AEW DARK ELEVATION: March 15, 2021

The PG Era Rant for AEW Dark: Elevation Episode 1 (“New Broadcasters, Same Good Wrestling”), March 15, 2021.

From the AEW Arena.

TONIGHT! Brandon Cutler takes on Powerhouse Hobbs! Jungle Boy battles Danny Limelight! The Acclaimed’s Max Caster faces Top Flight’s Daunte Martin! QT Marshall goes against Marko Stunt! We have a feature on Rising Star Lee Johnson! And in the main event, Maki Itoh takes on Riho!

Plus – Tay Conti, Red Velvet, Big Swole, The Sydal Brothers, Diamante, Abadon, Miro and Kip, and Big Money Enterprises!

Opening match as we waste no time: Danny Limelight (2-0) vs. Jungle Boy (6-2) (part of the #3 team). Limelight’s new nickname is “The Radioactive Papi”. Wight talks about meeting Limelight during the latter’s military tour in Iraq. The crowd LOVES Tarzan Boy. As a reminder: Jungle Boy has wrestled more often than anyone else in an AEW ring.

Lockup, and we go International~!, ending with Jungle sliding under a leapfrog and getting a headlock takedown. He kips up out of headscissors and both men get legsweep one-counts into a stalemate. Now Limelight with a headlock and we run the ropes, with Jungle getting a dropkick. Big chop in the corner, but Limelight with a floatover armdrag and he chops back. Jungle with a step-up rana and armdrags. An armlock slows it down, but Limelight refuses a clean break and works Jungle over in the corner. Jungle reverses and chops hard, but a blind charge eats boot and Limelight gets a Tarantula-like headscissors. Rolling neckbreaker gets one. Back suplex by Limelight gets two.

Limelight with Yes Kicks as Wight notes this will kill off your breath late in the match, but Jungle recovers with a big chop. It’s a hope spot, though, and Limelight with a suplex, snapmare, and two soccer kicks. Rolling double-stomp (though he mismeasured the roll and it was two parts) gets two. Limelight with the tope atomico into Jungle’s knees, and Jungle stops a tilt-a-whirl into a pendulum backbreaker. Rolling elbow and corner uppercut by Jungle, then a lariat. Limelight escapes a suplex, but the ripcord roundhouse is ducked. Limelight rolls around Jungle and gets a single leg crab (as Wight applauds Limelight for thinking on his feet despite missing the fancy move).

Jungle makes the ropes. Jungle on the apron, and Limelight up top, but Jungle blocks Panama Sunrise and the two exchange roundhouses on the apron. Jungle is backed to the corner, and Limelight leaps over him into an Area Code around the post sending Jungle into the guardrail! Limelight with a twisting plancha to follow, and back in, he goes up. Limelight walks the middle rope into the flip DDT for two. Limelight was certain he had it. He removes the wrist tape, then it’s straight rights to Jungle. He catches Jungle coming in with a flying knee, then a double jump DDT… but Jungle holds on and gets a brainbuster! Tiger Bomb into the STF gets a quick tapout at 8:34. If this is what I’m getting on Mondays, I’m ready. ***

Your hosts are Tony Schiavone and Paul Wight, who explain that this is about letting new wrestlers get a chance to get a national audience. Wight says it’s important to make the audience get invested.

Miro and Kip Sabian (3-0) vs. Baron Black and Vary Morales (first time teaming). Miro’s pyro is more impressive than Omega’s bomb. Wight talks about how Miro is on a mission and he’s seen that rage in the past. I like when wrestling does this – admit it’s a small world without saying where it’s small.

Sabian and Morales start. Sabian unloads with punches right away and stomps a mudhole in Morales. Suplex follows, then he goes for another, only for Morales to get a small package for two. Morales with a rana and step-up enzuigiri for two, Sabian’s in the ropes. One minute in, really, Kip? Black in, and he gets uppercuts and chops, but that gets Sabian back into the match when he returns fire. Black goes up and over, getting a cradle for one, Miro breaks as Black gets a single-leg crab (just shoving him off). Black with an atomic drop into a backstabber for two as Wight says new teams don’t have the best ring awareness, regarding Miro’s break.

