Fleet Files #3: AEW 2.0

It’s the first week of AEW’s future, producing four different episodes of pro wrestling TV. Well, they’re easing into their future at least, adding an additional edition of Dark as they prepare for next week’s Rampage premiere. For now though, Jericho enters a time machine, Lee Johnson gets his first title shot and Dark celebrates 100 episodes. Big names are coming and surprises are expected but first, an in-ring debut also awaits, as Malakai Black finally faces Cody Rhodes. He’s not the only debut either, as is quickly becoming tradition.

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. Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston & Jon Moxley vs. Daniel Garcia & 2.0 – Dynamite: Homecoming

Just on concept alone, this was AEW at its best. Three outsiders coming in and being themselves, uniting three of AEW’s top babyfaces along the way. This isn’t one for your year-end list and in fact, you may not even consider it good but frankly, I don’t care. This thing was a delight, just heroes kicking ass. Wild Thing is the industry’s best entrance, Kingston is beloved and they got to share their grin with Sting too, ideal. Can’t ignore their opposition here either, three debutants that maximized their every minute.

2. TNT Title: Miro (c) vs. Lee Johnson – Dynamite: Homecoming

It can’t be overstated just how good Miro is right now. Framed as the unbeatable champion, Miro gave Lee Johnson an awful lot here and yet, barely took a bump. Instead, he’d arrogantly march forward, staggering and stumbling like Yokozuna in 1993. He was immense here and rightly so, because Johnson deserved that performance. While still raw, Johnson is one of the promotion’s top prospects and he delivered here, flying around as usual but really selling too.

3. Pac vs. Jack Evans – Dark #100

This one jumped off the page immediately and after a steady start, these two swiftly showed why. Setting the table with a brief pre-match promo, Evans referenced their history and added some weight to their eventual back and forth. The finishing sequence of this was enthralling, and it was physical throughout. C-Show Pac isn’t the same as A-Show Pac but he can still hit the high notes, especially against someone like Evans, who needed this performance in my view.

4. Christian Cage vs. The Blade – Dynamite: Homecoming

The Blade always appeared to be a natural fit for Christian and indeed, that proved to be the case. This wasn’t anything special and wasn’t trying to be either but mechanically, probably has an argument for match of the week. Just sound pro wrestling, fundamental-heavy TV action. Cage is now the number one contender which long-term, I’m hoping will lead him to the dark side, where he can have these same matches opposite some of AEW’s more unheralded babyfaces. Either way, I’m happy for The Blade, who deserved this show of faith.

5. Leyla Hirsch vs. The Bunny – Dynamite: Homecoming

This Dynamite’s sole women’s match, Leyla Hirsch and The Bunny made the absolute most of their moment. Though tied to the NWA Women’s Title, this wasn’t an immediately interesting pairing but I actually thought they gelled rather well. The Bunny isn’t particularly exciting on offence but she can really sell and when matched with Hirsch’s sheer intensity, that’s more than enough to make up the difference. Would like to see more of Leyla on the A-Show frankly, and hopefully this win is the start of that progression.

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. The Best Friends vs. The Wingmen – Dark #100

Though it may seem ironic, the love for The Wingmen in honestly well-deserved. With JD Drake as the workhorse, this group’s silliness is particularly palatable, perfect for C-Show wrestling in truth. As a result, this was an obvious hit, matching Bononi, Drake and Nemeth with The Best Friends trio of Cassidy, Taylor and Yuta. That’s a stacked team and inevitably, one of the top contenders for eventual trio gold, but The Wingmen were worthy foes, providing an ideal C-Show Stealer.

2. Darby Allin vs. Bear Bronson – Dark Elevation #21

It’s a simple formula really: pair Darby Allin with a big brute and you’ll get something watchable, especially when that brute is as capable as Bronson. There’s a more dynamic, elaborate version of this match that in AEW at least, we’ll probably never see but in the C-Show setting, this ticked the boxes nicely. Strong main event for a relatively weak edition of Elevation, taking a backseat to Dark’s 100th episode.

3. The Lucha Bros vs. Chaos Project – Dark #100

Yes, of course I’m biased, leave me alone. Seriously though, the mere novelty of this earns it a spot, as for a minute or two, this was an actual tag team bout. Like, conceptually, structurally, it was a tag team match of the professional wrestling variety. Take that spectacle, add some Lucha Bros goodness as well as Serpentico’s palpable enthusiasm and finally, sprinkle a little Luther lunacy. The result: a bronze medal in the C-Show Stealer.

