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AEW Dark recap (Feb. 28, 2023): Andretti is in action again!

Episode 185 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. We have 14 matches on deck so let’s get to it!

Action Andretti vs. Tony Deppen

Deppen brought a record of 2-0 for 2023 to the ring. Andretti’s record on Dark was also 2-0. To be honest I was stunned this match was going first instead of headlining the show, but with this many bouts scheduled everything had to go +somewhere+. Orlando was already chanting “Ac-tion” before the two even locked up. Deppen overpowered him and piefaced Andretti instead of breaking clean. He responded with a waist lock takedown, a front headlock, a series of flipping arm wringers and drags, and Deppen complained that what Andretti did was illegal and he should be disqualified. A series of back and forth near falls lead to a stalemate where Deppen covered his face with his arms, so instead of punching him Andretti dropkicked him instead. Taz: “How do you cheat on a dropkick bro?”

The action spilled outside, where Deppen kicked him in the spine and rammed his back into the ring apron. He mouthed off to the crowd before getting back in to make a cover, getting only a one count, and kicked Andretti in the spine again. Atomic drop and leg sweep by Andretti. Dropkick to the side of the head. Twisting torneo for a near fall. Chops by Andretti in the corner. Deppen knocked him down for another near fall and yelled “Shut up!” at Orlando, then gave Andretti chops right back screaming “That was for you!” at someone in the crowd. Deppen really works hard to make people hate his guts and you have to respect it.

Deppen locked an arm behind Andretti’s neck but he hit a jawbreaker to escape, forearm, lariat, backbreaker, neckbreaker, and Deppen rolled out for a breather. Andretti went for a suicide and actually came up a bit short. Taz: “Crash and burn Jones!” Excalibur said he still caught him with enough of it to knock him down. Taz: “It was enough with all of that momentum but I think he felt a lot of that when he landed outside.” Knee strike from Deppen. A second knee was blocked. Lung blower by Deppen for 2.9. Taz: “Stop yelling at the people. Beat him down. Go for the win!” Excalibur: “This is a hot start to AEW Dark.” They’re both right.

The two went to the top rope where Deppen bit Andretti and gave him a headbutt. Andretti recovered, hit a Pele kick and gave Deppen a superplex, rolled through for a dead lift into a Falcon Arrow, and Deppen kicked out at 2.9. I thought that was the end for sure. Andretti with body kicks as Deppen was on his knees. Deppen caught a leg and hit a knee strike, but Andretti responded with an enzuigiri . Deppen raked the eyes, Andretti hit a back elbow, and then another twisting torneo and a running shooting star press to +finally+ put Deppen away. If this was on Dynamite people would have been raving about it, but he’s in the “Face of the Revolution” ladder match either way.

Evil Uno vs. J. Spade

Uno brought a record of 1-0 on Dark for 2023. None of his fellow Dark Order members came with him, but there were plenty of fans in the crowd throwing up the claw. Spade brought an overall 2023 record of 0-1. After a nearly 15 minute match to open the episode I was half hoping Uno would win with one move. Manhattan Drop and neck breaker had Spade reeling. Uno adjusted his mask and walked over to the corner for a chop, then gave Spade another on the opposite side. Spade responded with a few of his own but Uno dropped him with a right hand, then hit a backbreaker and a back senton. Taz: “I’m gonna try that in my next street fight. I’m gonna scream at a guy and then punch him.” Back elbow and a big boot from Spade. Uno with a big boot of his own. Dropkick from Spade. A few fans chanted “let’s go Spade” as he went to the top rope, but Uno ducked as Spade dived. Charging lariat in the corner, clothesline, and Something Evil for the win. Excalibur: “His 86th career win here in All Elite Wrestling.”

