1/24 AEW DARK ELEVATION TV REPORT: Key commentary quotes and Bryant’s witty asides covering Starks & Hobbs vs. Sydal & Moriarty, Brandi Rhodes, Private Party, Page & Sky, Red Velvet, Santana & Ortiz

By David Bryant, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

AEW DARK ELEVATION REPORT
JANUARY 24, 2022
TAPED 1/19 IN WASHINGTON D.C.
AIRED ON YOUTUBE.COM
REPORT BY DAVID BRYANT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mark Henry, Paul Wight

Ring Announcer: Justin Roberts

– Tonight’s Dark Elevation was taped in Washington D.C. at the Entertainment & Sports Arena. The show started with a crane shot of the stage as Leyla Hirsch’s graffiti and boxing-themed video lit up the arena. Hirsch marched out of the tunnel, looking like a saltier version of Veruca Salt. Brittany Blake awaited her defeat in the ring.

(1) LEYLA HIRSCH vs. BRITTANY BLAKE

Hirsch wasted no time trapping Blake in a collar and elbow tie-up and then bulldozing her into a corner moments later. The referee called for a clean break, and Hirsch obliged in the most condescending way possible. (She was literally petting Blake’s shoulders.) The crowd clapped and chanted as the two competitors returned to the center of the ring, and Hirsch put a finger to one ear to acknowledge them. She then lunged toward Blake, looking for a second collar and elbow tie-up, but Blake caught her a side headlock.

Hirsch escaped the headlock by shoving Blake toward the ropes. Blake rebounded off the ropes and shoulder tackled Hirsch; however, Hirsch no-sold Blake’s shoulder tackle like a brick wall, looked out at the crowd, and cheekily shrugged her shoulders. Blake decided to rerun her shoulder tackle a second time. I suppose she was hoping for a better outcome, but that outcome did not come. Instead, she crashed into Hirsch like a bug into a windshield, and Hirsch celebrated with two raised fists, mugging for the crowd.

Hirsch ran the ropes, and Blake dropped to the mat to get out of her way. Hirsch bounced off the opposite ropes as Blake dove toward her and got caught in a fireman’s carry position. Blake slammed an elbow into Hirsch’s temple and escaped the fireman’s carry, pushed Hirsch into the ropes, sized her up as she bounced back, jumped in the air for a dropkick, and completely missed when Hirsch stopped dead in her tracks. (Because, unlike last week’s wrestlers, she understands how inertia works.)

With Blake on all fours, Hirsch flipped over her back, hooked her arms around Blake’s midsection, and pulled her into a cross armbar. Luckily for Blake, Hirsch’s flip had been so powerful it sent them both into the ropes, where Blake got her leg up, and the referee stopped the count. Hirsch backed off at the referee’s behest but did so in a cloyingly condescending way.

“Smart move there,” Wight said. (Oh, I should note that the announcers were complimenting Blake’s look earlier, and I agree with them — it was quite striking.)

With the audience still applauding their previous exchange, Hirsch got up and marched toward Blake, who lay near the bottom rope. Blake dodged Hirsch and pulled her toward the middle rope whilst simultaneously pulling the middle rope toward Hirsch’s chest. This resulted in a whiplash/slingshot effect, and Hirsch flew backward. (I liked the execution of that move.) Blake kicked Hirsch’s shoulder as she tried to get back to her feet and then landed two more kicks squarely against the flat of Blake’s back. Blake hobbled forward on both knees until she grabbed ahold of the middle rope facing the hard camera. With Hirsch’s neck laying on the middle rope, Blake pressed her inner thing against the back of Hirsch’s head, hooked her knee over the middle rope, grabbed hold of the top rope, and pushed Hirsch forward while pulling the ropes backward. (I liked the execution of that move, too.)

Mark Henry and Paul Wight were bickering about friendships in pro-wrestling.

“This is a business,” Wight said. “You’re here to win championships, not make friends.”

“I just think if you’re someone’s friend, you should be their friend!” Henry said.

“You used to be all about putting people in the ‘hall of pain,’” Wight lamented. “What happened to you?”

“I got old.”

Hirsch sold the rope offense well (maybe a little too well, considering she was planning to kick out moments later). Blake went for a cover, and Hirsch kicked out at one. (I don’t blame Hirsch for selling that rope spot despite kicking out. I blame the short match time. That rope offense was cool and deserved a good sell, but there just wasn’t enough time in a three-minute match to tell an adequate “comeback” story.) Frustrated by Hirsch’s kick out, Blake grabbed her from behind by her shoulders, slammed her backward onto the mat, and hooked Hirsch’s leg with all of her might, but still only got a one-count.

Blake went for a forearm, but Hirsch had the wherewithal to whip her into the ropes. Blake bounced back with a clothesline, but Hirsch saw it coming and ducked underneath, wrapping Blake up in a waistlock. Blake used multiple back elbow strikes to force Hirsch to relinquish her grip. With Hirsch still teetering from the elbow strikes, Blake nailed her with a step-up enzuigiri. This was enough to take Hirsch to her knees, but she managed to keep herself off the canvas. Hirsch stumbled toward the turnbuckles to regroup, and Blake charged at her with a running crossbody. I was sure Hirsch was going to dodge that one, but she didn’t, and Blake landed the crossbody perfectly.

Blake then backed up and ran toward Hirsch a second time, and for a second time, I was sure Hirsch was going to move out of the way, but she didn’t, and Blake landed a rope-assisted rising knee strike to Hirsch’s head. However, despite all of this offense, Hirsch maintained unwavering custody of her wits. When Blake grabbed Hirsch’s head for a running bulldog, Hirsch shoved her off, caught her around the waist, and German suplexed Blake halfway to Germany itself. After the suplex, Hirsch held fast to Blake’s waist for a bridging cover and got a two-count.

