It was Thanksgiving 2020, and I was sitting in my sister’s living room. After a disastrous evening with our father where we had bailed on the family gathering early, we were hanging on her couch eating mini-churros.
“Hey, you wanna watch some wrestling?”
My sister had started watching AEW as a pandemic hobby, brought into it by her partners. While we were on her couch, she started pulling up matches on YouTube on AEW Dark. She started explaining wrestlers to me, their gimmicks, and which ones were her favorites. That branched off into other AEW-adjacent YouTube shows, like BTE and the other vlogs. The night was great fun, just searching through videos for fun matches and unique characters.
It’s where my love for wrestling started. Over the last few months, I’ve found a group I do watch parties with, but even with three hours of TV between Dynamite and Rampage, I find myself coming back to Dark and its newer sister program Elevation. A part of that is that Dark and Elevation are in their own weird niche. Kenny Omega doesn’t show up on Dark, and the Inner Circle and the Pinnacle don’t make more than the odd appearance(Unless it’s WARDLOW WEEK, baby). Instead, it’s where the truly weird personalities hang out.
Especially in the first half of 2021, in the Daly’s Place era, Dark became something of a mainstay for me. I would watch past episodes to just absorb more wrestling. Dark episodes on youtube tended to be longer than Dynamite shows, and while there may not have been as many stories that were outright being told as those that were on TV weekly, it had its share of heroes and it was great to have on in the background.
The patron saint of AEW Dark is none other than Fuego del Sol: Alabama’s third-favorite luchador, the master of the Tornado DDT. Fuego showing up in a Dark match and losing to a heel padding their win totals is a tradition like any other. The perennial underdog, Fuego Del Sol is your favorite C-List comics character who you pop for when they show up in a splash page. Watching as many Dark matches as I could, of thirty-four consecutive losses, was like watching the platonic ideal of wrestling, of the perennial underdog who keeps coming back to fight. You know how a Fuego Del Sol match will end, but you still love them.
Most of the time on the Youtube shows you can make a pretty good guess as to who’s going to win before the match starts. There are squash matches that exist to support AEW’s internal canon of wins and losses, to get their rankings. Thunder Rosa’s fought in thirty singles and tag matches this year, and the majority of them are on Youtube. But how does a group like the Wingmen, a mix of hot guys hanging out and forcing himboification on their opponents, form with a guy like JD Drake sliding in? In between the random match where Baron Black or the local indie talent take the pin, you get these stories that occupy the lower half of the card.
Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. It’s hours of new content each week. But I would be lying if I said that watching Jungle Boy on Dark every week grinding out matches didn’t make me even more of a fan of his once he’s started getting big matches on TV.
It’s also where, unfortunately, a lot of the women’s competition is. AEW has a problem – they show two women’s matches on TV a week, one per show. If we’re lucky, we might get an additional angle or promo sprinkled in there. The talent there is real, though outside of a few feuds, it’s not something you see on television too often. Most often it tends to be limited to, in recent times, whatever feud Britt Baker is in. Don’t take this the wrong way, I love my favorite dentist, but there is a lot of other talent there, which most often ends up on Dark. Recently, Big Swole and Diamante had a great feud that ended in a “Three Strikes” match as Dark’s main event. It was great! Go watch it now. I’ll wait.
Great. Wasn’t that fun? That’s what I want to share with readers. Don’t have the time to watch a show? I’ll share the relevant story bits, share a fun match or two that shows off some talent on the roster, and I’ll occasionally plug a fun guest wrestler who appears on the show.
Lastly, there’s one part of the Dark experience that cannot be understated: the announcing. Elevation’s pair of Tony Schiavone and Paul Wight had a bumpy start, though they have settled into a more familiar rhythm, though Eddie Kingston making regular appearances at the desk is always a welcome treat and brings the show to another level. But where the show really shines is on Dark with Excalibur and Taz. The pair have an effortless rapport, mixing Excalibur’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things wrestling and put-upon straightman bit with Taz’s heelish opinions and chihuahua attitude. The two can slide anyone into the booth with them, even to the point where Negative One, a nine year old, occupied the third chair in some matches to bully Excalibur earlier this year.
It’s an experience that feels wholly like the rest of AEW’s product, though dialed down from the often frenetic jam-packed marquee events to the equivalent of an easy podcast to have on in the background. It’s my goal to share it with you readers, and hopefully, get at least some of you in on the unhinged fun of Taz threatening wrestlers because they stole his color scheme.