Parker Boudreaux vs. Joe Ocasio

Boudreaux brought a singles record of 5-0 and was accompanied to the ring by Trench. Ocasio brought an AEW record of 0-1. BTW if you’re wondering who Trench is he’s a former baseball player. Boudreaux launched Ocasio into the turnbuckle, hit a leaping boot, then missed with a big splash. Ocasio hit a diving headbutt that seemed to catch Boudreaux on the jaw, but he missed with a charge and got splashed from behind. Boudreaux picked him up and threw him down with a forearm across his face for the pin, with Trench standing behind him looking at Ocasio like he was a slab of beef.

Capt. Shawn Dean vs. Invictus Khash

Dean brought a record 2023 AEW Dark singles record of 1-0. Khash is a regular of these shows but this was his first match of the calendar year for AEW. Excalibur made sure to do the hard sell for Revolution on Sunday at 8 PM ET as the match got underway.

Khash was in control early and was sure to let Dean know by talking smack. Taz: “We talked about this earlier.” Excalibur: “Shut up! You talk too much.” Taz: “Everybody knows you love old school hip-hop, but I digress.” Dean fired up for a comeback, nailed Khash with a DDT and kipped up, sized up his opponent while selling his ribs, and couldn’t pick Khash up because of the pain he was in. Khash hit a knee to the body and punches to the head. Out of nowhere Dean suddenly recovered enough to drill Khash into the mat for the win, but continued selling even as he climbed the ring ropes for a salute.

Leila Grey vs. Sahara Seven

Grey brought a 2023 record of 4-1 to the ring. Seven was waiting for her with no prior record for 2023. Seven hit a neckbreaker and Grey went to the outside to recover. Seven grabbed a handful of hair to try and pull her back in and got a much deserved punch for it. Grey kissed her on the head and said “You’re cute but you ain’t no baddie” before nailing her with a shot, then got back in the ring for some ground and pound. She clubbed Seven in the back and yelled “I’m amazing!” She hit her with a hip check and a bulldog then yelled “I’m the number one baddie baby.” Step up knee in the corner, another bulldog, Seven kicked out at two. Headlock applied. Seven fought her way out of it with forearms, picked Grey up, lost control and got put in a Cobra Clutch before being taken down in a triangle armbar for the submission victory. Impressive effort from both women.

Willie Mack vs. Joe Keys

Mack was taking his first AEW Dark match here, but certainly not his first AEW match. Keys was making his 2023 debut, but not his AEW debut. The chyrons continue to offer up statistics that tell partial stories or only the stories they want to tell, and the story changes depending on who is featured. We just have to live with it.

As Big E might say, this match was two big meaty men slapping their meat together. Keys cut off a spear and turned it into a DDT then laid in some right hands. Knee lift, under and over throw, near fall. Taz tried to figure out where he knew Joe Keys from while Excalibur promoted some upcoming Dynamite dates. Lariat from Keys, to the top rope, diving headbutt missed as Mack got out of the way. Mack slapped his face to shake off the cobwebs and pulled himself up by the ropes. Suplex by Mack. Forearm in the corner. Cannonball senton. He tried to make the cover but Keys got his hand on the ropes. Mack picked Keys up, Keys escaped and knocked out Mack’s mouthpiece, but Mack hit an elbow strike and a stunner then went to the top rope. Splash. Pin! Good to see Mack pick up the W here.

Adrian Alanis vs. Shane Taylor

Taylor brought an AEW record of 1-0. Alanis was already in the ring with a 2023 record of 0-2, looking like a cross between a low rent Roman Reigns and an even lower rent Drew McIntyre. This was another match where I would have been happy to see it end in one move. The two tried toms fisticuffs instead, then Taylor knocked the wind out of him with a shoulder tackle. Hard chops from Taylor in the corner. Biel across the ring. Keys tried to fire up with punches and a jaw breaker but got knocked down with a headbutt then put down with a one arm slam. Taylor splashed him and intentionally pulled Keys head up before three, so the fans in Orlando chanted “One more time.” Keys landed a head kick but got hit with a power bomb and a knee to the chin. Elbow strike, package piledriver, 1-2-3.

