It goes without saying that AEW has been a blessing for the health of American wrestling. Wrestlers have been given a platform on cable television to express their art without the restrictions and politics of the past. AEW has also given exposure and paychecks to countless independent wrestlers on their YouTube channel shows AEW Dark and AEW Dark Elevation. And contrary to the predatory practices of WWE, AEW allows their wrestlers to work for any other wrestling company with prior approval. Excalibur has described AEW as “The Home of Pro Wrestling” and I can’t really disagree with that slogan right now. This is why I think AEW is the best perspective to look at the rest of the wrestling industry right now, and it’s the motivation behind this project.
My goal with The AEW Umbrella is to look at the world of pro wrestling from the perspective of AEW. The AEW Dark shows have so many unknown wrestlers every week and it’s hard to determine what matches and wrestlers are important from them. I will be commenting on what I feel is important from these Dark shows every week, and providing facts about the wrestlers that I think are interesting. AEW Enhancement Talent is a wonderful Twitter account that already does this to a degree, but I hope my more opinionated notes will still provide a unique viewpoint of these wrestlers. I will generally pick a few matches each week from these shows to write about in more detail as well. But the main draw to this project will probably be AEW Around the Wrestling World where I list every match that AEW wrestlers competed in over the past week. Any match that I end up watching will receive a star rating and some quick notes.
AEW has given the modern wrestling fan plenty to dig into. But there is only so much time in the day. I want to document anything interesting during the week and learn about these wrestlers so you don’t have to. I have other ideas for this project going forward, but for now, welcome to the AEW Umbrella.
AEW Dark Elevation
October 4, 2021
Rochester, New York
NOTE: For these Dark reviews I will bold my recommended matches and italicize matches that are slightly interesting. Most matches on these shows won’t be worth watching.
Sonny Kiss vs KM
FTR vs Elijah Dean and Zach Nystrom
The Acclaimed vs Cheech and Colin Delaney
Kris Statlander vs Becca
Abadon vs Davienne
Lance Archer vs Louis Bruno
Shawn Spears and Wardlow vs Fuego Del Sol and Marko Stunt
2point0 and Daniel Garcia vs Justin Corino, Shyane Stetson and the 1MANTHRILLRIDE
Emi Sakura vs Sky Blue
- Sakura was the perfect opponent for Skye Blue here. Emi has been working with some of the brightest female prospects that have been on Dark ever since her return. Clearly they intend for Emi to pass on some knowledge that she uses to train joshi in Japan. Skye was able to focus on selling in this match which has been the strongest part of her game, while also showing some nice fire.
- Spears and Wardlow probably have potential as a team. They used an impressive finisher here where Spears dropped his opponent into Wardlow’s knee for the Causality of War instead of Wardlow’s typical setup on the ropes. Fuego and Marko could get squashed by heel teams every week and I wouldn’t complain.
- Kodama and Obariyon are just the former AEW Dark jobbers Louie Vallie and Chris Peaks in facepaint. Louie Vallie has wrestled 9 matches so far for AEW so I thought this was significant to mention.
- Colin Delany was noticeably over on this show. The former WWE ECW wrestler is a Rochester local, and a childhood friend of Brodie Lee so it was cool to see him on the show. Colin had one more AEW match before this where he tagged with Shawn Spears to lose to the Best Friends. While it might seem normal, this match actually happened before the pandemic Darks.
- Kevin Mattews (a former IMPACT wrestler) stood out the most out of any jobbers on the show. I love the heels on Dark that can confidently stand out with their crowd work in the short amount of time they have. He currently owns the indie Wrestle Pro which holds events in New Jersey and… Alaska.
- PAUL WHITE QUOTE: “I like to see stuff like that, that I can steal at a later date”
- Darius Lockhart wrestled QT Marshall in the main event, and seemed to be knocked out by a slap. This didn’t make tape. I was really disappointed (I was there in person) considering this was a big spot for Lockhart. Expect me to write a spotlight for this guy in the future.
