The Dark Order has become some of AEW’s most beloved characters in recent months, but this was not always the case. Now Evil Uno has revealed that he feared that the group would be returned to The Keep for good after a fiasco involving ‘phantom punches.’
Before The Dark Order really became a force in AEW after the debut of The Exalted One Brodie Lee, the group consisted of Evil Uno and long-time tag team partner Stu Grayson. Together they were joined by a legion of masked ‘Creepers’ who in reality were local talent or rookie wrestlers brought in to play the roles as extras.
In conversation with Chris Jericho on his Talk Is Jericho podcast, Uno and Grayson touched on the realisation that the mistakes their ‘Creepers’ were making in the ring reflected poorly on the duo themselves. Uno revealed it was AEW coach and cruiserweight legend Dean Malenko that clued them in on that fact.
“Whatever they did was attached directly to us, and Dean [Malenko] is the person who had kind of opened my eyes about two or three TVs in. He’s like, ‘You really need to take care and make 100% certain of everything people do because whatever they do, it doesn’t matter if it reflects bad on them. They’re not coming back. You’re the ones sticking around. Honestly, the first few months, those mistakes really put a dent. It really hurt us, as far as image and stuff.”
Stu Grayson then added that the two men really started to question and ensure their ‘Creepers’ knew what they were doing when they hit the ring. He also explains why even that strategy wasn’t always full-proof.
“We would talk to them over and over again, like how to make the human throne, what to do. We would ask them, ‘Hey, are you trained?’ Yes. ‘How long have you been wrestling?’ This amount of time. ‘Can you throw a punch and a kick?’ Yes. No, then choke. I suppose most of them were not being fully honest because once they were in the ring, it could be stress, it could be just about anything really, or you’re on live TV, but what they said they could do was not the reality.
“We would see them punch the floor, walk around, and trip, and I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, I should have asked, can you walk properly?’ But some of them were too nervous to say, ‘Oh, I’m really green’ because they wouldn’t want to be cut. They wanted a chance to be on TV, and I understand that, but you’ve got to be honest because if one of them would have said, ‘Oh, I’m really nervous. I’m really green.’ Hey, don’t worry. We’ll put you in the back. You don’t have to do much. We just need people. We need numbers. We’ll make it work, but some of them were not completely honest.”
The most infamous moment involving the ‘Creepers’ came in the main event segment on the final Dynamite of 2019. One of the masked men was entangled with wrestling legend Dustin Rhodes and was caught on camera badly missing their punches that should have been directed at Rhodes. As the clip was relayed over and over again on social media, Evil Uno admits he thought then The Dark Order was done.
“We thought we were done after that, to be honest. I mean, even on the lead-up, we were a little nervous because originally, that wasn’t what was planned. We didn’t know we were going to end the last Dynamite of the year on this big beat down on all the faces. And so when we came in that day, they told us that was the plan, and we were really nervous because, at that point, we weren’t really a hot act.”
“We were really growing at that point, and we thought, okay, well, if we’re given a couple more weeks to kind of build this up, this could work. We never considered ourselves a main event angle at that point in time. We tried recruiting Marko [Stunt], and we tried recruiting Christopher Daniels. We had no interactions with the top, and we had no real surprise at that point. Our original plan and this was on our pitch, I was like, ‘Let us have the losers on your shows, the people that you’re already showing that are losing.’ So that’s why we were getting Alex [Reynolds] and John [Silver] because they had lost in a minute on the first two shows of Dynamite.”
“I said, ‘If you give them to us, then we can guarantee people that know what they’re doing, and then on top of that, they can have matches that are longer than a minute and show who they are and it would help us. But we had no great reveal other than that we were only slowly building. So we weren’t very happy with the segment happening to begin with, and then on top of that, when it was all said and done, we knew the reaction was kind of flat. We knew as soon as we came to the back, your phones blowing up. They picked up on all the side stuff instantly. Most of the local guys just didn’t seem to understand that the camera is on at all times. You don’t know what they’re going to cut to.”
Grayson then picked up on the story and says that not only was the segment not the original plan but what they came up with for it fell by the wayside as well once the cameras were rolling.
“Another part of that segment that was bad is that everything we had told them to do, they didn’t because the main idea was that, every single time a babyface would come in, he would bump the Creepers, the masked guys, as if they were nothing because they were pretty much nothing. And then I would come in and get the star down. Then they would pile on him.”
“The next one comes in. I see him bump people around and bam, I put him down. And then every single time Kenny [Omega] would come out or Cody, I never even reached them. They were just swarmed, and by the time, I was in there, there were swarmed by 10 Creepers. These guys were just beating the living piss out of Kenny and Cody, and I was like, what are you doing? Why are you hurting the stars? That was my job. I could not believe it.”
Evil Uno then added that there were ramifications for the segment tanking, including The Dark Order missing a few weeks of television. Ultimately Uno credits AEW President for the idea of The Exalted One and turning things around for the group.
Evil Uno concluded by saying:
“We thought we were done because we were supposed to have a follow-up to that, which was on the first show of January, and they had cut us entirely from it. And then they cut us from the next couple of weeks too. We’ve had a lot of uncertainty throughout the year of AEW, and that was one of those moments where I was like, well, we’re done. I don’t think we can come back, but to Tony’s credit, he thought of The Exalted One hook right away.”