By Rich Bailin, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@RichBailin)
AEW Dark: Elevation (Episode 44)
Taped December 29, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida at Daily’s Place
Streamed January 3, 2022 on the AEW YouTube Page
Elevation opened with Riho’s music playing as she made her way to the ring while ring announcer Justin Roberts introduced her. Tony Schiavone checked in on commentary along with Mark Henry and the returning Paul Wight…
1. Riho vs. Valentina Rossi. After a brief lockup, Riho clinched in a headlock. Rossi went to push off but held on to Riho’s hair. Riho fought out and attempted a cross body but was caught by Rossi. Rossi dropped Riho on the mat and attempted a cover but Riho used her Matrix move to get out. Riho then drop kicked Rossi. Riho went to run the ropes but was caught by Rossi again. Rossi stomped on Riho a couple of times then caught Riho with a Russian leg sweep.
Riho kept her momentum until she charged to Rossi who was in the corner. Rossi moved and Riho hit the turnbuckle with her knee. Rossi then crossed Riho’s arms and pulled back in a straightjacket type of maneuver. Rossi went for a cover but only got a two count. Riho rolled to the ring apron as Rossi charged. Rossi got caught in a hangman drop on the top rope. Riho went to climb the top rope but was met by Rossi and they fought with Riho gaining the advantage. Riho then caught Rossi with a double stomp and then hit Rossi with the running double knees for the pinfall.
Riho Defeated Valentina Rossi by pinfall in 3:30.
Bailin’s Breakdown: A good showcase for Riho against a larger opponent going into her title match against Britt Baker Battle of the Belts on Saturday.
An ad for Dynamite’s move to TBS this Wednesday aired…
2. JP Harlow vs. Andrade El Idolo (w/Jose). Andrade immediately backed Harlow into the corner and chopped him. Andrade then started to work on Harlow’s arm. A short while later Andrade caught Harlow with an arm stabber (double knees into the arm) and then locked in a submission hold that Schiavone called the La Muerta (legs draped across the back and pulling both arms) for the tap out victory.
Andrade El Idolo defeated JP Harlow by submission in 3:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: A fine showcase for Andrade as he builds up his wins on Elevation.
An ad for Battle of the Belts this Saturday…
3. Megan Bayne vs. Leila Grey. Bayne came out to a long entrance flanked by two other women wearing face masks and dressed like they were from Themyscira. After they lockup Bayne pushes Grey to the corner and breaks clean while staring Grey down. Grey went for a go behind but Bayne reversed and threw Grey to the mat. Bayne sent Grey to the corner again and hit her with shoulder blocks before pulling Grey to the center of the ring and lifting her for a vertical suplex.
Bayne hit Grey with a couple of knees to the midsection and then hit Grey with a tilt a whirl powerslam. Bayne went for the cover but pulled Grey up at two. Bayne threw Grey into the ropes but dropped her head too early so Grey kicked her. Bayne charged towards Grey in the corner but Grey caught Bayne with a back elbow. Bayne charged again but Grey moved then hit Bayne with a running knee. Grey tried charging towards Bayne again but was hit with a pump kick. Bayne then hit Grey with a tombstone piledriver for the pinfall.
Megan Bayne defeated Leila Grey by pinfall in 3:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Bayne has an impressive look and worked well enough in the ring. The match itself was also fine. Bayne was 0-3 in AEW prior to this match. I think this is one instance where a pre match promo or even an inset as she walked in the ring would have done a lot of good. Honestly, unless Bayne is signed to AEW, I’m not even sure why we had this match.
4. Scorpio Sky (w/Dan Lambert) vs. Ray Jaz. Sky started the match with a shoulder tackle then posed which allowed Jaz to come behind him and slam Sky to the mat with a spinebuster. Jaz tried another hold but Sky held onto the ropes and hit Jaz with a back elbow then punched Jaz as he was on the mat. As the referee tried to stop Sky, Dan Lambert choked Jaz over the bottom rope and slapped him on the head. Jaz attempted a comeback with a single leg lariat followed by a float over backslide for a two count. Sky recovered and caught Jaz with a pump kick and followed up with the TKO for the pinfall.
Scorpio Sky defeated Ray Jaz by pinfall in 2:30.
Bailin’s Breakdown: A quick showcase for Sky this week. I believe this was Lambert’s first appearance at ringside on Elevation.
