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AEW Dark Elevation recap (Jan. 9, 2023): Castagnoli vs. Woods

Episode 97 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!

Brian Cage (w/ Prince Nana) vs. Schaff

Cage brought a record of 11-0 on Elevation. His opponent Schaff was making his AEW debut and was a local favorite based on the crowd’s reaction (or he warmed up the crowd before Cage’s entrance). He did a cannonball into the corner and gave Cage a nice suplex. Wight: “Brian Cage is not a lightweight to pick up!” Schaff picked him up for a possible torture rack, but Cage escaped and gave him a knee to the face. He dropped to a knee and flexed both biceps. Shoulders to the gut and a chop in the corner. Side suplex for two. Prince Nana complained to the ref it was three. Cage applied a chinlock but Schaff fought back to his feet. Cage hit him with another knee, slashed his throat, but Schaff escaped the Drill Claw attempt and started throwing chops and a hard lariat. Big splash in the corner. Elbow to the head. Pounding on Cage’s back. Senton. Wight: “That would have been a tremendous upset.” It sure would have. Cage with a jumping knee, a German suplex, and another near fall. Menard: “Ten minutes ago in the back he wasn’t expecting this kind of contest.” Cage slammed Schaff right on his face and he kicked out again. Schaff reversed a power bomb but ate a kick. Schaff hit a cutter and a power bomb of his own and Cage kicked out at 2.999. Wight: “Here on Elevation. Two big monsters battling it out!” Nana kept yelling “he’s a nobody” at Cage. Schaff hit a German but Cage responded with a discus lariat, went to the second rope, and hit an inside out standing suplex. Drill Claw, 1-2-3. They gave Schaff so much in this match that I have to believe AEW is interested in him.

Ethan Page was backstage with Lexi to talk about Hardy Party. “They’re gonna win because they’re under my...” and Matt Hardy interrupted. Hardy told him that their tag match has been changed to a trios match. “I want to team with you. I think we have a great thing going here. We’re wearing green today. Consider this a belated boxing day present from me to you.” Page accepted his green trunks and the present and said he was going to go change. Isiah: “I did not just see that. Are you dead ass?” Hardy: “I’m dead ass.”

The Kingdom (w/ Maria Kanellis) vs. Bollywood Boyz

The Bollywood Boyz brought a record of 0-1 to this match and they too got a nice reaction from the crowd in Seattle, which Menard and Wight were both sure to put over. Mike Bennett and Matt Taven brought a record of 1-0 along with Maria Kanellis. Sadly for the Boyz this means they’re about to be 0-2. “Dropkick” Mike Posey called for the bell and the crowd started a loud “Bol-ly-wood” chant while someone in the audience walked around with a “Scott Road” sign. Mike Bennett was getting double teamed as the Boyz cut off the ring with quick tags. Taven tried to run in to help and ate a double kick to the jaw. He ran over to break up a double team move and ate an elbow. Bennett hit an elbow to the jaw and tagged in Taven for an elbow drop. Menard got in a promo for Dynamite at The Forum in Los Angeles this Wednesday. Meanwhile the heels were cutting off the ring and Maria raked the eyes from the outside. Bennett ran the ropes just to hit a thumb to the eyes and Maria loved the spot (actually so did I). The crowd urged the Boyz to make a comeback, which resulted in a back and forth chop fest before Bennett did a whip into the turnbuckle for another near fall. Taven got tagged in, Bennett did a spinebuster, but Taven missed with his moonsault. Double tag spot. Spin kick. Suplex. Elbow drop on Bennett. Taven broke up the near fall and the crowd was pissed. Menard: “Posey’s lost control here. What do you call that one?” Wight: “Good teamwork. That was a nice double finish for The Kingdom. I’ll have to find out what that’s called. I wonder if they have a name for it.”

Claudio Castagnoli was backstage with Lexi and said Josh Woods is “the best pure mat wrestler in AEW and ROH for that matter — I’m looking forward to stepping in the ring and testing myself. I don’t think he’s reached his potential yet. I however have been the testing block, the final boss, and I am the guy that people want to step in the ring with to see how good they are. I am the measuring stick, I am the bar, I am right here. It can be AEW Rampage, Dynamite, Dark, it doesn’t matter. When you step in the ring with me, you’re in for a fight.”