As Blake ascended to her feet, Hirsch catapulted herself into the ring ropes and flew toward Blake with a pump kick. Blake sidestepped Hirsch’s pump kick, but her sidestep caused her to turn her back, giving Hirsch the opening to grab Blake around the waist and attempt a facebuster. Blake countered this attempt with a Cazadora stunner. Hirsch staggered mid-ring while Blake ran toward the ropes, springboarded off them, and attempted a crossbody, but Hirsch caught her in the air with a wicked-looking knee strike. Blake splattered to the mat and looked out of it. Hirsch hooked Blake’s leg and scored a three-count for the win!

WINNER: Hirsch in 3:00

(David’s Analysis: Here’s my entirely unsolicited two cents regarding Leyla Hirsch: Hirsch has a substantial amount of potential, but it’ll never be tapped if she can’t get her demeanor and facial expressions down pat. Many of us, myself included, often take facial expressions in wrestling for granted, but they actually take a lot of skill. Hirsch should consider talking to people like Vickie Guerrero and Emi Sakura. Those two could teach her everything she needs to know about in-ring acting, and with that additional knowledge and a little more polish, she could become the next Kurt Angle. “Could” is the operative word because potential is like oil — it’s only valuable if tapped.)

(2) ACTION ANDRETTI & MYLES HAWKINS vs. PRIVATE PARTY (w/Matt Hardy)

As the words “Oh my God, is that Private Party?” floated throughout the Entertainment & Sports Arena, the director opted for a close-up of what looked like a 56 LED RGB Can Light.

“Is it just me, or does that light look like one of the ‘covid’ symbols?” Henry asked

“I don’t know,” Paul Wight answered.

“Man,” Henry lamented, “Everything looks like covid these days…”

Laughing at the announcers distracted me from Private Party’s entrance, but I assume it was good. Once in the ring, Hardy posed on the apron in a business suit, and Private Party posed on the left and right turnbuckles, respectively. The team of Action Andretti & Myles Hawkins was already waiting in the ring. (I remember them! They both appeared separately on the Jan. 10 episode of Dark Elevation.) Henry talked up Action Andretti’s talents on the indie scene, calling him impressive and hyping his abilities as a high-flyer.)

Kassidy and Andretti started things off for their respective teams, but before they could even make their way into a collar and elbow tie-up, all hell broke loose. Kassidy knocked Hawkins off the apron; Quen hopped the ropes and grabbed Andretti from behind; Andretti spun around and punched Quen; Quen went down, and Kassidy sucker-punched Andretti from behind. (That chain of events happened so fast, I missed it the first time because I glanced at my notifications.) Kassidy riled up the fans while Andretti crawled into the heels corner. (Why go that direction?) Kassidy mud-stomped Andretti’s chest eight times before the referee physically separated them. While in the process of physically separating them, Quen assaulted Andretti behind the referee’s back. (Another good referee distraction. It was quick, and it made sense because the referee was forced to get semi-physically involved in the match, thus giving him a reasonable justification for missing something so obvious.)

Kassidy went back to work on Andretti in the corner, boxing his torso until Andretti nailed Kassidy with a forearm and slammed a back elbow into Quen. Kassidy ran back toward Andretti, but Andretti hit him with a big boot. Just as things were starting to look up for Andretti, Quen grabbed his ankle from the outside, and Andretti turned to forcefully kick Quen off of him. By the time Andretti returned his attention to Kassidy, Kassidy had recovered enough to block his next kick and execute a neckbreaker. The moment Andretti stood back up, Kassidy pushed against the ropes and punched him in the stomach three times. Kassidy then tagged in Quen.

Right after the tag, Kassidy whipped Andretti into the ropes. As Andretti rebounded, Quen jumped from the outside onto the top rope and executed a springboard crossbody as part of his official entrance into the match. Quen quickly pinned Andretti but only got a two-count. Quen then kicked the small of Andretti’s back, middle of Andretti’s stomach, and seized his neck, planning Twist of Fate, but Andretti countered by shoving him off. Quen spun back around and attempted a pump kick, but Andretti rolled underneath his leg and tagged in Hawkins. Hawkins sped into the ring, nailing Quen with a flying forearm, a hurricanrana, and a remarkably high dropkick.

Hawkins whipped Quen toward the ropes opposite the hard camera, but Quen reversed, and as Hawkins hit the ropes, Kassidy kicked him from behind. Quen then distracted the referee by pointing at his nose. (That was dumb…) Kassidy attacked Hawkins from behind, choking him with his forearm, and Hawkins’ tag team partner rightfully yelled at the referee to turn around. This caused the referee to get extra distracted (That was dumber…) by yelling back at Hawkin’s tag team partner while Quen ran over to help Kassidy illegally interfere. (That was an illustration of the word dumb.)

Anyway, Quen pump kicked Hawkins, and Kassidy struck Hawkins across the — (OMG, now the referee is distracted by his need to point at his own eyeballs. Did he lose a contact? Why is this happening? Make it make sense!) Upon finding his contact, the referee turned back around just in time to witness Kassidy tag in Quen because… wow.

Kassidy and Quen execute a double Irish whip on Hawkins, catching him with two double-teamed elbows on the rebound. Then Quen frog splashed Hawkins’ midsection while Kassidy leg dropped his neck. Kassidy celebrated his cheating by climbing to the top turnbuckle and John-Silvering for the crowd. (Hopefully, Hawkins is recovering here and about to kick this arrogant prick’s ass).

