Episode 96 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, but before we go on, please say a prayer for Damar Hamlin if you’re the praying type. He needs all the positive energy he can get from the universe right now.
Watch the first #AEWDarkElevation of 2023 TONIGHT at 7/6c on https://t.co/lBSV4sbfpB to see #HouseOfBlack @malakaiblxck @SNM_Buddy @Brodyxking v @haganemakai, @DeanAlexanderNF+@rgrilloTSF, @wrestlingleva v @TheJuliaHart, @RealJeffJarrett+@TheLethalJay in tag action & much more! pic.twitter.com/ji8OlKJ1YH— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) January 2, 2023
Hikaru Shida vs. Tyra Russamee
Shida came out with a singles record of 15-0 on Elevation overall. Russamee was making her AEW debut. Russamee called for a test of strength, but Shida was taller than her, so she stomped on Shida’s feet instead. They fought their way into the corner, Shida gave her a hard slap and a boot to the face, but Russamee avoided the dropkick and kicked her in the back. Russamee climbed the ropes but got cut off for the ten punches in the corner. The crowd started a “ho-ly Shi-da” chant. Russamee nearly caught her in a small package. Russamee kicked out of an elbow strike but the not kick after. I would have liked five more minutes for both ladies but hey... there’s a reason promotions like STARDOM exist.
Varsity Athletes (Tony Nese & Josh Woods) w/ “Smart” Mark Sterling vs. Pillars of Destiny
The Athletes brought a record of 11-3. Sterling interrupted their music to brag about the cardio of his studs, and said the fat slobs in the crowd can’t climb a flight of stairs without losing their breath. “I asked for the biggest and best athletes Colorado had to offer. There must have been some kind of mix-up, but that’s okay, because we’re going to get out of here as fast as we can and go home to breath some real New York air.” The Pillars brought a record of 0-1 and were described by Wight as being “big Colorado mountain men.” The Pillars certainly had the furry boots and long hair to go with it, although I doubt a real mountain man needs Warrior’s face paint. If Sterling hadn’t gotten enough heat before the match, Nese and Woods cheated and double teamed the faces to get even more. A neck was snapped off the ropes into a release German suplex, followed by a running knee, followed by a double team neck breaker. Which Pillar got pinned? Who news. Neither Wight nor Menard ever identified their names, and I don’t think it matters.
And that's how the #VarsityAthletes do it! An impressive victory to kick off 2023 for @woodsisthegoods and #PremierAthlete @TonyNese on #AEWDarkElevation!— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) January 3, 2023
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Matt Hardy & Isaiah Kassidy vs. Manny Lemons & Atiba
Hardy and Kassidy were officially working as a team for the first time here. Lemons and Atiba were making their debut too. If you’re wondering where Kassidy’s party-loving tag team partner is, Hardy confirmed Marq Quen is injured earlier today. Kassidy called for some “shots, shots, shots” in the corner but got cut off with a shot to the throat and double teamed. Menard: “I think I like Lemons.” Wight: “We can’t tell!” Kassidy escaped to give Hard the hot tag and he did the turnbuckle deletion. Side Effect on Atiba was broken up before the three count. Kassidy ran in to help Hardy, then did a dive to wipe out Lemons on the floor. Power bomb by Hardy, 450 by Kassidy, pin.
Marina Shafir (w/ Nyla Rose) vs. Lilith Grimm
Rose accompanied Shafir but didn’t seem to be happy about doing so. Wight complained about the lack of Vickie Guerrero out there with the. Grimm was making her AEW debut here and had quite a formidable look for a newcomer. I could see her as an extra in a Mad Max movie. Shafir was not impressed though and got mad when she got hit with a shoulder tackle. Chop, judo throw, Grimm got a rope break, got kicked in the chest and ate a spine buster, then Shafir immediately locked in the submission and stared a hole through whoever was on the other side of the camera lens. Rose got in the ring and seemed to appreciate her intensity, nodding in approval.
#TheProblem @MarinaShafir scores her first submission victory of the year on #AEWDarkElevation, but what did @NylaRoseBeast have to say to her after the match?— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) January 3, 2023
Watch #AEWDarkElevation RIGHT NOW!
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Backstage Kassidy said their win was “orgasmic” and that he “had a good Christmas.” Hardy said they were “a well oiled machine” and that it felt “WONDERFUL.” Ethan Page interrupted. He asked which tunnel they came out of? Hardy: “The one on the left.” Page: “I thought we talked about the hierarchy. Did it change over Christmas? Read the contracts guys.” Hardy apologized for their mistake. Page was stunned by the apology and in disbelief: “I’ve been trying to drill this into your head every single week.” Hardy: “We’ve got a good thing going here and I want to make it work.” Page: “This is great. You guys finish the interview without me.” Hardy: “Happy New Year!” As soon as he left Kassidy said “Are you serious?” Hardy shook his head to indicate he wasn’t.
