Fleet Files #21: Winter is Coming, Hook is Here

Another week, another Fleet File and folks, winter is coming. This edition included, we have only four entries left, soon deciding the first and probably only Fleet Files victor. First though, Bryan Danielson has one last stop before his shot at Hangman Adam Page, taking on John Silver in Long Island, New York. Speaking of such, MJF’s homecoming is here while elsewhere, the world famous Hook makes his in-ring debut. Lots to cover folks, so let’s get this show on the road.

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. Tag Team Titles: The Lucha Bros (c) vs. FTR – Rampage #19

This pairing’s best match together, FTR and The Lucha Bros completed the mission that they got well underway at Full Gear. That match was enthralling, but stumbled in the finishing stretch, righting that wrong here. This matchup is honestly fascinating as I don’t think there’s much chemistry but yet, the match quality can only fall so far for me personally. Granted, I’m ready for these teams to move on now but overall, I liked this series and thought this entry was especially enjoyable.

2. Riho vs. Jamie Hayter – Dynamite #114

My favourite match on this week’s Dynamite, Jamie Hayter and Riho produced something special on Wednesday. This dynamic is honestly perfect, two skill-sets and styles simply made for each other. Hayter’s powerhouse potential is truly unlocked by Riho’s desperation to sell, creating a natural babyface/heel scenario. Riho really is immense, the division’s best babyface and frankly, one of the promotion’s finest too. Credit to Hayter too, immediately improving on her promotional personal best against Thunder Rosa.

3. The Young Bucks vs. CHAOS – Dynamite #114

It’s always great to have Rocky Romero on AEW TV and on paper, combining that with The Young Bucks’ return to tag team action was an obvious winning formula. The execution ensured that to be the case as after a somewhat slow start, these four unsurprisingly managed something more than worthwhile. The final portion was classic Bucks, rolling back the years some with their exchange opposite Rocky Romero. Chuck Taylor deserves a mention too, maximising his minutes as usual.

4. Bryan Danielson vs. John Silver – Dynamite #114

The penultimate stop on Bryan Danielson’s latest ride, this was the perfect bridge towards next week’s mega-match. As you’d expect, John Silver was Danielson’s most competitive Dark Order foe yet, shining bright before ‘The American Dragon’s inevitable and ultimately emphatic win. I’ve really appreciated Danielson’s approach to this story, offering engaging in-ring action but really maintaining the aggressive edge that’ll make next week’s title tilt even more special. That’ll be great but this delivered in its own right, a strong television main event.

5. Nyla Rose, Penelope Ford & The Bunny vs. Ruby Soho & TayJay – Rampage #19

This exceeded my expectations honestly, an extended cut of the recent C-Show trios bouts. With slightly increased star-power and a tight structure, these six women took a throwaway bout and made it genuinely engaging. After two (!) heat segments, Anna Jay delivered a worthy hot tag, setting the stage for an expansive finishing stretch. Everyone stepped up here and the audience’s legitimate fandom of the babyface trio shouldn’t be ignored, a real factor in what made this work.

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. Emi Sakura vs. Ryo Mizunami – Dark #120

I’m not as educated on these two women’s careers as I should be, but this had big ‘greatest hits’ energy. My brief research suggests that in truth, they haven’t actually wrestled much at all yet even still, this felt like a condensed version of what they have or at least could produce elsewhere. As is, it was strong, packed with physicality and just wonderfully well-executed TV wrestling.

2. The Nightmare Family vs. The Wingmen – Dark Elevation #40

This was some nice C-Show content right here, an ideal usage of The Wingmen. My main takeaway is simple though: give me Dustin Rhodes vs. JD Drake and give them six minutes or so in a Dark Elevation main event. The rest is a bonus, ‘Pretty’ Peter and all.

3. Abadon & Ryo Mizunami vs.  Emi Sakura & The Bunny – Dark Elevation #40

Though too short to rank any higher, this beat out more mechanically sound matches by being fun, plain and simple. Abadon is polarising to say the least but is genuinely improving and in this setting, her character was absolutely maximised by the match’s other participants. That dynamic carried things honestly, across the board.

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. Ricky Starks – Dark #120

Must say, I’d forgotten just how at home Ricky Starks feels in a setting such as this. Looking down the camera, interviewer by his side and a small crowd in the palm of his hand, Ricky Starks only needs a minute or two to remind the world of just how great a promo he is. Starks nailed this, and seemed at absolute ease along the way.

2. CM Punk – Dynamite #114

‘The Best in the World’s version of an MJF promo, CM Punk produced a similarly familiar heel promo on Wednesday. Long and in terms of content at least, perhaps a little lazy but in many ways, that was the point. Punk certainly takes joy in playing this side of the game, relishing the heat and offering a complete role reversal in his feud with MJF. Not his best, but strong nonetheless.

