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AEW Dark recap (Jan. 31, 2023): Konosuke vs. Angelico!

Episode 181 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. Let’s go!

AR Fox & Top Flight vs. The Wingmen

Peter Avalon, Cezar Bononi and Ryan Nemeth were taking their first trios match of 2023 on this week’s Dark. Top Flight were teaming with AR Fox for the first time, so this was their “trios debut” on the chyron too. The match got off to a hot start before Stephon Smith could call for the bell. Fox tried to do a suicide dive and the heels caught him, so Top Flight followed suit to wipe The Wingmen out.

Quick tags by the faces to work over Nemeth. Eventually he was able to charge to his corner and tag Avalon. Fox hit him with a corkscrew brainbuster and then every wrestler hit the ring, which led to a triple dropkick. Trios matches are often chaotic, but this was even more so than most. It finally settled down to the heels working over Fox. Fox hit a jawbreaker and a Death Valley Driver to finally break free and give Dante Martin the hot tag. Diving crossbody on Nemeth for two. Darius tags in. Bononi breaks up a pin. Everyone’s in the ring again. Fox tags back in for a rocket launch straight into his cutter for the pin on Avalon. Good ending but what a cluster.

Red Velvet vs. Sofia Castillo

Velvet brought a record of 2-0 for 2023 ahead of her title shot against Jade Cargill tomorrow night. Castillo was taking her first match of the year against her. So you’re telling me the wrestler waiting in the ring has no record, and her opponent is getting a TBS “championship opportunity” on Dynamite? Hmm. I think we know how this is going to turn out. Castillo tried to get some heat by mocking Velvet’s “stir it up.” Castillo with a knee to the face and a guillotine with the ropes. Velvet kicked out at one.

Castillo seemed to be having trouble keeping the straps for her top in place. She kicked Velvet in the knee and the face for back to back two counts. Full nelson applied. Velvet started to fade. She fought her way free with her hips but ate a leg lariat. Castillo charged in the corner and missed, then ate double knees as she was hung up in the ropes. “Lung Blower Jones” quipped Taz. Velvet put Castillo in a short arm scissor and cranked until she got the verbal submission.

Zack Clayton vs. Fulton

Clayton was making his 2023 debut on Dark. His opponent Fulton was waiting in the ring with no prior singles record on AEW. In case you were wondering that is indeed Madman Fulton of NXT and Impact Wrestling fame. The crowd was getting behind Fulton and chanting his name since he had the size and strength to stand toe to toe with “The Reality,” but unfortunately in the end he got put down by a brainbuster. Clayton: “None of these losers here can compete with or dominate me. It’s me and me alone!” Okay so it’s a work, not a shoot, but if they were having a real fight I’m pretty sure Fulton could make him eat those words until he choked on his own tongue.

Brock Anderson & Brian Pillman Jr. (w/ Arn Anderson) vs. Rosario Grillo & Dean Alexander

This was the first time for Anderson and Pillman Jr. to team up, while their opponents had a prior AEW record of (wait for it) 0-4. Once again, I +wonder+ who is going to win this match. I didn’t have to wonder for long. Brock Anderson hit a Gordbuster for the pin right after Pillman Jr. hit a superkick. At least they had team chemistry.

Renee Michelle vs. Skye Blue

Blue was making her first appearance on Dark for 2023. Michelle brought a 2022 singles record of 0-3. Excalibur and Taz joked about how quickly they were banging out matches on this episode, and they certainly weren’t lying, because nothing had been even close to competitive since the opener. Michelle ate some forearms to the face, a kick to the knee, a roundhouse enzuigiri, and Michelle finally got on offense with a bridging German for a two count. Blue hit a kick and Sky Fall for the win. Excalibur: “Wow. Out of nowhere!” Taz: “If only these two ladies could talk and have some synergy they’d have a great team. Fire and Ice!” Don’t count on it.

Shane Taylor Promotions vs. Mr. G & Dante Casanova

STP +is+ the razor’s edge. They’re making their AEW tag debut in this match, as were their hapless opponents Dante Casanova and Mr. G. JD Griffey worked over Mr. G with kicks while Shane Taylor looked on. Casanova tagged in, Taylor did too and gave him a a headbutt, then planted him with a slam and a splash, pulling him back up instead of getting the pin. Casanova hit a dropkick and actually managed to pick Taylor up for a slam. Wasn’t expecting that. Taylor caught a kick and threw a hard elbow, then tagged Griffey back in. Double underhook knee strike package piledriver combo move from Griffey and Taylor for the pin. This was the best squash of the show!