Lee Moriarty vs. Vary Morales

Moriarty came out by himself sans Firm fam with an AEW Dark singles record of 1-0 for 2023. Taz: “Kind of happy that Stokely is not out here.” He segued from that into promoting Hook vs. Matt Hardy tomorrow night. Morales had a 2023 record of 0-1 on Dark going in. Stephon Smith made Morales back off when Moriarty was in the ropes, and once he recovered he threw Morales out to the apron. Morales got his arm snapped off the ropes and Moriarty leapt on it for good measure, then threw him into the steel steps on top of that. Morales was thrown back in for ground and pound. Moriarty played a guitar solo and mocked his foe. Morales came back with chops. Moriarty hit an arm drag and twisted the ankle behind Morales’ back then put him in the bow and arrow. Moriarty wrenched the fingers and bit the hand but that wasn’t a DQ. Ref’s discretion I guess? More chops from Morales and a kick to the back from Moriarty. DDT from Morales had Moriarty reeling. Morales went to the top. Excalibur: “Still looking for his first AEW victory.” He wouldn’t get it by missing the frog splash. Moriarty wasted no time striking and pinning him.

Arjun Singh vs. Blake Li

This was the first singles match of 2023 for both Singh and Li, but only Singh got an entrance on TV, which is a dead giveaway without needing any TV taping spoilers. Li got a forearm to the chin and tried a springboard but Singh hit him in mid air and hit a running knee for three. The camera angle wasn’t very good though and it looked like Singh came nowhere near him with it, but they probably didn’t have any alternate shot they could go to. Such is life.

Skye Blue vs. Dream Girl Ellie

Blue’s record was 1-0 on Dark in 2023. Ellie was taking her first AEW Dark match of 2023. Taz said she had no belly and her outfit looked like jelly and was very amused by his own wordplay. German suplex by Ellie. Loud scream. Running dropkick to the chest for a near fall. Spear in the corner. Discus lariat. Near fall. Ellie disdainfully kicked Blue in the face, back and forth roll ups, enzuigiri by Blue. Step up knee, dropkick, two count for Blue. Dropkick by Ellie, deep cover, near fall. Reverse heel kick from Blue, Skye Fall, pin. I have to admit Blue is getting better, but Ellie was one hell of a good opponent too.

Top Flight, AR Fox & Matt Sydal vs. The Trustbusters

The Trustbusters came out first — Daivari, Slim J, Jeeves Kay and Sonny Kiss — making their eight person debut for the year here. The same was true of the faces, although Top Flight, FOX and Sydal all got their own entrances. Taz was still trying to claim Dante Martin owed him some money for violating his contract with Team Taz. I appreciate his commitment to the bit but it’s 2023, we can move on. This was +slightly+ less of a cluster than most matches with more than six people involved. At over an hour into the show I wasn’t that excited about it though, especially when it dragged on quite a bit and there were still three more bouts to go. As if I wasn’t exhausted, Excalibur had to mention that between AEW and Ring of Honor, they were offering wrestling six out of seven nights between Monday and this Sunday. He even plugged a “Countdown to Revolution” airing after Rampage on Friday night.

FOX got the first key tag and ran wild on Jeeves Kay. Trustbusters tried to gang up on him and failed. He took J out with a twisting brainbuster, Daivari grabbed a leg, and Jeeves Kay hit a superkick and drilled him into the mat for a near fall. Top Flight doubled teamed J and Sydal hit a meteora before J kicked out. J with a reverse DDT on Sydal for two. Low blow by Sonny Kiss. Trustbusters tried to help J with boots on the rope and leverage but Sydal still kicked out. German suplex for Kiss. Double suicide dives by Sydal and Darius. Nose Dive and a power slam by Dante for the pin.

Jeff Jarrett, Satnam Singh & Jay Lethal vs. Jackson Drake, Jay Malachi & Oliver Sawyer

Jarrett, Lethal and Singh brought a trios record of 1-0. You could tell this was from two different tapings because Excalibur immediately had to explain we were “getting a sneak preview of the new Dark set.” Drake, Malachi and Sawyer were making their trios debut here. Taz: “They have no shot but I digress.” Way to get me excited about their chances. The crowd chanted “Jarrett sucks” as you’d expect.