3. Cody Rhodes – Dynamite #114

I don’t care how fleeting this was, I only needed one line. “From one good guy to another,” enough said. Cody Rhodes is doing his own take on the medium right now and I honestly change my mind on it every week. I don’t know if it’s what you’d call “good,” but it’s entertaining me personally as of late.

4. Lio Rush – Dark #120

A vast improvement on his effort from last week’s Dynamite, this was the Lio Rush that wrestling fans have come to know. Confident and always armed with an answer to every question, Rush’s presence far exceeds his diminutive stature, allowing him a sense of genuine star power. Rush and Starks combined for a nice promo segment on Dark, more of that in the studio please.

5. The Men of the Year – Dynamite #114

This wasn’t really positioned to be anything more than it was, but I liked the delivery quite a bit. Ethan Page is always good and honestly, Scorpio Sky has been consistently right alongside him as of late. Circumstance assured that this segment had a clear ceiling but I liked The Men of the Year’s piece of the puzzle and so, they share the fifth spot here.

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. Hook vs. Fuego Del Sol – Rampage #19

One of the most unique, striking debuts in AEW history, this was an absolute smash hit. Hook has arrived and more on that later but for now, major props to Fuego Del Sol. The wrestling definition of ‘a star in his role,’ Fuego is the perfect talent for this position, an incredible pro that spotlighted Hook perfectly.

2. The Pinnacle vs. Jay Marte & Richard King – Dark #120

I just love this Shawn Spears – Wardlow team, and am glad that their time together didn’t come to an end on Wednesday. It’s a great dynamic that in any other tag team division, could be utilised far more on the A-Shows honestly. Not sure that day will ever come in AEW, but I’ll accept these squashes for now.

3. The Factory vs. Baron Black, JD Munoz, Shawn Hoodrich & Tony Vincita – Dark Elevation #40

This was kind of a mess so naturally, I’ve rewarded it accordingly. In his brief appearance here, Anthony Ogogo looked both awesome and lost in one fell swoop, the ideal wrestling return if we’re being honest.  

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. Hook

From the outside looking in, this may seem like the latest attempt at capitalising on a meme, but I can’t overstate its sincerity. In just a few minutes, Hook stole the show, AEW’s biggest talking point by far at the week’s close. Technically perfect and soaked in a slick charisma, Hook’s in-ring debut couldn’t have possibly gone any better. All jokes aside, Hook is a genuine prospect and after just one match, his ceiling already feels unfathomable. Time will tell obviously, but you couldn’t ask for a stronger start.

2. MJF

On any other week, MJF would’ve been a lock for the top spot, rising to the occasion and then some at home. MJF was simply wonderful on Wednesday, entering to a spectacular video package and soaking up the ovation in fabulous fashion. I don’t always trust MJF’s instincts and think he certainly misses at times, but he was absolutely perfect here. The Dynamite Diamond Battle Royale was fun TV but in truth, a mere backdrop to MJF’s greatest hit yet, a masterclass in character work.

3. Riho

Once again, this week was a triumph for anyone that had rightly demanded more Riho on TV. The Britt Baker match was a success but this was a level above, continuing the women’s division’s recent bell to bell hot streak on Dynamite. Riho is making a statement with this little run, the glue that’s now led two top heels to their strongest showings in some time. More Riho vs. Hayter please, as this is a natural title programme down the road.

4. Jamie Hayter

Honestly, Jamie Hayter could be very reasonably argued as the star of Wednesday’s bout. Selfless as ever, Riho gave her so much space to fill and thankfully, Hayter was more than up to the task. Hayter’s offence here was a perfect blend of impressive physicality, showy but not in a way that undermined Riho’s role. As I’ve said before, Hayter’s initial outings post-return were slightly shaky but she’s shaken the rust and now finally looks back at home.

5. Cash Wheeler

Maybe this is slightly unfair but as I said, this week’s best match was a weird outlier. Due to the slightly strange chemistry, this wasn’t a bout for individual brilliance, even if the overall product absolutely connected. With that in mind, I thought I’d spotlight the match’s best piece in my personal view, the too often underrated Cash Wheeler. Unfortunately, Dax Harwood’s brilliance usually earns the plaudits but on this occasion, Cash stole the show.

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 – 97 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 89 Points
  3. CM Punk – 78 Points
  4. Miro – 70 Points
  5. Dax Harwood – 64 Points
  6. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  7. Penta El Zero Miedo – 62 Points
  8. Nick Jackson – 59 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  10. Rey Fenix – 58 Points
  11. Matt Jackson – 52 Points
  12. Adam Cole – 51 Points
  13. MJF – 50 Points
  14. Jungle Boy – 49 Points
  15. Cash Wheeler – 49 Points
  16. Darby Allin – 49 Points
  17. Hangman Adam Page – 47 Points
  18. Pac – 46 Points
  19. Christian Cage – 44  Points
  20. Orange Cassidy – 40 Points

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