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AEW Fyter Fest Night 1 recap & reactions (July 1, 2020): Party foul

AEW Dynamite (July 1, 2020) emanated from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, FL. The show doubled as night 1 of the Fyter Fest extravaganza. It featured three title fights and one major party foul.

Get caught up on all the Dynamite details with the excellent live results and play-by-play from Claire Elizabeth.

We’ll start with important news in regard to night 2 of Fyter Fest on July 8. The scheduled main event was supposed to be Jon Moxley versus Brian Cage for the World Championship, but Moxley will not be able to compete due to precautions from coronavirus exposure. That marquee match is rescheduled for July 15. In its place for next week, there will be a tag team title bout between Hangman Page & Kenny Omega and Private Party.

Leave it to Taz to turn a legit reason for absence into a prime trash-talking moment.

Taz accused Moxley of ducking Cage, since AEW is so thorough with their virus testing. He even included a shot at WWE, “We don’t run a sloppy shop.” Taz diagnosed Mox with a case of chickenshits. Cage will beat Moxley’s brains in.

Once again, Taz is excelling in his managerial role with Cage. I enjoy his blunt approach injected with humor. Taz is in the running as best manager today in professional wrestling.

Party foul

The main event of the evening saw Hangman Page & Kenny Omega squaring off against the Best Friends for the Tag Team Championship. The champs cut a cocky pre-match promo backstage. They were very confident in victory, almost to the point of arrogance. Even though it wasn’t a good look, I’ll say that they’ve earned that right from their previous victories. Meanwhile, the Best Friends looked like dorks as they arrived driven by Trent’s mom in her minivan. That elimianted any desire I had of seeing the Best Friends win.

The match itself felt a little flat. I was expecting an epic encounter. The action was solid, but it was lacking that extra gear. Maybe Trent and Chuck Taylor needed their muse Orange Cassidy, who was absent from ringside. The pace did pick up after the final commerical break.

There was one instance where the Best Friends came close to an upset on their Strong Zero finisher. Hangman had to be saved by Omega.

I wasn’t quite sucked in to believing, but it seemed like an approriate finish if the plan was a title change.

In the end, Hangman did cowboy shit to take over when Omega was down. Page delivered a kneeling back-to-belly piledriver then a buckshot lariat to pin Trent and retain the titles.

I’m not sure why this match didn’t thrill. Both teams have good chemistry with each other. Heck, sign me up for a singles bout between Hangman and Trent. They had exchanges of maximum hossitude. From a story perspective, I felt that the Best Friends didn’t rise to the occasion. This was their big chance at glory and they didn’t grab it by the horns.

During the bout, FTR entered the scene to drink beer by the commentary table. Afterward, they came down to the ring to offer celebratory suds for Hangman and Omega. Page was game for a refreshment. Omega hesitantly accepted the bottle, but he changed his mind to commit a major party foul. Omega poured the bottle out onto the floor. Dude! That’s a major no-no. FTR took exception to the diss, and I can’t blame them. The Young Bucks hit the ring to play peacemaker. The show closed with Hangman and Omega exchanging angry words.

I have no desire to see a break-up between Hangman and Omega at this moment. However, if AEW is intent on that story, then this was a creative wrinkle to bring it to a boil. Seeing the sides form of Omega and the Bucks across from Hangman and FTR looked like a perfect fit. That would be an intriguing trios match to see the interactions between Hangman and the Elite. The question is how a contest of that caliber would get made. It doesn’t make sense to book it against Hangman’s will. This drama is definitely something to keep an eye on.

By hook or by crook

Cody Rhodes defended his TNT Championship against Jake Hager. Coach Arn Anderson and uncrowned “Miss United States” Catalina Hager were ringside. Cody would need all the help he could get to take down “Rock Hard” Hager. In a pre-match exclusive, Dustin implied he would have Cody’s back. Little did we know that it would be foreshadowing for crooked interference.

