Tony Schiavone, Taz, and Veda Scott are on commentary for the second straight week. Taz was absolutely awful last week, so hopefully he is locked in tonight.
Tonight's Dark will feature thirteen matches in total which is a record for the show.
Best Friends (w/Orange Cassidy) defeated Storm Thomas and Demetri Jackson
The Best Friends, currently feuding with Santana and Ortiz, are the no. 2 ranked tag team in AEW while this is the first time Thomas and Jackson have teamed together.
Chuck Taylor toyed with Thomas at the start before both tagged in their partners. Jackson attempted some kicks, but Trent regained the advantage with double knees and a draping suplex that Jackson barely rotated over for. After Taylor tagged back in, he taunted Thomas, but Jackson knocked him down to put his team on top.
Eventually, Trent fought back with a tornado DDT and a suicide dive. He hit a running knee on Jackson before tagging in Taylor for the hug. Trent hit a stuff piledriver followed by Taylor hitting the Awful Waffle for the win.
While short, this was surprisingly a back-and-forth match as the losers controlled around half the match. Also, I hate to keep bringing this up, but Taz was already completely grating one match in as he made no attempt to have any chemistry with Schiavone while Scott, who is potentially the best commentator of the bunch, could barely get a word in edgewise.
Shawn Spears (w/ Tully Blanchard) defeated Jessy Sorensen
Spears has been winning matches of late with a Kevlar-loaded glove. he hit a quick armdrag at the bell before the two locked up while Taz and Schiavone are calling each other “heels” on commentary.
Sorensen fought back with an armdrag and dropkick which led to Spears regrouping with Blanchard outside. Spears hit strikes on Sorensen in the corner before landing a standing dropkick. He continued to lay in punches after tying Sorensen up in the ropes. Spears then took his opponent outside and attempted to stomp on his hand, but Sorensen escaped.
Back in the ring, Sorensen got some breathing room in with a jackknife cover and a neckbreaker. Sorensen set up for a tornado DDT, but Spears fought out and hit the death valley driver for the pin. The most notable thing about this match is that Spears didn’t need to win using his Kevlar insert.
Post-match, Blanchard discussed things with the referee as Spears inserted the Kevlar and knocked Sorensen out with a palm strike.
Mel defeated Red Velvet
There was a huge size disparity in this one as Mel is nearly a foot taller than Velvet. Velvet came out striking at the bell and immediately took Mel off her feet. After more kicks, Mel countered a rope run into a side slam. Mel threw Velvet across the ring by her hair and smashed her head into the canvas. Velvet escaped to the top rope, but Mel caught her with a chokeslam to complete the squash victory.
Lance Archer (w/Jake Roberts) defeated D3
Archer came out already having beaten up some guy who wasn’t in the match. He attacked D3 before the bell and implored him to hit back which just made Archer even more mad. Roberts was talking into a ringside camera for much of this match.
A sky-high chokeslam would have given Archer the victory, but he picked D3 up after two and started gouging at his nose and eyes. He placed D3 in the corner, but D3 actually fought back with an elbow and a kick before completely missing a moonsault. Archer decided his fun was over, hitting Blackout followed by the EBD Claw to end this destruction. I continue to love the many different ways that Archer comes up with to make his squashes interesting.
Luther & Serpentico defeated The Initiative (Peter Avalon & Brandon Cutler) (w/Leva Bates)
The Initiative were 0-10 heading into this one. Luther and Serpentico attacked at the bell and when the dust settled, Luther and Avalon were the legal competitors. Luther beat down Avalon before tagging in Serpentico, but Avalon escaped and tagged in Cutler. He and Serpentico performed some lucha as The Initiative maintained their advantage.
Cutler continued to land moves on Serpentico, but Luther stopped his offense. Luther and Serpentico hit some strange bedfellows tag moves before Serpentico kept the heat up with a chinlock. Cutler finally escaped to Avalon for the hot tag.
A sit-out powerbomb on Serpentico nearly got the win for the Initiative, but Luther once again stopped the offense. “I think Veda’s getting annoyed at you and I” was a direct quote from Taz on commentary at this point in the match.
Bates distracted the referee, allowing Avalon to fight back, but the referee stayed distracted too long for the count. Cutler hit a gutbuster followed by a splash from Avalon, but Luther broke it up. Bates gave Avalon her book, but Avalon inadvertently hit his partner. Luther and Serpentico hit a diving meteora/powerbomb combo to get the hard fought win.
