Fleet Files #12: Cowboy Shit

After a spectacular few months, it’s time to celebrate an anniversary. Two years removed from Dynamite’s debut, AEW’s increasingly all-star roster looks to mark the occasion with a week to remember, as the promotion’s best share centre stage. On Wednesday, the Casino Ladder Match makes it’s television debut while elsewhere, The Super Elite finally form fully for an 8-man tag team bout. On Friday, CM Punk is back, continuing to cement Rampage as his show. Quality shows result in heated competition here at Fleet Files, 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. Casino Ladder Match: Hangman Adam Page vs. Orange Cassidy vs. Pac vs. Andrade El Idolo vs. Matt Hardy vs. Lance Archer vs. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #105

An absolute masterclass in modern television wrestling, this concept was the perfect Dynamite main event. Combining established rivalries with fresh matchups, this was a star-studded match with its very own fairy-tale finish. Indeed, Hangman Adam Page is back and AEW’s almost inevitable ace has reclaimed his place in title contention. Page’s interactions with Jon Moxley set the stage for a blockbuster title programme down the line while elsewhere, everyone delivered while progressing their own arcs. This was an absolute home-run, with Hangman’s return one of Dynamite’s finest moments yet.

2. CM Punk vs. Daniel Garcia – Rampage #9

My favourite CM Punk match in AEW so far, this was simply excellent pro wrestling. Battling Daniel Garcia in a clash of generations, Punk looked truly at home, once again working with clear focus and intent. Punk’s outlook is refreshing, and so is Garcia’s sheer intensity, combining immense aggression with his obvious skill. Together, these two told a fabulous story, with the poised veteran outhustling his relatively inexperienced foe, taking advantage of each and every ill-advised show of arrogance. Great match, Punk’s best yet.

3. The Super Elite vs. Bryan Danielson, Christian Cage & Jurassic Express – Dynamite #105

Though not without a misstep or two late, this star-studded 8-man tag delivered in a major way, matching expectations after the stage was set at All Out’s iconic close. Especially early, Adam Cole actually worked the brunt of this one which was a nice surprise, showing strong chemistry with every opponent he encountered. The rest honestly speaks for itself, with everyone playing the role expected of them en route to an enthralling, engaging opening match. On talent alone, this was a great example of AEW’s ascension.

4. Serena Deeb vs. Hikaru Shida – Dynamite #105

Even without a strong story between them, the work itself here was too good to ignore, eventually capturing a conflict that’ll hopefully extend over the coming months. Preventing Hikaru Shida’s 50th win, Serena Deeb reminded the world of what we’ve been missing, assaulting the former champion’s leg with that famed technique and tenacity. Opposite her, Shida had a reminder of her own to offer, returning to Dynamite with an impressive performance that frankly, demands far more creative focus than has been the case as of late.

5. Sammy Guevara vs. Bobby Fish – Dynamite #105

Making an impact on arrival, Bobby Fish looked truly revitalized on Dynamite. Challenging Sammy Guevara for the TNT Title, Fish failed to become champion but left with a contract, now officially onboard with the All Elite Fleet. Especially after his final showings in NXT, Fish deserves immense credit for his effort here but Guevara is right there with him, producing his best showcase of selling yet. Guevara is obviously electric on offence but in recent weeks, he’s nailed a traditional babyface portrayal that was previously absent and as champion, could prove pivotal.

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. Eddie Kingston vs. Anthony Henry – Dark #111

In an extended cut of his memorable outing with JD Drake, Eddie Kingston was absolutely at home here, showcasing Anthony Henry with ease. Taking most of the match, Henry was worth the spotlight, looking immense as he battered Kingston’s leg. Once again leaning on his famed selling, Kingston simply survived Henry, not losing an ounce of credibility along the way.

2. The Pinnacle vs. Fuego Del Sol & Marko Stunt – Dark Elevation #31

One of my favourite C-Show exclusives, this Shawn Spears – Wardlow dynamic continues to deliver, on this occasion absolutely mauling Fuego Del Sol and Marko Stunt. Wardlow’s brief, but violent interaction with Marko stole the show here but there was actually more meat on the bone than you’d expect, including an enjoyable comeback before the inevitable result.

3. The Pinnacle vs. Aaron Frye, Austin Green, Baron Black & Dean Alexander – Dark #111

After being mostly disconnected in recent months, this was a big week for The Pinnacle, finally back together with one goal in mind. That mostly took place on Dynamite, but Dark was a start, as the Spears – Wardlow connection teamed with FTR for a surprisingly competitive 8-man tag. They were rather giving here, had Horsemen on Crockett TV vibes honestly.

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 #105

Short but sweet, this as usual, did the trick. Even if only armed with a brief pre-tape promo, Jon Moxley consistently manages to stand out, perhaps the promotion’s most captivating personality. Here, Moxley set the table for Dynamite’s Casino Ladder Match main event, once again bringing that unique mix of aggression, comedy and intensity. Now almost a year removed from his time as champion, Jon Moxley still feels as significant as ever.

2. Darby Allin – Dynamite #105

After restraining himself while MJF made things personal last week, Darby Allin’s retort steadied the ship in my view. Though not a standout promo by any means, this is clearly the setting for Allin, a much more generous presentation than the week prior. In-ring, Allin’s performance speaks for itself but as a character, his consistent ability to be authentic is arguably where the true money is, which makes this programme all the more intriguing. Allin aside though, more JR sit-downs in general please.

