MORDECAI JONES / THE WRESTLING AESTHETIC
Part 2 of 2: AEW 10.23.2019
Matches: Lucha Bros d. Private Party to advance to the finals of the Tag Team Championship Tournament Approx 13 mins, ***3/4, SCU d. Dark Oder to advance to the finals of the Tag Team Championship Tournament Approx 13 mins, ***1/4, Kenny Omega d. Joey Janela Approx 11 mins, ***1/4, Young Bucks d. Best Friends Approx 12 mins, ***, Britt Baker d. Jamie Hayter Approx 9 mins, Jon Moxley/Pac fought to a time limit draw, Approx 12 mins, ***1/4
FEATURED BOUTS OF THE WEEK:
Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix v. Private Party
Approx 13 mins shown – ***3/4
We jump right into the action with no pre-amble whatsoever, and that’s fitting for this absolute sprint. Private Party is emerging as one of AEW’s best home-cooked (for the mainstream) products and they seem to get more crisp and varied from match to match. It’s never a bad thing to have the Lucha Bros lead the way, and we’re treated to breakneck action that uses innovative angles and entries into moves that helps it stand out from the rest of the show. 1 of 3 tag team matches this episode, proving Matt & Nick Jackson were dead serious about putting tag team action on a pedestal and legitimizing an important part of professional wrestling. Given the damage done to tag team wrestling by WWE over the past couple of decades, it’s a welcome change. Private Party will inevitably face comparisons to WWE’s Street Profits (I still think that should have been “Prophets”) and while PP are billed from “a location where you need an invitation”, I feel like the Profits invite one-and-all to their backyard BBQs – a much more babyface-friendly proposition.
Nonetheless, the crowd loves The Party, and we get Marc Quen and Fenix trading some high flying stuff to start. When Quen loses focus and goes after Pentagon, Fenix catches him in a release german suplex and the Luchas go to work on a lengthy double team, 5 count be damned. Quen catches some air and double dropkicks the Bros, tagging in Kassidy to get Pentagon out of the ring, a recurring theme in the match. Kassidy clamps Fenix into a Camel Clutch and Quen leapfrogs to stomp his head into the mat. Fenix rolls out only to have Quen flip off the top, crashing into Fenix on the outside. Pentagon charges in to confront Kassidy but gets hit with a tornado DDT. Quen back in with a 450 onto Pentagon for 2. Pentagon unleashes some kicks and turns things around by sending Quen into the Lucha corner, where Fenix unloads his own kick, then hits a springboard (off the 2nd rope, to the top rope) blind reverse stomp, which is probably the coolest stomp I’ve seen in this age of over-stomping (thanks, Finn Balor!). Yet another, more sinister stomp comes as Fenix alley-oops Pentagon into Quen, who is positioned with his legs spread in the corner (seriously). Now it’s the Lucha Brothers performing some human architecture placing Quen on Kassidy’s shoulders and dropkicking him – which “forces” Quen to Poison Rana his own partner! I’m not usually a fan of those “forced” maneuvers but you can’t deny them when they’re this pretty. Fenix AGAIN springboarding from the 2nd to 3rd ropes into a moonsault to the ouside. This is tight, crisp Fenix. When he’s on, he’s maybe the best flyer in the world, and Jim Ross is suitably excited. Inside the ring, Pentagon delivers his pumphandle driver on Kassidy but only gets 2. We get the match’s one sloppy sequence next when Quen fights back with a hurricanrana slung a bit too low – he impressively backflips out of a counter-hurricanrana from Fenix, tagging in Kassidy – Kassidy tries a springboard off the 2nd rope and trips up into another rana. He makes up for it with an impressive reverse springboard-into-hurricanrana on Fenix, then trips up Pentagon sending him to the outside where he delivers a suicide dive and a slick quebrada.
