As evidenced by last week’s show-ending brawl, AEW is starting to adopt New Japan Pro Wrestling’s template of rival factions competing in the same organization. Matt Hardy’s newly formed business alliance is determined to send the Dark Order into the shadows; MJF’s recently formed group the Pinnacle have—at least temporarily—run the Inner Circle out of town; there’s dissent in the ranks of Team Taz; the Elite (formerly a subgroup of Bullet Club) continues to fracture as the Young Bucks have walked out on Kenny Omega, who has aligned with fellow Bullet Club expats the Good Brothers; Death Triangle are currently battling both the Bucks and Kenny’s new trio; QT Marshall is breaking away from the Cody-led Nightmare Family over a matter of ego. Whew, did I miss anyone? Jurassic Express? Best Friends plus Orange Cassidy minus Trent?
Elsewhere last week, John Silver dislocated his shoulder in a banger against Darby Allin. Darby’s buddy Sting is being targeted by Lance Archer. Tay Conti is making waves in the women’s division after a win over Nyla Rose. Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley continue to taunt their enemies in backstage promos. And the Bunny is actually going to wrestle, apparently! The advertising for last night’s show was buoyed by another trios match featuring the Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid, as well as Arcade Anarchy, featuring Miro and the groom he served as best man for taking on Miro’s former butler and the guy he referred to as “human Xanax.” Last night’s episode ended up being filled with very good matches and big surprises, so let’s not waste any more time in the intro!
Christian Cage def. Frankie Kazarian
Getting the crowd hyped up by making Christian vs. Kazarian the opening match is a good move as far as I’m concerned. I think Christian bumping his head against the glass ceiling of main event status in WWE was due to him finding the keys to being a compelling character later in his career, while Kazarian is the perfect leadoff batter for any lineup. He’s a great talent who fulfills his role incredibly capably, and sometimes delivers a legitimate home run to start the game in order to get everyone hype (like his match against Jon Moxley).
The match started out with Kaz damn near leaping into the collar and elbow tie up, and he later managed to clock Christian so hard he got knocked out of the ring. There was a lot of standard stuff like the rest holds to break up the pace near the beginning, but once the match jumped up a level and started to get a little heated, both competitors looked great. Kaz got a little heat from the crowd for pushing Christian off the top turnbuckle and the commentary team take notice of it; Kazarian is always at his best when he shows a little attitude and extra edge.
The momentum swung in Christian’s favor, taking the match up another level, with Christian leaping over the top rope onto the floor just to hit Kazarian in the face. (Kazarian attempting to block the punches when Christian mounted the ropes was a very nice, and realistic, touch. The ten punches in the corner is the worst wrestling move in the context of a match, but at least trying to make them seem like real punches makes the match continue feeling realistic.) Kazarian locked in the Crossface Chickenwing, and Christian almost faded out but finally made it to the bottom rope. Christian hung on to the bottom rope and Kazarian gave him a stiff kick to make him let go.
This opening match was very good; realistic and lightly gritty with both competitors each looking like they were going to win at points. Kazarian hit the Flex Capacitor (like a sloppy bar band version of a Spanish Fly, I mean that in the most positive way) and still had Christian only down for two. Christian returned with a frog splash, also only for a two count. Christian sent Kaz into the corner turnbuckle and stuffed him with a Killswitch for the win.
Segment: “The truth is the truth.” Darby nailed his read on Matt Hardy; that he’s manipulating people and chasing money and glory through unearned wins because he doesn’t have what it takes in the ring anymore. Thankfully, out of all the things which motivate Darby Allin, money is not one of them, so he will make it his duty to expose Hardy as a fraud. He doesn’t need the $4700 dollars; he’s spent more on repairs for his various insane stunts!
“I walk like money, I talk like money, I look like money, and when @TonyKhan booked me, I MADE THAT MONEY” – @Jade_Cargill.
Segments: Jade Cargill came back to talk shit about Red Velvet, much to my delight. She said Velvet was shook just like everybody else, because everybody knows she is IT. Jade’s improvement on the mic via these backstage vignettes remains a hit with me, and AEW are most certainly playing to her strengths while ushering her along as she gains more experience. I think by now, everyone who reads this column weekly knows I think Jade is going to be BIG MONEY in AEW. Just remember I’ve been saying this when she blows the fuck up.
Exhibition Match: Cody Rhodes def. QT Marshall by disqualification
QT didn’t even get an entrance, which had me rolling! I’m surprised by how entertained I am by QT’s new personality as “aggrieved weed carrier,” as he’s showing a lot of genuine emotion by being the guy who keeps Cody’s coffee warm. I’ve always wanted a song from Memphis Bleek about the downsides to being known as Jay-Z’s sidekick, but it never came, so I’ll happily accept this match as a wrestling-centric allegory.
