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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: 9/19 - 9/25 Part 2

AEW Rampage Grand Slam 9/23

Darby Allin/Sting vs. House of Black (Matthews/King)

MD: Unless they're in there against a team that's the top of the top, like FTR who can carry the heat in a more conventional structure no matter the opponent, Sting's tags always have a bunch of bells and whistles. That's in part because Darby Allin is bell and a whistle and his matches probably should have big set pieces anyway. It's in part to cover Sting's physical limitations. It's always amazing how well the matches go regardless and that nothing ever goes wrong. Here, things went wrong, but as with most wrestling, when things go wrong, they tend to create an even bigger dramatic effect. For the most part, these matches are tied together by Sting's presence, his star power, Darby's ability to bump and throw himself into situations, and the big stunts that everything builds to. This was no exception. There was the early ambush, the visual image of Julia going full Sherri (as she did often in this match) hanging on Sting's back, things ending up in the ring with Sting standing off and then fighting off both Matthews and King. There tends to be less of an overall narrative in matches like these. You're building from moment to moment and capitalizing on the opportunities the last moment presented. Darby hitting King with a code red and then himself out on a dive on Matthews allowed for Sting to match up with Matthews and set up his own dive. King recovering early enough meant that Sting could go flying through the tables (which included the first mishap that made everything more grisly and helped justify how out of it Sting would be for the rest of the match). That allowed for the handcuffing and Darby to fight back up the ramp during the commercial break and the 2-on-1 at the top with all of the individual story beats, ultimately leading to them revisiting the dangling choke that started this feud and both men crashing into tables and ultimately out of the match.

It's a tricky balance, having everything weighty enough, having it all make sense, having it all justified, having it remain consistent with everything that's happened in Sting's other matches and across the rest of the card. The weight of things here had to balance with the Starks/Hobbs street fight for instance. But I think they more or less nailed it, aided in part by some of the mishaps like the tables not cooperating or Julia's huge bump going wrong at the end to help get across the weight of the finish. Obviously, everything here built to the big surprise of Muta and it worked because the crowd went up for it and because Matthews portrayed shock and fear exactly when he should have. Plus he took an absolutely amazing dragon screw. That helped too. But that highlights a broader point. There wasn't a moment in this match where any of the wrestlers (including Julia, though maybe not Muta) wasn't entirely engaged and putting everything they had into it. When you've got a stunt show held together by star power and spots, that engagement is absolutely everything.

Sammy Guevara vs. Eddie Kingston

MD: I've been watching a lot of 1986 New Japan lately. Actually, let me rephrase that. I just finished watching every single NJPW match we have on tape for 1986. The throughline of that year is the NJPW vs UWF feud and there are two matches in particular: Fujinami vs Maeda and the match where Koshinaka wins the title from Takada that you can sum up like this: the NJPW guy had to wrestle an absolutely perfect match to hang in the UWF guy. In both cases, Fujinami and Koshinaka rise to the occasion and you end up with two just great matches. As this started towards the finishing stretch, I kind of had that same feeling. After all that had happened, given pent up rage in Kingston that had been simmering and simmering, given that Sammy robbed Eddie of his revenge against Jericho, given how Ruby Soho was hurt, and most especially given the way Sammy repeated his line to start the match, he would have had to wrestle an absolutely perfect match to hang with Eddie, to have any sort of chance of actually beating him. That would have meant leaning on every advantage, his speed, his agility, Tay at ringside, Eddie's own rage used against him, everything. If he had managed that, he would have had a shot, not to pin Eddie, not to make him submit, but maybe to knock him out. 

Sammy did not wrestle that match. He got beat around the ring. He capitalized on a mistake. He drew some heat during the commercial break doing snow angels in the ring and yes, leaning on Tay. He survived a strike exchange even. But the tide was too much. It was not his perfect match. It's not within his character to do so. What he did manage to do, however, was to tap into that rage, that pent up aggression, a symbolic throbbing heart of AEW that is connected to everyone sitting at home and every missed opportunity past and present. He unleashed a monster too big for him to stop, but also too big for itself to stop. Eddie had been stretching Jericho in his own head for months. With Sammy in his grasp, he couldn't let go. So Eddie lost a victory and Sammy won a Pyrrhic one, celebrating down the ramp while Eddie's angst and frustration, the towering monster inside of him, only grew stronger and more intense. It got me thinking though, got me wondering. Maybe someday we'll see them run it back. Maybe someday we'll see what Sammy's perfect match against Eddie might be. Koshinaka spent all of 86 getting better, made stronger against the hard steel of Takada. Maybe Eddie is exactly what Sammy needs?

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