By Briar Starr, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@briarstarrtv)
AEW Dark (Episode 96)
Taped in Jacksonville, Florida at Daily’s Place
Streamed July 6, 2021 on the AEW YouTube Page
1. Ryan Mantell vs. Lance Archer. Mantell threw a dropkick and hit a running clothesline, but Archer slowed Mantell’s momentum by suplexing him. Archer lifted up Mantell and struck him with the back elbow. Archer quickly hit the Hellacoaster on Mantell to gain the win.
Lance Archer defeated Ryan Mantell via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Mantell made his AEW debut here, but never had a chance as Archer completely dominated him in Lance Archer fashion.
2. Terrell and Terrence Hughes vs. QT Marshall and Aaron Solow. Solow went for a clothesline in the corner, but Terrence avoided it at the last second. The Hughes Brothers then swapped each other out with Terrell firing with multiple clotheslines and a backdrop to Solow. The Hughes Brothers hit the old Dudley Boyz signature move from the top and went for another maneuver, but they were stopped by Marshall, who hit the Diamond Cutter on one of the brothers to win the match.
QT Marshall and Aaron Solow defeated Terrell and Terrence Hughes via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: it’s been quite some time since we saw Terrell and Terrence on AEW Dark. Excluding their appearance on Elevation, their last appearance was on episode 87 of Dark. TNT had some close moments and nearly scored some pins, but Marshall and Solow ultimately got the upper hand instead and gave Marshall momentum heading into his strap match with Cody on Wednesday night.
Britt Baker’s Waiting Room segment returned. Baker hyped AEW Rampage’s debut next month. She brought in her guests Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela. Janela said he was frustrated and while he was talking, Kiss threw him down on the stage. Kiss said it was Janela who reminded who the “bad boy” really was. Janela interrupted Kiss and tried bringing out his “best friend” Alex Marvez, but Marvez never came through the door. Janela told Kiss he was sorry and added that there are fans out there who like them. Janela asked Kiss to be there for him and he would do the same for Kiss. Kiss and Janela then hugged each other out.
Briar’s Take: Not a bad segment, but I sure was waiting for Janela to pull a Shawn Michaels and superkick Kiss. It’ll be interesting to see how long these two stay together and if Janela ever turns again because his heel run sure didn’t last long.
3. Natalia Markova vs. Abadon. Abadon hit a splash on Markova after Markova went for the bridge. Abadon hit the Soul Reaver to pick up another win.
Abadon defeated Natalia Markova via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: As I write every week, Abadon’s matches are rinse and repeat. Same stuff you see every week.
4. Carlie Bravo vs. Matt Sydal. Sydal took down Bravo with the double wrist lock before Sydal locked the left arm of Bravo. Bravo then hit multiple arm drags. Sydal fired back with a standing moonsault press. Sydal put Bravo into the bow and arrow stretch until he hit the stomps to the spine of Bravo. Bravo hit the jawbreaker in an attempt to get momentum on his side, but Sydal hit the leg lariat and eventually the Lightning Spiral for the victory.
Matt Sydal defeated Carlie Bravo via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A good match. One could say this it was very brief, as Sydal quickly finished Bravo off with his signature moves. Nonetheless, both men were great.
5. Tre Lamar vs. The Blade. As the bell rang, The Blade hit several stomps to Lamar in the corner. Lamar hit the drop toehold and used the low ropes for a dropkick to the back of the head of The Blade. Lamar followed up with the knee strike to The Blade, but went to bounce off the ropes and was caught by Allie which allowed The Blade to take advantage. Lamar quickly hit back with a punt kick and jumped off the rope and landed on The Blade. Lamar went for an elbow drop, but The Blade dodged it and threw a running clothesline. While the ref was distracted, The Blade used brass knuckles to get the win.
The Blade defeated Tre Lamar via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A great back and forth fight. Lamar put up a good fight until Blade put him away with the brass knuckles. There were a couple of times when it felt like Lamar was going to get the upset win.
6. Big Trouble Bishop vs. Bear Bronson. Bronson powerslammed Bishop after tossing him into the air. Bishop threw a big boot that planted Bronson down. Bishop continued by powerslamming Bronson who regained momentum by tossing him across the ring and following up with a backbody drop. Bronson sat out Bishop with a senton to score the victory.
Bear Bronson defeated Big Trouble Bishop via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Bishop had his moments, but Bear Bronson got a bounce back win after losing to Ethan Page a few weeks ago on Saturday Night Dynamite.
7. Fuego Del Sol and Marko Stunt vs. Baron Black and Ryzin. Stunt stopped Ryzin with a dropkick and tagged in Del So, who went for the cover and only got the two count. Ryzin sat out Del Sol with the chokeslam but never really got the cover. Black tagged in and hit the backstabber on Del Sol and got a two count himself. Later, Del Sol and Stunt hit a diving moonsault on Ryzin and Black on the outside. Del Sol hit a swinging DDT and covered Ryzin for his first career AEW victory.
Marko Stunt and Fuego Del Sol defeated Baron Black and Ryzin via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Would you look at that? Fuego Del Sol finally got his first career AEW victory. Nice job by both men, specifically Del Sol. There was a nice touch afterward as Del Sol celebrated with Sammy Guevara’s vlog teammates.
8. Viva Van vs. Kris Statlander. Statlander powerslammed Van after catching her in the air and followed with a knee strike. Eventually, Statlander finished Van off with the Big Bang Theory for the win.
Kris Statlander defeated Viva Van via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Pretty predictable with Statlander getting the win against a debuting opponent. She gained momentum in her mixed tag team match on Dynamite.
