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AEW Dark recap (Mar. 21, 2023): Hey Tony! Sign Billie Starkz already

Episode 188 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. Time to rock and roll!

Juice Robinson vs. Leon Ruffin

Ruffin entered first with a 0-1 record for 2023. Robinson quickly followed suit sporting a “Rock Hard” record of 1-0 on Dark. Taz declared himself a fan of Robinson and “his whole shtick, his whole vibe.” Ruffin grounded him with a side headlock, Robinson shot him off, Ruffin tried a shoulder tackle that went nowhere, then got another side headlock. Robinson had finally had enough of this and picked Ruffin up to crotch him on the ropes, then threw him out of the ring, then right into the steel barricade. He asked the fans in Orlando if they liked Ruffin then launched him into it again, then drilled him into the steel ringpost. He finally threw Ruffin back in for three straight two counts from Aubrey Edwards, and bumped chests with her for not counting three. The Orlando fans chanted for Aubrey! Ruffin snapped Robinson’s neck off the ropes, leapt over him, ducked under him, and knocked him down with a lariat. Springboard cutter! Robinson rolled away before Ruffin could make the cover. The fans started their own ten count to get Robinson back in the ring, then counted along with Edwards when Ruffin left the ring. They were definitely jacked up for this episode. Ruffin did a suicide dive to wipe Robinson out, kicked him in the head, cannonball senton, 2.99! He went to the top rope but Robinson got his knees up before Ruffin could splash him. Robinson laughed maniacally seeing his opening. He hit a cannonball of his own, picked Ruffin up, but he escaped and bridged another near fall. Enzuigiri from Ruffin. Roundhouse kick. Side headlock. Springboard cutter fails. Robinson hits a release German suplex and a huge left arm lariat. Ruffin kicks out at 2.99999! Taz: “What is going on here?” Good question! This is one hell of a match for a random Dark episode. Robinson planted Ruffin moments later for the abrupt end. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this went ten more minutes. Hell of a match between these two gentlemen!

Kiera Hogan vs. Leila Grey

Grey was the first to arrive for this bout, sporting a 2023 record of 4-2 overall. Hogan brought a record of 3-0 on Dark for the year. Taz: “Former baddie against current baddie!” Excalibur: “There may still be some bad blood here.” Indeed there was as both women mouthed off to each other before Grey locked up, pushed Hogan into the corner, and slapped her in the face. Hogan gave her a receipt back and some forearms, then knocked her down with a low dropkick and hit a sliding boot to the head. She was about to hit another kick but Grey put her hands up and begged off, which was of course a rouse as she immediately attacked Hogan. Hogan recovered and sent Grey out of the ring with a superkick. Hogan tried to drag her back in the ring by the hair and got her neck snapped off the ropes in return, before Grey said “who’s the real baddie — muah” and kicked her on the apron. Near fall back in the ring before bouncing Hogan’s head like a basketball. Grey pulled Hogan up for some chops then threw her into the ropes for a clothesline on the rebound, She flexed and Orlando booed her. Hogan sold her back on a pair of suplexes from Grey. Grey threw Hogan down right on her chest for a near fall and sank in a rear naked choke, still talking trash the whole time. Hogan escaped and hit elbows before being cut off with a knee to the body and a step up knee in the corner. Grey said “it’s over” and hit a running bulldog, but Hogan kicked out. Hogan went for a roundhouse kick and missed, Grey got a roll up with a handful of tights, three count!

