AEW DARK: May 25, 2021

The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark, Episode 90 (“The Thumbnail Has Cody Rhodes Front and Center, Apropos of Literally Nothing”), May 25, 2021.

From the AEW Arena.

Your hosts are Excalibur and Taz. Excalibur’s voice nearly goes during intros, they’re so amped up.

TONIGHT! Sonny Kiss looks to survive the machine as he faces Brian Cage! Joey Janela’s task is only slightly easier, as he goes one-on-one with Bear Bronson! Big Swole and KiLynn King team up to take on Madi Wrenckowski and The Bunny! And someone is getting their first win tonight as Julia Hart faces Tesha Price!

PLUS – Preston Vance, Nick Comoroto, Gunn Club, Aaron Solow, Angelico, Uno and Colt, Dante Martin, Diamante, and Leyla Hirsch!

Opening match: Nick Comoroto (w/QT Marshall, Aaron Solow, and Anthony Ogogo) (11-4) vs. Duke Davis (w/Ganon Jones) (first singles match). Davis is part of the team with Ganon Jones, but they’re in separate matches tonight. Comoroto moves the stairs so QT Marshall can get a clear view of the match. Taz isn’t happy at how Marshall took a cheap shot at Starks’s neck injury.

Lockup, and Comoroto shoves Davis into the corner and clubs him. Running back elbow in the corner leads to a Stampede powerslam. Last Ride ends it at 49.8 seconds. Okay then. NR

But wait – QT Marshall has a request, and that request is for the next match to start right away.

Aaron Solow vs. Ganon Jones. This was meant to happen later, but why wait? Jones is ready and moves in, but Solow kicks him and unloads the rights. Jones blocks a whip and gets a dropkick as Solow bails, but as he comes in, he gets Jones with a Hotshot and chop block. Solow stomps away, then slugs Jones before choking him down on the ropes right in front of Marshall and company. Blind charge misses, though, and Jones picks Solow up, but Solow escapes and kicks out the leg before getting a 540 kick. Pedigree ends it at 1:44. Taz (very sarcastically): “I’ve never seen that finish before.” Well, I guess the Factory has the momentum they need now. NR

Preston Vance (16-2) vs. Dillon McQueen (0-1). Oh, so that’s why Cody was dead center in the thumbnail – he’s gracing us with his presence to bring out McQueen. I mean, he’s not sticking around for the match or anything, but at least he gets on TV. McQueen is doing a… well, a cross-dressing gimmick, complete with tiara and skipping to the ring. He’s very… camp. Am I allowed to say that?

McQueen talks trash to Vance before the lockup, then during the lockup Vance pushes him to the ropes and gives a clean break. A second round has Vance pushing McQueen to the corner, but McQueen reverses and chops Vance. Vance just tanks the chops before nailing McQueen with a shoulderblock. Hammer Throw and corner clothesline by Vance, and we get the Ten Punch Count Along. Another Hammer Throw, but McQueen escapes the charge only to be run over again. Vance ducks a clothesline and gets a Samoan Drop to send McQueen out of the ring.

Vance follows as McQueen tries to crawl away to the steps, but McQueen gets Vance into the guardrail (after some do-si-do to get better aim). Back in, McQueen stomps on the arm that went into the guardrail, then gets double knees to Vance’s back for two. McQueen with a soccer kick, then another chop in the corner, but Vance reverses and chops McQueen hard. McQueen fights back with forearms and a snapmare, then something resembling the Disaster Kick for two (commentary misses it). McQueen gets a chicken-wing from behind, but Vance fights out and smashes McQueen into the corner. McQueen with a splash in the corner and middle-rope Flatliner gets two.

