A Tepid Toast: AEW Fyter Fest Night 1 Recap

Bikini babes and festive ferns return for AEW's summer extravaganza

Last week on the show, Luchasaurus and Wardlow fought like Godzilla and Mothra while Best Friends dressed for the job they want; Colt Cabana snapped his losing streak with the help of Mr. Brodie Lee; Pentagon and Fenix returned to the most stacked tag team division in all of pro wrestling; Big Swole gave Dr. Britt Baker a trash bath; and Orange Cassidy and Chris Jericho continue pouring gasoline on the fire of the blood feud. And now we’re set for a two-week card hyped to be pay-per-view worthy!

The show opens with Chris Jericho, festive and fresh as a motherfucker, celebrating Canada Day with a special maple leaf flag blazer. (Jim Ross jokes throughout the night of Don Cherry’s closet being short one jacket.) He taunts Excalibur for not getting pyro with his entrance (proving he is the greatest announcer) and offers him a starring role in The Masked Idiot. We’re off to a running start, friends!


Jurassic Express def. MJF and Wardlow

MJF cuts a pretty good promo highlighting Luchasaurus being green (“and I’m not talking about the color of his tongue”) and Jungle Boy counting his dad’s Beverly Hills 90210 money while wearing a ring jacket which looks somewhere between a rain poncho and the bathrobe my grandma wore well into her fifties. It’s so hideous, I’ll forgo making any of my usual Nordstrom Rack jokes for at least a month. Those seem like much simpler times with the frightening benefit of hindsight. Max suggests he’s going to war with Jurassic Express yet again to boost the ratings, as on the other channel NXT hot-shotted their programming to compete with Fyter Fest.

As much as I don’t feel Max is quite as good as he (or other people) think he is, he has mastered the heel art of “it’s much more imperative to be right than it is to be polite.”

MJF and Wardlow are doing all the stuff good tag teams do; quick tags, taking advantage of a distracted referee, and combining the former’s ring savvy and the latter’s impressive power. Very good stuff for a couple of competitors teaming up in the ring for the very first time. The match keeps a quick pace, to the point where I hardly noticed Marko Stunt was at ringside. Toward the middle of the match, Wardlow does a step-up hurricanrana and reverses a poison rana from Jungle Boy. Luchasaurus shows his resilience by kicking out of a low blow from Max and an unreal senton atomico from Wardlow. Marko tries to interfere and gets thrown off the stage for his trouble. A miscue between them — MJF narrowly missing Wardlow with an accidental shot from Chekov’s Dynamite Diamond Ring and eventually hitting his partner with it by being pushed into him — causes Luchasaurus to hit a huge chokeslam, a penalty kick, and a standing moonsault for the win.

Grade: A pretty great opener which builds on the simmering tension between MJF and Wardlow and showcases Jurassic Express as a team who could win any match at any time with enough focus.


AEW Women’s World Championship Match: Hikaru Shida (c) def. Penelope Ford

When Dynamite was still in its infancy, a friend of mine brought up the point of AEW intending to do for joshi what WCW did for junior heavyweight/cruiserweight wrestling. So far, AEW’s women’s division reminds me of the pre-Jericho years of WCW’s aforementioned cruiserweight division in that it consists nearly entirely of good-to-great matches with very little story and character development. I do think this will change with Dr. Britt Baker and Big Swole — unquestionably two of the biggest personalities in all of AEW — waiting in the wings to bring their rivalry to the ring.

The match starts with Aubrey Edwards wisely kicking Kip Sabian out of the ringside area before the bell rings, which he steals Shida’s kendo stick and storms off. After the bell rings, Ford brings the fight to Shida in a way we’ve never seen before, knowing this is what she has to do since her fiance is not around to help her cheat to an advantage. She’s pulling hair and doing taunting face washes; Ford dominates the match in its early going. Shida teases comeback after comeback until catching Ford in a sleeper and nailing a vicious backbreaker. Ford countered a pin off Shida’s Falcon Arrow with a pin attempt and bridges to avoid a missile dropkick.

Ford attempts to take the AEW Women’s World Championship while Kip (quite predictably) comes back with the kendo stick and gets nailed. Ford kicks out of the Falcon Arrow a second time, but is no match for the Shining Wizard that ends the match.

Grade: I’ve gotta agree with Jericho when he says this was Ford’s best match. She rose to the occasion in this high profile encounter, keeping up with the marvelously talented Shida and looking more determined than ever inside the ring.


TNT Championship Match: Cody (c) def. Jake Hager

Some notable observations from the competitor introductions:

  • Jake Hager, along with his wife Catalina (apparently the “uncrowned Miss United States” … ?) looking like a Getty Images stock photo for “conventionally attractive white American couple.”
  • Our Cool Boss Cody’s Great American Bash font tee, which may be the first Cody merch I’ve ever considered buying.
  • Justin Roberts rocking the quarantine special long hair and baggy linen pants like he’s rocking his “Jacksonville disguise.”
  • There is absolutely no reason why wrestler should be nicknamed “Rock Hard,” especially gearing up for a fight while standing next to their partner. Save that shit for OnlyFans!

Cody busts out some moves from his Georgia state amateur wrestling champion days to feel out the legit amateur wrestling badass (who also happens to still be undefeated in MMA). Of course, neither man wants to turn this into a proper grappling contest, so the “pro” moves come out quickly. The match cuts a measured pace until Hager chokes Arn Anderson, and then it picks up a notch. (During the break, Catalina steps on Cody’s back, giving Hager the advantage. Nice touch.)

