Fleet Files #14: Bracketology

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

Match of the Week

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

  1. Pac vs. Andrade El Idolo – Rampage #11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C-Show Stealer

With only three places as a lesser category, this is a nod to AEW’s more subdued C-Show titans. They missed out on match of the week, but entertained regardless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Promo Pack

The second of our three A-categories, this award also quite literally speaks for itself, the promotion’s five best verbal offerings.

  1. MJF – Dynamite #107

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

2. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #107

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

3. Miro – Dynamite #107

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

4. Ethan Page – Dynamite #107

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

5. Lio Rush – Dynamite #107

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

Squashes to See

Good television wrestling needs many ingredients, but it never forgets the squash matches. Here are the week’s three funniest showcase bouts.

  1. Jungle Boy vs. Brandon Cutler – Dynamite #107

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

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

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

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

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

The Fleet Five

Our third and final A-category, The Fleet Five is simple, the promotion’s five best performers of that particular week. All the above decides this, so it’s a big one.

  1. Dustin Rhodes

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

2. Andrade El Idolo

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

3. Pac

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

4. Bryan Danielson

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

5. MJF

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

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 20, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Jon Moxley – 60 Points
  2. Nick Jackson – 49 Points
  3. Bryan Danielson – 48 Points
  4. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  5. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  6. Miro – 43 Points
  7. CM Punk – 43 Points
  8. Matt Jackson – 42 Points
  9. Eddie Kingston – 41 Points
  10. Jungle Boy – 41 Points
  11. Kenny Omega – 40 Points
  12. Darby Allin – 38 Points
  13. Christian Cage – 35 Points
  14. Orange Cassidy – 33 Points
  15. Dax Harwood – 33 Points
  16. Adam Cole – 32 Points
  17. Pac – 29 Points
  18. Cash Wheeler – 28 Points
  19. Daniel Garcia – 28 Points
  20. Luchasaurus – 28 Points

Fleet Files #13: The Friday Night War

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

Match of the Week

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

  1. Bryan Danielson vs. Minoru Suzuki – The Buy In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C-Show Stealer

With only three places as a lesser category, this is a nod to AEW’s more subdued C-Show titans. They missed out on match of the week, but entertained regardless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Promo Pack

The second of our three A-categories, this award also quite literally speaks for itself, the promotion’s five best verbal offerings.

  1. Hangman Adam Page – Dynamite #106

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

2. Miro – Dynamite #106

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

3. MJF – Dynamite #106

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

4. Lio Rush – Dynamite #106

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

5. Anna Jay – Dynamite #106

“Excuse me, they’re not losers.”

Squashes to See

Good television wrestling needs many ingredients, but it never forgets the squash matches. Here are the week’s three funniest showcase bouts.

  1. Jon Moxley vs. Wheeler Yuta – Dynamite #106

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

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

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

3. Wardlow vs. Darian Bengston – Dark #112

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

The Fleet Five

Our third and final A-category, The Fleet Five is simple, the promotion’s five best performers of that particular week. All the above decides this, so it’s a big one.

  1. Bryan Danielson

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

2. Hangman Adam Page

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

3. Minoru Suzuki

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

4. Matt Sydal

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

5. FTR

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

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 20, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

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

Fleet Files #12: Cowboy Shit

After a spectacular few months, it’s time to celebrate an anniversary. Two years removed from Dynamite’s debut, AEW’s increasingly all-star roster looks to mark the occasion with a week to remember, as the promotion’s best share centre stage. On Wednesday, the Casino Ladder Match makes it’s television debut while elsewhere, The Super Elite finally form fully for an 8-man tag team bout. On Friday, CM Punk is back, continuing to cement Rampage as his show. Quality shows result in heated competition here at Fleet Files, so let’s get to it.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Casino Ladder Match: Hangman Adam Page vs. Orange Cassidy vs. Pac vs. Andrade El Idolo vs. Matt Hardy vs. Lance Archer vs. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #105

An absolute masterclass in modern television wrestling, this concept was the perfect Dynamite main event. Combining established rivalries with fresh matchups, this was a star-studded match with its very own fairy-tale finish. Indeed, Hangman Adam Page is back and AEW’s almost inevitable ace has reclaimed his place in title contention. Page’s interactions with Jon Moxley set the stage for a blockbuster title programme down the line while elsewhere, everyone delivered while progressing their own arcs. This was an absolute home-run, with Hangman’s return one of Dynamite’s finest moments yet.

2. CM Punk vs. Daniel Garcia – Rampage #9

My favourite CM Punk match in AEW so far, this was simply excellent pro wrestling. Battling Daniel Garcia in a clash of generations, Punk looked truly at home, once again working with clear focus and intent. Punk’s outlook is refreshing, and so is Garcia’s sheer intensity, combining immense aggression with his obvious skill. Together, these two told a fabulous story, with the poised veteran outhustling his relatively inexperienced foe, taking advantage of each and every ill-advised show of arrogance. Great match, Punk’s best yet.

3. The Super Elite vs. Bryan Danielson, Christian Cage & Jurassic Express – Dynamite #105

Though not without a misstep or two late, this star-studded 8-man tag delivered in a major way, matching expectations after the stage was set at All Out’s iconic close. Especially early, Adam Cole actually worked the brunt of this one which was a nice surprise, showing strong chemistry with every opponent he encountered. The rest honestly speaks for itself, with everyone playing the role expected of them en route to an enthralling, engaging opening match. On talent alone, this was a great example of AEW’s ascension.

4. Serena Deeb vs. Hikaru Shida – Dynamite #105

Even without a strong story between them, the work itself here was too good to ignore, eventually capturing a conflict that’ll hopefully extend over the coming months. Preventing Hikaru Shida’s 50th win, Serena Deeb reminded the world of what we’ve been missing, assaulting the former champion’s leg with that famed technique and tenacity. Opposite her, Shida had a reminder of her own to offer, returning to Dynamite with an impressive performance that frankly, demands far more creative focus than has been the case as of late.

5. Sammy Guevara vs. Bobby Fish – Dynamite #105

Making an impact on arrival, Bobby Fish looked truly revitalized on Dynamite. Challenging Sammy Guevara for the TNT Title, Fish failed to become champion but left with a contract, now officially onboard with the All Elite Fleet. Especially after his final showings in NXT, Fish deserves immense credit for his effort here but Guevara is right there with him, producing his best showcase of selling yet. Guevara is obviously electric on offence but in recent weeks, he’s nailed a traditional babyface portrayal that was previously absent and as champion, could prove pivotal.

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. Eddie Kingston vs. Anthony Henry – Dark #111

In an extended cut of his memorable outing with JD Drake, Eddie Kingston was absolutely at home here, showcasing Anthony Henry with ease. Taking most of the match, Henry was worth the spotlight, looking immense as he battered Kingston’s leg. Once again leaning on his famed selling, Kingston simply survived Henry, not losing an ounce of credibility along the way.

2. The Pinnacle vs. Fuego Del Sol & Marko Stunt – Dark Elevation #31

One of my favourite C-Show exclusives, this Shawn Spears – Wardlow dynamic continues to deliver, on this occasion absolutely mauling Fuego Del Sol and Marko Stunt. Wardlow’s brief, but violent interaction with Marko stole the show here but there was actually more meat on the bone than you’d expect, including an enjoyable comeback before the inevitable result.

3. The Pinnacle vs. Aaron Frye, Austin Green, Baron Black & Dean Alexander – Dark #111

After being mostly disconnected in recent months, this was a big week for The Pinnacle, finally back together with one goal in mind. That mostly took place on Dynamite, but Dark was a start, as the Spears – Wardlow connection teamed with FTR for a surprisingly competitive 8-man tag. They were rather giving here, had Horsemen on Crockett TV vibes honestly.

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. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #105

Short but sweet, this as usual, did the trick. Even if only armed with a brief pre-tape promo, Jon Moxley consistently manages to stand out, perhaps the promotion’s most captivating personality. Here, Moxley set the table for Dynamite’s Casino Ladder Match main event, once again bringing that unique mix of aggression, comedy and intensity. Now almost a year removed from his time as champion, Jon Moxley still feels as significant as ever.

2. Darby Allin – Dynamite #105

After restraining himself while MJF made things personal last week, Darby Allin’s retort steadied the ship in my view. Though not a standout promo by any means, this is clearly the setting for Allin, a much more generous presentation than the week prior. In-ring, Allin’s performance speaks for itself but as a character, his consistent ability to be authentic is arguably where the true money is, which makes this programme all the more intriguing. Allin aside though, more JR sit-downs in general please.

3. Ricky Starks – Dynamite #105

Though very much limited in terms of content, Ricky Starks’ sheer confidence and charisma tells a tale in itself. This programme with Brian Cage hasn’t done much for either man, but Starks’ efforts suggest that big things are still very much ahead. I’m looking forward to Starks’ next true rivalry, and am hopeful that it’ll contain the kind of verbal showdown that his skill-set certainly seems capable of. As is though, this was a good minute or so of TV, which was all it ever could be honestly.

4. Britt Baker – Dynamite #105

Though it was only the usual outing, Britt Baker shouldn’t be punished for consistency. The content and delivery may be familiar, but it speaks volumes that Baker is such a constant presence on AEW TV. Within the women’s division however, she’s almost completely alone in that sense, which unfortunately limits the heat and weight of her eventual title programmes. Either way, hopefully the TBS Title will help with that, which was Baker’s wonderfully dismissive focus here.

5. Dante Martin – Dynamite #105

I don’t know if this actually belongs here but as a moment, it stands out in my mind and so, Dante Martin completes a strange week in the promo category. Setting himself up for an attack from Malakai Black, Martin showed an encouraging confidence, speaking with a conviction that should earn more microphone time moving forward. Already penciled in for major things over the next decade and more, this segment was just another step in the right direction for Dante.