Morales back in with a suplex and low running kick. It gets one. Knee strike by Sabian into a Gut Check, but Miro wants him to do more. Sabian with a Garvin Stomp and he puts Morales on the corner, following him up and trying a superplex. Morales shoves him down and nails a missile dropkick. Miro in, and he cuts off the hot tag and throws Black into the guardrail. Miro is PISSED and adds a few more shots to Black, then runs in and gives Morales a Polish Hammer before choking him down. Northern Lights throw and Sabian tags in. Deathly Hallow ends it at 4:52. Actually, he’s changed the Harry Potter reference – he now calls it the Time Turner. Either way, Sabian still sucks. 3/4*

Alex Marvez is with QT Marshall, and he asks about if he’s okay with the Nightmare Family. Marshall refuses to answer and instead focuses on the history of the night. It’s not quite the biggest match (thanks Marko), but it’s big. Also, there’s NOTHING WRONG in the Nightmare Family.

Big Swole (18-9) vs. Skyler Moore (0-11). The more I know about Swole’s medical issues (that she’s openly shared), the more impressed I am that she’s able to continue in the ring during Covid. Tony brings them up, too, so it’s not like I’m prying.

Lockup, and Swole throws Moore down. She gets the arm, with Moore reversing, and Swole re-reversing and powering Moore down. Swole to the hammerlock as Moore can’t reverse, so Swole adds forearms to the shoulder blades and gets a waistlock takedown. She picks Moore back up as Moore elbows out, and Moore with a snapmare. They go back and forth on the ropes, but Swole with a running back elbow and Moore bails. Outside, Sole tosses Moore back and forth between the apron and the guardrail. Back in, a blind charge misses, and Moore wraps Swole around the ropes with a leglock and choke. It gets two.

Commentary namedrops Team 3D (Moore’s trainers) as Moore stomps away on Swole’s leg. After a one-count, she goes to a standing kneebar and leg DDT. That gets two. Wigth puts over the psychology as Moore gets a spinning toe-hold for one. We HINT THE CHINLOCK, but Swole elbows out and gets a headbutt to break. Back elbow strike and crossbody attempt, but Moore catches into a backbreaker and Strong Slam for two. Swole with a small package for two to start the comeback. Running uppercut by Swole, and she gets cross chops and the double-dodge headbutt. Dirty Dancing ends it at 5:28. Perfectly cromulent five-minute match, though the announcers were teasing the leg work would lead somewhere and it didn’t. *1/4

Meanwhile, Kenny Omega cuts the line to the club. The Dark Order is playing roulette while Penta and Britt Baker hold court at the craps table. Omega plays some poker with Ricky Starks. AEW Double or Nothing Casino. Available now. Wait, that was an APP ad?

Marko Stunt (14-21) vs. QT Marshall (5-0 in 2021). Luchasaurus gives Stunt a good-luck pat on the back as he heads to the ring. Nick Comoroto gives Marshall a fistbump as HE heads to the ring. Both men are unseconded for the match.

Stunt with a waistlock, but Marshall takes him down with a single-leg and walks off. Marshall with a big-air waistlock and front facelock, and AGAIN he just lets Stunt go. Stunt tries the single-leg, but Marshall just flings him across the ring. Stunt is very angry and slaps Marshall, who floors him with a right hook. He puts his head down and pays the price, with Stunt coming back with a long-form satellite headscissors.

Stunt escapes a blind charge and goes up with an elbow to the head and dropkick. He goes up again, but Marshall catches the Dragon Rana. Stunt goes for a sunset flip, but Marshall launches him into the air and catches him with a backbreaker. Marshall stomps a mudhole in Stunt, then picks him up with a rib breaker for one as Wight notes the fight on the kickout. Stunt with elbows to try to create separation, but it doesn’t work as Marshall goes for a stalling suplex. Stunt knees out, but the O’Connor Roll is blocked. Stunt with an enzuigiri only to be sent into the pop-up forearm. It gets a close two – Stunt barely gets the shoulder up.

Diamond Cutter is signaled, but Stunt collapses to avoid taking it. Stunt with a jawjacker on a second pick-up try, but his flurry is stopped with a forearm smash. Stunt slides under Marshall’s lariat and trips him, but a Shining Wizard is ducked. Stunt keeps running and gets a crossbody, then the Shining Wizard connects for two. Stunt goes for a spinkick, but Marshall picks him up only to get cradled for two. Destroyer out of a powerbomb attempt gets Stunt two. Both men slow to get up, but Stunt with a spinkick. He wants the Shiranui, but Marshall blocks and drops him into the Diamond Cutter for the pin at 6:26. You know, the more I see of these two, the more I like them. **1/4 The Pretty Picture Trio – Avalon, Bononi, and Nemeth – come out to beat on Marko post-match, but Luchasaurus (and not Marshall) chases them off. Yes, there will be Dark tomorrow, and Luchasaurus vs. Bononi is a feature bout.