And there’s the WTF Face, so McQueen (out of ideas) HITS THE CHINLOCK. Even Excalibur says that’s what’s going on. Vance fights out and stops a back body drop before unloading with clotheslines. Blind charge misses for Vance, but one for McQueen eats boot before Vance gets a middle-rope sitout clothesline. McQueen thinks better of getting up and rolls out of the ring, then suckers Vance in to give him a Hotshot and cradle for two. He runs into the SPINEBUSTER OF DOOM, and Vance with the Full Nelson to win at 6:25. This felt like a trainee match, where both guys were in a match longer than they were used to and ran out of ideas, especially McQueen. The match should’ve 3 minutes, not 6. 1/4*

Evil Uno (13-1) and Colt Cabana (11-3) vs. Steven Andrews and Simon Lotto (debut). Okay, this is interesting – Uno and Grayson will team up on Friday, but instead of that duo getting a warmup, it’s Uno with Colt again. Grayson is out there, but interestingly, no Silver. Andrews and Lotto appear to be a regular team with matching tights.

Lotto and Colt start. They go International~!, but Uno tags himself in and the Dark Order run over Lotto, then Andrews, with a double shoulderblock. Lotto is back in, but Andrews tags in and takes the knuckles. Andrews with a lucha armdrag, but Uno runs him over before sending him into the Dark Order corner. He throws him into an inverted Atomic Drop from Colt, then adds a dropkick.

Colt with a Hammer Throw on Andrews, Andrews with an enzuigiri and he brings in Lotto, who kicks away on Colt only to run into a Bionic Elbow. Colt brings in Andrews, who runs into a Flatliner from Uno. Flying Apple by Colt to Lotto, and Uno with the Ripcord version of the Flatliner to win at 2:43. They should’ve switched the lengths of the last two matches. 1/2*

AEW Casino app ad.

Big Swole (11-0) and KiLynn King (10-3) vs. Madi Wrenckowski and The Bunny (w/The Blade) (first time teaming). Hey, continuity! Last week The Bunny stole a win from KiLynn King by using an international object (it’s Turner, gotta say it that way). So now each one grabs a partner and we try again. Although, given how Madi was treated by Nyla Rose and Vickie Guerrero, I wonder if she’s a little apprehensive about this one.

King and Bunny start…. until King charges and Bunny bails into the ropes. Twice. Bunny tags in Madi (to Madi’s surprise), so let’s start there with a lockup. Madi with a kneelift, but King returns with a clothesline and slam. Bunny laughs at Madi’s misfortune, which just gets King’s attention and she drags her in. King fights both at once, but Bunny bails again and Madi tries a back attack. King stops it and brings in Swole for a double flapjack which gets two on Madi. Swole with knees to the back, then she drops her weight before trying a deadlift German.

Madi elbows out only to eat a headbutt to the gut and a Kitchen Sink, followed by a back uppercut for two. Swole goes CLUBBERIN, THEY BE CLUBBERIN TONY, but Bunny cuts off Swole and drops her on the middle rope as Madi kicks her down. Bunny in and she stomps away, followed by a boot choke in the corner. She yells at the ref, so Madi chokes Swole before Bunny gets a seated boot choke and sliding elbow. It gets two. Bunny stomps Swole’s hand, but Swole fights back and headbutts her silly. Bunny recovers fast enough to grab a leg, eventually cutting off the hot tag and getting a front facelock as Madi tags in. Madi stomps a mudhole in Swole and brings Bunny back, leading to a Hammer Throw for two.

We HIT THE CHINLOCK, trapping the arm for good measure, but Bunny goes for the killshot and runs into a big boot for the double-down. Hot tag King, who is obsessed with hurting Bunny, but Madi also got the tag and tries an X Factor. King refuses to take the ride and clotheslines Madi left and right before getting a roundhouse kick and release German suplex. It gets two. Madi tries to fight back, but one shot gives King control again. Kingdom Falls is blocked, and the X Factor hits… for ONE. Bunny refuses to tag in, claiming to be too hurt, and Swole ends it with Dirty Dancing at 7:22. King glares as Bunny and Blade leave, because this is not over. Good story, decent action, didn’t overstay its welcome… perfectly acceptable Dark fare! *1/2 Bunny throws a temper tantrum as she leaves.

Gunn Club (Billy (9-2) and Colten (10-0)) vs. Kal Herro and Liam Gray (first time teaming). Early previews claimed it was Billy and Austin, but Austin is too busy looking for all his teeth thanks to Anthony Ogogo. Weird to see Gray not teaming with Alanis. Austin Gunn is apparently out indefinitely.

