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AEW Dark Elevation recap (Mar. 27, 2023): Riho Grande

Episode 108 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, and let’s get right to that action!

Tony Nese & Ari Daivari (w/ “Smart” Mark Sterling) vs. Lane Summers & Campbell Myers

Nese & Daivari brought a record of 1-4 for 2023 to the ring for this match along with loudmouth Mark Sterling. Wight and Menard were both happy to note he didn’t have a microphone tonight. Summers and Myers were waiting in the ring to make their tag team division debut. Menard mocked Myers for having a bandage under one eye like Nelly. Nese stopped during the match to show off his biceps. He did a drop down and kip up to avoid a clothesline, swept the legs, threw Myers into the heel corner, and tagged Daivari for the two on one beatdown. Daivari then fed him to the opposite corner for chops and clubbing blows, shot him into the ropes for a knee to the body, hit a dropkick and covered for two. Back to Nese for a tag. Menard: “Kind of playing with him there with those jabs.” Then he showed off his abs. Daivari came back in. They tried and failed a double suplex and Myers stumbled across the ring into a blind tag from Summers. Summers may be the palest, pinkest person I’ve seen in the ring in a long time. He took an assisted cutter, his teammate got kicked out and ate a suicide dive, and Daivari hit Summers with a splash to get the pin. Sterling rushed to the ring to raise their arms in victory. Wight: “Best part about it — Sterling never said a word.”

Nyla Rose & Marina Shafir vs. Briar & Sage Hale

Rose and Shafir brought a tag team record of 12-1 (and no Vickie Guerrero) to the ring. The Hale sisters were waiting in the ring with no prior record in AEW’s tag team division. Menard and Wight took note of Shafir taking off her shoes and socks and then discussed which of the Von Erichs wrestled with no boots on (it was Kevin). Briar was almost as pale (and red haired) as the aforementioned Summers. Sage tagged in after her sister got a beat down, and promptly got dragged to the corner for Nyla Rose to tag in and chop the snot out of her. Shafir tagged back in, double legged her, did a gator roll, took a front face look, then threw her through the air before Briar made the save on a pin. Rose tagged in again. Sage was left hanging on the ropes for Rose to do a leg drop. A second save. The sisters gave Rose a double clothesline to the floor but Shafir was the legal woman now and locked on her Greedy Submission for the tap. Menard: “She looks like she just snatched a body part!” Just for good measure Briar got a double team DDT afterward.

Willow Nightingale vs. Maggie Lee

Nightingale came to the ring with a 2023 record of 3-5 and a smile that could light up the entire arena. Wight: “I have a lot of respect for her. She’s one of the few women to step up against the antics of ROH Women’s Champion Athena.” We got yet another redhead in Lee, who was making her All Elite Wrestling debut in this match.

Nightingale was asked for a test of strength by Lee and then Lee raised her hand way up high so she couldn’t reach up. Lee then tried hitting her with back elbows on a waistlock and in response Nightingale gave her a +pounce+ (period) and a cannonball in the corner. A powerbomb folded the tall Lee like origami for the pin.

Big Bill & Lee Moriarty vs. “The Reality” Zack Clayton & Anaya

Clayton and his tag team partner Anaya had no prior record together, which doesn’t surprise me since both Menard and Wight pointed out Clayton “doesn’t play well with others.” Moriarty and Bill play together well though because they at least have one match together on Elevation, giving them a record of 1-0 coming in.

Moriarty and Clayton started out the match for their teams. Clayton gave him a hard clothesline in the corner, mockingly held a hand to his ear for the boos from Kansas City, caught Moriarty on a crossbody, but got reversed momentarily on an arm drag. He clubbed Moriarty in the face with a lariat and tagged out to Anaya. Wight said he was a world champion air guitar player as Moriarty kicked Clayton off the apron and nailed Anaya with knee strikes. The crowd chanted “we want Big Bill” as Anaya went for a roll up that didn’t work. Bill finally tagged in and knocked Clayton off the ropes, soaked up the crowd (Menard: “I don’t think he’s used to the cheers”) and threw Anaya into the corner. He took Anaya down with a big boot as Moriarty hit a tag when he hit the ropes, and then Bill lent Moriarty an assist picking Anaya up and slamming him for the pin. Moriarty started playing air guitar and Bill started dancing around. Bill raised a fist and the crowd cheered. If AEW is not careful The Firm’s tag team could accidentally turn babyface.

Athena (c) vs. Tootie Lynn - Proving Ground Match

ROH Women’s Champion Athena brought a singles record of 9-0 for 2023. Lynn was waiting in the ring for her first AEW match of 2023. As usual the “Proving Ground” gimmick is that if you can pick up a win over the champion you earn a future title shot down the road.

