After the insane highlights of AEW’s Winter is Coming special, it’s appropriate and justifiable that last week served as a cooldown episode. Some narratives were built upon in fascinating ways — like Sting blowing off Cody’s overtures and praise to shout out Darby Allin, the Inner Circle agreeing to coexist while still hating each other and helping MJF secure a repeat victory of the Dynamite Diamond Ring — but most of the stories were brought to a simmer.
The anticipation of Kenny Omega and Don Callis moving ahead with the alliance that shocked the wrestling world fell with a thud on a helipad when their promo just rehashed their tour bus chat with Josh Matthews on Impact. This week, though, we get new developments in the new AEW landscape, including Kenny’s first challenger.
Matt Hardy & Private Party def. “Hangman” Adam Page, Alex Reynolds, and John Silver
The show opens with “Hangman” Adam Page, accompanied by Alex Reynolds and “Hungie” John Silver wearing Spirit Halloween cowboy hats (one of which they gave Hangman, only to be immediately rejected) taking on Private Party and Matt Hardy. Matt Hardy has been acting kind of heelish as of late, but he’s still serving as the Party’s mentor. Marq Quen, whose new hairstyle bears resemblance to vintage Lil Uzi Vert, engages in a staredown with Page before tagging out.
Hangman and the Dark Order’s recruitment specialists make a surprisingly good team, with Page and Silver hitting a great piggyback senton in the opening minutes of the match. As the talented, would-be generational star who “can’t win the big one” flirts with the idea of anchoring another group, Private Party step up their aggression incrementally as Hardy dominates Silver here.
Page gets the hot tag and cleans house, nearly taking Isiah Kassidy’s head off with a lariat. One of the interesting things about Dark Order is the tertiary friendships they have with non-group members — Page, Colt Cabana, Tay Conti. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll automatically find success here (or even join the group), as Private Party hit Gin & Juice and Matt Hardy tags in for the pin and the win.
Grade: It was fine. The memorable parts of the match were at the end, with Hardy securing the pinfall victory after Private Party did all the work to win the match and Page giving second thoughts to choosing to team with Reynolds and Silver.
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez congratulates MJF for his New York Times accolade (complete with plaque.) Cracks in the Inner Circle’s foundation form when Max rather disingenuously credits Chris Jericho for his great performance on “Le Dinner Debonair” and Jericho thanks him through gritted teeth. What I love about this “MJF joins the Inner Circle” story is that we all know how it’s going to end, or at least some variation of it. It’s like watching a car crash happen from a rooftop.
Segment: Someone rings the doorbell at the Rhodes’ household. It’s a present. Cody opens it. It’s an announcement that he and Brandi are anticipating the birth of their first child. It’s official: The great-grandchild of a plumber is on their way.
Cody Rhodes def. Angelico
Angelico is easily one of AEW’s most innovative wrestlers and I spent his entrance anticipating how his style will work against Cody’s meat-and-potatoes approach. Our Cool Boss starts the match with a pretty clever leaping arm drag, to which Angelico goes back to the tie-up, unafraid of Cody trying to beat him at his own game. Rhodes digs into his amateur wrestling background to chain wrestle Angelico to a stalemate, eventually hitting a dropkick on his opponent. Jack Evans jumps on the apron to interfere, Arn Anderson pulls him off, Evans naturally gets into his face to talk shit, and Arn pushes him on his ass (equally naturally). It’s a good use of their characters to add a little flavor to the match.
It seems as though impending fatherhood has made Cody more focused, as he’s not preening and flexing for the socially distanced crowd and keeping his attention on the match. Angelico uses his extensive knowledge of Mexican submission wrestling to contort Cody’s upper body and twist him into the Navarro Death Roll, but he gets starched with a Cody Cutter and that ends the match.
Grade: A pretty good, no-stakes win for Our Cool Boss. A good showcase for Angelico, whose style would be fun to watch in more singles action.
Team Taz comes out to sarcastically congratulate Cody for the win and his announcement. Taz and Starks threaten the “I Like Turtles” boy watching from the nosebleed seats again, which brings out Sting. Powerhouse Hobbs tries to step to him, but his teammates hold him back as Sting backs them all down with the bat. He makes sure to point that bat Darby’s way before heading backstage. Since before he even joined AEW, Darby has been touted as Sting’s spiritual successor — even though it’s more aesthetic-based than rooted in personality or wrestling style — so it’s a natural fit for that spiritual succession to be officially canonized.
