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AEW DARK ELEVATION REPORT
FEBRUARY 28, 2022
TAPED 2/23 IN BRIDGEPORT, CONN.
AIRED ON YOUTUBE.COM
REPORT BY DAVID BRYANT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mark Henry, Paul Wight
Ring Announcer: Justin Roberts
– Hi guys! Welcome back! Thank you for visiting PWTorch.com, and thanks for checking out this report. I say it every week, but I also mean it every week: I appreciate you gifting me your valuable time, and I promise to waste it responsibly.
-Tonight’s Dark Elevation taping came to us from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. This felt like a perfect-sized venue. It looked good on TV, but it was not so big as to lose touch with the crowd’s enthusiasm. By the way, the card for this show looks stacked, and there’s not a single ten-man tag in sight! (Thank God.)
-Dark Elevation opened with a wide shot of the arena, and the letters AHFO filled both jumbo-sized screens atop the stage. Matt Hardy’s music (© Idolo, all rights reserved) played as Hardy walked one of his prodigies, Jora Johl, to the ring. Hardy gave Johl a pep-talk on their way down the ramp by screaming into his face like his nose was a microphone.
“Tremendous athlete,” Wight said. “Tremendous amateur background. The only thing I would caution about Jora Johl’s career is who he’s got managing him right now.” (This was said in an entertaining way because it was said by Paul Wight, and I’ve come to believe Paul Wight could make the phonebook entertaining.) Up next, Jay Lethal came out, and the crowd reacted warmly.
BTW, with his shirt off, Johl looked intimidating AF. I remember thinking the same thing the last time he wrestled on Dark, but it is still surprising somehow.
(1) JAY LETHAL vs. JORA JOHL (w/Matt Hardy & Jose)
Johl started things off by quickly capturing Lethal in an impassioned side headlock. Lethal backed Johl into the upstage ring ropes and used the momentum those ropes provided to shove Johl toward the downstage ropes. After this, some “rope running” ensued. Lethal dropped to the canvas; Johl jumped over Lethal; Johl shoulder tackled Lethal; Lethal shoulder tackled Johl; Lethal crashed off the opposite ropes; Johl dropped to the canvas; Johl leapfrogged Lethal, and then Lethal took Johl down with an arm-drag. (I am out of breath writing that.) Lethal went for a second arm-drag, but Johl saw it coming and lurched backward to avoid Lethal’s grasp.
Johl jumped over the top rope onto the apron, and Lethal knocked him to the floor with a baseball slide. Johl not only fell to the floor but hit his face on the ring apron in the process. (Good work there.) Lethal then pumped up the crowd, ran into the stage left ring ropes, shot across the ring, and executed a tope suicida onto Johl. Lethal landed on his feet and performed his Flair strut. (Okay, but why? As I’ve said, week in and week out, this only brings attention to things you don’t want attended to.) Lethal seized ahold of Johl’s neck and rolled him back into the ring. Lethal mimicked Flair again (I give up.) and ran at Johl. Johl caught Lethal with his shoulder and tossed him into the air.
“Jay Lethal makes me smile!” Wight said.
Henry chimed in, “Yeah, he’s just a happy, happy —”
Lethal landed precariously (which is insider lingo for “balls first”) onto the top rope. Lethal balanced on the rope in stunned agony because, in wrestling, agony aids balance. Johl superkicked Lethal off the rope and sent him crashing to the floor. Lethal lay on his back on the floor, clutching his precariousness, and Johl jumped out of the ring to attack him. Johl grabbed Lethal’s head, pulled him upright, and nailed him with multiple forearms, followed by a stiff chop. Johl then posed and huffed for the camera at ringside.
Hardy became annoyed with Johl’s lack of focus and blustered over to demand he stop showboating and focus on winning the match. (I know Hardy’s a heel, but he’s not wrong.) Jose “The Assistant” was also at ringside but made a point to keep his cool and stay out of it.
“He needs to stick to watching the books,” Henry grumbled in regards to Hardy.
“He better be watching those books cause those books are cooked,” Wight said. “Those books are soufflés.”
While this was going on, Lethal made his way back into the ring, and Johl followed him. Johl caught Lethal and Irish whipped him into the ropes. Lethal rebounded off the ropes, and Johl caught him on the rebound with powerslam. Johl covered Lethal, but his offense was only good for a two-count. Before Lethal could regroup, Johl grabbed his head in a sleeper hold.
Lethal tried to prevent the hold from being applied, but he was in far too much pain to stop it. Lethal fought his way back to his feet courtesy of a series of blows to Johl’s midsection followed by a chop to Johl’s chest. Johl teetered backward, and Lethal used a backslide roll-up to pin him for a two-count.
Lethal chopped Johl’s chest a third time, and Johl shoved him off with another Irish whip; however, Lethal reversed the whip. Johl ran at Lethal with a clothesline, but Lethal dodged the potential body blow. As soon as Johl turned around, Lethal hit him with a dropkick, followed immediately by a step-up enzuigiri. Lethal then signaled for The Lethal Injection. Lethal enthusiastically springboarded into the ropes, but Johl jumped out of the way. Johl then grabbed a confused Lethal, put him in the fireman’s carry position, and executed a Samoan driver.
