Black Roses for My Enemies: AEW Fyter Fest Night 1 Recap and Review

Or: The Ricky Starks Swindle

Last Week’s Notable Happenings on AEW Dynamite:

  • Tommy End is dead and so is Aleister. In their stead is Malakai Black, who nearly roundhouse kicked the heads off of Arn Anderson and Our Cool Republican Boss Cody Rhodes. As if he hasn’t already been one of my favorite wrestlers since working EVOLVE and PWG, kicking the snot out of Cody just might make him my favorite wrestler now.
  • Speaking of Cody, he won against QT Marshall in an almost-great strap match. Because of course he did.
  • “Hangman” Adam Page temporarily put his self-doubt to the side to save his friends in the Dark Order from an Elite beatdown. Then he faced down Kenny Omega, whose championship he will be inevitably challenging for sometime soon.
  • MJF challenged Chris Jericho to a weird stipulation gauntlet match, which Jericho will have to win to get his hands on Max’s extremely punchable face.
  • In last week’s pretty insane main event, the Young Bucks retained their AEW World Tag Team Championships over Eddie Kingston & Penta El Zero Miedo via shenanigans (as per usual). 

One thing I love about this Fyter Fest concept is AEW’s iron will: Their ability to commit to a joke that was dated nearly upon arrival is admirable and admittedly kind of charming. Thankfully, more often than not Fyter Fest, even as a two-week event, has a good-sized handful of pay-per-view quality matches good enough to almost make you forget they still haven’t booked Ja Rule as a guest host.

mox v karl
Courtesy of AEW

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Match: Jon Moxley def. Karl Anderson

After a nice little paternity leave explained in canon as injury at the hands of the Elite, Mox is back! His head was shaved—not bald like the dirt sheets and clickbait sites were raving over—showing that as a dad he’s going to give up the ghost trying to mask that receding hairline. Now that’s a tough guy move. 

To start the match, Eddie Kingston attacked Doc Gallows from behind with a pipe and they brawled all around the crowd and eventually to the backstage area. Also a nice touch is the fact this match was contested under New Japan Pro Wrestling rules—which include a 20-count when a wrestler leaves the ring. The match started in earnest in true NJPW fashion, with both wrestlers spending the opening moments after the bell slugging it out and suplexing each other on the floor. 

For all my criticisms of the Coors Light-drinking, former junior college football bro vibes of Anderson, he looked good in the ring here, almost dialing it back to his early-2010s main event gaijin days in New Japan. Early in the match, he hit a dropkick that launched Mox clear off the apron and into the guard rail. After seemingly losing his balance, Anderson dropped Mox on his head brutally, making it look way more real than the highly choreographed stuff some of the undercard wrestlers are guilty of leaning too heavily on. The match was focused and intense, with not much time wasted on taunts. To end the match, Mox caught Anderson out of the top rope Gun Stun, hit him with a short-arm clothesline, and then nailed the Paradigm Shift for the win.

Backstage Segment: Jake Roberts tried to talk sense into Lance Archer, but Archer wasn’t trying to hear it, so he has officially challenged Mox to another Texas Death Match for the IWGP U.S. title. Their Texas Death Match at Wrestle Kingdom 14 was arguably Archer’s finest match, so it’s certainly an intriguing proposition to run that one back.

Backstage Interview: Alex Abrahantes—apparently trying to look edgier by wearing a fedora?—interviewed Andrade El Idolo, who apparently has been given the permission to kick down every forbidden door and bring all sorts of championships back to AEW, but Andrade brought a question to Alex: “What is a Death Triangle?” 

Uh oh. Something tells me this is going to lead to a very violent confrontation. (Side note: Though I get why AEW is subtitling Andrade’s promos in theory, his words aren’t really that difficult to understand? If you’re going to subtitle a promo that sounds like perfectly good English to me, why not just let him speak in Spanish?)

Courtesy of AEW

FTW Championship Match: Ricky Starks def. Brian Cage (c)

Starks, as talented as he is, has been showing his ass for months, so it’s easy to predict he’s going to be beaten from pillar to post by Cage, right? Taz was on the call, really bringing home how their rivalry has been tearing Team Taz apart and something has to give. Starks was at his heel best, but as a son of Texas, the crowd gave him a hero’s welcome. Cage muscled Starks around from the onset, targeting Starks’ injured neck and gorilla pressing him with ease. Starks turned the tables by using his quickness and targeting Cage’s arm—occasionally biting his fingers in the process. 

