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AEW Dark Elevation recap (Mar. 15, 2021): Tony Khan forces Kenny Omega into a match

AEW is bringing even more wrestling to your weekly schedule with a new program called Dark: Elevation, which airs Monday nights at 7 pm ET on YouTube. The goal is to give wrestlers across the world a chance to come on TV and prove what they can do as they gain experience and make that connection to build a fanbase. The debut episode featured Paul Wight on commentary, an international women’s main event in Riho versus Maki Itoh, and Tony Khan forcing Kenny Omega into a match.

Being the debut of a new show from AEW, let’s start with the big question. Is AEW Dark: Elevation worth your time to watch? Yes and no. Basically, if you love Dark, then you will love Dark: Elevation. If you aren’t excited by random matches, then you’ll have to pick and choose to get to the story spots.

Negatives first. The episode clocked in at two hours and one minute. That is too long, especially when the second half competes against WWE’s Raw. Half the show follows the same tedious formula as Dark. There are too many matches on the showcase side with an obvious winner. Also, Wight did not hum Jungle Boy’s theme song. Taz doing it on Dark is one of my favorite things.

On to the positives. Dark: Elevation had more interviews, storylines, and a few competitive matches between signed talent. Those were the parts that grabbed my interest and will help make future stars. The show could be very good if AEW trims it down to a tight hour focusing on those aspects.

Watch episode 1 here.

We’ll start the recap by hitting the stories and interviews.

Kenny Omega made an unadvertised appearance to pop ratings for the new endeavor. The champ was feeling sassy and hard, but his plan backfired when Tony Khan intervened.

It began when the Sydal brothers earned a tag team victory earlier in the show. Matt and Mike used their flashy skills to defeat the debuting Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs. Matt cleaned house leading to a double Lightning Spiral slam to finish Nelson.

Marvez was backstage with the Sydal brothers. They plan to take over every team in the tag division. Kenny Omega interrupted with Michael Nakazawa and Don Callis by his side. The people would rather hear from the champ. Omega will be scouting for talent to bring up to the flagship Dynamite show.

Matt stepped up as the prefect guy to break through the top 5. Omega put down Tony Khan’s cockamamie rankings. The only top 5 that mattered to Omega was listed on Nak’s laptop. Spots 1 through 5 were all Nakazawa. That led to a challenge.

If Sydal can beat Nakazawa, then he will get a shot at Omega. If Sydal can beat Omega, then he will get a shot at the championship. The catch was that Sydal had to wrestle Nak later in the show. Matt was excited for the opportunity.

Sydal’s match against Nakazawa was quick with a mix of action and comedy. Nakazawa came out in AEW office clothes while eating an apple. He attacked Sydal prior to the opening bell. Nak connected on a big boot then choked Sydal with his lanyard. Sydal came back with a spinning wheel kick and unleashed the fury of his feet. Nak stayed tough to hit a Samoan drop. Sydal escaped another slam. He then pulled Nak’s pants down and delivered a head kick to win.

Omega sprinted to the ring to attack Sydal. The champ bludgeoned his adversary with a laptop. Omega grabbed a microphone to tell Sydal that he just booked a one-way ticket on the Omega train. Omega was feeling pumped up, jacked, and frisky, so he booked their future match for right now. A squash took place consisting of a V-trigger and One Winged Angel for the 1, 2, 3.

Tony Khan came out on the stage to yell at Omega for not living up to his word. Khan is going to give Sydal another opportunity against Omega. That match will take place next week on Dynamite. If Sydal wins, then he will earn a world title shot.

It looks like there might be trouble brewing between Miro and Penelope Ford. Miro & Kip Sabian were in action and defeated Baron Black & Vary Morales. Miro unleashed rage and destruction on a hot tag. He flattened Morales with a suplex then tagged in Sabian to execute a rope-hung twisting neckbreaker.

After the match, Ford hopped onto the apron with the idea of celebrating with her husband. Miro stopped her short from entering the ring. Miro and Kip celebrated, while Ford remained on the outside with a sad expression.

This is a continuation from when Ford was knocked hard off the apron during Miro and Kip’s Revolution PPV match against Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy.

In other news, QT Marshall continues to be a jackass. He has been consistently leaving the Nightmare Family high and dry the past week. Alex Marvez asked him about his status with that crew. QT joked about walking out of the interview then put over the new show. He promised that there is nothing wrong with the Nightmare Family.

QT Marshall went out to defeat Marko Stunt. Luchasaurus and Nick Comoroto escorted their allies, but both exited prior to the bout. QT began by tossing Stunt around like a child.