However, instead of going for the cover, Johl chose to showboat again, and I don’t blame Hardy for the side-eye he’s giving him. After Johl finished wasting more time, he finally decided to run at Lethal and attempt a pump kick, but Lethal found the wherewithal to evade Johl’s offense and roll him up for a two-count. After kicking out, Johl got to his feet a little bit slower than Lethal did, and because of this, Lethal was able to handspring into the stage left ring ropes and execute his Lethal Injection finisher. Lethal then pinned Johl and got a three-count for the win. (Johl kind of had that coming.)
“Winners find a way!” Wight said. (Apparently, losers do, too.)
WINNER: Lethal in 4:00
(David’s Analysis: This was a nice match. Lethal is an exceptional talent, and Johl was no slouch either. I think I would’ve liked the match more if it had been a minute or two longer, but the show is long enough as it is, and they used the time they were given wisely.)
– After the match, Matt Hardy cut a promo. (Oh, so that’s why this match was shorter than expected.) Hardy grabbed the mic and confronted Johl.
“I can’t believe you came out here tonight and embarrassed me!” Hardy threw Jose’s tablet at Johl, and it crashed into Johl’s midsection. “After all the disappointment I’ve had to suffer with Private Party, you’re going to disappoint me, too?”
Jose “The Assistant” picked up his tablet and looked sympathetically toward Johl. The crowd began to chant “delete” as Johl tried to explain himself to Hardy.
“Unless you do something in the future to heavily impress me,” Hardy jammed his finger in Johl’s general direction, “your spot in the HFO — I mean, A-HFO — will be deleted!”
Hardy began making the “delete” hand gesture, and the crowd chanted “delete.” All the while, Johl looked on, indignant. Hardy then threw down his microphone and stormed out of the ring while Jose attempted to assuage Johl’s ego.
(2) RED VELVET vs. SKYE BLUE
“Up next on AEW Dark Elevation,” Wight said, “It’s Skye Blue vs. Red Velvet.” (Ooo… The battle of the primary colors!”)
Primary color number one, (Skye) Blue, made her way on stage and stood in front of a backdrop made of blue while wearing blue. Once Blue was in the ring, the color red filled the stage’s screens, and primary color number two, Red (Velvet), made her way down the ramp.
Red (For the purposes of keeping up with which color scheme is winning this match, I’m going to use her first name just this once.) high-kicked her own shoulder on the apron, and it’s insane how limber she is. She could probably kick someone two feet behind her.
Already in the ring, Blue crouched down in the upstage left corner, sizing up Red.
“Tony, do you have a favorite cupcake?” Henry asked, after having already made me hungry by describing baked goods in lavish detail.
Red and Blue started things off with a collar and elbow tie-up, jumping at one another like they were going for purple. However, this didn’t last long, as Red quickly overpowered Blue with an arm-drag and threw her onto the non-easeled canvas. (Yeah, I’m making art jokes for this one, and I’m pretty sure all of them will be dreadful.) Both colors, I mean athletes, jumped right back up to their feet, circled one another, and pounced into a far more intense color and gel-bow dye-up. This time, it was Blue who ended the lockup by arm-dragging Red. Red (paint) brushed herself off, got back to her feet, adjusted her hair, and mouthed the words, “Okay, okay.” Red then reached out and offered her hand to Blue. Blue looked at it for a moment before leaning in to shake it. To my great surprise and to the chagrin of all of wrestling history, nothing untoward came of their handshake. It was just a handshake. These colors are being very complimentary.
“A little respect there, I appreciate that,” one of the announcers said.
Blue and Red went into a third collar and elbow tie-up, which Red shifted into a side headlock. Blue’s arms flailed until she was able to shove Red off of her and into the stage left ring ropes. Red bounced off the ropes and took down Blue with a hard shoulder tackle. Red ran the ropes; Blue dropped to the (non-mounted) canvas; Red jumped over Blue; Red rebounded, and Blue caught her with an attempted hip toss. Red countered said hip toss by draping her leg across Blue’s neck and priming her for The Final Slice. However, Blue countered Red’s Final Slice by backflipping out of it. Blue drew Red into a wristlock, and Red immediately countered that with another arm-drag. Blue countered Red’s arm-drag with another arm-drag, and then both women superkicked at one another simultaneously. (This whole exchange was presented in the form of “chain-wrestling,” and it looked good. Kudos to both athletes.)
The audience applauded (as they should), and both women drew up to their feet. Red and Blue swirled around one another like strokes in a Van Gogh painting, and then Blue splattered into Red, picking her ankle and pulling her down. (I almost went with “pic-ing her ankle” but thought better of it because it turns out I have standards after all. They’re just extraordinarily low.) Blue went for a superkick, but Red blotted out Blue’s offense by grabbing hold of her foot. Blue then crafted a well-placed enzuigiri. The impact dazed Red, and Red dripped down onto the canvas. Blue water-covered Red and scored another two-count. (Water-covered was iffy.)
Suddenly Hirsch waltzed her way onstage. (Oh, snap. That’s gonna be a horse of a different color!) Hirsch strutted and swaggered as if she were proud of some accomplishment we didn’t get to see — like helping an old lady halfway across the street or bringing valentines to work for everyone but the person to whom it would’ve meant the most.
