Fleet Files #14: Bracketology

After months of chaos, it finally feels as though things are settling down. Well, kind of anyway as this week, Saturday Night Dynamite returns but with a hard act to follow, as Rampage hosts the rematch between Andrade El Idolo and Pac. They’ll give it their best shot though, offering two enticing tournament tilts as well as of course, the long-awaited blockbuster clash between Anthony Greene and ‘Mr Dynamite’ Bobby Fish. Seriously though, Full Gear is fast approaching folks, so let’s get this show on the road.

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. Pac vs. Andrade El Idolo – Rampage #11

Quite comfortably topping its enthralling predecessor, this rematch was immense, as Andrade El Idolo and Pac again showcased their quite palpable chemistry. Two of the wrestling world’s most dynamic in-ring performers, this pairing produced another spectacular offensive display, one packed with physicality and variation. With each outing, Andrade distances himself further from any doubters, finding his feet in outings that frankly, demand a greater output. Pac’s efforts speak for themselves, one of the promotion’s safest bets in a substantial singles match. Excellent main event, perhaps Rampage’s best yet.

2. Bryan Danielson vs. Dustin Rhodes – Dynamite #107

An intriguing matchup on paper, this actually exceeded my relatively high expectations, as Dustin Rhodes did what Dustin Rhodes does. Battling perhaps the world’s best in Bryan Danielson, Rhodes more than belonged, remaining as smooth as ever as in many ways, he brought ‘The American Dragon’ into his world. That felt like a direction taken by choice in many ways, as Danielson continues to adjust accordingly, matching the stylistic preferences of his varied foes thus far. This overdelivered, a very much worthy usage of Danielson.

3. Cody Rhodes vs. Malakai Black – Dynamite #107

Though the eventual finish will be understandably polarising, I really have nothing but praise for the match itself. Cody Rhodes and Malakai Black’s third bout was the former at his best and/or worst depending on your perspective. It was dramatic, overbooked and of course, covered in blood but for me at least, I can’t hide my enjoyment. This thing had me immersed, living and dying on every near-fall as the increasingly outrageous layers emerged. Clearly, Rhodes’ passion for the epic isn’t for everyone but here, it more than worked in my view.

4. Britt Baker vs. Anna Jay – Rampage #11

One of my favourite Britt Baker matches in recent memory, this was a really neat television bout in the middle of Rampage. Though the champion inevitably came out on top, this really felt like a showcase of Anna Jay, who came surprisingly close to an upset win. Jay is poised beyond her years, displaying increasingly impressive instincts and timing. That’s nothing new, but it was particularly striking opposite the champion, who looked great in her own right, showcasing an obvious improvement on the mat.

5. Ruby Soho vs. Penelope Ford – Dynamite #107

The TBS Title Tournament’s very first match, this got things off to an encouraging start, as Ruby Soho and Penelope Ford gelled nicely. Ford is frustrating at times, as she’s previously shown real flashes of top tier potential but can be somewhat inconsistent. Here however, I thought she produced her most complete performance in some time, also enhanced by Soho’s selling brilliance. In recent weeks, Soho has looked increasingly comfortable and that progression continued on Saturday, all as her star reaction rightly refused to fade.

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. Diamante, Emi Sakura & Nyla Rose vs. KiLynn King, Red Velvet & Ryo Mizunami – Dark Elevation #33

The stronger of two engaging trios matches in the women’s division, this was a great example of what I hope becomes a common play on the C-Shows. Diamante, Emi Sakura and Nyla Rose are a wonderfully wacky group, and they scored the win here before taking a step up in competition the night afterwards.

2. Frankie Kazarian vs. Aaron Solo – Dark #113

Though this may not have exactly jumped off the page, it was predictably steady. Frankie Kazarian is consistently sound and it’s always neat when he gets an even slightly substantial bout, gelling nicely with Aaron Solo here. While not the most charismatic or flashy performer, Solo is certainly solid, and Kazarian showcased that nicely on Dark.

3. Kris Statlander, Red Velvet & Thunder Rosa vs. Diamante, Emi Sakura & Nyla Rose – Dark #113

The more star-studded sequel to this week’s C-Show leader, this didn’t quite get the time I was hoping for, but I still enjoyed what we got. It’s always a treat to be reminded just how over Thunder Rosa is and honestly, Kris Statlander isn’t far behind her either. Fun match and again, a tactic that I’d like to see employed more often.

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. MJF – Dynamite #107

If last week was a step in the right direction for MJF, this was a complete return to form. Though indeed, the usual shtick remained, he paired it with a genuine intensity here. It’s strange as even when I was down on MJF before, his delivery was never my concern but yet, it’s noticeably levelled up in recent weeks. The final portion of this latest effort was MJF at his best, almost overcome with emotion but still carrying that unwavering arrogance. For me at least, he’s got this thing back on track, all just in time for Full Gear.

2. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #107

One of the industry’s most compelling personalities, Jon Moxley only needs a minute or so of time to tell his tale. A truly magnetic presence, Moxley added depth to his already captivating persona, talking himself both in and out of the world title eliminator tournament. Moxley is especially intriguing right now, as he feels like an increasingly likely candidate to turn heel. This promo led you a step or two down that path, but equally offered the alternative that instead, he’s simply evolving at the moment. Time will tell, but this was Moxley at his best.

