King vs. Kidd, Cardona Contrast | Best of the Rest #1

In 2021, the gap between US wrestling’s top two and the rest widened, with the industry’s current runner-up producing their strongest year yet. As many of you will know, I covered much of that in Fleet Files, a series that tracked the second half of AEW’s monumental 2021. Now though, my focus shifts elsewhere, examining the other ‘national’ promotions. Now, let’s stop right there and clear some things up. Indeed, GCW is the actual third promotion in more ways than one, this series is not suggesting otherwise.

Instead, I am simply focusing on the weekly TV products as that’s what’s best for this particular format. Basically, consider this a slightly loose guide to the other promotions producing weekly TV, one that’ll ideally allow you to add an hour or two of wrestling to your week. Our four promotions, for now, are IMPACT, MLW, NJoA and NWA. Now, those four brands are clearly in very different predicaments and in fact, there will be some talent crossovers along the way too.

Either way, each week I’ll list the top four matches, segments and stars before settling on the best show itself. In the end, one promotion will stand tall and so will one talent but that’s a long way away so let’s get started with a series that seems destined for failure! Indeed, let’s find the Best of the Rest!

Match of the Week

The week’s four best matches, regardless of promotion or show.

  1. Eddie Kingston vs. Gabriel Kidd – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 8/1/22

Number one with a bullet, this is about as watchable as pro wrestling gets. In not even thirteen minutes, Eddie Kingston and Gabriel Kidd achieved a whole lot here, going to war and trading violent strikes until the former closed the show. In fear of being hyperbolic, this is the kind of match that in an ideal world, you’d build a territory around. The bruising veteran, Kingston battered Kidd but ultimately, elevated him greatly along the way. An unsurprising triumph from one of the world’s best, and an impressive showing from Kidd too.

2. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mercedes Martinez – IMPACT Wrestling 6/1/22

The much discussed and debated IMPACT women’s division came through nicely here, featuring a strong television match between Deonna Purrazzo and Mercedes Martinez. The latter has recently signed with AEW but closed out her brief IMPACT stint in fitting fashion, producing a typically fiery performance opposite the cerebral former champion. Purrazzo was excellent here, working with an edge that sold the Hard to Kill main event better than any promo ever could. These two got some time and maximised it, producing the standout match on in-ring at least, a steady episode of IMPACT Wrestling.

3. Aramis, Black Destiny & Myzteziz Jr vs. Arez, Dinamico & Skalibur – MLW Azteca 6/1/22

The opening match on the premiere of MLW Azteca, this swiftly set the tone. In fact, this actually set a standard that I thought the rest of the show failed to match, but it was a hit nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t perfect and had its issues but ultimately, was a smart stylistic choice that quickly gave this programme its own flavour. Six young wrestlers showing what they can do in a chaotic trios match, with Aramis and Arez shining brightest.

4. La Rebellion & Homicide vs. Jax Dane & The End – NWA Powerrr 5/1/22

Relying on Homicide’s somehow unfading popularity, this week’s NWA Powerrr main event did the basics well enough to earn the final spot here. This wasn’t anything spectacular but frankly, had some life to it that unfortunately, wasn’t exactly present beforehand. This was spirited, I guess is my point, with Homicide mostly selling and giving the heels some room that thankfully, they quite competently filled. That portion set the stage perfectly for La Rebellion’s dynamic comeback, sprinkling some tandem offence in and confirming this bout’s place as the week’s fourth best.

Segment of the Week

The week’s four best segments, from backstage interviews to in-ring brawls.

  1. Matt Cardona Interview – NWA Powerrr 5/1/22

The only true triumph on a show that should be filled with promo standouts, Matt Cardona was the clear highlight of NWA Powerrr. This was perfect, with Cardona dismissing the nostalgia-fuelled NWA and ideally, setting the stage for his oncoming NWA World Title reign. Cardona is fresh off a remarkable 2021 and seems perfectly positioned to build on that moving forward, featured prominently in a range of roles.

2. 5150 Pre-Tape – MLW Azteca 6/1/22

The outlier on a programme packed with bad attempts at recapturing that famed Lucha Underground magic, this was effective pro wrestling. I always loved the LAX act and it probably goes understated just how well the last revival went but I must say, this was certainly encouraging regarding the latest incarnation. This was produced in a fashion befitting the gimmick’s origins and Rivera especially showed enough personality to set himself apart also. Good stuff from the tag champs.

3. Chelsea Green & Matt Cardona Sit-Down Interview – IMPACT Wrestling 6/1/22

Though not nearly as brilliant as his effort on Powerrr, this was still another win for Matt Cardona. With Chelsea Green by his side, Cardona played the traditional babyface, combining with Green for a strong sit-down interview. I think this act is infinitely more interesting on the other side of things but even here, they’re effective, especially when armed with some worthwhile content like they were on IMPACT. Nice segment, neatly assisting a match that probably needed the help.

4. W. Morrissey – IMPACT Wrestling 6/1/22

While I understand the ongoing dismissal of W. Morrissey as a national promotion’s top guy, I think his general performance has been undeniably impressive. Namely, his promos, a puzzle piece that Morrissey showed flashes off in WWE. That’s been truly cemented in IMPACT though, being a consistent strength that is steadily separating Morrissey from the pack. Divisive as his overall ceiling may be, Morrissey can really talk and this was a nice example of that, adding genuine depth to this character.

Star of the Week

The top four stars of the week, excluding talent signed to the big two.

  1. Matt Cardona

This speaks for itself, with Matt Cardona earning two of my three favourite segments of the week. Better yet, Cardona is portraying completely contrasting personas on these shows, but feels like a standout star on both. I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them just how impressive this run of Cardona’s career has been, but his effectiveness can be lost in a vacuum. Truly, watch the content surrounding him, especially on Powerrr, and you’ll see why Cardona is trending in the right direction.

2. Gabriel Kidd

A worthy dance-partner opposite one of the world’s absolute best, Gabriel Kidd had a breakout performance against Eddie Kingston. Don’t get me wrong, he was impressive against Jonathan Gresham too but stylistically, this was something else. The oldest play in the book really, giving a talented but raw young wrestler a chance to show his heart, bravely challenging the older, wiser warrior. Hopefully Kidd can build on this, he’s certainly up to the challenge once the bell rings.

3. Deonna Purrazzo

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Deonna Purrazzo’s work since losing the IMPACT Knockouts Title. Purrazzo has added a real edge to her game, temporarily distancing herself from the pure wrestling stylings that she’s known for. This week’s match with Mercedes Martinez was rough and physical, but stayed close enough to Purrazzo’s comfort zone to showcase her strongest skills. That was most clear in the finish, spotlighting Purrazzo’s slick grappling as she scored the sudden submission win.


While I didn’t actually love the match with Jake Something, I thought I’d give a nod to JONAH here in the final spot. I’ve never been a big fan but I must say, his general presentation has impressed me in IMPACT. In this role, JONAH finally feels like an actual monster and thankfully, his performance is mostly up to the challenge thus far. There’s an aggression to JONAH, a confidence that’s been previously absent in my view. Combining the match with the brawl that followed, I’d say this was a nice episode for JONAH.

Show of the Week

The week’s television shows ranked in order, from best to worst.

  1. NJPW Strong

In fear of being negative, this particular placement is probably telling. Outside of the main event, NJPW Strong was around 30 minutes of fine pro wrestling. Not bad, don’t get me wrong, just steady stuff that didn’t do much to excite or inspire. Then Eddie Kingston arrived and transformed the whole programme, cementing it in the top spot with just over twelve minutes of pro wrestling excellence. ‘The Mad King’ and Gabriel Kidd deserve the credit here, producing something a tier above the rest, singlehandedly securing this position for NJPW Strong.

2. IMPACT Wrestling

If nothing else, IMPACT Wrestling was a pretty effective go-home show and with some solid wrestling too, that was more than enough to earn it the second spot. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t really expect too many swings in quality from IMPACT, who have their playbook and generally produce consistent television, for better or worse. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mercedes Martinez wasn’t alone either, with a handful of neat enough television bouts around it. Throw in a Masha Slamovich squash match and ultimately, you have a success.

3. NWA Powerrr

Finally making their return to YouTube, NWA produced a…well, vaguely inoffensive edition of Powerrr. By that I mean, there really wasn’t much embarrassingly bad content and deep down, I still enjoy the format in a broad strokes sense. Unfortunately, there aren’t many impressive players left onboard and so, the familiar system isn’t quite as effective as you may recall. Worst of all, this was a rather bloated episode, taking away NWA’s always appealing shorter run-time. I don’t know, maybe I’m being harsh but there just wasn’t much here, barely a hook in sight sadly.

4. MLW Azteca

To be clear, I understand that this isn’t totally fair. This isn’t MLW’s full-time, flagship programme and as far as I know, Fusion or something resembling it will soon return. If and when that happens, I’ll be covering that as the MLW product but for now, this is what I was working with. Now, it also doesn’t help that I was embarrassingly unfamiliar with much of the talent featured here, so hopefully those disclaimers make this placement an easier pill to swallow. With all that being said, I thought this was quite bad, unfortunately.

The Top Talent

The top four talents thus far, ranked by the best match, segment and star categories above.

  1. Matt Cardona – 10 Points
  2. Gabriel Kidd – 7 Points
  3. Deonna Purrazzo – 5 Points
  4. Rivera – 3 Points

The Top Territory

The four promotions’ performance thus far, ranked by the best match, segment and show categories above.

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 9 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 8 Points
  3. NWA Powerrr – 7 Points
  4. MLW Azteca – 6 Points

The Fleet Files Finale

Fleet Files #23: Christmas with Cody

It’s Christmas, or it was anyway and as is tradition, Tony Khan is resurrecting another tradition. Indeed, Christmas wrestling is back and better yet, it has Cody Rhodes front and centre, too. Christmas with Cody huh? It doesn’t get any better than that…well, I suppose an unspoiled title match would’ve been slightly better, maybe one involving a better title reign too but whatever, it is/was Christmas! Elsewhere, an all-star trios match leads the way on Dynamite so with only one Fleet File ahead, 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. CM Punk, Darby Allin & Sting vs. MJFTR – Dynamite #116

A warm and fuzzy but ultimately physical throwback to simpler times, this was a slightly expanded cut of yesteryear’s main events. The main conflict was protected, with CM Punk not even touching MJF while FTR almost stole the show. I only say almost because Sting was there too, again rolling back the years and continuing to perform with that endearing enthusiasm and spirit. This was an absolute treat, the perfect main event for this show in this setting, simply wonderful stuff.

