FIGHT FOR THE FALLEN

July 13, 2019

 

Bea Priestly . . . makes her AEW debut on a high note by instantly making enemies with Dr. Britt Baker.

Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus . . . wind up stealing the thunder of their opponents, even though they lose their match.

Dustin Rhodes . . . continues his career resurgence, and remains one of the best things to see in this promotion.

 

SONNY KISS vs. PETER AVALON

If one is able to look past the Exotico gimmick, they’d see that Sonny’s athleticism makes him a good addition to this roster. Avalon looks solid, but the librarian character is death. After a couple of comedy spots so Avalon can shush Sonny, it loses its novelty. Avalon’s selling and reactions to Sonny are fun to watch, but his work is rather basic, with his only notable contributions being a dropkick, enzuigiri, and a Finlay roll. Luckily, this is kept short, so they don’t need to try to build up a comeback. This does its job of showing what Sonny brings to the table, and then gets out of the way.

 

BRITT BAKER/RIHO vs. BEA PRIESTLY/SHOKO NAKAJIMA

It’s too bad that this is probably going to be best known for Britt’s blunder, where she tried to tag in Nakajima. It seems like Bea’s first kick wound up ringing her bell. It goes a little too long, but this is a very fun match. Bea and Nakajima working over Riho is definitely the highlight, and the exchanges between Britt and Bea hints at something bigger happening between the two of them later on.

 

Where this goes wrong is mostly due to Riho’s performance. She’s the perfect person to be in peril and build to the hot tag, as shown by the best stretch of the match, but she just doesn’t seem to go all the way with it. A minute or less before she tags out to Britt, Nakajima gets a near fall from a splash, and Riho decides to bridge herself out of the pin, and then do a dropkick before resuming selling. The hot tag to Britt also gets mucked up, because Riho decides to make her own comeback and then grab a headlock and tag in Britt. Even as the match winds down, she’s always going at full speed, rather than selling and trying to make the previous work matter. Considering that Riho was taking the pin, this is an especially big failing on her part. It makes Nakajima getting the pin with the rana seem like a fluke, rather than Bea and Nakajima’s teamwork, or willingness to bend the rules, lead to the outcome.

 

I also have to question the wisdom of Riho getting pinned by Nakajima. With the way that AEW made such a big deal about finally getting Bea onto a show, it would seem to make more sense for her to get the pin, especially if she’s feuding with Britt going forward. Riho had just won the women’s three-way at the previous show. Unless Nakajima is also going to be featured in a prominent manner, then there’s no reason for her to get the pin over one of the few established members of the women’s division. ***

 

MAXWELL JACOB FRIEDMAN/SEAN SPEARS/SAMMY GUEVARA vs. DARBY ALLIN/JIMMY HAVOC/JOEY JANELA

Thanks to the heels, this was a fun trios match. The babyfaces weren’t bad, but Darby was the only one who seemed to have a purpose. His taped up ribs, from the apron bump in his match with Cody, was the only story to the match from the babyface side, and it directly led to the finish. It was fun to watch Havoc torture MJF early on, and Janela’s work was fine, but, honestly, pretty much anyone could have been slotted with Darby and added just as much.

 

The underlying dissension between MJF and Spears was fun to watch unfold, with the blind tags, and them unintentionally hitting one another. And, in the end, it winds up causing them to win, when Spears blind tags himself in as Darby seems to be ready to finish off MJF. He plants Darby with a backbreaker and then does a DVD to win. Sammy doesn’t add much other than his flying spots, but it’s fun enough to see what he can do. He also takes the first big bump of the match, when Janela gives him a German suplex into the corner, and puts it over very well. Overall, this is more of a spotfest than it is a focused match, because the story with Darby’s ribs doesn’t start playing out until later on in the match. The other interesting takeaway are how the various issues intertwine, with Darby’s issue with Spears, the Spears/MJF issues, and also Darby being upset with his partners.

