Tony Nese def. Alan "5" Angels
I don't think Angels will ever have a breakout singles run, but there's no denying he always gives it all whenever he's given opportunities on his own and this was no exception. He's obviously taken Kenny Omega to the limit twice before, so while it's slightly strange he can't even beat a guy the level of Nese, the outcome made sense because they're clearly building to Nese against Hook. This was a really enjoyable outing that was perfectly positioned as the opener.
Anna Jay def. Dreamgirl Ellie
Apparently Ellie has had one other singles match in AEW, but I don't remember her at all. She didn't have a chance to stand out here either due to Jay beating her so quickly, but I have no complaints. Jay needs more wins like this to start establishing credibility. I know she and Tay Conti won that great Street Fight tag team match last week on Rampage, but Jay needs more focus on her own to avoid getting overshadowed by Conti all the time.
Gunn Club (Billy, Austin and Colten Gunn) def. Rolando Perez, Austin Green and Donnie Primetime
I never thought I'd say this, but I have to give Gunn Club credit. If it was up to me, they'd be off every AEW show because I'm no fan of the faction, but at least they've been more bearable in the heel role because they're naturally annoying. This served as a showcase for the trio to give them another win together. I could do without Billy Gunn wrestling as much as he has been, but hopefully his sons are getting experience from working with him.
Marina Shafir def. Valentina Rossi
Shafir has had a few Dark matches in recent weeks, and shockingly, she's been impressive. I say "shockingly" because she was pretty bad from what I saw of her in WWE, but maybe it's because she wasn't given many chances to improve. She's come across like a badass so far in AEW and this marked her first win. Expect her to be signed soon as AEW appears to be high on her development and upside.
Bobby Fish def. RYZIN
I feel like we haven't seen too much of Fish on his own as of late, at least since Kyle O'Reilly came in and the focus shifted to the former Undisputed Era as a group and just Adam Cole in singles competition. While it was nice to see him pick up a win here, I was more so surprised to see RYZIN back. He was a regular on Dark in the first year or so of the pandemic, but he's barely been used since AEW started touring again. That's a shame because he's a talented dude and arguably deserves a deal, but I suppose AEW doesn't feel the same. This wasn't anything special, but at least Fish scored a necessary victory.
"Legit" Leyla Hirsch, Kris Statlander and Red Velvet def. Renee Michelle, Sofia Castillo and Marina Tucker
Probably the most subtle story being told in the women's division over the last month or so has been the tension teased between Hirsch and Statlander. They've teamed up a time or two and they're obviously not on the same page. Hirsch has been showing more of an aggressive edge and I'd love if it led to her turning heel and possibly linking up with Team Taz. Granted, they're far from a prominent act, but she'd be a fitting addition. This wasn't a very good match, but it did further the story between Statlander and Hirsch.
The Acclaimed def. Blanco Loco and Axton Ray
The Acclaimed are an interesting spot in that they're consistently positioned toward the top of the AEW World Tag Team Championship power rankings yet they never seem to win whenever it matters most. Their pre-match raps are entertaining and they're over with the audience, but I'm not sure they'll ever be in that top tier of tag teams in AEW. Nonetheless, this was a fairly standard squash win for The Acclaimed to give them their first win of 2022.
Jamie Hayter def. Madi Wrenkowski
Hayter has become one of my favorites to watch since arriving in AEW's women's division last summer. She works with such intensity and stands out as a result. Wrenkowski also stands out with how she presents herself, but she hasn't been featured on Dark nearly as consistently as she was during the pandemic. Both women are heels, so while it was a weird dynamic, it was a well-worked match up until the finish, which looked ugly. I don't know what wrong there, but hopefully Wrenkowski will be fine because it was a bad botch.
Dante Martin def. Chandler Hopkins
Any momentum Martin gained from turning on Team Taz (after only a week or two, mind you) is virtually gone because it's been so long since we've seen him. The program obviously isn't over, but surely AEW could have found television time for him after Winter Is Coming or filmed a backstage segment with him and Lio Rush making up or something. On the bright side, this was a fun sprint with Hopkins also getting to show off some skills before eating defeat.
Sammy Guevara def. Ho Ho Lun
I remember Lun making his debut in WWE's Cruiserweight Classic back in the summer of 2016 and not being impressed at all. He was actually one of the worst workers in the entire tournament I thought. He was signed to the company around that time but requested and was granted his release a short time later for personal reasons. He's definitely better than he was when I first saw him, so props to him for holding his own against Guevara. Guevara will be contending for the AEW TNT Championship at Saturday's Battle of the Belts special, so this kept him the right track and the fact he won with a Cross Rhodes was a nice touch.
Powerhouse Hobbs def. Colt Cabana
The lack of Team Taz on TV since the summer has been so disappointing. Hobbs and Starks are stars but haven't been booked as such in the slightest. Thankfully, Hobbs completely steamrolled through Cabana here. It went around four or five minutes and Cabana scored some offense at one point, but this was all about Hobbs and establishing him as a dominant force. I'd like to see him pick up more high-profile wins and start climbing up the card instead of sitting on the sidelines.
Brian Pillman Jr. def. JD Drake
I'm curious why this was positioned as the main event over Hobbs vs. Cabana. It was a little longer and was a bit more competitive, but Drake is booked like a goof with The Wingmen. Okay, so you can say the same thing about Cabana, but Hobbs has a higher ceiling than Pillman I think. It was probably because he's facing Malakai Black on Wednesday's Dynamite and they wanted to make him look like a threat before then. This was a serviceable match but definitely not main event worthy.
I wasn't super high on the amount of matches this episode featured (and I was getting bad flashbacks to when AEW taped Dark at Daily's Place every week for over a year), but it breezed by more than usual and most of the matches served a purpose. We also got a handful of (slightly) competitive matches and some star power sprinkled throughout. Hopefully the fact this edition was around an hour is a sign that's the length they intend to stick with for Dark in 2022. Featuring a little less than 12 matches would also be ideal so they're not cramming so much into that hour.