Fleet Files #13: The Friday Night War

With the emerging wrestling war heating up, a seemingly uneventful week has been suddenly transformed. For the first time in a long time, all eyes are on Friday night for AEW, as Tony Khan offers Bryan Danielson vs. Minoru Suzuki, as a rib. Combine that with CM Punk’s latest outing and you have quite the night, followed by a Saturday Night Dynamite also featuring Danielson. In the end though, it’s a familiar cowboy that’ll once again steal the headlines, 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. Minoru Suzuki – The Buy In

Booked on only three days’ notice, this was AEW at its boldest, weirdest best. Offering an absolute dream match just because, these two industry titans thrilled a YouTube audience for almost twenty magical minutes. This was pro wrestling history, more than a mere match and instead, a collective celebration of two genuine greats. Less than a month removed from his promotional in-ring debut, Bryan Danielson’s brilliance goes without saying while in his third appearance, Minoru Suzuki finally felt truly at home here.

This was something special, an experience that’ll stay with me forever, a truly unique wrestling rollercoaster. They had a clean slate and together, painted a masterpiece: a brutal, violent masterpiece.

2. The SuperKliq vs. The Dark Order – Dynamite #106

In terms of sheer entertainment value, there may not be a safer bet in pro wrestling than The Elite in some kind of multi-man tag. Here, it was The SuperKliq, as Adam Cole teamed with The Young Bucks, producing an enthralling trios bout opposite The Dark Order line-up of Evil Uno, John Silver and Alex Reynolds. This had it all, comedy, excitement, personality and of course, those famed modern sequences that the Bucks have become so expert at. Tremendous piece of television, packing a whole lot in just over ten minutes.

3. CM Punk vs. Matt Sydal – Rampage #10 #106

Arguably his new personal best since returning to the ring, CM Punk delivered again on Rampage, this time against Matt Sydal. After battling the daredevil flyer, the literal powerhouse and the technical wrestling prodigy, Punk now met a direct peer, someone that wouldn’t be fooled by his veteran tricks. The result was perhaps his toughest test yet, as Sydal came stunningly close to the upset. Punk’s work thus far has been immense, but Sydal was superb here, one of the world’s most underrated performers.

4. Malakai Black vs. Dante Martin – Dynamite #106

Though his overall presentation has been almost flawless, Malakai Black’s bell to bell product hasn’t wowed me thus far. That’s more a matter of circumstance than any lack of skill though, and this was easily my favourite match of his in AEW thus far. Black was great here, guiding the always electric Dante Martin, who paired his stunning acrobatics with encouragingly committed selling. These two gelled seamlessly, combining for something easily exciting enough without hurting Black’s aura at all. Strong opener for Saturday Night Dynamite.

5. Junior Dos Santos & Men of the Year vs. The Inner Circle – Rampage #10

Though the content itself has certainly been polarising online, I can’t accuse this programme of being anything but over. By hook or by crook, Chris Jericho makes things work, using his still unwavering connection to keep this feud afloat. Add in the physical excellence of Sammy Guevara and Scorpio Sky, you suddenly have a Rampage main event worth watching. Credit to Junior Dos Santos also, whose energy and excitement was palpable. In truth, that was the key overall, as this crowd’s enthusiasm allowed this to dramatically exceed expectations.

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. FTR vs. Lee Moriarty & LSG – Dark Elevation #32

This one immediately jumped off the page and indeed, it certainly delivered, as FTR continued their emphatic return to form. This match featured Dax Harwood going head to head with Lee Moriarty and on that alone, was a lock for this spot, let alone with the additions of LSG and of course, Cash Wheeler.

2. Ruby Soho vs. Emi Sakura – Dark Elevation #32

Though certainly deserving of more time, what we got here was nice, only enhanced by the crowd’s continued support of Ruby Soho. It feels as though she’s been swiftly erasing any ring rust, with this week her smoothest yet, as that process was only helped by the reliable veteran presence of Emi Sakura.

3. Evil Uno vs. Anthony Greene – Dark #112

The only match of any substance on a tiny edition of Dark, this was the ever-elusive solo effort from Evil Uno. Taking on Anthony Greene, Uno again reminded me of just how sound he is, one of the promotion’s more quietly reliable performers. Speaking of such, Green has been good in these cameos, I sense he’ll be sticking around.

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. Hangman Adam Page – Dynamite #106

One of the best promos in AEW’s short, but decorated history, this was an absolute moment. With a microphone in his hand, Hangman Adam Page detailed his journey thus far, confidently looking ahead to the match of his life. Page managed to catch up new viewers without patronising those that have been with him all along. Instead, he rallied those troops, giving a direct nod to their unwavering support. This silenced any somehow lingering doubts about Page’s top guy qualifications, an old school money promo from the babyface title challenger.

2. Miro – Dynamite #106

Armed with not even 90 seconds, Miro produced his best effort yet, finally responding to the TNT Title loss. On almost any other week, this would’ve quite comfortably topped the category but even still, Miro’s work continued to speak for itself. In terms of content, this was probably Miro’s most daring outing since finding this persona, setting the stage for what’s certain to be an electric return to action. In recent months, Miro has become an increasingly unique piece of this roster, with promos like this the central reason why.

