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AEW Dark recap (Dec. 28, 2021): Kiss and Janela’s final fight of the year

Episode 123 of AEW Dark is in the books! If you missed the live broadcast click here for the Cageside Seats stream from YouTube. Your commentary team this week was Excalibur and Taz. As per usual these days there was no intro to the show and the action went right to the ring, so let’s talk about what went down on Dark!

Anna Jay (w/ Tay Conti) vs. Reka Tehaka

Jay brought a record of 10-5 to the ring and her friend Tay Conti. Tehaka returned to AEW for the 11th time, yet to win a single match in her entire tenure. Jay put her in the Queen Slayer and made her submit for her 12th lost. This was over so quick that we immediately went to Tony Schiavone interviewing Wardlow. Shawn Spears interrupted before he could even say a word, and the tension between the two kicked up another notch. Wardlow started to say he was sick of having an “accountabila-buddy” and Spears said that’s a great point, he could go out to the ring for his match tonight by himself. “Wardlow’s world!”

The Blade (w/ The Bunny) vs. Toa Liona

I know this match was designed to show off The Blade, but I really want AEW to sign Toa Liona if they haven’t already. Blade brought a record of 21-12 to the match while Liona was still looking for a win, this time making his singles debut instead of being showcased in a tag match. Blade jumped him before the opening bell and gave him a running knife edge chop afterward. Things did not get any better after that as Bunny ran through the ring while Blade put knux on his right hand to knock out Liona for the pin. He just can’t catch a break.

Wardlow vs. Casanova

Wardlow brought a singles record of 27-3, while Casanova was waiting for him in the ring to make his AEW debut. Wardlow promised multiple powerbombs in his backstage interview, and delivered four before standing on Casanova with one foot for the pin. The fans at Universal Studios were very happy with this one-sided massacre.

Diamante vs. Shawna Reed

Diamante was 20-13 coming into this match. Eddie Kingston wasn’t happy that her team lost last night, so he was probably pleased to see she’d be facing the 0-3 Shawna Reed. Reed actually managed one near fall before Diamante destroyed her with an overhead suplex and a running dropkick into the corner before giving Reed her fourth loss.

Tony Nese vs. Anthony Greene

Nese came out first with a record of 5-1 thus far in All Elite Wrestling. Thankfully for “The Alternative” Anthony Greene wasn’t waiting for him in the ring, although his record was a less impressive 1-3. Greene hit a rana and a suicide dive to wipe Nese out on the floor and gave chase around ringside. Nese tried to climb over the barricade to escape but got caught and given some chops. Nese pulled the ring apron over Greene’s head when he tried to get back in and kick him in the head. Taz: “Smart strategy by Nese.” He did a springboard moonsault but Greene kicked out. Greene escaped a backbreaker stretch and they went blow for blow. Nese kicked Greene in the jaw and sent him into the corner for the Running Nese, but Greene avoided it. Nese gave him a release suplex backward into the turnbuckle and went for the Running Nese a second time. This time it connected. This was a really fun back and forth battle between two guys who deserved much better in WWE.

The Bunny vs. KiLynn King

King brought a record of 14-11 to the ring. Bunny came in 27-18. King hit a single leg drop kick and went for Kingdom Falls but Bunny blocked it with elbows to the back of the head and hit a running knee lift. You know what comes next — Down the Rabbit Hole — 1, 2, 3.

The Acclaimed vs. Bear Country

This match was set up on last week’s Dark. Bear Country brought a tag team record of 12-4 to this match. “Y’all are not bears, you are just a couple Cub Scouts — cause most bears eat fish. All you guys eat are mozzarella sticks.” Max Caster everyone. Bowens tried to take the mic to cut a promo after the bell rang and Bear Boulder goozled him and planted him into the canvas. The brawl continued outside the ring, where Bowens got thrown onto the entrance ramp, and Bear Boulder threw him right back off into Mr. Caster. Caster got his face smashed into the apron, but both members of Bear Country got wiped out on the steel steps in return. The Acclaimed cut off the ring to work over Bronson while Boulder struggled to get back to his feet. Taz told us he had hurt his leg and then he immediately started stomping on the ring apron to fire up the crowd. Bad timing on commentary I guess? Bronson hit a high back body drop and Boulder got the hot tag. Excalibur continued to insist Boulder’s left leg was hurt but he hit a double flatliner with ease and covered Bowens for a near fall. At least Boulder started selling his left knee at this point. Bronson tagged in, went up the ropes, Boulder picked him up and Bowens came to kick him in the knee and break it up. Bronson hit a double clothesline to wipe out The Acclaimed. Boulder tagged in, Bowens hit a chop block to the knee as he was carrying his partner, Bowens did another shot to the knee and stacked him up for the pin while Bronson was held off by Caster on the outside. Both teams were fine here and I’m glad this feud must continue.

