IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley def. Jon Cruz (Non-Title)
It's funny how Moxley is only now starting to come out with the IWGP U.S. title, even though he's held it for over a year, just because AEW and NJPW are finally working together ahead of the Moxley vs. KENTA match later this month. Moxley rarely ever competes on Dark, so this was a nice treat and a great way to kick off the show. Cruz attacked Moxley right out of the gate, but it wasn't enough as Moxley put him away in a matter of minutes. This was a fun short and sweet showcase for Moxley.
Bear Country def. Chaos Project
Considering Chaos Project will be in action on Wednesday's Dynamite (why?!), I figured they would win here to pick up some momentum. That said, I'm not complaining at all that they lost because Bear Country are a far more interesting duo, both as characters and in the ring. This was honestly one of the better Chaos Project matches I've seen, though that was largely because of Bear Country and what they bring ot the table. If they aren't already signed, they should be.
The Butcher and The Blade def. Jake St. Patrick and Sage Scott
Butcher and Blade went after Patrick and Scott before the bell even rang, so they weren't wasting any time. I've said before how these guys typically bore me to tears, so it was the correct call to keep this on the shorter side and have them be totally dominant. Their intensity made the match more bearable. I assume this was designed to give them a last-minute boost before they and Eddie Kingston lose to Moxley, Lance Archer and Rey Fenix on Dynamite this week.
Shanna def. Renee Michelle
Michelle is, of course, the real-life wife of WWE Superstar Drake Maverick. She was also all over Raw with the Maverick during the beginning of the 24/7 Championship silliness two years ago. However, aside from her recent appearance on IMPACT! Wrestling in the Impact Knockouts Tag Team Championship Tournament, I haven't seen much of her in-ring work at all. She's decent from what I saw here and maybe she'll improve over time. I'd say I'm surprised by Shanna being left out of the AEW World Women's Championship Eliminator Tournament, but she's barely been on Dynamite since returning to the promotion, so I guess that should have been expected.
The Dark Order (Alex "3" Reynolds and John "4" SIlver) def. Eric James and VSK
If Reynolds, Silver and the rest of Dark Order aren't already babyfaces, they certainly will be in the very near future. I hope they're in the AEW World Tag Team Championship picture at some point because I think fans are ready to see it with how popular Silver has gotten since last year. He and Reynolds had an enjoyable outing here and this was a nice rebound win for them coming off their recent losses on Dynamite.
Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus) def. Baron Black and John Skyler
I don't know if I've ever seen Jurassic Express have a quick squash match before, so this was a refreshing change of pace. Their matches are usually competitive, regardless of who they're up against, but this actually made more sense as they're currently embroiled in a (somewhat) heated feud with FTR. They need to show more of their serious side and this accomplished that as they won in decisive fashion. I'm glad AEW has added more layers to that story between the two teams because it was fairly generic when it started.
Tay Conti def. Vertvixen
Conti is becoming the new Ricky Starks of Dark in that she'll appear on almost every episode and beat an unsigned opponent. In her case, it's more understandable because she could use the extra experience and practice. As I've said time and time again, she's coming along real nicely and this was another impressive performance from her, even though it was brief. With Conti and Anna Jay both competing in the women's tourney, I'm curious if they'll end up facing each other in the second round and that's why they've been appearing with each other so much in the last few months.
Eddie Kingston def. Aaron Solow
Kingston was all fired up, likely because he's fresh off a loss to Lance Archer from two weeks ago. Of all the matches on this show to go a little longer, I didn't mind this being one of them because Kingston has never been established as the most credible competitor on this own (yes, he's competed for the AEW World Championship twice, but I feel like he loses more than he wins). Solow scored some offense but went down for the three count in the end as he should have.
Ricky Starks def. KC Navarro
What's with Hook always accompanying Starks, Brian Cage and Powerhouse Hobbs down to the ring for their matches? It's completely pointless and they don't (or at least shouldn't) need him. I mentioned earlier in this review that Starks was on every episode on Dark at one point and it got old at one point because it was the same thing week after week. Thankfully, this was mere seconds long as he hit Navarro with Roshambo for the blink-and-you-missed-it win.
Brandon Cutler def. Misterioso
This marked Misterioso's AEW debut. He's a luchador out of Los Angeles according to Excalibur. It was nice to see a fresh face as AEW tends to use a lot of the same enhancement talent for Dark. He had a solid showing, but the outcome was never in doubt. Cutler hadn't wrestled since early January, and now that he's won a handful of matches, it'd be nice to see him have some character development because at the moment there's no real reason to care about him.
Powerhouse Hobbs def. RYZIN
AEW tends to have RYZIN compete primarily in tag team matches, so I was looking forward to seeing what he could do here. Unfortunately for his sake, this was short-lived as he was destroyed by Hobbs. Then again, I've been complaining for weeks that Hobbs shouldn't be involved in competitive matches at this stage unless it's against a top-tier talent, so this was a smart call. Again, Hook was useless at ringside.
Nick Comoroto def. Fuego Del Sol
Comoroto is another guy who, with his size, should be booked like a monster and doesn't need to be in there long. This wasn't that short, but that's okay because he's just getting started and Fuego has been around for a while. This was a well-wrestled affair and Comoroto continues to improve. Natural Nightmares don't do a ton for me, but they're perfect in the role of coaches for Comoroto and helping him get some additional exposure.
I can say wholeheartedly that this was my favorite edition of Dark in close to a year. This is was exactly what the show should be: short enhancement matches, everyone gets a chance to shine, and it's around an hour long. It's wonderful AEW is giving independent wrestlers a paycheck during the pandemic and that's more important, but the excess amount of matches made Dark a chore to sit through since the summer. This was a step in the right direction, assuming the formula sticks. The indie guys and girls don't need to have their entrances shown and everyone looked so much better winning as swiftly as they did.