Fleet Files #8: Writing History Books

It’s the first PPV edition in Fleet Files history and so, I have some explaining to do. In order to place more emphasis on these very special weeks, the best match category will be expanded, now featuring 10 bouts. Though not an exactly perfect adjustment, this is intended to reward the lofty honour of PPV match of the night. Without spoiling things, this week’s best bout deserves more than just your standard five points and now, it’ll rightly receive ten.

Anyway, as we all know by now, All Out 2021 was a very special show. An event that felt iconic on arrival, the kind of PPV that’ll be remembered forever. With that in mind, let’s make this File count, all hail.

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. Steel Cage Match for Tag Team Titles: The Lucha Bros vs. The Young Bucks (c) – All Out 2021

One of the greatest matches in recent memory, The Lucha Bros and The Young Bucks made magic at All Out. It was awe-inspiring at times, brutal at others and spectacular throughout, a marriage of ideologies that all involved adapted to perfectly. This was a moment and while wrestling fans have grown to resent that term, it truly fits here. From their entrance to the emotional post-match celebration, this was a career-defining night for The Lucha Bros. Special stuff, and an electric end to an immense title reign.

2. TNT Title: Miro (c) vs. Eddie Kingston – All Out 2021

Exactly as advertised, this was an enduring, grueling battle to open All Out. With the crowd firmly behind him, Eddie Kingston was the ultimate babyface here, bravely fighting uphill against the seemingly unbeatable Miro. Like all great monsters though, the champion now has an established chink in his armor, and they used that beautifully here. The whole thing was great, but that closing stretch’s many ups and downs, that’s peak pro wrestling to me. They had the people truly hooked on the finish, and it doesn’t get better than that.

3. CM Punk vs. Darby Allin – All Out 2021

An engaging, entertaining and ultimately encouraging return to action for CM Punk, this actually exceeded my expectations. Though working a babyface match without any real conflict behind it, this told a wonderful story, quite outwardly drawing from Bret Hart’s famed clash with the 1-2-3 Kid. Punk’s gameplan was simple, slowing things down and using brute force to wear on Allin, who’d gain momentum with every acceleration. That built steadily, eventually reaching an enthralling conclusion as out of nowhere, Punk put his foe to sleep. Great match.

4. World Title: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Christian Cage – All Out 2021

With almost every possible circumstance going against them, the All Out main event had only two advantages. Thankfully, it was still a match between Kenny Omega and Christian Cage and with those pieces in play, you can only fall so far. Though the work here was more daring, I preferred their Rampage prequel but even still, these two did an admirable job in a seemingly impossible scenario. The world was waiting for the post-match and thankfully, that obviously delivered but these two produced something far too substantial to be forgotten.

5. Women’s World Title: Britt Baker (c) vs. Kris Statlander – All Out 2021

With an underwhelming build, this didn’t enter All Out with great hype but yet, it felt very much alive by the bout’s conclusion. In perhaps her best straight singles match yet, Britt Baker finally scored an in-ring homerun as champion, combining seamlessly with Kris Statlander. On arrival, Statlander had all the raw ingredients, connecting with ease and sporadically showing flashes of brilliance. Since returning though, she’s added a real poise and polish to her game, which was incredibly evident here. A contained but exciting title match, just what the doctor ordered.

6. Andrade El Idolo vs. Pac – Rampage #5

Two of the wrestling world’s most dynamic and explosive offensive wrestlers trading bombs for fifteen minutes? Sign me up. This was great television, again kicking off Rampage in style and absolutely wowing the live crowd before an admittedly flat finish. That hurts this some, as does the structure (or lack thereof) itself but even still, it was a much-needed hit for Andrade. Though not quite there yet, this was far more reminiscent of the man that stole shows at every turn in NXT, which is another massive triumph for AEW.

7. Jon Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima – All Out 2021

Though perhaps slightly hurt by the stylistic overlaps with the match that came before it, this still climbed above my personal expectations. No doubt, Kojima remains capable but he was truly inspired here, producing a spirited effort that married neatly with Jon Moxley’s quite obvious motivation. There wasn’t much meat on the bone here and the result was never in doubt, but a cold match between Kojima and Moxley is still exactly that, a match between Kojima and Moxley. Not perfect, but a fun ride nonetheless.

