By Briar Starr, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@briarstarrtv)
AEW Dark (Episode 26)
Taped March 18, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida at Daily’s Place
Streamed March 24, 2020 on the AEW YouTube Page
Excalibur and Taz welcomed us to Dark and ran through the card line up…
1. Joe Alonzo vs Jake Hager. Alonzo made his Dark debut. Excalibur noted these two wrestlers are undefeated in their own right. Hager was a powerhouse to start the match. Alonzo went for a move, but Hager countered into a backward suplex. Alonzo jumped from the top rope and Hager was able to catch him into a submission hold. Once Alonzo was in the submission hold, Hager made him tap out for a quick win.
Jake Hager defeated Joe Alonzo via submission.
Briar’s Take: A showcase win for Hager. Short and sweet.
2. Jon Cruz and Matt Sells vs. Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall. Dustin got the early advantage on Cruz with an arm drag take down. Marshall tagged in and almost got a quick win, but it was broken up by Cruz. Dustin checked back in and hit Sells with a big knee. After Sells had his time, Cruz was tagged in and got some offensive moves in.
Cruz was only able to get a two count and he argued with the ref, which allowed Skyler Moore to interfere in the match by holding Marshall’s head on the ropes. Meanwhile, Cruz took a beating by Dustin and Marshall. Dustin managed to hit a running bulldog on Cruz while he hit Sells with a powerslam. After Dustin made the tag to Marshall, both of them hit The Great Affect on Cruz to pick up the win…
Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall defeated Jon Cruz and Matt Sells via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: An okay match, but nothing to write home about. It was easily predictable that Dustin and Marshall would get the win. I have to be honest, I knew nothing about Jon Cruz and Matt Sells going into this match. This was a really skippable match.
3. Shawn Spears (w/Tully Blanchard) and Robert Anthony vs. Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. Shawn was going to start the match, but Anthony told him he would do it instead because he wants to show him what he has. Both Kazarian and Anthony start with a collar elbow and tie up. Anthony was in a submission hold, but broke it and made the tag to Spears. Daniels takes Spears down with a leg lariat. Daniels made the tag to Kazarian, as Daniels went for a diving elbow drop and Kazarian hit a flying leg drop to Spears.
Outside the ring, Anthony threw Kazarian into the barricade and Spears managed to hit Daniels with a spin buster. Anthony, who is now tagged in, hits Daniels with a move and plants Daniels on the mat only to get a two count. Spears on the outside, picked up Daniels and slammed him on the apron of the ring. Spears sat on the chairs outside of the ring and started chanting, “this is awesome.” Meanwhile, Anthony power slammed Daniels in the middle of the ring.
Daniels tried an inside cradle on Spears only to get a two count. Daniels was isolated and went to tag Kazarian, but Anthony tagged in and prevented it. Eventually, Kazarian finally made the tag and hit Anthony with several lariats. Kazarian hit a middle rope leg drop to Anthony to start a count, but Spears came in and broke the pin up.
Anthony got Kazarian up on his shoulders and used a rolling death valley driver on Kazarian only to get a two count again. Spears was in the ring as SCU stared him down, but as usual, Spears rolled out of the ring and left Anthony high and dry. Both Kazarian and Daniels hit their Best Meltzer Ever finisher to pick up the win.
Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian defeated Shawn Spears and Robert Anthony via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A needlessly long match with what’s going in the world right now. Though, it forwarded the storyline of Spears trying to find a partner in his search. The match felt a little hokey when they showed Tully Blanchard outside filming Robert Anthony’s moves. An okay match, but not the greatest.
4. Suge D vs. Kip Sabian (w/Penelope Ford). Suge D made his AEW debut. Suge almost got a quick pinfall victory when Sabian backed into him. Sabian distracted the ref by trying to unhook the top turnbuckle, allowing Ford to do a running drop kick to Suge. Sabian once again distracted the ref while Ford choked Suge on the rope.