2. TNT Title: Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara (c) – Rampage #21

As divisive as the end result may prove to be, this was another triumph inside the ropes. Continuing his recent big match hot streak of sorts, Cody Rhodes was quite brilliant here, working with a real intensity that neatly contrasted Guevara’s acrobatics. Though his reign wasn’t exactly perfect, Guevara always delivered once the bell rung and that was no different here, shining bright in his final bout (for now) as TNT Champion.

3. Adam Cole vs. Orange Cassidy – Dynamite #116

Featuring Kyle O’Reilly’s expected but exciting debut, this match resulted in perhaps the week’s biggest AEW headline. Unfortunately, the match itself very much played second fiddle in that regard, which is a shame considering its genuine quality. Opening the show to a typically hot crowd, this was a safe bet and indeed delivered, including an especially enthralling closing stretch. I understand the concerns of overexposure, but personally maintain that it’s always a pleasure to see Cassidy in matches of this ilk.

4. Kris Statlander vs. Leyla Hirsch – Rampage #21

This match came out of nowhere, but thank goodness it did. This was every bit the treat that you’d expect, with Leyla Hirsch further cementing herself as one of the promotion’s most underutilised stars. Hirsch is immense, the tenacious grappler that wrestles with a truly endearing spirit and in that sense, she had a real dance partner here. Honestly, Kris Statlander’s constant improvement is an understated story in recent months, and she closes 2021 as one of the division’s strongest performers.

5. Jungle Boy vs. Isiah Kassidy – Rampage #21

I honestly don’t think this got enough love, which isn’t surprising considering the rampant rest of Rampage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no classic but this was strong television wrestling in my view, and another reminder of Isiah Kassidy’s development. I don’t blame anyone for missing it, with Marq Quen’s absence and the lack of television exposure limiting things but genuinely, Private Party enter 2022 with all the tools for serious contention. Good match and hopefully, a sign of things to come.

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. 10 vs. Leroy Patterson – Dark #122

This probably belongs on the squash list, but I simply refuse that cowardice. Instead, I’ve decided to list it here, ensuring that Leroy Patterson is not only ranked, but actually outscores Brian Cage in the Fleet Files database. There are many great matches in AEW history and then there is this, a clear cut above them all. Also, Howdy!

2. Matt Sydal vs. Serpentico – Dark #122

Sound pro wrestling from the master of exactly that, as Matt Sydal produced another impressive performance on Dark, this time against Serpentico. In different ways, these are two of the promotion’s more unheralded hard workers and so, this effort was no surprise honestly.

3. Isiah Kassidy vs. Carlie Bravo – Dark #122

I’ve wrote about it a lot, or as much as possible anyway, but again, it’s been an absolute treat to watch Isiah Kassidy’s development as of late. This was a real triumph in that regard, as Kassidy looked great, with Carlie Bravo again no slouch either.

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 #116

In recent months, Hangman Adam Page has emphatically ticked the box that before, he’d only lightly grazed. After previously showing promise in that regard, Page has transformed into one of the industry’s finest babyface promos. He didn’t have it easy here either, opposite an unsurprisingly brilliant Bryan Danielson and yet still stealing the show. Page continues to rise to the occasion, a worthy AEW Champion.

2. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #116

The aforementioned counterpart to Hangman Adam Page’s fiery effort, Bryan Danielson continues to relish his role as AEW’s lead antagonist. Granted, it may be nearing its end in some ways but Danielson is making the most of every minute, including just enough truth to make each and every lie all the more infuriating. Fabulous stuff from the GOAT, as to be expected.

3. Britt Baker – Dynamite #116

Must say, I’ve grown somewhat tired of this format, with Britt Baker seemingly living in these backstage pre-tapes. With that being said, this particular one worked for me, with Baker making the absolute most of her time and bringing an even better delivery than usual. I wish this programme with Riho had more momentum but on this occasion, Baker tried her absolute best to remedy that.

4. Sammy Guevara – Rampage #21

It’s frustrating that just minutes before losing his TNT Title, Sammy Guevara brought his personality back to the fore. Guevara was great here honestly, with his less than pure babyface slant working considering the circumstances. Moving into 2022 without the workhorse title around his waist, Guevara needs to make moments like this the norm, a reminder of his initial success.

5. Miro – Rampage #21

You know the story by now folks, it’s Miro, in a pre-tape. The most reliable hit in AEW, even in purgatory.

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. Bear Bronson – Rampage #21

The ultimate Christmas gift, this was simply incredible. The match graphic alone got me fired up and indeed, this more than delivered. Hook launched big Bear Bronson around, still maintaining that extraordinary presence along the way and just further building on the already immense hype. Seriously, the potential is palpable but even as is, what a star!

2. Wardlow vs. Shawn Dean – Dynamite #116

You know the deal by now folks…or you should at least, I’ve wrote it enough times, especially recently. This is WAR, and things of that nature.

3. Red Velvet vs. Madi Wrenkowski – Dark Elevation #42

Maybe a slightly unconventional pick here, but I just loved this performance from Red Velvet. Everything looked good and had a snap to it, showcasing the kind of polish that frankly, hasn’t always been present in Velvet’s work. Neat squash match, even if obviously different from the candidates above.

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. Sting

Just the latest triumph in Sting’s remarkable AEW stint, this may have been his finest outing yet. At 62, Sting is again extending his legacy, performing admirably and somehow stealing the show in a star-studded trios match. This was an easy choice honestly, pushing Sting up even further on any self-respecting fan’s Fleet 50 ballot. Over thirty years after breaking out in that very building, Sting remains iconic, an absolute legend.

2. Kyle O’Reilly

Though he didn’t work a match or cut a promo, this was a big week for Kyle O’Reilly. Only weeks removed from his final match in NXT, O’Reilly made a major impact on arrival, setting the stage for a blockbuster trios main event to close out 2021. O’Reilly immediately feels at home in AEW, reprising a role that brought him great success on the other channel.

3. FTR

I’m sorry, but I refuse to split these two after Wednesday. Of course, Dax Harwood was as brilliant as ever, even getting busted open as he went toe to toe with CM Punk. Cash Wheeler belongs alongside Harwood in regards to glowing praise though, bumping around wildly as together, FTR produced an absolute masterclass. This is an all-time great tag team, and performances like this only make that more obvious.

4. Cody Rhodes

The polarising execution perhaps limits Cody Rhodes’ placement slightly but even still, his ranking feels undeniable. After all, Rhodes became TNT Champion this week, winning the title for a third time. Previously, this belt was present for some of Rhodes’ strongest in-ring efforts, adding intrigue to its return to the original owner. Also, this belt only puts more eyeballs on Rhodes’ character work, which could be a major story in 2022.

5. Leyla Hirsch

Finally back on AEW television, Leyla Hirsch delivered in a major way against Kris Statlander. Better yet, this feels like the start of some kind of extended story, providing Hirsch with potential character development if nothing else. That’s long overdue considering Hirsch’s efforts inside the ropes and even though I’m hesitant on a possible heel turn, I’m open to anything that keeps her consistently on TV.

Fleet Files #24: And the Winner Is…

Well folks, we’re finally here. Months removed from this series’ debut, Fleet Files has come to an end. Indeed, at this edition’s conclusion, we’ll have crowned the first and final Fleet Files winner. It’s been an incredible year for AEW, featuring a summer that I’ll truly never forget. With 2022 now here though, I’ll be spreading my focus more broadly, hopefully debuting a similar series on this very platform in the coming weeks. For now though, let’s finish this thing off with a flourish, sending AEW to TBS in style.

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. TayJay vs. The Bunny & Penelope Ford – Rampage #22

Living up to the hype and then some, this was an absolutely insane conclusion to an admittedly polarising programme. Not to lessen the performances of Tay Conti and Anna Jay, but this felt like a real statement from The Bunny and Penelope Ford. Covered in blood, The Bunny gave this match a visual or two that’ll live long in the memory while Ford wrestled with an almost frightening reckless abandon. To their credit, TayJay were more than willing dance partners too, making this one of the promotion’s more unique TV thrillers.

2. TNT Title: Cody Rhodes (c) vs. Ethan Page – Rampage #22

Just rock solid, sound pro wrestling, a reminder of what both Cody Rhodes and Ethan Page truly excel at. These two are probably capable of better, ideally with Rhodes operating as the more defined babyface but even still, the mere fundamentals did the trick. Page is honestly one of AEW’s most underrated assets in my view, a guy that consistently maximises every opportunity and this was no different, a really strong TNT Title bout. Rhodes’ reign has some hurdles ahead, but this was certainly a good start.

3. Adam Cole & reDRagon vs. Best Friends – Dynamite #117

The conclusion to a relatively subpar Dynamite, this was Kyle O’Reilly’s debut and ultimately, the episode’s clear highlight. I don’t think that it ever quite reached the heights probably possible but as is, this was an exciting TV main event that delivered while spotlighting O’Reilly decently enough. Trent Beretta was great in this one too, building on his already impressive return with an outstanding performance here. Mostly though, it was about O’Reilly and more specifically, the reuniting of reDRagon.

4. FTR & The HFO vs. Christian Cage, Jurassic Express & The Lucha Bros – Dynamite #117

Wednesday’s dynamic opener, this was a wild mix of factors both on-screen and off. On the babyface side, it was a matter of can they co-exist? Well, they couldn’t but elsewhere, it also reignited FTR’s memorable feud with Jurassic Express. In the land of inside baseball though, this was also a chance to have Christian Cage head to head with Cash and Dax while in addition, pairing the FTR duo with Private Party, a team that if they get their way, they’ll be working regularly in 2022. Anyway, the match was good, which I think was my point.