October 5, 2021
Nick Commerato vs Orange Cassidy
Serpentico vs Marko Stunt
Pretty Petter Avalon and Ryan Nemeth vs Varisty Blondes
Diamante vs Santana Garrett
Gunn Club vs Hunter Knott, Rosario Grillo and Cameron Stewart
Eddie Kingston vs Antony Henry
Madi Wrenkowski vs Skye Blue
Zada Zhang vs Kris Statlander
Kal Herro vs Sonny Kiss
The Acclaimed vs Michael Martinez and Vary Morales
Abadon vs Valentina Rossi
Baron Black, Austin Green, Aaron Frye and Dean Alexander vs FTR, Spears and Wardlow
- Just like this week’s elevation episode, This edition of Dark was much lower in quality than the past few weeks.
- The jobbers got a lot of time against the Pinnacle. Aaron Frye in particular got a lot of shine in his 11th AEW match. He seems to almost religiously wrestle in Georgia aside from his AEW appearances. His true indie name is Fry Daddy, which understandably did not make AEW Dark. He looks to be starting in Championship Wrestling from Atlanta soon which is not insignificant since they are part of the UWN.
- Sonny Kiss has been showing a lot of aggression lately. The point is obviously to play into the story with Janela and being frustrated with her AEW career so far. But I think this will help Sonny round out her game as her intensity was always a weak point. This squash was worth a watch.
- Wrenkowski and Skye do have potential, but this was a clunky match between them. They started off well with some fun takedowns but Wrenkoski seems to struggle with the heat segment of her matches. Nonetheless, Skye picked up her first win in AEW over Madi, who has 3 wins herself.
- The Gunn Club are trying to figure out their persona, and are taking the approach of being loud and annoying. This match was rather boring, but it was interesting to see the Gunn sons experiment. Colton is still undefeated so let’s watch for that.
- Santana Garrett did not quite impress like the other debuts from NXT on these tapings. She didn’t show much during her match with Diamante, and I cannot recommend it, even for curiosity.
- Luther works so much better in a more intimate venue like the “AEW Zone”. The crowd seemed to have a blast screaming with him. Serpentico got his second singles win in AEW, which Excalibur incorrectly said was his first win. He beat Sonny Kiss on 5/18/21 after a distraction finish from Joey Janela.
- Nick Commerato quote: “ONE SHOT, AS HARD AS YOU CAN, HIT ME”… to Orange Cassidy.
Dark Match Recommendations
Eddie Kingston vs Anthony Henry
These AEW Dark tapings have been a breath of fresh air. Not only is the more intimate crowd in Orlando Studios breathing life into the shows, but also AEW has been bringing in several former NXT wrestlers for what seem to be tryouts. Anthony Henry only had 11 matches in his WWE career that started and ended in 2021. His former independent home base Evolve is no more. I’m excited to see where his landing spot is. Anthony Greene, after having a similar WWE career to Anthony Henry just made his Dynamite debut following his recent match on AEW Dark.
This match was a fun performance that left me wanting to see more.. It was built around some clever leg work from Henry, which put the focus on Kingston’s selling. I love how when Kingston is taking a beating, he is always trying to find an opening to strike his opponent or to fight out of a hold. As Henry began to aggressively target Eddie’s knee Excalibur mentions that Kingston and Henry have been on many shows together. This added some solid headcanon for me of Henry being frustrated with the success of one of his peers. I wouldn’t go out of your way for this, but I found it entertaining to see what Henry had to offer after being fired from the WWE in a basic match. ***
Jora Johl (or Robo The Punjabi Lion)
You might have missed it on the September 29 Dynamite, but Jora Johl made his TV debut in Rochester. Jora was a part of the 16 man tag team match with the Hardy Family Office vs The Dark Order and Orange Cassidy. Being the only member not currently signed with AEW, Jora took the losing fall in this match. He barely got any exposure, but any sort of Dynamite debut often leads to bigger opportunities so Jora Johl has a bright future ahead of him.
