All Elite Wrestling aired their weekly web episode of dark matches on their YouTube channel this week after the team battled some technical issues. This week’s guest commentator was MJF and he was gold. Dasha Gonzales (fka Dasha Fuentes) was the guest in the studio with Tony Schiavone.
Shawn Spears vs. Michael Nakazawa
This week’s show kicked off with Shawn Spears (fka Tye Dillinger) vs Michael Naka… Naka… Nakazawa (!!!). It was okay. I have seen better from Spears. While the team has paired him up with Tully Blanchard, I don’t find his character to be connecting with the audience. He is not menacing, despite what the writers are trying to portray him as with his Chairman moniker. He beats Nakazawa following the distraction from Blanchard for his first win in AEW, but it was following a distraction and nowhere even close to being convincing.
Now, I’m a Spears fan. I loved his Perfect 10 gimmick. I thought he was indeed “a good hand.” If they are trying to move him beyond just being a good hand, they need to make him win convincingly. No interference, which I get defeats the purpose of having a manager ringside, but you don’t see Heyman interfering in Brock’s matches every time he has a match. Nakazawa can be fun, but these two (three?) just didn’t gel well.
Grade: 1.5 Stars
Mercedes Martinez & Big Swole vs. Sadie Gibbs & Allie
This was better, but mildly better. I love Mercedes Martinez. She is one of the most underrated talents in women’s wrestling today. I was hoping for big things for her in NXT, but that roster is so crowded with stars that it gave me hope for her in All Elite Wrestling. I have been digging Big Swole. She has superstar written all over her. Allie… eh, I know she’s over with the crowd. I’m not seeing it. I think Sadie Gibbs has potential.
The match was sloppy at times. The camera work didn’t help either as they would cut to the crowd like it was some NBA game with the Kiss Cam during the match. The odd thing about this was that AEW Dark is taped. It is curated. These cuts were deliberate production choices. There were lots of kickouts at 2. Gibbs hit the moonsault on Big Swole for the win.
Grade: 2 Stars
Jurassic Express vs. Joey Janela & Jimmy Havoc
This was easily the best match of the episode. Jungle Boy is the future. I’m starting to come around on Marko Stunt. Janela is fun. Havoc can be brilliant. Sign me up!
Stunt comes out wearing a Luchasaurus mask which got a pop out of me. Jungle Boy showed off his technical wrestling skills while Jimmy Havoc just bit people and stapled Janela’s forehead. There was a weird spot where Jungle Boy catches Janela with an Atomic Drop and Janela just wailed for about 4 minutes as Jungle Boy stared at Janela’s butt. It was hilarious and uncomfortable all at the same time. Janela went on to hit an Avalanche Package Pile Driver on Stunt for the win.
This was a good match. It was fun. My issue with this was the focus was on the weird dynamic between Janela and Havoc, which ultimately didn’t lead to much and the only thing it did do was make Jungle Boy’s and Stunt’s efforts forgettable. AEW had this issue before with Darby Allin against Cody. It’s clear that the writers are experiencing some growing pains.
Grade: 3 Stars
Afterward we cut backstage and see Joey Janela smoking a cigarette. Blanchard is mouthing off about Janela putting out a cigarette in his drink. Shawn Spears attacks Janela, holds his tongue out with a pair of pliers and then the camera pans away with Janela screaming in pain. It was pretty awesome and exactly what we needed to see out of Spears.
AEW Dark Episode 5
Another decent episode of AEW Dark. Feels like Dark could turn into the more experimental/developmental brand of AEW if they were willing to invest more time and thought into it. Some of the matches leave it feeling more like Main Event than NXT. It’s early on in AEW, though, so using it as a tool to further midcard storylines is a solid decision.