By Briar Starr, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@briarstarrtv)
AEW Dark (Episode 44)
Taped in Jacksonville, Florida at Daily’s Place
Streamed July 28, 2020 on the AEW YouTube Page
Excalibur and Taz welcomed us to a “SUPER DUPER EDITION OF DARK.”
1. Peter Avalon and Brandon Cutler vs. “FTR” Cash Wheeler and Dax Hardwood. Hardwood put Avalon in a headlock takeover and a shoulder block. Cutler tagged in and got distracted by Wheeler, which allowed Hardwood to take advantage. Cutler hit a flying forearm on Wheeler and tagged Avalon back in, and both hit a flapjack combination. However, FTR got back in dominating form by performing a suplex combination on Cutler into the ropes. FTR continued to beat down Cutler. While doing so, Wheeler attempted a pin, but Aubrey Edwards was “distracted” by Avalon.
Wheeler backdropped Cutler and made the tag to Hardwood. Hardwood also hit a backdrop to Cutler as well. Wheeler back in the match, tried a running move to Cutler, but Cutler dodged at the last second. Avalon finally gets a tag and hits a crossbody to Hardwood and step up enziguri to Wheeler. Avalon hits a dropkick, which takes down Wheeler, but Hardwood laid out Avalon with a monstrous clothesline. Both members of FTR won via their spike piledriver.
FTR defeated Peter Avalon and Brandon Cutler via pinfall.
After the match, The Young Back at ringside were impressed by FTR’s outing and both shook hands…
Briar’s Take: A good showcase by FTR. Meanwhile, did anyone really think Avalon and Cutler even had a chance at winning? So predictable.
2. Michael Nakazawa and Pineapple Pete vs. “The New Jersey Connection” Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela. Kiss started the match with a leaping dropkick to Nakazawa and a step up hurricanrana. Kiss would put Nakazawa in the Kiss My Sass, despite an attempt from Nakazawa trying to break the hold by using baby oil. Only for Janela to take the oil and spray it onto Kiss.
Nakazawa made the tag to Pete and during that process, Pete put oil on him and slid over Nakazawa for a combination move. While Pete and Nakazawa were so tuned on winning, Janela jumped from the top rope with a double dropkick. After the dropkick, Kiss returned to the match and Pete missed a couple of Kiss’s moves. Pete hit a rising knee and followed up with a clothesline. Nakazawa and Pete attempted a double suplex on Kiss, but he escaped and made the tag to Janela. Janela hit a death valley driver on Pete and a dropkick. He also did an elbow suicida to Nakazawa on the outside. Janela tried winning the match by a diving body splash to Pete, but Pete kicked out at two.
(Unfortunately) Nakazawa pulled out his underwear and tried to put it on Janela. Nakazawa tried one more time with the move, but it was actually his tag partner Pete, who received the underwear and not Janela. Janela then superkicked Nakazawa down to the ground. Kiss picked up the victory for the team by using the cartwheel.
Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss defeated Michael Nakazawa and Pineapple Pete via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Oh my god. Can we PLEASE just drop the Michael Nakazawa character? Who actually thinks the baby oil stuff is funny? I mean seriously. Who!?
3. Skyler Moore vs. Abadon. Abadon laid out shots to Moore on the mat. Abadon also took down Moore with a clothesline. However, Moore got in a DDT, but Abadon sat straight up and snapped her neck a couple of times. Moore then picked Abadon up for a front slam and attempted a pinfall count, but Abadon would kick out. Abadon planted Moore on the mat and put Moore away.
Abadon defeated Skyler Moore via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Consider me surprised, folks! I actually thought Moore would win this match, but Abadon picked up the victory. As for Abadon herself, the character is just so cartoony. Don’t watch Abadon before bed, kids! Also, the ads during these matches are getting extremely annoying, when they just pop up right in the middle of a move.
A Shawn Spears glove segment was shown.
4. Shawn Dean and Will Hobbs vs. “The Dark Order” Evil Uno and Stu Grayson. As the bell rang, Grayson put down Dean with leaping shots. Shortly after Grayson’s move, Uno made the tag and continued the beat down on Dean. Grayson made another tag and with an assist, Uno threw Grayson into Dean who was laying in the corner. Dean however, fires back with an enzuigiri to Uno. Uno and Grayson would make quick tags back and forth to prevent Dean from making a tag to Hobbs.