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez tells Hypebeast Miro he’s being issued a fine of $75,000 for attacking three officials, to which Miro responds by blaming Orange Cassidy for not caring about his job. It’s funny how Cassidy’s rivals and critics go into hysterics and violence because he’s a generally apathetic person who happens to be better at his job than most. A valuable lesson to be learned: the haters come out when you shrug your way to brilliance.
Eddie Kingston Addresses His Enemies
Kingston offers a little reminder that he doesn’t care about AEW’s fans, which is the default position of an incredible heel worthy of adulation who still wants to be unlikable. (Props to Eddie for digging his heels in — no pun intended — and not taking the stance of the “cool heel”). In his head, he holds an itemized list of his enemies. First on the list is God, who unsuccessfully tried to kill him and has resolved to simply make his earthly existence a living hell. Second is PAC, who stole his friends and is now on injured reserve.
Third is Lance Archer, who as soon as Kingston utters his name storms out and brawls. The Butcher and the Blade come out for the assist. Then, the Lucha Bros — and, surprise! PAC too! — show up, causing an in-ring fight which naturally spills out of the ring and descends into controlled chaos. Archer goes for the chokeslam, but PAC bicycle kicks Kingston out of the ring, which sparks a brief disagreement between them.
Backstage Interview: Dasha interviews Dustin Rhodes, who addresses the offer from the Dark Order to join, which he passionately rebukes and issues his own offer to kick their asses in return.
The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, MJF, Jake Hager, Santana, Ortiz, and Sammy Guevara) def. Best Friends, The Varsity Blondes, and Top Flight
For the 12-man tag, Orange Cassidy joins the commentary team, putting on a headset that’s, according to Excalibur, not even plugged in. The Inner Circle — minus Wardlow, who was dealing with a family issue — hit the stage actually looking like a unit. Cassidy falls asleep during their entrance.
Brian Pillman Jr. eagerly starts the match against Chris Jericho, reminding me of the tag match in my hometown of Tacoma where Pillman squared off against Jushin “Thunder” Liger, only Jericho whips the tar off of Pillman for nearly a minute before he dropkicks Jericho out of the ring. Pillman gaining experience by facing his father’s peers is an interesting accouterment to his character, but I’m hoping he and Griff Garrison are given something to chew on more substantial than white meat babyfaces who have a member with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in his contacts list.
After the opening moments, there are fairly quick tags, presumably so everyone can get their shit in. Sammy Guevara goes for an Irish whip on Dante Martin, but holds onto his wrist and stomps his head instead of sending him into the ropes. Very savvy misdirect on Sammy’s part. Best Friends and Santana & Ortiz renew their hostilities by slugging it out, which makes way for a group hug from the assorted babyface team.
During the break Max and Sammy team up for a crazy long stalling vertical suplex. Jericho and Sammy go for the Le Sex Gods pose, which stokes feverish anticipation for their return to tag team competition. (All I want for Christmas is for Le Sex Gods to have a substantial run with the AEW Tag Team Championships.) Darius Martin hits a gorgeous standing Spanish Fly, further emphasizing Top Flight’s bright future in the tag division. After nearly having Ortiz in a troubling position, Jericho hits Garrison in the back with Floyd the Bat. Hager then hits him with F-10 (shoutout to Wardlow), which is followed up by Max begging to be tagged in, then scoring the pinfall.
Grade: Another perfectly fine tag match, only with the detriment of using a very similar finish as the multi-man tag earlier in the night.
After the match, Jericho and MJF continue beating down Garrison, until Top Flight makes the save. The Inner Circle retreats before standing tall on the stage.
Backstage Interview: Alex Marvez speaks to Thunder Rosa, who cuts him off and gets down to business. She dresses down Dr. Baker for costing her the NWA World Women’s Championship and saying she doesn’t belong in AEW. Reba (Rebel) appears, defending the honor of “[her] doctor” (finally defining the nature of her relationship with Dr. Baker), but only as a distraction for Dr. Baker to get a sneak attack in, putting Rosa in Lockjaw while Reba (Rebel) basically waterboards her.
The Acclaimed def. SCU
The Acclaimed come out a decent rap beat and Max Caster kicks some bars, acquitting himself nicely from the “meh” raps he spit two weeks ago, and Frankie Kazarian retorts with some way offbeat raps of his own (but getting in a great Men on a Mission punchline). On the White Guy Rapper Scale — which ranges from Random Sitcom Teacher to Action Bronson — Kaz would be alright if he learned how to catch the beat.