Iron Savages vs. Ryan Nemeth & Cezar Bononi

The Savages entered first sporting a record of 1-0 on Dark for the year. Nemeth and Bononi (The Wingmen) brought the opposite record of 0-1. Taz wanted to know why Excalibur was obsessed with everyone’s hair color. I for one am glad he pays enough attention to know when wrestlers change their look up. He also plugged Double or Nothing at the T-Mobile Arena and Dynamite in San Diego a few days later at Viejas Arena on May 31st. If I’m not mistaken they’re running the same venue where I saw Bound For Glory. Normally when the Savages (formerly Bear Country) have a match on Dark it feels like a squash, but owing to the nature of this episode (fewer but longer matches) this one was actually competitive. The Wingmen even cut off Bronson for a while until Boulder got the hot tag and was dubbed “Meat Man Jones” by Taz. He picked up both of The Wingmen and tossed them overhead. Bononi rolled out from the momentum and Nemeth was covered for two. Bononi cut off the piggyback finish when Boulder tagged in. He got powerbombed and DDT’d before his partner broke up the pin. All four men were in the ring and the referee did nothing.Taz: “I’m about to run in there and chokeslam Posey!” Bronson did a suicide dive. Boulder did a power slam. Now we finally got the piggyback splash from the Savages, right onto Nemeth for the pin, and the crowd was pleased. I know they’re supposed to be heels now but these people hated The Wingmen so much they even chanted for the Savages after the bell!

The Renegades vs. Avery Breaux & Mafiosa

The Renegades entered first with a team record of 1-0 on Dark for this calendar year. Breaux and Mafiosa were waiting for them in the ring with a prior record of 0-1 as a team. They did rock paper scissors to see who would start the match and Breaux won... or lost considering she was grounded and stood on. She fired up to kick Robyn off the apron, but Robyn grabbed her from the outside for the distraction so Charlette could take advantage, then wiped out Mafiosa by yanking her off the apron, then the Renegades blatantly double teamed Breaux with the ref doing nothing but saying “watch the hair.” They used quick tags to cut off the ring and work Breaux over. Breaux finally kicked her way free to leap out and tag Mafiosa, but her sit out split was broken up and Breaux got a slam when she tried to make the save. The Renegades did their double team finisher and Taz quipped that Mafiosa would be eating her lasagna through a straw. This was the closest thing to a squash match this episode.

Toni Storm vs. Billie Starkz

Starkz brought a 2023 Dark record of 0-2 and a Taz joked that she was wearing a mask for a local sports franchise called “The Possums.” Storm brought a Dark record of 6-0 and plenty of bad attitude to the ring, sauntering down in a robe that would double as a smoking jacket in some parts, then running right at Starkz when the bell rang and trying to stomp a mudhole in her. Orlando booed her, not just because she’s an Outcast, but because they love Billie Starkz. Who doesn’t? Storm played this up by sending her outside of the ring and parading Starkz around each side, beating Starkz up in front of each section of the audience.

She threw Starkz into the ringpost before throwing her back into the ring, and surprisingly we got a dueling chant at this point. Storm took the possum mask (really it’s more of a dirty bunny), wiped her ass with it, and punted it out of the ring. This was the reason for Starkz to fire up and start unloading on Storm with kicks, but she responded with a German suplex to cut Starkz off. She went for a hip attack on the apron, which would have been her second of the match, but Starkz avoided it and hit a suicide dive instead. She went to the top rope with the fans chanting “Bil-lie, Bil-lie” and hit the senton atomico for 2.9! Starkz tried and failed to pick Storm up as she got a handful of hair and poked her eyes to boot. Storm mocked her by paintbrushing her with a boot, but Starkz caught it and then caught Storm for a Death Valley Driver and another near fall. Taz: “She keeps getting closer and closer!” Starkz went to the top rope but Storm swept the legs, then nailed her with a hip attack and a half and half suplex before Storm Zero and the pin. I knew Storm had a match on Dynamite tomorrow and was going to take the W here but once again I +really+ wanted Starkz to get her first AEW win.

What to watch/skip

This week’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by Billie Starkz on Twitter. If AEW doesn’t sign her to a contract, it can only be because Starkz doesn’t +want+ to be tied down, because they’d be fools not to do so. If you had to skip anything this week it would be the Renegades match, but I like Breaux and Mafiosa more than their opponents, so even then I can’t recommend not watching them work. If this is the format for Dark going forward I 100% approve of it. I like the idea of 4-6 competitive matches instead of 9 that are short and obviously one sided with maybe one back and forth main event. Besides shouldn’t the point of the Dark shows be to help talent get better? Giving people longer matches is exactly how you do that.

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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