Fleet Files #1: Our First Death Match!

On a week where outside the ring, AEW reportedly transformed the wrestling world, the content kept coming. Granted, it took a backseat to the rumours and such, but it continued nonetheless, with all three of AEW’s weekly shows receiving the live crowd treatment. With that in mind, I thought this was the perfect time to start a brand-new series: Fleet Files. This is a special moment folks, so let’s embrace it, tracking Tony Khan’s often insane promotion each and every week.

I’ll explain each category as I go but basically, we have five different honours, collecting each triumph as we go. With this, we can finally find the All Elite Fleet’s leaders after all, so let’s get to it.

Match of the Week

This speaks for itself, the week’s five best matches. 1 point for the five spot, 2 for the fourth and upward from there.

  1. Texas Death Match for the IWGP US Heavyweight Title: Lance Archer vs. Jon Moxley (c) – Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2

The best match of their over eighteen month trilogy, this was as violent as television wrestling gets. Operating as the bout’s de facto heel, Moxley took most of the match, setting the stage for Archer’s heroic comeback. It was bloody and brutal, jampacked with action from start to finish. This thing had real urgency to it, a desperation to match the stipulation. Archer’s eventual victory was shocking but in an instant, made perfect sense, giving the big man a moment that at times, seemed increasingly unlikely.

2. Orange Cassidy vs. The Blade – Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2

Though longer than expected, especially considering the setup, this became a worthwhile investment of time. It wasn’t a feud that anyone asked for or expected but with his tag partner inactive, it shined a light on The Blade. Clearly, Cassidy was always going to be the victor but that didn’t stop Blade from maximising his minutes, really delivering a performance of note here. Strong match, Cassidy remains pretty prolific, a just consistently watchable puzzle piece.

3. The Acclaimed & Private Party vs. Alan Angels, 10 & The Varsity Blondes – Dark #98

In terms of action, this was almost nothing but moves. Look at the line-up though, that’s what the doctor ordered, especially on this show. They kept things moving without losing anyone’s personality, having some fun with the different dynamics along the way. For example, The Acclaimed were a cowardly counterpoint to Private Party’s arrogant acrobatics, ensuring that there was always something to watch. Pillman’s popularity didn’t hurt either, quickly becoming the audience’s focus.

4. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Spears – Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2

By contrast, this was a far steadier outing, as expected in truth. Jericho’s physical decline has altered the pace of his matches and Spears always felt like a foe to compliment that, not combat it. Spears is a traditional, sound pro and using the audience’s investment, they produced an engaging, dramatic affair. Nick Gage will be a far more challenging test for Jericho but here, he delivered and in fairness, this could reasonably sit at #2 on the list. Spears may not be an electric personality, but his usage here was perfect.

5. Jungle Boy vs. Angelico – Dark Elevation #19

There’s a more dynamic version of this match I’m sure, but this was some wonderful C-Show wrestling. They started slow, easing into some tight grappling exchanges, then using Jungle Boy’s comeback to accelerate things. This is the kind of match that’s really allowing Jungle Boy to flourish, just figuring it out and trusting that the audience will be with them for the ride. Angelico is quickly becoming the centrepiece of that genre, offering these almost weekly on either Monday or Tuesday, sometimes both.

C-Show Stealer

With only three places as a lesser category, this is a nod to AEW’s more subdued C-Show titans. They missed out on match of the week, but entertained regardless.

  1. Chuck Taylor & Orange Cassidy vs. Chaos Project – Dark Elevation #19

Oh, this was perfection. Of course, we all wanted some Orange – Luther antics and we got them, but this had a finish for the ages too. Honestly, it’s a year-end list worthy conclusion, the perfect finale to a harmless comedy match. Ideal C-Show wrestling.

2. Eddie Kingston & Penta El Zero Miedo vs. The Wingmen – Dark Elevation #19

These King/Penta matches, what a treat. They aren’t good or anything, just hilarious. Penta doesn’t bump, he doesn’t need to while King is the opposite, exclusively selling and refusing to run through anyone. It’s an incredible dynamic, only enhanced by the pair’s popularity. Add some JD Drake too, and you have a fitting show-closer.

3. Dustin Rhodes vs. Solo – Dark #98

Back in his hometown, Dustin Rhodes was the obvious choice for a C-Show main event. Rhodes used that investment to help Solo, selling for the first half and giving his foe a genuine shot at gaining some heat. Solo didn’t shrink under the spotlight, producing solid results before things naturally heated up with Rhodes’ comeback. Nothing special, but as always with Rhodes, an easy watch.

The Promo Pack

The second of our three A-categories, this award also quite literally speaks for itself, the promotion’s five best verbal offerings.