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. Elijah Dean & Zach Nystrom – Dark Elevation #31

After a bizarre 2021, FTR have felt well and truly back as of late. Only weeks removed from their standout week of the year, here Dax and Cash were on Elevation, entering to brand-new nostalgic theme music and winning in mere seconds. If I’m not getting five minutes or more of these two, give me something with this comedic value every time honestly.

2. Kris Statlander vs. Zeda Zhang – Dark #111

Two months ago, Zeda Zhang made her AEW debut in pretty rough fashion, quite visibly struggling opposite Thunder Rosa. Here though, she looked much better, producing a nice little match against the always wonderful Kris Statlander. These two gelled quite seamlessly in my view, with an impressively competitive match considering the runtime.

3. Lance Archer vs. Louis Bruno – Dark Elevation #31

Facing the rare challenge of someone genuinely taller than him, Lance Archer maintained that usual aggression and physicality on Elevation, vanquishing Louis Bruno in swift fashion. Archer made the big man pay for going after Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, which was a nice way to include the legend after his time away.

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

Everyone’s favourite anxious millennial cowboy, Hangman Adam Page is undeniably the standout story of AEW’s week. Closing Dynamite’s anniversary edition, Page only took one outing to reclaim his position as the promotion’s top babyface, winning the memorable main event. The Casino Ladder Match was pitch perfect, with Page the centrepiece, standing tall as the rightful number one contender. Cowboy Shit is back in AEW and the wrestling world couldn’t be happier about it.

2. CM Punk

Though clearly, I didn’t love his promo on Dynamite, CM Punk leaves this week somehow stronger than he entered. Silencing any lingering doubts, Punk produced his best AEW match yet, combining beautifully with Daniel Garcia. In addition, Punk projected pure stardom in the pre-match faceoff. It wasn’t even a promo really, just a way of setting the table and providing this bout with some context and story. In that setting, Punk achieved more than in his prior in-ring promo, following it up with an immense piece of pro wrestling.

3. Daniel Garcia

After matching the immense hype in his initial television showings, Daniel Garcia actually exceeded it here, producing his best performance since arriving in AEW. Garcia is a precocious talent and clearly, that’s nothing new but in this match, he showed a poise and polish beyond his years. This was a major league, main event match, the kind that could reasonably accelerate Garcia’s progression. No rush obviously, especially on a roster of this quality but against Punk, Garcia again proved that he very much belongs in the top tier.

4. Jon Moxley

The most memorable roadblock to Hangman Adam Page’s Casino Ladder Match win, Jon Moxley continued his steady progression to insanity on Wednesday. Moxley is increasingly intense, more and more enraged with each and every week. Regardless of opposition, Moxley’s spite is unchanged and I think that’ll be important when and if Page is champion but for now, Dynamite was just more top guy things from Moxley, the promotion’s prior centrepiece. Whether heel, babyface or somewhere in-between, there’s only one Jon Moxley.

5. Serena Deeb

Three months removed from her last match, Serena Deeb didn’t miss a beat on Wednesday. I suppose in many ways, I shouldn’t be surprised, as Deeb entered AEW after three years out, so this was a walk in the park by comparison. Either way, it only took one match for Deeb to re-establish herself as the division’s in-ring leader, delivering an unsurprisingly strong match with Hikaru Shida. On skill alone, Deeb is world champion material but if not, the TBS Title seems like a natural fit in the new year.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 20, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Jon Moxley – 53 Points
  2. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  3. Nick Jackson – 45 Points
  4. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 41 Points
  6. Kenny Omega – 40 Points
  7. CM Punk – 40 Points
  8. Jungle Boy – 38 Points
  9. Matt Jackson – 38 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 38 Points
  11. Miro – 36 Points
  12. Christian Cage – 35 Points
  13. Orange Cassidy – 33 Points
  14. Bryan Danielson – 32 Points
  15. Dax Harwood – 29 Points
  16. Adam Cole – 28 Points
  17. Daniel Garcia – 28 Points
  18. Luchasaurus – 28 Points
  19. Cash Wheeler – 24 Points
  20. Dante Martin – 24 Points

Fleet Files #11: Sammy! Sammy! Sammy!

Finally arriving in Rochester, New York, it’s an emotional week for the All Elite Fleet. Paying tribute to the great Brodie Lee, AEW looks to produce a show worthy of the 18-month wait while elsewhere, the All Elite Zone hosts another anticipated studio clash. Bryan Danielson’s second match is on its way and Adam Cole’s biggest bout yet is already here but at core, it’s about Brodie and even with all this immense talent on display, I don’t think we’d have it any other way.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Bryan Danielson vs. Nick Jackson – Rampage #8

This week’s Rampage opener, Bryan Danielson scored his first AEW win, submitting Nick Jackson after 15 minutes of immense pro wrestling. At some point within that runtime, I think it dawned on everyone that indeed, we’re going to be getting these matches almost weekly. ‘The American Dragon’ is back and opposite him here, Nick Jackson reminded the wrestling world of his own singles qualifications, producing another magnificent solo effort. Jackson doesn’t appear often in this genre but when he does, he remains can’t-miss.

2. Adam Cole vs. Jungle Boy – Dynamite #104

Continuing the incredible start to his AEW run, Adam Cole hit another home run on Wednesday, producing another enthralling television opener opposite Jungle Boy. More than perhaps any other signing in the promotion’s short history, Cole just feels at home, an absolute player on arrival. As for Jungle Boy, his progression continues to stun me, showing an improved execution in every outing. Sense that these two are going to wrestle relatively often over the next few years and based on this showing, I’m all for it.

3. TNT Title: Sammy Guevara vs. Miro (c) – Dynamite #104

The perfect conclusion for a show dedicated to Brodie, this TNT Title match certainly delivered. Miro’s reign has been critically acclaimed and rightly so, one of the belt’s best and considering it’s brief, but prestigious history, that says more than you’d think. After a quiet few months, Sammy Guevara has to match this title’s famously high standards, catapulted into action with his triumphant victory here. Strong match with an electric finish, hooking an audience that seemed initially weary, a very effective main event.

4. Cody Rhodes & Lee Johnson vs. Dante Martin & Matt Sydal – Dynamite #104

Though the graphic itself earned a groan from me, I actually loved this, especially on first watch. The ongoing Cody Rhodes discussion is certainly earned, but I still enjoy what he brings once the bell rings and thankfully, he was surrounded by absolute talent here. Matt Sydal is one of the promotion’s most efficient pros and of course, Dante Martin and Lee Johnson could feasibly battle for the next three decades. Really exciting stuff and best of all, a finish that stunned me too. Good for Shotty Lee, I loved this presentation for him.

5. The Dark Order & Orange Cassidy vs. The Hardy Family Office – Dynamite #104

The elusive 16-man tag, this was wonderful. With so many bodies, it was inevitably messy at times, but this match was basically beyond analysis or critique. It was for Brodie, a piece of television to mark this occasion and in its own quirky way, AEW at its wholesome best. That’s a strange thing to say about any pro wrestling promotion, but it fits here and frankly, anytime that AEW’s babyfaces unite. For obvious reasons though, this particular example connected even more than usual. It goes without saying but indeed, Brodie Lee forever.

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. Ricky Starks vs. Darius Lockhart – Dark #110

The week’s C-Show standout by a distance, this match almost felt like a formal try-out. Armed with nearly ten minutes, Darius Lockhart was framed as genuine competition to Ricky Starks, absolutely shining along the way. If this didn’t get Lockhart signed, it certainly didn’t hurt his chances, assisted by another stellar performance from Starks.

2. Dante Martin & Matt Sydal vs. The Factory – Dark #110

The Dark main event, this was a neat addition to Dynamite honestly, as Dante Martin and Matt Sydal scored a respectable win before battling Cody Rhodes and Lee Johnson on Wednesday. Aaron Solo and QT Marshall are a nice team, unsurprisingly sound opposition for Martin and Sydal’s usual excitement.

3. Private Party vs. Carlie Bravo & JDX – Dark #110

Though a touch too competitive to be deemed a squash, this was a fabulous Private Party performance. I don’t say that to dismiss their dance partners either, as both Bravo and JDX delivered but wow, this was honestly one of my favourite Private Party showings yet. The spectacular tandem offence is still there, but it now comes with all the heel trimmings 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. Ethan Page – Dynamite #104

Taking a backseat in their Dark Elevation pre-tape, Ethan Page watched on as Scorpio Sky cut the promo of his life. His response was obvious, genuinely fired up by the passion of his tag team partner. Well, that felt present on Wednesday, as Page produced perhaps his finest effort yet, absolutely refusing to relent as the ‘WHAT?!’ chants commenced. Page halted those chants in an instant, talking without pause or hesitation and confirming this segment as much more than merely worthwhile. Brilliant villainy from ‘All Ego.’

2. Scorpio Sky – Dark Elevation #30

Though his Dynamite promo was good in its own right, this was the week’s big hit for Scorpio Sky. On Wednesday, he was trying to pull them out of the hole that Dan Lambert had dug but on Elevation, he was working with a clean slate. Pacing furiously, Sky unlocked a level of intensity that had seldom been seen before, visibly impressing Ethan Page as he stood alongside him. These two already deserved more promo time but after this week, it’s requisite and would immediately position The Men of the Year as top contenders.

3. Bryan Danielson – Dark Elevation #30

What a treat Bryan Danielson has been since arriving in AEW. In his Elevation pre-tape, Danielson continued to cement this increasingly serious side of his persona, offering an almost sport style post-match promo. With a red chest and forehead, Bryan was seemingly in heaven, talking about the magic of pro wrestling before setting the table for an inevitable sequel. His Dynamite offering was fun, but also easy for a star of Bryan’s calibre whereas this was perfectly American Dragon, a simply wonderful piece of business.

4. CM Punk – Rampage #8

Looking forward after his scrappy Grand Slam victory over Powerhouse Hobbs, CM Punk did CM Punk things, producing yet another impressive pre-tape promo. Though Punk’s main focus was the potential excitement of what’s next, he enhanced Hobbs in the process. Punk said that he simply survived the Team Taz destroyer, using his experience to catch a quick victory and little more. It’s hard not to be intrigued by Punk’s next move, especially when he’s been so consistent thus far, elevating foes as he goes.