Grayson would get an upper hand on Dean, as he hit a flying elbow drop. He then mocked Hobbs on the outside. Uno drop kicked Hobbs off the apron, but Dean countered with a swinging neckbreaker. Dean took down Grayson by leaping over the top rope.
Dean finally made the tag to Hobbs and Hobbs came with a big clothesline, and a spinebuster to Uno. Hobbs also laid out Grayson with the Oklahoma stampede. Though, Grayson made the tag to Uno. Still in the ring, Grayson hit a running knee strike to Dean. Grayson hit a knight fall to Hobbs. Both Grayson and Uno would then take down Dean with the fatality to score the victory.
Evil Uno and Stu Grayson defeated Shawn Dean and Will Hobbs via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A momentum win for Dark Order ahead of their Tag Team Title match with Adam Page and Kenny Omega on Dynamite. Not much more to say about this match.
5. Scorpio Sky vs. Corey Hollis. Sky and Hollis began the bout with a collar elbow tie up. Sky then put Hollis into a side headlock and followed up with a Manhattan drop, and a Russian leg sweep. Sky Irishe whipped Hollis into the ropes and hit a dropkick. Though, Hollis took down Sky with a jumping dropkick from the top rope after Hollis countered Sky’s attempt from jumping to the outside. Hollis also hit a back flipping kick to Sky from the middle rope.
Sky broke Hollis momentum with a big boot and attempted a pinfall. However, Hollis would kick out at two. Sky tried lifting up Hollis for a suplex, but he countered with a stun dog millionaire. Hollis tried capitalizing on the move with a move from the top rope, but Sky put his feet up at the last minute and dodged the move. Sky eventually wins using the TKO.
Scorpio Sky defeated Corey Hollis via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A solid outing by these two, who put up a good fight. Hollis also had some good offense as well. Week in, week out, Sky continues to shine. I can’t wait for the moment he gets another title shot.
6. Kenzie Page vs. Penelope Ford (w/Kip Sabian). Ford Irish whipped Paige into the corner and hit a back elbow. Paige would hit a clothesline and started laying out right and left hand shots. Paige began running toward Ford, but Ford countered her momentum by putting Paige in a camel clutch. Ford lifted up Paige and planted her with a fireman’s carry. Ford then followed up with a stunner to Paige.
Paige got some momentum back with a superkick, but Ford hit a big punt kick to take Paige down again. Ford laid out Paige with the fisherman’s suplex.
Briar’s Take: A showcase win for Ford who basically dominated the whole match. Paige never really had the chance to have a long outing.
7. Aaron Solow vs. Wardlow. Wardlow hit a powerful kick to put Solow down the mat. Wardlow continued to dominate by hitting several uppercuts to Solow. Solow however, started laying out some kicks to Wardlow. Unfortunately for Solow, Wardlow dodged the last kick and planted Solow down on the mat. Wardlow hit a big lariat to Solow and finished him off with a knee kick to knock Solow out.
Wardlow defeated Aaron Solow via knockout.
Wardlow continued to manhandle Solow in the ring after the match was over and hit an F10 before the camera cut…
Briar’s Take: Interesting ending to have a knockout win the match. Perhaps this will be something new for Wardlow to begin his rise for a potential AEW or TNT title run? Or was the finish simply to protect Solow who now has two weeks in a row for AEW? Time will only tell.
8. Alex Reynolds and John Silver vs. “Best Friends” Chuck Taylor and Trent. Before the bell rang, both Reynolds and Silver attacked Taylor and Trent from behind. Once the bell rang after the attack from behind, both teams fought on the outside of the ring. Trent and Taylor started to get an advantage to Dark Order by getting them in the back ring, and hitting a few combination moves.
Best Friends took too long for a Strong Zero attempt, as Reynolds came into the ring and broke up the finishing maneuver. Reynolds and Silver continued to beat down Trent in the middle of the ring.. A punt kick was seen by Reynolds to Trent. Reynolds also swept out the leg of Trent to take him down. Reynold tried a pinfall attempt, but Trent kicked out. Silver is back in the match and picks up Trent to drive him into the mat.