 

BRANDI RHODES vs. ALLIE

I can appreciate that Brandi wants to wrestle, but, if this is any indication of what to expect from her matches, then it ought not be a regular thing. She’s perfectly useful as a mouthpiece or as an authority figure. This marks the second time that Allie has had to work down to her opponent’s level, and is even worse than the Leva Bates match. It’s sloppy, disjointed, and most of Brandi’s spots look ugly (particularly the German suplex and the spear at the end). The crowd only bothers to wake up when Awesome Kong interferes. The face off between Awesome Kong and Aja Kong is the best thing about this, and it probably could have been accomplished without wasting Allie.

 

EVIL UNO/STU GRAYSON vs. JACK EVANS/ANGELICO vs. JUNGLE BOY/LUCHASAURUS

Aside from being there to bump for Luchasaurus, I’m at a loss for why Evans and Angelico were even in this match. The best stretch of it, by a decent margin, was Uno and Stu working over Jungle Boy, and then the hot tag where ‘Saurus cleaned house. The Dark Order was great at working Jungle Boy over, with some inventive (but not contrived) double teams, and cutting off any tag. The best part of Angelico and Evans’ involvement was when Jungle Boy lunged forward to tag, and Stu yanked them both off the apron.

 

After ‘Saurus hot tags and runs through the others, the match levels out, with everyone getting some time to be in control and look like they can win. Once again, poor Jungle Boy is regulated to the whipping boy role, taking the bulk of the punishment. And, after Evans and Angelico get taken out for good, the Dark Order, neutralize Luchasaurus and wind up finishing off Jungle Boy. Both important teams looked good, and Evans and Angelico looked fine, although they weren’t exactly essential to the match’s development. But, like Private Party at the last event, the important thing isn’t so much the result, as much as the question of whether or not AEW can capitalize on how well the Jungle Boy/Luchasaurus pairing seems to work. ***

 

ADAM PAGE vs. KIP SABIAN

It’s probably a good thing that there weren’t any other scheduled events between this and the Jericho/Page match. Another performance like this might be enough to kill whatever buzz that Page had going into the title match. The match just goes on for far too long, and there isn’t very much at all as far as engrossing work. Page’s knee, which should have been a central theme, isn’t focused on very much at all, and Sabian actually upstages Page by taking a couple of big bumps and still fighting. Hell, even the finish is screwed up with Page and Sabian needing two tries in order for Page to counter the sunset flip into the Dead Eye. If the length were cut in half, or maybe more, and Page wasn’t overshadowed by his opponent, then this (along with the angle afterwards where Jericho attacks Page and lays him out with the Judas Effect), would be a nice match to lead in to the title match.

 

PENTAGON Jr/REY FENIX vs. FRANKIE KAZARIAN/SCORPIO SKY

This is a fun spotfest, but it’s still a step down from the Lucha Bros match with the Young Bucks from May. It looks like it might be going somewhere when Fenix gets isolated and worked over by Kazarian and Sky, but Sky and Kazarian don’t do anything special, and before making the tag, Fenix feels the need to do an overly flashy rolling kick to Kazarian, so he obviously wasn’t in that much peril. Once Pentagon tags in, any sense of structure or order is gone, and all four of them just start throwing out spots and double teams with almost nothing getting any meaning. The match does end on something of a high note, with Pentagon’s Canadian Destroyer getting some respect. Sky barely kicks out, and it’s due to the lackadaisical cover. He’s still out of it when Pentagon sets him up for the Package Piledriver with Fenix’s diving stomp assist, and that’s enough to keep him down. This didn’t need more time nor did it overstay its welcome like Page/Sabian, they just needed to do a better job of taking advantage of the time they had to tell a story and make the events of the match matter.

 

KENNY OMEGA vs. CIMA

Until they went crazy toward the end, this was looking like the best match of the show. CIMA targets the midsection to soften up Kenny for the Meteora, including stretching him out on the mat and giving some extra meaning to his propensity for chops to the chest. CIMA misses the first Meteora and Kenny starts sharking on the knee, much better than what Sabian did to Page, and it’s the first match that seems to want to tell a story. Both of them do a nice job of selling, and there are a few smart touches, like Kenny’s delay after the snap Dragon, and CIMA wigging out of the One Winged Angel and hitting a back cracker, and selling the effect it had on his bad knee. The best moment of the match was Kenny stunning CIMA with a knee and setting him up for an Electric Chair off the top, but the time it took him to set it up allowed CIMA to recover and he counters into a sunset powerbomb.