8. Best Friends & Jurassic Express vs. The Hardy Family Office – All Out 2021: The Buy In

The absolute perfect buy-in bout, this set the tone beautifully, showcasing two of AEW’s most beloved acts. Everyone looked good here, each man able to shine in their own way while warming the live audience up in an almost house show fashion. In many ways, this was AEW at its absolute best, a uniquely joyous experience. Wholesome is probably a step too far for anything pro wrestling but this is as close as you’ll get, pairing two babyface units that consistently bring a certain brightness to these settings.

9. The Final Fight: Chris Jericho vs. MJF – All Out 2021

I don’t think anyone had this pencilled in as match of the night and certainly, they got off to a slow start but for me at least, they absolutely got there in the end. Though the restart finish will always be divisive, it seemed to work quite emphatically here, adding an extra layer of emotion to this thing and allowing them to build on an already engrossing closing stretch. Honestly, MJF was excellent throughout, selling his back brilliantly and injecting the athletic dynamism that frankly, modern Jericho matches need.

10. Jon Moxley vs. Minoru Suzuki – Dynamite #101

Must say, this ranking stings. After a rewatch or two, I liked this more than initially but even still, it’s hard to shake that first experience. From a presentation point of view, AEW simply missed, failing to capture the gravity of last year’s classic. In their short runtime, Jon Moxley and Minoru Suzuki tried their best to recapture that match but unfortunately, they just didn’t have the time to do so. This felt like a lost moment in some ways, which limits my enjoyment of a still very much engaging match.

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. Joey Janela vs. Lee Moriarty – Dark #107

For all his critics, Joey Janela is absolutely capable and here, he had the perfect opponent to prove exactly that. Lee Moriarty is immense, one of the wrestling world’s most exciting performers and he shined here, thankfully being positioned to succeed by Janela who was certainly very giving. Really strong match.

2. Three Strikes Match: Big Swole vs. Diamante – Dark #107

The conclusion to their C-Show exclusive feud, Big Swole and Diamante ultimately delivered, producing an intense and physical affair. This wasn’t the cleanest or smoothest match and at times, it almost felt hurt by the stipulation, but the sheer effort involved was more than enough to get this thing over the line. More of this please, regardless of the setting.

3. Riho vs. Skye Blue – Dark Elevation #27

Continuing to impress, Skye Blue once again maximised her minutes here, taking on Riho in a strong little C-Show thriller. While Blue is the hot topic right now though, Riho was the story here for me, returning to singles action and almost immediately reminding me of just how valuable she can be. Nice match that achieved a lot for its runtime.

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. Adam Cole – Dynamite #101/Rampage #5

Whether in-ring on Wednesday or backstage on Friday, Adam Cole made a statement this week. Known as one of the industry’s most confident promos, Cole swiftly positioned himself high on the talker territory’s verbal power rankings. Cole has genuine charisma that’s especially evident when armed with a live crowd like this, taking charge of things swiftly and for some, even earning an Elite leadership role on arrival. Great start.

2. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #101/Rampage #5

Though far less elaborate with his words, I just loved what Bryan Danielson brought this week. In just a few sentences, he separated himself from the pack on Wednesday, solidifying his status as the no-nonsense, straightforward grappler. Better yet, he sold the eventual Omega match in seconds, adding a raw competition to things that Omega’s persona doesn’t always achieve. Add in the pre-tape that ultimately, put the promotion over also, and you have a strong introduction.

3. Sting – Rampage #5

Responding to Tully Blanchard’s hilariously strange callout, Sting basically popped himself for a minute or so, and that popped me. Sting’s energy is honestly outrageous, he seems more excited than anyone and after 35 years of wrestling relevance, that just shouldn’t be the case. His efforts here weren’t enough to get me fired up for Darby Allin vs. Shawn Spears, but it did convince me that at some point, Sting should beat up Tully himself.