Sabian was able to hit Suge with a running leg. Sabian then hit Suge with a swinging neckbreaker only to get a two-count. After the two-count, Suge finally got some offense in and went to the top rope, but Sabian got the advantage by kicking Suge and a crushing leg sweep submission. Suge ended up tapping out to the hold…
Kip Sabian defeated Suge D via submission.
Briar’s Take: Too much ref distracting that prevented this match from being a solid match. The ref distractions are the name of the game as of late for Sabian and they are starting to get old, especially when Penelope Ford gets involved in the match. I hope they’re able to scrap that soon, but that’s to be determined. As for Suge, he was able to get some offense in, but not much as you would expect.
5. Brandon Cutler vs. Colt Cabana. The wrestlers shook hands before the match started as a sign of respect. Each time Cutler went for a move, Cabana would take him down and make a lap inside the ring. After countering each other’s moves, Cutler took Cabana down and put him in a submission hold, but Cabana broke the move up. Cabana went on the outside, as Cutler went through the ropes with a jumping suicida. After the move, the two were back in the ring and Cutler was going to try and finish Cabana off with his finishing move, but Cabana countered. Cabana went for the Superman and got the win…
Colt Cabana defeated Brandon Cutler via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Meh. Too much comedy and standing around. This was pretty much your “let me up match.” No disrespect to Cabana, but this is a skippable match. It was hard to see Cutler getting a win over the “newcomer” Cabana who is currently undefeated. The one thing about these matches is, we are moving through them in a hurry. It’s just match after match after match. No promos, no segments. Just some wrestling action. Also, a lot of debuts are taking place here as well.
6. Corey Hollis and Mike Reed vs Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela. Hollis and Reed made their AEW debuts. Janela and Hollis started the match with Janela putting Hollis in a rest hold. Kiss put Hollis in one of his submission holds. Janela made the tag and hit Hollis with a german suplex. Kiss went to go for one of his moves, but Hollis countered and finally got a tag in on his partner Mike Reed. Reed went for a couple of right hands on Kiss.
Reed made a tag to Hollis, as Hollis prevented Kiss from getting to the corner. Once Hollis was in the ring, he made another tag to Reed, who went for a move on Kiss, but Kiss countered and got to Janela. Janela went to the top rope and hit a diving crossbody to Reed and took down Hollis in the corner. Hollis tried getting involved in the match afterward, but Janela hit him with a Death Valley Driver. Kiss was tagged in and he managed to get a big flipping axe kick to Reed. Janela and Kiss were on top of each other on the top rope. Janela hit a flying elbow drop, while Kiss followed up with a jumping split to pick up the win.
Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela defeated Corey Hollis and Mike Reed via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A nice showing from Janela and Kiss, especially Janela who we haven’t seen in a couple of weeks. Otherwise, the match wasn’t much to say about. It’s tough to really go into detail about what made a match great, when there is a debut from a team we don’t know about. While I know this is a tough time for everyone involved, it’s hard to get excited about Dark when every match is a wrestler making their debut without a video package. Taz and Excalibur do a great job of doing their research, but I feel it’s not enough. All in all, a showcase win for Janela and Kiss.
Well, that certainly was an interesting episode of Dark wasn’t it? No fans and just natural sounds from the ring. I honestly thought this was better than the Dynamite episode, at least from the presentation stand point. Of course, that’s with the help of some post production work but still some solid work from the AEW team. As for the matches themselves, it’s sad to say but they’re easily skippable. Nothing really forwarded any storylines as most of the wrestlers made their AEW debut against some pretty random opponents. It felt as though AEW had to make some last minute scramble work to get some wrestlers to fight on Dark.
I can’t be too critical though, as everything right now is in a fluid schedule and the show itself is limited to essential personnel only. With that being said, if you are looking from a distraction with everything going in the world right now, I’d tune in and check this episode out. Taz and Excalibur make such a great team together, and I enjoy hearing them on commentary. Though, if you are a casual fan or a diehard fan that needs a break from wrestling, it’s an easily skippable episode. I am curious to see where AEW goes from here with so many states issuing a Stay At Home Order. Stay safe out there everybody! Final Score: 6.8 out of 10.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...