AEW flashed a tale of the tape with interesting competition stats in the background. It was a little tough to see on screen. I have no idea if AEW actually combed the tape library to tally accurate stats, but the concept looked cool nonetheless.

This match was more of a sports entertainment style of grappling rather than snug mat work. Cody used pesky counters to Hager’s power advantage. Anderson was flapping his gums often at Hager. Hager went so far as to choke Arn with his bare hands at one point, and I can’t say I blame Hager. Arn was being a nuisance with his strategical distractions. Hager’s wife would also get involved by stepping on Cody’s back with her high heels and slapping him in the face.

Top moves were an underhook superplex toss by Hager and a backward flying cutter by Cody.

One guarantee about big match Cody is big match shenanigans. He was in serious trouble on an ankle lock from Hager but managed to reach the ropes for the break. Arn hopped onto the apron as a distraction once again. That allowed Dustin Rhodes to run in with a big right hand. Cody pounced for a Cross Rhodes, but Hager countered into a Flatliner and an arm triangle choke.

Cody maneuvered his body on top as Hager was underneath with his shoulders on the mat. The referee made the three count in favor of Cody, even though, Cody passed out from the submission. Hager thought he won and became irate when informed of his loss. He cold-cocked the referee out of frustration.

This match was much more exciting than Hager’s No Holds Barred fight against Jon Moxley. The pace was quicker and the moves flowed better. Cody’s streak of entertaining TNT Championship bouts remains intact.

In terms of story, the finish was a bit of bullshit. Dustin’s interference was straight up cheating. I can’t scold Cody just yet, because we don’t know if that was part of his plan as an ace in the hole. It certainly wasn’t equivalent in force to Catalina bugging Cody like a mosquito. Arn did what he had to do as coach to get in Hager’s head, but there was no honor in his approach.

I hope there is a backstage interview, because Cody’s reaction will be telling. If Cody is popping champagne, then this could be more evidence of a slight heel turn. While I give him credit for awareness to stack on top of Hager for the pin, Dustin’s involvement made it a cheap win.

It should also be pointed out that this finish may have been an audible. All signs pointed to Brandi being the one to stifle Catalina, but she flew home unexpectedly to tend to her ailing 16-year old dog.

At least Cody can dedicate his win to Colby-Jack.

Holy Shida

Hikaru Shida put her Women’s Championship on the line against challenger Penelope Ford. Referee Aubrey Edwards wasn’t taking any guff from Kip Sabian and ejected him before the opening bell.

The match began with fire as Shida immediately connected on a running knee in the center of the ring. The champ attempted to finish it quickly on a Falcon Arrow slam, but Ford escaped out the back before impact. Ford fought hard to control the middle chunk of the bout. She even made me believe she would win the belt after taking a Falcon Arrow but reversing Shida’s pin into a roll-up. If Ford was going to win, that would have been a perfect moment as a surprise upset.

Ford also had a dope Matrix dodge of a flying dropkick.

In the end, Ford tried tricks to get her loverman back involved. She exited the ring to fidget with the championship. Ref Edwards followed to admonish any cheating. Sabian ran from behind to hit Shida with her kendo stick. Shida ducked and clobbered Sabian instead. Ford did take advantage with a handspring cutter for a 2.89 count. Her demise would come after missing a moonsault. Shida unloaded running knee strikes and a Falcon Arrow. Ford survived with a shocking kick-out, but Shida finished it promptly with another running knee strike to the face.

This wasn’t the cleanest contest in a technical sense, but the high spots were super awesome. Shida retaining was the right call. She is clearly the best performer in AEW’s women’s division. Ford’s grit was noticeable in defeat and elevated her status in my eyes. She will definitely be a worthy champ once she tightens up her game.

Private Party with Matt Hardy

Private Party took on Santana & Ortiz. Matt Hardy was by Private Party’s side. This contest was just as good as the rest, but the excitement suffered in the cooldown position prior to the main event. Isiah Kassidy was the man of the match. He had a very nice high hangtime step-up flying attack to the outside.