Of course, QT is showing a lot of aggression in this match—part and parcel to a newly-minted heel turn—but he’s also wrestling smarter in general. He tugs on Cody’s hair at just the right moment. He spends much of the match focusing on Cody’s shoulder, which pays off when Our Cool Boss can barely throw strikes by the middle of the match. Though rather predictably, when Cody goes for a big slam, the shoulder doesn’t come into play. Cody relinquished both the Figure Four and the Crossrhodes, which got QT pissed enough to slap him. QT got sent out of the ring and Cody—as low-key condescending as anybody’s richer, handsomer, more famous friend could be—held the ropes open for him; QT took up Cody’s offer … and then knocked the shit out of Arn Anderson!
Then, three students of the Nightmare Factory jumped the Nightmare Family from behind. Lee Johnson got powerbombed onto the ramp, but the carnage wasn’t done. The ring steps were brought to the stage, where QT hit a piledriver on Dustin Rhodes. Anthony Ogogo hit a nasty punch to Cody’s stomach, and as QT was about to give Cody a career-ending shot, Red Velvet came out to save Cody.
Well, now we have another new group in AEW, and I’m just as shocked as anybody by how much I loved this match from a storytelling perspective. Aside from the Bunkhouse Match, who knew QT had it in him to create such a can’t-miss segment?
Segment: Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky did one of those blended promos about how they’ve been overlooked and undervalued by AEW, so they’re teaming up!
Backstage Interview: Red Velvet told Dasha she had to have Cody’s back, and before she could get another sentence out, she got her ass kicked by Jade Cargill.
Segment: Mox went over the events of the past few weeks, saying he hates it when he’s in a bad mood like this. A bad mood like this? Like you’re in a worse mood than you’ve been in the past nine months? Anyway, Mox cut a good promo about being annoyed and possibly committing murder on live television.
Jon Moxley def. Cezar Bononi
Bononi showed he’s not afraid of Mox, even using his power advantage to muscle him around for a bit. Mox targeted the leg and served some kicks to the chest. Ryan Nemeth attempted to trip Mox, which distracted him just long enough to give Bononi the advantage. JD Drake was also ringside and tried to interfere whenever he could. Bononi was given a little more time than I expected him to get, and he made the most of his ring time against Mox, looking like a tough motherfucker in the face of AEW’s King Tough Motherfucker. When JD Drake distracted the referee, Nemeth entered the ring to interfere and received a Paradigm Shift for his trouble. After a countered pumphandle slam, Mox locked in the rear naked choke and put Bononi to sleep for the win.
Segment: Team Taz were in fancy chairs while Taz spoke on what’s been going on, and then Ricky Starks took the floor to ask Brian Cage what he thought about last night’s match on Dark. Cage basically said they don’t get paid by the hour and the match would have ended quicker if he was given the tag sooner. Before tempers flared, Taz got Starks and Cage to settle down and said Team Taz is fine.
Segment: MJF’s gift to the Pinnacle … is a stylist wearing clear frames. But also, an interior decorator to redo their dressing room and get rid of the “stench” in the bathroom. Max opened the door to reveal the Inner Circle and tried to leave, but Jake Hager was barring the door. They brawled and Shawn Spears’ head was slammed in the door, Hager threw Wardlow through a massage table, Cash Wheeler got knocked into the ice bath, Dax Harwood got hit in the face with a splintered chair leg, and Chris Jericho gave Max a swirlie like a middle school movie bully and then sent his head into the Pepsi machine (which I don’t think is normally made of real glass)!
And then, the Inner Circle took back their dressing room.
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez spoke to the Young Bucks about the fissure between them and Kenny, and Don Callis showed up, inspiring Nick and Alex to leave. Callis gave it straight to Matt, saying he broke Kenny’s heart—basically giving him a guilt trip for not sticking by Omega. The elder Jackson huffed and puffed until Callis slapped him, prompting him to grab Callis’ collar in return. “Is there anything inside you at all?” asked Callis after Matt cooled down.
Kenny Omega & the Good Brothers def. The Lucha Bros & Laredo Kid
The key to a good trios team is a strong anchor, which is safe to say isn’t Brandon Cutler. The match started out with Laredo Kid and Fenix throwing themselves at the Not Bullet Club early on. Penta, Fenix, and Laredo Kid flattened the team with triple superkicks in the early going, and followed them up with stereo dives. Laredo Kid’s duo of moonsaults—the first from the bottom turnbuckle, the second from the middle—was slyly innovative.
Doctor Luke Gallows came in to slow the pace of the match, dominating Laredo Kid before tagging in Karl Anderson. Gallows slammed Laredo Kid with one arm, followed by a triple splash from the whole team. Laredo Kid spent the bulk of the match getting pummeled by Kenny and his bros, who isolated him in the corner for several minutes before he finally got a tag. Finally Penta came in and cleared house; he quickly tagged in Fenix who continued to sweep up the Cleaner and his crew. Lucha Bros and Laredo Kid went silly with the triple teams before Kenny and the Good Brothers did the same.