After a stellar victory on #AEWDarkElevation, @LexyNair catches up with #HardyParty @MATTHARDYBRAND and @IsiahKassidy. However, @OfficialEGO reminds them of their contractual obligations...— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) January 3, 2023
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Athena vs. Gypsy Mac
ROH Women’s Title Athena brought a singles record of 21-2 to the ring. Her opponent Mac was making her AEW debut and Menard confirmed it was a non-title match as a result, while SAP member Angelico joined the commentary booth. Mac tried a roll up which as usual only made Athena madder, which is exactly what the crowd wanted, as they chanted her name and roared for the aggressive attitude. Angelico said no one can do it better. I’m not about to disagree. She hit a roundhouse kick, slapped Mac around, cranked back with her hand over Mac’s mouth and nose, and got the tap. After the match she threw Mac face first into her title belt at ringside and celebrated being a total badass.
The Dark Order vs. Ryan Nemeth & Chaos Project
Menard was excited to see Ryan Nemeth, while Angelico decided to leave to go accompany his boys in Chaos Project to the ring. That made for quite a crowd since Nemeth was already being joined by Peter Avalon. Nemeth and Chaos Project had no record as a trio before this match. Tonight’s Dark Order lineup was Evil Uno, John Silver and Alex Reynolds, bringing a 2022 record of 3-0. Menard: “Denver, Colorado how do you like it?” Judging by the pop for the Dark Order, they liked it a lot. It didn’t take long for a “Johnny Hungee” chant to break out. Luther splashed Serpentico by mistake and he got tripled teamed by the Dark Order, who then mocked the hip swivel Luther did earlier. Serp got down on his knees to beg for forgiveness and found none. He tried to chop Uno and found it was like hitting a brick wall. Avalon and Nemeth tripped him from the outside and he got the boots put to him out on the floor while the ref was distracted. The heels cut off the ring to beat Uno down for a bit. Nemeth poked Uno in the eyes to rile up the crowd. Uno returned the favor, hit a cutter, and after first crawling to the wrong corner (guess the eye poke blinded him) he turned around to tag Silver. German suplex bridge on Serp for two and all six men hit the ring. Luther started a S-A-P chant but got pulled out of the ring, and Serp was left all alone for the Pendulum Bomb and the pin.
Julia Hart vs. Leva Bates
Bates was billed as “making her 2023 debut” on the chyron. Menard: “I’m gonna tell you right now, you don’t want a book to the skull.” The lights went out for Hart’s entrance and she was billed as having a 2022 record of 19-3. She was bathed in red light as she walked out and lip syncing to her ominous music. Bates offered her a handshake after the opening bell and Hart’s facial expression said “Are you kidding me right now?” Bates offered her a book too. Wight: “What’s that look on her face? Disdain maybe?” Hart bounced her head off the canvas and applied the Hartless Lock for the quick victory. The entrance +and+ the exit were both longer than the match itself.
Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal (w/ Satnam Singh & Sonjay Dutt) vs. Justin Andrews & Ryzin
Lethal and Jarrett were making their 2023 tag team debut. Andrews and Ryzin were making their tag team debut period. They got jumped before the opening bell and Jarrett cleaned house before tagging in Lethal for a swinging neckbreaker. Ryzin missed a moonsault and ate a chop before Jarrett tagged back in. Russian leg sweep by Jarrett. He did the Garvin Stomp and tagged Lethal in for the Flair Strut. Lethal said “wooo” and went for a figure four but Ryzin almost got a small package for his trouble. Andrews tagged in and tried to run wild but got kicked in the back of the head, then hit with a double team stroke/Lethal Injection combo for the pin. Ryzin got a choke slam from Singh for his trouble after the match.
House of Black vs. Hagane Shinno, Dean Alexander & Rosario Grillo
And if you didn’t get enough of the House of Black with Julia Hart’s squash earlier, the rest of the crew is in the main event! Shinno, Alexander and Grillo came out first though to make their trios debut. The lights went out a second time for Buddy Matthews, Brody King and Malakai Black, bringing a record of 7-2 to the match. The lights blacked out one more time during their walk down the ramp and then all three were in the ring, bathed in that same red light, and the lights went out a fourth time. Menard: “I’m loving this presentation.” Wight: “Like any great cult leader, Malakai Black understands presence. Black always in tremendous shape, so dangerous.” Shinno and King started things off as Denver chanted for the House of Black. Shinno tried to avoid King with quickness and throw kicks. After a knee to the jaw Shinno got chopped down and Black tagged in. Shinno hit a dropkick and tagged out to Grillo, and Buddy Matthews made sure to kick their partner off the apron for good measure. Grillo tried and failed to fight back. King tagged in for a cannonball in the corner. Menard: “Just stay down man.” His teammates made the save before three. King destroyed them outside the ring, but speared the corner which Grillo dodged. He crawled to Shinno for the tag, and he did an asai moonsault to the floor followed by a suicide dive. Wight: “Trying to fight everybody by himself!” Back in the ring Shinno covered Black for two. They traded forearms and strikes. Shinno ate a spinning back elbow but Shinno threw a spinning heel kick. King pearl harbored him. Alexander came in and quickly got destroyed. Shinno came off the top rope and ate an uppercut from King, and Matthews made the pin for three. Menard was excited about how impressive the House was, and so was I.
What to watch/skip
This “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by “Ogentroost.” If you like the House of Black this was definitely the episode of Elevation for you. Watch their trios match, watch Hart’s squash, and have fun. The Hardy Party match and Shida vs. Russamee were also good. Skip Marina Shafir. At least they’re keeping the dissension storyline going, but at this point Guerrero already said she’s sick of them both, so they should go their separate ways and be done with it.
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!