By Rich Bailin, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@RichBailin)
AEW Dark: Elevation (Episode 1)
Taped March 10, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida at Daily’s Place
Streamed March 15, 2021 on the AEW YouTube Page
Tony Schiavone and Paul Wight introduce us to Daily’s for the debut of AEW Dark: Elevation as Danny Limelight made his way to the ring
Bailin’s Breakdown:Hello and welcome to my debut article here (or anywhere) for the debut of the brand new AEW Dark: Elevation show. I have been a fan of wrestling for over 40 years, but I have never done a show review until now. My hope is that I can deliver the type of material that you as readers are used to but by also adding a bit of my spin to it. So without further ado let’s get started.
1. Danny Limelight vs Jungle Boy. Limelight took control after a handstand head scissors while he was outside the ring. Think Tajiri’s Tarantula but without hooking the arms. After some back and forth Limelight again with some more innovative offense with what appeared to be a 619 huracanrana which send Jungle Boy to the outside ring barrier. Jungle Boy reversed a tornado DDT into a brain buster and into his Snare Trap leg lock for the win.
Jungle Boy beat Danny Limelight in 9:36 via submission.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Tony Khan did Jungle Boy right by obtaining the right to ‘Tarzan Boy’ for his entrance theme. It will be fun to see and hear once the arenas are full again. The first time I heard it as his entrance he immediately came off as a bigger star to me. Limelight looked good here too with a lot of unorthodox offense. Schiavone noted this with Jungle Boy’s 38th win.
2. Miro and Kip Sabian (w/Penelope Ford) vs. Baron Black and Vary Morales. Black and Morales were already in the ring. Sabian started the match. Morales with some quick offense, gets a 1 count and tags in Black. Miro in and he ran to the corner and took out Black, then Morales inside the ring. He then tagged in to Sabian who hit the Time Turner for the win.
Miro and Kip Sabian beat Baron Black and Vary Morales in roughly 5:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Back and forth while Sabian was in the ring, and a squash when Miro entered. Pretty much how this pairing should look like at this point, though the pairing has seemed to do more for Sabian than it has for Miro.
QT Marshall was interviewed by Alex Marvez. Marshall didn’t want to talk about the Nightmare Family but he’s only kidding. He said he was having a great time and he promised there is nothing wrong with him and the Nightmare Family…
3. Big Swole vs Skyler Moore. Swole was quick on the offense while Schiavone mentioned that while Swole was at one point the No. 1 contender before her battle with Crohn’s disease had sidelined her. Before she went out, she had won 13 of her last 14 matches. The match was mostly Swole except for a few power moves from Skyler, who had good presence. The match was over following a headbutt and the Dirty Dancing clothesline from Swole.
Big Swole beat Skyler Moore in 6:00 by pinfall.
Bailin’s Breakdown: A quick showcase win to get Swole back on track after her medical issues, while also showing that Skyler Moore can also be a player for them in the future. Tony mentioned during the match Vickie Guerrero seemed to be scouting, but I’m not sure if that will lead anywhere yet.
An AEW Casino ad played. (In case you haven’t tried it its really just AEW in name, not even an AEW based slot machine.)
4. QT Marshall vs. Marko Stunt. Later in the match, QT threw Marko up and hit him with an elbow. There was some quick offense by Marko that led to a two count. Marko got another two count after a Destroyer. QT got the win after he turned a Sliced Bread into a suplex, which he then urned into a Diamond cutter.
QT Marshall beat Marko Stunt.
After the match, Peter Avalon, Cezar Bononi and Ryan Nemeth attacked Marko until Luchasaurus makes the save while QT watched from the ramp. Schiavone announced Bononi vs. Luchasaurus tomorrow on Dark.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Stunt got a lot of offense in this one. It’s a slow burn to a QT turn that I’m not sure how many will care about in the end. It seems as if he will be paired with Nick Comoroto though, as he walked out with QT but then went to the back. It’s too bad, but when you look at all the possible storylines in AEW, that one may rank the lowest. At least an effort is being made, and the same cant be said for everyone on Dark
A “Big Shotty” Lee Johnson feature aired. He has been waiting for his first win, and wanted to be a wrestler since he was three years old. When the pandemic hit, he was eating pizza and chicken wings because he wasn’t going to wrestle for a while in his mind. He got a surprising call to do some work for AEW. Of course he jumped at the opportunity. He said being in the Nightmare Family is great, but it’s a lot of pressure, his name isn’t Rhodes its Johnson. When his uncle played football, he was called The Shotgun, so when coming up with his name he chose Big Shotty. He is the passion, he is the drive, he is Big Shotty Johnson
5. Tay Conti vs. Ashley Vox. Tay came to the ring with -1. Tay was in control til an eye rake and headbutt from Vox. It din’t last long, as Conti quickly took back control and won with a Hammerlock DDT.