They performed the “last scene of The Departed” spot until the “this is awesome” chants rang through Daily’s Place. Laredo Kid hit an insane dive through the ropes where he did a ¾ flip in midair. The pace was brought to a fever pitch and I actually enjoyed a match the Good brothers were in. Fenix ran the top rope and kicked Kenny in the face and Laredo Kid hit a Michinoku Driver for two.
Naturally, the match ended with a vicious V-Trigger and a One-Winged Angel for the win.
After the match, Mox hobbled onto the stage and faced down Kenny and the Good Brothers, which brought out the Young Bucks and they all stormed the ring as Omega, Gallows, and Anderson scurried out of the ring. Mox and the Young Bucks are a mismatched alliance with a common enemy, and Mox noted last week that he doesn’t particularly like the Bucks, but as the cliche goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Segment: Dr. Britt Baker and Reba (Rebel) taunted Thunder Rosa about getting her wins up since her unsanctioned win didn’t count toward her standings in the AEW Women’s Division.
Nyla Rose & the Bunny def. Tay Conti & Hikaru Shida
Rose started out the match by shoving the Bunny away in the middle of a match opening brawl to take on both Conti and Shida herself, but eventually tagged her partner in. I thought Bunny’s thing was supposed to be “sadistic and bored” until I saw her briefly skipping around the ring, but her work looks snug and believable, so the purpose of that added wrinkle of her character remains to be seen. Rose dominates the early going of the match, beating Shida down for most of the picture-in-picture. When Bunny was tagged in, she frequently occupied all sides of the ring, hitting Conti with a cheap shot so she could continue the advantage over Shida.
The Bunny and Rose continued their strategy of quick tags before Conti got the hot tag and mowed down the Bunny. Alan Angels started a brawl between the Dark Order and the Hardy Financial Party and while the brawl happens outside, the Bunny grabbed a kendo stick and while Vickie Guerrero distracted Aubrey Edwards, Conti got hit with both the stick and Down the Rabbit Hole for the Bunny/Rose win.
Segment: Jurassic Express promoted their match next week (and the newly released movie Gorilla vs. Kong) by making a bunch of monster movie references and Marko Stunt revealing a mammalian tattoo, to his reptilian partner’s chagrin.
I browsed eBay for arcade machines before this match started in earnest, and now I’m starting to wonder about AEW’s budget because these machines aren’t cheap! Even the Mortal Kombat machine, which is probably fairly common, had to have set the company back $400 on its own. Maybe I’m just underestimating how much the company is actually making; maybe it actually is a drop in the bucket for them. But I’m not paying $359 to put Ms. Pac Man in the corner of my garage.
The match started with a brawl (of course), and Miro went nuts in the beginning. Orange Cassidy sent Kip through the back of the Whack-A-Mole machine and started hitting him in the head with the mallet until Miro absolutely trucked him. This match turned into carnage without much preamble—the best way to go about a blood feud blowout surrounded by the games you would find at Chuck-E-Cheese or your local Family Fun Center. As Miro beat the fuck out of Cassidy, I realized how incredible Cass is at selling; incredibly believable and sympathetic.
A “Miro sucks” chant was drawn from the crowd before Taylor jumped off the Mortal Kombat machine. “I know writers who use subtext and they’re all cowards,” Excalibur excitedly quipped. Orange and Chuck, with a trash can lid and a kendo stick, took turns teeing off on Miro’s skull. Then the Bulgarian Hypebeast got run down by a guardrail and buried with shit from ringside. They went for a cover but Kip saved the match. Sabian then took on both members of the opposing team, suplexing Chuck and dropkicking Orange through a prize display. Chuck took a teddy bear and emptied its contents; several hundred LEGO. After fighting on the ropes, Kip eventually powerbombed Chuck onto the LEGO. Best Friends & Orange are great at these sort of unconventional brawls. Orange hit Kip with a quick flurry followed by Beach Break for two, and then hit the Orange Punch before Aubrey Edwards got pulled out of the ring by Penelope Ford, who kicked Orange in the balls.
Which brought the return of Kris Statlander to even the odds, driving Ford right through the air hockey table! Miro rejoined the match and wreaked havoc, grabbing a chair and wailing on his opponents. Miro looked more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him, flinging stuff across the floor. Orange and Chuck crawled up the ramp while a white minivan pulled up. You guessed it, it was Sue, driving her boy Trent to the fight! Miro takes all three of them on and then waved to Sue, walking up to her van to pay her a visit. Trent stopped Miro from doing further minivan damage. Miro picked up the Mortal Kombat II console and tried to throw it at Trent but missed. Trent speared Miro through the table. Chuck hit Kip with a running powerslam off the stage through a table for the win.
Though maybe not as wild as the street fight against Santana & Ortiz, it was quite wild! The show ended with “Where is My Mind?” blasting through Daily’s Place and Sue giving the thumbs up.