Updated: May 22
If this is your first SMF, please read the "Styles Make Fights" introductory post, to be sure you understand our premise, then come right back and join us!
Last week, I had some amazing singles matches to choose from to decide which to preview for my column, John Moxley was defending his NJPW US Championship against the legend Yuji Nagata. That one wasn't really an option, because I didn't have stats on Nagata. But there was also a match for the TNT championship and another for #1 contender to face Kenny Omega at the upcoming supershow. Considering the setup at Blood and Guts of Darby being injured by Ethan Page, and a stipulation that the title would change hands in the case of a forfeit, I decided that the rematch of PAC and Orange Cassidy was more likely to be worth previewing, less likely to be statistically marred by a cop out ending such as a forfeit. Boy, did I have that backwards!
As we all saw, Kenny Omega inserted himself into the match behind the referee's back leading to a double knock-out draw—the first in AEW history, if my recollection is correct. Within the story, he attacked PAC from behind with the title hoping to avoid a PAC challenge, presumably insultingly not worried about Orange possibly winning, and robbing us of a legitimate winner in the forlorn hope of the night off. Outside of the storyline, this was done on the fly to preserve the draw outcome that was intended, just in a different way than the original intent of a 20 minute time-limit draw, when it looked like one of PAC's suplexes had rung Cassidy's bell too hard for him to continue.
After looking at the stats in my preview last week I was fascinated by the question of whether PAC would fight Cassidy like his other fights since returning from quarantine, or if—facing a fan favorite—he would revert to old tactics. Instead we got a match that looks like the feeling-out stages of a match which was intended to be significantly longer, because that's exactly what it was:
Darby Allin defending his beloved TNT championship against the imposing Miro, on the other hand, now THAT was a fight! If I had chosen to preview it last week, I would have shown you a stat visualization of their respective averages in matches up to that point, a lot like the below:
I would've mentioned the caveat that Darby's average is a misleading mix of three or more different match types that he pulls out in different situations. But I don't think that there's much chance I would have predicted that their stats against one another would look like this:
Darby used significantly more strikes than usual—in fact significantly more than any prior individual match except for the atypical contest against JD Drake a few weeks ago—and dominated offense much more than typical. While with Miro it was the opposite: he used less strikes and received significantly more offense than his usual.
Why did it go this way? @GriffFromGA made a fantastic point about it in this week's PWM podcast: normally it's Darby's job as champion to convince us that he might lose in a title defense, even though he then goes on to win. This time, with Miro SO dominant and SO favored to win, he needed to dominate (at least numerically) to give the audience a little doubt that maybe he wouldn't lose after all.
I'm not terribly excited about the scheduled singles contests coming up Wednesday. so I'll give a brief write-up of both.
NWA Champion Serena Deeb vs Red Velvet
Champ Deeb finally returns from her long injury layoff to fend off a challenge for her title from upstart Red Velvet.
Although Velvet has racked up a number of wins, none are against a name opponent, thus far. If you look at her style, match by match, you'll see why not. She tries a different mix of offense every match, hoping to find her key to victory. She fights like someone who isn't sure of her identity, yet. This won't take her far against a champion who knows exactly who she is , and her extremely robust mix of throws, stretches, and fouls.
Christian Cage vs Matt Sydal
Matt Sydal surprised Christian Cage by taking up the open contract he was expecting one of Team Taz to grab. And he will pose a very different challenge for him. Not in terms of offense mix: Sydal's is very similar to Christian's first opponent Kazarian in that aspect. But Christian has been relying on a rope a dope strategy up to now, outlasting his opponent and waiting for them to make a mistake. Cage and Sydal can't both let the other dominate offense. We'll see which of the two can adapt.
ETA: A Preview of SMF 19: Who is Red Velvet?
Also Christian Cage brought out an entirely new side of Matt Sydal, giving as good as he gets!