Billy and Herro start. Alanis jaws with Billy before the lockup, and when it happens, Billy gets arm control. Herro struggles to back rol before reversing, so Billy regains control with a headlock. He then runs over Herro and takes a break on the top turnbuckle. Billy now offers a knucklelock, so Herro with a go-behind and waistlock. He acts like he has control, but no, Billy breaks easily and hiptosses Herro down. Billy corners Herro before letting him go, but Billy with a gut kick just because. Colten in, and he keeps arm control. Herro fights out, but Colten clotheslines down Herro for two before any tag can be made. Neither Colten nor Billy are impressed with Herro.

Billy back in, and he drops an axhandle on Herro’s arm. A knee in the corner follows, then a Hammer Throw, but Herro escapes the back body drop and clothesline… before celebrating and turning around into a big boot. Straight right floors Herro, and Billy wants a TKO (referencing Ogogo maybe?). Colten back in, but Herro with a right hand only to get dropkicked. Colten corners Herro and kicks away, stomping a mudhole in him. A charge eats boot, twice, and finally Herro gets the tag to Gray.

Clotheslines to Colten, then a dropkick. Who’s the face here? Gray sends Billy to the floor with a dropkick, then taunts Billy before diving with a tope… as Billy sidesteps and Gray SPLATS on the mats/concrete on the outside. Billy rolls him in, and Colt 45 mercifully ends this at 6:00. Holy cow, who’d Herro get on the bad side of? 1/4* The good news is if Gray could take the last bump he’ll be fine.

Diamante talks to Reka Tehaka, saying she’s getting Rekked. Diamante is going to show her how it goes down in Miami.

Ricky Starks is on commentary now.

Leyla Hirsch (12-3) vs. Vertvixen (0-3). Taz says Starks and the team are on a high right now. He then tells Starks he doesn’t want to have to take him down a peg on TV.

Hirsch catches a kick and tries a knee strike, but misses. Vixen with a cradle and tries a spear, but Hirsch with a gutwrench only to get backdropped. Vixen chokes Hirsch against the middle rope, but lets her get to her feet and slugfest breaks out. Vixen with a dropkick and she kips up, but Hirsch cradles her while celebrating for two. Vixen tries a handstand in the corner, but Hirsch yanks her off the turnbuckle and powerslams her. Release German suplexes follow, then a lariat for two. Armbar, but Vixen is inches from the ropes when it’s applied.

Hirsch with a running forearm, but Vixen slides on a Hammer Throw and gets a pair of roundhouse kicks for two. Vixen yells at the hard camera before lifting Hirsch, so Hirsch elbows out and gets a basement dropkick and knee strike. NOW the armbar is applied in the middle of the ring for the win at 2:48. They’re building Hirsch as someone who has a lights-out finisher that can be applied from darn near any situation, and it’s working. 1/2*

Dante Martin (7-1) vs. Jason Hotch (debut). As a reminder, Martin at 20 years old is for now the youngest person ever to win in AEW. Yes, I just placed a gun on the mantle. Starks and Excalibur debate 80s music off-camera. On Friday, Martin will get a TNT Title shot against Miro.

Trash-talking to start before the lockup, then Hotch gets the arm only for Martin to pop out of it and reverse. Hotch switches to a full nelson try, then to a hammerlock when he can’t hook the fingers, but Martin escapes into a headlock. Hotch uses the hair to shove him off and they do a modified International~!, with Hotch instead of Martin getting the tackle and Martin getting a springboard dropkick for two. WRESTLING!

Hotch bails to the apron, so Martin kicks his leg out of his leg only for Hotch to get a Hotshot and, back in, a brainbuster for two. Hotch fires off on Martin and snapmares him, getting a ground abdominal stretch and hooking the nostrils. He switches TO THE CHINLOCK, but Martin fights up and kicks the legs away. Martin tries a crossbody, but Hotch swings him around in Catatonic into a back-to-back backbreaker (!!) for one. Hotch with a chinlock to set up a straight shot to the nose, but Martin won’t let Hotch stay in control and a slugfest breaks out.

