Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D, Sebastian, and other friends write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Monday, January 10, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death Week of 1/3-1/9

AEW Dynamite 1/5

Bryan Danielson vs. Adam Page

PAS: Hell of a way to start the year in wrestling. A classic, bloody hard fought world title war.

One thing that is challenging and unique about pro-wrestling is that you can’t just tell the story alone, you have to tell the day after story as well. Page climbed the mountain, but how does he live his day by day. What is the second date like for Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves when there is no exploding bus? Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks kiss on the Empire State Building, but how do they combine their finances and decide who moves where?

Narratively Page’s story was over with his title win, and while it was playing out (and while Page was out on paternity leave) two of the biggest stars in 21st century pro-wrestling CM Punk and Bryan Danielson joined AEW, and the focus of the promotion shifted. The feud between Danielson and Page was focused on Danielson running through the Dark Order and taunting Page, Page felt like someone reacting to Danielson, rather then the protagonist of his own story. It felt like the promotion was at a crossroads, they could either shit the title to Dragon who had multiple clear directions to go as champion, or try to make Page into not just a man fighting to climb a mountain, but a guy standing on top.

AEW kicked the booking decision can down the road a bit by having the first match between the two go to a time limit draw, and they came into this match with a trio of judges at ringside in case this match went the distance as well (leaving everyone to expect a Terry Funk from someone, smart for AEW to let it lie). One of the good things about AEW’s booking so far is that they have usually gone with the narratively satisfying finish rather then trying to do a swerve for swerves sake, here however there was no obvious direction this match would go, there were sensible arguments for either guy to win, so there was real drama in every near fall.

Danielson controlled the pace early, countering a Page tope by bealing him into guardrail damaging his arm, and drop toe holding him into the ring steps opening up a cut. Danielson then worked both the damaged shoulder and the bloody head, surely putting Page behind on those hypothetical scorecards. Page however was able to block a Danielson attempt to drive his head into the ringpost, which was something Danielson successfully did in their first match (and legendarily did to Nigel McGuinnes 15 years ago during their ROH feud), Page was drive Danielson into the post insted badly open him up with the same move. AEW has distinguished themselves from WWE by bringing back the red to mainstream pro-wrestling, recently however they have been hitting the ketchup bottle heavily, the previous week they had a very gory women’s tag match, it might make sense for them to leave it dry for a bit.

From that moment the sides were leveled with both men badly lacerated, Danielson especially going the extra mile, his face and hair soaked. We had a compact and impressive sprint to the finish with multiple callbacks to the previous match between the two and to wrestling history, including a bloody Danielson failing to skin the cat, a neat way to show how much danger he was in, and Page getting a 2.99999 kickout on Danielson’s running knee, the move he used to win the WWE title from John Cena. The buckshot lariat which Page used to win was maybe the nastiest of his career, and a great way to end this rivalry. It will be interesting to see where AEW goes after this with both guys, there aren’t clear directions for either, but the match got me much more interested in a Page title run then I was before, which is something great matches can really achieve.

MD: I thought Danielson was, once again, excellent here. This had a few extra story beats, most specifically the judges; he worked well towards them and towards potentially winning on points early but still did things like look at Lynn after the "Gotch-style" cradle pile driver late. Talk about maximizing narrative opportunities. Danielson has definitely reached that point of combining physical intensity with trying to squeeze out every bit of oft-literal blood from the storytelling stone. In a lot of ways Page held his own. I thought his reactions were good, his selling was good. Where he struggles, and this is about the style he came up in and lords over now as much as anything else, is mid-level offense. Fall away slams, German Suplexes, and death valley drivers especially are pretty big bombs to be used as hope spots here. A slam, a belly to back, a samoan drop all would have served him better in the places in the match he used them. That's not entirely his fault. The actual transition/comeback was all about Danielson getting absolutely opened up and once that happened, every second had him bleed out more and more energy towards an eventual defeat. The other story beat towards the end was them paying off all of the different finishers he used to defeat the Dark Order (and others before that) with Page surviving them all only to win off of one buckshot. It was as solid a blowoff to the last couple of months as I could imagine, even if I ultimately enjoyed it and the pacing less than the draw.

ER: Jim Ross's "Who's ready for some Cowboy Shiznit?" is truly one of the worst ways anyone has ever kicked off what would turn out to be one of the best matches. Also, this is literally the most I've ever seen Phil write about one match on Segunda Caida, so guarantee this review is a special sneak preview of Way of the Blade 2. It feels almost pointless for me to talk about a Danielson match and say "this is one of the greatest Danielson performances we've seen". He's the kind of guy you say that about and then run the numbers in your head and know that he has a hundred performances you can say that about, but it also doesn't make the statement any less true. It feels ridiculous to make statements about a guy for 20 years, but he just keeps having matches like these that make it undeniable. This was also probably the most I've ever enjoyed Hangman Page. This could have easily been a total Danielson show, and while Danielson gave a huge performance, I don't think Page wasn't overshadowed as champion at all. I liked the immediate story of Page trying to put the match away one minute in. I would have loved to see the reactions live and online if Danielson hadn't rolled to the floor away from that Buckshot lariat, losing without getting any offense. 