Trent who sat in the ring told Silver to bring it on with the kicks. So Silver hit numerous round kicks. Despite the round kicks, Silver went down with a clothesline from Trent. Trent tried tagging Taylor, but Reynolds prevented him from doing so and hit a release German suplex. Trent finally made the tag to Taylor after a driver drop to Reynolds.
Taylor hit a falcon arrow, but Silver kicked out of the pinfall attempt. Taz noted “no one kicks out of the falcon arrow.’ Finally, Taylor took the opportunity to hit the Awful Waffle to win the match.
Best Friends defeated Alex Reynolds and John Silver.
Briar’s Take: Like the previous Dark Order match, this match was a momentum win to give more background to Best Friends for their match with the Inner Circle and the Jurassic Express. With that said, the match was very competitive, and back and forth. In addition, AEW has to be careful with how much time they’re giving to the Dark Order, as this could have over-saturation effects.
9. Frankie Thomas vs. Lance Archer (w/Jake Roberts). Thomas made his AEW debut. Archer with the assist from the ropes and hit a straight shoulder block to Thomas. Archer then suplexed Thomas. Thomas escaped an attempted chokeslam from Archer. Thomas tried to get some momentum on his side, but while the two were on the outside, Archer tossed Thomas with a one hand toss.
Both eventually got inside the ring and Thomas put Archer in a sleeper. Though, Archer hti a series of rights to Thomas. Archer would chokeslam Thomas and then put the claw to his head. Archer won the outing quickly with the move.
Lance Archer defeated Frankie Thomas.
Briar’s Take: A dominating victory by Archer who easily put Thomas away. Poor Thomas, though, he never really stood a chance.
10. Serpentinco vs. Orange Cassidy. Serpentinco started running toward Cassidy as the match started, but Serpentinco missed way short of Cassidy. After countering each other’s moves, Cassidy did an arm drag to Serpentinco. However, Serpentinco was able to land a leaping double knee stomp and a leg drop on the apron to Cassidy.
Serpentinco hit a rising kick to Cassidy and followed with a big superplex. Not too long after the move, Cassidy rolled Serpentinco up to the pinfall victory.
Orange Cassidy defeated Serpentinco via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Not much to say here, other than Cassidy has had some new music for the last couple of weeks. If he can ditch his current character, this would be a fresh restart for him and still be over with the fan, and with a new serious character, Cassidy could start chasing after titles. As for Serpentinco, he looked kind of sloppy in some spots.
11. Fuego Del Sol vs. Sammy Guevara. Guevara put Del Sol in a side headlock and an arm lock. Del Sol got a move in by hitting the northern light suplex to Guevara. Guevara with the size advantage would take back control of the match. Guevara then took too long by showboating, which allowed Del Sol to kick Guevara in the corner. Del Sol went to the top rope for a leaping jump, but Guevara countered with a rising knee strike.
Del Sol though, would get some strikes in by coming off the middle rope and a kick to the jaw. Guevara missed another move by Del Sol from the top rope, which allowed Guevara to finish Del Sol off with the burning hammer Gts.
Sammy Guevara defeated Fuego Del Sol via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Guevara looked good in his first match back after his suspension ended. The match up allowed Guevara to knock any rust off that he might’ve had during his break from the ring.
A segment was shown between Private Party and Matt Hardy ahead of their Dark main event. Hardy told them ‘they need to win this match up by any means necessary”…
12. “SCU” Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian vs. Santana and Ortiz vs. “Private Party” Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy. Kazarian and Kassidy began the match for the respective team and Kazarian had Kassidy in a long headlock. Kazarian then took down Kassidy with a shoulder block. Ortiz made a blind tag on Kassidy, hoping to get momentum for their team. Kazarian still had the best of them, until Ortiz hit a swinging neckbreaker.