3. MJF – Dynamite #106

For me at least, this was a much-needed return to form for MJF. Though not exactly high art, the content here served a more worthwhile purpose in my view, but perhaps it was my attachment to the core idea itself. This was old school pro wrestling, the cowardly heel taking advantage of a situation that with numbers, he created himself. Tony Schiavone captured that identity with ease, and MJF’s delivery was up to the task, enraging this Miami crowd until Sting’s triumphant arrival.

4. Lio Rush – Dynamite #106

Honestly, this ranking may be more about the outcome than anything else. Why? Well, the conclusion here was that moving forward, Dante Martin would be teaming with Lio Rush and frankly, that sounds electric and then some. That being said, Rush’s delivery is always filled with charisma and confidence, with this role already feeling like a natural fit for his skill-set. The endgame here feels like an inevitable match between the two but until then, I hope that Rush’s promos remain a regular feature on Dynamite.

5. Anna Jay – Dynamite #106

“Excuse me, they’re not losers.”

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. Jon Moxley vs. Wheeler Yuta – Dynamite #106

On paper, this looked like a TV sprint but in reality, it was more of a TV execution. Jon Moxley’s increasing edge was only strengthened by last week’s Casino Ladder Match, taking it out on poor Wheeler Yuta, destroying the prospect in mere seconds. Talent of Yuta’s calibre is seldom vanquished this way on Dynamite, but Moxley is and always has been a unique case.

2. Santana & Ortiz vs. Adrien Soriano & Matthew Omen – Dark Elevation #32

Granted, I’m biased but even personal fandom aside, Santana & Ortiz have really proved themselves to be world class squashers in recent months. Here, Adrien Soriano and Matthew Omen were the victims as to an always supportive reaction, the former IMPACT Champions slaughtered their opposition.

3. Wardlow vs. Darian Bengston – Dark #112

It wasn’t the strongest C-Show week in any way, shape or form, but a Wardlow squash remains one of the promotion’s safest bets. That was no different here, as The Pinnacle powerhouse battered Darian Bengston.

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

Wrestling two matches in just over 24 hours, Bryan Danielson continued to re-establish himself as one of the world’s greatest performers. Though his match with Bobby Fish just barely missed the cut for match of the week, it only helped his case for this position. Against both Fish and Minoru Suzuki, Danielson looked great, continuing to combine the two halves of his career and appearing more motivated than ever along the way. Danielson on YouTube always felt inevitable to me, but The Buy-In was something truly special.

2. Hangman Adam Page

The new number one contender, Hangman Adam Page proved himself more than worthy of that role this week. Even with the blockbuster signings since his last appearance, Page’s connection with the audience hadn’t wavered a bit, but any lost momentum was regained on Dynamite. Page cut the promo of his life, silencing any lingering doubts as to his qualifications for next AEW World Champion. On a stacked episode of Dynamite, Page’s promo stole the show with ease honestly, setting the stage for Full Gear perfectly.

3. Minoru Suzuki

A mere guest on Friday’s one-off Buy In programme, Minoru Suzuki left Miami feeling like a pivotal piece of AEW history. Before his match with Bryan Danielson, Suzuki had certainly been entertaining in AEW but due to circumstance more than anything else, it hadn’t fully clicked. Friday was quite the opposite though, as Suzuki produced his most inspired performance in some time. Even if Suzuki never wrestles in AEW again, this match belongs somewhere in their story, a celebratory credit to the king’s greatness.

4. Matt Sydal

Just another opponent for CM Punk on paper, Matt Sydal’s performance was worthy of a far grander description than that. Sydal’s skill speaks for itself, one of the industry’s most underrated in-ring talents but even for his high standards, this was a striking effort. In the biggest match of his AEW stint thus far, Sydal delivered and then some, combining beautifully for a gripping Rampage opener with CM Punk. I don’t know what Sydal’s ceiling is in AEW but his consistency commands respect, a truly great acquisition.

5. FTR

It’s been a great month or so for FTR and that didn’t change this week, as FTR paired the C-Show match of the week with a strong piece of business on Dynamite. Appearing as Las Super Ranas, Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood stole one from The Lucha Bros, shockingly becoming AAA World Tag Team Champions. Though the execution of that old school play was somewhat questionable, the action it allowed was immense, as these two teams produced sheer excitement, setting the stage for a must-see sequel.

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 – 56 Points
  2. Nick Jackson – 49 Points
  3. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  4. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  5. CM Punk – 43 Points
  6. Matt Jackson – 42 Points
  7. Bryan Danielson – 42 Points
  8. Eddie Kingston – 41 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 40 Points
  10. Miro – 40 Points
  11. Jungle Boy – 38 Points
  12. Darby Allin – 38 Points
  13. Christian Cage – 35 Points
  14. Orange Cassidy – 33 Points
  15. Dax Harwood – 33 Points
  16. Adam Cole – 32 Points
  17. Cash Wheeler – 28 Points
  18. Luchasaurus – 28 Points
  19. Daniel Garcia – 28 Points
  20. Dante Martin – 26 Points

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