Red's Pro-Wrestling Digest no.124: Better than and on the road to 200 (AEW Spark)

We're on the final week of July, on the road to Dynamite 200, with a super stuffed Spark.

Orange retained against Fox in a good one. Flash finish again, after these two CHIKARA vets showed off a lot of athleticism. Fox would fuck up the champs glasses and throw out a cheap shot after. He started to walk to the back looking shocked at his actions and then dealt with Darby acting pissed at him.

A bit awkward in execution, especially Darby's part, but if it means AR Fox gets more TV time than I am all in. Every encounter I've had with the dude has been great and he has trained more of your favorites than you know.

Mox hit a death rider on the champ after for having the nerve of existing.

Perry, wearing an I beat Hook shirt, joined Tony in the ring for a chat. He mocked the FTW Championship's lineage, ECW, and the fans. He's trying harder than he did as a face with his promo work, at least. It wasn't great, but it was a clear improvement. Jerry Lynn came out to stop the ECW hate and to plug the brand.

For the record, I think ECW was one of the best things that ever existed in the wrestling game.

Perry and Jerry made for fun TV in nothing else.

Next, PAC and the Gravity in singles action. The masked man did have a match on AEW once before, taking on Kip earlier this year in a losing effort. He's since been on Ring of Honor shows a few times, getting wins in most of the appearances. I've seen him a few times throughout the years. He's fine, but honestly of all the dudes to come out of the IWRG scene he's not one I was hoping was due for this type of role. Oh well.

This kind of failed in execution, for me. Oh well, again.

The good news is Darby and Swerve put in for another chapter in their excellent series. In the modern US scene, they actually have one of the best active sets right now. Go back and watch their older stuff! Here's a playlist of their a large chunk of their rivalry. Oh, and here's the AEW Spark playlist for this review set.

This was great with an awesome, expected death spot near the end. That is the hardest part of the right, folks. I'm sure that's news to readers. Sarcasm aside, this was another sick chapter worth your time. Fox got involved in the finish, Nick Wayne ran out for the save after Darby took the L, then ate shit for his trouble. Get Hero in to teach striking, Tony. And then someone to fix the constant production notes.

AR Fox stole Allin's skateboard.

Baker took on Taya next. This was a bad look. You can tell what they were aiming for, but it just did not land. A match that made both look worse as a result of it existing, in fact. Britt looked greener than she has in years and the Perros del Mal chica didn't hold it together super well. They are still treating Britt as a big deal and Taya has been positioned as relevant, so I gave it a look but you really shouldn't. Sorry if you already wasted time on it. MLW kind of TV. WWE women's division stuff from the Divas era level stuff. Please, give this division the love it deserves and the effort and attention with it, Tony. Fuck!

Last, BCC's Mox and Claudio took on the Lucha Bros and Best Friends in a match set to be a division statement. A fine, logical match to main event this week and a nice way to showcase what AEW's tag team field is looking like. Orange would come down, looking for some retribution. Yuta ate a fist, then Mox and him would brawl.

Penta would get the win, driving Trent into the mat, to remind people that he and Fenix are still an elite duo.

A pretty good contest overall.

They all, along with Wheeler, would brawl after. Again, Tony, get Hero to teach these fuckers how to strike.

A mixed bag Dynamite that landed well at times and not at others.

Rampage had yet another battle royal, this one for a shot at the tag belts, as we move to Friday for another look at the division. Note that longterm readers know I tend to hate a bit on battle royals. I just really don't care much for 'em and rarely find exceptions. Lucha Underground managed it often. Few others do or can. That includes the Royal Rumble. I will note that I enjoyed Big Bill and Cage getting the nod, though them closing with Butcher and Blade as the other option diminished the outcome due to the predictability factor. A way of pushing them into anti-hero facey territory? A bit funny seeing three teams work a good main event match and it wasn't for a title shot, but this mostly average battle royal that opened AEW's low-effort weekly series got that reward.

The only good thing I have to say is that I am hopeful for the title match they'll get.

In the six-spot, we have Nyla Rose taking her latest L to Hikaru Shida. It's been about a year since I think I've seen Nyla actually win a match of semi-relevance in AEW. Last May she had a random title match and she worked a lot of YouTube, Rampage, and dark match content for most of 2023. Just a reminder of where the former champ is positioned right now.

Shafir got involved a bit, ate a kendo stick to the ribs, and then Shida cracked Nyla moments later for the nod. Short, but solid with the right result. Toni and crew would come out after as Shida screamed at her.

Our last stretch is here as we hit Collision now, starting with a ladder match to continue the Andrade drama with HoB. The mask that El Idolo wears during entrances was hung above the ring, which felt a tad laughable to me, to be honest. The matches have been good but they have phoned in a bit of the story, relying largely it seems on their past issues in WWE as being the most important aspect.

Ladder matches have a formula that tends to work well and they did well with it, thanks largely to their willingness to go back and forth with some great spots. They even ran the handcuffed spot, with some help from Julia. AEW using cuffs has been a bit rough at times, but this one was fine enough. Andrade getting out, cuffing Buddy, then tossing the key into the crowd was a fun sight. Flair's adopted baby boy climbed slow for dramatics, Julia jumped on his back to slow him down, and gave Matthews time to get out thanks to bolt cutters. Shortly after, the two House of Black members would go through a table together and Andrade would get his entrance attire back.