  1. Jon Moxley – Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2

On a week of many B+ promos, I’m going to get a little controversial here. Chopped up within a tiny little video package, Jon Moxley secured victory for me, setting the stage seamlessly for this show’s main event. AEW seldom produces recaps like this but it worked well here, with Moxley getting Archer, himself and their history over in one fell swoop.

2. MJF – Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2

By MJF’s standards, this wasn’t anything special, but I do think he deserves some credit. Nick Gage got a huge pop and that speaks to his reputation but for anyone uninitiated, MJF ticked every box. With both his content and delivery, MJF answered any questions with ease, positioning Nick Gage perfectly. That introduction was a fitting first note for those still awaiting their first experience of Gage, and what an experience it’ll be.

3. Santana – Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2

This was the week’s actual best promo but unfortunately, it had two issues. Firstly, they’ve probably gone to this well too many times now, lessening its impact unfortunately. In addition, this was edited, limiting it even further. That’s a shame, as what we saw was immense, with Santana continuing to climb the promotion’s packed promo rankings.

4. Dustin Rhodes – Dark #98

Opening AEW Dark before his eventual main event, Dustin Rhodes established the match’s rookie – veteran dynamic immediately. More than that, Rhodes maintains that familiar charm and in fact, it’s only more palpable as he ages. Rhodes is the promotion’s lovable papa, overseeing all right and wrong with his very bold face paint. Honestly, the C-Shows are worthwhile for Rhodes alone.

5. Eddie Kingston – Dark Elevation #19

This is probably cheating but who cares? In the name of Eddie Kingston, I’ll bend my own rules a lot, so here he is, sneaking in the top five. Once again asked to send the people home happy, Kingston gave the rabid crowd exactly what they wanted, even signing off with a somewhat hostile, but ultimately harmless message. Kingston is beloved and could do this forever: sell some, win and upset Twitter. Easy.

Squashes to See

Good television wrestling needs many ingredients, but it never forgets the squash matches. Here are the week’s three funniest showcase bouts.

  1. Wardlow vs. Chad Lennex – Dark #98

Though not without competition, Wardlow just escaped with the victory here. In-ring, it only took him 31 seconds but in this category, things were much more contested. It’s Wardlow though, you know the deal.

2. Lance Archer vs. Zachariah – Dark Elevation #19

Honestly, Archer could reasonably claim robbery here. I mean, the man literally dragged his opponent to the ring with him, that’s immense. Even still, Wardlow’s finisher is a cut above in my view, so there’s that.

3. Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Lucas Chase – Dark Elevation #19

Blunt as ever, Hobbs is a master of the unspectacular squash. I mean that as a compliment to be clear, he rules. Also, Hobbs offered a genuinely good promo on here too, which earns placement in a fair world.

The Fleet Five

Our third and final A-category, The Fleet Five is simple, the promotion’s five best performers of that particular week. All the above decides this, so it’s a big one.

  1. Lance Archer

Winning the week’s best match by a mile as well as an immaculate squash, Archer earned this on his in-ring efforts alone. Add a decent little promo within that aforementioned Dynamite video package, and you have a clear winner in my view. The hometown hero getting his moment, that’s what it’s all about!

2. Jon Moxley

Still the face of this company in my mind, Jon Moxley is swiftly reminding the world of what we missed. Since returning, Moxley hasn’t wasted anytime, this week leading one of his best AEW bouts yet. That plus the promo creates a special week for the former champion.

3. Orange Cassidy

Funny against Chaos Project and fiery opposite The Blade, Orange Cassidy’s range in this role continues to impress. It’s a very simply gimmick in truth, but Cassidy’s performance constantly catapults it towards something really quite special. Oh, and he also got Sting in on the act, which was perhaps the week’s standout gif or whatever.

4. Dustin Rhodes

Bookending the illustrious Dark, Dustin Rhodes was a hometown hero in his own right this week. Nothing spectacular from Rhodes here of course, just another reminder of how much he still has to offer. Want more matches of note really, but I understand that it’s hard with such a crowded crew.

5. Eddie Kingston

I’ve already told you, I just don’t care. On Elevation, Kingston wrapped up a five-hour set of tapings beautifully, receiving an incredible reaction along the way. He’s the territory’s heart and soul and a year removed from his debut, somehow finds his way onto my obviously biased top five.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 10, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Jon Moxley – 14 Points
  2. Lance Archer – 12 Points
  3. Orange Cassidy – 10 Points
  4. Dustin Rhodes – 5 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 4 Points
  6. MJF – 4 Points
  7. The Blade – 4 Points
  8. Luther – 3 Points
  9. Serpentico – 3 Points
  10. Santana – 3 Points

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