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AEW Dark recap (Jan. 10, 2023): Willow should dethrone Jade

Episode 178 of AEW Dark is in the books! If you missed the live broadcast click here for the stream via Cageside Seats. Excalibur and Taz called the action as usual, so let’s get to it!

Juice Robinson vs. Travis Williams

Robinson was billed as making his 2023 debut for this opening contest. His opponent Williams was waiting in the ring to make his debut for AEW. Aubrey Edwards called for the bell and the two locked up immediately. Robinson overpowered him, took him down, pushed him into the corner and almost broke clean... but kicked Williams in the gut. Williams tried to fire up with an enzuigiri, a forearm, and an elbow but missed a splash in the corner and got put down with a boot. Robinson gave him a stiff clothesline, hit a cannonball in the corner, a standing senton, and Williams kicked out at two. Robinson argued with Edwards that it should have been three. Williams got a few inside cradles and hit Robinson with a dropkick and a German suplex for a near fall. Robinson blocked a swinging DDT from Williams and then crushed his head into the mat to get his first AEW win of 2023. Excalibur: “It’s similar to a DDT but when he puts his weight on it, it drives the man down even harder.”

Willow Nightingale & Ruby Soho vs. Emi Sakura & Diamante

Sakura & Diamante were billed as making their 2023 tag team debut. The same would be true for Nightingale & Soho, and at least the chyron was consistent about it (for a change). Sakura and Diamante attacked the faces before the opening bell and Sakura mimed having a spot of tea. Diamante went for a dive and Soho punched her in the face. All four ladies brawled on the outside and we finally got the bell when Soho and Diamante worked their way back in. They didn’t stay there for long. Nightingale gave Sakura a Death Valley Driver on the floor then ate a dropkick from Diamante, who also swept Soho’s legs off the apron and stuffed her head into a steel chair. She backed up to charge but Nightingale cut her off with a +pounce+ (period). Back in the ring Soho hit Diamante with Destination Unknown for three. Excalibur teased this was all a warm up for the street fight this Friday on Rampage. Speaking of which — if there’s one person I want to see dethrone Jade Cargill and end her win streak, it’s the charming yet hard hitting Miss Nightingale. I hope AEW saw how the fans responded to her in Portland on this show — hell I hope Tony Khan sees how the fans respond to her in +every+ city they go to.

Jake Hager vs. Steve Migs

Hager brought a Dark record of 4-0 to this match. I like the former Jack Swagger, but that fisherman hat has got to go. (The trunks are terrible too.) Migs was waiting in the ring to make his AEW debut, which I didn’t expect to last long. Migs grabbed the hat to piss Hager off, politely put it back, and still took a beating anyway. Migs came back with a knee lift and then picked up the hat again to tease putting it on. Hager immediately plowed through him with a clothesline the moment it touched his shaved dome and got the pin, screaming “Don’t, TOUCH, my HAT” at the camera afterward.

Big Bill & Lee Moriarty (w/ Stokely Hathaway) vs. The Voros Twins

Moriarty and Bill brought a tag team record of 1-0. The Voros Twins brought a record of 0-1. Bill wasted no time destroying the Twins, to the point Excalibur quipped “it doesn’t even matter” which one of them he was beating up. He’s not wrong. Moriarty got the tag to pick the scraps. He hits some knees to the body, an elbow drop, cinched up a headlock, and the Portland wrestling crowd willed the Voros Twin in the ring to fight out and make a hot tag. Every time I type “Voros” I want to type “Vogon” instead. Maybe they could have won over Big Bill with some Vogon poetry? Probably not. Nobody likes Vogon poetry. Bill choke slammed one Voron onto the other and stood on the pile for the pin. He’s seven feet tall after all, and much like the awfulness of a Vogon poem, you can’t teach that.

Juice Robinson said he “embarrassed a ham and egger in his home town” and vowed to show everybody why they call him “rock hard.” The Dark Order came up to talk to him. He was not impressed by their jokes. “Are you three turds as stupid as I think you are? Yes. I have a Club, Bullet Club, and to be quite honest if you were the last three people on the planet we still wouldn’t be friends. I’d sit at the other table at lunch. Bullet Club, for life.”

Tay Melo and Anna Jay vs. Teal Piper & Kel

Teal Piper and Kel were making their tag team debut, although Piper had been part of a battle royal in AEW before, which Excalibur was sure to note. Piper even got announced as the daughter of the late Roddy Piper, as if the crowd of Portland wrestling fans couldn’t have figured that one out. Melo and Jay brought their bad attitude and a record of 11-2 to the ring. Kel tried a roll up on Melo right away but Melo was unimpressed and said she waited Piper to tag in. It was all a ploy as she immediately attacked Kel when she went for the tag. She and Jay worked Kel over for a bit and mocked the crowd for wanting Piper to come in. Jay even hit her in the face for a little extra heat. Kel finally escaped with a push away kick and Piper tagged in to clean house for a few seconds until Melo hit a pump kick. Melo hit the D-D-Tay and Jay locked on a Queen Slayer to finish the match.