5. MJF – Dark Elevation #30

As his continued reliance on cheap heat proves increasingly divisive, MJF’s talent remains unquestionable. In a brief post-Grand Slam promo on Elevation, MJF proved just how easy this is for him, cutting a strong promo in barely a minute. Granted, it still had the cute VKM chatter which is very on-brand but nonetheless, this thing was focused, assisted by its brief runtime. MJF’s delivery remains elite, it’s just the content that concerns me and that’s a shame, as he’s clearly capable of so much more. Either way, I very much liked this promo.

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. Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston & Jon Moxley vs. Anthony Green & Bear Country – Dynamite #104

An unusually late addition to the Dynamite line-up, this was a perfect piece of pro wrestling television. Three of the top babyfaces, well four including Sting, looking awesome and beating dudes up. Nothing complicated, just a simple formula that was actually assisted by its brief runtime. I don’t know what the endgame is with this trio, but I’m absolutely along for the ride.

2. Paul Wight vs. CPA, RSP & VSK – Dark Elevation #30

On a promo-heavy Elevation, Paul Wight was the marquee match, battling three men and nine letters. This was about what you’d expect, and not an unfamiliar concept for Wight I’m sure but in this setting, I couldn’t have had more fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ‘good’ but it wasn’t supposed to be, it was Paul Wight being treated like a legend at Arthur Ashe Stadium. All hail.

3. Thunder Rosa vs. Kayla Sparks/Nikita Knight – Dark Elevation #30/Dark #110

Opening both C-Shows, Thunder Rosa’s squash match formula stayed steady, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Rosa’s YouTube bouts have a real roughness to them, seldom flowing as we’re used to these days but in many ways, that’s the charm. Rosa just sort of systematically beats these victims up, eventually ending things with a sudden jolt, all consistently to a raucous reaction too.

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

The new TNT Champion, Sammy Guevara has now reached the first accomplishment that so many previously predicted for him. Guevara always felt like an inevitable fit for this belt and after a strong main event, he’s perfectly positioned to make this reign special. With forbidden door openings seemingly on the way, Guevara’s future is brighter than ever but for now, he seems already secure as one of AEW’s major players. On paper, a potential babyface turn once seemed vaguely challenging but yet, the switch couldn’t have been easier. Sammy is the story this week, and that’s well-deserved.

2. Bryan Danielson

With a classic already under his belt, Bryan Danielson is now in the thick of things, claiming his first victory in my personal match of the week. In a promotion filled with in-ring brilliance, Bryan still stands out with ease, swiftly reclaiming his standing as one of the world’s absolute best. Danielson’s match with Nick Jackson was immense, the perfect sequel to last week, relatively restrained by comparison but yet still completely compelling. Pair that with his wonderful Elevation promo and you have another outstanding week for ‘The American Dragon.’

3. Miro

Though naturally, he took a selfless backseat to the new TNT Champion, Miro deserves his own headlines this week. His title reign may have ended, but those memories aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, the run that officially steadied this ship. It was as TNT titleholder that Miro truly found his AEW persona, shaping it perfectly over his almost five-month reign. It’s a credit to Miro that I honestly believe bigger things are coming but in the meantime, it’s worth acknowledging this reign, one of the promotion’s most captivating, unique efforts yet.

4. Nick Jackson

Stepping up to the plate for Bryan Danielson’s second AEW match, Nick Jackson couldn’t have been more worthy of that role. Prior to Friday, Jackson was without a singles match in 2021 but yet, he delivered in grand fashion, absolutely belonging opposite Danielson. The Young Bucks are an all-time great duo and so naturally, their potential as singles stars isn’t highlighted often. That’s understandable and on this roster, even logical but as a result, it’s easy to forget just how capable these two are in this setting. For Nick, this week was a reminder.

5. Adam Cole

The winner of this week’s Dynamite opener, Adam Cole stole another show in my view. Gelling seamlessly with Jungle Boy, Cole maintained his already solidified status as an industry mega star, coming across like a polished pro as he outsmarted the still inexperienced Jungle Boy. That was the obvious story here and they told it neatly, establishing a dynamic that can extend to AEW’s main event scene in the coming years. I’m repeating myself weekly but it’s the truth, Cole couldn’t have transitioned more smoothly, with this match just the latest example.

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. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  2. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  3. Nick Jackson – 42 Points
  4. Jon Moxley – 41 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 38 Points
  6. Kenny Omega – 37 Points
  7. Miro – 36 Points
  8. Jungle Boy – 35 Points
  9. Matt Jackson – 35 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 34 Points
  11. Christian Cage – 32 Points
  12. CM Punk – 32 Points
  13. Bryan Danielson – 29 Points
  14. Orange Cassidy – 28 Points
  15. Dax Harwood – 25 Points
  16. Adam Cole – 25 Points
  17. Luchasaurus – 25 Points
  18. Dante Martin – 23 Points
  19. Daniel Garcia – 21 Points
  20. Britt Baker – 20 Points

Fleet Files #10: Grand Slam

Finally arriving at Arthur Ashe Stadium,  AEW has another history book to write. With a blockbuster four hour event spread across two episodes of weekly TV, the brand’s best talent takes centre stage, sharing the promotion’s biggest spotlight yet. More than that though, it’s Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega week, bringing a dream match to life in the most idyllic setting imaginable. That’s not the only headline though, as CM Punk also returns to television action, alongside a fairy-tale finale for Eddie Kingston. It’s a PPV card, and a great one at that, so let’s get to it.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega – Dynamite Grand Slam

One of the greatest television bouts of all time, this was an instant classic, the dream match that everyone had imagined and somehow, even more. Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega are two of the most impressive, influential wrestlers in history and together, they unsurprisingly combined for absolute magic. This was beautiful professional wrestling and for me, a top three match in promotional history. Opening Dynamite, these two produced a portion of wrestling television that I’ll never forget, one that’ll likely define an era that eventually, the next generation will almost certainly long for.

2. FTR vs. Anthony Greene & Stallion Rogers – Dark #29

An immediate C-Show classic, this was FTR at their very best. A reminder of how we fell in love with this team, FTR rocked the studio setting, building things steadily with tight, compact pro wrestling. Fundamentally sound, beautifully paced action, reaching an enthralling crescendo that honestly exceeded my relatively high expectations. There was buzz surrounding this one and it delivered, with admirable performances from Green and especially Stallion, who was totally at home against Harwood and Wheeler. Excellent TV wrestling, on YouTube of course.

3. Darby Allin & Sting vs. FTR – Dynamite Grand Slam

A crown jewel in FTR’s already impressive legacy, Cash and Dax relished every minute of this match. Absolutely launching themselves into every moment with Sting, this was a blast, exactly what it needed to be and honestly, much more. Sting worked incredibly hard here, surprisingly taking most of the match and better yet, looking great along the way also. That’s a credit to FTR, but it’s also yet another triumph in this usage of Sting, which continues to be one of AEW’s greatest feats.

4. The SuperKliq vs. Christian & Jurassic Express – Rampage Grand Slam

The undisputed kings of this match genre, The Young Bucks were up to their usual antics again here, anchoring yet another enthralling trios bout. All action stuff, packed with personality and as usual, filled with innovation as the more elaborate sequences took center stage. Everyone benefitted from this match, with Adam Cole coming across like the industry’s biggest star while opposite him, Christian and Jungle Boy looked immense. Sprinkle an impressive Luchasaurus hot tag on top of all that goodness and you have a smash hit.

5. Sonny Kiss vs. Joey Janela – Dark Elevation #29

One of the most exciting matches in AEW’s illustrious YouTube history, this absolutely stunned me. Don’t get me wrong, I expected something sound and had heard good things, but wow. The sheer energy of this thing really packed a punch, all executed brilliantly too. Sonny Kiss’ performance here was honestly staggering, signalling immense improvement that due to inactivity, had honestly gone under the radar. Speaking of such, Janela continues to impress on these shows, so credit to him also. Wonderful stuff that’d rank even higher on an ordinary week.

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. Daniel Garcia vs. Alan Angels – Dark #109

For those clued in, this jumped off the page and indeed, it absolutely delivered. Daniel Garcia is one of the industry’s hottest prospects right now and this match neatly encapsulated why, with crisp execution guided by that unique pacing and poise. He had a perfect dance partner here though, with Alan Angels continuing to cement himself as one of the promotion’s most underrated workhorses.

2. Eddie Kingston vs. Bear Bronson – Dark #109

The big, bruising main event of an honestly stacked edition of Dark, this was Eddie Kingston at his restrained best. Giving Bear Bronson most of the match, Kingston sold, sold and sold some more, battling back in spurts and keeping the people engaged throughout. Bronson leaves this looking better than ever, an Eddie Kingston tradition.

3. Dustin Rhodes vs. QT Marshall – Dark Elevation #29

Restricted by a runtime that you wouldn’t expect to suit them, Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall still very much delivered in this C-Show grudge match. They maximised those six minutes, even producing a genuinely exciting closing stretch. Marshall continues to impress inside the ropes and honestly, I wish these outings were more frequent for Rhodes.

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 Grand Slam

Confronting the critics, CM Punk produced an absolute masterclass on Dynamite. Still very much friendly Phil, Punk explained his happiness, but slowly lost his smile as the promo unfolded. Responding to Powerhouse Hobbs’ attack, Punk steadily upped the aggression, eventually concluding with a much more traditional pro wrestling promo. The value of CM Punk was encapsulated here, the only feasible follow up to Dynamite’s greatest match, building a bout with fresh talent along the way.

2. Miro – Dynamite Grand Slam

Confronting a different very kind of criticism, Miro finally conceded the suspected weakness of his neck…well, kind of anyway. He referenced a prior neck injury, but in classic Miro fashion, dismissed it’s relevance today, crediting god and his wife for the immense recovery. Either way, this was another case of Miro’s ongoing effectiveness in these brief vignettes, enough to earn him the 2 spot here.

