AEW Dark #102 LIVE REVIEW

Matches:

1.Thunder Rosa vs Zhang ES

2.Red Velvet vs Moore NR

3.2.0 vs Alanis, Gray ES

4.Bear Country vs Chaos Project **3/4

5.Darby vs Invictus **1/4

6.5 vs QT ***

7.Hikuleo vs Thad NR

8.Nyla vs Rossi NR

9.Fuego del Sol vs Garcia ***

10.Sahara vs Ford ES

11.The Pinnacle vs Gargis, Sbyszko NR

12.TH2 vs Kross, Freddie ES

13.The Wingmen vs Lucha Bros ES

14.Conti vs Renegade ES

15.Private Party vs Best Friends ***1/4

16.Dark Order vs Ramos, Manning, Sweets NR

17.Dark Order vs Alexander, Singh, T.I.M. ES

Thoughts:

I watched Elevation this morning but haven't had time to write anything about it yet. In the meantime, lets watch Dark and chat about it. A reminder, but since the show tends to be mostly squashes, I'll mainly speak on random thoughts on workers involved since it'll be more substantive than trying to chat about match quality.

Oh, and quickly let me add that I'm reviving the ES rating, which is short for "extended squash". I am not timing things so I might make a slight mistake and give something an ES when it's technically a NR, but the plan is to treat it as a rating I give matches that are over 3 minutes but are essentially still just squashes. NR goes to anything shorter than three minutes, as always.

Thunder Rosa is kicking us off, which is a great sign. I'm very excited that she is an official AEW roster member now and consider her one of the few that I'd be okay with seeing dethrone Baker down the line.

Speaking of, Baker's next opponent is Red Velvet. It'll be a trial match for the up in comer and a throwaway defense for the champ on Rampage. She has a long way to go but the company seems to see potential and I'd love to see if she can step up into it over time.

2.0 worked the three spot, and I'd like to give them props. Whatever they said to TK and crew to get put over so highly last week, even in defeat, and to get themselves platformed so well must have been epic. I agree that they are a great team that was super undervalued by the WWE machine, but I was pleasantly surprised regardless to see it happen. I don't see the AEW Tag Team Championships as likely for them, but maybe some gold from a partner fed that they can wear? There are many matches I want to see them against either way and I'd love to be wrong should they end up breaking past that glass ceiling.

So, Caster and The Acclaimed were promoted on social media last night for this episode, by the way. That changed when they updated the card. There are a few things that might have happened and I can't seem to find evidence of which is accurate. Either some of tonight's Dark matches were taped previously and cut later, the match actually happened last week and rumors of Caster being sent home were false, or it was scheduled for the show but never occurred. Most of that boils down to a small botch from the social people. I've dug around a bit and reportedly he's iced. I honestly wonder if he responded poorly to criticisms of his rap and dug himself a deeper hole. It's all speculative, of course and I, and my sources, could be very wrong.

The fourth match was certainly an interesting one in my opinion. As soon as the graphic appeared, I found myself thinking about how it was laid out would be an interesting reflection on the way both teams as thought of. I went in rather...well, dark...on this episode and didn't know most of the card.

Taz and Excalibur are an amazing commentary team. Their work is actually a big part of why I am embracing the show so much. There is such a fun, loose tone and it makes for an entertainingly basic experience.

But yeah, Chaos Project and Bear Country was far more evenly booked than I had expected. This likely means both will remain low/midcard rangers but that's fine, honestly. Bear Country in particular can be good opponents for one off challengers but past that being filler spot talents is fine work for them. I sincerely mean that in a positive way. Their match also featured tiny little touches of comedy and was given a decent amount of time. Solid work and a decent match in general. Bear Country took the W which felt like the right move.

I posted a poll just now that you should check out.

Personally, I think Dark and Elevation should be better defined. I'd have both be more regular in runtimes, firstly. It bugs me when I've seen that some of these are super long and it was a big turn off. Secondly, I'd prefer Elevation to be a bunch of short squashes and feature a main event that runs about 5 minutes. Dark, on the other hand, would be a bunch of 5 minute range matches. The Monday gig would be super low card folks for the most part while Dark would be a mashup. Essentially it would work with Elevation being the first step on the ladder to hit true TV. I also feel that AEW Dark championships would be smart. So far, my poll seems to show that most do not agree with me on that last take.

Up next, Darby Allin and the debuting Invictus Khash. I have no idea who the latter is, which is rare for me. They went with a pocket sized version of the standard Allin underdog match, allowing Invictus to get some shots in before the comeback. It was fine for what it is.

QT recently had an interview where he laughed about lying to Shaq. The table spot that the Hall of Famer took had been sold to the big guy as featuring a thick pad for safety underneath. It did not. Shaq was apparently fine with it, but this is a huge red flag and comes off very poorly. QT responded to a tweet on the subject by simply trying to ignore the content of the debate by mocking a typo. There is no defense for the behavior so why not go after low hanging fruit instead.

When Brodie died, I know the stance was to never have another official leader for the Dark Order. I wonder if they are setting up for a minor split of the group though with some set to join Bray Wyatt and his Kult. They'd essentially be a dark mirror of what the Dark Order themselves have turned into. Also, I know it's the right move to have the DO crew to be sold as faces, but it is funny seeing how fun they make a cult appear.