Back in, he wraps Fenix into a crucifix bomb for a close 2. Frantic double-teaming from Private Party now, with Quen looking visibly winded (you can’t blame him at this point) and Kassidy now hitting a twisting dive on Pentagon. Poor Penta can’t get a break in this one. Quen takes off his jacket cuz shit is getting real and lands an effortless sky high shooting star press, but Fenix refuses to give in. Crowd is loving it. Fenix recovers and stops Kassidy’s entrance, sending him to the mat. Fenix lifts Quen into a Razor’s Edge, but it becomes a Gory Bomb that includes a legdrop on Kassidy from the sitout! Just remarkable ingenuity there. Pentagon is finally tagged in and unleashes swingblades and backbreakers, and threatens the package piledriver on Quen with Fenix perched on the top. Quen breaks it up and ranas Fenix off the top into Kassidy’s cutter for the Gin and Juice. But Fenix isn’t legal, so they go after Pentagon who counters Gin and Juice by flipping Kassidy into a huge CANADIAN DESTROYER! Pentagon BREAKS THE ARM and scoops Quen into the Package Piledriver once again, with Fenix delivering the final stomp and ensuring victory with a crazy fast dive onto Kassidy on the outside. Breathtaking finish. It was flippy, it was floppy, it was flubby at one point, but it was undeniably competitive and entertaining. Quen and Fenix get some major shine in this one and AEW remains the place to be for consistent high level tag team action. As the Lucha Bros retreat to the back, Fenix exclaims “we are the best team…IN THE UNIVERSE!” and he’s not wrong.
PAC v. Jon Moxley
Approx 12 mins shown – ***1/4
Or, as announcer Justin Roberts will have you believe, JiiiiiiON Moxley. Before he can even finish fancifully elongating names, that Bastard PAC is out with a chair and smashing Moxley down the ramp, trying to take our mind off the fact that we’re seeing Neville v. Dean Ambrose (fun fact: it was 3 months after Moxley/Ambrose lost the WWE Champioship in 2016 that Neville returned to WWE television as the centerpiece of the Cruiserweight division). PAC chokes Moxley with his own leather jacket , sends him into the railings and heads into the ring. There, he patiently waits for a crawling Moxley to gather himself and join him, as he mockingly applauds. It’s those little things that solidify PAC as the eminent sinister lone wolf heel in all of wrestling. Moxley retreats when PAC threatens an early Black Arrow splash, so PAC hits his twisting plancha over the top rope instead. The beatdown continues with Moxley trying to recover from the sneak attack, but every burst of offense rolls off PAC and results in running knees and vicious kicks. Moxley asks for some more, sir, so PAC really lays into him and busts out the standing shooting star press for 2.
Over on the apron, PAC tries for a german suplex but Moxley hooks PAC’s head and hits the bulldog, with PAC executing the completely vertical RVD-like headstand sell much to Jim Ross’ horror. PAC fights back into an exchange of elbows but Moxley eventually nails the inside-out clothesline. Now it’s Pete Dunne’s X-Plex from Moxley to set up the running Regal Knee, but PAC sees it coming and rolls out. Tope suicida from Moxley and Tony Schiavone randomly marks out (“I love a tope suicida! I do, man!”) And for those keeping note, this was a “I’m grabbing your head” variation, whereas former SHIELD stable-mate Seth Rollins utilizes the more passive aggressive “I’m gently pushing you” version. We get the 5 minute TV time limit warning, so Moxley uncorks the Regal Knee, but when it’s not enough for 3 he ties PAC up in the Texas Cloverleaf. Jim Ross says “where’s Dean Malenko when you need him?” when you’d think Tony Schiavone would be the one making references to the Man of 1,000 Holds. PAC escapes and sets up a devastating Super Falcon Arrow (and it’s PAC, so you know it was delivered tightly to the neck!) for 2. He follows it up with a 450 splash from the apron to the floor as a set up for another Black Arrow attempt with just 1 minute to go.
Moxley avoids it and nails The Paradigm Shift DDT (just as I was getting used to knowing and loving it as The Death Rider) and crawls over to make the cover, but PAC pops out with just 2 seconds left. Gotta wonder if someone messed something up with that finish, as it would have made more sense to protect Moxley’s finish and achieve the same desired outcome. An enraged Moxley gives the ref a Paradigm Shift of his own, then yells “time limit my ass!” to take us off the air. Both men retain their undefeated status in singles competition. This one was all about PAC and Moxley was just along for the ride. It was an undeniably spectacular showcase and I can’t say enough about how satisfying it is to see PAC main eventing on television after receiving zero reward and multiple slaps to the face from WWE for his MVP-like effort in 2017. PAC made this a worthy main event – with intriguing booking that helped make it somewhat memorable – in the face of NXT’s molten hot and far superior main event match and BONKERS post-match segment.
– The Lucha Bros attack on Christoper Daniels telegraphed the finals of the tournament but certainly added a solid storyline. Most of the time, tournament finals seem a bit random, so this little bit of extra forethought and effort is appreciated, especially since one would think victory is all but assured for the red hot Lucha Bros.
