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AEW Dark Elevation recap (Jan. 3, 2022): Jake Atlas comes out of retirement

Episode 44 of AEW Dark: Elevation is in the books! If you missed the live broadcast click here for the Cageside Seats stream. The announce team was Paul Wight, Mark Henry and Tony Schiavone. Let’s talk about the first All Elite Wrestling show of any kind for 2022!

Riho vs. Valentina Rossi

Riho brought a singles record of 22-5 while Rossi came in 0-4. The action on Elevation started quickly with Riho’s entrance and Rossi waiting for her in the ring. She tried to use size and strength to overpower Riho but eventually got dropped across the ropes for Riho’s version of 6-1-9. Riho followed up with a flying crossbody for a near fall, whipped Rossi into the corner, missed on a splash, and Rossi yanked her down head first for a near fall. Riho snapped Rossi’s neck off the ropes (say that three times fast - Riho, Rossi, ropes) but after a fight on the top turnbuckle Riho came up the winner and hit a flying knee for the pin.

Andrade El Idolo (w/ Jose) vs. JP Harlow

Andrade’s singles record coming in was 7-3. His tear away pinstripe suit and mask might be my current favorite entrance on any of the Dark shows, and I would like to see him have a much more prominent role in the AEW title picture in 2022. Harlow was making his AEW debut here and looked like a chicken sandwich being fed to a Bengal tiger. Schiavone made sure to point out he was from Iowa and put over the great amateur wrestlers from the state. Idolo was clearly not as impressed. Idolo put him in La Muerta for the submission.

Megan Bayne vs. Leila Grey

Bayne brought a singles record of 0-3, but Mark Henry was sure to note “they worship her like a Goddess” on the indies and she had a couple of acolytes accompanying her to emphasize it. “She’s the daughter of Athena.” That might be a step too far Mark, but she is billed as hailing from Athens, Greece.

Schiavone also pointed out she’s a former OVW champion. Her opponent Grey brought a singles record of 0-10 and was already waiting for Bayne in the ring. Bayne gave her a delayed vertical suplex to show off her strength, then slammed Grey down with one arm for a near fall before pulling her back up before the three count. Apparently she wanted to punish Grey some more, but Grey hit a rising knee strike before being taken down with a pump kick. Bayne kicked the dirt off her boots into Grey’s face and gave her a tombstone to pick up her first AEW win. She’s like the heel version of Wonder Woman.

Scorpio Sky (w/ Dan Lambert) vs. Ray Jaz

Sky had a singles record of 51-16 coming in. Lambert walked down to the ring with him just to get him some extra heat. Jaz was waiting for him in the ring with a record of 0-2, and even though Henry proclaimed him “a shooter” and “a competitive wrestler” I didn’t expect him to last long in this bout. To make sure things would go Sky’s way, Lambert choked Jaz with the ropes while the ref’s back was turned. Sky cranked on his neck but Jaz made a comeback and hit a leg lariat. He got floated over the ropes, landed on the apron, and floated back for a backslide pin attempt that got two. This just pissed Sky off and he hit the TKO and ripped off his elbow pads before making the pin.

Alex Reynolds & John Silver (w/ -1 & Dark Order) vs. Mike Orlando & Shayne Stetson

Reynolds & Silver brought a team record of 7-0 to this match. Orlando and Stetson were making their tag team division debut and (you guessed it) were waiting in the ring for the Dark Order to arrive. The crowd immediately started chanting “Johnny Hungee” and he hit the biceps pose to make them happy. Listening to Henry say “Orlando and Stetson” made me think he was either talking about cowboy boots or a new cologne for men. Orlando grabbed Reynolds leg from the outside to slow him down, then tagged in and wiped Reynolds out with a clothesline. Stetson came back in but escaped the double teaming and gave Silver the hot tag, while Schiavone lightly mocked his fellow announcers for being comic book nerds. Stetson tried and failed to get a backslide, Orlando came in and broke up a pin, Silver picked him up and spun him like an airplane, grabbed Stetson and tagged Reynolds back in. They did the cutter into a German bridge comb and celebrated the win with Dark Order’s leader -1. Well done gentlemen. Good work from the “carpenters” too.

Jake Atlas vs. Serpentico

Back in September 2021, Jake Atlas announced he was “stepping away” from pro wrestling, so I’m very glad to see that he has stepped back in! Serpentico got to enter first though with a singles record of 12-57. The mysteriously absent Eddie Kingston suddenly returned to commentary for this match. Maybe Paul Wight needed a bathroom break? Kingston: “Watch what he does in the ring, for the people who have not seen him before” — and before he could complete that thought Serpentico jumped him. Atlas responded with a single leg drop kick and a hard lariat for a near fall. Serpentico tried and failed to get a roll up, but managed a flatliner for a two count. Serpentico went for some ground and pound, looked around for Luther and couldn’t find him, so he “threw himself” into Atlas. Atlas responded with a German, a high knee, and did his cartwheel top rope cutter for the finish. An impressive debut for Atlas and hopefully a sign he’s full time AEW going forward. He reportedly got a handshake from Tony Khan for the live crowd after this match aired.

Angelica Risk vs. Skye Blue

Blue brought a singles record of 3-7 while Risk came in 0-3. Eddie Kingston remained on commentary and complained that Blue was “fake” for being happy. “There’s only two emotions — you’re either miserable or you’re angry.” He then noted that someone on the headset responded “and you’re both.” Risk baited Blue into following her out of the ring and then posted her into the barricade while screaming at the ringside fans. Eventually Blue hit a crossbody, a knee lift, a cartwheel, a reverse kick, and then gave Risk a full nelson into a face first slam for the pin. Even Kingston was reluctantly impressed.

Jay Lethal vs. Troy Hollywood

Lethal brought a singles record of 1-1 to this match while Hollywood was waiting in the ring to make his AEW debut. I think we all knew the outcome going in even if Hollywood had been a seasoned AEW veteran, so let’s instead note that Justin Roberts did his best Macho Man impression by saying Lethal hails from “Elizabeth” New Jersey. Given that references Lethal’s time in TNA, which I most certainly did not hate, I’m perfectly fine with that wink and nod. Hollywood nearly got the upset with a snap German, then tried to choke Lethal out, but Lethal hit the Injection and made the pin moments later. That was inevitable.

What to watch/skip

This week’s edition of “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by Hold Your Ground. I was impressed by all eight matches on Elevation this week so there’s nothing to skip. Keep your eye on Troy Hollywood, Angelica Risk and Ray Jaz as having potential beyond being fed to AEW’s bigger stars. It looks like the promotion is poised to do something with Megan Bayne in 2022 based on how much time she got here, but only time will tell.

Cageside commentary crew! Share your feedback and thoughts on the show in the comments section below. You can hit me up on social media too. See you tomorrow night for another episode of AEW Dark!

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