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The first of three stipulations faced Cody on Wednesday night on TNT in the form of 10 lashings, courtesy of MJF, as All Elite Wrestling continued its march to Revolution on February 29.
The American Nightmare’s plight headlined a broadcast that also featured Jon Moxley battling The Inner Circle’s Ortiz just under a month from a high-profile championship encounter with Chris Jericho, and a massive Eight-Man Tag Team match pitting Kenny Omega, Hangman Page and The Young Bucks against The Butcher, The Blade, Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix.
Who emerged victorious from those matches, would Cody be able to endure the punishment dealt him for the right to face MJF in Chicago, and to what level of disrespect would Britt Baker sink as she squared off with Yuka Sakazaki?
Find out with this recap of the February 5 broadcast.
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A video package chronicling the issues between Jon Moxley and AEW champion Chris Jericho kicked off the broadcast before giving way to the opening match of the evening, a showdown between Moxley and The Inner Circle’s Ortiz.
Before the match got underway, Jericho made his presence felt, accompanied by Jake Hager and Sammy Guevara. Le Champion joined the commentary team, seeking to get an up-close look at his top contender.
Jericho revealed Ortiz had not competed in a singles match in 583 days, but the tag team specialist did not show any signs of rust, taking the fight right to Moxley and sending him crashing into the steel stairs. Ortiz continued to dominate the action until Moxley applied a figure-four from out of nowhere. A poke of the eye forced Moxley to break the hold.
A tope suicida wiped out Santana on the floor before Moxley sent Ortiz sailing over the guardrail. The heel recovered and delivered a tope of his own. A big splash from the top rope followed, and Ortiz nearly scored a huge upset.
Moxley fought his way back into the match, delivered a double-arm DDT and picked up the hard-fought victory.
After the match, Moxley turned his attention to Jericho and Co., only to endure a sneak attack by Santana. Moxley recovered and delivered the Paradigm Shift before taunting Jericho with the Ford GT keys from several weeks back. He then proceeded to jam one of the keys into the eye of Santana, citing “an eye for an eye.”
Moxley escaped as The Inner Circle hit the ring.
Moxley defeated Ortiz
Moxley’s revenge made sense within the context of the story, and the commentary team questioning his actions was a nice touch. Jim Ross, Excalibur and Tony Schiavone appropriately criticized the antihero for his actions after doing the same to Jericho two weeks back.
The commentary team also did a fantastic job of putting Ortiz over as a pitbull of a competitor, a small and tenacious wrestler who easily could have scored an upset victory. Ultimately, he did not, but he put on a hell of a showing that reminded fans that, while he might be primarily a tag wrestler, he can mix it up with the top singles competitors when necessary.
Moxley winning was the only outcome possible, and his attack on Santana essentially eliminated one member of The Inner Circle, decreasing the odds against him ever so slightly.
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Former tag team champions SCU and Best Friends attempted to claw their way back into title contention in the second bout of the night. Conspicuous by his absence was Christopher Daniels. He sent Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky into battle against Chuck Taylor and Trent, who had “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy in their corner.
Kazarian and Trent paired off early, neither man gaining the sustained upper hand, before tagging their respective tag team partners into the bout. Sky brushed off a shoulder block by Taylor, dodged a second-rope moonsault and dropped him with a picture-perfect dropkick. Sky followed with a cutter to Taylor but ate a spear at ringside from Trent. Kazarian downed Trent with a German suplex while Taylor delivered a flipping neckbreaker on the floor.
Back from the break, SCU delivered an assisted swinging DDT on Trent for a near-fall. Trent teased a neck injury but really just suckered Kazarian in and unloaded a comeback. A mid-match hug provided just enough of a momentum killer for SCU to pick up the win.
After the match, The Dark Order hit the ring and beat down Sky and Kazarian, making good on its threat from a week ago to target Daniels’ friends.
As The Dark Order stood tall, Cassidy rolled into the ring and came face-to-face with the heel faction, unfazed by the imposing threat the it provided. He also refused the invite to join the villains and endured a beating of his own until Daniels made the save. The Dark Order retreated despite The Fallen Angel challenging the group to bring the fight.
SCU defeated Best Friends
SCU, Trent and Taylor have in-ring chemistry that almost always results in a fun, energetic, quality tag team match. They have worked with each other countless times before and thus know each other and their tendencies so well that it is seemingly impossible for them to disappointment between the ropes.