5. Darby Allin vs. Anthony Bowens – Rampage #22

Ever since Max Caster’s absence a few months ago, Anthony Bowens has become a regular of sorts in this role. The workhorse of that team, Bowens has even wrestled a couple more major singles bouts since Caster’s return, with this perhaps being his strongest individual showing yet. Darby Allin generally gives the heel he’s working room to fill and Bowens did so with ease here, producing sharp and snappy offence throughout in yet another standout performance.

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. No Disqualification: Joey Janela vs. Sonny Kiss – Dark #123

Recapturing and even increasing the ferocity of their last match, Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss produced a Dark classic to close out 2021. This was chaotic and wild, but also wrestled with a genuine intensity, absolutely packed with violence in a way befitting Janela’s recent promo. Much like its predecessor, another real triumph for a feud that creatively, probably didn’t get the attention that the performers’ efforts deserved.

2. Shawn Spears vs. Lee Moriarty – Dark Elevation #43

This wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined and hoped for, but I still liked what we got. Visibly having fun and gaining some heat in the process, Shawn Spears guided this one as the willing heel, still showcasing Lee Moriarty neatly along the way. Worth noting that Moriarty is very much getting over, so that’s another factor to watch re: his upcoming ascension.

3. Matt Hardy vs. Darius Lockhart – Dark Elevation #43

This probably wasn’t the next best match in truth, but I wanted to list it as I love Darius Lockhart and more than that, really appreciated the effort that these two made outside of the ring. With promos, Lockhart and Hardy added some intrigue to what ultimately, was a throwaway three minute match. Credit to Hardy for being as selfless as ever too, happily allowing Lockhart to lead the first couple minutes. 

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 #117

On an unfortunately thin week in terms of well, even vaguely competent promos, this feels like a pretty comfortable victor. I much prefer MJF in this setting, not lost in his pursuit of cheap heat and instead, getting the point across much more swiftly in these effective pre-tape promos. These have been a trend as of late, am very much hoping they stick with them.

2. CM Punk – Dynamite #117

This was long and without the content to make it worth the runtime but at the end of the day, it was a live CM Punk promo in front of an adoring crowd. For Punk especially, not one for the ‘best of’ compilation but considering the start alone, it’s an obvious fit for the 2-seed here.

3. Ricky Starks – Dynamite #117

See above in terms of the content but Ricky Starks confidence usually makes up the difference and that was probably the case here. Either way, let’s hope that 2022 is Ricky Starks’ year, as his stop-start return to action has been a frustrating piece of this last six months or so.   

4. Powerhouse Hobbs – Dynamite #117

Honestly, I’m not even sure that Hobbs said much here, but he has that great intensity and presence so who cares at this point, we’ll slot him in here. Hopefully the eventual rematch with Dante Martin clicks more as last time, I seem to recall Hobbs getting his bell rung somewhere along the way.

5. Max Caster – Dynamite #117

Sure, man.

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. Colin Delaney – Dynamite #117

You know the deal by now folks…or you should at least, I’ve wrote it enough times, especially recently. This is WAR, and things of that nature.

2. Skye Blue vs. Ashley D’Amboise – Dark #123

An absolute slaughter, as Skye Blue only took thirty seconds or so to dispatch Ashley D’Amboise. This was somewhat hilarious, feeling completely at odds with Blue’s usual demeanour but I’m for it, no reason not to play around with these things.

3. Thunder Rosa vs. Dani Mo – Dark Elevation #43

Motivated by Jade Cargill’s presence at the commentary desk, Thunder Rosa was even more aggressive than usual on Monday, battering poor Dani Mo en route to an unsurprisingly emphatic win.

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. The Bunny & Penelope Ford

I’m not splitting these two here as with blood and guts, I thought they silenced a lot of doubters on Rampage. The division’s go-to undercard heels, The Bunny and Penelope Ford have been criticised often but in just ten minutes, made this lengthy programme more than worthwhile in my view. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a feud of the year candidate or anything but I absolutely believe that especially with this final piece, it’s helped TayJay as television stars. Credit to The Bunny and Penelope Ford, immense team players and this was their best work yet.

2. TayJay

The other half of Friday’s enthralling bloodbath, TayJay scored the kind of signature win that creatively, AEW can hang their hat on heading into 2022. Clearly, both Tay Conti and Anna Jay are intended to be major players in this division and in that regard, I don’t think efforts like this can be overstated in their effectiveness. TayJay were already connecting but this is the kind of showing that catapults talent up the card. Ideally, the promotion will capitalise accordingly.

3. Joey Janela

As AEW enters its third year, there’s naturally lots of discussion about the promotion’s original roster. Who still fits, where they fit, so on and so forth. Well, Joey Janela made his loudest statement yet here, perfectly concluding a quietly impressive year in my view. Clearly, Janela is slotted in this role, a C-Show constant that’s seldom given the chance to steal a show but I must say, I think he’s very rarely missed in 2021, especially since turning heel. Considering that, it’s fitting that Janela ended on such an emphatic note, producing another strong spectacle with Sonny Kiss.

4. Sonny Kiss

From the outside looking in, it’s been a frustrating year for Sonny Kiss. Completely absent from AEW TV, Kiss’ genuine progression has been hidden from the masses and hopefully, that’ll change in 2022. Either way, Sonny can be very proud of both performances against Joey Janela, producing her finest matches yet in AEW. This tops that list in my view but also likely concludes the feud so now it’s a matter of following up, even if only in the C-Show setting for now.

5. Ethan Page

Six months ago, Ethan Page concluded his blood feud with Darby Allin in brutal, violent fashion. It was fabulous, one of AEW’s standout rivalries of the year for my money, regardless of how distant a memory it may be. Since then however, ‘All Ego’ has simply been Dan Lambert’s laughing track and if it wasn’t already clear, this performance showed just how wasteful that is. Page has a whole lot to offer, both in-ring and on the microphone, with this match just a timely reminder of exactly that.  

League Leaders – The Final 50

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your final top 50, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is categories scored in. If that doesn’t split them, it’s my preference, grow up.

  1. Bryan Danielson – 111 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 91 Points
  3. CM Punk – 87 Points
  4. Dax Harwood – 74 Points
  5. Miro – 71 Points
  6. Penta El Zero Miedo – 65 Points
  7. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  8. MJF – 62 Points
  9. Nick Jackson – 62 Points
  10. Hangman Adam Page – 61 Points
  11. Rey Fenix – 61 Points
  12. Adam Cole – 60 Points
  13. Cash Wheeler – 59 Points
  14. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  15. Darby Allin – 55 Points
  16. Matt Jackson – 55 Points
  17. Jungle Boy – 52 Points
  18. Orange Cassidy – 49 Points
  19. Christian Cage – 46 Points
  20. Pac – 46 Points
  21. Cody Rhodes – 42 Points
  22. Sammy Guevara – 41 Points
  23. Daniel Garcia – 40 Points
  24. Andrade El Idolo – 39 Points
  25. Luchasaurus – 38 Points
  26. Dante Martin – 36 Points
  27. Malakai Black – 31 Points
  28. Britt Baker – 30 Points
  29. Matt Sydal – 29 Points
  30. John Silver – 28 Points
  31. Chuck Taylor – 28 Points
  32. Wardlow – 27 Points
  33. Kris Statlander – 26 Points
  34. Hikaru Shida – 23 Points
  35. Lee Moriarty – 22 Points
  36. Emi Sakura – 22 Points
  37. Riho – 21 Points
  38. Santana – 21 Points
  39. The Bunny – 21 Points
  40. Lance Archer – 21 Points
  41. Evil Uno – 21 Points
  42. Tay Conti – 20 Points
  43. Stu Grayson – 20 Points
  44. Alan Angels – 20 Points
  45. The Blade – 19 Points
  46. Dustin Rhodes – 19 Points
  47. Nyla Rose – 19 Points
  48. Isiah Kassidy – 19 Points
  49. Ethan Page – 18 Points
  50. Sting – 18 Points

Category Winners

Match of the Week: Nick Jackson – 55 Points

C-Show Stealer: Emi Sakura – 19 Points

The Promo Pack: CM Punk – 38 Points

Squashes to See: Wardlow – 23 Points

The Fleet Five: Bryan Danielson – 29 Points

The Final League Leader, Fleet Files Winner: Bryan Danielson – 111 Points

Fleet Files #22: Winter is Here

With only three Fleet Files ahead, ‘The American Dragon’ looks to secure his lead, entering perhaps his biggest match yet. Taking on Hangman Adam Page for his AEW World Title, Bryan Danielson is battling for wrestling’s greatest prize: the one and only Fleet Files victory. Elsewhere, multi-man matches lead the way while Dante Martin and MJF close out Winter is Coming, vying for the Dynamite Diamond Ring. Clearly, there are many titles to claim but as Fleet Files nears its conclusion, only one that truly matters.

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. World Title: Hangman Adam Page (c) vs. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021

One of the greatest matches in AEW history, this was pro wrestling excellence, a simply beautiful 60 minutes of magic. Bryan Danielson’s latest masterpiece, this was also Hangman Adam Page’s finest showing yet, battling the full distance in an epic world title bout. Naturally, the result itself will be polarising but the work beforehand was undeniable, two of the world’s finest at their absolute best. If nothing else, a draw ensures the eventual sequel and based on this effort, that can’t come quickly enough.

2. Hikaru Shida vs.  Serena Deeb – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021

The rubber match after their first two enthralling entries, this lived up to the high expectations. It’s been great to have Hikaru Shida back on AEW television and matches like this are exactly why, again combining seamlessly with Serena Deeb. Still the division’s best worker mechanically, Deeb is at her best in matches of this ilk, building things neatly and opposite Shida, impressively regaining this audience’s previously wavering attention. Another strong match, perhaps only a closing stretch and finish away from the promotion’s absolute top tier.