We look at Lee Johnson. He talks about how he dreamed about his first ever win in AEW. He always wanted to be a pro wrestler, more so than going to college even. He knew he had to make it somewhere. When the pandemic hit, he figured his career was on hold, but AEW asked him to come down and fill in, and history is made. He’s now All Elite, and (as he said on Dynamite) hard work pays off. He’s happy to be in the Nightmare Family, but he’s not a Rhodes, so the pressure is on him to live up to it. Nevertheless, he will be his own man. His nickname, Big Shotty Lee, is a variation on The Shotgun, in honor of his late football-playing dad. He says he has the passion, fire, drive, and work. “I give yesterday what they wouldn’t, so today I can do what they can’t.”

Tay Conti (6-2, #2 women) (w/Brodie Lee Jr) vs. Ashley Vox (0-1). Just put Tay in the Dark Order now that they’re faces and get it overwith. It’s clear Brodie Jr approves of her. Of course, who doesn’t approve of Tay, eh? Ashley Vox is one half of Team Sea Stars.

Conti avoids an early kick from Vox, then shakes off one to the shin. A roundhouse catches Vox in the back of the head, and Conti with a monkey flip cradle for one. She goes to a guillotine, but Vox pushes her into the corner. A charge allows Conti to get a hanging armbar off the ropes. She blocks Vox’s punch attempt and gets an STO for one before getting an arm-trap headlock. Vox rolls out of it, but gets thrown around the ring before… Vox ducks a yes kick and cradles for one. Vox goes to the eyes and gets a back rlbow, but a blind charge lands on the apron. Vox goes up and gets a rope-assisted headscissors, sending Conti (and Brodie Jr) off the feet to the floor.

Conti races back in and pump kicks Vox to the floor, following off the apron with a big kick to the back. Outside, Vox sends Conti to the apron and fires away with forearms. Conti replies with some of her own and rushes Vox into the barricade. Vox is tossed in, but races right back out and gets a running dropkick to Conti. Conti catches Vox with a White Noise into a backbreaker on the outside, and FINALLY back in, she goes up. She leaps over Vox, but comes back with a pump kick and flying knee to the corner. Hammerlock DDT gets the three-count (with Brodie Jr counting in the background) at 4:05. Brodie Jr leaps over the top rope to celebrate. God bless that kid. *1/4

The Sydal Brothers (1-3) vs. Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs (0-1). I wasn’t sre if this match was tonight or tomorrow, but here we are. Nelson and Isaacs call themselves the West Coast Wrecking Crew, which may be why they’re teaming for a second time.

Isaacs and Mike start. Isaacs with a takedown and he goes to the mount, switching to a back waistlock and takedown. Mike reverses, but Isaacs with a back elbow to break. Mike goes up and over Isaacs and handsprings back into a dropkick for one. Matt in, and it’s a drop toehold into a sliding kick. Matt gets a bow and arrow on Isaacs, then jumps on the lower back as Wight says a bad lower back can stop a lot of amateur work. Isaacs with a slam, and Nelson runs into a series of armdrags. He gets a keylock on the mat, then Mike is in with a double-stomp to a hanging Nelson. Matt with a flying mare, and Mike gets a standing moonsault for one.

Mike with a headbutt and forearm, then he stops a blind charge and goes up. He cartwheels past Nelson and gets an enzuigiri for two, Isaacs saves. Everybody in, but Isaacs smashes Mike while Matt is being sent out and Nelson stomps a mudhole. Isaacs back in, and he kicks a hanging hamstring to set up a dragon screw into a Nelson double stomp. Isaacs gets two. Nelson in, but they put their heads down. Isaacs recovers and the Crew gets Drag the Lake for two. Nelson mocks Matt’s third eye, but Mike Matrixes away from a clothesline and gets the hot tag.