3. Sammy Guevara – Dynamite Grand Slam

Though the weaker half of this aforementioned vignette, Sammy Guevara was much more than just along for the ride here. Guevara has always been a confident personality but since turning babyface, he’s actually seemed increasingly comfortable as a promo. Don’t get me wrong, small sample size and I’d like that to change, but I appreciate that Guevara hasn’t lost his cockiness, it’s just a little more relaxed these days.

4. Thunder Rosa – Rampage Grand Slam

Fiery as ever, Thunder Rosa is a promo that I consistently enjoy and again, one that we don’t see nearly enough honestly. That’s another topic for another day though, but this did the job for now, as Rosa extended her emerging conflict with Jade Cargill and Nyla Rose. Strange programme that needed a jolt and relatively speaking, this promo provided exactly that, it requires a follow-up now though.

5. Jake Hager – Dynamite Grand Slam

“Men of the Year? More like Boys of the Week!”

I don’t know man, not many promos this week and frankly, Hager felt like the funniest option.

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. Hikaru Shida vs. Masha Slamovich – Dark Elevation #29

Honestly, this wasn’t even a squash really, but it was a very enjoyable little match so I’m ranking it anyway. Shida walks that line beautifully, which often hurts her in this format unfortunately. She’s so selfless, but the matches seldom go long enough to reach the tier above. This was different though in my view, just limited by a particularly stacked week.

2. Santana and Ortiz vs. Avery Good & JT Dunn – Dark Elevation #29

This isn’t even here for the action really, but instead for the moment itself. This reaction was something special and as I’ve said before, we’ve been starved of Santana and Ortiz squash matches this year. That changed this week and I couldn’t be happier about it, feed me more.

3. Thunder Rosa vs. Kaia McKenna – Dark Elevation #29

A consistently physical squash match victor, Thunder Rosa is always fun in this setting, but she very much has her formula. Structurally, there isn’t much experimenting but in this particular case, who could possibly care? Rosa kicked ass, ramping the intensity up a notch above her already formidable norm.

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

One half of an all-time great match, Bryan Danielson absolutely relished this moment. Out of the ring for months and making his promotional debut, Bryan produced one of his finest efforts yet, swiftly securing this week’s number one spot. Bryan is a genuine GOAT candidate and fifteen years removed from what many deemed to be his artistic peak, he somehow remains one of the world’s best. Incredible, let’s appreciate this man while we can folks.

2. Kenny Omega

On any other week, Kenny Omega is the obvious category victor here, producing yet another stunning performance under the bright lights. Frankly, he’s only second to Bryan due to circumstance, as he was every bit as brilliant once the bell rang. Omega is an all-time great in his own right and with every match of this ilk, he further cements that truth. Beautiful bout, Omega’s best in AEW yet, or of the singles variety at least.

3. FTR

Unfortunate to come up against a match of the year candidate, FTR had a truly fabulous week. Pairing a C-Show classic with an electric Dynamite thriller, Cash and Dax reminded the world of just how special they still very much are. It’s been a somewhat frustrating year for this team, but with efforts like this, it’s hard to dismiss their place among the world’s best. Regardless of the setting or show, FTR are a team that I just want to see wrestle, plain and simple.

4. CM Punk

Cutting the week’s best promo by a distance, CM Punk paired that performance with a strong match opposite Powerhouse Hobbs. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t pretty, but I liked it very much and thought Punk kept himself strong while truly elevating Hobbs. That was no mean feat, as after seven years off, Punk tackled a complete contrast to his comeback opponent. Punk produced in a major way though, almost totally erasing any ring rust that appeared present at All Out. This week more than ever, CM Punk felt well and truly back.

5. Eddie Kingston

The hometown hero of Grand Slam, Eddie Kingston closed AEW’s biggest show yet. In many ways, this was the fairy-tale finale of a promotional best story, as Kingston completed his journey from that iconic Dynamite debut. Only fourteen months or so removed from that initial showing, here Kingston was: on top of the world, battling a legend alongside his best friend. The event’s sentimental story, Kingston was too selfless to shine as you’d traditionally expect, stepping aside so that Homicide could take center stage. That’s fitting, and didn’t prevent the Lights Out main event from being immense fun anyway.

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. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  2. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  3. Jon Moxley – 37 Points
  4. Kenny Omega – 37 Points
  5. Eddie Kingston – 35 Points
  6. Matt Jackson – 35 Points
  7. Nick Jackson – 35 Points
  8. Christian Cage – 32 Points
  9. Jungle Boy – 31 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 31 Points
  11. Miro – 30 Points
  12. CM Punk – 30 Points
  13. Orange Cassidy – 27 Points
  14. Dax Harwood – 25 Points
  15. Luchasaurus – 25 Points
  16. Daniel Garcia – 21 Points
  17. Cash Wheeler – 20 Points
  18. Britt Baker – 20 Points
  19. Adam Cole – 20 Points
  20. Dante Martin – 19 Points

The Spirit of Sting

On paper at least, the current concept of Sting isn’t particularly unique. The headliner of yesteryear, an icon that remains active, bringing some star power to his brand of choice. That’s mostly familiar, with Sting stepping through the ropes for a single match every few months, protected in a tag setting and ultimately standing tall, still the conquering hero that once inspired a generation. That’s a simple formula and certainly, Sting ticks all of those boxes and more, but it just feels different to me.

At 62, Sting is a physical miracle and it’s impressive to see him remain so capable, thirty years removed from his athletic prime. To me though, that’s not the story here. Indeed, even after Sting worked the majority of a match with one of the industry’s greatest tandems, my focus is elsewhere. Unquestionably, his execution is absurd for a man that’s been deemed finished multiple times in recent decades, his ability still formidable for any man, let alone a legend of his age.

Personally though, that’s not the true charm of Sting in AEW. To me, his painted face encapsulates the story better than any Stinger Splash ever could. Stoic on arrival, there’s this palpable sense that Sting doesn’t want to be the star of the show, he just wants to help it along the way. Coming out first as the calm and collected counterpart to his chaotic, frenetic ally, Sting is a supporting character, refusing to leave that role no matter how much his peers’ respect demands otherwise.

Those efforts don’t limit Sting’s energy though, as before long, he’s swept up in the emotion once again. With the passion of the audience and frankly, the gravity of these moments fueling him, Sting’s energy is endearing, one of AEW’s most consistent bright spots. That energy is what made last night so special in my view, as Sting refused to be a mere novelty act, producing an admirable effort and with some assistance of course, very much belonging opposite two of the world’s best.

There was a desperation to Sting’s showing, a sense that he wouldn’t let anyone down, an obsession with keeping this thing on track. When Sting steps through the ropes, he strives to perform at a level befitting his presentation. Since arriving in AEW, Sting has been treated with reverence, positioned proudly as the promotion’s ultimate legend. With each outing, he looks to validate that, providing himself to new fans and not letting anyone down along the way. Sting’s presence brings pride to long-time fans, not that familiar sadness or shame.

This stint has been spirited at every turn, packed with pride and while perhaps, that’s no feat worth celebrating, there’s an emotional weight to this particular case. Twenty years ago, Sting brought an end to one of wrestling’s most exciting eras, standing tall in Nitro’s final main event. For more than a decade, Sting had been a constant in that setting, long before Nitro, long before the nWo. Sting was the heart and soul of that promotion, so often the victim of betrayal, so often the brand’s sole moral compass.

There was a symbolism to that, as Sting’s many efforts were consistently undercut by things above his famed paygrade. After all, there was only so much he or any other individual could do, but for better or worse, Sting was WCW. Within the collection of calamities, there was usually an essence of hope, one very much defined by Sting’s calming presence. That identity was eventually solidified on-screen, as Sting protected WCW from the greatest threat of all, producing some of the industry’s most moving television.

As always, the happy ending came with a gut-punch in the process though and only three years later, the end was nigh. For much of the decade following WCW’s demise, Sting led TNA uphill, but that magic was never truly recaptured. That’s not to dismiss Sting’s lengthy stint in the IMPACT Zone, it just wasn’t that or this, unfortunately existing in a frustrating tier below. Sting’s infamous WWE run followed and that was all she wrote, seemingly bringing a somewhat sad end to his illustrious career.

If that was indeed the case, I don’t think anyone would’ve lost sleep over Sting’s final chapter but after seeing this extension, I’m so thankful it’s here. In WCW, Sting was a symbol of justice, an embodiment of everything good and in the end, an almost tragic victim of all the bad surrounding him. Now, two decades later, Sting doesn’t have to fight uphill, he doesn’t have to complete mission impossible, he just has to play his part on a winning team.

With each week, wrestling slowly regains the balance that was lost over twenty years ago, returning the industry to an enthusiasm and excitement that once seemed cemented as a mere memory. It’s a different time with different talent, but it’s still Sting, back on TNT and inexplicably, somehow as spirited as ever. I don’t know where this story is going and after the last two years, who could? I’m sure Sting doesn’t know either, he just knows that he can’t let history repeat itself.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this, I probably am in truth. To me though, Sting’s performance suggests otherwise. I truly believe that he’s here to right wrongs, he’s here to fix the problems that his peers produced. Sting isn’t the star of the show, he’s its spirit, an example that regardless of age or experience, you can reinvent yourself in this setting. Sting is the promotion’s central tribute to one of its most obvious inspirations, a nod to what was and a sincere signal towards what they hope will be.

That’s a beautiful thing, whether you’ve watched Sting for 35 years, 6 months or somewhere in-between. AEW is proud of pro wrestling history but with each outing, Sting feels increasingly like their own history, tying the promotion with its predecessor, the brand that he so famously led. Right or wrong, Sting stands for something to me, and that’s a credit to his pristine reputation as well as his enduring on-screen presentation. Either way, there’s still an optimism to Sting and in AEW, that hope finally feels at home.