Kassidy scuttled his way back to Hawkins and picked him up for a headlock. Hawkins then countered with a jawbreaker. (Recovery!) Hawkins rushed to tag in Andretti, who was revved up and ready to go. Andretti burst out of the face’s corner, ducked a clothesline from Kassidy, ran into the ropes, rebounded off, hit a tilt-a-whirl headscissors on Kassidy, a backbreaker on Kassidy, and a neckbreaker on Kassidy. (That’s a lot.) Andretti instantly popped back up to his feet, and the crowd showed their appreciation. Quen, however, was ungrateful and attacked Hawkins from behind right in front of the referee’s eyes. (Maybe he did lose a contact?) Andretti ducked a clothesline from Quen, grabbed Quen by his pants, and jettisoned him over the top rope to the floor!

Kassidy grabbed Andretti from behind with a waistlock which was immediately counted with a standing switch. Andretti attempted a belly-to-back suplex, but Kassidy landed on his feet like the outstanding athlete he is. Kassidy shoved Andretti toward the ring apron, where Quen hit him with an apron enzuigiri before tagging into the match. Kassidy climbed to the second turnbuckle and executed a springboard stunner as Quen climbed to the top turnbuckle and executed a shooting star press on the freshly stunned Hawkins. Quen hooked Hawkins’ leg, pinned him to the mat, and the goldfish-brained referee counted to three.

WINNER: Private Party (w/Matt Hardy) in 4:00

(David’s Analysis: The match itself was good. It had fast-paced action and showcased incredible talent. But man, they gotta do something about these referees. Is there not a certification process? Education requirements? Can we at least require a diploma from somewhere other than clown college? )

– After the match, they showed replays while Hardy entered the ring to raise Kassidy and Quen’s hands. However, the real post-match highlight was the commentary. I won’t write it all out for you, but Wight and Henry had a great conversation about Hardy selling fifty-one percent of HFO to Andrade El Idolo. In fact, Hardy might wanna listen to their conversation, too. I do not see this storyline ending well for him.

(3) BRANDI RHODES vs. WILLOW NIGHTINGALE

Next, we have incredibly-talented-world-class-athlete Brandi Rhodes versus Willow Nightingale. (Poor Nightingale — light a candle for her.)

“Uh oh, here comes the boss!” Henry said.

Wrestling-savant Brandi Rhodes made her way out of the face tunnel (really?), and the crowd showered her with adoring boos.

“Brandi Rhodes has — oh wow, do you hear those boos?” Schiavone pivoted mid-sentence.

Rhodes posed onstage with her back to the crowd and flipped her hair. (All sarcasm aside for a second, I genuinely like her ring gear. That ring gear is up there with the likes of Natalia Hart and Ricky Starks.) Willow Nightingale was announced, and the crowd erupted with applause. (Wow, she’s either super over, or they super hate Brandi.) A chyron noted this is her sixth match in AEW, of which she has won none. (IDK if that crowd reaction was at all influenced by her opponent being Brandi, but if it wasn’t, they should sign this Willow Nightingale immediately.)

“She has a very happy look,” Schiavone stated regarding Nightingale’s enthusiasm.

“It made me smile,” Henry said.

“She’s a very pleasant person to talk to,” Wight added.

(None of that commentary seemed forced. It seemed like a real endorsement. Nightingale must be very amiable backstage.)

Rhodes and Nightingale sized each other up before opening with a collar and elbow tie-up. The tie-up was short-lived as expert-grappler Brandi Rhodes moved in on Nightingale only to find herself caught in a hammerlock. To escape the hammerlock, Rhodes pulled Nightingale toward the ropes, stepped through, wrenched Nightingale’s arm on the apron, and then stepped back into the ring, applying a hammerlock of her own.

Given both women were very much tied up in the ropes, the referee called for a clean break, and both athletes obliged. Once again, Rhodes and Nightingale sized each other up, and once again, they opted for a collar and elbow tie-up. This collar and elbow tie-up lasted a bit longer than the one before, but Rhodes gained the upper hand, capturing Nightingale in a side headlock. Rhodes wrenched her arm to tighten the side headlock, but it wasn’t tight enough as Nightingale was still able to fling Rhodes into the ropes. Rhodes rebounded off the ropes, countered a hip toss, flipped over Nightingale, and tore her down to the mat with an arm drag takedown. Rhodes forced Nightingale into a corner and then ran at her, landing a backward uppercut before grabbing her hair and slamming her to the mat with a snapmare takedown. Nightingale quickly sat up, but Rhodes just as quickly whacked her in the head with a superkick.

Future-Olympian Brandi Rhodes posed and flipped her hair, strutting as she looked out at a sea of (dis)pleased fans. Rhodes then grabbed Nightingale’s arm and went for an Irish Whip, but Nightingale countered by cartwheeling to stop her momentum. (Nice.) Incensed, Rhodes ran toward Nightingale, her arm posed for a clothesline, but Nightingale ducked and executed a side Russian leg sweep. Then Nightingale slapped on an arm submission thingy, and I do not know its name. (Maybe that move is called a crucifix something or other? Not sure. Todd Martin would know.) It looked devastating. Rhodes must be flexible as hell to have not been broken in half. Rhodes struck Nightingale’s leg several times (in a manner that unintentionally looked like she was tapping out and caused the back of my eyeballs to clinch).

Rhodes wriggled herself in a position that forced Nightingale’s leg off her neck and over her head. Nightingale tried to maintain the armbar portion of her submission hold, but Rhodes slyly grabbed her leg and went for a roll-up, scoring a two-count. (This bit here was well done.) Rhodes looked furious at the kick-out and jumped to her feet, hunched and ready to strike, but before she could pounce, Nightingale caught her with a standing superkick, and Rhodes crashed to the canvas.

“Great superkick by Willow,” Wight said.

Emmy-worthy-reality-actress Brandi Rhodes pulled herself upright in the corner, precariously hanging in the scarecrow position. Nightingale ran toward Rhodes and nailed her with a… Wait. What are they talking about?

“So, the question is… Is Brandi going to involve herself in that ladder match?” Schiavone said. (Cause that went well for Cody last time.)

