Fleet Files #19: Bringing Back Tradition

Thanksgiving is here and just like the good old days, so is pro wrestling with it. Indeed, Tony Khan has resurrected this great wrestling tradition…well kind of anyway. I mean, a cynic would argue that instead, his shows simply air on Wednesday and Friday every week, inevitably bookending Thanksgiving rather than doing anything specific but again, I don’t have time for such cynics. Seriously though, it’s always nice to have good pro wrestling, so let’s get to it.

Match of the Week

This speaks for itself, the week’s ten best matches. 1 point for the ten spot, 2 for the ninth and upward from there.

  1. Eddie Kingston vs. Daniel Garcia – Rampage #16

Two of AEW’s finest doing what they do best: producing magnificent pro wrestling. This was a wonderful clash of styles, overlapping enough to make the contrasts even more striking. Physically outgunned, Garcia struggled early but soon took advantage of Kingston’s injured knee, assaulting his ear along the way. For all his technical brilliance, Garcia is equally vicious, a spiteful soul simply made for battering someone like King. This was just about perfect, featuring immense selling throughout.

2. Andrade El Idolo, FTR & Malakai Black vs. Cody Rhodes & Death Triangle – Dynamite #112

The ideal ‘Road To’ main event, this was a natural main event for the Thanksgiving eve edition of Dynamite. Big stars, great workers and ongoing stories, just a fabulous mix of major league television wrestling. Cody’s part in this remains understandably polarising, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment here, surrounded by enough excellence that skill-wise, he can still hang with also. That being said, it’s probably time to move Malakai Black on, even if this match was an undeniable smash hit.

3. Thunder Rosa vs. Jamie Hayter – Dynamite #112

The strongest showing of Jamie Hayter’s AEW stint thus far, this exceeded my sizeable, even if slightly cautious, expectations. As physical as advertised, this was an intense, gruelling affair, packed with aggression. Hayter finally felt truly at home here, stylistically suited to this kind of bruising battle. As for Rosa, what is there left to say? Few are better in the world, just an absolute force of charismatic and engaging pro wrestling magic. Whether TBS or not, gold needs to be around Rosa’s waist in 2022.

4. Riho vs. Britt Baker – Rampage #16

 A rare non-title singles loss for an AEW Champion, this match was good enough that honestly, the whole thing felt more than worthwhile. Frankly, Riho has been criminally underused as of late, unforced error or not. Clearly, this’ll be a title programme now but afterwards, I really hope that Riho remains visible on TV, as she offers a whole lot as this division’s babyface underdog. Baker was good here too, producing her most poised performance in some time, one-half of a really neat television bout.

5. Adam Cole & Bobby Fish vs. Best Friends – Rampage #16

I’m seemingly a touch lower on this than the majority, but I did like it quite a bit. The Adam Cole – Bobby Fish team certainly won’t blow you away with their heat segments but when the action escalates, they were quite the combination. Wheeler Yuta was the star of this match though, obviously there to take the fall but maximising his minutes and leaving the ring stronger than he’d entered. Orange Cassidy was there too, he’s great huh?

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. Lee Moriarty vs. Nick Comoroto – Dark #118

In a promotion packed with prospects, Lee Moriarty may stand out the most for me personally. Beyond the charisma and flash, Moriarty is just a wonderfully mature performer, showing that here as he seamlessly structured a match around Comoroto’s quite literal strength.

2. Kris Statlander, Leyla Hirsch & Ryo Mizunami vs. Emi Sakura, Penelope Ford & The Bunny – Dark Elevation #38

Again, they’ve done an awful lot of these trios matches on the C-Shows as of late but I continue to enjoy them, so it’s hard to complain much. Going for this particular rendition was the fact that it felt like we hadn’t seen Leyla Hirsch and Penelope Ford for a while, which only helped the final product.

3. The Dark Order vs. Carlie Bravo & Shawn Dean – Dark #118

I must say, I’ve always enjoyed the pairing of Carlie Bravo and Shawn Dean. I don’t think they’ve teamed up often, but obviously enough to impact me in some form or fashion. In addition, it was nice to Alex Reynolds and John Silver back together, combining for a neat Dark opener.

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 #112

For me at least, the victor of Wednesday’s blockbuster promo segment, CM Punk continued his hot streak on Dynamite. Opposite MJF, Punk may not have spoke the most, but his words hit the hardest in my view, cutting through the filler and dealing some knockout punches along the way. Punk’s authenticity stole the show I thought, bringing that palpable confidence which transcends any on-screen performance. For better or worse, he’s a real person and as though it wasn’t already confirmed, CM Punk is back, folks.

2. MJF – Dynamite #112

Though the above may suggest otherwise, I actually thought MJF performed admirably on Dynamite. Not every sentence was a hit, but some connected in a major way and more than that, MJF truly belonged and at his age, that’s no mean feat. The sheer conviction of MJF is and always has been immensely impressive, not budging an inch in front of the promotion’s biggest star. In many ways, MJF is a modern version of what Punk was almost two decades ago, creating the natural clash that caught fire on Wednesday.