Back in the ring, Red rendered a neckbreaker on Blue and juxtaposed that move with a standing moonsault. Red then lacquered her torso over Blue, hooked Blue’s leg, and etched out a two-count.
Meanwhile, Hirsch sauntered down the ramp, looking like she’d just kicked over a baby carriage on purpose. Red got distracted by Hirsch’s ringside villainy, and Blue roller-brushed Red up for a two-count. Blue then planted a museum-quality superkick smack-daub in the middle of Red’s face, and Red dripped down to the canvas. Blue penned Red and got a two-count.
Red spritzed back to her feet and, in a brush-stroke of genius, flung Blue against the ropes, caught Blue’s rebounding body, and erased Blue’s hopes of winning with a picture-perfect Final Slice. With Blue looking up at the RGB lights overhead, Red covered her like a topcoat, hooked her leg, and pinned her for a three-count. (Thus, ending my God-awful jokes.)
WINNER: Velvet in 3:00
(David’s Analysis: That was a good match. More exciting than I’d expected, and not at all like watching paint dry. And in my opinion, Blue and Red are two of the brightest colors on AEW’s color wheel.)
– After the match, Red and Hirsch taunted one another. Red looked furious, and Hirsch looked like she’d just helped a kitten get stuck in a tree.
(3) FRANKIE KAZARIAN vs. ALAN ANGELS
(I haven’t seen this match yet, but I bet it’s going to be good.)
Alan Angels came out first with various members of Dark Order, and the crowd seemed appreciative and welcoming. The Dark Order members stayed on stage and watched over Angels as he walked to the ring, mugging for the camera. (His mugging came off a little heelish, but I’m okay with it because his opponent is Frankie Kazarian.)
Kazarian came out next and pointed to his fans as he walked down the ramp. (I hate how casual fans seem to under-rate this guy. They’re really missing out.)
“There’s no holes in Frankie Kazarian’s game whatsoever,” Wight said.
Angles and White jumped into a collar and elbow tie-up, and Kazarian quickly shifted things into a side headlock. Angels whipped Kazarian toward the ropes, but Kazarian bounced back with a shoulder tackle.
“Does Angels have an earring in?” Wight asked.
“That’s how you know he’s still young. I’d yank that thing right out,” Henry said with the calmness of a lovable sociopath. “I’d put you in a headlock and tear off your earlobe.”
Kazarian, who is not a sociopath, swept Angels’ leg and went for a cover, but Angels shoved him off, swept Kazarian’s legs, and went for a cover of his own. Kazarian performed a roundhouse kick, but Angels slipped out of the way. However, Angels’ vantage point gave Kazarian an opening, and he quickly rolled up Angels for a one-count. (The commentators are now talking about grinding earrings into their opponents, and I’m making a mental note to never anger Mark Henry.)
“Then… we’d get to see the blood dripping down from his ear,” Henry said. (I was looking forward to this match, and I am now distracted by vivid images of mutilated ear-holes)
Kazarian went for a clothesline, but Angels caught him in a waistlock. Angels rolled up Kazarian, who then rolled up Angels, who then rolled up Kazarian, who then rolled up Angels again. (The crowd is loving this!) Both men jumped to their feet. Angels looked like he planned to execute a back elbow but was stopped dead in his tracks by a knife-edge chop to the chest. Kazarian grabbed Angels’ head and ran him toward the turnbuckles. Angels attempted to turn things around, running back toward the center of the ring, but Kazarian dropped him with a side Russian leg sweep. (And now we have even more applause from the crowd!)
Kazarian chopped Angels’ chest, and the crowd “woo-ed.” Kazarian attempted an Irish whip, and Angels reversed it. Kazarian stormed toward Angels, who avoided him dropping to the canvas, and then stopped him in his tracks with a dropkick and an arm-drag. (Somehow, despite the laws of physics, that dropkick and arm-drag were executed simultaneously. I think.) Angels clamped on an arm-bar and began trash-talking as he wrenched Kazarian’s shoulder. Slowly but surely, Kazarian fought his way back to his feet, grabbed hold of the top rope, and backflipped his way out of the armbar. Upon landing on his feet, his swiftly grounded Angels with an arm-drag that sent him flying out of the ring.
Angels jumped onto the apron, speared Kazarian through the ropes, hopped over the top rope, and sprinted toward Kazarian. However, Kazarian caught him with a hard-hitting clothesline, which turned Angels “inside out.” With Angels reeling, Kazarian caught him around the waist and executed a gut wrench suplex to score a two-count. Angels tried to get back to his feet with a series of blows to Kazarian’s ribs, but Kazarian quickly knocked him down again with a solid forearm to the back.
“We’re glad to have you back,” Wight said to Schiavone. “Excalibur’s so series; he’s got a stun gun that he shocks Mark and I with when we make a mistake.” (It’s “Mark and me.” Get the stun gun!)
Angels regained the upper hand with a step-up enzuigiri followed by a springboard dropkick. Angels then popped back to his feet with a kick-up.
“Nice kick-up,” Wight said.
