SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Darby Allin defeated Billy Gunn: MAJOR MISS
The match itself was slow with lots of stalling and weak offense from Billy Gunn. Far slower than is tolerable for even a “less high spots, more psychology” match. While Gunn looks incredible for his age, I’ve seen him move better and his offense look crisper in Dark matches. I think the announcers did emphasize that Gunn was training for a body-building competition, so perhaps he didn’t want to endure any sudden movements tonight.
The finishing sequence was quite strange. Darby hit a coffin drop and only got a one count. Then he just climbed to another turnbuckle for another coffin drop while Billy Gunn could be seen crawling on his hands and knees to position himself and then turn to lay on his back to take the move. So, if we are to believe that Gunn is so disoriented that he can crawl then suddenly go flat on his back without provocation, he raised his shoulder immediately after the three count. Awful end to a very weak match. This did little to rehabilitate Darby after his loss to MJF.
I was genuinely worried they would close with this match. AEW has a pattern of putting their most marquee Rampage match in the opener instead of the main event, and I’m glad they didn’t do that this week.
Post-Match Brawl: MISS
Sting showed more energy in trying to take out the Gunn Club than Billy Gunn did in the entire match. And like in the match, Gunn’s offense looked pretty weak here as well. Regardless, this was a net miss.
Q.T. Marshall Interview: MISS
Good lines with bland delivery. I get the feeling Q.T. is just too nice a person in real life for me to buy him as someone with any hint of antagonism in him.
Inner Circle Video Promo: HIT
Simple, badass, and effective. This is the pizzaz AEW has gotten better and braver in delivering to us.
Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page Backstage Promo: HIT
This was a fine promo that made sense from a heelish perspective. Page wasn’t over modulating as usual, and I think it makes sense for the feud to continue until Inner Circle can get a shot at Masvidal.
Jade Cargill defeated Red Velvet: MINOR HIT
Not flawless, but a solid showing from both wrestlers. It certainly exceeded my expectations, and I think even a “casual” fan can be sufficiently entertained by the match, given its spot on the card.
Cargill and Velvet are gradually improving, and I enjoy watching them. It may be time to separate them until they complete their development, but I’d love to see this rivalry revisited two years from now, when they can deliver a show-stealing contest on a level of Banks-Belair.
Thunder Rosa Backstage Promo: HIT
Simple, but very good promo. The fact that this woman hasn’t had even half the television time as Britt Baker after her win over Baker is an injustice.
C.M. Punk Interview: HIT
Punk did the best he could do to hype up a match against a very non-compelling opponent. Not only did he “do his best,” I actually thought it was quite good for what it was.
Main Event Interview: HIT
Very good interview. Adam Cole gives the Elite a sense of seriousness that Kenny Omega often did not. While I have issues with the Young Bucks seemingly remaining heels after endorsing Adam Page, and the heavy-handed nature of how they are selling this feud as some kind of blood feud when their reason for fighting isn’t that strong, Matt Jackson’s jaw-jacking here was good. Jungle Boy and Christian more than held their own here as well.
Jurassic Express defeated Adam Cole and Bobby Fish: HIT
A very good main event. Cargill and Velvet warmed up the crowd and their energy carried into this match. A healthy mix of rules enforcement and high athleticism. Bobby Fish looked as good as I’ve ever seen him, and the other three are stellar as always.
The final two minutes or so were the only weak spot. When the Bucks came out, Cole acknowledged them instead of letting them sneak up to distract Jungle Boy. Jungle Boy was dumb enough put Fish aside when he was about to deliver a move on him before the Bucks were even a quarter of the way to the ring. In addition, Christian took too long to come out to make the save, and when he did, I’m not sure why he thought it would be smart to threaten Cole with a chair shot when the referee is still up and alert. I suppose it makes sense that Cole is enough of a heel to run away from that regardless, but this interference just left a sour taste in my mouth. I think the match would have been fine without it.
The commentary was mostly fine tonight. Jericho had a few hiccups and Ricky Starks is barely noticeable, but it was solid overall.
Overall Show: HIT
A skippable first quarter. That said, the rest of the show featured two good matches, recaps of some great segments from Dynamite, and some strong, original interviews. AEW is getting braver with featuring more pizazz, reminding viewers of some of their best moments from previous shows and giving wrestlers more mic time. I’m all here for it. Good episode.