3. Ricky Starks – Dynamite #105

Though very much limited in terms of content, Ricky Starks’ sheer confidence and charisma tells a tale in itself. This programme with Brian Cage hasn’t done much for either man, but Starks’ efforts suggest that big things are still very much ahead. I’m looking forward to Starks’ next true rivalry, and am hopeful that it’ll contain the kind of verbal showdown that his skill-set certainly seems capable of. As is though, this was a good minute or so of TV, which was all it ever could be honestly.

4. Britt Baker – Dynamite #105

Though it was only the usual outing, Britt Baker shouldn’t be punished for consistency. The content and delivery may be familiar, but it speaks volumes that Baker is such a constant presence on AEW TV. Within the women’s division however, she’s almost completely alone in that sense, which unfortunately limits the heat and weight of her eventual title programmes. Either way, hopefully the TBS Title will help with that, which was Baker’s wonderfully dismissive focus here.

5. Dante Martin – Dynamite #105

I don’t know if this actually belongs here but as a moment, it stands out in my mind and so, Dante Martin completes a strange week in the promo category. Setting himself up for an attack from Malakai Black, Martin showed an encouraging confidence, speaking with a conviction that should earn more microphone time moving forward. Already penciled in for major things over the next decade and more, this segment was just another step in the right direction for Dante.

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. FTR vs. Elijah Dean & Zach Nystrom – Dark Elevation #31

After a bizarre 2021, FTR have felt well and truly back as of late. Only weeks removed from their standout week of the year, here Dax and Cash were on Elevation, entering to brand-new nostalgic theme music and winning in mere seconds. If I’m not getting five minutes or more of these two, give me something with this comedic value every time honestly.

2. Kris Statlander vs. Zeda Zhang – Dark #111

Two months ago, Zeda Zhang made her AEW debut in pretty rough fashion, quite visibly struggling opposite Thunder Rosa. Here though, she looked much better, producing a nice little match against the always wonderful Kris Statlander. These two gelled quite seamlessly in my view, with an impressively competitive match considering the runtime.

3. Lance Archer vs. Louis Bruno – Dark Elevation #31

Facing the rare challenge of someone genuinely taller than him, Lance Archer maintained that usual aggression and physicality on Elevation, vanquishing Louis Bruno in swift fashion. Archer made the big man pay for going after Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, which was a nice way to include the legend after his time away.

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. Hangman Adam Page

Everyone’s favourite anxious millennial cowboy, Hangman Adam Page is undeniably the standout story of AEW’s week. Closing Dynamite’s anniversary edition, Page only took one outing to reclaim his position as the promotion’s top babyface, winning the memorable main event. The Casino Ladder Match was pitch perfect, with Page the centrepiece, standing tall as the rightful number one contender. Cowboy Shit is back in AEW and the wrestling world couldn’t be happier about it.

2. CM Punk

Though clearly, I didn’t love his promo on Dynamite, CM Punk leaves this week somehow stronger than he entered. Silencing any lingering doubts, Punk produced his best AEW match yet, combining beautifully with Daniel Garcia. In addition, Punk projected pure stardom in the pre-match faceoff. It wasn’t even a promo really, just a way of setting the table and providing this bout with some context and story. In that setting, Punk achieved more than in his prior in-ring promo, following it up with an immense piece of pro wrestling.

3. Daniel Garcia

After matching the immense hype in his initial television showings, Daniel Garcia actually exceeded it here, producing his best performance since arriving in AEW. Garcia is a precocious talent and clearly, that’s nothing new but in this match, he showed a poise and polish beyond his years. This was a major league, main event match, the kind that could reasonably accelerate Garcia’s progression. No rush obviously, especially on a roster of this quality but against Punk, Garcia again proved that he very much belongs in the top tier.

4. Jon Moxley

The most memorable roadblock to Hangman Adam Page’s Casino Ladder Match win, Jon Moxley continued his steady progression to insanity on Wednesday. Moxley is increasingly intense, more and more enraged with each and every week. Regardless of opposition, Moxley’s spite is unchanged and I think that’ll be important when and if Page is champion but for now, Dynamite was just more top guy things from Moxley, the promotion’s prior centrepiece. Whether heel, babyface or somewhere in-between, there’s only one Jon Moxley.

5. Serena Deeb

Three months removed from her last match, Serena Deeb didn’t miss a beat on Wednesday. I suppose in many ways, I shouldn’t be surprised, as Deeb entered AEW after three years out, so this was a walk in the park by comparison. Either way, it only took one match for Deeb to re-establish herself as the division’s in-ring leader, delivering an unsurprisingly strong match with Hikaru Shida. On skill alone, Deeb is world champion material but if not, the TBS Title seems like a natural fit in the new year.

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. Jon Moxley – 53 Points
  2. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  3. Nick Jackson – 45 Points
  4. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 41 Points
  6. Kenny Omega – 40 Points
  7. CM Punk – 40 Points
  8. Jungle Boy – 38 Points
  9. Matt Jackson – 38 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 38 Points
  11. Miro – 36 Points
  12. Christian Cage – 35 Points
  13. Orange Cassidy – 33 Points
  14. Bryan Danielson – 32 Points
  15. Dax Harwood – 29 Points
  16. Adam Cole – 28 Points
  17. Daniel Garcia – 28 Points
  18. Luchasaurus – 28 Points
  19. Cash Wheeler – 24 Points
  20. Dante Martin – 24 Points

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