Tay Conti beat Ashley Vox in 3:23.
Bailin’s Breakdown:Nothing more than a quick spotlight win for Conti, who I can’t help but feel is in a holding pattern due to Anna Jay’s injury. Hopefully they can come up with something for her, as I think she could do very well with some kind of storyline support.
6. Mike and Matt Sydal vs. Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs. Tony called Nelson and Isaacs “The West Coast Wrecking Crew.” The Sydals won with their Double Lightning Spiral.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Another mostly one sided match with the Sydals now 2-3 in the rankings.
Powerhouse Hobbs and Hook were backstage with Alex Marvez. Hobbs said he does not play games, and Brandon Cutler will not get his tenth win at this expense.
7. Dani Jordyn vs. Red Velvet. Both Jordan and Velvet got televised entrances. After some back and forth, Jordyn got the upper hand, then sat on the apron with her Burn Book and turned to Red Velvet’s page. Velvet got the win with Just Desserts
Red Velvet beat Dany Jordyn in roughly 4:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Another singles win for Velvet, who is moving up the rankings.
The Sydals were shown in the back with Marvez. They said they bend but don’t break. Kenny Omega interrupted with Don Callis and Michael Nakazawa. Omega was scouting for talent for Dynamite. Matt said he will get in the top 5 to get a match. From the desk of Omega, the top 5 is all Nakazawa, but Kenny will give Matt a match if he beats Nakazawa in an immediate match. Omega said it’s now or never, which led to….
8. Dante Martin vs ‘Platimum’ Max Caster: Caster rapped about Martin, who is the youngest guy on the roster at age 19. Tony said as the match started that Top Flight was in the top 5 of the tag team ratings before Darius Martin suffered an injury. Caster took control after he dropped Martin headfirst on the top turnbuckle. Back and forth action. Martin grabbed Caster’s boombox and while the referee took it, Caster took advantage with a low blow followed by the Mic Drop top rope elbow drop for the win.
Max Caster beat Dante Martin in 9:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: It was odd for Omega to say now or never then move on to this match. Bad break for both Martin and Caster as their partners are both injured. Good showcase for both and I’m sure before the injuries, The Acclaimed and Top Flight would have had a program together.
9. Abadon vs. Ray Lyn. Abadon crawled to the ring while Ray looked on ands raised her hand with some false bravado. It was all Abadon at the start. They went outside the ring and Ray threw a kick to the head that didn’t even faze Abadon. Wight said Abadon scares him. Abadon performed the Cemetery Drop for the win.
Abadon over Ray Lyn in 4:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Another quick showcase win for Abadon, who definitely could benefit from a story she can sink her teeth into. Ok, maybe that was too easy.
10. Brandon Cutler vs. Will Hobbs (w/Hook). Both wrestlers received televised entrances. It was all Hobbs to start with power moves. Cutler came back with a dropkick to the knee to take quick control and went for a pin attempt only to be thrown off at one. Cutler leapt from the top rope and Hobbs caught him and hit Town Business for the win.
“Powerhouse” Will Hobbs beat Brandon Cutler in 3:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: And another quick win. I expected a little more offense from Cutler, but the way this match went was the right way to go to get Hobbs over and, more importantly in the grander scheme, a win for Team Taz.
11. Diamante vs Leila Grey: Diamante gained control after about a minute and never lost it. She won with the Code Red.
Diamante beat Leila Grey in 3:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Unfortunately, there was not much here. We know next to nothing about Diamante or where Ivelisse is.
12. The Butcher, The Blade and “Private Party” Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy (w/Matt Hardy, The Bunny) vs. Dean Alexander, Carlie Bravo, Brick Aldridge, and David Ali. The Butcher and Blade, and Private Party made separate entrances. Butcher and Blade attacked from the start and there were quick tags on both sides. Aldridge got in and was able to send both members of Private Party out of the ring until Butcher ran in and clotheslined Aldridge. Hardy sent Aldridge into the ring post and then Allie threw punches at him. The match broke down and everyone was in the ring. There were double team maneuvers from Hardy’s teams on Ali, which then led to a win after ‘Drag the Lake’ from Butcher and Blade.