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. Dax Harwood – Dynamite: Homecoming

Enraged by the injury to Cash Wheeler, Dax Harwood was an angry, desperate man this week. In the midst of a video package, Harwood was as believable as any promo in recent memory, adding real depth to last week’s result. Santana and Ortiz promised to leave a mark and Harwood’s tone matched that thought, just overcome with emotion. Harwood’s passion is his greatest strength and when rooted in reality like this, it’s unbeatable.

2. Britt Baker – Dynamite: Homecoming

At one point, I thought that people were getting carried away with Britt Baker’s promo progression. Honestly though, I was wrong, as she’s levelled up again as of late. Confident as ever, Baker came across like a superstar on Dynamite, going back and forth with Red Velvet and truly feeling like the champion. Baker gets more comfortable every week and the result is a performer that on the microphone at least, just doesn’t miss.

3. Cody Rhodes – Dynamite: Homecoming

I know, I know, it was too long and Cody is awful dramatic. Yes indeed, both those things are true. With that being said, I can only be honest here and so, I’ll admit it: Cody worked me. Now, did I expect an actual retirement? No, but he had me on the edge of my seat, just waiting for the tale’s twist. Don’t care how unpopular it is, that’s a credit to Cody in my view, who spoke with a sincerity that added genuine uncertainty to the whole thing.

4. Christian Cage – Dynamite: Homecoming

The wily veteran hunting one last title win, Christian has been a pretty straight-laced character in AEW. Personally, I’ve enjoyed that presentation quite a bit, but I sense that it’s been somewhat divisive. I get that, as it can be rather dry but here, Cage finally showed a little more personality, having some fun as he secured number one contender status. I don’t need this approach weekly, but it was a nice reminder of Christian’s range.

5. Red Velvet – Dynamite: Homecoming

Opposite the division’s best talker by a distance, Red Velvet stepped up to the challenge on Dynamite. Velvet’s confidence has been there since day one and though the content wasn’t anything impressive here, that trait certainly kept her afloat in my view. With more experience, Velvet can become a strong promo but for now, she’s a charismatic presence that doesn’t back down from the moment.

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. Malakai Black vs. Cody Rhodes – Dynamite : Homecoming

Probably cheating here but who cares? For a few minutes, this was just excellent pro wrestling and then, it was over. Black sent Rhodes flying through a table and then in the flattest fashion possible, put his lights out, winning with ease. Cody should probably get points for this too, but that’s a slippery slope so credit to Black, who nailed this presentation and left Dynamite feeling like a killer.

2. Aaron Solo & Nick Comoroto vs. Hunter Knott & Rosario Grillo – Dark Elevation #21

It’s nothing special or spectacular, but I like this team. The Factory duo of Solo and Comoroto makes a lot of sense, pairing polished fundamentals with raw firepower. Comoroto is perfect for the squash match genre, impressive but not good in a traditional sense, making you wince in fear with every outing. Ideal.

3. Lee Johnson vs. Marcus Kross – Dark Elevation #21

His last stop before that aforementioned battle with Miro, Lee Johnson won in the blink of an eye on Elevation. Perhaps that was just a result of time constraints, but it was nice to see Johnson win emphatically, especially against an opponent as hilarious as Kross.

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. Malakai Black

The beauty of this category is that without limitations or specifics, it can get straight to the point. This was Malakai’s Black week, plain and simple. He nailed this whole presentation and left Dynamite looking like a genuine superstar. Massive triumph, exactly what the doctor ordered.

2. Miro

Though fun as a simple destroyer, Miro’s greatest strength is that within the physicality, he’s actually a very intelligent, nuanced worker. This match encapsulated that perfectly, as Miro elevated Johnson without losing an inch of credibility. Check out his entrance on Elevation too, this is a main event act.

3. Darby Allin

Main eventing Elevation with Bronson and then stealing the show in Dynamite’s six-man tag, Darby Allin is one of AEW’s most consistent performers. If indeed, CM Punk is ahead, Allin continues to prove himself as the perfect choice for that role. Daniel Garcia is first though, which is exciting in its own right.

4. Christian Cage

Cementing his status as the number one contender, Christian turned in another strong television bout, pairing it with an engaging, colourful promo too. The inevitable Omega match may not have immense hype, but considering Cage’s form, you’d be a fool to dismiss it.

5. Cody Rhodes

Opposite Black, Cody did the right thing and then some, going out on his back. As always with Rhodes though, there was more but thankfully, that more actually hit for me here. Though flawed, Cody’s promo worked in my view and best of all, Black still stood tall in the end anyway.

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 – 24 Points
  2. Orange Cassidy – 13 Points
  3. Darby Allin – 13 Points
  4. Lance Archer – 12 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 11 Points
  6. Nick Gage – 11 Points
  7. Miro – 9 Points
  8. John Silver – 9 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 8 Points
  10. Malakai Black – 8 Points

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