Yuka Sakazaki vs. Avery Breaux

HAI!” It’s Magical Girl time. Sakazaki brought a 2023 record of 1-0. Breaux was waiting in the ring for her first match of the year. Breaux mocked Sakazaki’s cheerful personality and the crowd started chanting for her in response. They went back and forth with holds and counters for the first minute. Roll up by Sakazaki for two. Breaux rolled out for a breather after another near fall and yelled “That’s not cool!” Sakazaki gave chase and Breaux took advantage to throw her face first into the apron. She tried to do it a second time and Sakazaki landed on the apron and kicked her instead. She went to high five the Orlando fans and then hit Breaux with a dropkick on the apron. Another near fall back in the ring. Breaux blocked a suplex and hit one of her own, then a cannonball senton into the corner for a near near fall “for Avery Breaux, bro” as Excalibur said. Sakazaki picked Breaux up and spun her like a merry-go-round, said “oah kay” then did a Magical Girl Splash (springboard off the ropes) for three.

The WorkHorsemen vs. Liam Gray & Adrian Alanis

Henry and Drake brought a 2023 tag team record of 0-2. They may be WorkHorsemen, but they haven’t been WinHorsemen. Fortunately for them they were facing Gray and Alanis in their 2023 debut, and even more fortunately Drake looks like he’s the size of both of his opponents put together. As a result they tried to double team him at the start and the ref did nothing to stop it. He didn’t need to because Drake threw them into the middle, hit a lariat and a DDT at the same time, tagged in Henry and did a cannonball on Gray in the corner. Henry picked up Gray for a cross legged brainbuster and the pin. Eight matches deep in 40 minutes and change. If it weren’t for the intros and the video packages this could have been sub-30.

Konosuke Takeshita vs. Angelico

Main event time! Angelico was accompanied by his SAP brethren Luther and Serpentico) for his 2023 singles debut. Takeshita’s current Dark record coming in was 2-0. There were a lot of obvious results just from looking at the competitors on this episode, but at least for the main event we at least had the suspense of Takeshita having to deal with being outnumbered 3-on-1. Serpentico grabbed the leg from the outside, and then he and Luther gave him sledgehammers to the back while Aubrey Edwards was laying down the law to Angelico. Angelico started doing some of his signature stretches and submissions and Takeshita got his boot on the ropes to force Angelico to break. Both men traded strikes on their feet and Takeshita got the better of it. Angelico tried to throw him out but he was able to skin the cat and hit a huge clothesline coming back in. Takeshita Line knocks Angelico down. Chop to the neck and a DDT as Luther screams “kick out, kick out.” Angelico did. Takeshita ate elbows to the head but then grabbed Angelico by the trunks, which resulted in them doing rolling pin attempts. Blue Thunder Bomb by Takeshita for two. “Nice job on the Blue Thunder Jones right there. Sounds like a guy wrestling out of Memphis!” If you say so Taz. Bulldog and la magistral by Angelico for two. Flying knee from Takeshita. Bridging German suplex but Serpentico swept the leg to break it up. Edwards gave him a lecture and Luther interfered to give Angelico another near fall. Angelico dared Takeshita to give him his best shot then kicked him in the lower back. Angelico and Luther bonked heads and Takeshita planted him with two brainbusters. Angelico still kicked out! “What is in the skull of this man?” I don’t know Taz, but it didn’t stop the knee strike that followed, as Takeshita finally got his hard fought win. He’ll face Brian Cage tomorrow night!

What to watch/skip

Tonight’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by Konosuke Takeshita on Twitter. He deserves it after a main event that saved the show. Alright I’m exaggerating a little. This wasn’t a terrible edition of Dark, but other than the opener and the closer, it was as paint by the numbers as can be. Be sure to watch the Shane Taylor Promotions match though. I’m admittedly biased because I’ve interviewed Mr. Taylor in the past, but seeing him do his thing in the ring is a blast. If he and Griffey move into tag title contention sooner rather than later in AEW that would be fine by me.

Cageside commentary crew — share your feedback below in the comments section. If you love pro wrestling find me on Twitter as well. I’d love to talk to some of you instead of the bots that follow me. See you next week for new episodes of Elevation and Dark!

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