Ethan Page, Matt Hardy & Isaiah Kassidy vs. Sebastian Wolfe, Judas Icarus & Caleb Teninty

Hardy Party brought a record of 1-0 following their match on Elevation. Page interrupted the music and said that last time Zay didn’t dance, so this time he was gonna get Zay to do it, and sang the music for them. Wolfe, Icarus and Teninty were making their AEW trios debut. The crowd was chanting loudly for Hardy a few minutes in, even more loudly than Page was yelling advice into the mic. Hardy hit the V1 and Kassidy started dancing, and Page started a “this is awesome” chant. He yelled “watch out behind you Matt” and Matt caught the man charging and hit a neckbreaker. Page: “You see that Zay? We’re a well oiled machine.” Kassidy: “I literally hate you.” Deletion and Side Effect. Tag to Kassidy for the senton. Page told Kassidy to tag him in and the crowd booed. Excalibur: “The people in Portland saying what Taz and I are thinking.” Page: “I’m your boss. Tag me now!” Page hit the Twist of Fate and made the pin.

ROH Women’s Title: Athena (c) vs. Marina Shafir (w/ Vickie Guerrero)

Shafir was accompanied by Vickie Guerrero (she actually came down the ramp this time) and brought a 2023 record of 2-0. ROH Women’s Title holder Athena brought the belt and a record of 23-2. The bell rang and Shafir went right after the champ, trying to tie her up in notes, forcing Athena to hug the ropes for dear life to get a clean break. Taz: “Athena let go of the ropes. You’re good now.” She called a “time out” and went outside the ring to regroup, dissing a fan who stuck out their hand for a high-five to boot. Shafir started pummeling her with strikes when she got back in. Athena tried to crawl away and Athena dragged her back in, even though she was holding onto the ring apron. She got out of the ring again and spun Shafir’s head into the ring post, then pounded on her chest and threw Shafir to the floor. Guerrero yelled at Athena and Athena scared her all the way back up the ramp. Shafir got back in the ring while Athena was away. Athena pounded on her back to block a double leg attempt and sank in fish hooks until Paul Turned called for the clean break. Excalibur: “This is unusual. Usually Shafir is the aggressor.” It’s also unusual because Athena is acting heel... but crowds like it when she does... and Shafir is the de facto face... but they weren’t really cheering for her to win. This is the quietest the Portland crowd has been the entire taping. To be fair maybe they were just tired. They did Rampage, Dark matches and Battle of the Belts V all in one night. That’s a lot. Shafir fired up and they stayed quiet, then popped when Athena dropped her with a kick. Shafir tried to kick the leg out of her leg and Athena fell through the ropes to the floor. Athena took her belt and tried to walk away but Shafir caught up to her and gave her a judo throw on the ramp, then threw her into the ring apron before throwing her back into the ring. Power bomb by Shafir for two. Guerrero screamed “IT’S THREE” and Taz laughed at her antics. Shafir tried a rear naked choke but Athena rammed her into the turnbuckle and flopped onto her back to shake Shafir off. Shafir put it back on again and Athena got up carrying her, climbed up the ropes, and then fell backward at the point Shafir almost had her put to sleep. The camera panned the crowd and the fans seemed nonplussed. They did rouse enough enthusiasm to lightly count along with Paul Turner as he got eight on a standing ten count. Shafir battered Athena with elbows and knees as Guerrero screamed “again” but Athena stomped on Shafir and rained down hammer fists. Shafir reversed it, Athena kicked her away, then pulled down the ropes to send Shafir to the floor. Taz: “This thing’s turned into a nasty fight.” Athena did a suicide dive through the ropes and the crowd came to life, then threw Shafir into the steeel steps. Running knee into the steps brought out an “A-the-na” chant. She threw Shafir back in and locked in a crossface, Shafir tried to roll her over for a pin but Athena reversed it and cradled Shafir with a handful of trunks to get the three count. I’m glad the crowd finally got into the match at the end. Shafir grabbed a handful of hair as Athena was celebrating on the outside so she smacked Shafir with the belt to make her let go. Paul Turner yelled “the match is over get out of here” but for once Athena was right in using the belt as a weapon — she was only defending herself right? Right.

What to watch/skip

This week’s “what to watch/skip” for Dark is brought to you by Willow’s Twitter account. If we can’t have her dethrone Cargill, could she at least challenge Athena for the ROH title? I don’t even expect her to win the ROH title in the latter situation — just have a match like Shafir did only you’d get twice the crowd reaction because they would actually get behind Nightingale. It’s hard to put a finger on why Shafir doesn’t seem to connect with the audience but it’s been a problem going back to her NXT days. It’s certainly not her acumen in the ring or her looks. Her promos aren’t the best but I don’t think cutting great promos would help either. Anyway this show was almost 40 minutes shorter than Elevation and I’m happy with it as a whole. You could skip The Firm’s tag team squash, and Hager vs. Migs wasn’t much, but neither match offended me. A good episode.

Cageside commentary crew — share your feedback below in the comments section. If you love pro wrestling find me on Twitter until Elon makes us all pay for it. See you next week for new episodes of Elevation and Dark!

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