Angels kicked Kazarian’s leg, chopped Kazarian’s chest, kicked Kazarian’s leg a second time, chopped Kazarian’s chest a second time, and then landed three more kicks to the side of Kazarian’s hamstring. However, Angels went for one chop too many because Kazarian ducked his last attempt and hit Angels with a knife-edge chop of his own. Kazarian then followed that up with a spinning back kick and a knee lift.
Kazarian went for a clothesline, but Angels ducked out of the way and used the opening to execute a springboard crossbody onto Kazarian. Instead of covering Kazarian, Angels ran the ropes, ducked another clothesline, came back around, and caught Kazarian with a headscissors takedown. Kazarian prudently rolled out to the floor to regroup.
Angels attempted a suicide dive, but he only managed the suicide part because Kazarian caught him in the face with his forearm. Kazarian then ran into the ropes to perform a springboard legdrop, which he might have pulled off, except Angels caught his leg right before it struck him. Angels tied up both of Kazarian’s legs and applied a Native American deathlock. Angels pried one of Kazarian’s legs off his, and Kazarian used that free leg to kick Angels in the face. This knocked Angels backward, and Kazarian re-commandeered both his opponent’s legs to apply a modified heel hook submission hold. Angels brutally kicked at Kazarian’s face to loosen the grip and escape.
“Kazarian’s got a stone jaw,” Henry said.
Angels pinned Kazarian with a roll-up for a two-count, and Kazarian pinned Angels with a backslide for another two-count. Angels chopped Kazarian, pushed him backward, and went for a second roll-up but couldn’t make the cover. This fast-paced action ended when Kazarian caught Angels in a crossface chicken wing. Angels tried to fight his way out of the submission, but Kazarian’s grip was too much, and he was forced to tap.
WINNER: Kazarian in 6:00
(David’s Analysis: That was every bit as good as I expected it to be. In fact, I don’t have a single negative thing to say. This match is one of those hidden gems you sometimes find on Dark or Dark Elevation, and I recommend everyone check it out.)
(4) KAYLA SPARKS & LMK & PARIS VAN DALE vs. EMI SAKURA & DIAMANTE & NYLA ROSE (w/Vickie Guerrero)
I’m always thrilled to see Emi Sakura and Nyla Rose wrestling, but they have their work cut out for them trying to follow that last match!
Rose’s music hit, and Team Vickie, made up of Nyla Rose & Emi Sakura & Diamante, came out first. All four women looked fantastic, but all eyes in the arena (and by “all eyes,” I mean mine, and by “arena,” I mean my living room) were on fashion icon Vickie Guerrero. Tonight, Guerrero wore a shimmering, storm-cloud grey top bedazzled with an understated chain-link accent along the neckline. Her lamé top was paired with marengo slacks, licorice-black stiletto shoes, and the Karen-ist of Karen-esque hairdos.
Rose humorously reached out and hand-slapped a fan who was giving her a “thumbs down,” and I lived! Guerrero stopped to pose for the ringside cameraman and graciously gave him a free hearing test. (If he wasn’t deaf before, he is now.) Sakura looked regal as she modeled her royal robes in the middle of the ring, and Diamante managed to look angry, flagitious, and larger than life all at the same time. (These women have so much character it bleeds off the screen!)
Team Guerrero’s opponents, LMK & Kayla Sparks & Paris Van Dale, were already in the ring talking strategy and laying out their game plan to lose. While planning how to divide up their pummelings equally, Team LMK was interrupted by Team Guerrero, who attacked all three women before the bell. Amid an absolute hailstorm of fist-shaped hailstones, the referee rang the bell because of course.
“These three women are gonna last about as long as an Oreo cookie in front of Mark Henry,” Wight said, referring to Team LMK. (I almost went with team LSD, but I didn’t want to advocate for drugs.)
Rose double-clotheslined two members of the face team concurrently and tagged in Sakura. Sakura trapped Dale in the downstage right corner and riled up the crowd with her signature stomp-stomp-clap gesture. The crowd eagerly stomped and clapped alongside Sakura as she performed her “We Will Rock You” chops. Sakura then backed up, ran forward, and nailed Dale with a running crossbody into the turnbuckles. Afterward, Sakura took a quick beat to leer into the nearest camera lens. (This is a perfect example of why I love her so much. She pays attention to all the right details and communicates a novel’s worth of information in a second’s worth of facial expressions. To quote Enzo, “You can’t teach that.” Or is it nZo, now? In-zoo? End Zone?) Sakura continued to mock Dale as she pulled her to the center of the ring by her hair. Dale then executed a jawbreaker which left Sakura clutching at her face. Dale tagged in Sparks.
Sparks shot out of the face’s corner like the fireworks her name exemplified. Sparks knocked Sakura to the ground with a shoulder tackle, followed immediately by a step-up enzuigiri. Sakura floundered and tumbled perfectly, rolling backward and pulling herself up into the scarecrow position on upstage left turnbuckles. Dale dashed across the ring toward Sakura, but Sakura smartly side-stepped her. Sparks exploded into the turnbuckles and crashed hard. Sakura rolled down the length of the upstage ring ropes until she reached the heel’s corner to tag in Rose.