“I’ll take that bet,” Wight said. (He literally self-immolated.)

“Why wouldn’t she?” Schiavone said. (I have so many reasons I have to store the extra reasons in my closet.)

Nightingale shouted and pumped her fist in the air as she backed up all the way to the turnbuckles opposite of where Rhodes hung. Then, she ran forward, Rhodes ducked, and Nightingale smashed chest first into the turnbuckles when Rhodes ducked. After rolling across the ring, Rhodes jumped back into the fray, flooring Nightingale with a clothesline. Nightingale popped back up but got clotheslined back down. Rhodes grabbed Nightingale in a ripcord, kicked her face, kicked her midsection, kicked her in the knee, and executed a step-up enzuigiri. (Oh wow, the crowd actually applauded that. Good for her!)

Nightingale rallied herself ran at Rhodes with a clothesline, and Rhodes smoothly ducked it. Nightingale ran into the ropes and went for a shoulder tackle, but Rhodes spun out of the way. Rhodes ran into the ropes as Nightingale charged toward her, and she nailed Nightingale with a pump kick. Nightingale collapsed to the ground, and everlasting-super-ninja Brandi Rhodes grabbed Nightingale’s leg, hooked Nightingale’s head, and applied her finisher, The Stretch Mark. The bell rang as Rhodes won, and somewhere an angel lost its wings.

WINNER: Rhodes in 3:00

(David’s Analysis: The crowd applauding Rhodes’s step-up enzuigiri after raucously booing her entrance is a sign that working her way up from the bottom was a wise choice. By wrestling on Dark and Dark Elevation, she can pick up reps in the ring and slowly win over the crowd by showing them she’s trying – and all jokes aside – I think she is.)

– After the match, honorary-Power-Range Brandi Rhodes flipped her hair a third time for the crowd.

(4) ETHAN PAGE & SCORPIO SKY (w/Dan Lambert) vs. LOGAN LAROUX & MIKE FLOWER

Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page were accompanied to the ring by former California Raisin member Dan Lambert. Flames burst in the air behind them as Ethan half-danced, half-mugged his way across the walkway. Once in the ring, all three men posed for the hard camera. Page looked smarmy, Sky looked threatening, and Lambert looked like a before picture. Page and Sky’s opponents were already in the ring — Logan Laroux & Mike Flower. They looked normal.

Page and Laroux started things off. Page stalled by looking incredulous and mocking the crowd. The referee encouraged both wrestlers to get on with it, and Laroux sprung forward into what he thought would be a collar and elbow tie-up, but Page had other ideas. Page kicked Laroux in the stomach and smashed his elbow into the back of Laroux’s neck. With Laroux down, Page quickly turned his attention to Laroux’s opponent, Flowers, and knocked him off the apron to the floor. Page snatched Laroux’s head and slammed it into the turnbuckle, trapped him in the heel’s corner, tagged in Sky, and then choked Laroux with his boot while Sky made his way into the ring. With Page’s boot still on Laroux’s neck, Sky slugged him in the stomach and caught him as he doubled over. Sky then yanked Laroux into the center of the ring and executed a stiff but stellar backbreaker. Sky dragged Laroux back to his feet, applied a wristlock, and tagged Page back into the match.

While Sky held him in a wristlock, Page punched Laroux in his mid-section. Page then grabbed Laroux’s head, threw his arm around his neck, and performed a vertical suplex. With Laroux down, Page stood mid-ring with his arms wide open, basking in the crowd’s mixed reaction. Page then slapped his butt for the camera and hit a barely upright Laroux with a forearm. Laroux went crumbling back down to the mat. Page dragged Laroux to the heel’s corner, put his boot on the top turnbuckle, and slammed Laroux’s face into his boot. Page then tagged in Sky.

“Dan Lambert looks like a soccer dad who got lost on his way to practice,” Wight said because it’s true.

Page held Laroux in place while Sky punched Laroux’s ribs. Sky then executed a snapmare, leaped into the air, and double-stomped Laroux’s face. Sky then dropped an elbow on Laroux’s face (and it was a nice face, too… such a loss). Sky covered future-plastic-surgery-candidate Laroux for a two-count. Sky trash-talked the crowd as he plucked Laroux off the mat and sent him into a neutral corner. Sky ran toward Laroux, but Laroux managed to, somehow, muster a back elbow followed by a kick to Sky’s face. Laroux then ran the ropes as Sky swung a clothesline and missed just moments before Laroux hit him with a flying crossbody. Knowing he might not maintain his advantage for long, Laroux scurried to his corner and tagged in Flower.

Flower cleared the top rope in a single bound and blasted Sky with a forearm. Page ran into the ring to make the save with clothesline, but Flower ducked and executed a lovely dropkick to take Page down. Flower then tagged Laroux back into the match, and they both executed an Irish whip on Sky, but when Sky hit the ropes, Page wrapped an arm around his torso, preventing his rebound. Flower ran toward Sky, but Sky caught him with his shoulder and flipped him out of the ring and to the floor. Sky then planted Laroux with a big boot while Page shoulder tackled an already wounded Flower at ringside. Sky loomed over Laroux’s hunched body, dusted off his shoulders, and applied the TKO to pick up the victory.

WINNER: Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky (w/Dan Lambert) in 4:00

(David’s Analysis: This was a solid match. Flower has a nice dropkick, and everyone played their parts perfectly — even twelve-day-old jack o’ lantern Dan Lambert.)

– After the match, the camera, for reasons known only to God, cut to a close up of Dan Lambert (who was busy looking like the world’s oldest golf caddy) as he scowled his way into the ring. Once he joined his team in the ring, all three posed for the hard camera. Then, Lambert pointed at a nearly unconscious Flower; Page picked Flower up and executed an entirely unnecessary Ego’s Edge. Afterward, Hank Hill look-a-like Dan Lambert patted Page on the shoulder as both Page and Sky gloated over their fallen foes.

