Tony Schiavone was flying solo this week, without the glamorous Dasha Gonzalez. He was also free of the AEW Control Center, with the former voice of Monday Nitro presenting from the arena in Indianapolis.

Once again, Excalibur found himself presenting Dark alongside a guest announcer, this time being joined by the self-appointed ‘Chairman of AEW’, Shawn Spears. Spears was without Tully Blanchard this week but was on fine form as the heel colour commentator, doing a great job of furthering his nasty bastard persona whilst also putting over the talent in the ring, which is a rare find in on-air talent who can easily find themselves a bit out of sorts when sat at the announce position. Spears, however, had no such issue.

Pentagon Jr vs Trent Beretta w/ Orange Cassidy

Considering that both of these guys should be regarded as primarily tag team specialists, the representatives from The Lucha Bros and Best Friends delivered a fun, well-paced and exciting matchup to kick off proceedings. Whilst no stranger to one another in the multi-man match format, it’s always interesting to mix it up a little and segregate the stars into situations they aren’t normally in.

Pentagon took control early over Trent, sending the headband-wearing flying into the ring post in a great little spot, before working over the artist formerly with the surname Beretta with kicks and chops aplenty. Despite some fightback from Trent by the way of over-the-top-rope dives and spiking DDTs, Pentagon showed his mean streak and unique, innovative offence as he took control with a huge double foot stomp as Trent was hung up in the turnbuckle and a scintillating Canadian Destroyer that drew a gasp-inducing groan from the fans in attendance, who were into this match from the get-go.

AEW Dark isn’t just a modern-day version of WWE Sunday Night Heat remember…more often than not the talent is ready, willing and able to pull out all the stops whenever they get TV time and both of these men are evidence of that. Don’t believe me? Check out the “holy shit!” moment when Pentagon driller Trent on the ring apron with a skull-cracking package piledriver. As the Mexican maestro looked certain to give a repeat performance in the ring, Trent pulled off the upset (?) by reversing the package piledriver into his tried and tested Crunchie to pick up an impressive victory.

From Undesirable to Undeniable: Shanna

Boom! AEW does the documentary stuff really well. The behind-the-scenes vignettes on the talent are a nice addition to the rest of All Elite Wrestling output and it goes a long way to expose some of the maybe lesser-known talents to the world. I don’t want to spoil this particular segment as it’s as raw, passionate and honest a piece as you’d wish to watch, whilst being heartwarming and interesting. The long and the short of it basically comes down to the fact that Shanna has been shit on from a great height by a great many people (amongst them “the other company”) and this opportunity could be just what she needs to prove the doubters wrong. Sure, it wasn’t officially titled as From Undesirable to Undeniable and Cody Rhodes was conspicuous by his absence…but we all knew that’s what this segment was.

Alex Marvez is as awkward as they come when he’s in front of a camera, isn’t he? It’s certainly not just me that thinks that is it? Aside from that – we finally heard from Big Swole ahead of her one-on-one encounter with Shanna and I can happily report that we have the making of one BMF in the Floridian.

Big Swole vs Shanna

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Big Swole. Whilst I haven’t heard much of her on the mic until this week’s episode, she’s physical and a solid hand between the ropes, with the intensity of Jazz and sass of Jacqueline to boot. She has definitely been a standout performer in her last few matches that she has featured in on AEW television, in my humble opinion, and this week was no different. Nothing says “I’m here” like an old-fashioned pump kick to the face, does it?

After a few weeks of multi-women matches, it was good to see two women get some valuable airtime to go at it one-v-one. Whilst I appreciate All Elite Wrestling trying to shoehorn their female talent into matches every week, which have been enjoyable for the most part, it is the chemistry created in a regular one-on-one contest that I think is the true test for talent and ultimately, it’s when the spotlight shines brightest and doesn’t have to be shared with another 4 women.

What did we learn from this encounter? Both women are tough as nails, gutsy and tough as nails. That much can not be discounted. Mix in the fact they also appeared to be in-ring great storytellers considering they have no real “history” as such in AEW and these 2 women showed that given an opportunity and some time: they can deliver. The nasty double foot stomp in the corner from Shanna was a particular highlight and her dragon suplex with a high bridge that would eventually earn her the ‘W’ rounded out a well-paced match that saw both women attempt to string together offence in a true battle of back-and-forth that could set both women up for what would certainly be a rivalry that delivered. Do I want a series of matches between Big Swole vs Shanna? I don’t see why not.

Leva Bates w/ Peter Avalon vs Awesome Kong w/ Brandi Rhodes

So after more insufferable Alex Marvez in his AEW Dynamite: By the Numbers segment, hype for this week’s Dynamite and Tony Schiavone plugging upcoming events, we got the increasingly insufferable promo work of ‘The Librarian’ Peter Avalon. I know he’s trying and he’s giving it his best shot every week, but somethings not clicking and he’s no Dean Douglas, The Genius or Damien Sandow… he’s not even a cheap knock off. He’s just bad.

Free from her “Welfare Queen” character from hit Netflix show Glow (which is fantastic by the way), Awesome Kong made her AEW Dark debut in style with a swift squash victory over Bates. After hitting the Soul Collector, her huge double underhook front suplex, Kong put the frighteners on Avalon before taking a lock of hair from another victim in her seemingly unstoppable rampage across the AEW women’s division. In short: THIS right here, his is how you build a monster in the women’s division. I can’t wait for what I hope is an eventual showdown between Awesome Kong and the phenomenal “Native Beast” Nyla Rose.

Jack Evans vs Kenny Omega (Mega Campeonato de AAA match)

AEW Dark historians can always note contest this down as the first official title defence on the show, despite Omega’s Championship itself not actually being an original All Elite Wrestling title, being as though this was being contested for the AAA Mega Championship. If this match did anything, it was its ability to showcase AEW’s international and inter-promotional ties whilst putting on a unique, “hit the random button to select your wrestler” match-up for the casual fan. Add in Jack Evans history of wrestling in Mexico and the always interesting and authentic journeyman tale of Omega and suddenly, this seemingly randomised booking has some substance and it means something more than just an entertaining way to close out the show.

You’d be remiss to not mention the pure athleticism on display in this match, which you had to know would be the case. The innovative, unorthodox offence was the order of the day and the match was pretty much 100mph from when referee Aubrey Edwards called for the bell. The darker side of Omega was definitely on display in the latter stages of the match, as “The Cleaner” hit some vicious snap dragon suplexes on the challenger, including a notably nasty one on the outside, as well as a cross-legged ushigoroshi that saw one half of The Hybrid2 barely get his shoulder off the mat.

One thing you can’t say is that Jack Evans is a quitter. Boy, can this kid take a beating! After Omega punished Evans in the latter stages of the match (that buckle bomb was wince-inducing), the spring-in-his-boots Stampede Wrestling, Dragon Gate and Ring of Honor alumnus went all Shawn Michaels with some fantastic selling and ‘never-say-die’ kick-outs. It goes a long way and helps validate him as a serious contender and viable opponent for a competitor in Omega that whilst being fantastic, will always fall into the realm of being one of ‘The Elite’.  However, as great a fight as Evans put up, you’re not going to kick out of a lightning strike-Esque V-Trigger and One-Winged Angel, which was what it took for Omega to finally keep his worthy challenger down, rounding out a very, very strong episode of Dark.

Pics courtesy of AEW, Tweets from @tde_wrestling