Rose looked like an illustration of the word murderific. Rose towered over Sparks, bared her teeth, and grabbed Sparks by the neck for a chokeslam. However, Rose’s chokeslam attempt was countered mid-air with a switch and a kick. Sparks scarpered to the face’s corner and hastily tagged in Dale. Dale didn’t make it two feet into the ring before Rose floored her with a hip attack. Rose picked up Dale like she had bubblewrap for bones and rammed her into the heel team’s corner. Rose then tagged in Diamante.
Rose held Dale in place while Diamante clobbered her with a rising knee strike. Ross then executed a crucifix takeover to drop Dale to the mat and assisted Diamante in delivering a flying splash. (Dale looked like the final frame of that blood-drenched Peter Griffin meme.) Diamante went for the cover, but Dale kicked out at two.
Dale hurriedly hobbled toward the face’s corner and desperately tagged in LMK. LMK ran toward Rose with the speed of a freight train but was quickly derailed by Diamante’s shrewd ring awareness. Diamante caught LMK, hoisted her into the air, and executed a belly-to-back suplex that compressed her body like a wad of paper. (I want to take a quick moment to commend LMK on her facial expressions. You could see her panic escalate like a rising tide in real-time.)
Diamante went for a strong cover, but surprisingly, LMK kicked out despite having just received a soul-scorching suplex. During the pin, LMK’s teammates looked poised to break up the count, and in response, Diamante’s teammates knocked both Sparks and Dale off the apron. Then, like a pack of wolves discovering a rabbit, all three members of Team Guerrero slowly encircled LMK. LMK looked up as the horror of her situation slowly dawned on her. Her face went through a multitude of emotions in a matter of moments —despondent dread, trepid terror, and rueful resignation. (OMG. Hire her!)
Rose attacked first, picking up a startled LMK and slamming her to the canvas with a flapjack slam. Sakura joined in and hit a standing senton splash on LMK’s surely brutalized ribcage. Then, like a vulture picking at the bones of a long-defeated foe, Diamante put LMK in a body scissors hold and applied an ude garami submission. LMK tapped out.
WINNER: Sakura Diamante & Rose (w/Vickie Guerrero) in 3:00
(David’s Analysis: Welp, before this match, I’d never heard of LMK, and now, I’m following her on Twitter. It turns out LMK stands for Lil Mean Kathleen. That has a nice ring to it! Also, the match itself was very entertaining. I wish it had been longer, but given the limited time they had, all parties made did a fantastic job.)
– After the match, Rose snarled.
(5) LANCE ARCHER vs. FUEGO DEL SOL
I wonder who’s winning this?
Fuego Del Sol made his way to the ring while making a lasso motion with his finger. He wasted no time getting down the ramp and into his corner, although he did make sure to acknowledge the fans. Next up, Lance Archer’s music hit, and the man who puts the words “Murder Hawk” in “Murder Hawk” stormed through the heels tunnel (Why does anyone use the heels tunnel? Who self-identifies as a bad guy?) and raced down the ramp.
Del Sol met Archer with optimistic fury, but Archer was more of a glass-half-empty kind of guy and grabbed Del Sol by the throat. Archer attempted a chokeslam on the ringside floor. (OMG!) However, with the luck of a two-sided coin, Del Sol somehow managed to land on his feet. Archer charged at Del Sol with his arm outstretched, but Del Sol ducked, and Archer’s clothesline found nothing but air. Del Sol speedily (and wisely) dove back into the ring, and Archer gave chase.
Archer swung glancing forearms at a frenzied Del Sol and then missed his next offense entirely. Del Sol attempted a tornado IDK because Archer countered his acrobatic offense by setting him up for The Blackout mid-way through the tornado part. However, Del Sol used the momentum of Archer’s Blackout to execute a forward flip out of Archer’s arms and land on his feet!
Archer stepped forward, and Del Sol executed step-up enzuigiri. Despite how spectacular this maneuver looked, Archer was barely phased. Archer then snatched Del Sol off his feet and tossed him into the turnbuckles like tossing liter out of his car window. Del Sol crashed hard but put both feet up as Archer ran toward him. However, Archer caught Del Sol’s feet, regained control, and threw Del Sol over the ropes and onto the apron. There, Del Sol executed an apron enzuigiri on Archer. Archer stumbled backward, and Del Sol mounted the top turnbuckle and dove off. Amazingly, Archer smacked Del Sol out of the sky like he was playing Duck Hunt with a gun-shaped forearm, and Del Sol looked thoroughly and utterly ruined. The crowd burst into applause for Archer’s impressive offense, and Archer looked around bemused. (I’m not sure if he was soaking up the audience’s adulation or confused as to why such evil antics would elicit such an unusual response.) Archer shook off the crowd’s enthusiasm, grabbed Del Sol, and threw the smaller man out of the ring.
Archer seemingly decided, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and gave in to the crowd’s cheers. He started a rhythmic clap while looking out at the audience, and they excitedly joined in. Archer then signaled for a tope suicida, and the crowd popped big time. Archer nodded in acknowledgment of what the crowd wanted, backed up, ran into the opposite rope, and stopped dead in his tracks to mock the crowd for thinking he would entertain the idea of entertaining them. Finally, he got the boos he’d been looking for. (He understood the assignment.)