House of Black vs. Peter Avalon, Ryan Nemeth & Ari Daivari

Daivari, Nemeth and Avalon were making their debut as a trio. By now you know what comes next given their opponents are the House of Black — the lights going out repeatedly as they make their way to the ring. HOB was billed as having a 1-0 record for 2023. Avalon and Black started the match off while Wight and Menard discussed whether or not they liked the new haircut for “Pretty Peter.” He quickly tagged in Nemeth, who got tripped onto his head, dragged to the heel corner, and Buddy Matthews tagged in to continue the beating. Wight: “If I was built like Buddy Matthews I wouldn’t have tattoos either.” Nemeth tried a chop and got a kick to the face. Daivari gave him a cutter on the apron while the ref wasn’t looking and fed him back in. Matthews was getting the three-on-one treatment as Black and King begged him to tag out. Nemeth swiveled his hips to piss them off and ate a chokeslam into a knee from Matthews. He tagged in King and the house (the audience that is) erupted. He cleaned house on Daivari and friends and stacked them up like cordwood in the corner for a big squish. He was going to do a cannonball but got tripped from the outside. It didn’t change things for long though. Stephon Smith gave up trying to get anybody out of the ring. Triple team cannonball in the corner - King on the inside and his teammates lending a hand from the outside with extra knees. That flattened Daivari for the pin but good. At this point the show was 36 minutes long and only three matches deep!

Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Vinny Pacifico

Hobbs brought a record of 12-0 on Elevation. Pacifico was waiting for him in the ring with a record of 0-1 in AEW... soon to be 0-2. He looked like his entire body wasn’t even as big as one of Hobbs’ arms or legs. Hobbs was laughing at how big of a mismatch this match was. Pacifico tried one dropkick and promptly got steamrolled. Hobbs smashed him in the corner and screamed “do something.” He laid Pacifico across the top rope to pound on his chest. Hobbs is just playing with his food at this point. He picked Pacifico up for a delayed vertical suplex... and didn’t even finish the suplex as he just dropped Pacifico right on his ass. Pacifico tried to go to the second rope and got caught in mid air for a spinebuster. That ends that.

Marina Shafir & Nyla Rose vs. Amira & Danika Della Rouge

Rose and Shafir were 10-1 as a team. At first it seemed like Vickie Guerrero was going to accompany them to the ring, but then she stayed at the top of the ramp and waved them to go on without her. Rouge and Amira were making their AEW debut. Rose cleared the ring all by herself and Shafir tagged in for a suplex. Shafir didn’t get back to her feet when there was a tag. She caught a kick and nearly had a submission right there. Judo throw, knee to the chest, and Rose was laughing as Shafir put a knee to her opponent’s back. Rose tagged back in, stacked up everybody in the middle, and Shafir tagged in again for a double team DDT and the pin. Wight: “That is definitely all she wrote.” Guerrero immediately walked away despite the clear dominance her team showed in the victory. This was followed by a promo from Butcher & Blade promising to kick ass.

Claudio Castagnoli (c) vs. Josh Woods (ROH Title Match)

Woods brought a 2023 record of 2-0 in singles competition and “Smart” Mark Sterling as well. Wight: “I hope he doesn’t touch a microphone at all.” Castagnoli brought Wheeler Yuta and a record of 16-3. To be honest I was surprised this wasn’t saved for the main event even if this is the order they taped the show in (probably isn’t though). Handshake and we were underway! Woods had the advantage early but Castagnoli came back with strikes, an uppercut in the corner, a lariat and a two count. Sterling yelled at Castagnoli not to do the Big Swing but he didn’t need to as Woods countered it into an ankle lock. He dragged Castagnoli away from the ropes twice when he wanted a break, then bridged Castagnoli on a German suplex for a near fall. Wight: “I’m super impressed with Josh Woods right now. He’s putting on a clinic!”

Power bomb and Big Swing by Castagnoli in response, but he stopped selling his left knee and Woods immediately attacked it and got another near fall. Castagnoli cut Woods off when he went to the top rope, hit an uppercut, but Woods won the battle for control and came off for another two count. Reverse elbows for Castagnoli to escape. Knee to the body. European uppercut. 1-2-3! Claudio Castagnoli retains the title but Josh Woods gave him one hell of a fight. Considering this match was at nearly the one hour mark it’s stunning to read this back and think this wasn’t the end of Elevation... but we continue on from here!

Matt Hardy, Isiah Kassidy & Ethan Page vs. Guillermo Rosas, Sonico & Cody Chhun

Ethan Page cut off Hardy’s entrance music and said he didn’t cut it because he didn’t want to ruin the fun. In fact he cut it off just so they could play it a SECOND time and then came down to the ring singing it into the mic. “Give it up for Ethan Page... and his partners! Okay you can cut the music I’m done dancing. Thank you Seattle!”

Page kept his mic on and yelled at Zay not to do a flip to the outside. He did anyway. Hardy tagged in and worked with Rosas for a bit. Zay tagged back in, flipped off Page, and Page refused to tag in in return. Hardy tagged in for an elbow drop. Hardy worked the left arm and elbow of Rosas then hit a Side Effect. Page: “Alright I’m ready for that tag now. Hell yeah.” Hardy obliged and Page stomped on Rosas, then tagged in Zay. Page never even took his jacket off. He and Zay started arguing and Rosas took advantage for a suplex. Sonico tagged in. Snapmare, dropkick, two count. Chhun tagged in. Chops. Zay fought off all three men and gave Hardy a hot tag. Hardy signaled V-ONE-AH, avoided Chhun, and gave him Razor’s Edge before Sonico made the save. He did the turnbuckle deletion and Zay did a splash off his back. Hardy tagged in Page, Page did the Twist of Fate, and Page got the pin. Menard said it’s now called the Twist of Page. Page danced to the back while Zay looked pissed.