This was the first real match on this week’s Dark and it was still just okay. Luther has a cool look, but isn’t a strong worker. Notably, The Initiative continue to work from underneath as babyfaces during the match before Bates gets involved, that is.
Nyla Rose (w/ Vickie Guerrero) defeated KiLynn King
Rose is AEW's no.1 ranked female wrestler and the fact that she’s on Dark is a minor indictment of how limited their women’s division remains right now. Early on, Rose threw King outside the ring before wrapping her opponent around the ringpost.
Rose picked apart King before her opponent made a comeback, but Rose stopped it with a spinebuster. King attempted a few rollups and hit an impressive samoan drop on the much larger Rose for two. King went to the top rope, but Guerrero pushed her off and Rose hit the sit-out power bomb for the win.
This was bad from start to finish. The work was sloppy, and the fact that Rose, who is ostensibly this unstoppable monster, needed help from Guerrero to defeat somebody who has never won made no sense. Post-match, Guerrero cut a promo, saying that Rose “symbolizes fear and destruction” and named their alliance the “Vicious Vixens.”
Billy & Austin Gunn defeated Frank Stone & Baron Black
Billy and Austin have been mainstays on Dark over the summer while this is the first time Stone and Black teamed together. On commentary, Taz got angry at Schiavone for referring to wrestlers as “he” instead of by their names. The story is that Taz is still bitter with Billy from their WWF days.
The Gunns maintained an early advantage with quick tags and power moves before Stone finally cut Austin off with a tilt-a-whirl side slam. He and Black continued the cycle of tags and power moves. Gunn landed awkwardly on his shoulder on a belly-to-back where he seemed unsure whether he was supposed to rotate to his stomach.
Billy finally got the hot tag and ran wild with strikes. He missed the Fameasser, however, and got tripped up by Stone. Stone and Austin both tagged in and had a weak-looking striking battle before Austin hit the Quick Draw (what looks like a simple hip toss) for the win.
Penelope Ford (w/Kip Sabian) defeated Heather Monroe
Ford is AEW’s no. 3 ranked women’s wrestler, while this is Monroe’s Dark debut after facing Hikaru Shida a couple weeks ago on Dynamite. They got completely lost at the start as Monroe attempted some lucha style offense. Monroe maintained control as Sabian blasted her with leaf blowers from outside in a comedy spot. That distracted Monroe enough for Ford to take advantage with a gutbuster.
Ford and Sabian kissed while Ford was choking Monroe in the ropes. Monroe almost stole a victory with some cradles followed by a lung blower, but Ford fought back with a handspring, elbows, and a fisherman’s suplex bridge for three. Ford is a very solid talent, but Monroe struggled greatly here.
Santana & Ortiz defeated The Metro Brothers (Chris & JC)
The announcers discussed Santana & Ortiz’s ongoing feud with Best Friends. This was the Metro Brothers’ AEW debut and, I believe, the first time they have wrestled since the pandemic started. Ortiz started off while the announcers provided no name distinction between the two Metro Brothers.
Ortiz hit a powerslam and tagged in Santana for a lariat. Santana laid in kicks and a standing senton, followed by the Three Amigos suplexes. They allowed the beaten down Metro Brother to make a tag. The fresh competitor tried to run wild, but Ortiz immediately cut him off. Santana caught his opponent out of mid-air for a brutal powerbomb, and he and Ortiz hit the powerbomb knee lift combination for the easy squash win.
Post-match, Best Friends ran in and attacked. Taylor and Trent continued to run wild, but Ortiz and Santana gained the advantage when they introduced weapons. They fought out to the parking lot where Ortiz hit Taylor with a suplex onto a trash can which is where the segment ended.
Ricky Starks defeated Shawn Dean
On commentary, Taz emphasized that Starks and Brian Cage are Team Taz. This match was pretty back and forth. Starks and Dean locked up at the bell before Starks was knocked down with a shoulder tackle.
Dean went for a slingshot spear, but Starks feinted and hit a knee strike to gain control. Starks hit a standing Coffin Drop for a one count, referencing his feud with Darby Allin. Dean made his comeback with a DDT and a running knee, but Starks hit Roshambo out of nowhere for the win. While short, this was very well worked overall from both men.