Cage caught Starks off of a dive—with ONE ARM—and started doing Starks curls with the good arm until Starks countered with the crucifix bomb. Though he didn’t show ring rust, the strain of fighting a monster like Cage was painted on Starks’ face. Cage almost killed Starks with a pumphandle facebuster, but Starks got his foot on the bottom rope to stop the count. And the crowd went apeshit when he caught Cage in a sit-out powerbomb. Starks went for the FTW Championship and Powerhouse Hobbs pulled it away from him, ensuring this fight was going to be fair. Hook distracted the referee while Hobbs clobbered Cage with the belt, followed by a Starks spear and a pin for a new FTW Champion!

cody rhodes mad sad
Courtesy of AEW

Our Cool Republican Boss Stands Up for Arn

Cody Rhodes interrupted the announcer break to rant on a headset about Malakai Black, in an impassioned promo about how kicking the shit out of a 62-year-old man is not how you make a name for yourself. To a mixed reaction, Cody took a mic and demanded a fight with Black. In a very naturalistic tone, Black snickered at Cody for all the fans cheering (probably hearing the sound of me cheering all the way from Tacoma) and told a parable about a champion horse who was taken behind the barn and put out of his misery when he didn’t have the champion’s spirit anymore. Really awesome stuff; it should never be understated just how gifted a storyteller Black is. Cody again demanded for Black’s presence and the lights went out in the arena. When the lights came back on, Black appeared in the ring, forcing a pull-apart brawl between him and Cody.

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez took a walk-and-talk with Tully, who found Santana & Ortiz waiting for him in a dark corner of the arena’s many concourses. They taunted him with a fake crowbar—”We were taught to respect our elders”— to send him and FTR a message. I’ve been very intrigued by AEW giving these teams time to let this story breathe, whether they extend it to All Out or not.

hangman page kenny omega
Courtesy of AEW

“Hangman” Adam Page Faces His Demons and Issues a Challenge

To a rousing ovation, Hangman entered the arena to speak to Tony Schiavone. Hangman spoke of his failure of capturing the AEW World Championship, his goal since “literal day one.” Before he could officially challenge for the title, Don Callis interrupted and came out with the full complement of the Elite in tow. Callis told Page deep down he knows he’s not that guy. Matt Jackson decided to hop into the ring and air his grievances to his face: ditching the Elite, hanging with losers like the Dark Order, “the sad, lonely, drunk cowboy.” Matt told Page he’s destined to become wrestling’s next great tragedy, saying he doesn’t have the balls to hit him, to which Hangman knocked him on his ass. The Elite tried to jump in but the Dark Order held them off. Hangman said he’s not leaving without a match and neither is Kenny. 

Instead of the match Hangman wanted, Kenny proposed a 10-man elimination tag match. Hangman would retort with a stipulation: if Hangman and the Dark Order win, not only does Hangman get a shot at the AEW World Championship, but the Young Bucks have to put their tag titles on the line too. Kenny upped the stakes and said if they don’t win the 10-man tag, not only does Dark Order not get a tag title shot, but Hangman has to hang up the cowboy boots and go back to the tobacco farm without a title shot. Hangman, of course, accepted the challenge. In addition to slowly summoning up the courage to conquer his looooong-simmering self-doubt, Hangman came across here as an egalitarian hero, making sure his buddies came up along with him as they’ve provided valuable emotional support in the year since Kenny and the Bucks formally ditched him.

Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez asked Chris Jericho about the “Five Labours of Jericho,” to which Jericho offered a mythology lesson (Hercules won) and pledged he would walk through fire to ruin Max’s life. Shawn Spears hit Jericho in the throat while Max introduced the first labor, which will take place next week: A match with Shawn Spears, where Jericho is forbidden to use a chair while Spears has free reign with the weapon. Makes sense, as Spears is best suited for the role of miniboss.

christian cage matt hardy
Courtesy of AEW

Christian Cage def. Matt Hardy

AEW’s willingness to accept they aren’t the only wrestling company on Earth provides for some good built-in storylines for what would be first-time matchups in the company. The fact that over twenty years of wrestling each other, Christian has yet to notch a win over Hardy? Super interesting and offers added incentive for him to do crazy shit like dive over the turnbuckle onto Hardy on the outside. Christian looked great here, laying in offense like a man with something to prove and selling Hardy’s DDT onto the ring steps like he was dead. Matches like these are why people refer to Christian as one of the most underrated in-ring talents of all-time, as he managed to craft a very compelling match against Hardy, who is at least a couple steps slower than his prime (but still does great character work).

Christian went for the Killswitch while Hardy grabbed the referee and mule-kicked him low, but the resulting Twist of Fate only got the two-count. Christian was locked into the Leech on the outside and almost didn’t make the 10-count, but slid into the ring at 9, hit the Killswitch, and kept his undefeated streak intact. 

After the match, the Hardy Family Office circled the wagons to jump Christian, but Jurassic Express came out to run them off.

