The Ins And Outs Of AEW Dark 3/31/20: Small Match John

Previously on AEW Dark: AEW began giving independent wrestlers who were out of work a paycheck to stop by Daily’s Place and take an Armpit Choke from Jack Swagger. As a reminder and disclaimer, I think this is a really cool thing they’re doing, and the “Jobbers of the Week” gimmick is just a borrowed gag from the WWF Superstars column and done with both a wink wink and a nudge nudge.

If you’d like to keep up with this column and its thinly veiled Best and Worst format, you can keep tabs on the Ins and Outs of AEW Dark tag page. Make sure you check out the weekly Dynamite version of this column, and keep track of all things All Elite here.

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You can watch the latest episode of AEW Dark here:

All In: TNT, I’m A Power Load


This week’s most important development is the formal announcement of the TNT Championship, aka All Elite Wrestling’s introduction of a mid-card Television Championship with a tournament instead of having Hacksaw Jim Duggan literally fish one out of the garbage. The NWA just ran a Television Championship tournament back in January, so we’re on pace for six of these by the end of 2020. WWE should’ve had a “WWE Network Championship” years ago. Cesaro should already be a seven-time champ.

We find out the first two matches in the TNT tourney as well, and it looks like they’re using those spots to softly revive important feuds from the company’s short history. We’ve got Sammy Guevara vs. Darby Allin, which was more or less blown off at Revolution, and Shawn Spears vs. Cody Rhodes, calling back to their feud from All Out and that time Spears went full The Rock and tried to turn Cody’s brains into applesauce.

I hope they continue that theme on the other side of the bracket. I don’t know who’s going to win, but I’ll say that Cody as the “TNT Champion” who has to defend on Dynamite every week is a stellar use for a big, workhorse star who in-universe is no longer allowed to challenge for the company’s only other men’s singles title. Just make sure you guys buy a bunch of TSN stickers to slap on the front of the belt when you wrestle in Canada, okay?


Jobbers Of The Week


East Coast Zicky Dice Matt Sells is back this week, providing light competition and a warm body for Sammy Guevara’s non-stop cavalcade of double-bi poses and sarcastic top rope bullshit. Cody and Tony Schiavone are settling in nicely as a commentary team, I think, and benefit from doing commentary in post instead of having to be there live. It’s also probably easier when you aren’t setting up Cody as the color commentator and then immediately having him go to the ring to wrestle. I like the calm feel of it, especially given that it’s a bunch of enhancement talent bouts on Dark that don’t require anyone to lose their shit and MAMAMIA about it at the top of their lungs. Them breaking down the how and why of which moves are being used, which moves SHOULD be used, and how it all hurts felt valuable. There’s not enough of that in wrestling these days. Little stuff like explaining how to kayfabe escape submissions goes a long way toward rewarding the audience for paying attention and watching closely.

Plus, Sammy Guevara is a world class shit-head. Commentary talked about how he’s super talented but hanging out with the wrong crowd, which made them sound like high school guidance counselors, and Sammy broke out everything from the top rope pose into a grounded slap to Chris Jericho’s legendary C’MON BAYBAY pin. Good stuff all around.


Up next it’s the BATTLE OF THE SHAWNS as Tully-less chairperson Shawn Spears goes one-on-one with “The Captain” Shawn Dean. Dean’s the Captain because he was in the Navy, so that plus him being an AR Fox student has me assuming he was one of the guys on Kill Shot and Dante Fox’s squad in Afghanistan. How fast do you think they’d change the name “Shawn Dean” if he got signed to NXT?

Anyway, Spears finishes off Dean in a couple of minutes with a running Death Valley Driver to earn his first win of 2020 and his first since he started searching for a regular tag team partner in the bottom of the barrel. Dean’s not bad, but Spears loses points for not pinning him and declaring, “I’m the Captain now.”



After that, we get Darby Allin versus The Masterpiece Chris Masters.


[checks notes]

Sorry, this is Preston Vance, going by the Kevin Nash approved nickname of “Vanilla.” One, he should team with Renee Dupree and they should call themselves French Vanilla. Two, he should team with Millie McKenzie and call themselves Millie Vanilla. I’ve got like six more of these, but I’ll spare you. Okay, one more. He should team with Dr. Britt Baker DMD and they should should call themselves Vanilla Extract.

Vance has the unique AEW record of 0-1 despite this being his AEW television debut, as he was Shawn Spears’ tag team partner in that Billy and Austin Gunn “Gunn Club” match that got cut from Dark back in January. His performance here is easily the best on the show, but that’s mostly due to the fact that (1) he’s paired with Darby Allin, and (2) is way bigger than Allin, so he gets to control the match and Darby has to fight from underneath. Darby as a super talented tiny guy showing he can defeat less talented bigger guys is important, I think, as it justifies him hanging in there against some of AEW’s bigger stars. Not that he’s not good enough to convince you to buy that anyway, but I like being able to actually see him apply his skills and win when at a physical disadvantage.

I also appreciate Cody declaring that Vance’s stutter-stepping was “Fred Flintstone feet,” which validates years of me naming Austin Aries’ little shuffle run after Barney Rubble. I hope Vance sticks around, and that they pair him with somebody who reminds me too much of Carlito Caribbean Cool.


Finally there’s the hilariously named FABOO ANDRE, who looks like a young Ron Howard got cast in an unlicensed Shawn Michaels biopic with no budget. If the name “Faboo Andre,” the nickname “The Monarch of Manliness,” and the fact that he looks absolutely terrible isn’t enough to sell you on him as AEW’s equivalent to Eric Bugenhagen, perhaps his INCREDIBLE ENTRANCE THEME will:

Apparently they listen to a lot of hair metal in “the butterfly garden.”

Fabulous Andre unfortunately draws the shortest straw imaginable and gets paired up with AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, who cares so much about this match he pretends to operate the camera while he’s walking to the ring. Faboo surprises him by countering a vertical suplex into an arm drag and landing a couple of kicks, so Mox takes him seriously for like two seconds and murders him with a lariat, a Gotch piledriver, and an STF. SIGN FABOO ANDRE RIGHT NOW YOU COWARDS.

After the match, a wrestler far less interesting than Faboo Andre, Jake Hager, shows up and chokes out Moxley for what feels like 25 minutes. Hager armpits him and they just lie there with Moxley dying and nobody running out to help him. Cody’s even like, “hey referee, maybe get in the ring and try to stop him from manslaughtering the world’s champion on our pre-taped, empty arena, jobber squash show?” It goes on for like a full minute.


So between that and the STF Moxley used to win here, are we doing a submission match? More importantly, is Faboo Andre okay?

Tomorrow Night On Dynamite

The other half of the TNT Championship tournament is announced, Jon Moxley addresses his savage arm-pitting at the hands of Jake Strong, and Kenny Omega waits 20 minutes before no-selling whatever Trent Beretta does. Plus, the announcement of a TBS Championship, awarded to whomever loves the Atlanta Braves and watches the most Captain Planet episodes. See you then!