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AEW Dark recap (July 26, 2022): A PAC-ked episode

Episode 154 of AEW Dark is in the books! If you missed the live broadcast click here for the Cageside Seats replay. Excalibur and Taz called tonight’s action. Tonight’s episode is PAC-ked with ten matches so let’s get right into it!

Kiera Hogan vs. Allie Recks

Hogan brought a record of 8-7 to the ring. Recks was waiting for her to make her AEW debut. Hogan kicked her in the gut immediately and started throwing forearms. Recks responded with an elbow, a whip to the corner, a cartwheel and a dropkick. Hogan kicked out at one. Jawbreaker by Hogan. Backslide by Recks two times in a row for a two count. Dropkick, hip attack, and sliding dropkick in the corner by Hogan. Leg drop, roundhouse kick, pin. This was a squash and I’m fine with that.

Ryan Nemeth (w/ “Pretty” Peter Avalon) vs. Alex Reynolds (w/ -1 & Preston “10” Vance)

Nemeth brought a record of 6-12 to this match. Reynolds brought a record of 48-39. Excalibur couldn’t get over the fact the ring announcer announced him as from “a” Long Island. I couldn’t get over the fan dressed up like Waldo. Congratulations — we found you. Reynolds took Nemeth down with a crossbody for a near fall. Nemeth did a high crotch takedown and sent Reynolds flying. Reynolds tried a backslide. Nemeth sent him hard into the turnbuckle and out to the floor in front of -1. Avalon looked on as Nemeth drove an elbow into the back of Reynolds’ head before throwing him back in. Reynolds tried a sunset flip and got punched in the eye. Nemeth sent him neck first into the ropes for a two count. Taz was sure to remind us that they hurt and Excalibur described them as “steel cable.” Reynolds started his comeback with an elbow and a European uppercut, then gave Nemeth the same throw into the ropes he had just gotten. Reynolds missed with a big boot in the corner. Nemeth tried a roll up with a handful of trunks and it failed. He tried a DDT and that failed too. Reynolds hit a knee strike, a running boot, went top rope for a stunner, and that was that. -1 hit the ring to personally kick Nemeth out.

Marina Shafir vs. Tracy Nyxx

Shafir brought a record of 12-4 to this match. Nyxx was making her AEW debut hailing from Sleepy Hollow, New York. Taz and Excalibur discussed where to get Greek food while you’re in Sleepy Hollow, while Shafir yelled at her opponent to hit her harder. It didn’t help Nyxx one bit. Shafir unleashed a flurry of kicks that sent Nyxx out to the floor. Nyxx got all the way to nine on a ten count before returning. Shafir threw a body shot and locked on the Greedy submission while her opponent was doubled over for the win. Squash-tastic.

Slim J vs. Blake Li

Slim J was making his AEW debut in this match. Blake Li was waiting for him with a 0-2 record so far. J knocked Li down with a shoulder tackle, hit a dropkick, then a stomp and an elbow drop for two. J ran him face first into three turnbuckles, then clubbed him in the side of the head with a right for a near fall. Chin lock applied. Li fought out with a forearm and gave J a receipt for all the turnbuckles he had to taste. J recovered and hit a twisting heel kick off the ropes, then hit a flatliner and applied what Excalibur described as an inverted STF for the tap. Moving on!

Julia Hart vs. Renee Michelle

Hart brought an 8-3 record to this match. Michelle was waiting for her with a record of 0-1. Commentary was apparently so sure of the outcome of this match that they decided to talk about the House of Black attacking Darby Allin at San Diego Comic Con instead. Meanwhile Hart tried to yank Michelle’s hair out by the roots. Michelle tried to work from the ring apron but got her neck snapped and fell to the floor. Michelle got a brief hope spot after that but Hart took control and cranked on Michelle’s neck until she screamed a verbal submission.

Cole Karter vs. Mike Orlando

Karter brought a record of 0-1 to this contest following his FTW challenge last week on Dynamite. Orlando brought the same record to this contest. If you weren’t already hip to the fact Karter is the former Troy “Two Dimes” Donovan from NXT 2.0. “The Green Machine” Orlando was the fan favorite here as the Universal Studios crowd cheered enthusiastically for his comeback. Karter cut him off with a thrust kick, went to the top rope for a 450, and it ended just like that. I’m not surprised but to this audience the wrong 0-1 guy went over.

“Cool Hand” Angelo Parker (w/ “Daddy Magic” Matt Menard) vs. Cameron Stewart

Parker came out 11-3. Stewart was waiting for him in the ring with a 0-2 record. His hometown was billed as “coming to you from your home page.” He was also mugging for the camera like a low rent Tyler Breeze without the selfie stick. Taz was not amused by his antics and neither was Mr. Menard. He hit a leg drop and Stewart flopped around like a fish out of water. He hit an elevated DDT and lazily laid across his opponent to get the pin. Parker pulled out a switchblade comb to fix his hair before the show moved on.