“When a man’s heart is full of deceit, it burns up, dies and a dark shadow falls over his soul. From the ashes of a once great man has risen a curse, a wrong that must be righted. We look to the skies for a vindicator, someone to strike fear into the black hearts of the same men who created him. The battle between good and evil has begun. Against an army of shadows lies a dark warrior, the purveyor of good with a voice of silence and a mission of justice. This is Sting.”

Fleet Files #9: The Go-Home Week, Again

With Arthur Ashe only days away, AEW has some work to do. Well, to put it more simply, they have some matches to make. Luckily, they certainly aren’t short on options though, so perhaps they’ll produce the greatest television line-up in recent memory. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll tape a four hour block of wrestling excellence, splitting the footage into two episodes of enthralling action. Well, guess we’ll have to wait and see in that regard but first, it’s off to New Jersey for Adam Cole or something.

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. Frankie Kazarian – Dynamite #102

Continuing the flawless start to his AEW stint, Adam Cole delivered again, this time producing Dynamite’s best match opposite Frankie Kazarian. Cole feels like a major star in this setting, finally surrounded by a degree of spectacle befitting his physical charisma. In-ring, Cole may not be for everyone but he’s consistently for the crowd in attendance, which was again the case here. Credit to Kazarian also, who remains an immense pro that’s absolutely perfect for these particular scenarios.

2. Daniel Garcia vs. Lee Moriarty – Dark Elevation #28

AEW’s first entry in a rivalry that could define the next decade and more of pro wrestling, this was wonderful. With only six minutes or so of ‘TV’ time, Garcia and Moriarty made the most of their opportunity, combining beautifully for a standout C-Show bout. Now seemingly signed, Moriarty joins AEW’s increasingly impressive line-up of prospects, quickly taking his place at the top of that list. Alongside him? Garcia, which says it all honestly.  

3. Leyla Hirsch vs. KiLynn King – Dark #108

The first main event of AEW Dark’s studio era, this match overdelivered and then some. Leyla Hirsch is steadily cementing herself as one of the division’s most dynamic, versatile performers. There’s a palpable sense of competition to her every move, it really packs a punch regardless of opposition. KiLynn King was no passenger here though, once again proving that she very much belongs in matches of this variety. This was Dynamite-worthy pro wrestling, plain and simple.

4. FTR vs. Dante Martin & Matt Sydal – Dynamite #102

After a weird year or so, it’s great to have FTR back in the picture. To me, this is currently the ideal usage of Harwood and Wheeler, using them to produce compact, engaging television bouts that keep the show moving seamlessly. Granted, I’d rather they just be champions but in AEW, they are somehow equally awesome options for that role, so I’m content with this. The whole Dante Martin – Matt Sydal dynamic is tremendous by the way, just a perfect fit that helps both parties.

5. Tag Team Titles: The Lucha Bros vs. The Butcher & The Blade – Rampage #6

The first title defense for AEW’s new tag team champions, this was Rampage’s latest marquee match. Though not an exactly natural clash stylistically, these two teams have history and actually gelled quite well, with The Lucha Bros getting their reign off to a steady start. A contrast from one another mechanically, The Butcher & The Blade have a real charm, with the former adding a roughness that’s sometimes absent in the champions’ work. Good match, even if nothing more.

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. Best Friends vs. The Hardy Family Office – Dark #108

The latest version of an increasingly familiar match, this bout at least had the new studio setting to set it apart. Other than that, more of the same really but that’s enough to earn a placement, especially with the focus on the less established Wheeler Yuta, and especially Jora Johl. Fun match.

2. Nyla Rose vs. Skye Blue – Dark Elevation #28

This week’s Dark Elevation main event, Skye Blue’s recent emergence continued here, even in a slightly different fashion. On paper, this looked like another squash match victory for Nyla Rose and at less than four minutes, I suppose it almost was but in execution, Blue again made the most of her time.

3. Shawn Spears vs. Khash – Dark #108

Previously impressed by his effort against Darby Allin, Khash delivered again here, sharing a nice little studio bout with Shawn Spears. This was compact, sound pro wrestling and on a week without too much A-Show excellence, these two earn the final spot, as actual C-Show standouts belong in the category above.

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. Ruby Soho – Rampage #6

The first babyface to truly trade insults with Britt Baker, Ruby Soho not only belonged here, but she truly thrived. Granted, the content may not be for everyone, well not all of it at least but Soho’s delivery alone spoke volumes. On arrival, Soho’s scouting report positioned her as one of the division’s most well-rounded talents and after just two weeks, that already feels undeniable. Strong promo, and a major triumph for this programme with Grand Slam only days away.

2. Britt Baker – Rampage #6

Though probably not the headline due to the segment’s sheer importance for Soho, Britt Baker was still excellent on Rampage. The other half of this week’s standout segment, Baker’s confidence and conviction remained palpable, not wavering at all opposite verbally, her most dynamic rival yet. As always, Baker had some snappy verbiage to share, again owning the increased spotlight and ideally, ensuring that this kind of segment becomes far more commonplace moving forward.

3. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #102

Setting the stage for next week’s blockbuster match with Kenny Omega, Bryan Danielson had a simple task to complete. Opposite Omega for an in-ring promo, Danielson had to make sense of the champion’s eventual willingness to fight. Basically, he had to not-so-obnoxiously bait him into battle, maintaining his identity along the way. Oh, he also had to capture the gravity of this moment, making a genuine dream match feel like exactly that. Suffice to say, he did all that with ease, because that’s what Bryan Danielson does.

4. Powerhouse Hobbs – Rampage #6

In what was, effectively, a mere recap of his attack on CM Punk, Powerhouse Hobbs absolutely shined on Rampage. Hobbs always carries himself like a star, exuding the aura of a destroyer at every turn but here, he provided the promo to go with it also. Though nothing elaborate or extensive, Hobbs was immense here, once again maximizing a major moment. In truth though, this is his biggest moment yet and frankly, one that could define the next year and change of his career.

5. Christian Cage – Dynamite #102

Though it was effectively just two shots at ‘the other channel,’ this was good TV. In around thirty seconds, Christian Cage made some headlines and added a little heat to his part in this whole thing, which was necessary in my view. Best of all though, Christian also cut off Jungle Boy, planting the seeds for his inevitable turn that frankly, could be coming sooner rather than later. Either way, it’s been great to see Christian re-find his old charm and charisma, he’s been a great get for AEW.

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. The Butcher & The Blade vs. The Outrunners/Hunter Knott & Rosario Grillo – Dark Elevation #28

Cheating again here, but whatever. This Monday and Tuesday, The Butcher & The Blade murdered four men, somehow emerging from the crimes as number one contenders. Honestly, it’s just great to have Butcher back, but the immediate reminder of his status as an elite squasher only makes it sweeter. Two matches, maybe three minutes of action, all hail.

2. Penelope Ford vs. Layna Lennox – Dark Elevation #28

As of late, there’s been a real uptick in aggression from Penelope Ford. For awhile there, Ford had all the tools athletically but didn’t quite project the villainy that she seemed capable of. That’s changed in recent months, with the process only accelerated by this current pairing with The Bunny. Everything was sharp and snappy here, good stuff.

3. 2point0 vs. Erik & Andrew Lockhart – Dark #108

I think that we‘ve all loved the addition of 2point0, but C-Show viewers will know that they’ve really become an underrated squash match act. They aren’t killing local lads like Butcher and Blade, but they’re so wonderfully obnoxious, almost always making momentary babyfaces of their opposition. Good pro wrestling, plain and simple.

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. Adam Cole

Entering to another raucous reaction, Adam Cole is an obvious choice for this spot, validating the hype with my personal favourite match of the week. His post-match promo didn’t make the cut for that category, but it certainly didn’t hurt his case either, as Cole set the stage for next week’s blockbuster trios match. Once again, Cole feels completely at home in this setting, picking up exactly where he left off and quickly cementing himself in AEW’s main event scene.

2. Leyla Hirsch

Stealing the show with KiLynn King and guiding Jade Cargill in one of her longest matches yet, Leyla Hirsch again proved her value here. Though not always the first name listed when pondering the future of this division, Hirsch absolutely belongs in that conversation. Hirsch isn’t the conventional choice perhaps, but that’s what makes her so intriguing, bringing genuine ‘role model’ potential to these ranks. A wonderful babyface, Hirsch should be a real priority moving forward.

3. Ruby Soho

On a relatively quiet week, Ruby Soho earned her place and potentially more with just one promo. More than anything, that segment just felt like a statement for Soho, reiterating the immediate impact of her Casino Battle Royale win. After all, this category is increasingly intended to capture the names most on your mind at the week’s close, and Soho certainly managed that. Again, the segment in question may not have been perfect, but it sure packed a punch.

4. The Butcher & The Blade

With two squash match triumphs and an engaging title match loss, The Butcher & The Blade have officially returned after this week’s efforts. This is a fun team, even if one that I don’t expect to appear especially often in this particular category. With that being said, this was a strange week and after three matches that all earned some rank or another, this feels like a deserving nod in my view. Simply put, it’s great to have them back together.

5. Powerhouse Hobbs

An unconventional choice on an unconventional week, Powerhouse Hobbs barely beats out Britt Baker for the fifth spot here. I know, I know, Hobbs’ only offering was that sole promo on Rampage but honestly, that says it all. By hook or by crook, Hobbs leaves this week’s TV at the forefront of my mind, perfectly setting the stage for his Grand Slam bout with CM Punk. The intangibles matter and on confidence, intensity and sheer physicality, Hobbs continues to climb the ranks.