But it quickly goes into Page really getting punished, when he gets matador'd into the guardrail on a big tope. Page had some great crashes after that missed dive, getting thrown painfully into the railing, into the ringpost, and getting busted open on the ring steps. Page throwing his body into out of the ring bumps like Matthew Justice is a great version of Page. But his offense was also really strong once he started making his way back into the match with an awesome vertical (yet safe) Death Valley Driver, and a harder corner lariat than I'm used to seeing from him. What I wasn't expecting was Danielson getting even bloodier than Page over halfway into the match, after Page pulls him hard by the arms several times into the ringpost like it was 2006 ROH, when Champions tried to see if their heads were harder than ring posts. I thought this was going to be a savage Danielson bloodying but ultimately losing to the champ, not the champ rising up and making his foe lose even more blood. Once both men were fully masked there were some incredible bits of character. Page getting lightheaded and dropping to his butt with a Kawada sell after doing Danielson's jumping jacks taunt back to him was fantastic, and a bloody Danielson collapsing just before he would have gotten leveled by the buckshot lariat was the kind of wrestling idea that would have secured Danielson the #1 spot on both of the 2001 DVDVR 500s. Danielson's busaiku knee decapitated Page like that that log sliding through the trucker's cab in Red Asphalt, and he gets destroyed by a backdrop driver and buckshot lariat. Nothing like starting the year off with a match that we'll still be talking about in a year.

AEW Rampage 1/7 (Taped 1/5)

Eddie Kingston/Santana/Ortiz vs. 2.0 (Jeff Parker/Matt Lee)/Danny Garcia

PAS: You put some New Yoricans in a street fight and I am going to be into it. This had a JAPW arena brawl vibe to it, lots of moving pieces, big shots and great little moments of character work. Eddie Kingston is the best wrestler in the world, and is the highlight of every match he is in. I loved the ground and pound on the floor, with Kingston trying to clear Garcia's guard, and all of the leg selling was killer. King hopping across the ring to hit the Exploder ruled and was a heck of babyface hot tag spot. 2.0 are just great filler guys, can pretty much play any role up and down the card and make it work. Garcia is obviously headed for bigger things and I am excited for them to revisit the Kingston feud down the road, I could easily see it as a main event match for a big title.  

MD: I don't want to be mean about this, because the effort and layout were both very good for the TayJay vs Ford/Bunny match, but a brawl like this exposes what happened with them as a lot of bells and whistles. Again, not anything necessarily wrong about that, but this is striking, as it didn't need any of that and it was still gripping. I'm generally the low SC vote on Santana/Ortiz, but here their double teams (which usually feel more like ends unto themselves than means to achieve a greater purpose) worked as a tool for them to assert dominance whenever the action actually did make it back into the ring. Kingston's selling and overall sense of defiance was spot on as always as was Garcia's dickish targeting of the leg on the outside. 2.0 got to show some extra versatility here proving that they could take a lot of stuff and fill the space properly in a garbage brawl. From a structural standpoint, it felt a bit off to me how after Garcia/2.0 eliminated Kingston and therefore had a theoretical numerical advantage for the stretch, they still lost. Maybe you could play it up that they paid some sort of greater cost by being so focused on Kingston, but it raised a flag. I probably would have liked this more if it ended after the bell shot.

ER: I have been loving this feud, and this was the best match of the feud so far. It really did capture that classic 2000s indy brawl feel, the kind of match where you can have 6 favorite guys. Jeff Parker was a huge standout for me. I was an Ever-Rise fan, and like that he's one of the few guys left who throws a strong fistdrop, but here he looked like a heel indy legend. He's out there in perfect street fight gear, sporting a mustache and haircut that makes him look like Eric Roberts in Star 69, which is a fucking great way for a wrestler to look. Santana and Ortiz had some fire double teams in this, some great timing on a cutter where Santana slid into the ring to toss Ortiz back into Parker, and no matter what the Inner Circle did Parker had the timing and ring placement down precise. Parker also threw the best punches in a match that has several good-to-great punchers and really fueled the big babyface comeback. Matt Lee is a great unhinged idiot and also kept gluing himself into things, working in and out with everyone and running into constant chaos on the floor. The Kingston/Garcia was some awesome story advancement, with Garcia taking advantage of a Kingston slip on the floor and immediately going after his knee like an asshole. Kingston was his perfect self, egging on his own beating, never able to help himself from making his beating worse. They worked a hot finishing stretch into a brawl that was more about stiffness and strikes (like an old JAPW or IWA-MS brawl) than about modern AEW garbage stunt brawling. There were some big spots, but they managed to convey a ton of violence without using blood, and it takes a great brawl to stand out like this without the AEW crimson. 

AEW Battle of the Belts 1/8

Dustin Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara

MD: Combination of good smart work from Dustin plus a few big set pieces that made full use of Sammy's athleticism. It stands out so much watching Dustin as basically the only guy (save a few exceptions) in the roster that draws claps up or does the ten count punch in the corner. Then he'll turn around and do the Canadian Destroyer through the table. That said, he probably was the wrong opponent for Sammy. Either you need a heel that'll base for him and try to tear him apart or a younger face who can really go to highlight Sammy's offense. Dustin started and ended with a handshake and while he played savvy vet at times, he was just too over as a face to make the most of things. I hadn't seen their previous matches so I'm not sure how those were worked, but this never quite gelled the way I would have liked. I did think the finish, where Dustin tried to repeat Cody's success, was very good. All that said, what people will probably remember in the end are Sammy's bump for the first CrossRhodes, the big dive, and the Destroyer through the table.

PAS: We really haven't seen Dustin work a highflyer before. It's too bad we never had a Dustin WCW run in 1997 or so, I imagine he would have had some awesome Worldwide matches against Juvi or Billy Kidman. I liked the early sections where he tried to match speed with Sammy only to get winded, and I liked him working the leg to slow him down. Lots of big spots here, including the Sammy TAKA style double jump dive and the Canadian destroyer through the table, which is something you expect to be sloppily done by an indy scrub in a deathmatch, not perfectly executed by Dustin Rhodes of all people. Fun stuff, and every Dustin match we get these days is a mitzvah. 

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