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AEW Dark Elevation recap (Jan. 16, 2023): Big Willie Style!

Episode 98 of AEW Dark: Elevation is in the books. If you missed the live broadcast click here for the Cageside Seats stream. Paul Wight and Matt Menard called the action tonight. Here we go!

Nyla Rose, Marina Shafir & Emi Sakura (w/ Vickie Guerrero) vs. Johnnie Robbie, Zyra & Vipress

The show kicked out with six-woman action. Rose, Shafir and Sakura were making their 2023 trios debut in this one. For their opponents it was their trios debut +ever+. Rose started the match but tagged in Sakura after just seconds, blowing off a request from Shafir in the process. She returned the favor and Shafir wasn’t pleased so she made a blind tag. Meanwhile Vipress tagged in and got a gorilla press from Rose for her trouble. Shafir threw her into the heel corner and tagged in Sakura just to piss off Rose, who took the bait and responded “What is your problem?” Zyra tagged in and Rose hit a spear and a Beast Bomb, and Sakura made the pin. Guerrero left shaking her head and I felt the same way. I get the dissension storyline is the point, but I don’t think it makes for a good trios match. Sakura being the pawn in their game doesn’t do it for me.

Daniel Garcia vs. Kevin Blackwood

Garcia was making his 2023 singles debut in this contest. Menard was overjoyed to introduce one of J.A.S.’s own. Blackwood was waiting for him in the ring and Menard noted “these two Buffalo boys know each other well.” Garcia took Blackwood down, slapped him around, and wiped off his boots. Blackwood gave him a takedown right back. Blackwood tried to go up the ropes for a move and Garcia shoved him off to the floor. The crowd chanted “you’re a wrestler” and Menard quipped “What is this? July 2022?” Garcia tried to climb the corner for ten punches and Blackwood bit him to break it up. Blackwood got the boots up on a charge and nailed Garcia with a dropkick. Kicks, strikes, elbows and an overhead suplex followed. Double foot stomp to the chest and a two count for Blackwood. Garcia escaped a fireman’s carry but nearly got caught in an inside cradle. Menard was stoked when Garcia suddenly finished the match. “What was that? A DDT. Danny planted him! No doubt about it, gets the three count every time.”

Lexi was backstage with Hardy Party. Zay wanted to know who the fourth man was in their eight man tag. Brandon Cutler ran in with his cold spray. Page criticized Zay for being “cranky ass” and Cutler said he could cool things down if they got too hot. Page told Zay to “get his (bleeped) together” and he stormed out. He asked Page if Zay was “dead ass” and Hardy confirmed he was indeed.

The Dark Order vs. Ari Daivari, Zack Clayton & Nick Ruiz

Daivari had a mic as his team came out to make their trios debut. “When I look into this crowd all I see are a bunch of phonies, a bunch of fakes, a bunch of pretentious wannabes, and you all wish you could be superstars like this. After we win this we’re going to New Jersey and we’re going to party on the Jersey Shore all night long.” Reynolds, Uno and Silver brought a 2023 record of 1-0. Uno and Daivari started things off with shoulder tackles back and forth until an atomic drop and Uno blew right through him for a bicep flex. Daivari tagged out to Ruiz and Uno tagged out to Reynolds. Triple team dropkick on Ruiz. Clayton ran him over from the apron and then tagged in legally for a suplex and a knee drop. Uppercut, scoop slam, tag to Daivari. Frog splash, two count. Daivari knocked Uno off the apron and then went back and forth on near falls with Reynolds. Reynolds landed a big strike and crawled to Silver for the tag, and Ruiz came in to eat a suplex and a kick in the face. Back breaker, near fall broken up by the heels. The ref lost all control and Dark Order clotheslined everybody but Ruiz to the floor, and Ruiz ate the Pendulum bomb for the pin and The Dark Order win.

Lexi was backstage with Konosuke Takeshita. Don Callis interrupted and said his jet lag and four matches in two days at BOLA wore him out. He said Kenny Omega used to do things like that until he took his advice. “You give me a call. We’re here to help.” He handed him a card, spoke some Japanese, made sure to tell the viewers it WAS Japanese, and Takeshita looked at the card without saying a word.

La Faccion Ingobernable (RUSH & Preston Vance) w/ Jose vs. Misterioso & Diego Valens

Both La Faccion Ingobernable and Misterioso & Valens were making their AEW tag team debut. Vance got “you sold out” chants and took their opponent’s head off with a big lariat. He gave RUSH a fist bump tag and he immediately hit the bull’s horns for the quick win. They immediately ripped off his mask, grabbed a rope, and started choking the life out of him, standing over his corpse when they were finished. The entrance might have been longer than the match.

Matt Hardy, Ethan Page, Isiah Kassidy & Brandon Cutler vs. Peter Avalon, Ryan Nemeth, Serpentico & Luther