Backstage Segment: “There was once a man who was rich, and a hot wife who can do the splits. The man was hot too, but he was lost.” Miro told a story of a man who rose to be God’s Favorite Champion. He will not only defend his championship with his life, but also with his opponent’s life. These short Miro segments continue to be choice content, as Miro does so much more in these bite-sized vignettes than most of his peers do in the full space between commercial breaks.

britt baker dmd
Courtesy of AEW

Dr. Britt Baker Speaks Ahead of Her First Title Defense

Dr. Baker preceded her interview by hugging her friend Tony Schiavone, who said people are concerned for her well-being. She replied by saying the wounds have healed and she’s still the baddest bitch on the block, but the bigger challenge is keeping Nyla Rose relevant. Dr. Baker said Rose needs the title to retain any sort of significance in professional wrestling, and while the title makes her the hottest thing in pro wrestling, without it she’s still one of the top stars in the industry. 

Backstage Segment: Mox opined on surviving Lance Archer, and Archer has still never stopped coming after him. He’s not the hunted, he’s the hunter. There is only one true boogeyman in New Japan Pro Wrestling and AEW, and Mox is the one.

sammy wheeler
Courtesy of AEW

Sammy Guevara def. Wheeler Yuta

Making his Dynamite debut, Yuta has been one of the standout talents on the independent scene for a while and got a lot of exposure for his wins over the past few weeks on Dark: Elevation. Sammy, another Texas native, received a hero’s welcome—people are jazzed to see their hometown favorites live and in person after over a year of not being able to see wrestling live. (I’m sure $8 beers also help tremendously.) As predicted, the match started out with a very fast pace; lots of counters and elusive energy. Early on, Sammy went for a shooting star press but Yuta got the knees up and later almost got knocked out of the ring but held onto the ropes to slip back in. After a stepover springboard cutter, Sammy hit the GTH for the quick win.

Backstage Interview: Tony Schiavone spoke to QT Marshall, who poured a smoothie over the head after lamenting being buried by the golden shovel. I’m still loving Marshall’s Tony Soprano circa ‘99 chic with the bowling shirts. I’d pay good money to be a fly on the wall for QT’s therapy sessions.

yuka sakazaki
Courtesy of AEW

Yuka Sakazaki def. Penelope Ford

Sakazaki started out fresh in her first AEW match in quite a while with some very crisp arm drags and later with a springboard cannonball senton. Ford looked great here as well, leaning into her submission holds and selling very well for Sakazaki in her triumphant return. The match was very hard fought in places, with moves looking like they connected with stiff credibility. Sakazaki’s deadlift vertical suplex was absolutely beautiful, as was her spinning back elbow. Ford was game in firing back, though, showing the tremendous improvement she made in the ring in 2020. Sakazaki won the match with a Magical Girl Splash. A good showing for both competitors who worked super hard to make the returning Sakazaki look like the reemerging hero she is.

coffin match
Courtesy of AEW

Coffin Match: Darby Allin def. “All Ego” Ethan Page

A collection of indie wrestler extra pall bearers delivered the coffin to the ring right before a focused Ethan Page made his way to the ring. He took a long look at the coffin, adorned with black roses and Darby’s famous saying, “Nothing’s over until you’re underground.” A very serious Darby Allin skateboarded down the ring and hopped into it before running and jumping at Page viciously to start the match—to reveal the steel plate strapped to his back. Scorpio Sky jumped out of the coffin to attack Darby, and Sting came out to even the odds once again. They brawled at ringside as Ethan Page dismantled the bottom turnbuckle, and Page and Darby ended up making their way to ringside as well.

During the break, Page gorilla pressed Darby among the throng of fans and threw him over the barricade and onto the concrete. Bringing the steel steps into the ring, Page shoulder blocked Darby as he tried to dive onto him. Page took the steel hook from the turnbuckle, talked to it, and hooked it around Darby’s neck, pulling him down sharply to the mat. Darby in turn fish-hooked Page with the hook and attempted to seal Page in the casket to no avail. Darby Allin matches are full of violent grace notes that can only come from a mind warped in childhood by skate video injury reels and Jackass. Both men fought inside the coffin, leading to Darby biting Page’s fingers. A bloody Page attempted to slam Darby off of the steps, but Darby chop blocked him and nearly went for the Coffin Drop. Page hit Darby with an Ego’s Edge onto the steel steps and tried to finish him off, but Darby gouged Page’s eyes and bit him, following it up with a skateboard foot stomp, sealing Page into the coffin for the win.

A physically and emotionally exhausted Darby celebrated his win to a rapturous ovation as the show came to a close, and then Coffin Dropped right through the closed coffin for the exclamation point.