(5) RED VELVET vs. JANAI KAI

The words “Stir it up” reverberated throughout the arena as Red Velvet made her way onto the stage. She did the stir-it-up gesture, posed, and smiled at the audience as she made her way to the ring. Her opponent, Janai Kai, was already in the ring, looking… distinctive.

“She’s got a unique look,” Henry said.

“That’s one way to put it,” Wight said.

The bell rang, and both women started with a collar and elbow tie-up. Kai overpowered Velvet enough to drive her into the corner, and the referee called for a clean break. Kai slapped Velvet across the chest with both hands in a very heelish way, and Velvet used the anger that particular action sparked to whip Kai in a circle and pull her into the corner where Velvet previously stood. Velvet delivered a flurry of four punches and three kicks to Kai’s midsection, and Kai slumped to a seated position. Velvet choked Kai with her foot pressing against Kai’s neck, grabbed Kai by the head, and delivered a snapmare to throw her to the mat. (BTW, during that choke, Velvet showed off some incredible flexibility. She’s definitely gone to the RVD School of Elastics.)

Velvet ran into the ropes and used the momentum they provided to deliver a sliding dropkick to Kai’s face. Velvet covered Kai and got a two-count. Velvet pulled Kai up and whipped her toward the ropes, but Kai hooked her arms over the top rope and stopped herself in her tracks. Velvet ran toward Kai anyway, and Kai tried to toss her to the floor. However, Velvet landed on the apron, turned around, and nailed Kai with an ax kick. Velvet then nailed Kai with a kick that ended in a split. (Is that called a split kick? Whatever it is, it’s impressive.)

“I could do that kick once,” Wight said, “and then you’d have to helicopter me out of here.”

Things were looking up for Velvet until Kai managed to ram a knee into her midsection shortly after she stepped back through the ropes. Kai then thrust Velvet into the corner and ran at her, hitting a big boot. Kai then choked Velvet (who was standing upright) with her foot. (Guess she also got that RVD degree.) The referee counted to five, and Kai let up at the last second, only to slam her foot back into Velvet’s throat for another five-count. Velvet then stumbled forward, landing on the middle rope in the please-kick-me position, and Kai kicked her. Velvet remained in the please-kick-me position, so Kai kicked her again, this time with a rope-assisted side kick. Velvet collapsed from the ropes to the canvas, and Kai pinned her but didn’t hook her legs. Velvet kicked out at one.

Velvet and Kai both got upright, Velvet landed a decisive-looking face kick. Kai stumbled but didn’t fall and came back with two kicks to Velvet’s stomach followed by a spinning heel kick. Kai then cupped the back of Velvet’s head with both hands and executed a snapmare takeover. Dazed and barely aware of her surroundings, Velvet sat up, and Kai kicked her in the back with a roundhouse kick. (Kai is actually pretty good. I mean, she’s dressed like a caution sign had sex with a ninja turtle, and yet her talents are somehow overcoming that. I am won over.) Kai grabbed Velvet by the face, shoved her back down onto the mat, and pinned her a second time, but once again, Kai failed to hook Velvet’s leg, and she kicked out — this time at two.

“You know Kai’s got some great footwork,” Henry said.

“She’s talented,” Schiavone chimed in.

“Yeah, she’s surgical,” Wight added.

(See, I’m not the only person won over!)

Kai applied a wicked-looking dragon sleeper on Velvet, whose arm waved in the air, reaching for invisible hope as Kai screamed into the void.

“She’s got some anger issues,” Wight said.

“I don’t think she’s very pleasant,” Henry said this in that voice he does that sounds like a commercial for the Calm app. “Just an astute observation.”

Velvet struggled in the sleeper and somehow, someway, with the unfettered determination of a televangelist, made her way to her feet, grabbed Kai’s head, and executed a stunner! Kai tottered backward but didn’t fall completely until Velvet hit her with a hard clothesline. Kai climbed back to her feet only to be met with a leg lariat, dropping her yet again. Velvet yanked Kai onto the middle rope and into the please-kick-me position and slammed into her shoulder blades with a running Meteora. The force of this propelled Kai backward to the ground, and without missing a beat, Velvet performed a standing moonsault onto Kai for a two-count. (Really? How was that only a two-count?)

Kai, who I now think is 25 percent Robocop, rallied back to her feet. Kai swung a right hand at Velvet, but Velvet ducked; then Kai swung a left hand at Velvet, but again, Velvet ducked. Finally, Velvet got in some offense of her own, chopping Kai’s chest and kicking Kai’s stomach. With Kai doubled over, Velvet grabbed her arm and executed a flawless Final Slice. Velvet pinned Kai and got a three-count to pick up the victory.

WINNER: Velvet in 4:00

(David’s Analysis: That was an enjoyable match, and I’m glad I got to see it. If I had to pick between Red Velvet or Leyla Hirsch in their upcoming match-up, I’d 100 percent pick Velvet to win — that is, if all I had to go by were their matches on this one episode of Dark Elevation. Honestly, I’m not sure who will win, but since this entire storyline has unfolded on Dark and Dark Elevation, I’m one of the only people in America who’s actually invested in the outcome.)

– After the match, the announcers hyped Velvet vs. Hirsch at Beach Break emanating live from Ohio.

(6) SANTANA & ORTIZ vs. BREAUX KELLER & GOLDY

Santana and Ortiz came out wearing ghostly face paint and were billed at a combined weight of 420 pounds. (420… I wonder if that was on purpose.) Once in the ring, Santana and Ortiz posed on the turnbuckles for the crowd, and the crowd seemed pleased to see them. Their opponents, Breaux Keller & Goldy, were already waiting in the ring.