Ari Daivari vs. Blake Christian (w/ Slim J)

“All Heart” Black Christian came out with a record of 1-1. “Trust Fund” Ari Daivari got his own entrance along with Slim J and brought a record of 1-0. Christian hit a half and half suplex and Daivari kicked out before three. Taz: “Rich kids have heart too.” Christian gave Daivari a beating while he was laid over the top rope, then did a frog splash to his back and nearly hurt himself in the process. Daivari feigned a knee injury to distract the ref, Slim J interfered, Daivari hit a frog splash of his own to get the win. Tony Schiavone said we saw J get the win earlier and there was something new about Daivari in this win. “Mr. Daivari I have some fantastic news. After the 4th of July my trust officially kicked in, making me the richest man in all of professional wrestling, even more so than Tony Khan.” The fans chanted “we don’t care” in response. Daivari: “Tonight I was watching Mr. Slim J, he impressed me, he’s a hell of a talent. That’s why I purchased his contract. He now works for me. I’m going to be scouting Ring of Honor, AEW and New Japan to see who wants to join me — Trust Fund Ari Daivari.” The fans chanted “boring” and booed as Schiavone tried to wrap it up.

Dante Martin vs. Peter Avalon (w/ Ryan Nemeth)

Avalon brought a 0-2 record for 2022 to this match. Martin brought an overall record of 33-14 as Taz continued to gripe about Martin’s betrayal of Team Taz. At this point in the show I was honestly just waiting for PAC’s title defense. Sadly the crowd in Orlando wouldn’t even get to see it because the match was taped in Ireland and licensed for AEW’s use here. That had to be an easy deal to reach since they let PAC defend an AEW title at an OTT event in the first place. Avalon hit a DDT and Martin kicked out just before three. Avalon picked him up and Martin elbowed his way out. Martin flipped over a charging Avalon, wiped him out on the floor, then did the Nosedive (double springboard) back in the ring for the win. Nemeth helped his buddy to the back as they both went winless on this evening.

AEW All-Atlantic Championship: PAC vs. LJ Cleary

The fans were already chanting “O-T-T” before the ring announcer at Poetry Slam could even introduce the match. This was Cleary’s first appearance on AEW programming but not his first run-in with wrestlers signed to AEW, and he was the clear hometown favorite here. PAC brought a record of 25-7-2 to the Dark main event and to Dublin.

Taz told Cleary to “get his head in the game” as he accused LJ of making too many mistakes and giving PAC too many openings. Cleary wanted to do a dive but PAC moved before he could like the “Bastard” that he is. He tried to come outside to brawl with PAC and that was another mistake. PAC put the boots and the badmouth on him outside and inside the ring. He went to the top rope for a missle dropkick that sent Cleary out to the floor again, then kipped up and sauntered slowly to the outside to blast Cleary with stiff kicks. He teased the crowd with a third one, then lazily kicked Cleary in the side of the head instead, getting a chorus of boos when he got back in the ring. No one plays a better arrogant prick than PAC.

German suplex by PAC and another round of boos. PAC stomped on him with the heel of his boot, yelled at the OTT crowd, and kicked Cleary straight in the face. The ref checked on Cleary to see if he wanted to continue and let the match go. PAC pulled him back to his feet and Cleary fired up with a couple of chops. PAC’s thrust kick was blocked but Cleary’s head kick was not. “L-J-Clea-ry!” Cleary hit the ropes to knock PAC down and he checked to make sure all his teeth were still in his mouth. That’s the other beautiful thing about PAC — when he’s a dick he’s a dick but when he sells he makes his opponents look like they’re killers. That’s the “notes between the music” again. PAC threw an elbow, scooped Cleary up for a slam, went up to the top but Cleary recovered before he could jump. Cleary hit a neckbreaker for a near fall. Cleary begged PAC to get up, tried to come off the second rope and got countered, but Cleary hit a thrust kick when he charged and both men were down.

PAC shook off the cobwebs as the referee started his ten count, but they each got back up in time. PAC landed a kick and went to the top but Cleary rolled underneath the ropes to try to save himself. PAC tried to kick him back in and go back up, but Cleary was playing possum and sprang to his feet, giving PAC a superplex off the top! He did a beautiful over the top rope dive, threw PAC back in, hit a Canadian Destroyer twice in a row, and PAC kicked out at 2.9999. PAC snapped Cleary’s arm as hard as he could and immediately sank in the Brutalizer, forcing Cleary to violently tap out. One hell of a finish, one hell of a match!

What to watch/skip

Tonight’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by “Out of Time 2.0.” Other than the main event the matches were underwhelming this week, but for their in-ring work I’ll recommend Nemeth vs. Reynolds and Martin vs. Avalon. Four capable hands who know how to perform. The rest of the show was predictably one-sided save for the one match featuring two 0-1 wrestlers. I know Cole Karter was booked to go over since he had recently signed with the company but I would have called an audible based on Orlando’s response to Mike Orlando. The “Trust Fund” gimmick for Daivari might go somewhere — we’ll have to wait and see.

Cageside commentary crew! Share your feedback in the comments section below. If you love pro wrestling you can find me on Twitter too. See you next Monday for Elevation!