Malachi got a little bit of shine on Lethal before “one in a billion” Singh got tagged in. Malachi tried and failed to hit him with a pair of dropkicks. Singh bounced his head off the mat like a basketball repeatedly. One of his partners tried and failed to make the save. Singh tagged in Jarrett, he did the Fargo Strut, pulled Malachi to the center and put on the figure four leg lock for the submission win. Yawn. Tony Schiavone hit the ring for an interview where Lethal called him a terrible journalist and Jarrett mocked every other tag team vying for the titles, calling The Acclaimed wannabe rappers.

Dean Alexander vs. Pretty Peter Avalon

Avalon and Alexander were both making their singles debut on Dark for 2023, but only Avalon got an entrance, and Avalon immediately tried to stomp a mudhole in his chest and walk it dry. He applied a deep ankle lock but sadly Alexander got a rope break. Avalon jumped on him from behind and used the momentum of his knees to drive Alexander face first into the mat for the quick win. Another interview with Tony Schiavone, this time about Avalon’s match with Jericho tomorrow. “You took an opportunity from me that I think I’m due for. Listen to me you heavy metal hedgehog, PPA all day, I have your number, I’ll see you on Dynamite.”

Orange Cassidy & Danhausen vs. The WorkHorsemen

The WorkHorsemen brought a 2-1 record on Dark, and we got yet another set changed, as this match clearly came from the ROH tapings. They even got a ring introduction from Bobby Cruise. Danhausen and Cassidy were making their tag team debut here. Not for 2023. Not for Dark. Their debut as a team, +period+. It sucks that this even needs to be clarified. Thanks for that AEW.

Danhausen teased a teased of strength with Drake but stomped on his feet instead. Drake was having none of that though and lit him up with a pair of chops. Danhausen tried to curse him and apparently it worked because he tripped and landed on the turnbuckle, so Cassidy was able to tag in and do his very slow wind up to putting his hands in his pockets and throwing some ankle kicks. Rana and kip up all with no hands until Drake chopped him hard and followed up in the corner. The WorkHorsemen beat down Cassidy for an extended time until Drake missed a Vader Bomb and Cassidy was able to saunter over and tag Danhausen. Uppercut, knee to the back of the head, shoulder to the body, DDT, Drake broke up the pin. Cassidy and Danhausen teamed up for a double dropkick on Drake and since he wasn’t in legally anyway Aubrey Edwards let it go. Henry finally tagged him legally, he hit a Shining Wizard on Danhausen, and for a near fall. Neck breaker from Drake, diving foot stomp from Henry, Cassidy made the save. Henry painted Danhausen with boots, Danhausen picked him up for a fireman’s carry, Henry escaped for an enzuigiri, Cassidy ran back in for a DDT. Drake tried and failed to take him out. Cassidy missed with the Orange Punch and got knocked off the apron. Cassidy went to the top rope and Drake caught him. Slim Dog Millionaire and German combo from both men. Orange Punch, knee on Henry, double chokeslam, Danhausen covers Henry for the pin. It’s over. Mercifully it’s over. With commercials this would’ve been longer than Dynamite.

What to watch/skip

Tonight’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by Action Andretti on Twitter. I’m falling out of the habit of promoting my own social media account, but I’m still willing to encourage you to visit his! 14 matches on Dark is way too much, especially on a week when AEW is programming this much content, and to make matters worse the best match was the first. Look — when you’ve changed sets two times in the course of one episode, you’ve way overbooked things. I get that AEW has a deep roster and everybody needs some ring time but can’t some Dark matches be actual “dark” matches just for the fans in attendance? Do all of them need to air? Watch the opener and the main event. Watch Grey vs. Seven and Match vs. Keys. If you’re feeling generous watch the eight-man. Skip all the rest.

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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