Ricky Starks def. Mike Verna
It's been great to see Verna on Dark these last few weeks and Starks never ceases to impress, so this was a great choice for the opener. Verna scored some offense and both guys shined before Starks picked up the obvious victory. Starks has been squashing enhancement talent on Dark for many months, but at least this was enjoyable and different than your typical Starks squash.
Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus) def. Fuego Del Sol and RYZIN
Fuego and RYZIN were a random pairing, but they served their purpose in putting over Jurassic Express and making them look good as always. Like Verna, Fuego and RYZIN are two of the better independent wrestlers featured on Dark each week, so I didn't mind this lasting as long as it did. Jurassic Express have a match coming up tomorrow night with FTR, so this was a nice warm-up for them.
Tay Conti def. Marti Daniels
Conti is gearing up for an opportunity against Serena Deeb for the NWA World Women's Championship this Wednesday on Dynamite, so this was a key victory for her. As I've said time and time again, she'll be one to watch going forward for sure. There wasn't a lot to this, but there didn't need to be with Conti winning in decisive fashion within a matter of minutes. Daniels looked decent in her Dark debut.
Evil Uno, Stu Grayson, Colt Cabana, Alan "5" Angels and Preston "10" Vance def. Shawn Dean, Zack Clayton, Adam Priest, Danny Limelight and Vary Morales
When was the last 10-man tag team match we got on Dark? I can't say I've been begging to see one, but at least it involved Dark Order and was intended to serve as a showcase for them. They were on offense for a majority of this and everyone had their time to shine. I'm curious to see if Dark Order will be booked as babyfaces going forward following the passing of Brodie Lee or if they'll just keep doing what they've been doing since Lee last appeared in October, just because they can't be directionless forever.
Powerhouse Hobbs def. Louie Valle
Giving Hobbs quick wins over smaller opponents is the best way to use him right now. He needs to be made to look as dominant as possible and that can only be achieved through performances like this one. He made short work of Valle, though I wasn't a fan of the interference from Hook (Taz's soon). Okay, so his takedown was pretty crisp, but Hobbs should be able to win on his own, especially against someone like Valle.
Red Velvet def. Leva Bates
Bates has picked up her fair share of wins lately, so I honestly didn't know who was going to go over here, especially since Brandi Rhodes has been written out of storylines due to getting pregnant and won't be there to manage Velvet anymore. I'm glad Velvet's mini-push isn't over because AEW needs to build new female stars and Bates isn't it. This wasn't the smoothest encounter, but it wasn't as abysmal as other Leva Bates matches I've seen in AEW.
The Dark Order (Alex "3" Reynolds and John "4" Silver) def. KC Navarro and El Australiano
I have no clue who Australiano is, but the timing of Navarro's appearance couldn't have been better as he competed in IMPACT Wrestling's Super X Cup just this past weekend at Genesis. Granted, he lost in the first round, but he did show signs of potential. That said, this was all about Silver and Reynolds, who have grown on me as a team throughout their tenure in Dark Order between showing more personality on Being The Elite and showing off more of their skill-set in their matches.
Varsity Blondes def. Lee Johnson and Aaron Solow
Varsity Blondes are coming along as a really fun tandem in the undercard of AEW's tag division. Johnson and Solow aren't a regular team themselves, but they complimented their styles well and it made for an entertaining encounter on the whole. It's interesting to note that Peter Avalon was shown scouting Johnson afterward and Johnson walked off with Avalon's headshot. What the hell happened to Johnson being a part of The Nightmare Family? Does he need to be associating himself with Avalon?
Anna Jay def. Alex Gracia
Gracia has won on Dark once or twice before and even faced Hikaru Shida on Dynamite at one point, so it meant a little something for Jay to beat her here. Gracia had a solid showing, but Jay in particular stood out to me and I'm sure that was the point. For someone who doesn't have a ton of experience in wrestling, she's getting better at a rapid rate. I'm very excited to see how far she'll progress in six months from now. She has a great presence about her and is starting to back it up in the ring.
NWA World Women's Champion Serena Deeb def. Tesha Price (Non-Title)
Deeb is the perfect person to be holding that NWA World Women's Championship at the moment because she can work with women from all over the roster and get quality matches out of everyone, including Conti on Wednesday's Dynamite. Price has impressed me whenever I've seen her in action and this was no exception. Deeb is undoubtedly one of the best female signings AEW has had since its inception because she brings so much to the table.
Bear Country def. Baron Black and Nick Comoroto
Finally! I've been singing the praises of Bear Country since they showed up on Dark and I'm stoked they picked up their first victory here. They're an incredibly impressive duo for two guys of their size and I think they could bring a lot to AEW's tag team division because they're so different from everyone else. This was a straightforward showing for Bear Country and having them beat a fellow big-man team was cool.
Top Flight def. Chaos Project
Top Flight have had a handful of strong showings on Dynamite in recent months but haven't won as often as they should. I realize Chaos Project are far from a top team, but a victory over them is better than nothing. They're a blast to watch and they managed to get a solid match out of Chaos Project here. I honestly assumed they and The Acclaimed would get lost in the shuffle immediately upon signing, but that has yet to be the case and I'm pleasantly surprised by that.
This was my favorite edition of Dark in a great while, if only because it was only around an hour and a half long. If it's not going to be an hour anymore, then 90 minutes should be the limit. Most of the matches were kept relatively brief and the right people were spotlighted, specifically those that will also be in action on Night 2 of New Year's Smash tomorrow. There weren't any talking segments or storylines advancing, but the wrestling was on par with what we usually get and it breezed by in a positive way. This episode gets an automatic thumbs-up from me.