Fleet Files #10: Grand Slam

Finally arriving at Arthur Ashe Stadium,  AEW has another history book to write. With a blockbuster four hour event spread across two episodes of weekly TV, the brand’s best talent takes centre stage, sharing the promotion’s biggest spotlight yet. More than that though, it’s Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega week, bringing a dream match to life in the most idyllic setting imaginable. That’s not the only headline though, as CM Punk also returns to television action, alongside a fairy-tale finale for Eddie Kingston. It’s a PPV card, and a great one at that, 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. Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega – Dynamite Grand Slam

One of the greatest television bouts of all time, this was an instant classic, the dream match that everyone had imagined and somehow, even more. Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega are two of the most impressive, influential wrestlers in history and together, they unsurprisingly combined for absolute magic. This was beautiful professional wrestling and for me, a top three match in promotional history. Opening Dynamite, these two produced a portion of wrestling television that I’ll never forget, one that’ll likely define an era that eventually, the next generation will almost certainly long for.

2. FTR vs. Anthony Greene & Stallion Rogers – Dark #29

An immediate C-Show classic, this was FTR at their very best. A reminder of how we fell in love with this team, FTR rocked the studio setting, building things steadily with tight, compact pro wrestling. Fundamentally sound, beautifully paced action, reaching an enthralling crescendo that honestly exceeded my relatively high expectations. There was buzz surrounding this one and it delivered, with admirable performances from Green and especially Stallion, who was totally at home against Harwood and Wheeler. Excellent TV wrestling, on YouTube of course.

3. Darby Allin & Sting vs. FTR – Dynamite Grand Slam

A crown jewel in FTR’s already impressive legacy, Cash and Dax relished every minute of this match. Absolutely launching themselves into every moment with Sting, this was a blast, exactly what it needed to be and honestly, much more. Sting worked incredibly hard here, surprisingly taking most of the match and better yet, looking great along the way also. That’s a credit to FTR, but it’s also yet another triumph in this usage of Sting, which continues to be one of AEW’s greatest feats.

4. The SuperKliq vs. Christian & Jurassic Express – Rampage Grand Slam

The undisputed kings of this match genre, The Young Bucks were up to their usual antics again here, anchoring yet another enthralling trios bout. All action stuff, packed with personality and as usual, filled with innovation as the more elaborate sequences took center stage. Everyone benefitted from this match, with Adam Cole coming across like the industry’s biggest star while opposite him, Christian and Jungle Boy looked immense. Sprinkle an impressive Luchasaurus hot tag on top of all that goodness and you have a smash hit.

5. Sonny Kiss vs. Joey Janela – Dark Elevation #29

One of the most exciting matches in AEW’s illustrious YouTube history, this absolutely stunned me. Don’t get me wrong, I expected something sound and had heard good things, but wow. The sheer energy of this thing really packed a punch, all executed brilliantly too. Sonny Kiss’ performance here was honestly staggering, signalling immense improvement that due to inactivity, had honestly gone under the radar. Speaking of such, Janela continues to impress on these shows, so credit to him also. Wonderful stuff that’d rank even higher on an ordinary week.

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. Daniel Garcia vs. Alan Angels – Dark #109

For those clued in, this jumped off the page and indeed, it absolutely delivered. Daniel Garcia is one of the industry’s hottest prospects right now and this match neatly encapsulated why, with crisp execution guided by that unique pacing and poise. He had a perfect dance partner here though, with Alan Angels continuing to cement himself as one of the promotion’s most underrated workhorses.

2. Eddie Kingston vs. Bear Bronson – Dark #109

The big, bruising main event of an honestly stacked edition of Dark, this was Eddie Kingston at his restrained best. Giving Bear Bronson most of the match, Kingston sold, sold and sold some more, battling back in spurts and keeping the people engaged throughout. Bronson leaves this looking better than ever, an Eddie Kingston tradition.

3. Dustin Rhodes vs. QT Marshall – Dark Elevation #29

Restricted by a runtime that you wouldn’t expect to suit them, Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall still very much delivered in this C-Show grudge match. They maximised those six minutes, even producing a genuinely exciting closing stretch. Marshall continues to impress inside the ropes and honestly, I wish these outings were more frequent for Rhodes.

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 – Dynamite Grand Slam

Confronting the critics, CM Punk produced an absolute masterclass on Dynamite. Still very much friendly Phil, Punk explained his happiness, but slowly lost his smile as the promo unfolded. Responding to Powerhouse Hobbs’ attack, Punk steadily upped the aggression, eventually concluding with a much more traditional pro wrestling promo. The value of CM Punk was encapsulated here, the only feasible follow up to Dynamite’s greatest match, building a bout with fresh talent along the way.

2. Miro – Dynamite Grand Slam

Confronting a different very kind of criticism, Miro finally conceded the suspected weakness of his neck…well, kind of anyway. He referenced a prior neck injury, but in classic Miro fashion, dismissed it’s relevance today, crediting god and his wife for the immense recovery. Either way, this was another case of Miro’s ongoing effectiveness in these brief vignettes, enough to earn him the 2 spot here.