3. CHAOS vs. Bobby Fish & The SuperKliq – Rampage #20

The natural next step in The Elite’s war with Best Friends, this was almost certainly just a bridge to the presumed destination. Thankfully, that’s still very much minutes to maximise for the performers involved, guaranteeing this as unquestionably worthwhile television time. It was great to have the original trio of Chuck, Trent and Orange back together but with Rocky Romero alongside them too, this is an immense quartet, perhaps only outdone by their opposite here. Another Bucks multi-man match, another hit.

4. Dynamite Diamond Ring: MJF vs. Dante Martin – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021

One of Dante Martin’s longest singles matches in AEW so far, this was an interesting case study. As expected, the eventual results were encouraging, even if not without an asterisk or two. Ultimately, Martin shined, producing his usual thrills opposite MJF. Unfortunately, it did appear that Martin tired some as the match neared its conclusion but all things considered, this has to be deemed a success. MJF was a good leader here, producing something solid even if slightly messy at times.

5. 2point0, Daniel Garcia & The Acclaimed vs. Santana & Ortiz, Eddie Kingston & Lucha Bros – Rampage #20

The wild alternative to Rampage’s aforementioned 8-man, this show of range was certainly appreciated. With that being said, it did result in something weaker, even if clearly still worthy of top five placement. Honestly, the finish’s execution knocks this down a notch or two for me, almost undermining Daniel Garcia’s upset win by surrounding it with such clunky chaos. Everyone performed well here though, even if they combined for a lesser version of what I had personally imagined.

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. Riho & Ryo Mizunami vs. Emi Sakura & Mei Suruga – Dark #121

I very much enjoyed last week’s match between Emi Sakura and Ryo Mizunami but honestly, this was a level above. Riho made for a fabulous face in peril here early, building to a strong hot tag from Mizunami and setting the stage for an awesome closing stretch. Standout Dark match, one of this era’s best.

2. Kris Statlander vs. Marina Shafir – Dark #121

Dark’s strongest opener in some time, this was a real statement on Marina Shafir’s part. Greatly outperforming prior projections, Shafir looked completely at home against Kris Statlander, who continues to cement herself as one of AEW’s strongest in-ring performers.

3. Daniel Garcia & 2.0 vs. The Dark Order – Dark #121

Nothing ground-breaking here, just six solid pros doing their thing, with Daniel Garcia unsurprisingly stealing the show. Ideal Dark main event, getting some time and relatively speaking, featuring some star-power too.

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. Joey Janela – Dark #121

Indeed, I questioned this one too but after honest review and rethink, I’m pretty sure it’s real. Yes, Joey Janela produced this week’s best promo, setting the stage for his upcoming clash with Sonny Kiss. This wasn’t just believable content delivered well, but it was a genuine triumph in the sense that Janela had a clear task to complete: reminding fans of this feud. After a down month or so, Janela got things where they needed to be with an impressive pre-tape promo.

2. Griff Garrison – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021

I know, this is pretty weird huh? Well, I’m sticking by it, as Griff Garrison conveyed palpable fire and emotion in this throwback babyface promo. Granted, Dynamite was really about one match but even still, this was the A-Show’s strongest verbal offering and that feels worth crediting. Garrison has always been the star of The Varsity Blondes in my view, and this only made that more obvious.

3. Malakai Black – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021

I have to be honest, my enjoyment of this promo probably isn’t totally sincere. I mean, it was well done and all but I did chuckle, which I’m not sure was the intention. Seriously though, I did like this and always admire Malakai’s conviction, bringing standout confidence and delivery every time. In addition, this seemingly set up something genuinely exciting, so obvious bonus points for that.  

4. Austin Gunn – Dark #121

Must say, Austin Gunn’s raw energy certainly captured my attention earlier this year, but I never truly considered its actual greatest strength. Now as a heel though, I see that Gunn’s whole personality works best as an obnoxious, grating antagonist. Don’t get me wrong, the content was throwaway but Gunn’s comfort was striking, easily creating a conflict with Brock Anderson and Lee Johnson.

5. Eddie Kingston – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021/Rampage #20

Neither of these were anything much really but Eddie Kingston spoke twice on AEW TV and so here he is, closing out the promo category on an admittedly quiet week in that regard.

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. Matt Sydal – Dynamite: Winter is Coming 2021

It’s always hard to ignore an A-Show squash, especially considering Wardlow’s always expanding expertise. This is an obvious choice for the top spot but honestly, I found myself slightly disappointed, quietly hoping for an extended version of this matchup.

2. Nick Comoroto vs. Dean Fleming – Dark #121

Though I understand that Nick Comoroto is probably rightly slotted at a certain level on the card, I do wish that we got more of these squashes. They’d probably be a waste of time in truth but I don’t care, this fella has elite squash match potential.

3. Anthony Ogogo vs. Jaden Valo – Dark Elevation #41

This was hilarious, flat enough that not only were the announcers surprised, but so was Jaden Valo based on him inexplicably fighting off the three count. I don’t know if Ogogo is actually good, but I appreciate his return’s range of results thus far.

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

Generally, I’d drop Bryan Danielson down a spot here as if we’re being honest, his performance couldn’t have been less surprising. On Wednesday, Danielson went sixty minutes with ease because of course he did, still seemingly performing within himself, as he’s the greatest wrestler of all time. Greatness is the norm though and so perhaps, this was more about Hangman but in my mind, Wednesday was the last line of a historic chapter for Danielson, the perfect conclusion to his award-worthy year.

2. Hangman Adam Page

Second or first, Hangman Adam Page’s performance warrants the same extensive praise, an all-time great babyface showing. On Wednesday, Page stepped up in a major way, producing a showing that frankly, I wasn’t totally sure he was capable of. That’s not a slight either, I knew he was great but this was something different and Hangman emphatically rose to the occasion, completing mission impossible and somehow matching Bryan Danielson over sixty spectacular minutes.

3. Hikaru Shida

If this was a one-match week for AEW, Hikaru Shida and Serena Deeb certainly came the closest to standing directly alongside Bryan Danielson and Hangman Adam Page. There’s going to be obvious overlap in these next two selections, but Shida gets the nod for me as this triumph simply felt more vital for her career. After all, Shida entered 2021 as champion and this feud has brought her dramatically closer to regaining that status, recovering from an almost silent summer.

4. Serena Deeb

What’s left to be said about Serena Deeb? Perhaps the greatest AEW recruitment of all considering the circumstances, Deeb continues to shine. This career revival has been an absolute treat to watch and with this feud seemingly complete, we can only hope that Deeb finds another rival in the coming weeks. If not, there’s a clear destination now anyway, as Deeb’s inevitable TBS Title reign only gets more enticing with each and every match.

5. Trent? Beretta

Scoring the win in a match filled with effort and creativity, Trent? Is the obvious choice for a placement here. After almost eight months off, the Best Friend’s workhorse was back and looked better than ever, performing admirably in his return to the ring. In addition, Trent? got the well-earned victory and better yet, he even got his last name back too. Don’t get me wrong, the other seven men deserve credit but for me, this was about Trent?

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 – 107 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 91 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 – 63 Points
  8. Nick Jackson – 62 Points
  9. Rey Fenix – 59 Points
  10. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  11. Hangman Adam Page – 56 Points
  12. Matt Jackson – 55 Points
  13. Adam Cole – 54 Points
  14. MJF – 52 Points
  15. Jungle Boy – 49 Points
  16. Cash Wheeler – 49 Points
  17. Darby Allin – 49 Points
  18. Pac – 46 Points
  19. Christian Cage – 44 Points
  20. Orange Cassidy – 43 Points

The Sinclair Saga: September 2011

With the recent news about Ring of Honor, I had an urge to create some content. Against my better judgment, I’m an Honor Club subscriber and so, let’s hop in the time machine. Now, I could relive the classics but let’s be honest, that’s too easy. In addition, I kind of already do that, watching ROH’s greatest hits every week on The Distraction Channel. Instead, this ‘series’ will be a look back at Ring of Honor TV, an element of their model that always fascinated me.

Though the weekly product consistently featured action worth watching, I think you can reasonably argue that they never quite figured this thing out. With that in mind, I’ve decided to find out for myself, going back to the very start…well, kind of anyway. Rather than revisiting the HDNet programming, I’ll pick up where this streaming service allows: their Sinclair debut. Indeed, September 2011, mere months after the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition.

This moment follows a tumultuous time for Ring of Honor and unsurprisingly, they’re a distance away from steadying the ship again too. Jim Cornette has allegedly been at the helm for a year, booking alongside Delirious who replaced Adam Pearce. As you’re probably aware, this regime has already been impressively divisive but let’s see how they handle broadcast TV, a step that was expected to transform ROH business or something like that.

To be clear, this is intended as an informal look back and nothing more. I’ve decided to watch this stuff anyway, this content will simply accompany the ride. I’ll generally go month by month, writing in broad strokes but for this particular entry, we’ll bleed over some and also cover the October 1st 2011 edition of ROH TV. That’ll still leave four episodes for next time but allow this premiere to expand beyond the…well, premiere itself.

September 2011

As we go here, I intend to keep track of the programme’s production, presentation and overall feel. Famously, this time was defined by a throwback vibe, as Ring of Honor looked to provide a grainy, rough alternative to the flashy mainstream scene. Those visuals carry over to the product itself, with traditional formatting that’d prove incredibly polarising among ROH’s established fanbase. In fear of oversimplifying things or pointing the finger in any particular direction, it feels like old school territory TV but with Ring of Honor talent.

Now, if your response to that is “all hail,” I understand. As many of you will know, this take on television is a personal grin for me too, but that’s not really the point. In this case, the question is about whether or not this approach maximises this particular product at that particular time. History suggests no, absolutely not but I can only judge things one month at a time and thus far, I don’t have much negative to say. Unquestionably, this thing feels dated, even for a decade ago but there are absolutely elements I appreciate.

For example, this product feels immediately episodic through two weeks and I seem to recall that being an ongoing occurrence in this initial era. It sounds silly, but that was far too uncommon as ROH TV evolved, simply feeling like an hour of content at times rather than a genuine showcase of the current angles and arcs. That part of the puzzle feels like an undeniable triumph, I’m just unsure if it locks them into some other stylistic choices that we’ll get into here shortly.