3. Miro – Dynamite #107

A familiar triumph here, as Miro’s own brand of pre-tape produced another smash hit. Honestly, this whole presentation is becoming borderline iconic within our nerdy bubble, a more recognisable and striking production with each outing. One of AEW’s greatest strengths is keeping the roster visible via these brief promos and even within that subgenre, Miro stands almost completely alone. Continuing his suddenly emerging feud with God, the former TNT champion only increased the hype for his looming in-ring return.

4. Ethan Page – Dynamite #107

Seemingly armed with an unexpected increase of time, Ethan Page swiftly steadied the ship, offering a confident and engaging promo as always. This wasn’t a particularly impressive display in terms of content and that wasn’t really the point, especially in this feud. It was, however, another example of Page’s comfort on this stage, the ingredient that’s allowed him to so seamlessly cement himself as one of the promotion’s most reliable antagonists. Personally, I look forward to this feud’s conclusion but even still, the recent increase in ‘All Ego’ talking time has been very much appreciated.

5. Lio Rush – Dynamite #107

Once again, Lio Rush earns himself a spot on sheer confidence alone here, even in another relatively brief backstage interview segment. These don’t have the unique personality of those pre-tapes above, but Rush’s charisma comes close to making up the difference, comfortably telling this story with an almost solo effort on the microphone. Rush’s presence is such that even on this roster, he really stands out and I’m looking forward to seeing how this angle develops.

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. Jungle Boy vs. Brandon Cutler – Dynamite #107

When this one was announced, I was slightly concerned. Brandon Cutler is capable but this current presentation isn’t one that needs to be going back and forth with Jungle Boy. Thankfully, that wasn’t what happened here, as Jungle Boy rightly closed the show almost immediately.

2. Jamie Hayter vs. Tiffany Nieves – Dark #113

Ever since Jamie Hayter returned to AEW, I’ve been waiting for her first entry in this genre, finally taking the role of squash match victor against Tiffany Nieves. Unsurprisingly, it was as natural a fit as you’d imagine, as Hayter slaughtered Nieves with her impressively physical offence.

3. Bobby Fish vs. Anthony Greene – Dynamite #107

A benefactor of the rare two-squash Dynamite, Bobby Fish continued his recent streak on the promotion’s A-Show, making quick work of Anthony Greene. On paper, this actually appeared like a potentially competitive match but instead, it set the stage for CM Punk’s Dynamite debut.

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. Dustin Rhodes

It’s been a pretty quiet year for Dustin Rhodes and so naturally, I could only be so confident about his performance prior to Saturday night. Rhodes swiftly rendered my doubts misplaced though, once again proving that even at 52 years old, he very much belongs. The theme of this week’s Fleet Five is one half proving a point while the other maintained their already high standards, and that explains Rhodes placement here. He wasn’t the best wrestler in the ring on Dynamite but he wasn’t far behind and all things considered, that’s more than enough to earn him this position.

2. Andrade El Idolo

Though not thirty years into his career, Andrade El Idolo certainly had his own point to prove on Rampage. After encouraging performances in his last two outings, Andrade finally felt at home this week, producing his best match in years. Better yet, Friday’s post-match angle helped too, as well as Saturday’s follow-up. Since targeting Death Triangle, Andrade has felt isolated to his own little Cody-esque world but ironically, it was an interaction with the man himself that finally changed that this week.

3. Pac

The trusty other half of this week’s best match, Pac did what Pac does, delivering an enthralling pro wrestling match. Pac is such a unique bell to bell talent, still very much one of the world’s best and a protected puzzle piece too, constantly presented as a major player. I sense that a rubber match may be ahead of Pac and Andrade which is obviously enticing to say the least. Must say though, I am personally excited for their respective next chapters, as both feel like natural title challengers for the inevitable championship reign of Hangman Adam Page.

4. Bryan Danielson

The ultimate victim of his own brilliance, Bryan Danielson probably belongs even higher than this, but he’ll probably appear frequently regardless. Danielson is proving each superlative accurate in AEW, producing classics at every turn. It was barely a month ago that Danielson made his wrestling debut for the promotion but yet, ‘The American Dragon’ feels firmly cemented as their in-ring centrepiece. These matches have brutality, intensity and ultimately, even variety, as Bryan continues to solidify his simply unparalleled range and versatility.

5. MJF

After losing my faith for awhile there, MJF is firmly back in the Files’ good books as of late. Keeping this Darby Allin programme on track in his foe’s absence, MJF is reminding the wrestling world of why indeed, he’s a promotional pillar for the next two decades and more. Though perhaps frustrating at times, MJF’s delivery alone warrants television time but when he has a conflict to truly sink his teeth into, the Pinnacle leader quickly recaptures the feel of a genuine main event heel. That’s been back as of late, and AEW is better for it.

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 – 60 Points
  2. Nick Jackson – 49 Points
  3. Bryan Danielson – 48 Points
  4. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  5. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  6. Miro – 43 Points
  7. CM Punk – 43 Points
  8. Matt Jackson – 42 Points
  9. Eddie Kingston – 41 Points
  10. Jungle Boy – 41 Points
  11. Kenny Omega – 40 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. Pac – 29 Points
  18. Cash Wheeler – 28 Points
  19. Daniel Garcia – 28 Points
  20. Luchasaurus – 28 Points

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