Kassidy also executed a corkscrew plancha with a crazy amount of twirls. He was like a human blender.

In the end, Hardy prevented Santana’s use of his madball sock weapon. That led to Private Party escaping the Street Sweeper to hit Gin & Juice for the win.

As a fan of Santana & Ortiz, their loss is lamentable. Oh, well. It’s not their time to rise yet. I thought Private Party picked up a quality win to strengthen their resume for a title shot. Lo and behold, they are being called into action for said title shot on night 2 of Fyter Fest. Now, this win is great momentum as they challenge Hangman Page and Kenny Omega.

Jurassic Express success

MJF & Wardlow versus Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus opened the show. MJF was stylish in a special pink robe with Burberry trim. He wrestled in pink tights and pink knee pads. Marko Stunt was ringside to support Jurassic Express.

This bout was the best of the evening. All four competitors had their moments to shine. MJF displayed his evergrowing skills with a drop toehold rolling over into a facelock. Old school wrestling can still be cool. Luchasaurus showed his mastery of the cleaning house technique with vicious kicks and powerful slams. Wardlow was a beast who took flight for a swanton. The move that made me yell an expletive of excitement was Jungle Boy with a reverse rana to Wardlow. That was badass.

The finish came down to MJF’s use of the Dynamite Diamond Ring. Wardlow was holding Luchasaurus up for the loaded fist. As MJF charged, Luchasaurus escaped. MJF stopped just short of punching Wardlow, but the dinosaur pushed MJF into hitting his enforcer. Jungle Boy took care of MJF outside the ring. Wardlow ate a barrage of kicks, a swinging DDT, a chokeslam, then a standing moonsault before the winning pin by Luchasaurus. Afterward, MJF was upset about the loss and left the area without Wardlow by his side.

The question I had before this match is who would take the pin. I don’t think MJF and Luchasaurus have had their shoulders down on the mat for three yet in AEW. (Correction courtesy of Cagesider RossOverdrive: Luchasaurus was pinned in a Lumberjack Match against Wardlow.) Jungle Boy and Wardlow can both recover from a loss, but they still need to keep their momentum strong. In the end, the choice was Wardlow, although, his mystique was smartly protected by being hit with a foreign object then taking six straight heavy impact moves and strikes. He looked strong in defeat.

Notes: Fyter Fest had a beach party vibe with swimsuit models and palm trees. Chris Jericho delivered the chuckles on commentary, as Le Champion always does. Next week’s broadcast will have a puppy battle royal. Yes, you read that correctly.

Joey Janela tried to fight Lance Archer in the fan section, while Jake Roberts giggled at that feeble attempt. “Technique by Taz,” highlighted Jon Moxley’s Paradigm Shift. Technical analysis by Taz is always excellent. Orange Cassidy taunted Chris Jericho with his presence at the commentary table. Jericho did his best for his chi to flow like water, but he eventually lost his cool and had to be separated from OC.

Darby Allin had a skateboarding vignette with a sweet backflip stunt.

Stud of the Show: Wardlow

The moment that stood out most to me was Wardlow taking all kinds of punishment and roaring in defiance.

There’s something riveting about watching a warrior mustering up guts while knowing defeat is near.

Dud of the Show: Referees

AEW made the referees look incompetent with missed tags, inability to enforce counts, and being easily distracted for deployment of dirty tactics. That’s the way AEW operates. I’ve accepted it, but I still don’t like it. My line of thought is now transitoning to how AEW wants a sports presentation. Do they ever review the tape for a performance evaluation like other leagues? That is quite the conundrum to solve to make their referees efficiently enforce the rules while still allowing for sports entertainment hijinks.

Grade: B+

Overall, night 1 of Fyter Fest gets a thumbs up. There were no bonkers moments to elevate the grade, however, it was still a solid show with exciting wrestling. I believe I would have been content with this half of the show if I had to pay for a PPV instead of it being on free TV.

Share your thoughts about night 1 of Fyter Fest. How do you rate it? Who stole the show?

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