The Voices of Honor

Look, I’m all for grittiness, but the initial visual of this product isn’t exactly flattering. Unfortunately, gritty would be the generous description of this opening shot and that’ll be a never-ending challenge as these tapings unfold. Cornette claims that his plan was a television studio, avoiding such violent swings in presentation but even a decade later, that never came to fruition. Don’t get me wrong, this particular look isn’t even bad by the promotion’s own relatively low standards, it’s just not exactly ideal.

Regardless, episode one starts with Kevin Kelly in centre ring, swiftly introducing his new colour commentator: Nigel McGuinness. This team would soon become awful familiar for wrestling fans, with McGuinness really improving tremendously in the coming years. McGuinness had been released from TNA only months prior, bringing a merciful end to his frustrating time as Desmond Wolfe. Unfortunately, McGuinness’ in-ring career was basically over, concluding things with a retirement tour shortly thereafter.

Clearly, the ROH audience is delighted to have McGuinness back, reacting raucously to his standard in-ring promo. Unfortunately, the sound of said promo isn’t great, a problem that’d somehow worsen in episode two, when Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team opens things up. They’re interviewed by Cornette himself, progressing their programme with The Briscoes and giving the ‘executive producer’ an ultimatum.

Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team Division?

With episode one featuring two tag matches, the promotion’s tandems were an immediate focus here. That begins with Future Shock, the combination of a young Kyle O’Reilly and an even younger Adam Cole. I’ve always loved this team but I must say, the comedy of their presentation here was somewhat lost on me beforehand. When Kyle O’Reilly is described as “an outdoor adrenaline junkie,” it’s impossible for my brain to go anywhere but those infamous Thrillseeker vignettes from almost two decades prior.

Ultimately though, Future Shock make the most of their time, defeating The Bravado Brothers in a nice tag team opener. This is a case where I completely understand the logic behind this choice, but wonder if it immediately tells a tale of some kind. Whereas this was slightly restrained and more of a neat, steady introduction, I wonder if the real play was the modern tag sprint that left nothing to spare. Clearly, that’s not what Cornette wanted then, now or forever, but it crossed my mind considering where we’re at these days.

In truth, those options probably produce the same results as commercially, true growth would be limited regardless. Ring of Honor was chasing the very few wrestling fans that’d ever be interested in their product and if the last decade has taught us anything, that number may be frustratingly low. Don’t get me wrong, things get better and as the promotion heats up, their television allegedly gains success but it’s just worth noting: this isn’t me saying that if someone else had the book, ROH is on NBC in primetime right now.

Either way, episode one is headlined by Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team, defending their titles against The Kings of Wrestling. This would be Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli’s final time teaming together in ROH, with the latter signing for WWE and staying there ever since. As you’d expect, this was objectively good but unfortunately, it was also my first reminder of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin’s slightly weird ROH work. I actually like much of it, but their presence is symbolic of the ongoing styles clash.

Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Teams work in a way that was somewhat at odds with the promotion’s prior house style. Personally, I seldom have a problem with it but when paired with the change that this regime had brought in the year before, it made them the faces of that transition. This match encapsulates the conversation really: enjoyable, well-executed stuff that never explodes into the kind of crazy action that you’d want to truly define what this brand is. It’s good, but is that enough?

Pacing & Prodigy

I must say, even with two relatively lengthy TV main events, I’m stunned that neither episode featured three matches. Honestly, I remembered the exact opposite, recalling three matches as the consistent format. Instead, these shows are packed with video packages, explaining the promotion’s stars as well as things like the ‘Code of Honor.’ It’s hard to dismiss such ventures, doing the detail work that admittedly, I do think that modern wrestling lacks at times. These packages aren’t perfect, but I’d say they’re generally effective.

With the ‘Inside ROH’ pieces, fans get an insight into things as throwaway as Eddie Edwards’ nickname as well as the main event dynamic between Davey Richards and Roderick Strong. It’s all engaging enough, even if not executed expertly by the performers in question. Again though, was this the correct choice overall? When trying to sell a product on hard-hitting, exciting in-ring action, are so many pre-tapes really the play? It’s hard to say but the lack of wrestling stood out for me, weakening the programme’s most obvious strength.

Speaking of such, poor Mike Bennett is at the peak of his infamous Prodigy push here, an apparent personal project for Cornette. It’s hard, as I really do like Bennett but not unlike the above example, he just didn’t make sense as a focal point of this particular product. In truth, that’s the answer, as the plan was to use talent like Bennett to alter the identity of said product, but live crowds were understandably reluctant to accept that change. Bennett isn’t bad here, but immediate “you can’t wrestle” chants probably aren’t ideal.

That doesn’t change the direction however, as Bennett beats Jimmy Jacobs who alongside Steve Corino, is in the midst of his recovering babyface act. It’s worth noting that each episode features a ‘Tweet of the Week,’ with one gentleman claiming to be Batman. It was a different time, maybe, not really though I guess.

TV Time Allowed

Like most, I remembered that early on here, Jay Lethal dethrones El Generico, claiming the ROH Television Title. Indeed, that’s the main event of episode two, an immediately divisive decision that set a precedent for that kind of thing re: Generico. Lethal had returned to the promotion only months prior, rebuilding after years as a comedy character in TNA. An obvious priority of this new era, Lethal’s win made sense and set the stage for a decade of dominance but in this case, perhaps wrongly came at Generico’s expense.

Though I recalled the result, I had forgotten this particular presentation, as the pairing initially reached a time limit draw. Naturally, the live crowd groaned and I made a note to myself that this was another case of an outdated playbook and philosophy. I must say though, that when Cornette restarted things, the place suddenly exploded into action, making their most noise yet as Generico and Lethal went back and forth until the eventual conclusion.

I remembered a red hot finishing stretch and that’s what I got, but I’d forgotten how in this case, the booking actually enhanced that. At least there was an actual winner I suppose, even if the choice itself caused a conversation or two at the time.


Well, that was September, a fine start to Ring of Honor’s time on television. Early days of course and we’ll see this develops but my initial read is that this product is better in hindsight than in real time. Basically, it has many elements that objectively, you can appreciate but ultimately, were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time. Time will and actually did tell, but I’m looking forward to what’s next, as Davey Richards defends his ROH Title against Roderick Strong in episode three.

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

Fleet Files #20: Cody’s Back?

Another week, another Fleet File, even if a touch later than usual. Sorry folks, was rather poorly over the weekend and so, this project momentarily suffered. Better late than never though of course, so let’s get this thing’s final chapter headed in the right direction, locking in as we near the year’s close. We aren’t without major events on that path either, with an almost certainly blockbuster ‘Winter is Coming’ fast approaching. The league table is heating up and there can only be one Fleet Files victor, 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. Cody Rhodes vs. Andrade El Idolo – Dynamite #113

I’m sorry, but I just loved this. For better or worse, this was Cody Rhodes at this most Cody Rhodes, bleeding everywhere and brawling around the building before going through literal fire. It felt forced at times, unearned at others but ultimately, I can’t pretend to care. Simply put, this was an enthralling television main event, featuring Cody’s craziest antic yet alongside a spectacular Andrade El Idolo performance. Flawed? Certainly but this won’t be forgotten anytime soon, an absolute blast in truth.

2. Tony Nese vs. Sammy Guevara – Rampage #18

In many ways, this was a Tony Nese showcase and so, your mileage may vary. For me, it ensured that this’d be a hit, as Nese finally got the spotlight that frankly, he’s deserved for some time. Though not a top guy, Nese is a truly dynamic in-ring performer, a stylistic hybrid that perfectly encapsulates the modern junior heavyweight. It helped that he was opposite Sammy Guevara too of course, the TNT Champion who again, hasn’t missed in a title defence yet.

3. FTR vs. Death Triangle – Rampage #18

As the great Oracle of Wrestling has pointed out before, TV FTR are different from PPV FTR and in my view, this was the latest case of exactly that. It’s a likely divisive adjustment as in this setting, FTR produce a more restrained effort, colouring within the lines of a much tighter structure. Pac co-signed that approach too, really committing to the sell of his injured eye and setting the stage for a typically explosive Penta hot tag. Not a classic, but unsurprisingly strong TV wrestling here.

4. Ruby Soho vs. Kris Statlander – Dynamite #113

I’m frustrated with my own ranking here, as I really did love this match live but after a rewatch, this is where it’s staying unfortunately. With a couple more minutes, this could’ve exploded into something truly special but as is, it was still one of the TBS Title Tournament’s standout matches. Ruby Soho is at her best when paired with a powerhouse and Kris Statlander fills that role seamlessly, launching Soho around on the way to a superb finishing stretch.

5. CM Punk vs. Lee Moriarty – Dynamite #113

Visibly taking some time to adjust early, CM Punk eventually got this where he wanted it to be: emphatically spotlighting Lee Moriarty. On sheer talent alone, this could only fall so far and indeed, they produced something very much worthwhile here, even if slightly round around the edges. Moriarty really is a special talent and that’s what this was about, even if the commentary somewhat muddied those waters. CM Punk’s selflessness continues and that debate rages on but personally, I’m just glad that we got this one in the books.

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. Adam Cole vs. Anthony Greene – Dark #119

I don’t want to say this was surprisingly competitive as I definitely expected a real match here but even still, this nearly touching ten minutes did catch me slightly off guard. Anthony Greene made the most of that time though, delivering again as Adam Cole eased his way to another engaging television bout. Strong C-Show main event.

2. Ethan Page vs. Fuego Del Sol – Dark #119

In some ways, see above as this itself went almost nine minutes, it wasn’t far behind in terms of quality either. Ethan Page really is made for this setting, which I mean as an absolute compliment, just a wonderful heel who happily interacts with every fan filling a seat. Fuego Del Sol’s part in this deserves credit too, really the perfect talent for this particular role.

3. The Pinnacle vs. Bear Country – Dark #119

A neat television tag, this match jumped off the page and ultimately, delivered as Dark’s opening bout. Nothing crazy or must-see, but sound stuff between two teams I like. Must say, wish we got more of Shawn Spears and Wardlow in major tag matches but honestly, that window seems set to close in the coming weeks. Oh well, glad we got this one at least.