SAP & The Wingmen were making their eight-man tag team debut, as if that’s really a tag division in the first place. Ethan Page cut the music and told the crowd “Relax, you don’t have to be in a bad mood like cranky ass Zay. Does L.A. want to party Hardy tonight? Zay you haven’t been having fun, shaking your hips or juking, so we’re bringing out a fourth. He may not be my hero, but he’s your local hero, Brandon Cutler. Now hit the music. Oh he brought his own pyro!” Page sang the Hardy music all the way to the ring as Cutler sprayed the cold spray everywhere. Wight: “Page has taken one of the most iconic ring entrances of all time and ruined it!” Cutler and Avalon started the match off. Cutler hit a goofy clothesline and Page screamed “See that’s why he’s better than you Zay!”Hardy tagged in for an elbow drop and then tagged in Zay. Double elbow, double leg drop, and Zay swiveled his hips over Avalon before tagging Cutler. Cutler threw jabs and grabbed a headlock. Serpentico ran in to interfere and ate a forearm. Nemeth and Luther double teamed Cutler in the corner and then Nemeth tagged in to throw Cutler down on his face and do his own hip swivel. Avalon tagged back in and knocked Page off the apron. Cutler picked up Avalon for an airplane spin and both men were dizzy. Cutler face planted while Serpentico got the tag, but Cutler managed to recover and tag Page. Page immediately tagged Zay and said “show me something” so he leapt over Page for a crossbody and an enzuigiri. Hardy threw out Luther, floated Nemeth over the ropes to the floor, and Zay hit the ropes to jump off Hardy’s back and splash everyone outside. Side Effect. Zay went to the top rope, hit a Swanton, and Page threw his own partner to the outside to make the pin himself. Zay was understandably upset and got back in the ring to fight with Page, and Hardy had to get between the two to break it up.

Brian Cage (w/ Prince Nana) vs. Willie Mack

Mack got the pop you’d expect from The Forum. It still astounds me to this day that WWE had him under contract and didn’t go through with it. I know there was some kind of issue on his medicals, but he’s still wrestling today isn’t he? Anyway Cage came out with a 12-0 record on Elevation. Mack went for a splash in the corner and Cage caught him in the air and hit a spinning sit out side slam. He stomped on Mack’s chest, but Mack got up throwing strikes, and Cage had to put him back down with a knee. Nana told Cage to finish him off. Mack responded by taking Cage down and hitting a T-bone suplex for good measure. Big boot in the corner. Mack sized Cage up and hit a flying ass in the corner for 2.9. He waited for Cage to get back up, scooped him up, Cage escaped, Mack hit a back elbow and went up the ropes, Cage cut him off and put Mack on his shoulders to drive him down face first. Mack kicked out at 2! Cage pulled him up, Mack escaped, Cage went behind, Mack escaped, Mack picked him up for a fall away slam and both men were down. Mack kipped up to his feet and then did a standing moonsault for 2.9. The crowd is living and dying with Mack and I don’t blame them even if this wasn’t The Forum. Cage got a boot up as Mack charged and hit a tornado DDT. Menard: “Both men are hurting here. This is a great contest!” Kicks traded back and forth until Cage threw a lariat so hard they both went down. Rick Knox got to six on a ten count. Stunner by Mack! Mack went to the top but Cage got out of the way in time and hit a powerbomb and a twisting neckbreaker for three. That match was Dynamite or Rampage worthy. No doubt about it.

ROH Women’s Title Eliminator Match: Athena (c) vs. Zeda Zhang

Athena brought a record of 24-2. Zhang was waiting for her in the ring with a record of 0-1 but a far greater record outside of AEW. Athena took her down for some ground and pound and nearly took ref Mike Posey’s head off when he tried to break it up. High boot by Athena and she celebrated like the match was already over. Boot to the throat of Zhang in the corner. Posey again got told off for breaking it up. Zhang hit a back elbow so Athena kicked her in the back repeatedly. She sank in the fish hook crossface and Zhang tapped out, then she put on another crossface after the bell. I really wanted to see more from Zhang here but I realize the whole goal is to keep heating up Athena to make everybody want to see her lose the title, even though depending on the crowd they like her heelish ways. She prepared to smash Zhang’s face into the belt but magical girl Yuka Sakazaki ran down to fight Athena off and make the save. Neither Wight nor Menard seemed to have any idea who she was. She picked up the belt and teased the crowd while Athena threw a fit and yelled at Posey on the outside.

Backstage Lexi congratulated Prince Nana. “The Embassy, especially Brian Cage, we are gonna be on a big roll for 2023. I’m so excited for what The Embassy has lined up.” The Dark Order interrupted. “Take your stinking hands off me! What do you guys want?” Silver said he looks great in purple. “You don’t know nothing, your breath stinks, and what are you crazy? Prince Nana smells good, Prince Nana is a man of luxury, and you guys stink.” Reynolds said he got an email from Nana requesting a donation for an orphanage and he needs the money back, and Nana feigned ignorance and then quickly yelled “Cage I’m over here” and ran away.

Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta vs. The Butcher & The Blade vs. Top Flight

Three way tag team main event time! Butcher & Blade brought Bunny and a record of 6-1 on Elevation. Top Flight’s record on Elevation was 4-0. Castagnoli and Yuta brought their title belts and a team record of 4-0. The teams started fighting on the floor before the bell and Top Flight hit a double suicide dive to wipe them out. Menard teased that Mike Posey would need every bit of his cross fit training to keep up with all six men. I’d say the fans need the same with this many great teams in one match. Castagnoli stared running Blade from one corner to the other for an uppercut each time, and the crowd started counting along. Bunny threw a fit to interrupt and Butcher took advantage. Castagnoli double legged him and did a Big Swing for ten revolutions before Blade broke it up. He got another uppercut for his trouble. Butcher hit him in the face and Yuta jumped in. Another suicide dive from Dante Martin. Darius gave Blade a DDT and Dante hit him with a Nose Dive for the win. Total utter chaos. Entertaining chaos but chaos nonetheless.

What to watch/skip

Tonight’s what to watch/skip is brought to you by Willie Mack on Twitter. Be sure to give him a follow if you’re already there! Please go out of your way to watch his match with Brian Cage even if you don’t watch anything else from this episode. The most disappointing match was Athena vs. Zhang because they can both do way more than they were given the time or creative direction for tonight. Everything else was in between.

Cageside commentary crew! Share your thoughts in the comments section below and find me on Twitter for even more wrestling talk. See you tomorrow night after AEW Dark!

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