Lynn immediately hit Athena with a dropkick and went for a DDT. Athena blocked it and gave Lynn a scoop slam, then decked her with a huge forearm and struck a victory pose, yelling “YAY!!” She too was getting a babyface reaction from the KC crowd. Lynn acted like she was out cold, Athena poked her with a boot to see if she was, then flipped her over for the pin. She continued to lay there like she was dead. Menard: “How about that? The power of Athena.” After the bell she acted like she was going to help Lynn get back to her feet, even held the ropes open for her, then powerbombed her on the ring apron. The crowd cheered this too. She stretched Lynn out around the ring post until suddenly Emi Sakura hit the ring and took Athena’s belt. Sakura handed it to her and seemed like she was going to let it go at that, but then grabbed a handful of Athena’s hair and gave her a DDT! She then struck her “I am your highness” pose over ref Mike Posey’s knee right on Athena’s back as Paul Wight made a quip about karma being something (and we know what).

Hardy Party (Matt Hardy, Isiah Kassidy & Ethan Page) vs. Spanish Announce Project (Luther, Serpentico & Angelico)

SAP came out first with a trios record of 1-0 and their 1980’s Hasbro entrance music. Hardy Party’s 2002 WWE music hit and Ethan Page immediately cut it off with the mic. Page: “I’m not feeling it today. I’m in a foul mood.” Hardy: “Best friends don’t let best friends stay sad. We’re here to turn that frown upside down. I’ve got my main man and my moon man and we’re here to Party Hardy.” Kassidy: “If you’re here to Party Hardy with Hardy Party, can I get a huh yeah? Ahhhh.” Aubrey Edwards was our referee for this match. By the way the Hardy Party’s record for Elevation coming in was 3-0.

This was a very interesting crowd tonight. They seemed to be cheering heels on purpose, or they just decided to be what Vince McMahon always called “Bizarro World” whenever Canadian heels got a face reaction in their home country. That doesn’t explain the face reaction for Page though, who did nothing to encourage it by sitting on the apron and acting like he didn’t even want to be there. Hardy hit a Side Effect and Page reluctantly took a tag. Kassidy and Hardy encouraged him as the fans kept chanting for him, and he gave Serpentico a scoop slam before SAP broke up the fall. Kassidy jumped off Hardy’s back to splash Serpentico, the rest of Hardy Party fed Serp to Page, and he hit a Twist of Fate with authority. Page tagged Kassidy (who seemed surprised by it) and Zay did his swanton for the pin. All three hugged afterward. You know before I just assumed Hardy was swerving Page by acting like they were friends, but now that they’re having fun as a team I really don’t +want+ Hardy to pull the trigger and become Broken Matt again.

Riho vs. Diamante

Diamante came out first for our main event with a 2023 Elevation record of 2-1. The crowd erupted for Riho, who smiled and jumped up and down as she made her way to the ring with a record of 4-0 for 2023. Menard reminded us multiple times that she’s the number one contender to face AEW Women’s Title champion Jamie Hayter.

Diamante had her way with Riho early, even flexing her physique and standing on Riho with one boot for a lackadaisical pin. Wight was sure to compliment Diamante on her physique, and that’s not all I would compliment her on. She’s a ring veteran, she has great charisma, and she even got a dueling chant from the crowd during this match. Riho finally knocked her into the ropes for her version of the 6-1-9 (somehow it looks better than Rey’s) and Diamante sold her nose. Diamante recovered enough to get a near fall and say “some words we can’t repeat” according to Menard, then took Riho for a ride with two Rolling Germans before getting the shoulders to the mat for a 2.9. Riho responded with a reverse cradle immediately afterward for the sudden victory pin! That’s how Elevation ended.

What to watch/skip

This week’s “what to watch/skip” is brought to you by “Eternal Beauty.” I would have recommended Riho’s social media account but she shut down her Twitter after being cyber bullied. Thankfully the entire AEW locker room seems to have her back and I hope all of you reading do as well. If you like women’s matches this was the show for you, although what really made this must see viewing was the enthusiasm of the Kansas City crowd. I mean seriously — they were chanting for Ethan Page and Big Bill! It puts a smile on my face just typing that. I love it when wrestling fans have fun their own way. You could maybe skip Athena’s match with Lynn since it wasn’t really a match at all, but I’d still watch the post-match angle regardless.

Cageside commentary crew! Share your thoughts in the comments section below, as well as your pro wrestling talk in general. See you tomorrow night for AEW Dark!

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