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AEW Dark recap (Feb. 21, 2023): Did Billie Starkz get her first win?

Episode 184 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. Here we go!

Slim J vs. Matt Sydal

J brought a singles record of 2-2 to this contest along with Daivari, Jeeves Kay and Sonny Kiss. Sydal brought a record of 33-4 on Dark. Excalibur immediately made Taz uncomfortable by saying he had changed his opinion about The Trustbusters many times. J was feeling uncomfortable too and tried to walk out on the match, but Kay toweled him off and encouraged him to get back in. They locked up, went 50/50 on the mat, stood up and faced off.

Sydal took over with a series of deep arm drags, working over J’s left arm from behind his back as Bryce Remsburg looked on. J got up and raked the eyes, smiling at the crowd in celebration of his dirty tactics, but Sydal swept the leg to regain control and put J in a bow and arrow before stomping on him. He put J in the corner for a chop. He kicked J right in the jaw. The Trustbusters pulled him out and put the boots to him while Remsburg was distracted by J. Back in the ring J applied a triangle choke but Sydal slipped out. Sydal went for a sunset flip for a near fall. J threw a series of clotheslines before getting a near fall. Once again J distracted Bryce so that the heels could beat Sydal up on the floor. J applied a rear chinlock to try and put Sydal to sleep. Sydal fought out, landed a body shot and threw a roundhouse kick. More kicks and a leg lariat. “Those kicks have been the difference for him tonight Taz.”

Side slam for two. J got his boot up when Sydal charged the corner. Both men went to the second rope. J punched him off and Sydal responded with a leaping ‘rana for a near fall. Excalibur: “Man this has been a barn burner to kick us off tonight on Dark!” Sydal called for a Lightning Spiral, but J got the next near fall with a modified brainbuster. J and Kay bonked heads and Sydal hit the Lightning Spiral for the win. The Trustbusters started a post-match beatdown but Top Flight and AR Fox ran out for the save. 4-on-4 match next?

Devlyn Macabre vs. Julia Hart

Hart brought a 2023 record of 1-0 and her ominous ring attire and entrance music — “Harder Hart.” Macabre was waiting in the ring to take her first AEW match of the year. Dasha and Excalibur had different ideas on how to say her name — the former said “Ma-caw-bray” and the latter said “mah-cob.” I always thought it was the latter. Hart wasn’t impressed no matter how you say it. She used closed fists and a boot to the throat despite the admonishment of the ref. Back elbow, lateral press, near fall. More fists from the full mount. She kicked Macabre aside with a boot but then missed a standing moonsault. Macabre fired up and got tripped right to the ground. Hart locked in Hartless for an immediate submission.

The WorkHorsemen vs. Oliver Sawyer & Jay Malachi

JD Drake and Anthony Henry brought a 1-1 record on AEW Dark in 2023 to the ring. Sawyer & Malachi were waiting for them with no prior AEW record. Malachi had a nice set of abs, I’ll give him that, but they both looked like they were 150 pounds soaking wet. Sawyer was having his way with Henry early (did not expect that) but Drake tagged in and hit a big boot to put a stop to that. Chop, kick, punch, tag. Henry with a gutbuster. Octopus hold. Sawyer tried to escape but was rolled through into an ankle lock. Sawyer got a rope break but ate a hard kick to the back. Drake blind tagged and did a senton over the ropes. Taz: “JD is just Rugged Jones. Big man. He don’t care. Then he’ll go have a burger, fries and a beer.” Sawyer escaped and made the hot tag to Malachi. Drake’s right cheek got busted open before Henry and Drake hit an enzuigiri flatliner combo for the win.

Lizzy & Payton Blair vs. The Renegades

Robyn & Charlette Renegade were taking their first match of 2023. Lizzy & Payton Blair were waiting in the ring with no prior AEW record and got jumped before the bell even rang. That should give you an idea of how this match went.

For some reason commentary didn’t care one bit and talked about Tom Zenk and Larry Zbyszko. Not that there was much to care about. They hit a spinebuster combo for an easy squash win and we went to Lexi for an interview with Jora Johl and Rohit Raju. Raju: “Waiting is no longer an option. Action is a necessity.” Here’s a replay!

Preston Vance vs. Blanco Loco

Preston Vance brought a Dark record of 19-1 along with Jose the Assistant. Blanco Loco had no prior record for 2023 before the opening bell. The former “10” wasted no time pummeling Loco. He threw Loco corner to corner, Loco tried to leap over him using the ropes, and he got caught for a spinebuster. Discus lariat for three. They ripped Loco’s mask off afterward.