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. Miro – Dynamite #113

Renewing his already iconic feud with god, Miro was in purgatory this week, finally responding to his Full Gear defeat. I remain truly fascinated by this direction and its wrestling endgame but on delivery alone, Miro earns the top ranking here. Few segments this year have been a more consistent hit than Miro armed with a brief pre-tape promo, a Dynamite centrepiece honestly.

2. Christian Cage – Rampage #18

Really just an extension of the prior week’s offering, this was delightful. In his most intense promo since joining AEW, Christian Cage continued to speak on Jurassic Express’ behalf, only further alarming anyone on heel turn watch. Cage’s range as a promo is immense and though nothing that’ll be remembered down the line, this really was quite the effort.

3. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #113

More of the same from the unparalleled ‘American Dragon,’ as Bryan Danielson continued his masterful heel work on Dynamite. Following a neat opening match with Alan Angels, Danielson built on his already impressive groundwork, talking trash and further heating up his eventual title match with Hangman Adam Page. Danielson’s content isn’t ground-breaking but his confidence is absolutely palpable.

4. Pac – Dynamite #113/Rampage #18

Nothing outrageous here but on a relatively quiet promo week, Pac’s double dip earns him the fourth spot. Pac’s delivery isn’t always my favourite but I know I’m alone in that sense, so this could probably warrant a higher ranking in truth. Either way, his intensity speaks for itself and with two backstage efforts, Pac helped bridge the gap between his match and the originally advertised version.

5. Eddie Kingston – Rampage #18

By Eddie Kingston standards, this was an incredibly understated promo but it did reiterate a familiar message: no one needs as little time as Kingston to stay over. 30 seconds will do the trick, just let ‘The Mad King’ be and on authenticity alone, he’ll stay special.

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. AC Adams – Dynamite #113

An absolute destruction, this was again Wardlow at his fleeting best, swiftly battering poor AC Adams. This is headed to the major moment we’ve been waiting for in my view but honestly, I’ll always accept these squash matches in the meantime.

2. The Butcher vs. Michael Martinez – Dark #119

Bless The Butcher, wrestling’s love letter to a simpler time. He’s clunky and messy, rough in every way but yet, it’s charming because frankly, he doesn’t move and work like everyone else. Instead, The Butcher feels genuinely wild and this singles squash was an absolute treat as a result.

3. Infinito vs. Ray Jaz – Dark #119

I don’t need to explain this, earns a point through insanity alone.

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. Andrade El Idolo

This is far from an objective pick as honestly, Andrade El Idolo wasn’t exactly in the headlines on Wednesday night. Indeed, the story was Cody and his flaming back but on rewatch especially, my appreciation for Andrade greatly increased. He was incredible on Dynamite, once again showing his almost unparalleled versatility and in my view, making a real statement as to his status. Andrade El Idolo is a player folks, and his recent showings deserve a massive 2022.

2. Cody Rhodes

Though not the standout half of his main event match, Cody Rhodes could only fall so far here, fighting through literal frames on Dynamite. Cody Rhodes is self-indulgent to say the least, an obviously flawed top guy but yet, an immensely entertaining one nonetheless. I don’t know where this whole thing is going and frankly, don’t even care anymore but I can only judge him segment to segment and this week, Cody Rhodes hit an absolute homerun.

3. Tony Nese

While his signing may have caused some debate, I never questioned whether or not Tony Nese belonged. Quite the opposite in fact, as Nese had proven himself as an absolute workhorse on 205 Live, simply waiting for an opportunity exactly like this. Nese shined on Rampage, showcasing his most varied skill-set against Sammy Guevara. I don’t know what Nese’s ceiling is in AEW and honestly, my guess it that it’s probably not far above this but that doesn’t lessen his performance here, stealing the show in my mind.

4. Kris Statlander

It always felt obvious to me that unfortunately, Kris Statlander’s time in the TBS Title Tournament would be short-lived. With her performance on Wednesday though, Statlander reiterated what most already believed: that she’s an undeniable main event player in this division. After all, Statlander was the other half of Britt Baker’s best title defence yet, delivering again here as she powered Ruby Soho around to a strikingly positive reaction. Long pencilled in as a star of tomorrow, Statlander is proving herself as one of today.

5. Lee Moriarty

Though the bout with CM Punk didn’t quite match my admittedly high expectations, this was still an almost unfathomable week for Lee Moriarty. Not even two months removed from officially signing, Moriarty went over ten minutes with Punk, taking much of the match and even scoring an onslaught of near-falls. Moriarty isn’t quite there yet but that’s the point, as matches like this will only accelerate his ascension. AEW’s rampant rotation has strengths and weaknesses but matches like this are undeniably the former.

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 – 95 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 89 Points
  3. CM Punk – 74 Points
  4. Miro – 70 Points
  5. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  6. Dax Harwood – 59 Points
  7. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  8. Penta El Zero Miedo – 57 Points
  9. Nick Jackson – 56 Points
  10. Rey Fenix – 53 Points
  11. Adam Cole – 51 Points
  12. Matt Jackson – 49 Points
  13. Jungle Boy – 49 Points
  14. Darby Allin – 49 Points
  15. Hangman Adam Page – 47 Points
  16. Pac – 46 Points
  17. MJF – 46 Points
  18. Christian Cage – 44 Points
  19. Cash Wheeler – 43 Points
  20. Orange Cassidy – 40 Points

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

Fleet Files #18: New Room, New View

With Full Gear complete, AEW looks towards a new era, even heading to TBS in the new year. First though, they have another month or so to navigate, concluding some stories while getting the pieces in place for others. Some of the promotion’s top stars suddenly have a clean slate, awaiting the emergence of a new arc or conflict in the coming weeks. As I said last time, this series will be ending at the year’s close but there’s still time for the league table to shift as we look for our first and only Fleet Files winner.

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. TNT Title: Sammy Guevara (c) vs. Jay Lethal – Dynamite #111

Considering last week’s introduction, I’m not really rushing to praise one half of this match but again, I’ll conclude this series in the fashion that I started it. With that in mind, this was indeed a strong television main event and furthermore, an excellent debut for the challenger. With the American Top Team bickering now surely nearing its end, hopefully Guevara can continue his TNT Title reign with more matches of this ilk.

2. Nyla Rose vs. Hikaru Shida – Dynamite #111

A timely reminder of their established chemistry, this was a real triumph in my view. It’s been great to have Hikaru Shida back on TV and though she’s lost two of her most recent matches, the former champion feels more compelling than ever in my view. Though it’s been overstated elsewhere, wins and losses certainly aren’t everything and Shida’s recent vulnerable only makes her fighting spirit more engaging. Opposite her, Nyla Rose really delivered here in my view, restating her credentials for the division’s top tier.

3. Jurassic Express vs. Adam Cole & Bobby Fish – Rampage #15

The main event of an admittedly frustrating Rampage for me personally, this built on the base that Jade Cargill vs. Red Velvet provided, producing an impressive main event. The story itself wasn’t exactly necessary, just reiterating last week’s conclusion but overall, the execution made it worthwhile. Again, Bobby Fish has been tremendous since arriving in AEW, really bringing his own rough and tough edge to the role of veteran gatekeeper.

4. Dante Martin & Lio Rush vs. The Acclaimed – Dynamite #111

After a merely steady first half, this exploded into something quite spectacular down the stretch. The Acclaimed are an interesting team, as they appear to wrestle somewhat with their stylistic approach. As a stooging heel team, I find them rather unremarkable but when it’s time to trade moves and up the pace, Bowens’ natural assets really come to the fore. In truth though, this was about Dante Martin and Lio Rush, an already wonderful act that I’d like to challenge the Lucha Bros as soon as possible.

5. Orange Cassidy & Tomohiro Ishii vs. The Butcher & The Blade – Dynamite #111

This wasn’t anything special, but man did I have fun. Tomohiro Ishii has been one of the last decade’s most reliable in-ring performers, New Japan’s bruising but brilliant mainstay. Overall, this was a nice showcase of who he is, even if slightly restrained for obvious reasons. Even still, I loved Ishii’s portions of this match, especially as he backed down The Butcher from one corner to the other. Just good TV wrestling, all with the twist of a Tomohiro Ishii sighting, strong stuff.

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. Kris Statlander, Riho & Ryo Mizunami vs. Emi Sakura, Nyla Rose & The Bunny – Dark #117

This was honestly awesome, which is no mean feat considering my admitted fatigue with these matchups. It’s strange, I enjoy them all but they’ve definitely been excessive as of late and yet, this one still managed to stand out. Just a wonderful mix of styles on display, with all involved maximising their minutes.

2. The Hardy Family Office vs. The Dark Order – Dark Elevation #37

I’m already a sucker for these trios bouts but I must say, this has to be The Dark Order’s strongest trio without using John Silver himself. Angels, Uno and Stu were incredible here, especially late, and had the ideal C-Show foes in the infamous HFO.

3. The Acclaimed vs. The Dark Order – Dark #117

To me, this is the ideal version of AEW’s C-Show programming. Here, we have a steady television match that due to the promotion’s loaded roster, doesn’t really belong on television. Perfect, with Alan Angels and Colt Cabana proving themselves to be an unsurprisingly entertaining Dark Order duo.

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. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #111

What a treat this was, ‘The American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson being a big ol’ dick on national television. Armed with a new champion and his home crowd, Danielson relished the opportunity to heel it up, cutting a wonderfully arrogant promo. I don’t think this presentation is here to stay beyond the Page programme itself, but I’ll love every minute while it’s here.

2. MJF – Dynamite #111

Though his work live was good also, this rating is really earned by MJF’s post-match promo after the clash with Darby Allin. AEW seldom airs these kind of efforts but thank goodness we got this one, as it was one of MJF’s finest outings yet. The content can be divisive and has limited my enjoyment previously, but MJF has been quite remarkable as of late.

3. Hangman Adam Page – Dynamite #111

Though not quite as aggressively brilliant as his counterpart in this particular segment, I still loved Hangman Adam Page’s fire on Dynamite. It was all simple stuff, AEW’s take on the standard TV opening and yet, the execution on both sides ensured that this got rave reviews. Page’s confidence is striking, almost as palpable as the connection he shares with this audience.