The Butcher, The Blade, Marq Quen, and Isiah Kassidy beat Dean Alexander, Carlie Bravo, Brick Aldridge, and David Ali.
An Outside the Ring show was advertised and hosted by Lexy Nair in April
Bailin’s Breakdown: A quick win for the odd pairing of tag teams. I’m willing to give it some time, but I’m not sure it works for me to have them working together. TH2 seemed like they would have been the better fit with the Hardy Party. AEW seems high on Butcher and Blade and after Eddie Kingston’s quick switch where would they have been left. So let’s see where it goes.
13. Matt Sydal vs Michael Nakazawa. Nakazawa was wearing an AEW Polo, khakis, and a headset when he attacked Sydal at the start with an apple. Nakazawa choked Sydal with his lanyard. Sydal took control. Sydal reversed a suplex attempt, then pants Nakazawa, kicked him in the head, and a won.
Matt Sydal beat Michael Nakazawa in 3:00.
After the match Omega ran out and attacked Sydal and hit him with a Macbook. Omega grabbed a mic and said he wants the match with Sydal now.
14. AEW Champion Kenny Omega vs. Matt Sydal in a non-title match. A One Winged Angel and a win for Omega in a brief match.
AEW Champion Kenny Omega beat Matt Sydal in a non-title match.
Omega said that was ratings. Tony Khan came out and said Omega had forced his hand. He said Omega can’t make matches, but he can, so in nine days it will be Omega vs, Sydal, and if Sydal wins he gets a shot at the title…
Bailin’s Breakdown: Lots to break down here. First when it was Nakazawa in the ring it was meant to be comedy. Things got more serious once Omega came and attacked. The unadvertised Omega and Tony Khan appearances gave Elevation a different feel from Dark at least. And by doing so, we have an advertised Omega match on Dynamite in nine days. Sydal is a good opponent for this, as a loss to Omega won’t hurt him much, but gets Omega on TV for a match.
15. Riho vs Maki Itoh. Itoh came out first and sang her song (maybe someone can translate it sometime for me, it’s a little catchy). Itoh missed the Kokeshi (falling headbutt), then banged her head on the turnbuckles. Itoh went for it again and Riho bridged, so Itoh stopped herself and then hit it while Riho was in the bridge. After some more offense by Itoh, Riho took control and hit a top rope cross body.
Itoh was able to hit a DDT and then a Boston Crab, which Riho countered into a two count. A Northern Lights Suplex by Riho also gained a two count. Riho missed a top rope double stomp. Itoh performed a tornado DDT. There was a float over by Riho into a double stomp. Riho hit the top rope double stomp and Itoh kicked out again at two. Itoh threw the kokeshi to Riho’s back and then applied another Boston Crab, but Riho made it to the ropes. Itoh missed a top rope headbutt. Riho hit the double knees to the face, which Schiavone called the Semato (not sure on the spelling) for the pin.
Riho pinned Maki Itoh.
Bailin’s Breakdown: A better than average main event for the first episode of Dark: Elevation. Hopefully this stays the norm for Elevation. Riho always looks good, and we got to see a lot more of Maki Itoh then we did in her previous appearances. So far Itoh’s act seems to be working, but if she is going to be on and around AEW for a while, she may need to change things up from time to time to avoid the act getting stale.
Going into this show, it honestly felt like with the exception of a match or two this would be just like the Tuesday night version of Dark. And in some ways it was. Having Schiavone and Wight on commentary was the right call to differentiate from that. Wight really came across as knowledgeable of everyone on the show. That surprised me in a way mostly because he’s only been there for a couple of weeks. Wight did a pretty good job, though we know it’s only a matter of time before he steps away from the desk and back inside the ring.
The unadvertised Omega and especially Tony Khan appearance gave this show an (dare I say it) elevated feel to it. The show clocked in at just over two hours which may be too long. Either Dark or Elevation should be shortened moving forward, as it really is a lot to take in week after week. And please give some of the regulars on these shows some storyline support. Yes, they all need the ring time, but also take the time to give them a reason to be on week to week.