3. Sammy Guevara – Dynamite Grand Slam

Though the weaker half of this aforementioned vignette, Sammy Guevara was much more than just along for the ride here. Guevara has always been a confident personality but since turning babyface, he’s actually seemed increasingly comfortable as a promo. Don’t get me wrong, small sample size and I’d like that to change, but I appreciate that Guevara hasn’t lost his cockiness, it’s just a little more relaxed these days.

4. Thunder Rosa – Rampage Grand Slam

Fiery as ever, Thunder Rosa is a promo that I consistently enjoy and again, one that we don’t see nearly enough honestly. That’s another topic for another day though, but this did the job for now, as Rosa extended her emerging conflict with Jade Cargill and Nyla Rose. Strange programme that needed a jolt and relatively speaking, this promo provided exactly that, it requires a follow-up now though.

5. Jake Hager – Dynamite Grand Slam

“Men of the Year? More like Boys of the Week!”

I don’t know man, not many promos this week and frankly, Hager felt like the funniest option.

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. Hikaru Shida vs. Masha Slamovich – Dark Elevation #29

Honestly, this wasn’t even a squash really, but it was a very enjoyable little match so I’m ranking it anyway. Shida walks that line beautifully, which often hurts her in this format unfortunately. She’s so selfless, but the matches seldom go long enough to reach the tier above. This was different though in my view, just limited by a particularly stacked week.

2. Santana and Ortiz vs. Avery Good & JT Dunn – Dark Elevation #29

This isn’t even here for the action really, but instead for the moment itself. This reaction was something special and as I’ve said before, we’ve been starved of Santana and Ortiz squash matches this year. That changed this week and I couldn’t be happier about it, feed me more.

3. Thunder Rosa vs. Kaia McKenna – Dark Elevation #29

A consistently physical squash match victor, Thunder Rosa is always fun in this setting, but she very much has her formula. Structurally, there isn’t much experimenting but in this particular case, who could possibly care? Rosa kicked ass, ramping the intensity up a notch above her already formidable norm.

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. Bryan Danielson

One half of an all-time great match, Bryan Danielson absolutely relished this moment. Out of the ring for months and making his promotional debut, Bryan produced one of his finest efforts yet, swiftly securing this week’s number one spot. Bryan is a genuine GOAT candidate and fifteen years removed from what many deemed to be his artistic peak, he somehow remains one of the world’s best. Incredible, let’s appreciate this man while we can folks.

2. Kenny Omega

On any other week, Kenny Omega is the obvious category victor here, producing yet another stunning performance under the bright lights. Frankly, he’s only second to Bryan due to circumstance, as he was every bit as brilliant once the bell rang. Omega is an all-time great in his own right and with every match of this ilk, he further cements that truth. Beautiful bout, Omega’s best in AEW yet, or of the singles variety at least.

3. FTR

Unfortunate to come up against a match of the year candidate, FTR had a truly fabulous week. Pairing a C-Show classic with an electric Dynamite thriller, Cash and Dax reminded the world of just how special they still very much are. It’s been a somewhat frustrating year for this team, but with efforts like this, it’s hard to dismiss their place among the world’s best. Regardless of the setting or show, FTR are a team that I just want to see wrestle, plain and simple.

4. CM Punk

Cutting the week’s best promo by a distance, CM Punk paired that performance with a strong match opposite Powerhouse Hobbs. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t pretty, but I liked it very much and thought Punk kept himself strong while truly elevating Hobbs. That was no mean feat, as after seven years off, Punk tackled a complete contrast to his comeback opponent. Punk produced in a major way though, almost totally erasing any ring rust that appeared present at All Out. This week more than ever, CM Punk felt well and truly back.

5. Eddie Kingston

The hometown hero of Grand Slam, Eddie Kingston closed AEW’s biggest show yet. In many ways, this was the fairy-tale finale of a promotional best story, as Kingston completed his journey from that iconic Dynamite debut. Only fourteen months or so removed from that initial showing, here Kingston was: on top of the world, battling a legend alongside his best friend. The event’s sentimental story, Kingston was too selfless to shine as you’d traditionally expect, stepping aside so that Homicide could take center stage. That’s fitting, and didn’t prevent the Lights Out main event from being immense fun anyway.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 20, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  2. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  3. Jon Moxley – 37 Points
  4. Kenny Omega – 37 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 35 Points
  6. Matt Jackson – 35 Points
  7. Nick Jackson – 35 Points
  8. Christian Cage – 32 Points
  9. Jungle Boy – 31 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 31 Points
  11. Miro – 30 Points
  12. CM Punk – 30 Points
  13. Orange Cassidy – 27 Points
  14. Dax Harwood – 25 Points
  15. Luchasaurus – 25 Points
  16. Daniel Garcia – 21 Points
  17. Cash Wheeler – 20 Points
  18. Britt Baker – 20 Points
  19. Adam Cole – 20 Points
  20. Dante Martin – 19 Points

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