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. Penta El Zero Miedo – 45 Points
  2. Rey Fenix – 44 Points
  3. Jon Moxley – 38 Points
  4. Matt Jackson – 33 Points
  5. Nick Jackson – 33 Points
  6. Eddie Kingston – 32 Points
  7. Christian Cage – 30 Points
  8. Jungle Boy – 29 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 28 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 28 Points
  11. Orange Cassidy – 27 Points
  12. Miro – 26 Points
  13. CM Punk – 23 Points
  14. Luchasaurus – 23 Points
  15. Britt Baker – 20 Points
  16. Dante Martin – 19 Points
  17. Chuck Taylor – 19 Points
  18. Adam Cole – 18 Points
  19. Daniel Garcia – 18 Points
  20. Santana – 16 Points

Fleet Files #8: Writing History Books

It’s the first PPV edition in Fleet Files history and so, I have some explaining to do. In order to place more emphasis on these very special weeks, the best match category will be expanded, now featuring 10 bouts. Though not an exactly perfect adjustment, this is intended to reward the lofty honour of PPV match of the night. Without spoiling things, this week’s best bout deserves more than just your standard five points and now, it’ll rightly receive ten.

Anyway, as we all know by now, All Out 2021 was a very special show. An event that felt iconic on arrival, the kind of PPV that’ll be remembered forever. With that in mind, let’s make this File count, all hail.

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. Steel Cage Match for Tag Team Titles: The Lucha Bros vs. The Young Bucks (c) – All Out 2021

One of the greatest matches in recent memory, The Lucha Bros and The Young Bucks made magic at All Out. It was awe-inspiring at times, brutal at others and spectacular throughout, a marriage of ideologies that all involved adapted to perfectly. This was a moment and while wrestling fans have grown to resent that term, it truly fits here. From their entrance to the emotional post-match celebration, this was a career-defining night for The Lucha Bros. Special stuff, and an electric end to an immense title reign.

2. TNT Title: Miro (c) vs. Eddie Kingston – All Out 2021

Exactly as advertised, this was an enduring, grueling battle to open All Out. With the crowd firmly behind him, Eddie Kingston was the ultimate babyface here, bravely fighting uphill against the seemingly unbeatable Miro. Like all great monsters though, the champion now has an established chink in his armor, and they used that beautifully here. The whole thing was great, but that closing stretch’s many ups and downs, that’s peak pro wrestling to me. They had the people truly hooked on the finish, and it doesn’t get better than that.

3. CM Punk vs. Darby Allin – All Out 2021

An engaging, entertaining and ultimately encouraging return to action for CM Punk, this actually exceeded my expectations. Though working a babyface match without any real conflict behind it, this told a wonderful story, quite outwardly drawing from Bret Hart’s famed clash with the 1-2-3 Kid. Punk’s gameplan was simple, slowing things down and using brute force to wear on Allin, who’d gain momentum with every acceleration. That built steadily, eventually reaching an enthralling conclusion as out of nowhere, Punk put his foe to sleep. Great match.

4. World Title: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Christian Cage – All Out 2021

With almost every possible circumstance going against them, the All Out main event had only two advantages. Thankfully, it was still a match between Kenny Omega and Christian Cage and with those pieces in play, you can only fall so far. Though the work here was more daring, I preferred their Rampage prequel but even still, these two did an admirable job in a seemingly impossible scenario. The world was waiting for the post-match and thankfully, that obviously delivered but these two produced something far too substantial to be forgotten.

5. Women’s World Title: Britt Baker (c) vs. Kris Statlander – All Out 2021

With an underwhelming build, this didn’t enter All Out with great hype but yet, it felt very much alive by the bout’s conclusion. In perhaps her best straight singles match yet, Britt Baker finally scored an in-ring homerun as champion, combining seamlessly with Kris Statlander. On arrival, Statlander had all the raw ingredients, connecting with ease and sporadically showing flashes of brilliance. Since returning though, she’s added a real poise and polish to her game, which was incredibly evident here. A contained but exciting title match, just what the doctor ordered.

6. Andrade El Idolo vs. Pac – Rampage #5

Two of the wrestling world’s most dynamic and explosive offensive wrestlers trading bombs for fifteen minutes? Sign me up. This was great television, again kicking off Rampage in style and absolutely wowing the live crowd before an admittedly flat finish. That hurts this some, as does the structure (or lack thereof) itself but even still, it was a much-needed hit for Andrade. Though not quite there yet, this was far more reminiscent of the man that stole shows at every turn in NXT, which is another massive triumph for AEW.

7. Jon Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima – All Out 2021

Though perhaps slightly hurt by the stylistic overlaps with the match that came before it, this still climbed above my personal expectations. No doubt, Kojima remains capable but he was truly inspired here, producing a spirited effort that married neatly with Jon Moxley’s quite obvious motivation. There wasn’t much meat on the bone here and the result was never in doubt, but a cold match between Kojima and Moxley is still exactly that, a match between Kojima and Moxley. Not perfect, but a fun ride nonetheless.

8. Best Friends & Jurassic Express vs. The Hardy Family Office – All Out 2021: The Buy In

The absolute perfect buy-in bout, this set the tone beautifully, showcasing two of AEW’s most beloved acts. Everyone looked good here, each man able to shine in their own way while warming the live audience up in an almost house show fashion. In many ways, this was AEW at its absolute best, a uniquely joyous experience. Wholesome is probably a step too far for anything pro wrestling but this is as close as you’ll get, pairing two babyface units that consistently bring a certain brightness to these settings.

9. The Final Fight: Chris Jericho vs. MJF – All Out 2021

I don’t think anyone had this pencilled in as match of the night and certainly, they got off to a slow start but for me at least, they absolutely got there in the end. Though the restart finish will always be divisive, it seemed to work quite emphatically here, adding an extra layer of emotion to this thing and allowing them to build on an already engrossing closing stretch. Honestly, MJF was excellent throughout, selling his back brilliantly and injecting the athletic dynamism that frankly, modern Jericho matches need.

10. Jon Moxley vs. Minoru Suzuki – Dynamite #101

Must say, this ranking stings. After a rewatch or two, I liked this more than initially but even still, it’s hard to shake that first experience. From a presentation point of view, AEW simply missed, failing to capture the gravity of last year’s classic. In their short runtime, Jon Moxley and Minoru Suzuki tried their best to recapture that match but unfortunately, they just didn’t have the time to do so. This felt like a lost moment in some ways, which limits my enjoyment of a still very much engaging match.

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. Joey Janela vs. Lee Moriarty – Dark #107

For all his critics, Joey Janela is absolutely capable and here, he had the perfect opponent to prove exactly that. Lee Moriarty is immense, one of the wrestling world’s most exciting performers and he shined here, thankfully being positioned to succeed by Janela who was certainly very giving. Really strong match.

2. Three Strikes Match: Big Swole vs. Diamante – Dark #107

The conclusion to their C-Show exclusive feud, Big Swole and Diamante ultimately delivered, producing an intense and physical affair. This wasn’t the cleanest or smoothest match and at times, it almost felt hurt by the stipulation, but the sheer effort involved was more than enough to get this thing over the line. More of this please, regardless of the setting.

3. Riho vs. Skye Blue – Dark Elevation #27

Continuing to impress, Skye Blue once again maximised her minutes here, taking on Riho in a strong little C-Show thriller. While Blue is the hot topic right now though, Riho was the story here for me, returning to singles action and almost immediately reminding me of just how valuable she can be. Nice match that achieved a lot for its runtime.

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. Adam Cole – Dynamite #101/Rampage #5

Whether in-ring on Wednesday or backstage on Friday, Adam Cole made a statement this week. Known as one of the industry’s most confident promos, Cole swiftly positioned himself high on the talker territory’s verbal power rankings. Cole has genuine charisma that’s especially evident when armed with a live crowd like this, taking charge of things swiftly and for some, even earning an Elite leadership role on arrival. Great start.

2. Bryan Danielson – Dynamite #101/Rampage #5

Though far less elaborate with his words, I just loved what Bryan Danielson brought this week. In just a few sentences, he separated himself from the pack on Wednesday, solidifying his status as the no-nonsense, straightforward grappler. Better yet, he sold the eventual Omega match in seconds, adding a raw competition to things that Omega’s persona doesn’t always achieve. Add in the pre-tape that ultimately, put the promotion over also, and you have a strong introduction.

3. Sting – Rampage #5

Responding to Tully Blanchard’s hilariously strange callout, Sting basically popped himself for a minute or so, and that popped me. Sting’s energy is honestly outrageous, he seems more excited than anyone and after 35 years of wrestling relevance, that just shouldn’t be the case. His efforts here weren’t enough to get me fired up for Darby Allin vs. Shawn Spears, but it did convince me that at some point, Sting should beat up Tully himself.

4. Eddie Kingston – Dynamite #101

Once again, Eddie Kingston didn’t need much time to do his job. Seemingly advancing the Miro programme one step further, Kingston called out the TNT Champion’s cowardice, also clearing up his dismissal of Miro’s god. That’s not a joke either, he actually did that here, which wasn’t even out of place after Kingston’s prior promo. As AEW’s roster expands and the star power increases, Kingston’s ability to deliver like this is priceless.

5. MJF – Dynamite #101

I’ll be honest, I didn’t particularly like this promo. It was long and consistently opted for the cheapest of heat, but objectively, this was too effective for me to dismiss it totally. The content was a disappointing step backwards in my view, but MJF’s delivery remains immense, bringing this up about as high as it could go all things considered. Some quality control would’ve helped this one, but MJF’s actual performance certainly wasn’t lacking 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. Lance Archer vs. Jason Hodge – Dark #107

With his opponent literally running away from him in Dark’s opener, Lance Archer continued to innovate within his already flawless formula. Once the bell rang, this was as swift as ever, but I did like the slight alteration first, as Hodge got the jumpstart on Archer with some dives of defiance.

2. Kiera Hogan vs. Blair Onyx – Dark Elevation #27

Scoring her first win in AEW, Kiera Hogan produced a crisp, sharp outing here, swiftly vanquishing Blair Onyx. Closing the show with an impressive Neckbreaker finish, Hogan audibly won Kingston over, who emphatically endorsed her performance. Hogan is seemingly here to stay, and rightly so.

