Fleet Files #5: The First Dance

It’s the biggest week in AEW’s short but eventful history, as the United Center awaits. CM Punk looms large but first, Judas is in Chris Jericho’s mind, looking to finally vanquish MJF. On the same night, Sammy Guevara comes home and Sting returns to the ring, his first match on TNT since 2001. Let’s be real though, this week is only about one man, it’s only about one moment. This is about the rare chance at pro wrestling magic, it’s about Rampage. It’s about Chicago, it’s about The First Dance.

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. The Young Bucks vs. Jurassic Express – Dynamite #99

This was electric, just enthralling pro wrestling TV. Jungle Boy gets better every time I see him, and he had two perfect dance partners here. Down the stretch, you could accuse this match of being overbooked but honestly, it worked for me. This thing was exciting and once again, The Young Bucks proved themselves almost undeniable as tag team champions. They just aren’t missing right now, and any tag title defence is a lock for this category.

2. Sammy Guevara vs. Shawn Spears – Dynamite #99

Out of nowhere, this became something quite special. Don’t get me wrong, it was always certain to be solid, as Spears is an admirable pro and at home especially, Guevara is a beloved protagonist. They were striving for more than that here though and even if you rolled your eyes at some of the false finishes, they personally achieved it for me. This thing was wild, their take on an epic in the second match of an already under the radar Dynamite.

3. Jurassic Express vs. Private Party – Rampage: The First Dance

Two nights removed from their thrilling title tilt, Jurassic Express did it again, producing an action-packed bout with Private Party. For my money, Private Party’s constant improvement hasn’t gotten enough credit over the last year or so, and perhaps that’s due to their relative lack of presence on Dynamite. Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know but let me tell you folks, this team is figuring things out in a major way. The shtick is more entertaining than ever and their work is tightening without losing its innovation.

4. Darby Allin & Sting vs. 2point0 – Dynamite #99

This was an absolute blast. Good? I don’t know man, who cares? It was Sting, in action on TNT, wrestling 2point0 of all teams. They brawled through the people, did a stunt or two and just rocked the place. I mean come on, Sting took a damn table bump, no-selling it and rolling back the years in real time. This was AEW at its best, allowing two generations of fan to enjoy their favourites, celebrating yesterday and tomorrow all at once, with both sides lifting each other up.

5. Daniel Garcia vs. Matt Sydal – Dark Elevation #24

On an unexpected, frankly insane addition to AEW’s already loaded week, Daniel Garcia and Matt Sydal stole the show on Thursday. This episode of Elevation came out of nowhere and so did this match, with Garcia upsetting Sydal after eight simply excellent minutes of action. This thing was just incredibly tight, build on immense execution and having some fun with the rookie-veteran dynamic too. Sydal is such a great pro but it’s in this setting that you see Garcia’s skill most, as he was right there with him technically.

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. Lucha Bros vs. TH2 – Dark Elevation #23

If we’re being honest, Monday’s episode of Elevation was about Eddie Kingston, who legitimately lost his mind on commentary. Aside from that though, we also got a tremendous main event, which was the least surprising thing ever. I adore this role for the Lucha Bros, providing C-Shows with their one actually good bout.

2. Dante Martin vs. Lee Moriarty – Dark #103

I can’t believe that this thing didn’t even hit five minutes. Lee Moriarty is special, folks. I mean, Dante Martin obviously is too, but that’s already well-established in this series. Moriarty? Well, most know the deal but man, seeing him on this stage, that really told a tale. What a unique piece of talent, and he showed why here in again, just under five minutes.

3. Pac vs. Anthony Bowens – Dark Elevation #23

Before, during and after, this was about Anthony Bowens for me. Now operating as a singles wrestler (for now), Bowens had the chance to make a statement here, opposite one of the promotion’s finest in-ring performers. Personally, I thought he managed exactly that, really belonging in a relatively brief, but sound C-Show bout.

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. CM Punk – Rampage: The First Dance

Receiving one of the greatest reactions in wrestling history, CM Punk once again found himself in centre ring, microphone in hand. Unsurprisingly, he delivered, producing an iconic promo, setting the stage for what could be an industry-shifting, legacy-defining return. Punk is back and based on this outing, he hasn’t missed a beat as a promo, either.

2. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #99/Rampage: The First Dance

On Wednesday, Moxley cut a promo of the year contender and on Friday, he gave it a worthy sequel too. On any other week, he’s topping this category with daylight second, but this wasn’t any other week. Unfortunately, Moxley comes in second to CM Punk this time, but I sense this could quietly become quite the competition in Fleet Files.

3. Chris Jericho – Dynamite #99

Looking reinvigorated by the sheer completion of his latest mission, Chris Jericho seemed inspired on Wednesday. That first announced itself in this pre-match promo, in which for me, Jericho rolled back the years a little. In terms of energy and honestly, the delivery itself, this felt like a promo of Jericho’s past and in this case, I very much mean that as a compliment.

4. Paul Wight – Dynamite #99

I don’t care man, I love me some Tall Paul. This segment was way too long and definitely not what you’d call good, but I enjoyed Wight here. He had some babyface fire and kept the people engaged, making the most of admittedly, an uncomfortably WWE segment. It could’ve fallen apart in less experienced hands, but we’re safe with Tall Paul.

5. Miro – Dynamite #99

Oh, go away! I know, I know, it’s a 30-second promo or whatever, but let me grin. Miro called out Eddie Kingston and my mentions filled in an instant, setting the stage for in my mind at least, a genuine dream match. Kingston’s eventual retort feels like a lock for this list but until then, Miro completes The Promo Pack.

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. Santana and Ortiz vs. Warren Johnson & Zack Mason – Dark Elevation #24

Man, this was fun. Santana and Ortiz are one of my absolute favourite tag teams, and they never appear on the C-Shows, so this was a real grin. It wasn’t a particularly hilarious squash or anything, but PnP were aggressive and sharp, which was more than enough for me.

2. Jade Cargill vs. Kiera Hogan – Rampage: The First Dance

This wasn’t really much of an impressive squash at all, but it was a relatively rare A-Show squash, so here it is. Bonus points for being on an especially iconic episode too of course, as Jade basically gave Kiera the match before winning in an instant. That works, sure.

3. Private Party vs. Edge Stone & Will Allday – Dark Elevation #24

See the above description for Santana and Ortiz’s squash, then lessen the excitement a tad and you have the answer here. Honestly, not a great week for truly meme-worthy squash matches, so I’ve settled for personal grins.

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. CM Punk

With all due respect folks, this goes without saying. After weeks of speculation, CM Punk’s return was everything that we ever could’ve imagined. Sure, it appears to have been genuinely impactful too but even beyond that, confined to its 20-minute block of television, this was magical. Punk in Chicago is something truly unique, a genuine anomaly in wrestling history. This moment lives forever, and it’s the undeniable Fleet Five victor.

2. Jungle Boy

The star of two top three matches this week, Jungle Boy continues to cement himself as a genuine headline act. He was immense here, again, and is progressing at such a rate that frankly, his overall ascension may require an acceleration. Jungle Boy has always been rightly pencilled in as one for the future, but he’s increasingly become a major player for today.

3. Jon Moxley

Closing Rampage: The First Dance in a brief, but engaging bout with Daniel Garcia, this week was all about the promos for Jon Moxley. With two of my personal favourite verbal offerings of AEW’s 2021, Moxley reminded the wrestling world that on the microphone, he’s almost without peer though again, that may have slightly changed this week.

4. Sammy Guevara

Producing an unexpected thriller with Shawn Spears, Sammy Guevara came across like an absolute megastar at home. Guevara has really connected as a babyface, which wasn’t unexpected but the sheer pace of that development has been striking. Also, he got engaged, which isn’t actually relevant here but well, feels very relevant all things considered.

5. The Young Bucks

Yes, I’m breaking the rules. Indeed, I suck, you should know this by now. Look, I’m not splitting Matt and Nick for the fifth spot, they were both excellent in my favourite match of the week, and they’ll both leave this category with a point each. This is an all-time run, and I’m not going to let the format’s technicalities limit the tag champs’ standing.

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 – 31 Points
  2. Kenny Omega – 21 Points
  3. Christian Cage – 19 Points
  4. Darby Allin – 17 Points
  5. Jungle Boy – 16 Points
  6. Matt Jackson – 15 Points
  7. Nick Jackson – 15 Points
  8. Miro – 13 Points
  9. Orange Cassidy – 13 Points
  10. Malakai Black – 13 Points

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