Stunt responded with a slap across the face. Stunt fired up for a spinning headscissors takedown. The match progressed with Stunt’s rallies being extinguished by QT. Stunt pulled off a fancy Canadian Destroyer to gain momentum. As Stunt attempted sliced bread, QT countered for a cutter to win.

After the match, Peter Avalon, Cezar Bononi, and Nick Nemeth stomped on Stunt. QT watched from the stage and made no effort to save him. Luchasaurus ran in to chase away the bad guys.

It was announced that Bononi versus Luchasaurus will take place on Tuesday night Dark.

Will Hobbs got a chance to shine on the mic when he and Hook spoke with Marvez on a rooftop. Hook snickered at Marvez mentioning Brandon Cutler’s recent success. Hobbs inquired if he looks like a chump? He implied that Cutler has only beaten chumps. Hobbs is all about that action, and he will handle business.

Hobbs backed up his words in a win against Brandon Cutler. Hook was ringside. Cutler’s strategy was to stick and move. That led to mild success in between pummeling sessions. In the end, Hobbs caught a flying attack to explode for a powerslam.

Sticking with the theme of Dark: Elevation, AEW produced a Rising Star feature for Lee Johnson. Big Shotty discussed his background and the pressure of joining the Nightmare Family. Johnson’s nickname honors his fallen uncle and encompasses passion, fire, and drive. It was an effective segment to make Johnson relatable to root for.

Let’s sprint through the rest of the matches.

Jungle Boy defeated Danny Limelight. Luchasaurus and Marko Stunt were ringside. Stunt cheated by pushing the bottom rope closer to Jungle Boy as he was trapped in a submission. Limelight dominated much of the contest. Jungle Boy countered a flying DDT into a brainbuster. He followed with a double underhook slam then the Snare Trap submission for victory.

Big Swole defeated Skyler Moore. Swole rallied with a burst of offense then the Dirty Dancing ripcord strike to pin Moore.

Tay Conti defeated Ashley Vox. -1 was ringside. Conti took control of the competitive bout with a spinning backbreaker on the floor. She unloaded kicks and knees in the ring then earned the W via hammerlock DDT.

Red Velvet defeated Dani Jordyn. The mean girl couldn’t compete with Velvet’s speed. Lil Cupcake used that advantage to win with a single-leg dropkick.

Max Caster defeated Dante Martin. The Top Flight bro had momentum after a suicide dive and a springboard splash. Caster crawled toward his boombox, so Martin snatched it first. As the referee took it away and turned his back, Caster kicked Martin in the gonads. A flying elbow drop gave Caster the win.

Abadon defeated Ray Lyn. The underdog had fighting spirit, but the zombie girl could not be stopped. Abadon scored the victory on a paintbrush backhand and a Gory neckbreaker.

Diamante defeated Leila Grey. Aggressive attitude culminating with a Code Red to close it.

Private Party, Butcher, & Blade defeated Dean Alexander, Carlie Bravo, Brick Aldridge, & David Ali. Matt Hardy and Bunny were ringside. The match broke down with Ali eating a powerbomb neckbreaker combo from Butcher and Blade on the pin.

Lexy Nair will have a new YouTube series called Outside the Ring. It arrives in April.

Riho defeated Maki Itoh. The cutest in the world did her song and dance routine before the main event. Itoh locked in a tight Lion Tamer, but Riho used her excellent flexibility to reach the ropes. Itoh’s high-risk gamble did not pay off when she missed a flying headbutt. Riho pounced for a running double knee strike for victory.

Let’s hear it for the champ! Kenny Omega was the most entertaining portion in the debut of Dark: Elevation. His mini angle put over the concept of the show and set up a quick build for his future Dynamite match against Matt Sydal. Sydal is already a veteran in the business, but he is being elevated in this encounter.

My top standout was Miro. He was ruthless in that savage beating to his opponents. That was the kind of fury I want to see from a man like Miro. It revved me up. The angle with Penelope Ford feels a bit odd. Isn’t it too soon for there to be trouble in paradise already? If it ends with Miro destroying Kip Sabian, then it will be worth it. Sorry, Kip. Miro needs to be untethered to reach maximum potential.

Paul Wight was solid on commentary. He was a smooth speaker adding insightful analysis. His personal stories relating to the talent are a good touch to help the lower level wrestlers make connections with the fans.

Will Hobbs and Lee Johnson were both effective with their mic time. These are the scenes I enjoy and hope to see more of on Dark: Elevation.

We’ll close with the move of the night. It was delightful to see QT Marshall creatively toss Marko Stunt into the air to set up a backbreaker.

Share your thoughts on Dark: Elevation. Who stood out most for the debut episode? Which was your favorite match?

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