– Make of this what you will, but the Dark Order, with their occult-like gimmick, seem like they would be a better fit on Impact TV. They retain the most “indy” feel of the tag teams on this show, which is not necessarily a knock on them or their style. They utilize the typical big man/flyer combo, but it’s an interesting twist with Uno showing a great mind for pro wrestling and Grayson exhibiting completely unexpected (at first glance) and underrated athleticism. I first saw this combination of tag teams (Kazarian/Sky and the then-Super Smash Brothers) at an ROH show in 2018, and indeed, it was a show-stealing match. Very consistent workers, but operating in the deep, dark shadows of the BET-featured SCU & Jurassic Express, and the flashy Lucha Bros and Private Party).
– Incredibly funny moment during SCU/Dark Order comes as Evil Uno sets up his lifting reverse STO, which completely perplexes Schiavone and Ross. Assuming Sky has reversed a regular STO from Uno, they’re left speechless and confused as Uno applies the lateral press.
– Chris Jericho and his Inner Circle make their way through the crowd (sans Bellator-bound Jake Hager) towards a press box, brandishing tickets. I still think this is far too random a combination of pro wrestlers. You have to love Jericho rooting for the heels during the tournament match while enjoying some popcorn.
– We get Janela/Omega II and Jim Ross tries to convince us Janela is “one of the best in the world”. Not buying it, Jim Ross. For veteran viewers, the optics of the Janela/Omega combo were strange from the start. I caught Janela in a gym in 2017 and a bar in 2018. Meanwhile, Omega was owning PWI/Meltzer/New Japan and every hipster at said bar who was clad in Bullet Club merchandise. They delivered another solid match in a perfect example of elevating an indy hack via a so-far strangely underutilized Ace. And I mean hack in the nicest way. Joey Janela is always a barrel of fun and has only improved since 2017.
– Cody Rhodes confronting Jericho and criticizing the “invisible wall” in WWE promo face-offs was ill-timed on a night where NXT wrestlers were literally thrown into the (planted) crowd. They need to avoid the potshots and focus on what they’re working with. That said, this segment saw Cody working with a couple of 90’s mainstays in Dustin Rhodes and Diamond Dallas Page, creating a scenario straight out of a 90’s Nitro segment with the wild brawl around the arena. We even had a reference to Goldberg punching through glass (Cody being far too intelligent to not wrap his fist in MJF’s scar, naturally). It was fun, but again, ultimately a segment that both paid homage and criticized current mainstream product. Meanwhile, I’m tuning into Dynamite for something fresh and new.
– By the time the Young Bucks emerged for their tag match, the 3rd of the night, I was feeling complete tag team exhaustion. There was a lot of high end stuff in this one, but at no point did I know where this was going or what they were trying to accomplish. Throw in internet sensation Orange Cassidy hitting a hands-in-pockets dive off the top to the outside, and a swipe at WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins (“No one kicks out of a Falcon Arrow!”) and this thing was the show’s requisite wink wink nudge nudge of a match.
– We got an entire segment on Dr. Britt Baker DMD, highlighting her awesome medical dentistryness, and a lot of pandering to the hometown crowd. What followed was an extended beating from newcomer Jamie Hayter (who did her job extremely well and carried Baker through the match) and some slow, awkward offence and a decently cool finisher (the mandible claw/crossface stretch combo). This did nothing for me and did not inspired any confidence in the direction of the AEW’s women’s division. Neither did Brandi Rhodes attacking Hayter backstage and silently pointing at the interviewer while pursing her lips. NXT has nothing to worry about on this front.
– This episode was filled with the usual consistently good (but not great!) in-ring action from top to bottom, but it ultimately seemed like AEW’s first big misstep. And again, this win-loss emphasis is a total disaster. I don’t know what it’s supposed to do for a performer or the audience to flash a graphic that states they are 2-1 in singles competition and 3-2 overall. And we already know these numbers are meaningless, because PAC wound up on commentary at 2-0 (over big names) while Darby Allin and Jimmy Havoc randomly fought for a title shot.
– Matches announced for next week: SCU/Lucha Bros in the Tag Team Championship Tournament Final, and we were reminded of the matches set for Full Gear: Omega/Moxley, Young Bucks/Santana & Ortiz (as per The Bucks accepting the challenge), and Cody/Jericho for the World Championship
WEEK 4 WINNER: NXT
WEEK 4 TOP 3 STARS:
1) The participants of NXT’s final segment
2) PAC (Dynamite)
3) Marc Quen/Fenix (TIE) (Dynamite)
Honorable Mention: Isiah Scott (NXT)