Post-match, Starks celebrated with Taz at the commentary desk and drank out of Scott’s beverage.
Jake Hager defeated Marko Stunt
Stunt came out alone without the rest of Jurassic Express. Hager offered up a headlock for Stunt at the bell, but immediately stood up out of it and tossed Stunt aside. He opened the ropes and implored Stunt to walk out but Stunt then kicked the ropes into Hager’s groin and taunted him with the floss dance. Hager threw a tantrum in the ring.
There was no more mercy for Stunt as Hager cornered the smaller man before hitting a biel. Stunt tried to fight back but ate a big boot for his trouble. Hager hit a uranage into the head and arm choke for the squash stoppage.
Post-match, Hager threatened to attack even further, but Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus came out to make the save. Luchasaurus begged Hager not to attack Stunt, but he did anyway and quickly bailed. Hager flipped off Jurassic Express and left.
Frankie Kazarian defeated Kip Sabian (w/ Penelope Ford)
This was only Kazarian's fourth singles match of the year (1-2) while Sabian came in with a 10-5 record. They performed technical chain wrestling at the bell and Sabian got the upper hand after an eye poke, but Kazarian returned fire with a running shoulder tackle and a dropkick. Kazarian attempted to keep up the offense but was tripped up by Ford. Sabian followed up with a soccer kick outside.
Kazarian attempted a comeback, but Sabian reversed it into the grounded octopus hold. Eventually, Sabian missed another soccer kick and Kazarian finally made his comeback with clotheslines and a flying forearm. He followed it up with an electric chair drop into a bridge for a near fall. Sabian went for the draping neckbreaker, but the two seemed to get a bit lost as they transitioned to the apron and traded strikes.
Sabian went for a springboard back in, but Kazarian cut him off and hit a slingshot cutter. Kazarian went for the pinfall but Ford moved Sabian’s foot to the bottom rope. Sabian went for the top rope stomp, but Kazarian moved and hit the inverted DDT for the pin.
This was a prime example of a match that desperately needed a crowd. Aside from the one awkward spot towards the end, the match was very solid and hard hitting, but there were unfortunately moments of dead silence. Additionally, despite the good work, both competitors feel somewhat directionless right now.
The Hybrid2 (Jack Evans & Angélico) defeated Joey Janela & Sonny Kiss
Kiss and Janela have been a fun team and one of the few consistent highlights on Dark. They came into this one with a 7-1 record. The Hybrid2 have only had two matches back in AEW since the pandemic started.
The Hybrid2 put themselves on top when Evans drove Kiss’ face into the turnbuckle. They worked as clear heels, which was established when Evans attempted a back handspring into an eye gouge. Angélico put Kiss into an inverted figure four, but the official had words for Janela who tried to break it up. While the official was distracted, the Hybrid2 double-teamed Kiss in the ring.
Janela finally got the hot tag and immediately hit a high crossbody on Evans. There was an innovative spot where Janela essentially forced Angélico to DDT his partner. Janela hit an STO on the apron, tagged in Kiss for a double stomp, and then hit a death valley driver on the floor, completing three consecutive rough bumps for Evans. Kiss hit a moonsault on the outside and a 450 splash on the inside, but Angélico broke up the pinfall.
Janela went for another death valley driver on Angélico, but he fought out and knocked him out of the ring. Evans put Kiss in a pinning predicament via a backslide followed by the wraparound bridge for the pinfall.
There were plenty of cool individual moments in this match, but it never really came together as a whole package.
I have watched every single episode of AEW Dark, and not only was this the longest (the same length of an episode of Dynamite), it may have been the worst. Most weeks, Dark is neither very good nor bad, but aside from Kazarian vs. Sabian, every single match this week either (1) had a noticeable botch or sloppy work or (2) was a squash.
Compounding things was the commentary situation. Last week, I mentioned that Taz struggled, but this week, he was exponentially worse. I get that he is a heel commentator, but relentlessly arguing with Schiavone and belittling Scott, both over minuscule things, just made for an agonizing experience. Even worse, I have seen him plenty on Dynamite where he is just fine. Without making any sort of comment or judgment on the circumstances behind his absence, this show *needs* Excalibur back.
Nothing on the show was Dynamite-worthy, but if I had to pick the best match, I’d go with the aforementioned Kazarian vs. Sabian.