Santana and Keller started things off, circling one another. Santana quickly grasped Keller’s waist for a waistlock, and Keller quickly fought him off with a standing switch. Santana reversed Keller’s waistlock into a side headlock, but Keller countered with two punches to Santana’s stomach, allowing Keller to throw him into the ropes. Santana bounced off the ropes and ran at Keller, knocking him down with a shoulder tackle. Santana then ran the ropes, possibly hoping for a second shoulder tackle, but Keller dropped to the mat, causing Santana to jump over him. Then, both men ran the ropes; Keller leapfrogged Santana, and Santana dove over Keller. Keller dodged Santana, and Santana caught Keller with an arm drag. (This paragraph does not do the preceding action justice.)

Santana grabbed Keller’s leg, manipulated his body into a seated position, yanked him upright, snapped on a wristlock, and executed a belly-to-back suplex. (The crowd roared in approval.) Santana pulled Keller upright and felled him again with a knife-edge chop; he then tagged in Ortiz. Santana whipped Keller into the ropes, and Ortiz caught him with a judo throw takedown. Ortiz then applied an armbar, but Keller forced his way out of the armbar via headscissors, leaped to his feet, and performed a step-up enzuigiri to leave Ortiz reeling. Keller used that opportune moment to tag in his partner Goldy.

Together, Goldy and Keller whipped Ortiz into the ropes, and Goldy caught him with a thrust kick on the rebound. Immediately after that, Keller executed a springboard sit-out facebuster. That was immediately followed by a springboard knee strike from Goldy, but all of this was only good for a one-count! Goldy applied a rear chin lock on Ortiz. Ortiz fought out of it but only long enough for Goldy to readjust his grip and began pounding Ortiz in the neck with his elbow. Ortiz fought his way back to his feet, escaped Goldy’s grasp, and hit Goldy with three open-hand chops to the chest. Desperate to stop Ortiz’s offense, Goldy raked his eyes right in front of the referee. (Who also lost her contacts.) Goldy then whipped Ortiz and attempted an arm-drag takedown, but Ortiz seized Goldy and executed an inside-out lariat; he then followed that up with two hard elbows, which dropped Goldy to the mat.

Ortiz pulled Goldy back up and went for a belly-to-back suplex on Goldy, but Goldy landed on his feet! Goldy went for a waistlock, and Ortiz countered with a standing switch. Goldy ran toward the ropes to escape Ortiz’s waistlock, but this gave Santana the opportunity to tag himself in. Santana jumped over the top rope, flipped over Ortiz’s back, ran toward the ropes, jumped through the air, and executed a picture-perfect springboard crossbody. (Y’all, this is so good.) Ortiz then joined in, running half the ring’s length and landing a senton, which Santana followed up with an assisted moonsault off of Ortiz’s back. (This is better than a Reese’s cup.)

The audience exploded with wild and thunderous applause as Santana whipped Goldy toward Ortiz. Goldy attempted a clothesline, but Ortiz ducked; Goldy crashed into the ropes and rebounded into Ortiz’s fist. Santana executed a knee lift; Ortiz hit a step-up enzuigiri out of nowhere, immediately followed by a discus lariat. (This is better than no school on a Monday.)

Santana kneeled on Goldy’s chest with one knee, and the referee dropped to the mat to count to three.

WINNER: Santana & Ortiz in 4:00

(David’s Analysis: That was better than *censored by the Parents Television Council* with my hot, flexible boyfriend.)

– After the match, the audience gave Santana and Ortiz a boisterous standing ovation, and my boyfriend wanted to know why I was on my feet clapping in the living room.

(7) RUBY SOHO & THUNDER ROSA vs. LEVA BATES & JORDAN BLADE

Ruby Soho and Thunder Rosa came out separately. Rosa entered first wearing white, black, orange, and green face paint and waited on stage as Ruby Soho’s music hit. Soho joined Rosa onstage, and they walked to the ring together. Rosa stood on the turnbuckle and enthusiastically waved to a fan in the crowd. (I love her.)

Already waiting in the ring was the team of Jordan Blade & Leva Bates (who is apparently still doing the whole librarian thing). Soho warmed up while Bates shushed the crowd and plopped down a pile of books in the corner because I’m guessing she plans on doing some mid-match reading.

Soho and Bates started things off with a collar and elbow tie-up. Soho managed to get the best of it and back Bates into the turnbuckles. The referee called for a break, and Soho eased off only for Bates to attempt to cheap shot her. Soho responded with a knee to Bates’ stomach and tagged in Rosa. With Bates propped up in the corner, Rosa ran to the middle of the ring, Soho got down on all fours, and Rosa used Soho’s back to assist her in a flying dropkick. Rosa took Bates down with a snapmare takeover and tagged Soho back into the match. Rosa assisted Soho with a leg drop, and Soho covered Bates to get a two-count.

The moment Bates kicked out, Soho slapped on a side headlock, but Bates used her very slight size advantage to out-muscle Soho and get back to her feet. Bates then bear-hugged Soho, who refused to let go of her side headlock. The two athletes staggered backward and landed on the ropes. The referee called for a break, and once again, Soho did the right thing and broke clean. However, Bates refused the clean break, and the referee had to physically back her away. This allowed for a brief (but well-executed) distraction in which Blade kicked Soho from behind on the apron. The moment Blade got in her kick, the referee turned back around, and Bates walloped Soho across the back with a stiff forearm. (Again, not to belabor the point, but this referee distraction was as well done as a diner steak, and doing ref distractions right adds immensely to any match.)