Spinkick to Nelson, more to Isaacs, then a spinning leg lariat to Nelson. Speed knees to Isaacs in the corner, and Nelson gets hit with the Slice and standing corkscrew moonsault for two, Isaacs saves. It’s BONZO GONZO now, and the Crew go for a double suplex, but Matt saves Mike and they dump Isaacs. Rana from Matt to Nelson, then a SUPERKICK, and the double-team Saturn Driver pins Nelson at 5:57. Eh, I can see why Nelson and Isaacs got a callback. *3/4

Alex Marvez is with Powerhouse Hobbs and Hook on the roof. Tonight, Hobbs faces Cutler, who’s on a 9-2 run… but Team Taz doesn’t care. Hobbs isn’t a chump, and he doesn’t walk around AEW playing games. That record means nothing, and Hobbs is going to handle town business.

Dani Jordyn (0-1 in 2021) vs. Red Velvet (#1 women, 5-1 in 2021). Okay, Dani, we get it: your favorite movie is Mean Girls. Yes, as a reminder, she even has her own Burn Book. I guess the mixed tag loss doesn’t hurt Velvet in the standings. Wight mentions her boxing and MMA background, while Schiavone notes Velvet has gone from 0-9 to a .500 record – if she wins tonight.

Lockup goes nowhere. A second one is also a stalemate. Round 3 goes to Velvet with a headlock takedown. Jordyn switches to a leg scissors, but Velvet gets out and gets another headlock takeodwn. Repeat the legs and escape, and now Velvet with a pair of armdrags and a leg lariat. (Wight, about Velvet’s splits: “I can do that once. Once.”) Velevet with the stir it up boot choke in the corner, but she walks into Jordyn throwing her into the middle buckle. On the outside, Jordyn with a lariat, then she runs Velvet into the apron.

Back in, Jordyn reads her burn book and shows Velvet’s picture – I think these two may have met before from the looks of it – but she walks into a small package for two. Velvet blocks a German suplex, but Jordyn yanks her down by the hair and goes ground and pound. Velvet with clotheslines to cue the comeback, then the casadora bulldog. Moonsault (which overshot Jordyn) gets two. Forearm and leg kick sets up a spinning roundhouse by Velvet, and Just Desserts (which Tony doesn’t realize is her finisher) wins it at 3:54. Commentary was all about the Shaq match. 1/2*

Alex Marvez congratulates the Sydal Brothers and asks what’s next. But Kenny Omega interrupts and says people would rather hear from the champ. Kenny Omega is here to scout for Dynamite and says that if the Sydals keep winning, they can make it to Wednesdays. Matt is ready to go through the Top 5, but Omega isn’t impressed with the Official Top 5, so he has Nakazawa produce his own – all of whom are Nakazawa. Matt says he’s won that match already, so Omega offers a chance for a match at Omega: beat Nakazawa… now or never. Matt’s ready to do it TONIGHT!

Daunte Martin (4-1 overall) vs. Max Caster (3-1 overall). Daunte, by the way, is 20 this week, the youngest AEW official roster member. “How you team Top Flight when you sittin’ in Coach?” “I put you through the wall like a glory hole.” “And I’m more handsome – at least that’s what your mom say.” For the record, no Darius or Bowens is present.

Lockup, and Caster shoves Martin away. Martin returns the favor, and he dodges away from Caster’s shots. Caster, on the back foot, goes back to a lockup, and they exchange armbars. Caster with a snapmare, but Martin re-applies the armbar. Martin avoids a strike but runs into a mule kick in the corner. Martin with a headlock takedown on a running Caster, with Caster reversing to a top wristlock. Martin flips out and gets an armdrag, but Caster blocks a second one only to get tripped to the outside. Caster avoids a dive from Martin, who just lands on the apron, leaps over Caster, and kicks his leg out of his leg on the return.

Back in, Martin springboards to the top rope, but Caster grabs the leg and drops him face-first on the buckle. Caster stomps away, then grabs an armbar and headlock. He stands over Martin and picks him up, getting a top wristlock and yanking him down for two. Armlock and Caster grinds his elbow into Martin’s face. Martin tries to punch out, but Caster rides him down and stomps on the arm. He picks Martin up by the ear and lifts him up, looking for a superplex. Martin fights him down, but Caster crotches Martin on the dead run and gets a Tower of London for two. He covers harder, but still two. Now he adds knees to the cover, but it’s still two.

