AEW: Remember The Dark Order’s Secret Members?

The Dark Order (right to left: Stu Grayson, Brodie Lee, and Evil Uno) standing at the ramp (photo courtesy of AEW)
The Dark Order (right to left: Stu Grayson, Brodie Lee, and Evil Uno) standing at the ramp (photo courtesy of AEW) /

The Dark Order has had a fascinating journey in AEW.

The group had a rough start with the promotion, capped off by the infamous ‘air punches’ at the end of 2019 that, while honestly not the worst thing in isolation, became the representation of problems many people had with the faction and with AEW as a whole.

But then, the promise of an ‘Exalted One’ raised hopes for the group, and the great Brodie Lee’s arrival absolutely delivered; changing the once fledgling faction into a compelling one.

After Brodie Lee’s tragic passing and perhaps one of the most moving episodes of wrestling TV with his tribute show, the Dark Order has more or less turned face, all the while remaining a relevant faction that is regularly featured on AEW programming.

Needless to say, a lot has changed for the purple and black-clad group of misfits, and that has led to a few dropped storylines and concepts, with perhaps the most intriguing dropped idea – aside from their missing spokesperson – is their secret members.

A couple of times, it was hinted at that members of the AEW roster were secretly on the side of Evil Uno and company; whether that involved the wrestlers the group was openly trying to recruit that signed offscreen, or true sleeper cells that were waiting to betray their friends and show their true colors. After all, a big part of the group was their masked henchmen, and someone has to be under each mask.

Even at the worst of times for the group, the concept had potential. It added a level of intrigue and mystery and, depending on who was revealed to be a member, could have shifted morale in favor of the Dark Order near instantaneously.

Sounds like the kind of thing the Dark Order needed at the time, right? So what happened?

While a fun idea, Dark Order grew out of the need for secret members in AEW.

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While there were some (mostly BTE-centric) setups with wrestlers like Brandon Cutler, Michael Nakazawa, and Christopher Daniels – and at least one very fun payoff with the Daniels at 2020’s Revolution Buy-In that also featured eventual Dark Order member Colt Cabana – the concept was seemingly dropped with the arrival of the Exalted One.

Looking back, even before the idea was dropped, AEW was pretty wishy-washy with the concept. Not that many wrestlers were hinted at as potential turncoats, and no one, you know, was revealed to have turned in that initial run.

Perhaps they didn’t want to risk sending established talent to a struggling group, or it’s possible that they were waiting to really pull the trigger on this concept further down the road and the idea of Brodie Lee coming in as The Exalted One simply took over. Brodie himself made a point to “Take what we want when we want” during his debut, which doesn’t exactly fit in with secrecy, and that video package made it clear that his reign as leader was to be the main focus.

And let’s face it, they definitely picked the better idea to focus on.

The Dark Order would have needed to have some big reveals in order to give the concept some weight, but even if they took the risk, it could have easily turned out to be a flash in the pan. The shock would have been an immediate attention-grabber, but it’s hard to say if sustained interest in the group would have continued once the shock wore off.

No, while they needed new blood, they really needed a strong, built from the ground up leader, and Brodie not only provided that, but his arrival also gave them the momentum to gain more members anyway.

Just look at the recruitment of Anna Jay. Nothing on Uno and Stu Grayson, but Brodie coming to the aid of a defeated Anna Jay felt far more legitimate and momentous when compared to, say, the initial recruitment of Reynolds and Silver. The Dark Order finally started gaining legitimate members, got some gold when Brodie Lee won the TNT belt, and all of the recruits became more compelling and entertaining under Brodie’s stewardship in a way that the possibility of a secret member could not.

And as a babyface faction, this ‘recruitment’ process has turned into a really wholesome storyline with Adam Page, helping his overarching story as well. And let’s not forget Tay Conti, who has been on a hot streak of impressive matches as of late. Though her main connection with the group in Anna Jay is currently injured, there is still a nice sense of camaraderie between her and the Dark Order members.

With that in mind, Dark Order could always use more wrestlers, especially as more and more factions are forming within AEW, but the whole ‘secret member’ concept just doesn’t have the same weight to it anymore, as the idea of someone revealing that they have secretly been part of a fun, surprisingly wholesome babyface group just doesn’t have that much shock to it.

It’s always possible that they do bring it back in the future, and episode 247 of BTE even had numbers 7 and 8 listed as ‘To be Named’, but while having, say, Brandon Cutler (who supposedly filled the role of ‘9’ for a match, though it’s to be seen if that’s true in the land of kayfabe) revealed as a member isn’t a dealbreaker per se, it’s just not necessary anymore for the growth of the faction.

Next. The Growth of Tay Conti Has Been a Thing of Beauty. dark

Though the concept will never not be interesting, especially with all of the “what-if” fantasy bookings, and not being able to execute it because the faction has gotten over on their own is a really good problem to have, if there’s one thing going through numerous video packages, promos, and BTE episodes have taught me, it’s that Dark Order has come a long way, and they deserve every bit of success they have achieved. Now, where did that Spokesperson end up?