Athena vs. Viva Van

ROH Women’s Champion Athena brought a record of 22-2and denied a fan a high five at ringside, laughing at the poor kid just to rub it in. Van had a record of 0-3. I believe this was a non-title match. Athena begged Van to give her a free shot, then kicked her in the gut and slapped her in the face. Athena did a back flip to mock Van and then took an elbow to the face. That just fired up Athena for some ground and pound and a baseball slide dropkick to send Van to the floor. She threw Van into the steps then mocked the ref for his ten count before hitting double knees into the steps. She threw Van back in and applied a crossface for the tap, refusing to let go and then nearly giving Mike Posey a beating for pulling her off. She then gave Van a post-match beatdown before Shafir’s music hit. She didn’t make the save though. Athena slammed Van’s face into the title, Shafir stepped in the ring, then pointed at the ROH Title on Athena’s shoulder. Shafir walked up and Athena backed off and rolled out of the ring. Shafir held the high ground but it was still Athena’s music playing as she walked to the back. 73 minutes in!

Eddie Kingston & Ortiz vs. Ricky Gibson & Eddie Pearl

This extra extra long episode of Elevation continues with Kingston and Ortiz, bringing a tag team record of 8-1. Angelico joined commentary for this match. Gibson and Pearl were waiting in the ring with no prior record as a team in AEW. They had matching light blue and pink trunks, which didn’t help identifying who was who, and the announcers didn’t help with this problem. Kingston got a crowd chant, a head lock and a shoulder tackle. Side headlock. He took a slap to the face, hit a chop and a suplex, then tagged in Ortiz. Ortiz hit a suplex and an arm wringer and tagged Kingston. They continued to cut off the ring and work over whichever of these guys they were working with. Eventually Ortiz got cut off for the heat. Kingston got the tag, hit a DDT, got the pin and left the arena quick. Ortiz stayed to celebrate.

Bandido vs. Christopher Daniels

You know this one was taped last week given Bandido got hurt at PWG BOLA on Sunday. Daniels brought a record of 1-0 for 2023. For Bandido this was his 2023 debut. Menard: “This crowd’s been hot all night. What a time eh boys?”

Bandido was in control of Daniels early although the camera seemed to focus as much on the fan with the pink hair as the action in the ring. Bandido took Daniels to the top rope but he fought it off with elbows. Bandido tried to give Daniels a suplex from inside to outside but he raked the eyes to get control and then clubbed him in the back. Daniels put the boots to him, gave him a snapmare, then chopped him in the neck (ironic) before cranking on it (even more ironic). Daniels gave him ten punches in the corner then hit a sitout drop for two. Angelico: “Daniels looking great in this match. A little dirty though.” Wight: “I’d call it being a savvy veteran.” Bandido made a comeback though and hit a twisting corkscrew followed by a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Atomic drop, dropkick, two count. Bandido jumped to the top rope, did an Eddie Guerrero shimmy, then hit a frog splash for two and change. Daniels tried a pin with his feet on the ropes but Paul Turner caught him. Bandido tried a roll up of his own for two. Daniels hit Angel’s Wings but Bandido kicked out and Daniels was stunned. Choke slam. He signed for the Best Moonsault Ever. Bandido caught him in an inside cradle for two. Superkick, Gorilla press, one handed slam. Torture rack into a knee for the pin. Impressive win for Bandido. This match could have headlined too! Angelico left to go wrestle.

Best Friend (w/ Danhausen) vs. Spanish Announce Project (w/ Angelico)

Both teams were making “their 2023 debut” here. It could have been a trios match but both Angelico and Danhausen stayed on the outside, which is where the match ended up only a minute or so in. I have no idea what Danhausen was wearing but at least it was enough to take the focus away from the fans and their crowd signs. Luther and Serpentico mocked the Best Friends hug and then Danhausen got pissed and came in the ring to curse Serpentico. Luther tried to break it up and Serpentico got thrown into his junk, then Danhausen hit him in the junk too. Serpentico immediately ate the double team from Best Friends, and the show went off the air fast. I mean REAL FAST. They didn’t even bother with a replay. At 96 minutes in I wouldn’t have either.

What to watch/skip

Tonight’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by Claudio doing Ricola Bombs. What can you say after a marathon episode of AEW Dark Elevation like that? That was as long as an episode of Dynamite if you take out the commercials. Go out of your way to watch Castagnoli vs. Woods and Daniels vs. Bandido. Honorable mention goes to Cage vs. Schaff and the House of Black. If you like one sided beatings then you can watch Athena vs. Van and Hobbs vs. Pacifico too. The rest is a wash.

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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