Caster with crossface blows into a cross armbreaker try, but Martin stacks for two. Caster with a snapmare, but the kneedrop misses. Elbowdrop also misses, and a blind charge eats boot. Finally, Martin gets a clothesline with his one arm, then a dropkick and rana. Wight notes Martin is landing on the bad arm. Caster goes tot he apron and yanks Martin’s arm into the ropes, but Martin recovers with a baseball slide and somersault tope suicida. Back in, Martin with a springboard splash for two. Caster grabs the boombox, so Martin yanks it away and the ref disposes of it. Caster takes advantage with a pop-up field goal kick, and the Mic Drop elbow gets the pin at 7:59. These two kids have a great future. **1/4

Abadon (3-1) vs. Ray Lyn (debut). My first instinct was to say Lyn was on NXT UK, but that’s Kay Lee Ray. Or is it Kylie Rae? How many similarly named women are there? Wight says he’s not a fan of zombies. Lyn is scared before the bell rings.

Lyn very cautiously wants a lockup, but Abadon backs her into the ropes. A shot from Lyn is no-sold, and Abadon with a lariat. She picks Lyn up with a knuckle lock and hiptosses her down as Lyn is nervously laughing. Abadon hangs Lyn on the middle rope and gets the Orton backbreaker. Tree slam by Abadon and she stalks over Lyn. Lyn with desperation kicks, but one of them is caught and Abadon gets a T-Bone. Lyn bails out – as would I – and gets a roundhouse kick to Abadon that… doesn’t hurt her. Lyn races into an STO, and Abadon beats her up on the floor.

Back in, as we see the replay, Abadon chokes down Lyn, who does her best horror movie scream. Big chop by Abadon (after getting the ref to retreat for a while), and Cemetery Drive ends it at 3:23. Abadon chokes down Lyn and screams off the ref post-match. I’d trade Abadon into Alexa Bliss’s spot any day of the week and twice on Sunday. 1/2*

Powerhouse Hobbs (w/Hook) (4-0) vs. Brandon Cutler (2-2). Now, Hobbs has beaten his jobbers in 90 seconds, which he should, but this means it’ll be a good test for Hobbs. Cutler is 9-2 since he got his first win, but as the promo above showed, that doesn’t impress anyone much.

Hobbs corners Cutler to start, but Cutler escapes only to get run over with a tackle. Cutler rolls out, so Hobbs chases him back in, but Cutler uses that to jump Hobbs and try to pound him. Hobbs throws him off, so Cutler gets a flying forearm. Hobbs keeps shoving him away and Cutler keeps coming back, leading to Cutler trying a Thesz Press and getting caught. Hobbs tosses him into the corner and smashes him. Bearhug follows, with Cutler trying to elbow out. Wight talks about how the bearhug works as Cutler lands a dozen elbows to fight out, then dropkicks the leg to floor Hobbs. Springboard forearm gets two before an emphatic kickout by Hobbs. Cutler goes up, but he dives straight into the Town Bidness for the pin at 2:41. That’s about how that match should’ve gone. 3/4* Hobbs thinks of getting in more shots after the match, but the ref talks him out of it.

Wrestling With the Week ad.

Diamante (5-2) vs. Leila Grey (0-1). Diamante is out alone for this one. Grey has less than a year of in-ring experience. Wight says Diamante wants to prove herself in the singles division too.

Diamante with a hammerlock and trip, floating over to a front facelock. She goes CLUBBERIN, THEY BE CLUBBERIN TONY, but Grey stops a shot and gets a headlock. Grey knocks Diamante down, then comes back with armdrags. Grey with a crossbody for two. She works the arm, into a hammerlock, but Diamante escapes and gets a lariat. Diamante goes ground and pound before telling off the ref. Crossface blows follow, for two. Suplex into the Three Amigos by Diamante, with the third one sending Grey into the turnbuckles.

Shotgun dropkick in the corner gets two. Diamante with an armbar and chinlock, adding a Kitchen Sink knee. Grey goes up and over nobody, but when Diamante shoves Grey back in, Grey rebounds with a back elbow off the bottom corner. They slug it out, with Diamante getting an uppercut and spinkick. Code Red ends it at 4:06. I don’t think these two were on the same page. 3/4*

David Ali, Dean Alexander, Carlie Bravo, and Brick Aldridge vs. Butcher, Blade (3-0 in 2021), Isaiah Kassidy, and Marq Quen (w/Matt Hardy and Bunny) (1-0 in 2021). The face team are all Nightmare Factory grads – except Ali. Needless to say, neither foursome has teamed together before. I’m a little surprised there’s no Shawn Dean, either in the match or at ringside. Private Party has dropped the gimmicked intro – they are from Brooklyn, NY, and weigh a combined 353 pounds, for those curious. According to Hardy, Butcher/Blade are on deferred contracts until April 1.

