saves. Janela eats the middle turnbuckle on a charge, but Ortiz catches Kiss and, after some struggle, Santana catches Kiss for a powerbomb/brainbuster combo for two, Janela barely saves. Ortiz gives Janela a brainbuster, but Kiss gets the split-stunner on Ortiz to knock him loopy. Kiss tries another one, but Santana has Kiss on his shoulders and knocks Janela away. Neckbreaker/death valley driver combo wins it for Inner Circle at 9:22. Janela was off his game – given how he spent most of the match selling a beating, I wonder if he’s 100% – but the former LAX were good enough for government work. **

TOMORROW!

  • Matt Jackson vs Rey Fenix!
  • Inner Circle war council!
  • Shida, Mizunami, Rosa! Itoh, Baker, Nyla!
  • And the TNT Title is on the line as Darby Allin faces Scorpio Sky!

So – if this is what Dark and Elevation are like, I can live with it. Fewer matches and the whole thing’s over by 9? This is fine. Now, the matches themselves were hit or miss – Kip Sabian and Joey Janela were not up to snuff, and SCU seemed disinterested at times – but the good stuff made up for it. We got three matches I could see as “2000s-era TV level” (Santana and Ortiz overcame Janela’s misfire), with Marshall/Fuego being everything you want – a good background, an in-match story that had been built up through previous Fuego appearances, and the trainees at ringside provided some good heat.

And yes, before you ask, I WILL be reviewing Elevation as well. Why not? Seeing a bunch of guys put on free wrestling that I can watch and pick apart for the good and the bad is awesome.

All in all, low expectations for a cool-down episode coming off a PPV means I wasn’t disappointed. It did feel like the wrestlers were a little off their game in some of the matches, though; I assume they were making sure they didn’t hurt themselves for the PPV. Let’s get back on track next time.

STATS

BELL-TO-BELL: 63:40 over eleven matches (average match time 5:47)

MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Marshall/Fuego (don’t @ me)

FIVE STARS:

  1. Fuego Del Sol
  2. Sonny Kiss
  3. Lee Johnson
  4. QT Marshall
  5. Baron Black

Look, even if this is the formula for Elevation, it’s GOT to be less of a chore than Raw, right? Let’s find out together.