5. Mike Orlando and Shayne Stetson vs. John Silver and Alex Reynolds (w/-1).Stetson and Silver started the match. Silver took control early and after a dropkick tagged in Reynolds. Reynolds and Silver with double team kicks to Stetson. Orlando came in and tried to clothesline Reynolds but Reynolds ducked then hit a charging Orlando with a back elbow and a dropkick from the middle rope. Reynolds then rolled up Stetson for a pinfall attempt but only got two. Stetson pushed Reynolds into his corner where Orlando had dropped to the floor and pulled Reynolds out of the ring. A short while later Silver and Reynolds had Stetson isolated and hit their double team cutter/German combo into a pinfall for the win.
John Silver and Alex Reynolds defeated Mike Orlando and Shayne Stetson by pinfall in 4:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Another solid outing from Silver and Reynolds. Unfortunately, it was nothing we haven’t seen many times in the past. Even Henry and Wight seemed more interested in naming as many DC superheroes as they could fit in than calling the match.
6. Jake Atlas vs. Serpentico. Both men received televised entrances. Serpentico was without Luther. Eddie Kingston replaced Paul Wight on commentary with no explanation. Serpentico attacked Atlas from behind as the bell rang. Atlas recovered with a dropkick then kicked Serpentico in the corner before leveling him with a lariat. Atlas went for the cover but only got a two count.
Atlas went for a go behind but Serpentico reversed and then hit Atlas with a superkick followed by a jumping flatliner. Serpentico also got a two count. Serpentico held onto his mask then hit a falling headbutt on Atlas. Atlas rolled to the corner but moved as Serpentico rushed after him. Atlas caught Serpentico with a German suplex followed by a high knee and ending the match with his cartwheel DDT.
Jake Atlas defeated Serpentico by pinfall in 2:15.
Bailin’s Breakdown: A very good debut match for Jake Atlas. He could be an excellent addition to AEW if he is officially back from his self-imposed break that followed his release from WWE. It was odd that when they showed the graphic before the match, Schiavone said, “Up next, Serpentico in action” and didn’t even mention Atlas.
7. Angelica Risk vs. Skye Blue. After a couple of lockups, Risk pushed Blue into the corner but did not give a clean break. Instead, she hit Blue and posed. Blue waited for Risk to turn around and then kicked her in the face. Risk retreated to outside the ring but as Blue went to the apron to kick Risk, Risk caught Blue’s foot and then pulled down dropping Blue face first on the apron and outside the ring. Risk sent Blue into the ringside barrier back first then into the ring apron back first before throwing Blue back into the ring. Blue recovered and started to make a comeback with kicks and knees. Blue then got Risk into a Full Nelson then slammed her face first into the mat for the pinfall.
Skye Blue defeated Angelica Risk by pinfall in 3:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Another solid outing for Blue, who keeps on racking up wins on Elevation and Dark. I would definitely like to hear something from her at some point or have her be involved in some kind of program. The same could be said for most of the people on Elevation though.
8. Jay Lethal vs. Troy Hollywood. After some initial back and forth Lethal hit Hollywood with a cartwheel dropkick. Lethal ran towards Hollywood who was in the corner but Hollywood moved and hit Lethal with a throat punch. Hollywood sent Lethal into the rope with an Irish whip but ducked down early. Lethal attempted to suplex Hollywood but Hollywood reversed it and hit Lethal with a falling gourd buster. Lethal attempted a figure four but Hollywood rolled up Lethal for a two count.
When Lethal recovered he hit the Lethal Combination on Hollywood and went for the cover. Hollywood kicked out at two. A short while later Lethal attempted the Lethal Injection but Hollywood held on and German suplexed Lethal and went for a pinfall. Lethal kicked out at two. A short while later, Lethal was able to hit the Lethal Injection for the pinfall.
Jay Lethal defeated Troy Hollywood by pinfall in 4:00.
Bailin’s Breakdown: Who is Troy Hollywood? He was as impressive as one can be in a four minute, back and forth match. I did not see this match being the most competitive even if it was in the “main event” slot. A solid outing for Lethal as well.
Unfortunately, this was not a very enjoyable episode of Elevation. I always hate writing that because it may make it seem like the matches were bad. Most times that is not the case. There was just nothing interesting about this episode. Mark Henry did say during the main event that Tony Khan came out after Jake Atlas’s match and offered him a contract. I do question why Atlas, Bayne, and Blue all had spotlight matches when I don’t believe any were signed prior to Elevation taping, and Bayne was winless prior to her match. This episode was just over 40 minutes in length, but again with eight matches, how does a two- or three-minute match help anyone? The match of the night went to the main event due to how good Troy Hollywood looked and because it was the longest match of the show.