3. Bear Country – Dark #118

I didn’t want to split Boulder and Bronson here, as their tandem offering was a genuine hit on both sides. This was eye-opening honestly, an old school pro wrestling promo that perfectly fit Bear Country’s whole aura and appeal. Unfortunately, they followed this effort by losing to The Gunn Club, which I’d recommend against. If this level of promo is a part of Bear Country’s game, they should be climbing the depth chart sooner than later. Also, more of these promos on Dark please, they give the show its own flavour.

4. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #112

Fresh off another Dark Order destruction, Bryan Danielson continued his recent shift in direction, operating as a heel with Hangman Adam Page ahead. Danielson’s smug cockiness makes sense considering his success, but his absolute passion for violence remains the highlight. This promo followed an extensive victory lap with Colt Cabana’s tooth in hand, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Danielson has been a good promo for some time but in this role, he’s at his absolute best.

5. Tony Nese – Rampage #16

This is probably generous but who cares, I’m here to simply say that yes, Tony Nese can talk. He’s not Dusty Rhodes, nor will he knock you over with charisma but Nese doesn’t have to be some mute either. We already know Nese’s role, he’ll rotate in and out for television losses and mostly dominate on the C-Shows, but these promos in-between really won’t be the challenge that some suggest. Nese is a natural fit for this position, and steady promos like this will only make that more obvious.

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. Wardlow vs. Rolando Perez – Dark #118

A genuine contender for the greatest squash match in AEW history, this was a masterpiece. Poor Rolando Perez was grossly outmatched and with this sacrifice, professional wrestling’s life has been extended. I don’t even care about the big singles push for Wardlow, just give me these squashes forever, please.

2. Bryan Danielson vs. Colt Cabana – Dynamite #112

Look, last week may have been a stretch but this one? No way, this thing was a squash, folks. I have to say, I adore this recent shift, as Danielson has gone from aggressively selfless to an absolute destroyer since turning heel. As a fan, I honestly wanted something more competitive here but after seeing it in action, this was absolutely the correct call.

3. Riho vs. Trish Adora – Dark Elevation #38

This wasn’t quite long enough to be listed as a C-Show stealer, but it’s one of the better two minute matches that you’ll see, so I’ll list it here for the sake of my personal grin. Sign Trish Adora, because obviously.

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. Daniel Garcia

Though the loser of this week’s best match, Daniel Garcia felt more like a star than ever on Rampage. Kingston’s selflessness is a tale as old as time, but Garcia was more than worthy of that treatment, filling every gap with ease. Garcia is such a focused, refreshing in-ring performer and unsurprisingly gelled seamlessly with Kingston. Thus far, Garcia has gained an awful lot in defeat on AEW TV, but this was his finest showing yet.

2. Eddie Kingston

The other half of that Rampage classic, Eddie Kingston continued to cement himself as one of the promotion’s tippy top guys against Daniel Garcia. Kingston’s connection with the AEW audience is special, and it allows his matches to stand out but first and foremost, so do his performances. This is an all-time great pro wrestler at the peak of his powers, maybe not physically but he’s just got the answers right now, rising to the occasion at every turn.

3. Riho

After months on the sidelines, Riho was back in a major way this week, returning to television and even pinning the AEW Women’s Champion. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for Riho, who should stay present after this upcoming title shot comes and goes. On Rampage, Riho reminded the world that she’s one of the division’s strongest workers, producing a really nice television bout with Britt Baker. More Riho please, we’re all better for it.

4. CM Punk

My personal highlight of the week’s signature segment, CM Punk’s brilliance continues to amaze me. Simply put, Punk is pro wrestling and even after seven years off, that hasn’t changed a bit. Honestly, Punk would be ranked even higher if not for the match that followed. Punk’s bout with QT Marshall was steady to be clear, not bad by any means but in my view, it was a tactical error of sorts. Punk probably didn’t need to be working that match at that time, though it certainly could enhance the story moving forward.

5. Jamie Hayter

After fleeting flashes of brilliance since arriving in AEW, Jamie Hayter produced her best effort yet on Wednesday. This was a signature showing for Hayter, matching the immense Thunder Rosa for a gruelling tournament bout. Hayter’s sizeable ceiling and potential have been discussed often since her August return and for me, this performance was the best sight of that thus far. Indeed, Jamie Hayter is a name to track in terms of title contention and with efforts like this, that could be here sooner than later.

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. Bryan Danielson – 91 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 88 Points
  3. CM Punk – 73 Points
  4. Miro – 65 Points
  5. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  6. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  7. Nick Jackson – 56 Points
  8. Dax Harwood – 56 Points
  9. Penta El Zero Miedo – 54 Points
  10. Rey Fenix – 53 Points
  11. Matt Jackson – 49 Points
  12. Jungle Boy – 49 Points
  13. Darby Allin – 49 Points
  14. Adam Cole – 48 Points
  15. Hangman Adam Page – 47 Points
  16. MJF – 46 Points
  17. Pac – 41 Points
  18. Christian Cage – 40 Points
  19. Orange Cassidy – 40 Points
  20. Cash Wheeler – 40 Points

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