4. Eddie Kingston – Dynamite #101

Once again, Eddie Kingston didn’t need much time to do his job. Seemingly advancing the Miro programme one step further, Kingston called out the TNT Champion’s cowardice, also clearing up his dismissal of Miro’s god. That’s not a joke either, he actually did that here, which wasn’t even out of place after Kingston’s prior promo. As AEW’s roster expands and the star power increases, Kingston’s ability to deliver like this is priceless.

5. MJF – Dynamite #101

I’ll be honest, I didn’t particularly like this promo. It was long and consistently opted for the cheapest of heat, but objectively, this was too effective for me to dismiss it totally. The content was a disappointing step backwards in my view, but MJF’s delivery remains immense, bringing this up about as high as it could go all things considered. Some quality control would’ve helped this one, but MJF’s actual performance certainly wasn’t lacking in that regard.

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. Lance Archer vs. Jason Hodge – Dark #107

With his opponent literally running away from him in Dark’s opener, Lance Archer continued to innovate within his already flawless formula. Once the bell rang, this was as swift as ever, but I did like the slight alteration first, as Hodge got the jumpstart on Archer with some dives of defiance.

2. Kiera Hogan vs. Blair Onyx – Dark Elevation #27

Scoring her first win in AEW, Kiera Hogan produced a crisp, sharp outing here, swiftly vanquishing Blair Onyx. Closing the show with an impressive Neckbreaker finish, Hogan audibly won Kingston over, who emphatically endorsed her performance. Hogan is seemingly here to stay, and rightly so.

3. Red Velvet vs. Queen Aminata – Dark Elevation #27

Since a shaky showing opposite Jamie Hayter, Red Velvet has bounced back in admirable fashion, barely missing since. This match was no different, even with its brief runtime as Velvet ticked every box, hitting her signature offence with a snap en route to the rapid victory.

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. The Lucha Bros

The obvious winners here, The Lucha Bros entered this week as stars and left it feeling almost iconic. Though the above has a more cut and dry description of “best,” this category is more about tone in my view and as the week comes to a close, no act is more on my mind than the new tag team champions. Long may they reign, all hail The Lucha Bros.

2. The Young Bucks

The other half of All Out’s classic, The Young Bucks deserve immense credit for their part in Sunday’s magic. In Chicago, they had real heat, or as close as one gets by ‘proper’ means in 2021. Their performances didn’t have to weaken to get there either as physically, they remained one of the industry’s most spectacular tandems. In fact, they’re probably top two in that category also, with the same team above them.

3. Adam Cole

On a week where things were so spread across AEW’s all-star roster, Adam Cole refused to leave his place as the promotion’s leading headline. Strange as it sounds, Bryan Danielson’s debut was basically expected and as a result, Cole’s arrival felt almost earth-shattering by comparison. Sprinkle the promo work since and you have an ideal start for Cole, who feels immediately at home which as we’ve seen, isn’t always the case.

4. Andrade

Frankly, this is probably a touch high for Andrade, but it just feels fitting. Coming into this week, Andrade’s AEW run felt increasingly snakebit but after Friday’s thriller with Pac, that memory seems just as likely to fade. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not quite there yet but it’s hard not to be encouraged, as Andrade slowly reminds the wrestling world of just how special he is.

5. Eddie Kingston

The heart and soul of AEW, Eddie Kingston did it all this week. He had an excellent PPV match, opening up the All Out main card in style. He then commentated Dark Elevation, leaving the desk to take part in the programme’s main event. Finally, he produced yet another standout promo on Dynamite, once again within a snappy pre-tape offering. With many deserving candidates, Kingston barely closes out our Fleet 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. Penta El Zero Miedo – 44 Points
  2. Rey Fenix – 43 Points
  3. Jon Moxley – 38 Points
  4. Matt Jackson – 33 Points
  5. Nick Jackson – 33 Points
  6. Eddie Kingston – 32 Points
  7. Jungle Boy – 29 Points
  8. Christian Cage – 29 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 28 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 28 Points

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