QT and 5's match built up nicely, even with some roughness and minor interference. QT is a good teacher but doesn't do a whole lot for me in the ring if I'm being honest. Angels I consider decent. The Factory and Dark Order members at ringside brawled during this, after Factory shenanigans and tomfoolery. It climbed nicely.

We're only six of seventeen in. This will be a long one. I'm admittedly not big on that, considering about an hour to be my preferred length for these.

Hikuleo working this feels a bit like a tease that we could start seeing New Japan excursions in AEW soon and I am all fucking for that. I enjoy CMLL less and less and that damn company is so bad at shooting themselves in the foot that they make WWE seem smart most of the time. They are poor promoters and rely heavily of bootlicker, nostalgic loyalty to survive. It won't work forever and it's starting to show the cracks. They also have a huge ego and bad reactionary attitudes. AEW and AAA would be better places to send your talents to train.

We seem to be rolling a bit faster now with legit squashes.

Nyla is a woman I respect and appreciate as a worker. I also feel like she has been a bit overexposed at times for me and that it's at the expense of others that I'd like to see on TNT a bit more. It's a small nitpick, but one I stand by regardless. That deadlift chokeslam she used on Rossi was awesome, though.

As a side note, if you are interested at all in politics, please consider preordering my upcoming book.

Fuego del Sol has gotten himself over in a manner similar to Ryder years ago. The big difference is the latter was a worker that fans wanted in the main event and the former is someone fans just want to get signed. His addition to the Nightmare Family seems rather clearly another clue suggesting that we'll indeed see Fuego get signed. How he continues to endure himself to the fans after is up to him.

Garcia is quickly winning me over and has a lot of potential.

They worked a good one that featured some nice control shifts. The finish was awesome and I am excited to see Garcia continue to grow as a competitor for sure. They packed a lot in here and used their four minutes very well.

Ford is one of the better women on the AEW roster. I don't know if she is good enough that I'd be accepting of a title reign, though.

I spoke recently to Zbyszko about doing an interview for the blog before I had a health setback. I need to follow back up soon.

The Pinnacle duo of Spears and Wardlow are a fun pair and feel like a good use of Dark time. That's a non-sarcastic take for those that might be curious. I'd like to see them unite more often and get squashes on the program. 

"Capitalism makes criminals of us all." I love Excalibur.

It's nice having Evans back. I am curious if they really explained well enough why Matt shifted to his current gimmick and away from the broken one, though. I like the HFO, but prefer the idea of leaning full and heavily on the broken realm. Oh well.

Kross is a random CAW made by a random, stoned highschool kid come to life.

What if you make it a point that you have to be ranked high enough, expanding the rankings that are posted to 20 or so, to be on Dynamite? Just an idea.

The Wingmen are arguably the most obscene faction in a company that has a fan friendly cult. That's the best compliment I can give outside of stating that Drake is one of the best workers in AEW despite his low position in the company.

The Lucha Bros are one of the top five teams in the world and made up of two of the most talented masked wrestlers of all time. They're one of only three teams I'd sincerely like to see go over the Jackson brothers anytime this year.

My favorite matchup for the AEW Tag Team Championship contest at All Out, by the way, is for TK to get the Motor City Machine Guns together for a shot.

I don't feel like The Wingmen got enough in to consider it more than an ES. 

Tay Fucking Conti time! I fucking love this chick and have enjoyed watching her career path. The NWA Women's Championship being essentially a secondary women's belt for AEW is something I want more of if we can't get a Dark set of belts.

Taz and the "script" part on commentary was awesome shit.

I wish they'd let the Independent Championship be on AEW television. That would be a perfect Dark singles championship for folks to challenge.

Maybe I missed it, but why are the Best Friends having issues with the HFO group? I guess HFO is off of Christian, but didn't Lucha Express align with Christian? It doesn't feel like that is over. I am fine with multiple layered rivalries and appreciate when AEW does that, but this feels just like one of those random shifts the company does at times. Maybe I just missed or forgot something.

This one is going to be two hours.

Yuta and Taylor versus Private Party was a good tag team match. It made me think of the idea that Dark could be handled, if not in the ways I mentioned above, as something similar to PWG for some reason. Random thoughts, I suppose. I'd also LOVE to see a cibernetico on Dark, if not the two bigger shows.

Jack Evans helped get an HFO V. The heels attacked after under Kris and Orange ran them off.

Dark Order time! Either the Beaver Boys or Super Smash Bros getting a title shot versus The Bucks would have rocked. Instead, we're getting a random match with the Impact belts on the line. Why get a chance at all?

One big question mark I have is if Colt and Punk have cleaned their issues up or if problems might occur when he comes in in the coming days. He was spotlighted here in a squash victory, either way.

Basically, Dark Order is all in this week. I dig it. Seeing one half of the former Gym Nasty Boyz here was interesting. Too bad they broke up.

Yeah, this one ran about two hours which is longer than I admittedly wanted to commit to tonight. Still, I have increasingly found myself falling in love with Dark, despite the nitpicks that I have. This was simply a good episode of wrestling and recommended if you're wanting something smooth and simple and don't mind a lack of MOTYC style matches. It's working for me but is an acquired taste, I'm sure.

Overall Rating: 70/100%

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