Skye Blue vs. Ashley D’Amboise

Blue’s record to date was 2-7, while D’Amboise was waiting for her in the ring with a record of 0-12. I really get perplexed when they think enough of an independent wrestler to use them a dozen times on Dark shows but never give them a single win. In fact D’Amboise was barely in the ring for 30 seconds before Blue hit a flatliner and pinned her. Excalibur: “She does not get paid by the minute. That was a dominant victory!”

Orange Cassidy & Wheeler YUTA vs. Cezar Bononi & Peter Avalon (The Wingmen)

The Wingmen were 2-1 coming in in tag team action. Cassidy was 39-8-1 and YUTA was 15-13. Both YUTA and Cassidy got jumped before the opening bell. Cassidy made the comeback with his hands in his pockets. After a double suicide dive Cassidy hit Avalon with a DDT for a near fall. Avalon got a near fall of his own seconds later. All four men got in the ring and the ref meekly and ineffectively tried to wave it off. Bononi help Cassidy up for Avalon to kick him in the head, but it was another near fall. Avalon was rolled up for two, The Wingmen bonked into each other, and Cassidy got a Michinoku Driver for two. Ryan Nemeth came out to help The Wingmen, but Chuck Taylor ran out to prevent it. Cassidy finally put an end to the insanity by giving Avalon the Orange Punch and making the pin. Taz: “There were a lot of moving parts at the end of that thing.” Once again Taz is the voice of the people, and the Best Friends gave the people what they wanted afterward.

Joey Janela (w/ Kayla Rossi) vs. Sonny Kiss (no countout, no DQ)

I don’t even think it matters to talk about win/loss records for this one. After a year of tension when Janela turned on Kiss, not to mention a two week build to this rematch on Dark, this was truly a “main event” on any show. A garbage can full of plunder was waiting at ringside and Kiss was happy to demonstrate that it was all ready to be used before the match officially got underway. Taz: “If you’re just joining us here on YouTube, this is all legal.” Kiss tried to do a suplex off the steel steps and it was blocked, so a handstand head scissor did the job instead. Kiss put a trash can lid on Janela’s back and stomped on it, then went for a moonsault off the steps but Janela got out of the way.

Janela called Rossi over and dragged the steps away from the ring. They both picked Kiss up for a powerbomb into the steps. Janela made use of all the plunder on the ground then went under the ring apron looking for more. Not finding what he wanted he grabbed several steel chairs from a waiting garbage can and threw Kiss back into the ring. Kiss got posted into the turnbuckle and set on the top rope. Kiss fought him off and he landed back first on his own pile of chairs, then got a swinging DDT into the chairs for good measure. Orlando chanted “holy shit” for that one followed by “let’s go Sonny.” Janela came up bleeding from the forehead and Kiss gave Janela a boot to the face. Kiss wiped Janela’s blood off and hit the TKO but Janela rolled out of the ring. A suicide dive to the outside put Janela down. Janela got up first though and hit a brainbuster on the floor. He went back under the apron again and pulled out a table while Rossi went to get a ladder.

Kiss struggled to get back up as Rossi and Janela set up the ladder in the ring. Excalibur teased the idea that Janela was going to do an elbow drop from the top of it, but not before Rossi unfolded the table and set it up in front of the ladder. Kiss was thrown into the ring and Janela told Orlando he would elbow Kiss “straight to hell.” Kiss made a comeback on both Rossi and Janela before he could even try. Kiss put Rossi on top of Janela, went up to nearly the top of the ladder, and did a splash through the table to break it. Kiss jumped so far that Excalibur had to note the table was almost missed altogether. Another table was pulled out from underneath the ring and set up near the stage, but Janela cut off these plans with a thrust kick to the back of the head. Janela tried to set up to throw Kiss off but Kiss blocked it. Kiss went for the same and Janela blocked it. Janela finally got the upper hand and did a piledriver off the stage through the table for another “holy shit” chant. Janela threw Kiss back into the ring, stumbled through the ropes, and made the pin.

What to watch/skip

This edition of “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by Jadakiss. Absolutely go out of your way to watch the main event. The only downside of the Kiss vs. Janela rematch was that it could have gotten a much bigger reaction as the main event of a Dynamite or a Rampage in front of a full arena, but given that some of the spots were sloppy and a lot seemed to be improvised on the fly, I can also understand why this was on a Dark show. Still that’s what for all intents and purposes a “street fight” match should be right? Real fights are very messy and not at all choreographed. This main event had that “real fight” feel. Check out The Acclaimed vs. Bear Country too, and let’s hope they have a rematch on a Wednesday. Skip the squash matches from Skye Blue and Diamante. Neither looked bad but neither were long enough for the winners to even show off what they can do.

Cageside commentary crew! I welcome your feedback in the comments section below. I’m also on Twitter if you want to hit me up there. See you next Monday night for Elevation!