 

But, once CIMA does the Meteora on the floor, the match just falls apart. CIMA all but kills his own finisher. He does it on the floor, rolls Kenny into the ring and does another and Kenny still kicks out. He hits several more on top of that, and even plants Kenny with a Schwein on the apron followed by another Meteora and still fails to win. Although, at least Kenny has the sense to get a foot on the rope. Kenny follows CIMA right off the deep end too. He ignores the body work and avoids a Meteora by catching CIMA in midair, holding him in place and then buckle bombing him. Kenny forgoes making CIMA’s knee matter, and does his usual spots, including several V-Trigger strikes, and finally wears CIMA down enough to hit the One Winged Angel to win. If only they’d performed as well, and as smart, in the latter half of the match, then this would have been Omega’s best match with an opponent not named Okada.

 

MATT JACKSON/NICK JACKSON vs. DUSTIN RHODES/CODY RHODES

The Dustin streak continues! But, Dustin’s performance is far from the only thing to enjoy about this match. It goes a little too long, which seems to be a bit of a trend, but, this is easily the best match of the night, because almost everything they do has a purpose to it. Even silly spots like the Rhodes’ stereo figure four is a good revenge spot for the Bucks’ stereo sharpshooter spot.

 

The early exchanges between Cody and Nick work in establishing familiarity, from their long history as stablemates and teammates in New Japan and ROH. The Bucks do a good job in working over Dustin early on, with some fun heel stuff, especially the way they cut off the tag to Cody, and just being jerks in general, like mocking the Rhodes brothers embrace at the end of their singles match. But, the match really picks up after Cody’s hot tag, when Matt takes the shoulder bump into the post and the shoe is on the other foot. As much fun as the Buck’s control segment was, the Rhodes bros sharking on Matt’s arm is even better, with Cody even pulling out a Fujiwara armbar of all things. It’s not just revenge for the Bucks working over Dustin, but revenge for their dickish attitudes from the moment this match was announced. Matt’s selling is great too, even when he’s trying to make his comeback, he keeps the arm in mind, and show how it’s giving him trouble. Even when he makes the comeback, which comes from pushing Cody off a bulldog attempt and then letting Cody run himself into a spear (which Matt puts over perfectly) he’s letting Cody do the work for him and trying to keep his arm safe.

 

Nick’s spotty tendencies on his own hot tag also work in the context of the story of the match, with Matt needing time to rest, he knows he’s got to strike hard and strike fast, before the Rhodes’ can double team him. The match breaks down after Nick’s tag, without much in the way of structure, but there are still plenty of smart moments. The Bucks try to resume their cockiness, and pay for it in the form of getting planted with stereo power slams, and also the famous Rhodes uppercuts. Cody’s disaster kick to prevent the Meltzer driver was nice too. The only thing that really exposes the cooperation is Nick’s senton to break up the pin. The tandem Cross Rhodes is a great finisher for them, but with Nick already perching himself on the top, it was obvious what was coming. Especially when Cody tries to cover up Dustin so he doesn’t take the full brunt of the senton. But compare that one exposing moment to the numerous ones found in the trios match from Fyter Fest.

 

Even the finishing run starts with a smart touch, with Cody once again trying his dive, and jumping into superkicks. Dustin fends off the Bucks enough for Cody to recover. They do some finisher stealing, with the Bucks still heeling things up, by giving Cody the Cross Rhodes, and getting hit with superkicks in return. Dustin gets tossed, and Matt (while still keeping his bad arm in mind) holds up Cody for Nick to do the Meltzer driver. They probably should have wrapped it up shortly after Nick’s tag. But, they still managed to throw in plenty of smart touches, and continue telling the story of the Bucks’ attitude, as well as the question about how Matt’s arm would hold up. It’s not terribly difficult to find evidence that the Bucks clearly know how to work smart and tell a story. Their performance here, along with their match from Double or Nothing, only makes the trios match seem that much more mind boggling. ***1/2

 

Conclusion: Without the main event, this was a solid show, but a few disappointing performances dragged it down. The main event is well worth sitting through the frustrations of the Omega/CIMA and Page/Sabian.