When the match actually starts, SCU secures the advantage until Anthony Bowens capitalizes by sending Kaz’s arm into the ring post. As someone more familiar with Bowens as a singles wrestler than the Acclaimed as a unit, I’m mildly impressed by their tag work. They’re still putting the pieces together (stringing together several easy wins on Dark), but they’re getting there. Caster hits Daniels in the face with a boombox, and Bowens hits a Uranagi/slam combination for the win.
Grade: Two and a half mics.
After the match, Caster kicks bars about the Young Bucks, mostly spitting juvenile, gender-based insults and calling them cucks on live television when Chuck Taylor isn’t even allowed to say the s-word. Bowens formally challenges the Bucks to a tag team title shot.
Backstage Interview: Dasha speaks to Top Flight about making the save against Jericho and MJF while they were beating down Griff Garrison. They challenge the Inner Circle members to a match next week.
Big Swole and Serena Deeb def. Ivelisse and Diamante
Ivelisse and Diamante have proven themselves as the tag team in AEW’s women’s division, Serena Deeb is the NWA World Women’s Champion, and Big Swole is the #1 ranked contender. For a new tag team combination, Deeb and Swole match up pretty nicely, except for when Ivelisse and Diamante gain the advantage on the double team while Deeb argues with referee Rick Knox (something an inexperienced tag competitor would do.) The more established team holds the advantage for most of the match, all quick tags and clubbing blows. Deeb gets tagged in and fires up, hitting a neckbreaker on Ivelisse between the ropes followed by a pretty brutal gutbuster. A Tiger Driver and a Clearwater Cloverleaf — which the announce team makes a point of noting was taught to Swole by Dean Malenko — wins the match.
Grade: If you ranked all the tag matches from this evening on a numerical scale, they would all end up dead even. It was nothing offensively bad, but nothing to write home about.
After the match, Nyla Rose runs in with Vickie Guerrero in tow and jumps Swole from behind, making it four on two, but Red Velvet evens things out by swinging a chair.
Backstage Segment: After acknowledging their neverending rivalry with Santana & Ortiz, “Good Friends” address Miro for sabotaging Orange Cassidy’s chances of winning the Dynamite Diamond Ring. Miro says he’s going to announce Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford’s wedding date at Holiday Bash next week? Well, they’re gonna be there too, because they’re festive as hell! (And if you’ve glanced at their AEW Shop section, you can tell they’re for real by virtue of all the holiday versions of their logo tee.)
FTR come out to commentary to complain about a 30-second highlight package about Jurassic Express, saying what they always say: They’re a real tag team, they do this to feed their kids, and Jurassic Express is a gimmick, a joke.
Kenny Omega def. Joey Janela
Joey Janela, accompanied by Sonny Kiss, comes out brandishing a shiny new trash can for the Cleaner. Justin Roberts’ announcements referenced Omega’s AAA Mega Championship win over the weekend and the Impact ratings spike last week (which unfortunately didn’t hold over to this week). Before Kenny enters the ring, he gets leveled by Janela’s garbage can being thrown to his head.
Meanwhile, Don Callis tries to bully Tony Schiavone into giving him his seat at the desk, but Tony tells him to kiss his ass. Callis decides to call the match on a live mic, with Kenny providing color commentary while blasting Janela with a cookie sheet. Tony touts the major increase in Impact viewership, up to six viewers from their usual three. (Tony being sassy about Impact really gave me life this week.)
Kenny still has wrestling as a heel down pat, but Janela gets a hope spot by reversing the One-Winged Angel into a poison rana. Sonny helps by setting up a table, then Janela sets Kenny on it and hits a guillotine leg drop from off the top turnbuckle through Omega and the table. Janela goes for a moonsault and misses, getting caught with two V-Triggers for his trouble. Omega hits the One-Winged Angel and of course, that’s that.
Grade: A pretty decent main event. Nothing too substantial, but not all of Kenny’s matches need to be Seven-Star barnburners.
Callis says hi to the haters as Death Triangle makes their way to the ring. PAC says they have some unfinished business, but he’s here to address injustice. Fenix never got his shot at Omega in the World Title Eliminator Tournament, and to correct this injustice, Fenix will be taking on Omega for the AEW World Championship. Kenny and Callis have a conniption fit as the show goes off the air.