Jora was born in a small village before eventually moving to Chandigarh, Punjab. He has an athletic background as a soccer player and has won several awards in bodybuilding competitions. Jora moved to the United States after getting accepted to Iowa State University without knowing anyone else in the country to support him. With little knowledge of the wrestling industry, Jora’s first attempt to enter the wrestling industry was by reaching out through WWE’s website applications. His background granted him a phone call, but not much else. He then started training under Brian Fury at NCWA who trained Sasha Banks and Dominick Dijak. His wrestling name before AEW was Robo the Punjabi Lion, the Punjabi portion was chosen so he could represent where he comes from.
What initially stood out to me about Jora was his charm. He has such a wholesome and positive energy when he speaks that makes him a natural babyface. I came across an early pandemic interview hosted by Jora Johl where he spoke to Jinder Mahal about the struggles of pursuing pro wrestling in India. One fan asked, “why are most Indian wrestlers heels?”. Instead of discussing the racial biases, the wrestlers instead talked about their preferences for each role. Jora mentioned that while he started as a heel, he quickly transitioned to a babyface, which immediately felt natural to him. The match I linked below is a short *** match where Jora gets the crowd behind him with some crisp offense and a clever, “robotic”, no selling.
In his 3rd AEW match on June 21, 2021, Matt Hardy defeated Jora Johl. After the match, Hardy offered Jora the lowest position in the Hardy Family Office. Hardy claimed that Jora’s Visa was about to expire and that of course, he could afford to keep him in the United States. Jora begrudgingly accepted Hardy’s offer since it was his only opportunity to show other kids in India that they could achieve their dreams (how beautiful). But this is wrestling. We all know where this is going. One day, when AEW is ready to invest in Jora, he is going to get fed up with Hardy’s antics, and turn on him to begin his push. AEW will be stacked with young prospects and veterans for years to come, so time will tell if Jora can stand out. However, with AEW recently signing the 7’ 3 Indian basketball player Santam Singh, and Jora being one of the few unsigned wrestlers to win matches on Dark, it is looking like Jora will get a lot of opportunities to shine within the next few years.
“I grew up in a small village in Ropar, Punjab. My whole life, ever since I was a kid, I have admired Matt Hardy. I used to dream of getting a job somewhere in the US, just so I could go and watch Hardy perform. So you can’t even imagine what it feels like to wrestle Hardy. And then Hardy asked me to join his group HFO…I want to wrestle for AEW, I want to wrestle for Tony Khan. But the Matt Hardy of today is not the same person that I looked upto as a kid, he’s changed…my heart says not to join his group, I don’t want to join his group” – translated Hindu promo from Jora Johl after Matt Hardy offered him a spot in the HFO.
AEW Around The Wrestling World
Beyond/WWR+ Masha Slamovich Presents Borscht At The Beach
Paddy’s Beach Club in Westerly, Rhode Island, USA
September 16, 2021
Leyla Hirsh defeats Killer Kelly ***½
Club Cam (Aaron Rourke, Bobby Orlando & Bryce Donovan) defeat Bear Country (Bear Boulder & Bear Bronson) & Slade **¾
- This show was actually at a beach, which gave it a fun and lighthearted atmosphere.
- Club Cam are all Create a Pro graduates. Aaron Roarke seems to be quite solid and just graduated this year. Bear Country had some nice power spots and Cam did some fun trolling with his dumb captain costume, but this match was dragged down by the setup of a table spot. Slade took the pinfall here.
- This was Leyla’s first match in Beyond since 2019. She has really come into her own in the past few months. Both women brought great intensity, and their shoot backgrounds created a fun dynamic between them. Unfortunately, Kelly had to pull out of the rest of her indie bookings for the year because of some troubling breathing problems, but I hope she can come back strong.