Big clothesline by Martin pops Taz and leads to a dropkick. Enzuigiri and Martin misses the double-jump moonsault, only to get the springboard moonsault (leaping to the top rope in one move) on the next try for two. Hotch bails, and Martin follows with a plancha. Back in and Martin ducks and dodges Hotch before kicking him in the head, and the 450 ends it at 5:05. That was FUN. *1/4 Commentary praises Hotch after the match, so hopefully he gets a callback.

Dasha interviews Angelico about Ryzin, who is a very “interesting individual”. Is Angelico worried? Ever? No. When it comes to technique, everyone in AEW is at least two levels, maybe three, beneath Angelico. When it’s hold for hold, Angelico fears no one.

Diamante (10-6) vs. Reka Tehaka (0-4). So how do they do things in Miami that’s different from everywhere else? This is your reminder that Dynamite is on at 10PM Friday as opposed to 8PM tomorrow, so we’ll get a double-header Friday.

Diamante takes Tehaka down early, but a kick misses and Tehaka gets a cradle for one, then armdrags. She goes for a monkey flip, but Diamante shoves her down and jack-knifes her for two. (Starks: “She got Rekked!”) Tehaka chops away to recover, but Diamante with the tilt-a-whirl into a Russian legsweep, followed by some soccer kicks and a splash for two. Diamante goes ground and pound on Tehaka, then delivers cross-face blows.

She yanks the hair and sends Tehaka into the corner, but Tehaka goes up and over and lands a Samoan headbutt. A second one, this time to the gut, crumples Diamante, and Tehaka looks for a Samoan Drop. Diamante elbows out and gets a Backstabber and casadora. Tehaka shoves off the Stunner, so Diamante recovers with Code Red for the pin at 2:57. Diamante, let’s just say, didn’t get all of the Code Red. 1/4*

Joey Janela (w/Stupid Sexy Sonny Kiss) (4-2) vs. Bear Bronson (8-6). Yeah, I think Janela will make darn sure Bronson looks good no matter who’s supposed to win this. Janela looks over at the announce table, sees Starks, and thinks better of praising Sonny’s body. Excalibur claims this will be a skill test for Bronson as a singles.

Lockup, and Bronson shoves Janela down into the corner. Janela, impressed with the show of strength, tries a second lockup and gets a headlock, holding the hair to prevent from being shoved off. Bronson uses the hair to break and brick walls a Janela shoulderblock attempt, so Janela wants another chance. It isn’t much more successful, so Janela will try one more time… no he won’t, he’ll kick Bronson in the gut and do the Fargo Strut before turning around into a right cross that sends him out of the ring. He had that one coming.

Janela returns to give Bronson a Hotshot, then a shoulder to the gut. He flips over Bronson but runs into a Steinerline that backflips him. Janela hides in the ropes as Bronson is told to step back, allowing Janela a big boot… but he runs into a Simmons-style spinebuster. Elbowdrop follows, getting two. Massive Hammer Throw on Janela, then a corner clothesline by Bronson. Now Bronson stands Janela up to run him over, but Janela dropkicks the knee and Bronson lands throat-first on the middle rope. Janela goes ground and pound on Bronson and chops Bronson in the corner, but a whip is met with a standstill.

Janela tries a sunset flip, so Bronson just sits on him for two. Senton misses, though, and Janela with a SUPERKICK to the back of the head. Bronson is seeing birdies, so Janela tries to lift him up only to collapse under the weight. This time the Senton connects, for two. Bronson sends Janela into the corner and picks him up, adding a massive chop to the chest and a big right. Bronson then follows him up, but Janela blocks the superplex and headbutts Bronson before getting a flying sunset flip bomb for two. Janela is understandably surprised that didn’t work, but THE STRAPS ARE DOWN and we get some Yes Kicks to Bronson, who tanks them and stands up.

Janela fires off with rights, but runs into a dropkick from Bronson (!). Cannonball by Bronson is missed, and Janela gives Bronson a German suplex into the middle buckle. Janela goes up top, but leaps over Bronson before returning and running into a Boss Man Slam for two. Bronson picks Janela up, but Janela goes to the eyes and gets a SUPERKICK to floor him. Heartbreak Elbow wins it at 8:44.