“Archer likes to launch people; he doesn’t like to fly,” Wight said, forgetting everything we know about Archer’s most recent injury.
Archer stepped over the top rope and hopped down to the floor. He splayed Del Sol across the steel barricade and slammed an open-handed chop into Del Sol’s chest. The sound was deafening, and the crowd “ooo’d.” While Del Sol checked to make sure his heart hadn’t fallen out of his butthole, Archer rolled into the ring to break up the referee’s 10-count and immediately rolled back out. Archer held up a finger and asked the crowd if they wanted to see a second chop. The crowd roared with delight, and some fans got to their feet. Archer backed Del Sol into a different steel barricade, nodded at the encouraging fans, pulled back his hand, and tossed Del Sol into the ring. (There’s an old saying in Texas. It goes fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice — you can’t get fooled again.)
Archer climbed over the top ring rope and into the ring. While he was doing this, Del Sol nailed him with a dropkick midway through, but Archer didn’t so much as blink; he just continued stepping over the ropes. Del Sol then nailed Archer with a hard chop, and Archer looked at Del Sol like he was an unknown number he couldn’t be bothered to answer.
Del Sol attempted a springboard splash, but Archer caught him by his throat and held him several feet off the ground. (Thank God they got the timing right on that one because it looked dangerous.) Archer kept Del Sol in the air, held up only by his throat, and marched him into the upstage left corner. Once there, Archer sat Del Sol on the top rope and went for a Blackout. However, Del Sol tried to counter Archer’s Blackout by clocking him atop his skull, and when that didn’t work, Del Sol bit Archer’s forehead! Archer stumbled forward, holding his bitten forehead. (Did you know that getting bitten by a human calls for a tetanus shot? I didn’t either, but apparently, it does!)
Del Sol leaped off the turnbuckles and went for another tornado IDK because once again, the DDT part got blocked. Archer hoisted Del Sol’s Serpentico-like body into the air for a vertical suplex. Archer followed up his vertical suplex with a chokeslam so big it registered on the Richter scale.
“That’s a huge chokeslam,” Wight said. “And I’m kind of an authority on those.”
Archer picked up Del Sol’s trodden body and performed a decisive Blackout. Archer covered Del Sol, hooking his leg, and the referee counted to three.
WINNER: Archer in 3:00
(David’s Analysis: It was nice seeing Archer get to have a longer match on Dark Elevation. Archer’s monstrous character was strengthened by this match despite Del Sol lasting a whole three minutes with the “Murder Hawk” — and honestly, he wasn’t “lasting” so much as Archer was “allowing.” I also enjoyed how quickly Archer thought on his feet, read the room, did whatever it took to get the crowd to boo him. Also… the closed captions kept saying “Murder Hog” instead of “Murder Hawk,” and it sent me.)
– After the match, Archer leaned over the ropes to leer at a ringside camera. He looked crazed, daunting, and like he might be standing right behind you.
(6) LEYLA HIRSCH vs. WILLOW NIGHTINGALE
This also has the potential to be a good match. Leyla Hirsch is improving by leaps and bounds, and her heel turn is a perfect extension of her existing character. I’m also surprised they haven’t done more with Willow Nightingale. They’re looking to strengthen their women’s division, and Nightingale has done a lot on the indie scene. She has experience repping smaller promotions and is a three-time NYWS Starlets Champion and has held tag titles in both Queens of Combat and Chikara. Also, she managed to make Brandi look good!
Hirsch came out first and strutted down the ramp with kind of the malice you’d expect from someone who’d just popped all the balloons at a disabled child’s birthday party. Hirsch cracked her nails on the way to the ring, and once she was in the ring, she stared down her opponent, Nightingale. (Since I already blew my allotment of pre-match blabber hyping up Nightingale, I’ll just skip straight to the action.)
Nightingale went for a collar and elbow tie-up, but Hirsch side-stepped her with the smirk of someone who may or may not have raised all the toilet seats in the women’s bathroom. Nightingale pounced a second time and caught Hirsch with a side headlock. Hirsch fought her way free and whipped Nightingale across the ring. However, Nightingale rebounded into Hirsch with a shoulder tackle.
Hirsch crashed to the ground, and Nightingale celebrated with a brief Guerrero-shimmy. That momentary celebration was all it took for Hirsch to find her bearings and knee Nightingale in the stomach. Hirsch Irish whipped Nightingale, but Nightingale escaped via cartwheel. Annoyed, Hirsch dropkicked Nightingale mid-cartwheel! Hirsch then backed Nightingale into the stage right ring ropes, wrapped Nightingale’s left arm around the top rope, and hammered her chest with a hard forearm. Nightingale collapsed the moment she was released.
Hirsch shoved Nightingale into the upstage left turnbuckles, trapped her there, held onto the ropes, and planted three shoulder blocks into Nightingale’s stomach. Hirsch then sent an ailing Nightingale into the opposite corner and nailed her with a running forearm. Before Nightingale could even process the pain she was in, Hirsch swept her legs out from under her. Hirsch then posed for the crowd with the pride of a roommate waking you up five minutes sooner than you’d asked.