American Legion Post #241 in Baldwin Park, California, USA
September 30, 2021
Brian Cage defeats Alex Zayne and Willie Mack
- VxS is a super indie that runs shows all over the United States, but mostly in California and New Jersey. Their match pairings look really strange, with Rocky Romero vs Jordan Olvier and Robbie Eagles vs Jimmy Lloyd also being on this show. This show is available on FITE TV.
2CW Older, Fatter, Balder
Alien Opera House in Syracuse, New York, USA
October 1, 2021
The Dark Order (Evil Uno & Stu Grayson) defeats High Seas (Cloudy & Nick Ando) ***
Thunder Rosa defeats Mercedes Martinez ***1/2
Dalton Castle defeats Colin Delaney vs Daniel Garcia **¾
- 2CW was an old super indie that closed doors in 2015. They ran two reunion shows last week, but do not look to be opening back up. I currently live in upstate New York and they could really use another company though.
- The other show had Cheech and Colin Delany who wrestled on Dark Elevation, against Evil Uno and Stu Grayson. Mercedes also wrestled Deonna Purrazzo.
- Rosa vs Martines might just be the biggest independent women’s match anyone could book right now. Rosa is the perfect babyface to root for and Martinez is the perfect heel to beat down on her. I felt like this match ended abruptly and that they have a better one in them.
- The crowd was tired for the Dark Order match, and it went rather long. The work was solid and it paid off when -1 interfered with a low blow when Cloudy attempted to cheat.
- Davey Richards vs Alex Shelly was also on this show. I went 4* on that match.
F1RST Wrestling Wrestlepalooza XVIII
First Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
October 1, 2021
Dante Martin defeats Devon Monroe and Starboy Charlie
AAW Defining Moment
115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park, Illinois, USA
October 1, 2021
Allysin Kay (c) defeats Christi Jaynes and Skye Blue
CCW Bash At The Brew 9
Unbranded Brewing Company in Hialeah, Florida, USA
October 2, 2021
KiLynn King defeats Anna Diaz and Tiffany Nieves
UWN Prime Time Live
Commerce Casino in Commerce, California
October 2, 2021
Midnight Heat (Eddie Pearl & Ricky Gibson) (c) defeats PPRay (Peter Avalon & Ray Rosas) ***
Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks defeats Daniel Garcia, Kevin Martenson & Rust Taylor ***1/4
David Finlay defeats Will Allday ***
- United Wrestling Network runs studio wrestling shows all over the United States. Most of their stuff is available on Youtube, but there is far too much content for me to keep up with.
- Eddie Pearl and Ricky Gibson are another Midnight Express throwback. They defended the Defy Tag Team championships (northwest super indie) against Peter Avalon and his long time partner Ray Rosas, who has wrestled on Dark before.
- Finlay vs Allday was a quick sprint, but Allday still managed to impress. He has a noticeable intensity and smoothness to his work.
- Daniel Garcia fit right in with Shibata’s young lions on this show. But Alex Couglin was the MVP of this match with powerful throws and having noticeably more fire and anger than anyone else in the match.
AIW One Step Ahead
Tadmor Shrine in Akron, Ohio, USA
October 2, 2021
Thunder Rosa defeats Joseline Navarro
PWX All Hail The King
Cabarrus Arena & Events Center in Concord, North Carolina, USA
October 2, 2021
Lance Archer defeats JD Drake
Sir Rios Badu defeats Wheeler Yuta
- This show also had Antony Henry vs Minoru Suzuki. PWX seems like an indie worth watching, and their subscription service is only 5 dollars a month in contrast to the 15 dollar price per show that many companies currently have. I wanted to watch the show but I couldn’t find time.
CCW Bash At The Brew 9
Unbranded Brewing Company in Hialeah, Florida
October 2, 2021
KiLynn King defeats Anna Diaz and Tiffany Nieves
NEW Better Than You
Danbury PAL Building in Danbury, Connecticut, USA
October 2, 2021
Hardy Family Office (Isiah Kassidy, Marq Quen & Matt Hardy) defeat The Trust Fund (Channing Thomas, JP Grayson & Tommy Grayson) (w/Jared Silberkleit)
Eddie Kingston defeats Brian Anthony by DQ
- NEW draws the largest crowds out of any indie in the United States. Will Ospreay vs Rocky Romero was also on this show, and I attended a show last August that had Fuego del Sol vs Sammy Guevera. They always surprise me with the wrestlers they manage to book.