4. Eddie Kingston – Dynamite #111

As I’ve said before, Eddie Kingston doesn’t need much TV time, just a constant presence will do the trick. This week, ‘The Mad King’ took about 30 seconds to establish a new conflict, capturing our interest in a brief but fiery promo exchange with Daniel Garcia. When you have Kingston’s authenticity and commitment, the content can range in quality, but the result stays the same.

5. Malakai Black – Dynamite #111

I really do love these Malakai Black pre-tapes, which makes my relative disinterest all the more frustrating. Black’s delivery is honestly immense, and these always have their own flavour completely but yet, the actual story itself lost me long ago. It’s a real shame and for everyone involved, this thing will finally conclude in the coming weeks.

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. Bryan Danielson vs. Evil Uno – Dynamite #111

Yes, this is probably cheating, but I think it’s worthwhile. After Dynamite’s opening segment, this wasn’t the time for Bryan Danielson to have a friendly wrestling match with Evil Uno though in truth, I feared that he still would anyway. Instead, Danielson basically battered Uno, all with a spiteful nastiness too. Not really a squash, but Danielson’s most one-sided match yet and that’s enough for me.

2. Ruby Soho vs. Hyan – Dark #117

Though I’m very much ready for her return to big time television wrestling, I can’t overstate how content I am watching Ruby Soho in this setting. This match was basically just Ruby hitting her signature moves, soaking up another hero’s welcome and kicking ass. Ideal, this formula still works for me.

3. Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Jaysin Strife – Dark #117

The usual from Powerhouse Hobbs here, and the usual will always be enough for some kind of squash match ranking, especially considering his new Torture Rack finish.

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. Sammy Guevara

Though he’s yet to miss inside the ropes, Sammy Guevara has had a slightly frustrating TNT Title reign thus far. The Inner Circle reunion took centre stage for ultimately, an inconsistent PPV feud with American Top Team. That’s fine, but Guevara now needs to stand alone and with that in mind, this week was an absolute smash hit. Guevara isn’t often listed as one of the promotion’s standout workers but he sure is consistent, again proving on Dynamite that he can reliably close any AEW show.

2. Bryan Danielson

At Full Gear, Bryan Danielson certainly delivered opposite Miro but overall, I thought he took a relative backseat. There were many headlines, and Danielson wasn’t a major one but it didn’t take long to change that, as he immediately stole the show on Dynamite. Danielson’s promo was perfect, combining that with a dominant win over Evil Uno and perfectly setting the stage for his upcoming title shot.

3. Nyla Rose

For all her efforts on AEW’s C-Show programming, Nyla Rose’s last TV outings weren’t her strongest. That’s not even a criticism really, as some of those circumstances were limiting to say the least but either way, Rose felt slightly demoted in recent months. That made her performance on Dynamite all the more validating, as Rose returned to form on the promotion’s biggest stage, producing an impressive performance against Hikaru Shida.

4. MJF

Leaving Full Gear with his best bell to bell effort yet, MJF’s momentum didn’t slow for a second, pairing great promos and then arguably securing the week’s biggest story. Moving forward, MJF will seemingly be working opposite CM Punk and considering their comparable skillsets especially, there’s no bigger spot in truth. That development was almost certainly this week’s biggest, positioning MJF to continue his recent hot streak in the coming months.

5. Hangman Adam Page

The chase is one thing, but with its conclusion always comes a challenge. Now the champion, Hangman Adam Page looks to stay red hot and through one week, he couldn’t be better positioned to succeed. With just one segment under their belts, Hangman Page and Bryan Danielson cemented the belief that this was a blockbuster bout, heating things up with ease and immediately establishing a competitive, fiery dynamic.

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 – 87 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 79 Points
  3. CM Punk – 66 Points
  4. Miro – 65 Points
  5. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  6. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  7. Nick Jackson – 56 Points
  8. Dax Harwood – 52 Points
  9. Penta El Zero Miedo – 50 Points
  10. Matt Jackson – 49 Points
  11. Rey Fenix – 49 Points
  12. Jungle Boy – 49 Points
  13. Darby Allin – 49 Points
  14. Hangman Adam Page – 47 Points
  15. Adam Cole – 47 Points
  16. MJF – 42 Points
  17. Christian Cage – 40 Points
  18. Orange Cassidy – 39 Points
  19. Pac – 37 Points
  20. Cash Wheeler – 36 Points

Fleet Files #17: End of an Era

Just over two years removed from their television debut, AEW is finally ready to conclude its opening chapter. Lots has happened, especially as of late but in a big picture sense, the promotion’s ultimate arc ends at Full Gear, cementing an era of The Elite in pro wrestling’s history books. This Saturday, Hangman Adam Page finally becomes World Champion, headlining the brand’s best PPV line-up. For most though, it’s all about Page’s pursuit of gold, attempting to topple his old tag team partner in the process.

Now, before I go any further here, I feel that it’s important to cover another occurrence at Full Gear. On Saturday, AEW announced a brand-new signing that to put it lightly, immensely disappointed their ardent viewer. That includes myself and so, from now until this series’ conclusion at the end of 2021, I’ll probably be including some sort of disclaimer or note. In an ideal world, I could cover a whole wrestling roster without feeling grimy about it, I wouldn’t have to pull praise at every turn.

Unfortunately, AEW further proved that it isn’t an outlier on Saturday. Now more than ever, it’s difficult to trust their decision-making elsewhere and as a fan alone, that’s immensely frustrating. I’m saddened by how easily this ‘drama’ will likely go away and would rather not contribute to that by immediately ignoring the topic for the sake of this project. If I’ve done that before, I’m sorry, because it isn’t fair to prioritise how comfortable my content is when stories like this go so quickly forgotten.

Any praise below does not negate the very real allegations against a performer’s name. Instead, it is simply my way of continuing this project in its current form for another six weeks. With that being said, I will include an abbreviated version of this note moving forward, as it’s important to me that I don’t naively look the other way for the sake of, ultimately, much less important matters. Granted, that isn’t much but I just wanted to tackle this immediately because in truth, it means more than any title change ever could.

There is no way to neatly transition from that to match reviews but again, the comfort of myself or any content creator isn’t the priority here, plain and simple.

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. CM Punk vs. Eddie Kingston – Full Gear 2021

From what I can gather, this isn’t the consensus match of the week which in many ways, speaks to the quality of Full Gear. With that being said, it really isn’t particularly close for me personally, as this could very well be my match of the year. CM Punk and Eddie Kingston only needed two weeks to build this match, telling a backstory packed with emotion and hate. Together, they’d set the stage for a fight, a brawl that stood separate from the athletic, exciting pro wrestling contests alongside it.

To say that Kingston and Punk delivered would be an immense understatement, as the pair produced an absolutely enthralling 11 minutes, reaching ‘classic’ status within about 90 seconds. The blunt brutality spoke for itself, but it was the match’s atmosphere and energy that made this truly magical. This thing felt alive, enriched by the raucous crowd and paced to perfection. Simply put, this was two absolute masters of the craft, controlling the crowd with ease and pairing a perfect match with its perfect build.

This promotion has hosted many great matches, but this stands alone as a visceral fistfight, one completely divorced from the era surrounding it.

2. MJF vs. Darby Allin – Full Gear 2021

Full Gear’s opening match, this exceeded even my expectations, perhaps a career-best effort for both parties. Though slightly overshadowed by the card’s other blockbuster matches, this one actually had a good build in my view, with the match utilising that beautifully. Sharing elaborate sequences for much of the match, this was about two of AEW’s young pillars proving a point to the other, with MJF eventually taking the easy way out because of course, he’s MJF. Seriously though, his in-ring has been underrated for some time honestly, with this match being the best evidence yet of exactly that.

3. World Title: Hangman Adam Page vs. Kenny Omega (c) – Full Gear 2021

This is hard because all things considered, I totally understand having this in the top spot. There was a lot of moving pieces here and so, it’s a very reasonable pick for best and/or favourite match. For me personally, it fell slightly short of that as an actual match, but it doesn’t really matter. In the moment, this was a breathtaking route to the ideal destination: Hangman Adam Page as World Champion. Both men performed admirably and produced a match befitting this story, bringing Omega’s wonderful world title reign to a close.

This was a homerun, regardless of the actual match’s placement on my personal rankings. Thankfully, AEW did the right thing, which was the other story within this grand on-screen tale.

4. World Title Eliminator Final: Bryan Danielson vs. Miro – Full Gear 2021

Trying to follow two dynamic, explosive ‘sprints’ that also went around twenty minutes a piece, this wasn’t exactly positioned to succeed. Of course though, it did exactly that, giving the audience a chance to breathe before going into an immense closing stretch. The selling on display here was unsurprisingly magnificent, pairing two of the world’s best in that regard. Danielson’s eventual triumph wasn’t obvious which helped, adding drama to the whole thing and allowing those false finishes to pack an even bigger punch.

5. Pac vs. Dax Harwood – Dynamite #110

This one jumped off the page and indeed, proved to be every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped. Gritty and intense, packed with physicality, this was a gruelling television match to close Dynamite’s in-ring portion. Pac is obviously one of the world’s best but in my view, Dax Harwood belongs on that list also. His singles resume doesn’t compare for obvious reasons but with every outing, the FTR man makes it clear that few are better. The aggression in this one was just wonderful, a truly refreshing stylistic choice.

6. Tag Team Titles: The Lucha Bros (c) vs. FTR – Full Gear 2021

Speaking of Dax Harwood, he was great again on Saturday, challenging for the AEW Tag Team Titles alongside his partner Cash Wheeler. FTR and The Lucha Bros gelled seamlessly here in my view, producing some spectacular false finishes before unfortunately, settling on an admittedly anticlimactic close. That flaw limits this match’s placement somewhat, but I loved the meat of the match too much for it to fall far. Considering the thought process behind that finish though, I’m hopeful for a rematch.

