The Dark Order had gone from a confusing mess of spooky tropes to a flat out joke at the end of 2019. A laughable attack with the fakest of punches made what was going to be the next big threat to the Elite into nothing more than a confederacy of dunces. Was this rock bottom for our hapless villains or could they swim out of the inky dark and break to the surface?
Chapter 2: Self-Help
Attempts were made to rehab the Dark Order immediately. Evil Uno claimed the “Phantom Puncher” was a spy who had infiltrated the faction. This intriguing plot point unfortunately went nowhere. Like many failed products, it was time for rebranding.
The Dark Order had swelled it’s ranks by picking up the losers from the AEW roster. Now it was time to reach beyond the confines of wrestling, to recruit the lost and abandoned of society. The Dark Order pivoted from being a nebulous spooky evil faction into a modern cult in the model of Scientology. Evil Uno ditched the leather vest for a bespoke suit, lending an air of respectibility to the group. A series of videos were released, mixing generic “self-help” dialogue with spliced images of people in Creeper masks. The promise of taking control of your life merged with the facelessness and conformity that cults eventually lead to.
People were interested. People were finally buying in. People were joining The Dark Order.
It was around this time that The Dark Order began to speak about The Exalted One. This mysterious leader who had been pulling strings from the shadows was destined to arrive in AEW. The Exalted One was another tactic to drum up interest in the resurgent Dark Order. The videos were effective but they still needed more.
Speculation about who The Exalted One was began to spread. There were hints that Christopher Daniels would return to his Fallen Angel gimmick and turn on SCU. Daniels was an obvious choice; the occult inspired Fallen Angel personna, matched with his leadership of The Prophecy in ROH matched up with The Dark Order’s aesthetic. Despite The Dark Order’s attempts to insinuate that Daniels was The Exalted One, he turned his back on them and stayed with SCU.
Matt Hardy’s contract with WWE had recently come to its end. The Broken Matt Hardy synced up well with The Dark Order. His wild, unpredictable nature alongside his cryptic and prophetic diatribes could give The Dark Order a new direction. It seemed very likely that Matt Hardy’s debut would be as the centerpiece of The Dark Order.
But there was a dark horse.
Chapter 3: The Exalted Brodie Lee
The Covid Pandemic threw the world into chaos. For safety reasons AEW began running shows in an empty Daly’s Place arena. A show in Rochester was cancelled, the first of many changes to AEW’s touring schedule.
It was at this show that The Exalted One was finally revealed.
Brodie immediately had a positive impact on The Dark Order. A massive presence, both physically and metaphorically, along with his intense promos paid off. The audience wanted a big surprise and they got it.
The first few vignettes seemed to be poking fun at Vince McMahon. MISTER Brodie Lee chastised people for sneezing or taking a bite of food before he did. This got some flak and The Order moved away from that. Mister Brodie Lee was intensely abusive to his cult, as a cult leader often is. He intimidated them into becoming what he wanted.
Despite his rage, Lee showed his charisma. He was able to do what The Dark Order had struggled with; he got people to join. He reached out to wrestlers on losing streaks a place to feel accepted along with the promise of success. He brought in veteran Colt Cabana as well as relative newcomers Preston “Ten” Vance, Alan “5” Angels and “99” Anna Jay. Brodie wanted to mold the young wrestlers in his image.
Brodie, who had been a member of a swamp cult in a previous life, showed that he was as much a leader as Bray Wyatt. He created a new personna that fit into AEW like a glove. Brodie felt like he’d always been in AEW. He’d been set free and found a home immediately.
Brodie took a shot at AEW champion Jon Moxley at Double or Nothing 2020. Brodie then set his sights on another prestigious title, the TNT belt carried by Cody Rhodes. They faced off on the August 10 2020 Dynamite. What followed was an absolute decimation of Cody Rhodes. Brodie Lee rolled over Cody in 1 minute and 39 seconds. Brodie’s debut lasted more than twice as long.
After the match Cody was fitted with a neck brace and taken away in a stretcher. Before he could get medical assistance, The Dark Order threw him back onto the stage before Mister Brodie Lee continued to assault the injured Rhodes. When Brandi Rhodes attempted to protect Cody’s inert body, Anna Jay put her in a sleeper while the rest of the Dark Order cheered. It was a chilling scene.
Brodie made for a terrifying and believable TNT champion. He held the belt for 55 days before losing to Cody Rhodes in a brutal dog collar match. Cody won because he… dyed his hair black, I guess.
The Dark Order was also making a play to recruit top AEW star “Hangman” Adam Page. This was mimicked in the barely canon Being The Elite where The Dark Order would cause Page nothing but consternation.
It was around this time that Brodie Lee stopped appearing on TV. Evil Uno stepped up on the stick, attempting to recruit Dustin Rhodes. He tried to play on Dustin’s self doubt, dubbing him “Seven” in a deep cut callback to Rhodes’ failed ghost cowboy kid stalker character. While this didn’t pan out, it was a great example of how The Dark Order preyed on people’s pain.
On the December 22, 2020 episode of Dark, Brodie Lee’s son, Brodie Lee Jr. was initiated into the Dark Order as -1.
Four days later tragedy struck. The world of wrestling would never be the same.
Next Week… Chapter 2: Brodie Lee and his legacy