With that said, this was less about spotlighting the tag team division and more about continuing the storyline involving SCU and The Dark Order. The heels made good on their promise from a week ago, earned themselves some additional heat by beating down Cassidy and bailed when Daniels made the save.
Which raises questions: Why were they so hesitant to beat down Daniels, why is he so valuable to them and what is the actual endgame here?
A storyline that can keep fans hooked with that many questions is an effective one, even if The Dark Order gimmick still has not hit with fans in the manner management probably hoped it would.
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Yuka Sakazaki returned to AEW for the first time since Fyter Fest last June, looking to build some momentum for herself in the company’s women’s division. To do that, she would have to defeat the No. 4-ranked competitor, the suddenly attitudinal Dr. Britt Baker.
An early onslaught by Baker gave way to Sakazaki delivering a Magical Girl Splash on the arena floor and a big clothesline back inside for a near-fall. Sakazaki unloaded with a series of forearms and a rolling elbow.
Baker dropped her, though, and looked to apply the Lockjaw. She grabbed the hair in a moment of disrespect and ended up paying for it as the babyface shifted her weight and scored the pinfall victory.
After the match, a distraught, frustrated and vengeful Baker used the ring bell to drop Sakazaki. She delivered a stomp to the back of her opponent, driving her head and mouth into the ring ropes. Her mouth bloodied, Sakazaki revealed she had some of her teeth knocked out.
Unrelenting, Baker applied the Lockjaw as boos rained down from the stands.
Sakazaki defeated Baker
In terms of getting Baker over as a heel, this was so much more effective than any of the promos she had delivered in recent weeks. Whereas the promos exposed her weaknesses, the loss and post-match attack conveyed the frustration Baker has experienced.
Professional disappointment has taken her to a dark place within herself and manifested as bold entitlement in those aforementioned promos and raw violence after this loss.
This is a much more interesting Baker than the inspirational doctor ever was and one that will benefit both her and the women’s division in the long term as that particular part of the roster continues to find its feet.
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The Butcher and The Blade chose The Lucha Bros as their tag team partners Wednesday night for a massive Eight-Man Tag Team match that pitted them against The Young Bucks and AEW tag team champions Kenny Omega and Hangman Page.
The babyfaces rolled early, Omega and the Bucks delivering a triple dropkick as the crowd erupted into chants of “be elite!” As the show headed to break, though, the daredevil Rey Fenix soared through the air and wiped out the entire Elite with a top-rope plancha.
The heels isolated Nick Jackson throughout the commercial break, cutting the ring off and keeping him from making the tag. Back from the timeout, Jackson finally created separation, taking out Fenix and Pentagon Jr. at ringside and tagging brother Matt into the match.
The action broke down as the babyfaces asserted their dominance. That is, until Fenix took out the hamstring of Omega. As they had Nick, the heels isolated The Cleaner, looking to divide and conquer their opposition.
Omega broke free of the heels’ grasp and tagged Page into the match. Hangman unloaded on the competition, wiping out all four of his opponents with a top-rope moonsault. A discus lariat put Pentagon down for a near-fall back inside.
The action broke down, and the heels regained the advantage. The Butcher nearly put Nick away with a powerbomb, but Omega made the save. The former IWGP heavyweight champion unloaded with a few snapdragon suplexes but could not down The Butcher. The Bucks took out the imposing big man, but before they could finish things off, Page tagged himself into the match.
Hangman missed the Buckshot Lariat on The Butcher but turned The Blade inside out moments later.
Page’s left knee, damaged earlier in the match, slowed him. His refusal to tag in the Bucks allowed Pentagon to deliver the Penta Driver for the win.
After the break, Pac goaded Omega into accepting his challenge for a rubber match between the two by threatening women’s champion Riho. When The Cleaner did, Pac exited the picture just in time for Nyla Rose to powerbomb Riho on a table.
The Butcher, The Blade and The Lucha Bros defeated The Elite
The dissension between Omega and Page has given way to dissension between the AEW tag team champions and The Young Bucks. It was on full display late in the match as Page refused to tag his Elite teammates in and then afterward when Omega came to the defense of his partner.
Even during the break, cameras caught Omega trying to smooth things over, which he did, but not before writing the latest chapter in Page’s impending heel turn.
The match was nonstop action, and while it may have been sloppy in spots, it kept fans invested and managed to tell the intended story.
The crowd’s reaction to Hangman suggests he is one of the most over stars in all of AEW right now. His growing popularity will only make the eventual heel turn that much more effective. Though, if handled correctly, Page could be the rebellious breakout star in the same vein as Steve Austin circa 1997. That the character has so many potential directions it could conceivably go in is a testament to the creative work that has been put into it, not to mention the performances of Page himself.