9. Chad Lennex and Zachariah vs. “The Varsity Blonds” Brian Pillman Jr. and Griff Garrison. Zachariah went for the dropkick, but Pillman Jr countered with the snap suplex. Garrison tagged in and planted himself with the leg drop to Zachariah. Pillman made the blind tag and hit the dropkick to Lennex. Pillman avoided a clothesline from Zachariah and then hit him with a crossbody block. Garrison hit the falcon arrow on Lennex while Pillman won with a diving clothesline on Lennex.
The Varsity Blonds defeated Chad Lennex and Zachariah via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Good tag team chemistry from the Varsity Blonds. Pillman and Garrison seemed to have found their groove and the only way they can go from here is up.
10. Prince Kai vs. Angelico. Kai rolled Angelico into the crucifix and performed a neckbreaker as well. Angelico fired back with an enzuigiri from the ground and made Kai tap out to the Navarro Death lock.
Angelico defeated Prince Kai via submission.
Briar’s Take: Another victory here for Angelico who his quick with his moves and had a brief match with Kai.
11. Wheeler Yuta vs. Ryan Nemeth. Nemeth performed a back drop on Yuta in the center of the ring after the bell rang. Yuta then rolled up Nemeth into a pinning move and won the match.
Wheeler Yuta defeated Ryan Nemeth via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: Whoa. I sure didn’t expect this outcome. Despite Yuta getting the upset, not much occurred in this match. It was a couple of moves and that was about it.
12. Hunter Knott and Rosario Grillo vs. Shawn Spears and Wardlow. Wardlow sent Knott to the outside while he charged Grillo to the corner and then tagged out. Spears stayed in briefly before tagging back out to Wardlow, who hit multiple suplexes on Grillo. Knott tagged in but was caught by Wardlow and was planted with a chokeslam. Spears hit the C4 on Knott to get the victory.
Shawn Spears and Wardlow defeated Hunter Knott and Rosario Grillo via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A dominant win by Spears and Wardlow, who continue to rack up victories week in and week out.
13. KiLynn King vs. Tay Conti. Conti rolled King after a sunset flip and swept the leg of King. King caught Conti in an inside cradle and only got the one count. King then hit the double sledge to Conti. King sat out Conti and nearly got the upset victory. Conti delivered a knee strike to the midsection of King and continued with a running boot slide as a follow up. Conti countered a hip toss of King with the DDTay t score the pin.
Tay Conti defeated KiLynn King via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A good match from both women. AEW appears to be high on Conti as she continues to get victories week after week.
14. Will Allday, Jason Hotch, Chandler Hopkins, and Dean Alexander vs. Dark Order’s Colt Cabana, “10” Preston Vance, Alan “5” Angels, and Alex Reynolds. Reynolds threw a dropkick at Hopkins to slow his momentum and tagged out. Cabana performed a back body drop on Hotch. Angels hit a sliding knee strike to Allday before tagging out. Vance threw multiple chops at Alexander and followed up with a big punt kick. Vance powerbombed Alexander. Angels tagged in and hit a frog splash to get the win.
Dark Order’s Colt Cabana, “10” Preston Vance, Alan “5” Angels, and Alex Reynolds defeated Will Allday, Jason Hotch, Chandler Hopkins, and Dean Alexander via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: A quick match here from the Dark Order as they obliterated Allday, Hotch, Hopkins, and Alexander. The losing team got very little offense.
15. Jack Evans vs. Mike Sydal. After short offense from Evans, Sydal planted him down with a dropkick. Evans fired back with a corkscrew enzuigiri. Evans performed a Russian leg sweep. Evans then hit a standing sky twister press and only got the two count. Sydal attempted to get momentum back by throwing a kick to the head of Evans, who quickly high bridged Sydal to score the win.
Jack Evans defeated Mike Sydal via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: One of those matches where it could have gone either way since both men are AEW regulars and this one could have definitely opened up a Friday night or Saturday night Dynamite special.
16. Ashley Vox vs. Red Velvet. Vox executed a fisherman’s suplex, but Velvet countered with a back elbow strike. Velvet hit double knees to the back of Vox before dropping her with the Chef’s Kiss.
Red Velvet defeated Ashley Vox via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: This makes three consecutive wins in a row now for Velvet and her 23rd victory in AEW.
17. “Chaos Project” Luther and Serpentico vs. Penta El Zero Miedo and Eddie Kingston. Serpentico hit a double stomp on Kingston after tagging himself in. Luther returned to the ring and hit multiple strikes to Kingston while dropping Serpentico on him with a leg drop and a running bulldog. Serpentico went to the top, but missed the diving senton as Kingston rolled over and tagged out. Penta caught Serpentico with a fireman’s carry and then planted him across his knee. Penta spiked Serpentico with the package piledriver and scored the pin.
Penta El Zero Miedo and Eddie Kingston defeated “Chaos Project” Luther and Serpentico via pinfall.
Briar’s Take: The strange uniqueness of Penta and Kingston continues as they fought off Chaos Project. Overall, a needlessly long two-hour episode of AEW Dark heading into Road Rager. There were some moments that stood out such as “The Waiting Room” segment with Joey Janela and Sonny Kiss, who their tag team at least for now. Fuego Del Sol finally got a well earned victory after losing 38 times in a row. The Sydal Brothers had good/solid matches against their opponents, and Wheeler Yuta got a pinfall win over Ryan Nemeth. Like last Wednesday’s Dynamite, this episode of Dark is likely the last one at Daily’s Place for a while as AEW heads out on the road. It will be interesting to see whether going back on the road and having fans in attendance will knock the match count back a bit. One can only hope as 17 matches is a little much. Episode 96 clocked in at 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 9 seconds. Final Score: 7.0 out of 10.