The Parking Lot Brawl was a turning point for AEW’s tag team division

Proud 'n' Powerful, aka Santana and Ortiz, stand tall atop the AEW ramp (photo courtesy of AEW)
Proud 'n' Powerful, aka Santana and Ortiz, stand tall atop the AEW ramp (photo courtesy of AEW) /

The Parking Lot Brawl was one of AEW Dynamite’s best matches.

AEW has always had a stacked tag team division.

From The Young Bucks to The Lucha Bros, SCU, and now FTR, All Elite Wrestling’s tag teams have provided many a great match and storyline. Heck, some would even say that one of the greatest tag team matches of all time took place at the promotion’s Revolution Pay-Per-View (at least Dave Meltzer seems to think so).

However, having such a strong division can lead to some very talented teams being relegated to typecast side roles, and that, unfortunately, has been the case for Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent?) and Santana & Ortiz.

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Don’t get me wrong: both teams have had consistent roles on Dynamite since the show’s inception and have had great matches. However, they always seem to be in supporting roles, with Best Friends only challenging for the title once, and Santana & Ortiz having yet to actually challenge for the belts. Instead, Best Friends have largely been overshadowed by their other best friend, Orange Cassidy, while Santana & Ortiz have seemingly been more focused with doing Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle’s bidding.

Recently, these two teams have been feuding on AEW programming, all centering around Santana & Ortiz trashing the van of Trent?’s mother, Sue. Involving Trent?’s mother was a quirky move befitting of two teams with little concern for taking themselves too seriously, and the feud has been entertaining, to say the least.

However, rather than having a proper Pay-Per-View spot to finish out the feud, the two teams had a match on the September 2nd episode of Dynamite and were both on the Casino Battle Royale at All Out. They were still able to progress their feud in the Battle Royale, and All Out was a big enough card as it was, but it sort of gave off the impression that their feud was an afterthought.

Well, all of that changed when Tony Khan booked a Parking Lot Brawl for the September 16th episode of Dynamite.

Any viewers with a good memory will recall that a similar type of match was announced featuring the Best Friends a few years ago – or at least before the pandemic hit, which feels like years ago – against Lucha Bros. I suppose time healed that feud (for now), but recycling the parking lot idea for these two teams made plenty of sense. This whole feud centered around a van being trashed, so why not meet at the parking lot? Then, on the night of the brawl, it was revealed that it would be the main event of the Dynamite episode, which was kind of surprising, but definitely added some excitement for the match itself.

Now, for anyone who only sees Best Friends as that goofy team who hugs every match to “Give the people what they want” and Santana & Ortiz as that team that follows Jericho around, yells “the best”, and comically oversells bumps, watch this match. This Parking Lot Brawl was one of the greatest matches to ever air on AEW Dynamite in the program’s near-year history on TNT.

Lets just say if Mick Foley, the Hardcore Legend, is gushing about a “hardcore” match on Twitter, you know it has to be good.

When Santana & Ortiz arrived wearing what Excalibur described as “Dead Presidents Facepaint”, it became clear that things were going to get intense. The match was a masterclass in blunt force trauma; all killer, no filler. The area was filled with cars to be smashed by human muscle and bone, and seeing 2x4s snap over the wrestlers’ bodies was satisfying to watch.

There were plenty of spots that were over the top and a creative use of their environment – Chuck and Trent? at one point both jumped from the top of a car onto the hood with Ortiz inside – but the match also had a very serious tone that was maintained throughout. The in-ring (or in-lot) performances from these wrestlers demanded your full attention and had to be admired. Even the slightly comedic reasoning for the feud stopped mattering as the match turned into two teams who hate each other putting their bodies to the test to be the last ones standing.

Everyone involved became bloody and nearly broken as weapons and windshields were used to their full effect. But, just as things got grim for Best Friends, with Santana about to strike the final blow on Chuck Taylor, leave it to Orange Cassidy to come out of a car trunk and make the save, leading to a really cool looking finish with Taylor piledriving Ortiz on the hood of a car and Trent hitting Santana with a crunchie through a piece of plywood onto the bed of a truck for the pin. And once the dust settled, what better way for Best Friends to celebrate the victory than by getting into Sue’s new van and driving away into the night?

The ending of the match does deviate from the tone that was so well established, but it was a great way of showing that the Best Friends are still, well, the Best Friends. They can still do their, dare I say, iconic hug after the match, get in Sue’s van, and give off generally fun vibes. What this match also proved, however, is that they can also get serious, have an intense match, and absolutely nail a main event.

This match got Best Friends over in a huge way, and with FTR holding the belts and The Young Bucks seemingly turning heel, Best Friends are now in a perfect position to get a big push moving forward. There is simply no way to have this team be an afterthought anymore.

However, where does that leave the losers of this match, Santana & Ortiz? Well, this match could be a clear turning point for them as well.

As is expected with a brawl of this sort, a small crowd of fellow wrestlers surrounded the fight. But do you know who wasn’t in the crowd? Any members of the Inner Circle. Sure, Sammy Guevara appears to be out with an injury, but Jericho and Jake Hager were busy trying to get their own tag team off the ground for a title run, despite there already being a tag team in the faction. While that alone is sure to cause some tension within the Circle, here we have Santana & Ortiz on their own main eventing an episode of Dynamite and killing it. This brawl not only reestablished the duo as serious and fearless competitors, but also showed that they can do great things away from the Inner Circle, and perhaps focusing more on themselves can lead to actual success.

The last thing I want to do is give off the impression that these two teams need to get rid of anything resembling comedy to be good. On the contrary, I think the quirks and antics of both teams add a lot to their respective charm. What this match and feud does show, however, is the emotional depth present in these teams, the type of depth that if utilized correctly will make them elite tag team competitors. They were always this good, it’s just that now they have been given the platform to prove it in AEW, and prove it they did.

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With a running feud and a lot to prove, Best Friends and Santana & Ortiz put on an extremely memorable brawl, one that will be fun to look back on as the turning point in their AEW careers.