Bates took ahold of Soho’s waist and executed a northern lights suplex, using a post-suplex bridge to get a one-count. Bates argued with the referee about this until Soho started to get back to her feet. Bates used her boot to shove Soho back to the ground and tagged in Blade (not to be confused with The Blade). Blade went straight for Soho, but Soho had recovered enough to catch her arm and execute an arm drag takedown. Soho turned the takedown into an armbar as Rosa cheered her on from the apron. Unable to get out of the armbar fairly, Blade resorted to pulling Soho’s hair. This worked just enough for Blade to hook Soho’s arms and pull off a forceful hip toss. (Blade punctuated this hip toss with a loud scream.) Blade then covered Soho but failed to hook her leg, and Soho kicked out at two.

Blade then applied an armbar of her own, but the audience offered up rallying applause. Via the magic of that rallying applause, Soho Tinkerbelled back to life, pulled out of the armbar, ducked a clothesline from Blade, blocked a boot from Blade, and nailed Blade with a knee lift. This bought Soho just enough time to race across the ring and tag in Rosa. Rosa came into the match guns blazing. She clotheslined Blade, knocked Bates off the apron, dropped Blade with a drop toe-hold onto the middle rope, and hit Blade with not one but TWO running dropkicks!

“What’s that saying about dropkicking someone when they’re down?” Wight asked.

Rosa swept Blade up in a Fire Thunder Driver and went for a pinfall that surely would have won the match had Bates not run in to break up the count. Soho stormed her way into the ring to counter Bates’ interference, grabbing Bates’ arm and delivering a No Future to Bates’ head. Rosa went for another Fire Thunder Driver, but Blade countered with an Irish whip. Rosa bounced off the ropes and executed an awesome-looking tilt-a-whirl side Russian leg sweep that I didn’t even know was a thing. Rosa then clamped on a Peruvian Necktie, and Blade tapped out to Rosa’s submission finisher.

WINNER: Ruby Soho & Thunder Rosa in 6:00

(David’s Analysis: That match was every bit as good as I expected it to be. In fact, Bates was better than I expected. As for Rosa and Soho, they are both stand-out stars in AEW’s burgeoning women’s division.)

– After the match, Soho and Rosa hugged and celebrated in the ring, looking like two people I’d love to go clubbing with.

(8) RICKY STARKS & WILL HOBBS vs. MATT SYDAL & LEE MORIARTY

The letters “F,” “T,” and “W” filled the giant screen atop the stage, and Ricky Starks and “Powerhouse” Hobbs made their way to the ring. Starks’s ring gear looked stellar as always. (I rhinestone my own figure skating outfits as well as outfits for other skaters at my rink. So, when it comes to this one particular thing — and probably only this one particular thing — I know I’m talking about.) Hobbs climbed the downstage right turnbuckles, and Starks climbed the downstage left turnbuckles. Hobbs can look downright terrifying when he wants to, and apparently, he wants to. On the other hand, Starks can look downright delightful when he wants to. Tonight, for example, he began playing the FTW title like it was a guitar. (I know Starks is a heel, but I hope he retains against Lethal.)

Next up, Matt Sydal and Lee Moriarty made their way onstage. Moriarty wore a yellow shirt with yellow and black trunks, and Sydal wore a blue mirrored jacket. (I also admire some of Sydal’s outfits. And… Wait. No. This report is about wrestling, not clothing, and I will stay on topic.) Sydal and Starks started off the match wearing clothing articles that I will not describe in detail.

Starks and Sydal circled one another, sizing each other up, and right before they went in for a tie-up, Starks backed off, smirked at Sydal, and tagged in Hobbs. Hobbs leered at Sydal as Sydal bounced off the ropes, unafraid. (He should be a little afraid.) Hobbs lumbered forward, hulking and intimidating, but Sydal swept in with multiple hamstring kicks. Hobbs was unphased, and Sydal (or someone) shouted, “Too much muscle!” Hobbs, believing he had just the right amount of muscle, swung a fast, angry clothesline at Sydal, but Sydal deftly ducked and smashed his forearm into Hobbs’ torso. Hobbs grabbed Sydal’s head and almost tossed him like a ragdoll into the referee, but luckily the referee lurched out of the way at the last second. (That was close.) Sydal went into the ropes but bounced right back with a kick to Hobbs’ stomach and a step-up enzuigiri.

Amazingly, Hobbs remained on his feet — reeling and swaying — but on his feet, nonetheless. Sydal jumped into the face’s corner and tagged in Moriarty. The moment Sydal made the tag, Hobbs ran at Moriarty, trying to stop him before he could enter the ring. However, Moriarty spied Hobbs and clocked him with a back elbow. Moriarty jumped to the top rope for a springboard something-or-other (we’ll never know for sure because Hobbs quickly moved out of the way, and Moriarty landed on his feet.) Hobbs then threw himself into the ring ropes, bouncing off and hitting a running crossbody on Moriarty. (That looked like it killed him.) Moriarty writhed on the ground, unable to so much as stand up after being run over by a human Mack Truck.

Hobbs picked Moriarty up like his bones were feathers and held him in the air for a delayed vertical suplex. (Hobbs is like an unstoppable comic book villain.) Hobbs grabbed Moriarty’s leg and dragged him to the heel’s corner as if he weighed less than bubble wrap, and Starks tagged Hobbs. Starks leaped into the air and stomped on Moriarty’s chest. He then… skipped around the ring like a child at recess. (Sure. Why not? We’re only busy here.) Finally, after whatever the hell that was, Starks scooped up Moriarty executed a bodyslam and an elbow drop to score a one-count. (That might’ve been a three count if you weren’t playing hopscotch in the ring!) Starks stood up, and Moriarty, who was still on the ground, defiantly shoved him. Starks kicked Moriarty in the face, grabbed his head, propped him up in a neutral corner, and delivered two knife-edge chops. Starks turned his attention away from Moriarty to gloat; Moriarty grabbed Starks, whipped him into the corner, and got in a single knife-edge chop before Starks Irish whipped him into the ropes. Moriarty rebounded off the ropes, and Starks caught him with a hard back elbow, knocking him to the ground. Starks then mocked Moriarty with soft kicks to his clearly devastated carcass. Then Starks moonwalked (I think that’s what I saw.) and posed like Adonis because he’s trying to make me hate him, and although I wish I hated him, it is not working. (He is delightful.)

