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AEW Dark recap (July 21, 2020): Ricky Starks joins forces with Brian Cage

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Episode 43 of AEW Dark featured two former NXT talents, the Nightmare Sisters continuing their hints at a women’s tag team division, and Brian Cage having a new partner in crime to attack Darby Allin.

Here’s the lineup with ratings (watch, solid, okay, pass) on which matches are worth your time toward Dynamite:

  • Rache Chanel vs Hikaru Shida (okay)
  • Kip Sabian vs Corey Hollis (pass)
  • Best Friends vs Brady Pierce & Sabby (okay)
  • Ricky Starks vs Will Hobbs (solid)
  • Scorpio Sky vs Aaron Solow (okay)
  • KiLynn King vs Diamante (okay)
  • Robert Anthony vs Darby Allin (watch)
  • Peter Avalon & Brandon Cutler vs Blade & Butcher (solid)

Allin’s match was entertaining, but the real fireworks came in the aftermath with story development in his feud with Cage. Starks vs Hobbs was my favorite of the bunch. The contest was an interesting speed versus strength battle, and Starks’ charisma cracked me up with laughter.

Watch the show here.


Excalibur and Taz were on commentary. Justin Roberts was the ring announcer. During the intro, Taz did a double finger point to camera. Taz hinted at having a new ally. He stated that Excalibur is one of the only people he likes in AEW, besides Brian Cage and his new friend. But, that’s another story.

Rache Chanel vs Hikaru Shida

Shida’s Women’s Championship was not on the line. Chanel was upset early about headlocks messing her hair. Later, she tied Shida in the ropes then retrieved a brush from her purse to comb Shida’s hair. This contest was more competitive than expected. Shida was never in danger of losing, but she had to work hard for victory. Shida eventually put Chanel away with a sliding elbow strike, a knee to the back of Chanel’s head, and a Falcon Arrow slam to win.

Kip Sabian vs Corey Hollis

Penelope Ford was ringside. Sabian dominated the action until he took too long showboating on his field goal kick taunt. That gave Hollis time to recover. Hollis had a mini flurry of offense that ended when Sabian pushed him into the turnbuckles. Sabian’s Deathly Hallows finisher was then executed for the win.

Nightmare Sisters in training

Dustin Rhodes was conducting conditioning drills for Brandi Rhodes and Allie. Dasha Gonzalez approached them for an interview. Brandi clarified that, aside from winning, their goal was to catch people’s attention. AEW is known for having the one of the best men’s tag team divisions, but what about the women? The two Sisters began bickering when Allie parroted whatever Brandi said to sign off the interview.

Best Friends vs Brady Pierce & Sabby

Sabby had a stint in NXT as Tino Sabbatelli. Bonus fact: He also dated Mandy Rose. The Best Friends took over in the end with dual slingshot planchas onto their opponents. Trent and Chuck Taylor hugged then hit Pierce with Strong Zero to win.

Ricky Starks vs Will Hobbs

Taz put over Starks as an out of body experience when watching him in action. Taz later praised Starks’ brain. He also clarified that he is loyal to Cage, but how can he not scout a prospect like Starks?

Excalibur told a story about Hobbs. Hobbs had planned to be a wrestler and manager duo with his brother, but his brother saved Hobbs by taking a bullet. That bullet cost him his life. Hobbs sees pro wrestling as a way to honor his brother’s memory.

This bout was speed versus strength. Hobbs hit heavy moves, such as a delayed vertical suplex and a spinebuster. Starks used sneaky strategy to sucker Hobbs on various occasions. Starks showed strength of his own to win with an impressive double underhook facebuster.

Scorpio Sky vs Aaron Solow

Solow also spent time in NXT. Bonus fact: He is engaged to Bayley. Solow exhibited a mean streak by driving Sky’s throat into the ropes then adding some ground and pound. For the finishing sequence, Solow smashed Sky’s head into the turnbuckles on a sunset flip powerbomb. Sky kicked out of the pin. Solow went high risk, but Sky caught the flying elbow drop into a crucifix pin. Solow escaped. Sky immediately pounced with a TKO to win.

KiLynn King vs Diamante

King had about 10 inches of height on Diamante. King looked pretty good with a variety of counters, but Diamante won with a surprise Code Red.

Robert Anthony vs Darby Allin

Allin was mean mugging Taz at the opening bell, so Anthony kicked him in the head and demanded that he pay attention to the match. Allin was reckless with his body on the attack. Anthony slowed things down to inflict pain. On the floor, Anthony Irish whipped Allin into the ring’s underbelly. Allin’s strategy was to attack the arm and utilize an armbar. It seemed like a message to Cage after how Cage lost to Jon Moxley. Allin won with a Coffin Drop on the apron, an over-the-top stunner, then a Coffin Drop in the ring.

Afterward, Cage cut Allin’s celebration short. Cage came down to the ring. He snatched Allin out between the ropes then German suplexed him back in over the ropes. Anthony shoved Cage. Cage shoved back, then Ricky Starks appeared out of nowhere to drag Anthony out and ram him into the ring post. Cage proceeded with two vicious powerbombs on Allin. For the third powerbomb attempt, Starks grabbed Allin’s body away from Cage for a big facebuster. Cage and Starks shared a fist pound, while Taz gloated that we will have to wait until Dynamite for an explanation of Starks joining forces with Cage.

Peter Avalon & Brandon Cutler vs Blade & Butcher

Leva Bates was ringside. Avalon was being pummeled, so Bates tried to save him with a flying crossbody off the apron. Butcher caught her. Avalon came to the rescue with a suicide dive onto both bodies. Later, the lovable losers had momentum when Cutler launched outside and made a unique tag.

Avalon connected on a flying splash to Blade, but Blade kicked out on the cover. Cutler tried a springboard elbow. Blade got his knees up. Bates tossed a book into the ring to distract the referee. Avalon walloped Blade with a different book. Cutler saw Avalon’s shortcut and took exception to the cheating. Blade recovered and suplexed Cutler. Butcher flattened Avalon on the floor with a running body block. B&B hit a teamwork suplex into backbreaker on Cutler to win.

After the match, B&B clobbered Avalon with a powerbomb neckbreaker combo to send a statement to the Young Bucks for their Falls Count Anywhere match on Dynamite.


Yes! I wanted Ricky Starks to join Taz and Brian Cage, and AEW followed through with it. Thanks, AEW. That provides an interesting direction for Cage’s feuds with Darby Allin and Jon Moxley. Starks and Cage should make for a great pairing. Cage is so-so on the charisma scale. He relies on his look to make viewers take notice. Starks drips charisma. So much so that it should compensate for Cage.

Starks can also go in the ring. I was impressed by his outing with Will Hobbs. Starks used his mental acuity to take the advantage. Stroke Daddy surprised me greatly with his power in picking up Hobbs for the double underhook facebuster finisher. That was the type of showcase bout that made both men look good.

Darby Allin had a nifty fight against Robert Anthony. He worked on his armbar technique to prepare for Cage. He’s going to need that, because I don’t think a Coffin Drop is going to keep Cage down for a three count. Cage could press Allin off him in his sleep.

This week’s enhancement talent showed up to perform. Anthony earned my applause by kicking Allin in the head at the start of their match. Anthony also had a cool rolling surfboard submission. Hobbs continues to catch my eye as a powerhouse. He is someone I would sign. Sabby and Aaron Solow showed their skills. I wouldn’t mind seeing them again on Dark.

Share your thoughts on Dark. Who stood out most for episode 43? Do you like the pairing of Cage with Starks?