Blade jumps Bravo to start, and Butcher with a gutwrench suplex aided by a kick from Blade. Kassidy in, and he gets a waistlock on Ali. Ali tries to elbow out, but Kassidy with a clubbing blow. Ali backflips out but runs into a boot, and Private Part with a leapfrog into Manhattan Drop into enzuigiri into camel clutch into headstomp. Quen toys with Ali, but Ali escapes a suplex and brings in Alexander. Quen with a dropkick, and Kassidy back in for a double atomic drop and wishbone into a double dropkick.

Kassidy showboats, so Aldridge gets the tag and floors Kassidy before clothesining out Quen. But Butcher gets in and lariats Aldridge, who bails. Kassidy, still legal, brags to the crowd as Hardy throws Aldridge into the post and Bunny piles on. Butcher throws Aldridge in, and Kassidy wrestles down Aldridge to bring Blade in. Blade with a huge chop on Aldridge and he mauls him in the corner with Hardy and Bunny taunting him.

Hammer throw by Blade, but a blind charge eats elbow and it’s hot tag Ali. Ali with kicks and an uppercut, but he runs into a powerslam, Bravo saves. EVERYBODY INTO THE POOL and Hardy’s boys clear the ring, leaving Ali. Double enzuigiri sets up Drag the Lake for the pin at 4:34. Given the match on Dynamite coming up, this had to be a showcase, and it was. *1/4 Hardy screams something incoherent into the camera as the heels pose.

AEW Outside the Ring hosted by Lexy Nair, this April.

M.T. Nakazawa (0-1) vs. Matt Sydal (13-8) (w/Mike Sydal). Nakazawa is dressed like a crew member, complete with headset and laptop. He’s now billed as being from “the desk of Kenny Omega”. If Sydal wins, he can get a non-title match against Kenny Omega.

Nalkazawa jumps the gun and attacks Sydal from behind while eating an apple. He drops a 12-6 elbow and wraps Sydal in the ropes, stuffing the apple in Sydal’s mouth and kicking the face. Camel clutch as Nakazawa chokes Sydal with his lanyard. The ref has to remove the headset to get Nakazawa’s attention. Nakazawa takes his belt off as he stomps on Sydal, then chokes Sydal with it. Sydal with elbows and kicks to come back, but Nakazawa reverses and chops away.

Angle Slam is escaped, and Sydal gets a spinning leg lariat. Calf kicks follow, knocking the headset off of Nakazawa (work with me), but Nakazawa with a Samoan drop (“Fallaway slam” by Tony) for two. Nakazawa wants a powerslam, but Sydal slips out and pantses Nakazawa. Roundhouse kick gets the win at 2:40. We were this close to not having dumb comedy in a Nakazawa match. 1/4* Omega attacks both Sydals post-match, blasting Matt with the laptop.

Omega takes the mic and congratulates Sydal on getting a one-way ticket on the Omega Train. Omega is feeling frisky, and the match is NOW!

And with that, Omega gives Sydal the One-Winged Angel, and the ref is forced to count three. No opening bell, but this was an angle.

But now… Tony Khan comes out? Yup, and he’s furious about what Omega pulled, and besides, KHAN makes the matches. Omega/Sydal will be made March 24 as promised. Omega says it’s not fair and doesn’t want to do it, but Khan tells him then he shouldn’t have said it. Khan: “Play Matt Sydal’s music!” Khan says he never wanted to take up wrestlers’ time, but you know what? Used sparingly, I’ll allow it.

Main Event: Maki Itoh (1-3 overall) vs. Riho (12-8). Everyone is rocking out to Itoh singing her own music. There’s no way they can keep her heel down the line, is there? Like, even if she’s just okay in the ring, (1) “Okay” is usable by AEW Women’s Division standards, and (2) characters are always welcome.