Starks grabbed Moriarty’s arm, trapped him in a wristlock, threw Moriarty’s arm over his shoulder, and executed a belly-to-back suplex for a one-count. The reason it was a one-count, however, is because Starks tagged in Hobbs midway through the count. (Wait. What?) Starks took hold of Moriarty’s left leg, and Hobbs took hold of his right leg.

“They’re gonna make a wish!” Wight exclaimed.

“Did you just say they’re gonna make a wish?” Henry laughed. (He has a nice laugh.)

Both men then took turns stomping on Moriarty’s exposed midsection. (I’m feeling really bad for Moriarty right now.) Starks got back onto the apron, and Hobbs pulled Moriarty upright. Moriarty plunged multiple fists into Hobbs’ midsection, but Hobbs was unmoved. Hobbs then floored Moriarty with a single knee to the chest. (And by floored, I mean Moriarty went into the air and crash-landed.) Hobbs then slugged Moriarty with a hard right and swung him into the far corner. Moriarty hit the turnbuckles so hard the ring post camera trembled in fear. Hobbs pulled Moriarty back up, slung him into yet another corner, and caught his rebounding body in a bear hug so fierce he lifted Moriarty off the ground and shook him like a ragdoll.

Just as it began to look like all hope was lost, Moriarty made a comeback, hammering Hobbs’ head with multiple elbows as well as a bell clap. Hobbs released his hold, and Moriarty executed a jawbreaker that left Hobbs see-sawing back and forth. Moriarty followed that with a step-up enzuigiri and scrambled toward his corner to tag in Sydal; Hobbs simultaneously tagged in Starks.

Sydal jumped over the ropes with a burst of energy that looked like he had sparks running his skin and delivered a slingshot dropkick to Starks, ducked a clothesline from Starks, and performed a running hurricanrana on Starks. (Well, damn.) The moment Starks stood back up, Sydal was right back on him, this time with a spinning back kick. Sydal grabbed Starks’ arm and went for an Irish whip, but Sydal reversed him into the ropes. Starks then bounced off the ropes into a dead-on spinning heel kick. Sydal stalked Starks into a corner, and Starks used every last bit of his strength to force Sydal out onto the apron. Sydal hit Starks with an apron enzuigiri followed by a flying Meteora off the top rope. Sydal covered Starks and hooked his leg, but Hobbs ran in to break up the count.

Hobbs argued with the referee about getting back on the apron as Sydal tagged in Moriarty. Moriarty entered the fray with a springboard forearm on Hobbs before popping back to his feet, ducking a clothesline from Hobbs, and executing a roundhouse kick to Hobbs’ face. Sydal and Moriarty double-teamed Hobbs, hitting him with a series of kicks.

“Still trying to chop the big man down!” Schiavone said.

Hobbs no-sold the kicks and pummeled both Moriarty and Sydal with a double clothesline. Hobbs then hit Moriarty in the chest with a second clothesline, pushed him against the ropes, and used the ropes’ momentum to shove him toward the center of the ring and into a spear delivered by Starks. Starks and Hobbs both pinned Sydal simultaneously (You can do that?) and got a three-count for the win.

WINNER: Ricky Starks & Will Hobbs in 6:00

(David’s Analysis: This was great. I don’t really have much else to say. If you have the time, I recommend watching it.)

– After the match, Hobbs and Starks sneered and mugged for the camera, respectively. Hobbs then grabbed a microphone and handed it to Starks.

“You wanna talk about Lethal? Well, this is lethal right here. Me with a live mic!” Starks said. “Dante Martin, I’m gonna tell you like this — You got a baby brother complex, and I don’t like that. You got a lot of friends back there, but I don’t think they’re really your friends. So, here’s the deal… I want you to come out here, and I want you to say what I want you to say, and that is quite simply this: you made a mistake turning on team Taz.”

Hobbs put up his arms and made a “come here” motion toward the stage.

“So bring it on out,” Starks continued. “Bring it on out. Where is he? He always looks like he’s crying. He’s up —”

Dante Martin’s music hit, and Martin rushed the ring; he nailed Hobbs with an apron enzuigiri, jumped to the top rope, leaped over Starks, and nailed Hobbs with a dropkick. Starks darted toward Martin, but Martin took him down with a spear punching him in the face nine times. Hobbs then grabbed Martin from behind and pulled him off of Starks. Martin threw a flurry of punches in Hobbs’ direction. I ran the tape back twice but kept losing count. However, I can tell you that he punched him at least eleven times — probably more. Starks then attacked Martin from behind, and both Hobbs and Starks double-teamed Hobbs, stomping and punching him more times than I could ever possibly count.

Moriarty and Sydal ran back into the ring to save Martin. Chaos broke out until Hobbs and Starks bailed to ringside. Hobbs and Starks made their way back onto the stage, with Martin still lying mid-ring. The show ended with the crowd chanting, “We want more!”

FINAL THOUGHTS: Tonight’s show was a third longer than last week, and it had several good matches. If you can only catch one thing on the show, catch the post-match angle at the end. If you can catch two things, watch the Santana & Ortiz match, and if you can catch three things, add the main event to your watchlist as well. I also enjoyed the Soho & Rosa tag match, and the commentary was stellar throughout the program. It’s late where I’m at. (Actually, it’s early. It’s 10:30 am, but I began writing this at 7 pm last night, so… yeah…)

Thank you all for reading. I truly appreciate it. And as always, I’m still working on my sign-off, but until next week, remember — the next time you lick a stamp, don’t lick the rubber parts; they taste like ink.

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