7. Christian Cage & Jurassic Express vs. The SuperKliq – Full Gear 2021

This match entered Full Gear in an interesting place, becoming a supporting match due to its slightly uneven build. Even still, it seemed inevitable that all involved would deliver and they certainly did, even if perhaps slightly overstaying their welcome. There was so much good here though, it’s hard for me to be anything but positive, as this thing felt truly chaotic from start to finish. In addition, I personally loved the finish, and have thoroughly enjoyed the Jungle Boy character’s progression throughout this programme.

8. Dante Martin & Lio Rush vs. Lee Moriarty & Matt Sydal – Dynamite #110

Creating the feel of a 90s Cruiserweight thriller on Nitro, this really was something quite special. In an era where in-ring acrobatics certainly aren’t uncommon, these four still produced something that stood out and then some. This really felt like a group of guys pushing the envelope, exploring and innovating on a major, international stage. Martin and Sydal have delivered all year but it was great to see Moriarty and Rush deliver alongside them, both of which reiterated their immense futures in AEW.

9. Bryan Danielson vs. Rocky Romero – Dynamite #110

This was AEW at its slightly weird best, announcing a match out of the blue and giving it the time to succeed. There is nothing left to say about Bryan Danielson really, quite possibly the greatest of all time. With that in mind, this one was about Rocky Romero in my view, once again proving himself as one of his generation’s most underrated in-ring performers. This was just masterfully executed pro wrestling, two wonderfully skillful peers combining for a tremendous television opener.

10. Women’s World Title Britt Baker (c) vs. Tay Conti – Full Gear 2021

Hurt by the lack of substantial build, I thought that this match did an admirable job of making up the difference. Even though the audience was given no real reason to buy Tay Conti as a title contender, the match itself actually convinced me otherwise down the stretch and that was no mean feat. Conti was great here and though it got off to a slightly shaky start, her and Britt Baker willed this into the final spot. The finish didn’t feel as earned or organic as I’d like, but that’s much more on the promotion than Conti or Baker.

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. Dante Martin vs. Frankie Kazarian – Dark #116

On an especially loaded edition of Dark, this was my personal favourite offering. A generational clash of sorts, this was a neat television bout that didn’t need much time to do the job. Kazarian’s in-ring versatility is a real asset, making him a natural dance-partner for any and all foes.

2. Darby Allin vs. QT Marshall – Dark #116

Again, I know that his time as a television focus was divisive, but QT Marshall is consistently good on these C-Shows. He was perfect here, preparing Darby Allin for the PPV and producing a competitive match without taking away any of his foe’s shine.

3. Christian Cage & Jurassic Express vs. The Hardy Family Office – Dark #116

This was a steady house show trios match, which is understandable considering Christian Cage’s surprising Dark debut. This was still enjoyable though, a pretty star-studded affair for the C-Show world.

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 #110/Rampage #14

The star of Wednesday’s contract signing and absolutely immense in Rampage’s backstage segment, Hangman Adam Page couldn’t have proven himself more ready for the role of AEW World Champion. Page is authentic at every turn, an increasingly perfect top babyface.

2. Kenny Omega – Dynamite #110

A worthy adversary in that aforementioned contract signing, Kenny Omega brought his A-game on Dynamite. Omega gets a lot of criticism for his wackiest moments but as champion, I think he consistently showed that he can be just as serious as the moment requires. Omega was great here, conveying his character’s frailties perfectly.

3. Miro – Dynamite #110

The latest entry in Miro’s ongoing collection of incredible pre-tape promos, this was as great as usual. Miro’s next step as a character fascinates me honestly, because this return to action obviously wasn’t planned, but feels like it could only accelerate his path to another stint of domination.

4. CM Punk – Rampage #14

By design, Eddie Kingston dominated their memorable in-ring promo segment, but CM Punk made the most of the following week’s pre-tape. Separated on Wednesday, Punk continued to twist the knife on Rampage, brilliantly pondering how Eddie Kingston will continue his “life story” of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  

5. Orange Cassidy – Rampage #14

Bless Orange Cassidy. He probably won’t appear in this category often but his pre-match disinterest spoke to me honestly, I can relate.

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. Wheeler Yuta – Dynamite #110

My instinctual response to this graphic was “why?” but then I watched the thing and couldn’t help but grin. This was a brutal battering, the second in only a few weeks for poor Yuta. That’s an interesting choice, but Wardlow looked immense here.

2. Jade Cargill vs. Santana Garrett – Rampage #14

I’m cheating slightly, because this is really just my way of crediting the post-match angle, which I thought was executed refreshingly well. Jade squash matches are nothing new but this was one of the stronger ones and better yet, actually served a worthwhile ultimate purpose also.

3. Andrade El Idolo vs. Warhorse – Dark #116

Not even a particularly good squash, I just want to acknowledge C-Show Andrade finally arriving. Thank goodness, here’s to many more!

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

Owner of the week’s best promo and a top three match, Hangman Adam Page is an unquestionably worthy category winner. With that being said, this particular ranking works best when its about more than just the numbers above, and that’s what makes Page such a lock. After two years, Page finally fulfilled his destiny at Full Gear, producing a wonderful main event in the process. This week is Hangman’s, always and forever.

2. Dax Harwood

With immense showings in two great matches, Dax Harwood continued to solidify himself as one of the wrestling world’s most watchable workers. Harwood is incredibly consistent, bringing that innate aggression and physicality to every outing. FTR finally feel truly at home in AEW as of late, and I’m hoping that results in more signature singles matches for Harwood, as well as the inevitable tag team classics of course.

3. Eddie Kingston

The man that got an arena to boo CM Punk, Eddie Kingston continued to silence any doubts about his in-ring performance. Even after over a year in AEW, Kingston continues to battle this puzzling “and then the bell rang” perception, even after producing multiple promotional classics. Eddie Kingston is a special professional wrestler but he’s surprising even me with just how brilliant he’s been as a main event player for AEW. This is an all-time run, and pro wrestling is better for its existence.

4. Kenny Omega

Credit to Kenny Omega, who quite visibly battled through a whole lot of pain to get this belt where it needed to be. Omega was a fabulous world champion and remains a brilliant pro wrestler but for his own sake, it’s probably time that he sits the bench for a while. If so, it’s important that his contributions aren’t forgotten as AEW looks towards a new era of sorts. No doubt, Omega will still be featured in some form or fashion but as champion, this was a wonderful swansong if that’s indeed what it was.

5. CM Punk

If somehow, any questions remained about what CM Punk was able to produce after returning to pro wrestling, they should’ve been answered for good on Saturday. Punk’s ability to command and manipulate a live crowd is almost unparalleled, and that hasn’t wavered an inch in his absence. I loved Punk’s initial in-ring offerings but this was his first programme and he couldn’t have been more brilliant. He’s just brilliant, an absolute natural, a master of this strange craft.

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. Eddie Kingston – 77 Points
  2. Bryan Danielson – 75 Points
  3. CM Punk – 66 Points
  4. Miro – 65 Points
  5. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  6. Kenny Omega – 58 Points
  7. Nick Jackson – 56 Points
  8. Dax Harwood – 52 Points
  9. Penta El Zero Miedo – 50 Points
  10. Matt Jackson – 49 Points
  11. Rey Fenix – 49 Points
  12. Darby Allin – 49 Points
  13. Jungle Boy – 46 Points
  14. Adam Cole – 44 Points
  15. Hangman Adam Page – 43 Points
  16. Christian Cage – 40 Points
  17. Orange Cassidy – 38 Points
  18. Pac – 37 Points
  19. Cash Wheeler – 36 Points
  20. MJF – 36 Points

Fleet Files #16: Fight Me

The penultimate week of AEW’s Full Gear build is here and with it, some work to do. Though this has been one of their most cohesive routes to PPV thus far, some big matches remain unmade. This week, that almost certainly changes, as AEW’s blockbuster roster finalizes its path to what on paper, could be the promotion’s best line-up yet. It’s been a monumental year for AEW and after a somewhat shaky start, they’ll look to make it three hits in a row with Full Gear.

NOTE: Friends, this week’s Fleet Files will be bare-bones, as I’m currently on vacation. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned that anywhere by the way so yeah, I’m on vacation. Feels important to keep this project rolling though so even while on vacation, I’m going to keep the league table updated. Thanks folks, I’ll be back next week…you know, from vacation.

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. Adam Cole vs. John Silver – Rampage #13
  2. Miro vs. Orange Cassidy – Dynamite #109
  3. Bryan Danielson vs. Anthony Bowens – Rampage #13
  4. Andrade El Idolo vs. Cody Rhodes – Dynamite #109
  5. Kenny Omega vs. Alan Angels – Dynamite #109

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. Tony Nese vs. Fuego Del Sol – Dark #115
  2. Pac vs. Tiger Ruas – Dark #115
  3. Emi Sakura & Nyla Rose vs. Kris Statlander & Ryo Mizunami – Dark Elevation #35

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 #109/Rampage #13
  2. Eddie Kingston – Rampage #13
  3. MJF – Dynamite #109/Rampage #13
  4. Miro – Dynamite #109
  5. Dax Harwood – Dark #115/Rampage #13

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. Waves & Curls – Dark Elevation #35
  2. Tay Conti vs. LMK – Dark Elevation #35
  3. Riho vs. Kayla Sparks – Dark Elevation #35

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. Miro
  2. Eddie Kingston
  3. CM Punk
  4. John Silver
  5. Andrade El Idolo

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 – 66 Points
  2. Eddie Kingston – 64 Points
  3. Jon Moxley – 63 Points
  4. Miro – 54 Points
  5. CM Punk – 53 Points
  6. Nick Jackson – 52 Points
  7. Matt Jackson – 45 Points
  8. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 44 Points
  10. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  11. Jungle Boy – 41 Points
  12. Adam Cole – 40 Points
  13. Darby Allin – 38 Points
  14. Orange Cassidy – 37 Points
  15. Dax Harwood – 37 Points
  16. Christian Cage – 35 Points
  17. Pac – 31 Points
  18. Cash Wheeler – 31 Points
  19. Daniel Garcia – 28 Points
  20.  Luchasaurus – 28 Points