A bit TNA, but fun. I liked TNA, folks. Some of the time.

Suzuki and Darby next? Why not!? It was a fine battle that actually saw Allin go over with a flashpin finish. Of course. Politics is really becoming visible more and more, by the way. Unrelated. Teased drama after went nowhere, really. I'm always glad to see Minoru on TV.

Bandido's brother, a tie that got him on TV to begin with, was stumped by the king of TV next. A weird choice, admittedly, given the ongoing tournament on Ring of Honor. Oh well.

Punk joined Tony, painted an X on a copy of the AEW Championship, and rambled until Starks came to ramble some himself. This all set up a match between the two with Steamboat set to officiate. It was a clunky segment that needed a lot less time or a lot more organization.

A cutout of Jay White and Bullet Club Gold beat whichever Martin brother happens to not be injured right now, Vikingo, and Action. It was okay. Admittedly the Gunn kids don't excite me much, but they were okay here. A bit choppy.

The women's match of the night was good. It was also random. The last time Kiera Hogan was on AEW television was back in April, taking an L to Julia Hart in a 3-minute match on an episode of Rampage. Martinez had last been seen in AEW back in June in a four-way contender match on Rampage that was won by Skye Blue. She has been on ROH television, but before that was last seen in AEW in November of last year. So, having the one women's match of the night be this, with no build and nothing super relevant coming out, makes it a bit depressing. The lack of effort behind the women's division continues to be obvious. A random main event occasionally doesn't mean it's a healthy, well-used portion of the company. Tony not being a pervert, as best as I can tell, doesn't mean things are going well. You can only mention WWE so many times, folks. You know who you are!

Willow with a save after was the only thing of note.

FTR with yet another awesome defense, this time against MJF and Adam Cole, closed us out. My kids don't really care about Cole so I didn't get it, but Target seems to have an exclusive figure of the guy right now for those that might care. Anyway, while I cannot say they surpassed the Bullet Club Gold matches that aired prior on Collision, I can say I found this to be fantastic action coupled with strong story work. I'd actually call it the AEW match of the week and certainly the best thing of this pull collection. Oh, and MJF hitting the shattered dreams was a nice bonus.

A rollup finish saw FTR retain. A smart choice given the circumstances.

After, handshakes with the champs and Cole while MJF cried in the corner. 

"I blew it! I lost the match!" The champ got in position to strike Cole, eventually tossed the belt down, and they hugged it out. I am really behind this Better Than You, Bay Bay program. Who doesn't love bromance!?

I included the post-match promo segment. MJF said The Pinnacle failed because he didn't recognize FTR's quality. Called himself arrogant. These moments after shows go off TV tend to be fun. The extra stuff at shows is pretty entertaining in general and a big part of why people come back for the experience. The drunk dude in the USA shirt looking semi-excited about tequila was a spirit animal for some, I'm sure.

Saturday nights are clearly getting the most energy behind it right now from AEW, because Collision is the best thing they have going right now. Remember when Futurama came out and The Simpsons started dipping in quality? 

A quick note on the FTR gun situation. Dash is (allegedly) an idiot. Kids shouldn't play with guns. Not even CM Punk's kids. As I am sure you know by now, according to reporting from the Orlando Sentinel, Dash Wheeler was arrested in Orlando late last week on one count of aggravated assault with a firearm. 

In an official statement, AEW released the following:
"AEW has been made aware of the charge, and we are closely monitoring the situation. He is fully cooperating with local authorities."

With a major match scheduled between FTR and the Young Bucks set for the 27th, it poses a major question. Now, a lot of folks of relevance in AEW were not aware that this was an issue at all, despite the whole ordeal occurring back in July. He plead not guilty on August 3rd, for the record. So, if Tony knew it means he thought nothing would happen. If he didn't, it's the latest example of things going a bit out of control in AEW. Note that the crime has a 3-year minimum sentence in the state of Florida if convicted.

Update: Wanna watch the arraignment? Jump about 30-minutes ahead of THIS.

With that, I close this chapter of the Digest. Thank you for reading, as always, and look for Impact, CMLL, and more AEW coverage in the next few releases from this series. Be kind to yourself and others, wolfpac!

Match Ratings

  1. International Title: Orange(c) vs Fox ***1/2
  2. PAC vs Gravity NR
  3. Darby vs Swerve ***3/4
  4. Baker vs Taya *1/2
  5. Lucha Bros vs BCC vs Best Friends ***1/2
  6. Contenders Battle Royal **1/4
  7. Rose vs Shida **3/4
  8. Ladder: Andrade vs Buddy ***3/4
  9. Suzuki vs Darby ***
  10. Joe vs Gravity NR
  11. BCG vs Vikingo, Action, Darius **3/4
  12. Kiera vs Mercedes ***
  13. AEW Tag Titles: FTR(c) vs Better Than You, Bay Bay ****

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