Lockup, and Riho works the arm. Itoh reverses, Riho reverses, Riho reverses to a headlock, Itoh tries to fight out, Riho cartwheels out of a trip attempt, Itoh with a tackle, Riho bridges out of the pin, and Itoh yanks her down by the hair. Falling headbutt misses, and Riho works the neck. Riho sends Itoh headfirst into the corner, but Itoh is 25% Samoan and that just fires her up. Riho Matrixes out of a standing headbutt, so Itoh drops the head on Riho’s gut. Itoh mounts Riho in the corner and does the ten-punch countalong, then gets a Hammer Throw and running elbow. Jericho facebuster follows for two.

Itoh ties Riho up in the ropes and gets a running forearm to her back for two. Side camel clutch by Itoh, into a backpack sleeper as Itoh punches the head. Riho makes the ropes, but Itoh intentionally holds on for the four-count. Riho forearms Itoh, who wants more, and gets more. This turns into a slugfest, but Riho catches Itoh with a running dropkick. Riho with a crossbody off the apron, and back in, it gets two. Riho handsprings out of a lariat and trips Itoh in the second rope, following with an Area Code (don’t call it a 619, please, Paul!).

Riho goes up, and the diving crossbody gets two. Riho picks Itoh up by a pigtail, but Itoh blocks and gets a DDT. Boston Crab by Itoh, but we’re in Jacksonville so Riho makes the ropes. (Is it okay if I steal this line, Scott?) Itoh pulls Riho back, so Riho cradles for two. Riho with a running knee, then a Northern Lights suplex for two. Riho goes back up, but the foot-stomp misses and Itoh gets a tornado DDT (.8 Fuego). Itoh slowly crawls over and they slug it out on their knees. Itoh up first, and the slugfest continues. Itoh wins it and fires off, but Riho with a casadora cradle into a double stomp. She goes up again, and this time the flying double stomp connects for two. Riho was certain it was the finish.

Itoh grabs Riho’s leg to stop Riho, who has to kick her back down. Riho charges into Itoh’s head on a Meteora attempt, but she keeps on the attack with a flying knee. Another try, but Itoh catches her with the Maple Leaf Crab. Itoh breaks it and drags Riho mid-ring, and the falling headbutt connects to the small of the back. Liontamer by Itoh, but again Riho drags her to the ropes. Itoh is furious and pounds on Riho before going up top. Diving headbutt misses, and Riho with the Meteora to win at 11:06. Great YouTube main event! ***1/4

Well, it appears that the this will be more of the same if this is any indication. I do appreciate setting up a match for Dynamite, and the Alex Marvez interviews help out quite a bit. I realize Dark in the past has been a dumping ground for tryout matches, so adding a few stories to the feature bouts is well appreciated.

So how is Paul Wight on commentary? He treats it like a John Madden or a Hubie Brown. He talks a lot about his experience, and he adds some pointers as to why moves are being done and how they will help win. It’s more sports commentary than just sports entertainment, and that’s a good thing.

Now, about Tony Khan’s appearance: I know that the Authority Figure Does Stuff is very much NOT an AEW thing and more a WWE or Impact trope. The key, though, is to use it only when necessary. Adam Pearce is making more frequent appearances, which is something WWE loves to do – focus on the authorities because, well, to be fair, an authority figure as the main heavy was their money feud in both 1998 and 2013. Impact keeps Scott D’Amore to a minimum, only bringing him out when the wrestlers themselves reach an impasse.

Khan, meanwhile, may well be making his first storyline appearance in AEW. Given that it’s established he’s the one calling the shots backstage – and he only really makes himself felt on Twitter – he doesn’t need to appear on screen, only tweeting out things to make news stories. But given the fast one Kenny Omega tried to pull tonight, it makes perfect sense that Khan would cut out the social media middleman and go straight to telling Omega in person. Let’s just hope this isn’t a habit.

All in all, Elevation is a second episode of Dark. But it also felt like a tryout for a second show. If it’s a B show with spotlight segments and interviews, as well as the occasional one-show angle, I’m all in favor of it. And if it goes nowhere? Hey, it’s wrestling. I’m an indie guy – wrestling is stuff I love.

STATS

BELL-TO-BELL – 74:45 over fourteen matches, not counting the Omega/Sydal farce (average match time 5:20)

MATCH OF THE NIGHT – Riho/Itoh

FIVE STARS:

  1. Matt Sydal
  2. Riho
  3. Jungle Boy
  4. Daunte Martin
  5. Maki Itoh

See you tomorrow and thanks for reading! Oh, who am I kidding, you’re all hate-watching Raw.