3. Red Velvet vs. Queen Aminata – Dark Elevation #27

Since a shaky showing opposite Jamie Hayter, Red Velvet has bounced back in admirable fashion, barely missing since. This match was no different, even with its brief runtime as Velvet ticked every box, hitting her signature offence with a snap en route to the rapid victory.

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 Lucha Bros

The obvious winners here, The Lucha Bros entered this week as stars and left it feeling almost iconic. Though the above has a more cut and dry description of “best,” this category is more about tone in my view and as the week comes to a close, no act is more on my mind than the new tag team champions. Long may they reign, all hail The Lucha Bros.

2. The Young Bucks

The other half of All Out’s classic, The Young Bucks deserve immense credit for their part in Sunday’s magic. In Chicago, they had real heat, or as close as one gets by ‘proper’ means in 2021. Their performances didn’t have to weaken to get there either as physically, they remained one of the industry’s most spectacular tandems. In fact, they’re probably top two in that category also, with the same team above them.

3. Adam Cole

On a week where things were so spread across AEW’s all-star roster, Adam Cole refused to leave his place as the promotion’s leading headline. Strange as it sounds, Bryan Danielson’s debut was basically expected and as a result, Cole’s arrival felt almost earth-shattering by comparison. Sprinkle the promo work since and you have an ideal start for Cole, who feels immediately at home which as we’ve seen, isn’t always the case.

4. Andrade

Frankly, this is probably a touch high for Andrade, but it just feels fitting. Coming into this week, Andrade’s AEW run felt increasingly snakebit but after Friday’s thriller with Pac, that memory seems just as likely to fade. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not quite there yet but it’s hard not to be encouraged, as Andrade slowly reminds the wrestling world of just how special he is.

5. Eddie Kingston

The heart and soul of AEW, Eddie Kingston did it all this week. He had an excellent PPV match, opening up the All Out main card in style. He then commentated Dark Elevation, leaving the desk to take part in the programme’s main event. Finally, he produced yet another standout promo on Dynamite, once again within a snappy pre-tape offering. With many deserving candidates, Kingston barely closes out our Fleet Five.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 10, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Penta El Zero Miedo – 44 Points
  2. Rey Fenix – 43 Points
  3. Jon Moxley – 38 Points
  4. Matt Jackson – 33 Points
  5. Nick Jackson – 33 Points
  6. Eddie Kingston – 32 Points
  7. Jungle Boy – 29 Points
  8. Christian Cage – 29 Points
  9. Kenny Omega – 28 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 28 Points

Fleet Files #7: The Go-Home Week

The biggest PPV in promotional history is ahead, and AEW only have five shows to remind the wrestling world. I know right, a mere five shows, across six nights? Talk about pushing your luck. Well anyway, there’s some major matches along the way also, as a couple rivalries continue in their own lane while elsewhere, All Out continues to take shape. It’s a PPV dream card but this week, it’s all about the build, as some of AEW’s biggest personalities take center stage.

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. Santana & Ortiz vs. FTR – Dynamite #100

Though for a range of reasons, it still felt like a slightly lesser version of their ultimate match, this remained absolutely immense. Two of the best teams in wrestling, these two tandems combined for an excellent television tilt, even if not quite the heated conclusion that some expected. Perhaps that’s still ahead but as is, this was a hit, and one that’ll hopefully position both units to re-enter title contention. It’s been an unusually inactive year, but this was quite the reminder of their capabilities.

2. The Super Elite vs. The Lucha Bros & Jurassic Express – Dynamite #100

One of AEW’s most familiar plays, the go-home Dynamite concluded with an all action multi-man thriller. In some form or fashion, The Super Elite are usually present for these but here, they were opposite two of the promotion’s most beloved pairings. Those two teams stand alongside the Bucks in terms of consistency honestly, both delivering across all four of AEW’s shows. In a tag team territory, those three have claimed the top tier as of late, with the champions months removed from any miss at all.

3. Darby Allin vs. Daniel Garcia – Rampage #4

A clear improvement on their initial effort, this was some impressive TV wrestling. Granted, it was a little scary at times too, as Darby Allin unsurprisingly tempted fate with the PPV only 48 hours away. That’s to be expected though, and it didn’t make the match any less compelling, as Daniel Garcia produced his best performance since arriving in the promotion. Sprinkle some excellent CM Punk commentary along the way, and you have a strong Rampage main event.

4. QT Marshall vs. Evil Uno – Dark #105

This was just good pro wrestling, as I’ve come to expect from QT in particular. Question his usage, criticise his character but bell to bell, Marshall is smooth, a truly sound in-ring performer. To his credit, Uno is no slouch either and in truth, is probably underrated due to his partner’s more outward dynamism. In a rare singles showing here though, Uno certainly proved a point, really thriving opposite Marshall. Peak C-Show wrestling for AEW, so good that it (unfortunately) escaped that category.

5. Tay Conti vs. Penelope Ford – Dynamite #100

After a somewhat shaky start, Tay Conti and Penelope Ford were struggling for the audience’s full attention. Only minutes later though, they’d got the people onboard and then some, even earning a few ‘this is awesome’ chants. Though not exactly consistent, Ford is certainly capable and she showed that here but for me, this was all about Tay Conti. Her offence really is something to see, genuinely explosive and spiteful in a way that stands out a mile. Good match.

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. Pac vs. Matt Sydal – Dark #105

Hindered by circumstance and frankly, some incredibly shaky commentary, this was an objectively lesser version of what it could have and probably should have been. Even still, it was too well executed to fall any lower than this, as these are still two of the promotion’s best bell to bell performers. With that in mind, I’d really like to see them run this back when Andrade is in the rear-view mirror.

2. Red Velvet vs. Skye Blue – Dark #106

A complete C-Show anomaly, this was a match enhanced by its audience, as the Chicago crowd absolutely embraced Skye Blue. Thankfully, she was up to the task too, performing admirably in a match that truly maximized its minutes. Red Velvet’s swift adjustment helped also, embracing the role without losing her usual identity, just like she did in Brittsburgh. Good match, a potential career-altering one for Blue.

3. Diamante & Nyla Rose vs. Big Swole & Julia Hart – Dark Elevation #26

This programme has been a great usage of the C-Show setting but honestly, this match was an example of what’s been far too absent on TNT. There’s something to this formula, just an engaging tag match that got time without overextending itself, featuring four performer in their best light along the way. Everyone shined here, and I couldn’t be happier to type that.

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 #100

Sitting alongside Tony Schiavone, this may have been MJF’s best promo yet. Wow, this was immense, scathing and spiteful, but still so grounded in raw reality. The Ali comparison was easy heat, but its execution couldn’t have been better, an absolutely perfect encapsulation of who MJF is. On an episode of Dynamite filled with promo brilliance, this claimed the top spot by a distance in my view. Incredible stuff.

2. Eddie Kingston – Dynamite #100/Rampage #4

In under thirty seconds, Eddie Kingston produced one of the wrestling year’s best quotes. “Take my hand, we’re gonna walk through hell together and then maybe, if you survive that, you’ll get to go to your god’s heaven.” Two days later, he also said “redeem deez nuts.” My point? I don’t even know really, those sentences should paint a good enough picture though, there’s really nothing more Eddie Kingston than that. Along with Miro, Kingston heated this thing up dramatically in just two segments.

3. Chris Jericho – Dynamite #100

Since turning babyface, Chris Jericho has actually been somewhat revitalised in my view. He’s working hard in-ring but physically, the limitations there are increasingly obvious, so Jericho is more and more reliant on his promo. Thankfully, that element has stayed strong, rebuilding after a few shaky moments earlier this year. Sharing the ring with Jim Ross, Jericho added the final touches to this build, providing it with exactly the emotional weight that was previously missing.

4. Dustin Rhodes – Rampage #4

After making the save and going face to face with Malakai Black, Dustin Rhodes reminded the wrestling world of exactly who he is. Even still, Rhodes is one of my favourite promos in AEW, an absolute throwback and by that I mean, he was actually there back then too. I was excited for this match anyway, but his promo sealed the deal, as Rhodes got all kinds of fired up, setting the stage for next Wednesday’s clash.

5. Malakai Black – Dynamite #100

Responding to Lee Johnson’s slightly bizarre save from the prior week’s Dynamite, Malakai Black continued to confirm my developing read on his AEW ceiling. Contrary to my initial belief, there isn’t one, he’s really clicking here and it’s honestly a sight to see. These promos are immense, still featuring their own unique presentation but not lacking in content or delivery, both of which have been absolutely top notch thus far.

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. Emi Sakura vs. Laynie Luck – Dark #105

Though her Elevation bout with Ashley D’Amboise just barely missed out on a C-Show ranking, this squash match was too good to ignore. Emi Sakura absolutely battered Laynie Luck here, to an almost uncomfortable degree. Sakura was physical in the most arrogant, nonchalant way, a perfect extended squash.

2. Tay Conti vs. Heather Reckless – Dark #105

After being jumped before the bell, Tay Conti absolutely mauled Heather Reckless, quite literally questioning her foe’s poor decision-making. Happy Tay is one thing but fired up, may actually murder someone via pump kick Tay? That’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

3. Daniel Garcia vs. Tylor Sullivan – Dark Elevation #26

There’s something truly sadistic about Daniel Garcia, and it’s perhaps his most intriguing trait. Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed by the rest, immense technical acumen paired with a certain physical presence. That edge though, it’s palpable, a real nastiness that if handled carefully, can make Garcia special, all without losing his core identity.

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. Eddie Kingston

It’s impressive to have a top promo, but to produce two in one week, all while adding heat to a programme that previously, hadn’t featured any Kingston promo at all, that’s levels. Coming into this week, Kingston’s response was an obvious box to tick and with ease, Kingston showed why. There was some comedy, some action and beyond that, genuine substance that’ll help Sunday’s match. Kingston gained the most from this week’s AEW TV, and he didn’t even wrestle.