Hirsch did a celebratory forward roll, held out her arms again, and then attempted a Meteora onto Nightingale. However, Nightingale used Hirsch’s untimely showboating to recover and evaded Hirsch’s incoming offense. Hirsch collided with the turnbuckles, getting only a small sliver of what she deserved, and Nightingale walloped Hirsch across the chest with a clothesline. Nightingale attempted a second Irish whip, but Hirsch countered yet again, and Nightingale escaped Hirsch’s counter with another cartwheel. Hirsch ran at Nightingale with a clothesline, but Nightingale ducked, and Hirsch looked horrified and aghast like just she’d seen a puppy.
Nightingale applied a waistlock before whipping Hirsch into the ropes and grounding her with a shoulder tackle. Nightingale celebrated while Hirsch propped herself up on the bottom turnbuckle in the downstage left corner. Nightingale then ran the full length of the ring to deliver a colossal running cannonball.
“Nice cannonball!” Wight said. “Now pull her to the center of the ring and make the cover!”
Due to physics, Nightingale was unable to hear Wight’s advice and decided to position Hirsch for a moonsault instead. With Hirsch in place, Nightingale ascended the ropes and leaped off. However, Hirsch rolled away at the last second, and Nightingale plummeted to the canvas. Hirsch got up and smirked like she’d just slashed the tires of an ice cream truck. Hirsch then hit Nightingale with a running knee strike, pulled Nightingale to the mat, and slapped on an armbar. Nightingale tapped out.
WINNER: Hirsch in 2:00
(David’s Analysis: Hirsch is quite entertaining as a heel. I love her facial expressions! Half the time, she looks like someone who spikes drinks with battery acid, and the other half of the time, she looks like someone who used up all the ink in a Xerox machine on butts.)
– After the match, the referee raised Hirsch’s hand, and Hirsch posed with the unfounded confidence of a man letting his kids use sidewalk chalk in someone else’s driveway.
(7) CHAOS PROJECT (Luther & Serpentico) vs. DARK ORDER (Stu Grayson & Evil Uno)
Chaos Project (one of my favs) came out first and used the heel tunnel for some reason. (They were probably just trying to clear up traffic for Dark Order’s entrance.) Serpentico began to walk to the ring, but Luther grabbed his mask by the … ear? (Do masks have ears?). Luther then recklessly tossed Serpentico into the ring, and the cycle of abuse continues to continue. *sigh*
Once in the ring, Serpentico released his Spiderman-like streamers, and once again, Luther tried to eat them.
“You know what I heard?” Henry asked. “I heard today is Serpentico’s birthday! Maybe they’ll let him —”
“— not a chance,” Schiavone interrupted.
Dark Order (represented by Stu Grayson and Evil Uno) came out next. Uno looked preciously dignified on his way down the ramp. (It was so adorbs.) I’m not huge on Dark Order as a whole, but I definitely like these two. In the ring, Grayson and Uno put their paws up in support of Lady Gaga, who did not win a SAG award this week, and we should mourn that.
Serpentico and Grayson started off the match. Serpentico puffed up his chest, stuck out his chin, and marched forward like the grown-up big boy he is. (Grayson watched this spectacle with just the right amount of befuddlement.) Serpentico continued sizing up Grayson and motioned to the crowd to indicate he wanted to attempt a bodyslam. Because it’s Serpentico’s birthday, Grayson shrugged and held out both arms so Serpentico could attempt to bodyslam him. Serpentico gleefully grabbed hold of Grayson’s torso and… did nothing. (Dammit.) Unable to lift Grayson, Serpentico decided to chop Grayson’s chest. He first “shhh-ed” the crowd so they could hear the violent sound of the chop, and the crowd simmered down to listen as Serpentico chopped Grayson’s chest — it sounded like a water balloon farted.
Frustrated that his WBF chop didn’t phase Grayson in the slightest, Serpentico turned to the referee, who I hope remembers it’s Serpentico’s BIRTHDAY, and he deserves special treatment. Serpentico then turned back toward Grayson, and Grayson lightly swatted Serpentico’s chest, knocking him unconscious.
Stu Grayson picked up Serpentico’s slight form, lifted him over his head for a press slam, and walked him over to Dark Order’s corner. Uno stuck both of his feet through the ring ropes, and Grayson dropped Serpentico’s fragile body onto Uno’s boots. (Birthday or no birthday — given the size difference, this does not seem fair.)
Grayson tagged in Uno, and Uno hit a pendulum backbreaker on Serpentico. Grayson then tagged himself back in and manhandled all ninety-four pounds of Serpentico, placing him on the ring apron. Then, with a mix of callous indifference and reckless abandon, Grayson performed a slingshot senton onto Serpentico’s recently back-broken body. Proud of being a bully, Grayson posed for the audience and did the Mother Monster hand thing again. Grayson was about to return to the ring, but Luther clotheslined him to the floor because he doesn’t like anyone hurting Serpentico except him. (Which is weird.)
Luther rolled Grayson back into the ring, and Serpentico covered him wholeheartedly, but Grayson kicked out at one because Serpentico is built like my six-year-old niece. Resigned to his shortcomings, Serpentico decided to tag in Luther.
