Segunda Caida

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

Monday, May 29, 2023

AEW Five Fingers of Death 5/22 - 5/28 (Part 1?)

MD: I'm only two hours through ROH, but it was a good show so far, with nothing that I felt an absolute need to write about. There was also a Fletcher vs Cassidy match from Dynamite. I like Fletcher as the guy who contrasts HOOK for the next decade. There's a lot of upside there. He's still at a stage where he's just giving up the struggle to set up the next spot at times, but his reactions are good. I would have liked a bit more character-driven rationale (immaturity from Fletcher) for the kickouts towards the end. Too many bombs. I get that they're getting over Cassidy's resilience under impossible circumstance, but it was a bit much. I'll start the PPV here and maybe do the pillars match on Wednesday if I get around to it.

AEW Double or Nothing 2023

Blackjack Battle Royal for the International Championship

MD: You can tell a lot about someone's love of wrestling when it comes to how they feel about battle royals. There's nothing wrong with a person not liking them, complaining about it being too hard to see the action or too much hugging in the corner, etc., not enough "action," the notion that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. I wouldn't necessarily hold that against someone, but I'm always glad when someone appreciates the possibilities inherent. 

Before my time watching, a Battle Royal, like the big San Francisco one, but others as well, was a chance to see wrestlers you wouldn't normally see interacting with the local stars. They built it up as the most dangerous sort of match possible (despite that lack of action) where a punch could come from any direction and a freak injury could occur at any moment. That made a lot of sense during in age where kayfabe was protected and strikes and holds, not spots, were the glue that held wrestling together. 

When I started watching, towards the late 80s or early 90s, WWF Battle Royals were a way to break up the stultifying structure of the WWF feud system. The British Bulldog would feud for eight months with the Warlord and you'd rarely see him up against else during that time. A battle royal would let him interact with the Barbarian or Haku or Ted Dibiase and also brush shoulders with some of the other babyfaces, a brief save, a little nod, a quick team-up. That stuff was magic for a kid who wanted a more coherent universe in his wrestling and not just a series of isolated feuds. So maybe there's some level of comfort food for me in battle royals.

In AEW, it's not that guys don't cross streams and interact. Khan books random matches all the time. It's more a case that we can never have enough of it. There's only so much time and there are hierarchical needs that keep certain wrestlers away from one another. That was true a few weeks ago in the Darby vs Swerve match. It was true in Ricky Starks vs Jay White. For us to get matches like that every week, it makes continuous elevation of certain wrestlers tricky. In a Battle Royal, though? There's very little harm in getting knocked over the top. Moreover, here the wrestlers are encouraged to interact with one another and, more often than not, the spots are frequent and clever. 

I have no idea who agented this one, but they absolutely earned their keep. While there was brawling and guys hanging from the ropes and certain guys disappeared from the action (Butcher didn't get much shine for a change), it was one signature spot after the next, one interesting interaction after the next. The Lucha Bros, working with Bandido and Komander, interacting with Jay White, for instance, were standouts. The most memorable moment of the match might have been Bandido hefting up Nese for a delayed vertical suplex as Fenix and Penta fought off all comers. Brian Cage and especially Big Bill got plenty of shine. Bill's a guy who has been delivering and entertaining week in and week out and this felt like the first step in moving him to whatever might be next. I know people were high on the Swerve vs Cassidy finishing stretch but I find Swerve best as a heel and against someone with a little contrast, a few less twists and rolls, someone a bit more conventional. I worry that a straight up match between the two would frustrate me. Here though, as just a taste at the end of a very well put together Battle Royal, just a taste of it was more than enough. Cassidy was especially good at selling the cumulative damage of weeks on his back and hand, in the midst of a match where that wasn't the narrative centerpiece. It was just another detail in a twenty minute stretch of AEW that had a ton of excellent ones.

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