Afterward, Santana made the tag and planted Kazarian with a snap suplex. Though, Kazarian would roll out of the ring and made the tag to Christopher Daniels. Daniels followed through with a Manhattan driver to Ortiz and in the process, Kazarian came back in to help Daniels. Quen saw his first few minutes of the match by wrestling with Daniels, as Quen put Daniels into a step up hurricanrana. Trying to capitalize on a weak Daniels, the two members of Private Party came through with a series of combination moves.
Ortiz tagged himself in and Santana assisted his partner by hitting a double suplex to Daniels. Ortiz subsequently hit Daniels with a northern lights suplex.Daniels finds himself in a box, as Ortiz hit a sit out powerbomb with a follow kick by Santana. Ortiz went for the victory, but Private Party came in and broke the pinfall up.
With Daniels being in the match for the longest time, he had a moment and made the tag to Mark Quen. Quen came leaping off the top rope onto Ortiz and also sent Santana to the outside. Quen at that point took both Ortiz and Santana down with a leaping suicida.
Kassidy would plant Ortiz with the silly string. He went for the cover, but Kazarian came in just time to break the pinfall attempt again. Private Party pretty much did the same move as the Hardy Boyz used to do and was successful in doing so. They went for another win attempt, but as the ref counted two, he was pulled under the ring by Santana.
Santana managed a cutter on Quen, while Daniels hit the blue thunderbomb to Santana. Ortiz threw something to Quen when the ref was distracted. He eventually saw what Quen had in his hands and took it away from him. As the ref looked away and threw the foreign object out of the ring, Ortiz hit a low blow to win the contest.
Santana and Ortiz defeated Private Party and SCU via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A basic preview of what fans will see for the 10-man tag team match on Dynamite. The match was what it was. I wasn’t overly excited, as I knew that’s what this match would be. Despite the obvious, the tag team match was competitive for the most part, as all three teams were given plenty of time to make the most of what they had. I’m not a fan of what appears to be a new character for Matt Hardy, since he now goes by the name of Big Money Matt where he carries around all this money. Sooooo. I’m either assuming AEW dropped the “Woken” character for now and will come back to that at another time, and this is just a new look for Hardy? Or… Is the new character just another add on for Hardy, who sometimes wrestles in many different characters? Kind of confusing.
This was a long episode of Dark, which was almost like a second Dynamite show, with how many matches occurred. I am a huge fan of wrestling don’t get me wrong, but for an episode of Dark, a dozen matches is just too much when most of the matches continue to be predictable. The company did a great job by having three solid teams in their main event at the end, and not knowing who would win that one. I honestly did not suspect Santana and Ortiz would get the victory, and thought maybe Private Party would get the win instead since the matches have been pretty predictable lately on Dark.
I get Tony Khan touting Dark as having the most matches ever was supposed to be a big deal, but Dark hasn’t really been a huge deal since it premiered last October. They had a solid stretch from October through January or February by having solid matches. And I get the pandemic has hurt the company in some way by not being able to have all the wrestlers there, but had Dark continued to stay consistent and not become predictable rather than having 12 matches would seem like a bigger deal.
As I’ve mentioned before, they’re inconsistent on trying to find a solid balance of how many matches to have. If they could just keep in the five to seven ballpark, they would just be fine. Though, there is already so much wrestling out there, where it’s definitely hard to keep up with. Asking fans to sit through nearly two hours of Dark followed by another two hours on Wednesday is a bit much and a risk for over-saturation.
As for the matches themselves, nothing in particular really stood out. Most if not all them were relatively short in time with the AEW regulars continuing to put wins in their win column. I’d have to say this show peaked with Avalon and Cutler vs. FTR and the 10-man tag. There was nothing memorable that Avalon and Cutler did, more so it was FTR showing their great in-ring skills. And as for the main event, the match was simply just a preview for Dynamite’s 10-man tag. The match was kind of eye rolling at the end, where everyone was trying to get their stuff in and just really became a spot fest. Lance Archer and Wardlow continue to run over their wrestlers, and win in a short amount of time. Other than that, the majority of the matches were easily skippable, and I don’t think you would really miss anything if you didn’t watch this episode. And can we PLEASE for the love of wrestling, drop the Michael Nakazawa character? Episode 44 came in at one hour and 50 minutes, 52 seconds. Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.