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Driven by revenge, Joey Janela unloaded on Kip Sabian early and often in their match while Penelope Ford, his former significant other and Sabian’s current girlfriend, watched from ringside. The Bad Boy punished Sabian, and when Superbad unloaded on him with a wicked kick to the back, he appeared nonplussed by the strike.
Prior to the break, Ford interjected herself in the proceedings, slamming Janela’s head into the steel stairs and allowing her new beau to seize control of the bout. Back from the commercial, Sabian delivered a twisting neckbreaker for a near-fall. Janela dodged a springboard, though, and delivered a tope suicida that wiped out Sabian at ringside.
Unable to harness his emotions, he allowed Ford to provide another distraction. This one, though, proved ineffective, as Janela caught Sabian and delivered a German suplex on the floor. Back in the ring, Sabian survived a thrust kick and delivered a backstabber. The Bad Boy answered with a Death Valley Driver for a near-fall of his own.
Ford jumped up on the apron and provided Superbad a little added motivation with a big kiss, but a charging Janela knocked her off the apron. Sabian took advantage and scored the win with a schoolboy roll-up and a handful of tights.
Sabian defeated Janela
This was a quality match that would have benefited from a clearer narrative.
Longtime fans of the performers involved know Janela and Ford had a very real relationship. They also know their breakup gave way to a very real relationship between Ford and Sabian. Unfortunately, fans of AEW do not necessarily know that because the company has not taken the time to tell the story from a creative standpoint. Had it, the crowd would have been more into this one and the performers involved.
It is something the company really must shore up because Janela, Sabian and Ford have a ton to offer AEW both now and in the future. Little hints at a rivalry here and there, and then a big television match with little to no reaction, is hardly a storytelling formula that will benefit anyone.
The finish insinuates this program is far from over. Hopefully that is the case because this feels like a feud that is just scratching the surface.
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Cody made his way to the ring in Huntsville, Alabama, prepared to endure 10 punishing, torturous lashings from his hated enemy as one of the three stipulations MJF laid forth for Cody to face the entitled young star at Revolution.
MJF, looking to add insult to injury, demanded Cody’s own belt rather than tarnishing his own. The American Nightmare handed it over, extended his arms and dared his former friend to bring it on.
Following the first lashing, heels from the AEW locker room poured onto the stage, all seeking a closer look at the proceedings. The second lashing brought a defiant Cody face-to-face with his foe. The third brought him to his knees.
Arn Anderson made his way to the ring to provide moral support to his friend and student. The fourth brought more agony to the face of the AEW EVP as MJF berated him. After the fifth, Dustin Rhodes appeared and came face-to-face with the massive Wardlow until MJF ordered him out of the ring because only Cody could take the punishment.
The heel added Nos. 6 and 7 as The Young Bucks made their way to the ringside area, all while MJF continued to implore his former mentor to quit. Chants of “Cody” spilled from the stands after No. 8 as The American Nightmare addressed his rival defiantly. MJF handed the belt over to Wardlow, who unloaded on Cody for No. 9.
Reduced to crawling, Cody fed off the cheers of the fans and tried to fight back to his feet. He failed, collapsing to the mat as Brandi Rhodes came to ringside. She encouraged her husband and held his hand, giving him the motivation necessary to get back to his feet and endure one last blow, this one to the exposed chest.
Brandi, Dustin, and the Bucks checked on Cody, but MJF got one last cheap shot in before escaping through the crowd.
Cody’s facial expressions, body language and ability to get the fans to sympathize with him made this entire segment. His ability to convey his emotions sucked the audience in and put it right there in the ring with him, sharing the agony of every lashing. With every crack of the belt across his back, shoulders and chest, fans wanted to rip MJF apart. They wanted to save their hero.
They wanted to end his suffering.
That is the sign of the perfect wrestling angle. The fans bought it, they reacted accordingly and they now want to invest their hard-earned money in seeing Cody beat the unholy hell out of that spoiled pain-in-the-ass Maxwell Jacob Friedman come February 29 in Chicago.
This was the epitome of pro wrestling done right and the type of angle that was made for Cody and Cody alone. Anyone else on the roster would have overacted or failed to generate the same emotions he did. It is in segments like this, in which emotions are high and the fans are asked to invest their own, that he thrives.
He did, and the main event segment benefitted greatly as a result.