Tony Deppen vs. Caleb Konley

Deppen’s 2023 record was 1-0. Konley “With a K” had no prior record for this calendar year. This felt like a match that should have taken place at the upcoming ROH TV tapings. Deppen dropped Konley throat first across the ropes and took control. Senton for a near fall. Speaking of ROH, Excalibur promoted Supercard of Honor, and a QR code popped on the screen for the Honor Club. The only things we were missing here were Bobby Cruise and Ian Riccaboni. Scoop slam by Deppen. Bicep flex. “I impress myself sometimes.” Konley wasn’t impressed as he got the knees up when Deppen tried to land on him. Konley threw chops and hit a flying shoulder tackle. Konley with a fisherman buster for 2.9. Konley went to the second rope and waited for Deppen to get up, missed with the springboard, ate a flying knee and a half and half suplex before an elbow to the back of the head. 1-2-3 that’s it. Every now and then you need a Dark match like this where either man could have believably won.

Iron Savages vs. Chris Sandson & Terry Kid

The Savages were making their 2023 debut at a combined weight of 699 pounds according to Dasha. Sandson & Kid were waiting in the ring with no billed combined weight to make their AEW debut. Now this is +not+ a match where either team could believably win. Either member of the team formerly known as Bear Country could have eaten their opponents for breakfast. In fact Kid worked this like it was a comedy match, screaming “I got him! I got him!” before Boulder squished both men by himself. Bronson tagged in, piggybacked on his partner and got thrown on top of the pile for the pin.

Jora Johl & Rohit Raju vs. Dale Springs & Bryce Cannon

Johl & Raju were making their tag team debut here. Springs and Canon were making their debut, period. I wonder if Bryce is any relation to “The Anarchist” Arik Cannon. Probably not.

Bryce was wearing multiple layers of clothing and Johl stripped them all off. Raju tagged in and Springs had to run in to make the save, complete with his golf attire that Excalibur couldn’t resist making a million jokes about. He took a pump kick from Johl for the pin. That’s two comedy bouts in a row but I have no problem with it. On a show with 13 matches a few laughs are just fine!

Billie Starkz vs. Emi Sakura

Starkz brought a singles record of 0-1 on Dark. The fact she got her own entrance is a good sign for her AEW future. Sakura brought a 2023 record of 1-0 on Dark. No Baliyan Akki or Mei Suruga to accompany her, so she slammed her crown onto a fan’s head at ringside as if to say “You’re my second now!” Sakura avoided Starkz twice and she got mad. “Are you here to wrestle or not?” Sakura: “Okayyyyy!”

They locked up and Starkz hit a scoop slam. Sakura grabbed a handful of her hair and threw her, then put the boots to her in the corner. Sakura charged the corner and ate an elbow to the face and a kick. Sunset flip for two. Right forearm from Starkz. Leg trip into the ropes from Sakura. She dragged Starkz across the ring by the leg and put her in the surfboard before stretching her out. She stretched so much that her shoulders were down and Smith gave her a two count. Sakura mocked Starkz as she got back to her feet and they exchanged strikes. Sakura laughed like she got the better of it, Starkz fired up, and hit a huge knee. Kicks to the chest. Chop from Sakura. Pump kick by Starkz for two. Sakura got up with a bloody nose. Starkz rolled away from Sakura but ate a series of chops and a flying crossbody. Sakura tried a choke and Starkz got a boot on the ropes to escape.

Sakura with blood streaming down her nose and her chin is quite the sight to behold. Double underhook into the back breaker was blocked. Starkz countered it into a tombstone piledriver. One. Two. No! Sakura kicked out. Starkz to the top rope. Swanton! Sakura rolled to the apron and Starkz did another swanton, but her back hit the apron when Sakura moved. Sakura took her to the entrance ramp to throw chops, backed up, and did a flying crossbody into said ramp. That was sick! Sakura throw her back in for a delayed vertical suplex into a backbreaker. One. Two. No!! Starkz kicked out. Sakura went to the top rope screaming “I am your highness” and hit the moonsault press for the win.

Damn! I really wanted Starkz to get that first win in AEW but she looked great even in the loss. This was super physical and super fun.

Dak Draper vs. Brady Booker

Booker was making his AEW debut here. Draper brought a record of 0-1. Booker seems to have some sort of jock gimmick going on, complete with the varsity jacket and the Brian Bosworth headband. Is that a dated reference? Don’t answer. I know it is.

Booker is clearly someone AEW is excited about for whatever reason. They basically fed Draper to him here. Power slam, three point stance, shoulder tackle, “Let’s goooooo!” Lateral press, two count. Springboard back elbow by Draper. Fireman’s carry by Booker into a torture rack for the submission. Excalibur immediately compared him to Powerhouse Hobbs.

The Wingmen vs. Jay Marte, Jarett Diaz & Rich Adonis

Nemeth, Avalon and Bononi brought a 2023 record of 0-1 in trios action. Marte, Diaz & Adonis were waiting in the ring with the same record but spoiler alert — they’re not likely to be the winners here. In fact all three Wingmen immediately attacked all three opponents. Stephon Smith probably had no idea who was legal in storyline or in real life. Bononi tagged in to show off his size and strength. Taz: “Big, large man, right out of Brazil, he don’t play around.”