WCR Clash At The Cotillion V: Flame On, Game On
The Cotillion in Wichita, Kansas, USA
October 3, 2021
Fuego Del Sol & Matt Hardy defeat Gideon Vane & Thorne The Hunter
Fuego Del Sol vs. Matt Hardy – No Contest
The Outlaw (Billy Gunn) defeats Dimitri Alexandrov
Impact Wrestling TV
Skyway Studios in Nashville, Tennessee
October 7, 2021
Christian Cage and Josh Alexander defeat Ace Austin and Mad Man Fulton ***¼
- This was a fun little TV match, with Alexander’s and Austin’s closing stretch being the bulk of the fun. Chrsitian stole the win with a blind tag on Josh Alexander.
- Christopher Daniels challenged Chistian Cage to an IMpact CHampionship match down the road. He hinted that it might be in AEW. I figured that Christian will lose to Josh Alexander before he gets the opportunity, but we shall see.
Beyond Uncharted Territory Season 3 Episode 1
White Eagle in Worcester, Massachusetts
October 7, 2021
Alex Shelly defeats Daniel Garcia ***¾
Wheeler Yuta (c) defeats Leyla Hirsh ***¼
- This was the season premiere of Beyond Wrestling’s Uncharted Territory show. They run a weekly show in Massachusetts every Thursday and stream it live on IWTV. They get a hot group of regulars to attend and usually have a lighthearted environment. I highly recommend a subscription.
- Wheeler Yuta is the current IWTV champion that is defended amongst all of their promotions. He is working a heel in contrast to his role in the Best Friends with AEW. He traded this title with Lee Moriarty this year and defended it against Daniel Garcia in a 60 minute time limit draw.
- Leyla pointed out how Yuta has changed since they used to be a tag team called Legit Yoots. This was not as good as the Killer Kelly match, but Leyla did some great technical wrestling in the beginning and a beautiful moonsault. Yuta tried to bail on the match but was ushered back into the ring by Matt Mokowski.
- Unsurprisingly, Garcia vs Shelly was the best match that I am covering this week. Both men have bigger matches the night after this match with Shelly wrestling Yuta for the IWTV championship and Garcia wrestling Suzuki at WCPW (also on IWTV). Garcia has been full of yells, screams and intense staredowns during his recent gauntlet of dreamatches. Garcia wrestles these matches like his character is taking them way too seriously while it is just another day at the office for Alex Shelly. My favorite spot was in the beginning where Garcia wrestled Shelly into the ropes and stared intensely at Alex Shelly, not backing off for the ref count. Shelly was a bit annoyed so responded with a kiss on the forehead! The rest of the match consisted of good limb work and tense submission holds. Garcia’s try-hard, hyper-competitive demeanor brings a lot to these matches and every loss hits him hard.
AEW Dark Rankings
These rankings will keep track of the top prospects from AEW Dark. Feel free to debate the rankings with me on the Voices of Wrestling discord. Most of the placements are decided rather arbitrarily, but I do think they are still useful. Keep in mind, here are a few requirements to be ranked. I want to keep the rankings relevant to who is regularly wrestling on Dark.
- The wrestler cannot have a contract with AEW
- The wrestler must have wrestled for AEW within the last 6 months. You can see that date listed in the rankings.
- They must have wrestled at least 5 matches for AEW. I want to know that AEW thinks they are worth bringing back several times before ranking them.
- They must be an active wrestler on the US indies. Otherwise, I could rank Emi Sakura #1 for the women.
- The wrestler must be under 45 years old.
- The top five wrestlers for each gender will be included in the AEW Around the Wrestling World section.
AEW Dark Rankings