Everyone who had this as a Match of the Night quality match, raise your hands. Liars. **3/4 But I called it: Janela made Bronson look incredible, even when he was booked to win. This had a bit of an Owen Hart vs Vader feel to it, though obviously neither man is as good as the comparison wrestler.

Angelico (2-2) vs. Ryzin (0-4). Starks and Taz argue over whose favorite the dance is before agreeing it’s both of theirs. Really, the bucket hat is such an amazing addition to Angelico’s costume.

Lockup, and Angelico goes straight to the hammerlock. Ryzin reverses, so Angelico gets a headlock out of it (with some help from a fish hook). Ryzin tries to regain control, but Angelico gets wrist control first and flips Ryzin to the mat before Ryzin kips up and reverses arm control into a hammerlock, then a headlock. Angelico tries to punch out of it and we go International~!, with Ryzin imitating Angelico’s dance before catching him in a Manhattan Drop and big boot. WRESTLING!

Ryzin works over Angelico in the corner and chokes away as Excalibur explains why it’s called a Manhattan Drop. Hammer Throw by Ryzin, but the charging boot misses and Angelico kicks the leg away (Ryzin slipped to make it possible, but this was 100% intentional). Angelico with a trip into a Calf Crusher, but Ryzin makes the ropes. Angelico stomps away on Ryzin and wants a Cloverleaf, adding a knee to the back before switching to a Navarro Especial.

Ryzin makes the ropes again, so Angelico floors him with lefts, but Ryzin recovers with clotheslines before catching him in a Strongest Slam. Ryzin’s leg is half-dead, though, so when he tries the Vadersault it misses badly and Angelico kicks away. Navarro Death Roll ends it at 4:50. Way better than your typical showcase. * Ryzin has improved greatly from the first time I saw him. He’s earned that spot on Elevation’s opening credits.

Alex Marvez congratulates Joey Janela on his win. As for Kiss, he’s not present because he’s preparing for his match with Brian Cage. But, yes, Janela will be in Kiss’s corner to neutralize Hook and the rest of Team Taz. Janela is still on a high after winning and declares it the Bad Boy Summer. Margaritas, women, and more – let’s go! Marvez is overwhelmed by this interview.

Julia Hart (w/The Varsity Blondes) (0-3) vs. Tesha Price (0-7). Someone’s winning their first match. I’m guessing it’s the one with people at her side. Both Price and Hart look like they’re high school students, which in Hart’s case isn’t far from the truth. For the record, people in the AEW YouTube chat were saying they think adding Hart to the Blondes is going to get everyone over to the next level.

Price jumps Hart at the bell and shouts at her about whatever, but misses something in the corner and Hart runs her over with a shoulderblock. Hart with armdrags (very telegraphed) for two, but Price trips her against the middle rope and yanks her down by the hair. Price stomps in the corner and picks Hart up before Bradley bealing her across the ring. Price glares at and mocks Garrison before slugging away on Hart with forearms. Another toss across the ring, then Price taunts the Blondes while slamming Hart into the corner.

Price goes up and over before catching Hart with a spinning elbow for two. Price with a chin-and-arm hold, but Hart gets up and elbows out as we go to a slugfest. We get to the clotheslines for the comeback, then an arm wrench and roundhouse kick combo, followed by two more. Hart holds the wrist to send Price into the corner, adding a running elbow and front handspring forearm. Snapmare and standing moonsault gets two. Price catches Hart bending over in a small package for two, but Hart returns with a SUPERKICK and splits legdrop for the pin at 4:14! FIRST WIN ALERT! And with that, Julia Hart becomes the youngest person ever to win in AEW. (She’s 19, really. Bang.) Perfectly acceptable rookies match. 3/4* Meanwhile, Taz can’t spell.

Brian Cage (w/Hook) (#5 men, 14-2) vs. Sonny Kiss (w/Joey Janela) (8-6). Janela comes out with cooling spray for his muscles – NOT for Kiss being too hot to handle. As a seventeenth reminder, Dynamite is on Friday at 10PM after SmackDown in what should be four amazing hours of wrestling. It goes without saying the FTW title is not on the line, which is why I said it.