Nemeth tagged in and Bononi fed his opponent into a waiting knee. Nemeth: “How do you like that? Do you want some more?” Flapjack. Nemeth swiveled his hips while his Wingmen strutted on the apron. Nemeth mocked Diaz on the apron until he got the legal tag, and he tried to run wild until he ran into a brick wall named Bononi. One handed chokeslam. Avalon tagged, Nemeth tagged, Bononi pressed Diaz and Avalon did a splash off the corner for the pin. Squash.

Jeff Jarrett & Satnam Singh vs. The Boys

Taz: “Kind of weird seeing The Boys without their fearless leader.” Indeed! This was also their 2023 tag team debut since we usually see them in trios action. Jeff Jarrett’s old Impact Wrestling music hit and he came out with a red guitar and the giant Satnam Singh. I hit getting hit with one of his frying pan hands would hurt more than a gimmick guitar made out of balsa wood and chewing gum.

A single crossbody from Singh could have ended this match but didn’t. He tagged in Double J as the crowd chanted “Jarrett sucks” like it was the Impact Zone all over again. The Boys tried to double team him with leapfrogs and dropkicks. Jarrett eventually took them out with back elbows and tagged Singh back in. “He’s all yours!” Singh hit a big boot and a double chokeslam, stacked both Boys, and stood on them as Aubrey Edwards counted the pin. Jarrett put boots to the Boys afterward and then Singh threw them out. We got a promo package for Tony Nese vs. Trent Beretta afterward reminding us of their shared history as a team together.

Tony Nese vs. Trent Beretta

Nese brought a 1-0 record to the main event along with “Smart” Mark Sterling. Beretta’s Dark record was 4-0. Nese and Beretta locked up violently and Nese pushed him into the corner, breaking cleanly (if in a mocking way) at two. Nese got the better of him a second time and did jumping jacks, which Sterling mimed from ringside.

The action spilled outside and Beretta threw Nese into the barricade and gave him some hard forearms. Nese returned the favor and fed him back in. Beretta responded with a dropkick through the ropes and a suicide dive over the top before some grounded punches. He high fived the fans and even shook hands with a little kid. Nese tried to run away and Beretta caught him for a chop against the stage. Sterling got in Beretta’s face and Nese wrapped the ring apron around his neck. Nese swept the leg when Beretta tried to get back in the ring. Back elbow from Beretta. Nese kicked the leg out when Beretta tried to go to the ropes. Bryce Remsburg went outside to check on Beretta thinking his ankle or ribs were messed up. Nese shoved him aside and threw Beretta into the barricade again, then back first into the apron. What’s next? The steel steps. Nese: “Guess what? I’m the premiere athlete!”

Nese threw Beretta back in and put boots to him. Beretta recovered for a back drop and the crowd chanted “Best Friends.” Nese blocked a suplex and landed knees to the body. Double down and Remsburg got to three on the ten count. Nese snapped Beretta’s neck off the ropes but missed with a springboard moonsault. Boot to the ribs when Beretta charged him. Beretta threw him aside as Excalibur reminded us Rampage will be back at its normal time this Friday. Swinging DDT blocked by Nese as he bounced Beretta off the ropes, then finally hit the moonsault he wanted for a near fall.

Nese scaled the ropes again and Beretta cut him off with a chop and slaps. Both men to the top rope for a superplex which Beretta got the better of. Double down and both men slow to get up. “Boo/Yay” spot back and forth. German suplex by Beretta. Half and half by Beretta. Tornado DDT for 2.8. Dropkick and sitout by Nese for 2.9. He ran to the top rope for a frog splash and a 2.999. Taz: “Woo! That was real close!” Nese pulled Beretta up to his feet, Beretta went for an inside cradle and a sunset flip but got kicked right in the head. Running knee in the corner. Sterling: “Pin him! Pin him! Pin him!” Nese pulled him to the center and went up top. 450 splash but nobody was home! Running knee from Beretta. Crunchy! 1-2-3. Hell of a main event and a great finish and win for Trent Beretta.

What to watch/skip

Tonight’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by “Going Home.” I kind of wish they had gone home a little earlier myself. 13 matches and over 95 minutes of time is a lot for an episode of Dark, especially without the commercial breaks you’d get during Dynamite. The watches for this episode are Starkz vs. Sakura, Deppen vs. Konley, Sydal vs. J, and Nese vs. Beretta. You can skip the Savages, Booker’s debut, and Vance vs. Loco. It was a good episode... just too long! It’s also time for Starkz to finally go over, especially if she’s got her own entrance and ring music. They may not be ready to declare her “All Elite” yet but I’m convinced she is with or without AEW saying it.

Cageside commentary crew — share your feedback below in the comments section. See you next week for new episodes of Elevation and Dark!

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