Eventually, Our Cool Boss lands a spectacular Cody Cutter and springs on the offensive. Hager’s greatest gift as a wrestler is his ability to eat his opponent’s near-best shots and believably grinds his teeth through the pain in order to forge on. He’s believably tough. A couple quick slaps from Mrs. Hager and Arn to Cody and Hager, respectively leads Hager to lock in the head and arm choke. In the heat of the moment, Cody counters it into a pin for the win.

Grade: A lot less ponderous than Hager’s big matches have been, but still the least engaging match Cody has wrestled since AEW’s inception.

Segment: Darby Allin, weirdly enough, stands in a pay phone on a call to an AEW representative who says he is still not cleared to compete. But he’s still cleared to do all the crazy shit he’s been doing for the past month! Allin emerges from the surely non-functional pay phone, leading to a skate video montage which includes a zip line, someone riding a skateboard while literally on fire, and Darby backflipping onto his board to the delight of everyone around.


Private Party def. Santana & Ortiz

Jericho is apoplectic by the presence of Orange Cassidy — his t-shirt stained with week-old blood — and the fact he takes a seat near the commentator’s table. Ortiz is wearing a Puerto Rican flag mask, which wins our unofficial fashion contest of the night.

Once Hangman Page and Kenny Omega inevitably turn on each other, I feel Santana & Ortiz and Private Party could eventually carry the AEW tag division. Having come up in the Northeast independents a few years apart, they already have a decent amount of history (it shows) in addition to being two of the best tag teams in a company where tag team wrestling might be where the company puts its most creative focus.

Predictably, this match is great from bottom to top, innovative tag team moves supporting the clash of combustible personalities. (As chill as their characters usually are, Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy are absolute lunatics in the ring, especially when the pace quickens.) Matt Hardy continues his mentorship of Private Party, who are essentially two Jeff Hardys on the same team. For instance, check out the corkscrew plancha Kassidy makes look effortless. Santana & Ortiz hit a number of of double-team moves in rapid succession, so many it would be pointless for me to name them all. Quen blocks the Street Sweeper, Kassidy hits a Slingblade into a backbreaker(!!), and they both hit the Gin & Juice for the win.

Grade: This is far from the last time these two teams will face off in a great match. Even with your FTRs and your Young Bucks and your Lucha Bros, I believe these two teams will be engaged in the classic rivalry of the tag division when we look back on this time years in the future.


Interview: Taz and Brian Cage come to the ring to address their match getting pushed back from next week to the 15th. Kudos to Taz for continually suggesting Mox is ducking Cage with all the talk of being exposed to COVID-19 (and safely self-quarantining in Las Vegas). After explaining Mox has been tested twice and would be again if he showed up to Daily’s Place, Taz spells it out clearly: “You have a case of the chickenshits.” Big props to Taz for giving a real-life situation an exaggerated and self-deluded spin like a good heel should.


AEW Tag Team Championship Match: Kenny Omega and “Hangman” Adam Page (c) def. Best Friends

Trent’s mom Sue drives the challengers to their big title match in a minivan and kisses her son for good luck. A true champion’s entrance, especially if they celebrate a win with pepperoni pizza and Capri Sun. Earlier in the night, Kenny and Hangman are interviewed by Dasha Gonzales about their main event tag title match. Hangman says people have said Best Friends long deserve a title shot, and he loves them both as a tag team and as people, but when the bell rings, the word “deserve” dries up. In the words of folk hero Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, “Deserve got nothing to do with it.”

Kenny and Chuck start out with sleek evasion and savvy counter-wrestling, and then Trent and Hangman come in and brawl. Omega and Page make frequent tags and utilize the full ten-count to double-team Trent. FTR come out with lawn chairs and brewskis to scout for their yet to be announced (but ultimately inevitable) title match. Kenny and Hangman continue their strategy of efficiency, grinding Trent down while making sure they each stay fresh. Chuck finally tags in and hits a beautiful tope con hilo, landing on his feet and smiling wildly at the hard cam. Hangman takes on both Chuck and Trent with great flurry of offense, ending with a plastering lariat. Moments later, Chuck hits Kenny with a gnarly piledriver, adding to the hard-hitting feel of the match. Trent dodges the Last Call and Best Friends hit Strong Zero, which Kenny breaks up. Chuck stuffs Kenny with an Awful Waffle, but Hangman eventually hits a Buckshot Lariat and it’s an academic three-count.

Maybe Sue can make spaghetti as a consolation dinner.

Grade: Another great match that could have been built up with more story; pretty much the narrative of the night. I’d love to see these cats go at it again with four to six weeks of build. 

FTR takes the ring to share their brews with the tag champs, and the two teams share a toast before Kenny pours out the peace offering. The Young Bucks storm the ring before things get too heated, but all three teams end up arguing amongst each other to close out the show.


Martin Douglas

The unofficial poet laureate of Tacoma, WA, Martin Douglas is an essayist, critic, and journalist specializing in the fields of music (KEXP.org, Bandcamp Daily, Pitchfork) and pro wrestling (Seattle Weekly, quite a few online zines). He's also a hip-hop beatmaker, fiction writer, disposable camera photographer, and all-around renaissance man.

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