2. Santana & Ortiz

With a spectacular opening shine, Santana & Ortiz positioned themselves for a star-making performance on Wednesday. In the end, they probably fell a touch short of that acclaim but fortunately, felt like stars upon arrival anyway. It’s been a strange year for this team, turning babyface six months ago and having no real chance to capitalise in a tag setting. At long last, this was that for them and thankfully, it connected in a major way.

3. Daniel Garcia

Once again trusted in a major, main event match, Daniel Garcia looked more at home than ever this past Friday night. I think that sooner than later, Garcia will need to reset some and work his way up the card but for now, he couldn’t have validated Tony Khan’s confidence more. Over and over, he’s been given the chance to sink or swim and he’s consistently done the latter, going head to head with some of the promotion’s biggest stars.

4. FTR

Though not quite to the degree of their babyface counterparts, this was an important match for FTR also. Either hampered by Cash Wheeler’s genuine injury or to his credit, an impressive commitment to selling, they weren’t quite in full gear here but even still, this was a strong performance from the former champions. Also, yes I’m now just ranking almost every team together, simply seems like the correct play to be honest, obvious outliers aside of course.

5. Tay Conti

With a hilarious squash match on Tuesday, Tay Conti then made an emphatic return to Dynamite on Wednesday. Last Friday’s match with The Bunny wasn’t quite as impressive, but this was a tremendous recovery, both in performance and perception. With so much focus on All Out, this was a unique week, as most only offered a single segment, seldom ranking twice. Alongside Daniel Garcia, Conti was the exception to that rule, which earns her the final slot here.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 10, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Jon Moxley – 33 Points
  2. Penta El Zero Miedo – 29 Points
  3. Rey Fenix – 28 Points
  4. Jungle Boy – 26 Points
  5. Christian Cage – 22 Points
  6. Orange Cassidy – 21 Points
  7. Kenny Omega – 21 Points
  8. Eddie Kingston – 20 Points
  9. Darby Allin – 20 Points
  10. Luchasaurus – 20 Points

Fleet Files #6: Linear Eyeballs

After the biggest week in their short, but eventful history, AEW has quite the task on their hands. Indeed, it’s now time to produce a worthy sequel to the week that was, by hook or by crook. I’m sure it’ll be fine, entertainment never struggles to maintain those high standards after a critical peak. Seriously though, you know the deal by the time you’re reading this, but you may not know the truth. This was week one of TK’s new initiative, prioritizing digital eyeballs over their linear counterpart, as the C-Shows take the shine.

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. The Lucha Bros vs. Jurassic Express – Rampage #3

With daylight second, this was the week’s best match by an unfathomable distance. In fact, this tag team tournament final was one of AEW’s best in-ring offerings since returning to the road, an absolute thriller. Opening Rampage, these two teams continued a trend, starting the Friday night show in a fashion that was almost impossible to top. Jungle Boy gets better every week and The Lucha Bros…well, when they’re on, they are a wrestling experience unlike any other.

2. Dante Martin vs. Anthony Bowens – Dark Elevation #25

Starting AEW’s week as the Elevation opener, Dante Martin and Anthony Bowens reiterated their recent message. Martin is obviously a unique talent, one for the promotion’s present and future while Bowens is quickly making his own case for a similar description. Since being forced into the role of singles wrestler, Bowens has really shined, unlocking a level that physically, I’d only seen hints of in AEW. His ceiling shouldn’t be slept on, especially in this current form.

3. Death Triangle vs. The Dark Order – Dark Elevation #25

When The Lucha Bros and Pac actually combine, it’s always a sight to see. Frankly, AEW should probably get far more out of this faction in trios matches, but I understand that circumstances haven’t helped on that front. The Dark Order were worthy adversaries here also, as Colt Cabana especially shined, really belonging opposite Fenix in particular. Best of all, this match advanced The Dark Order’s recent dissension, providing the perfect final note to an all-time episode of Elevation.

4. Best Friends vs. The Hardy Family Office – Dark Elevation #25

The first of a two match series of sorts on YouTube, this was the Best Friends better effort opposite The HFO. Though it took a little while to truly get going, Orange Cassidy went through the gears in an instant, ironically enough. His hot tag kicked this up a notch and they went into an incredibly fun closing stretch. I understand why folks don’t like the HFO, but they really are an enjoyable piece of these C-Shows. They don’t fit and that’s the point but bell to bell, I enjoy them all, especially Angelico.

5. Orange Cassidy vs. Matt Hardy – Dynamite #99

Speaking of The Hardy Family Office, they conclude our week’s top five matches here, as Matt Hardy again completely exceeded my expectations on Dynamite. This looked like a weird match on paper and in execution, it was even weirder, with house show antics early and then eventually, a gory scene as Hardy was busted open. The result was a legitimately good pro wrestling match though as for all of his physical struggles, Hardy remains ahead of the game enough to produce engaging television bouts. Not a classic by any means, but sound stuff in my view.

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. The Lucha Bros vs. The Factory – Dark #104

Indeed, what a week for The Lucha Bros! Battling Aaron Solo and Nick Comoroto, they were immense here again, allowing The Factory duo to really impress me along the way. Solo is sound obviously but Comoroto, he’s the money here. Don’t get me wrong, the big man remains incredibly raw but even still, unquestionably one to watch.

2. Best Friends vs. The Hardy Family Office – Dark #104

The lesser of these factions’ trios bouts, this was still an incredibly enjoyable C-Show bout. Matt Hardy isn’t The Blade in terms of aggression and intensity, but this United Center crowd loved him so that was an extra wrinkle to embrace. Other than that though, same deal really, just fun pro wrestling.

3. Dante Martin vs. Alan Angels – Dark #104

Frankly, this would very seldom rank at all but this week, the A-Shows were so weak inside the ropes, that I’m left seeking even more C-Show alternatives. I will say though that Alan Angels is legitimately good, which feels like an incredibly understated truth. He can really go, and was excellent here.

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 #99

Though nothing close to his debut effort, CM Punk remains one of wrestling’s best promos. In fact, he apparently remains one of wrestling’s biggest stars also, and is already truly at home in AEW. This was CM Punk on Nitro, and I loved every minute of it, standing alongside Tony Schiavone to once again explain his return to wrestling. Great stuff, I can’t wait for All Out.

2. Miro – Dynamite #99

I mean, it was around 30 seconds long but who cares? Miro said the line “bring me The Mad King before I burn this place to the ground,’ that’s enough for me.

3. Christian Cage – Dynamite #99

If you couldn’t already tell, this wasn’t a particularly strong week for AEW, neither in-ring or on the microphone. As a result, the mere charisma of Christian Cage is enough for me, continuing to sell his upcoming title match with a palpable confidence and conviction.

4. Jon Moxley – Dynamite #99

Though far from his strongest outing, Jon Moxley was still good on Dynamite even if admittedly, I sensed a noticeable difference in his delivery. It was almost desperate, trying to inject some substance into a match announcement that caught most off guard. That’s a shame, but I still liked the content.  

5. Britt Baker – Dark #104

Standard stuff here from Britt Baker, making a rare C-Show appearance and doing Britt Baker things. On this week, standard Britt Baker fare was enough to complete the top five and I must say, I’d actually like these segments to occur more often. Not with Britt necessarily, just top stars in general.

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. Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Shawn Dean – Dark #104

Losing an all-time sprint, poor Shawn Dean’s homecoming was short-lived, flurrying briefly before Powerhouse Hobbs’ inevitable destruction. I love Hobbs in these matches, as they only make me more excited for his fleeting A-Show outings. Job done.

2. Malakai Black vs. Brock Anderson – Dynamite #99

Though completely misplaced as the Dynamite main event, this was a compelling, effective squash match. Perfect? No, not quite but it served its purpose and Black was certainly vicious, legitimately busting Brock up before swiftly closing the show.

3. Dark Order vs. Isaiah Moore & Kal Herro – Dark #104

Giving Dark Order a big man/little man dynamic, the rare combination of John Silver and Preston Vance was a treat here. In a brief showcase match, both parties shined, spotlighting their contrasting styles but showing some overlap along the way.

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. Rey Fenix

The star of four different matches this week, it’s fair to say that Rey Fenix is now well and truly back. Before his injury, Fenix was becoming AEW’s standout in-ring performer and with a few more weeks like this, he’ll quickly reclaim that title. Fenix is special and though that’s not news, it was great to get a reminder as emphatic as this.

2. Penta El Zero Miedo

Though not quite Fenix, Penta was certainly present for all of the above. Especially on the C-Shows, Penta is far more picky than his partner, but that doesn’t make him any less entertaining. Penta is a presence regardless and when the time comes, he can be seriously exciting in his own right. A great week for The Lucha Bros, an all-time effort in Fleet Files history honestly.

3. Orange Cassidy

Not dissimilar to the two men above him, Orange Cassidy had his own standout week. With three straight days of match-stealing showings, Cassidy reiterated his case as one of AEW’s genuine top guys. Any doubts about Cassidy’s in-ring range were misplaced anyway, but weeks like this only further silence those increasingly muted concerns.

4. Dante Martin

Pairing the strong Anthony Bowens bout with a nice sprint opposite Alan Angels, Dante Martin continues to build momentum across AEW’s programming. You can see and feel his progression, it’s palpable, both in terms of skill as well as his standing with the audience. Martin is a case of when, not if at this point.

5. Jungle Boy

Compared to those above him as well as his own high standards, it was an unusually inactive week for Jungle Boy. With that being said, he certainly didn’t miss in his sole opportunity, producing an incredible performance in this week’s match of the week. Jungle Boy is such a sure-fire option for AEW at this point, it really is a sight to see.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 10, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Jon Moxley – 33 Points
  2. Penta El Zero Miedo – 25 Points
  3. Rey Fenix – 24 Points
  4. Jungle Boy – 22 Points
  5. Christian Cage – 22 Points
  6. Orange Cassidy – 21 Points
  7. Kenny Omega – 21 Points
  8. Miro – 17 Points
  9. Dante Martin – 17 Points
  10. Darby Allin – 17 Points