“I don’t think there’s anyone like Luther in AEW,” Schiavone said.
“I don’t think there’s anyone like Luther in the world,” Henry said.
“Hey, now. He’s special,” Wight said. “He identifies mummies in Egypt; he works as a psychic for the police, and he speaks sixteen different languages!” (Impressive…)
Meanwhile, Luther (Ancient Egypt’s newly appointed wizard convoy to the United Nations) hooked Grayson’s leg and went for a cover, but Grayson kicked out at two.
“He has a degree in anthropology,” Wight continued. “He has a degree in astrology! He’s a master of haunted houses.” (Is it crack? Is that what you smoke? You smoke crack?)
Luther tagged in Serpentico, who got on all fours and called for a Poetry In Motion. (Oh, crap.) Luther ran toward Serpentico, jumped onto his back, and flattened him like an elephant falling from the sky. (I feel like I’m watching the world’s slowest snuff film, and I don’t like it.) Luther looked at Serpentico with surprise in his eyes because physics is surprising.
“He broke him!” Henry said. (His outrage justified.)
“That’s physics 101,” Wight said. (Stealing my shtick.)
Luther and Serpentico attempted a double clothesline on Grayson, but Grayson ducked underneath them, popped back up, and executed a double Pele kick. Grayson tagged in Uno. Uno rammed a back elbow into Luther, which seemed fair because they’re similar in size, and then clotheslined Serpentico, which seemed excessive because his bones are made of porcelain. Uno continued to alternate between fair and unfair offense by pump-kicking Luther and bodyslamming poor Serpentico on his birthday. However, Serpentico landed on his feet! (There is a God!) Luther accidentally clotheslined him into an out-of-body experience. (And he hates me.)
Uno hit Luther with another pump kick, sending him to the apron. He then ascended the turnbuckles and performed a high-angle top rope senton bomb onto Serpentico.
“Happy birthday!” Wight quipped. (This is not funny! Serpentico matters.)
Luther covered Serpentico and hooked his leg. Yet, despite everything, this brave, pitiable soul refused to stay down and instead kicked out at two. Uno tagged in Grayson and the two double-teamed poor Serpentico by tossing him onto Grayson’s shoulders and executing a sitout powerbomb.
“They’re just rag dolling him all over the place,” Schiavone said. (Stop acting like this is funny! Serpentico is a victim of abuse. We need to come together, reach across the aisle, and do something about it. Is there a ribbon I can wear? Ribbons fix stuff.)
Grayson went for a cover, but Luther broke things up at one. Uno then responded by kicking Luther’s midsection and attempting to Irish whip him. However, Luther reversed the Irish whip and clocked Uno with an enzuigiri.
“Very athletic,” Wight said.
Uno rolled out of the ring, and Grayson ran toward Luther. However, Luther used Grayson’s own momentum against him to dole out a flapjack slam and then used Serpentico as a battering ram. (Why?) With Grayson rammed and Serpentico battered, Luther draped Serpentico across Grayson’s body, and the referee dropped to the mat to count. However, despite it being Serpentico’s birthday, Grayson kicked out at two, and Luther screeched.
“What language is he speaking right now?” Schiavone asked.
“I’m thinking he’s speaking Tibetan,” Wight answered. (Really? OMG, that’s impressive. Which dialect?)
Luther charged at Grayson, and Grayson grabbed the top rope, pulled it down, and allowed Luther’s own force to propel him out of the ring. Grayson tagged in Uno and then executed a stunning summersault plancha onto Luther at ringside. Uno tried to trap Serpentico in a waistlock, but Serpentico executed a standing switch; he then attempted a roll-up. However, Serpentico could not pin Uno because Uno rolled all the way through. Ever the clever fighter, Serpentico popped back up to his feet and superkicked Uno.
Serpentico then ran into the ropes and attempted a Lethal Injection, but Uno caught him mid-air. As Grayson climbed to the top turnbuckle, Uno hoisted poor Serpentico onto his back. Together, Dark Order executed their Fatality finisher on poor, poor Serpentico. Uno covered Serpentico, and the referee counted to three… on Serpentico’s birthday.
WINNER: Dark Order (Stu Grayson & Evil Uno) in 5:00
(David’s Analysis: I loved this match, but I don’t know if everyone will. This match was full of comedic spots and over-the-top acting. If you’re like me and enjoy that sort of thing, you’ll love this match; if that kind of thing annoys you, you’ll hate it. It was also really interesting to learn so much about Luther. Here I thought he was some lifelong wrestler trained in the Hart dungeon when he’s actually a polyglot and smart enough to know what that word means! And he’s magic! — Oh, and happy birthday to Serpentico! Stay alive this year.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: While I enjoyed Chaos Project vs. Dark Order very much, this week’s match of the night goes to Kazarian vs. Angels. Both men put on a fantastic display of athleticism and exceeded my already high expectations. If you only have time to watch one match, watch that one. If you have time to watch two matches, check out Chaos Project vs. Dark Order, and if you have time to watch three matches, check out Team LMK vs. Team Guerrero.
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, don’t invade sovereign countries to overthrow democratically elected governments. God bless the people of Ukraine.