Cage picks Kiss up, but Kiss tries a sunset flip and escapes. Kiss with a heel scorpio kick and he kicks away on Cage, then goes up and over Cage only to run into an elbow. Kiss recovers with a leg lariat and Rapid Kissmissal try, but Cage catches the slap and lariats Kiss down. He tosses Kiss arm-first into the post before hooking him around the top rope with a Boston Crab, holding for four. Back suplex follows for two. Cage floors Kiss with a forearm, then a knee to the gut to cut off Kiss’s punches. Kiss with a jawjacker and Dropsault, then an enzuigiri, but he walks into a boot in the corner.

Kiss recovers with a step-up rana and another Dropsault as Cage falls to the floor. Kiss dives onto him with a tope, and back in, Kiss tries the double-stomp but no one’s home. He gets a roundhouse from the apron on Cage and springboards in with a crossbody for two. Janela doesn’t believe it. Cage elbows out of a Kiss lift attempt, then catches a boot and kneelifts Kiss. 360 swing neckbreaker by Cage gets two. Drill Claw is set up, but Kiss gets out the back only to get elbowed. Cage catches Kiss going up and over with an Alabama Sitout Slam for two.

Cage measures Kiss, but the discus lariat is ducked and Kiss with another roundhouse before adding a knee to the head. Kiss goes up, and the diving splits gets two as Janela is freaking out. Kiss tries to pick him up again, but Cage escapes and gets a knee to the head. Weapon X ends it at 5:27. Really fun match while it lasted, and Cage wrestles the way I wish Brock Lesnar would have. *3/4

Hook jumps in and chokes away on Kiss, so Janela goes to stop him only to be intimidated by Cage… maybe. Hook with a Russian Legsweep and Octopus Stretch on Kiss as Janela feels impotent and can’t do anything. Cage tells Hook to let go as Janela goes to the back. Interesting.

FRIDAY!

  • Miro defends the TNT Title against Dante Martin!
  • Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page face Evil Uno and Stu Grayson!
  • We celebrate Hikaru Shida’s full year as Women’s Champion!
  • Darby Allin faces Cezar Bononi!
  • Final words from the Inner Circle before Stadium Stampede II!
  • Joey Janela has a lot of explaining to do before facing Adam Page!
  • And Cody Rhodes and Anthony Ogogo weigh in and face off!

HOW I’D BOOK IT:

  1. Adam Page beats Joey Janela, who post-match apologizes for his own weakness from Dark. Kiss is less than thrilled, but Janela wants to do a make-good. (I’m well aware they’ve been teasing a Janela heel turn for some time now, but I don’t see the benefit of it.)
  2. Darby Allin beats Cezar Bononi; Sting is beaten up by Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky after the match. (They’re all in on Sting’s first real match back.)
  3. BONUS MATCH 1: Britt Baker defeats KiLynn King. (If we’re celebrating Shida, we need a show of force from her foe.)
  4. Evil Uno and Stu Grayson hand Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky their first loss when Darby Allin returns the favor. (There’s no way you give Sting the first scalp of a team like Uno and Ethan; this allows you to build to a return match down the line, too, while putting a little more mystery into the tag match.)
  5. BONUS MATCH 2: The Hardy Family Office over the Varsity Blondes and the Sydal Brothers when Blade pins Mike (the only one not in the Casino match), and this leads to a post-match brawl as a Casino preview. (Look, I’m a sucker for the “everyone in the battle royal previews it for us” spot.)
  6. Miro beats Dante Martin to retain the title. (Martin will bump like a maniac.)

Throw in a segment where Orange Cassidy refuses to withdraw from Sunday’s title match and you have a full show.

STATS

BELL TO BELL: 59:09 over thirteen matches (average time 4:33)

MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Janela/Bronson

FIVE STARS:

  1. Joey Janela
  2. KiLynn King
  3. Bear Bronson
  4. Brian Cage
  5. Julia Hart (first win!)

Everyone enjoy a reprieve tomorrow.