SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
AEW DARK ELEVATION REPORT
MAY 2, 2022
TAPED 4/27 IN PHILADELPHIA, PA.
AIRED ON YOUTUBE.COM
REPORT BY DAVID BRYANT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentators: Paul Wight & Mark Henry
Ring Announcer: Justin Roberts
– I want to start this week’s report with something unrelated to AEW Dark Elevation. Earlier today, The Bunny made a series of posts about mental health and living with anxiety. As someone who also lives with mental health issues and is too insecure to reveal those details publicly, I am awed by The Bunny’s display of courage. I know I’ve dragged her in-ring technical skills in the past, but I always strive to give credit where credit is due. So, to The Bunny, I say thank you. Your tweets today made me feel less alone, and I imagine it made a lot of other people feel less alone.
Before I derail this whole article, I want to say just one more thing about Mental Health Awareness Month. While I don’t yet have the forthcoming courage The Bunny has, I’d like to stress that it is astonishing how often we overlook just how much better the world could be if we all agreed it should be.
-Tonight’s AEW Dark Elevation taping emanated from The Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pa. I had the privilege of visiting Philadelphia this past summer and have more good things to say about this city than I could possibly fit into a report. If you visit, set aside at least two days to check out the newly built Museum of the American Revolution; take the time to watch the 360-degree live theatrical production at the Constitution Center, and set aside an evening to dine at Sassafras. Sassafras is an unassuming pub, but their sirloin burgers are one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I’d also like to recommend the Sosuite Penthouse at Independence Lofts; it’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed, and I’ll upload some pictures to my twitter account to accompany this recommendation. (You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram: @IamDavidBryant)
– Julia Hart’s music played as Paul Wight introduced the show.
“Thank you for joining us for another exciting night of Dark Elevation!” Wight said. “I’m your host, Paul Wight, joined by “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry.” (Wight is good at this. He should play the part of hypeman more often.
(1) JULIA HART vs. ABBY JANE
National Cheer Champion turned cheerleading pirate Julia Hart came out with her hands behind her back and mascara running down the left side of her face like half of her had been dumped, and the other half was too callous to care.
Hart’s opponent, Abby Jane, was already waiting in the ring. She smiled like her lips were being pulled back by fish hooks and waved with the enthusiasm of someone who put a little too much pep in their rally. (Yet, somehow, it works for her, and I love it.)
“Abby looks like the girl next door,” Henry said.
“She looks like she got a nice funky attitude,” Wight said.
Hart lounged in the downstage right corner as the bell rang, staring at her opponent like a hawk watching a mouse.
Jane seemed to want to start with a collar and elbow tie-up, but the moment Jane got within striking distance, Hart kicked her in the gut! Hart grabbed Jane’s hair and slammed her to the mat. Jane grabbed Hart’s leg and attempted a roll-up but only got a one-count.
Jane attempted a spinning clothesline, but Hart ducked underneath it, caught Jane with an STO, and executed a standing moonsault. Hart then pounded away at Jane’s back as her newfound sadism bled through her smiling face.
Hart slammed Jane’s skull into the upstage left turnbuckles and forced her into the scarecrow position. Hart then chopped Jane with two heartless (Hartless? Nah. Too corny.) open-handed chops. Hart smirked and shoved her boot into Jane’s throat, choking her against the top turnbuckle.
“She used to be such a nice girl,” Henry said, commenting on Hart.
“Keyword there is ‘used to be,’” Wight said. “As in, ‘We used to be skinny.’”
Hart pulled Jane out of the corner and clobbered her jaw with two forearms. Jane attempted a comeback, nailing Hart with numerous forearms of her own; however, Hart no-sold the offense like a miser. Jane ran into the ropes, rebounded toward Hart, and Hart caught her with a double throat punch. Jane staggered like a drunkard into the downstage left corner and used the turnbuckles to hold herself upright.
Hart granted Jane no reprieve and executed a somersault clothesline followed by a rope-assisted, running hip attack. Hart then seized her already defeated opponent and raked her face across the top ring rope. Hart then executed her Splitting Bulldog finisher (which did not go all that great). Hart covered Jane, hooked Jane’s leg, and picked up the win.
WINNER: Hart in 2:00
(David’s Analysis: This wasn’t much of a match, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to emphasize Hart’s slow descent into a hate-stained, malice-infested abyss from which nothing returns. In that respect, the match was a success. However, that Splitting Bulldog at the end was rough.)
– After the match, Hart walked up the rampway backward, stared at the camera, and sliced an Undertaker-like thumb across her throat.
– An advert for Double or Nothing aired, and I’ll be off traveling in New Orleans that day, so my hotel room better have banging wifi because I plan to stream this event even if I have to watch the whole thing on my phone!
(2) ANTHONY OGOGO vs. GOLDY
Sepia-colored images of Anthony Ogogo wearing a “Peaky Blinders” cap filled our TV screens, followed by a close-up of the national flag of the United Kingdom. (It’s interesting how you never see British wrestlers use the English flag. The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom, but it was created in 1801 due to the founding of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Because of this, the flag is a combination of the English flag superimposed upon the flag of St. Patrick’s Saltire. However, Ireland rejected St. Patrick’s Saltire as its flag, and the flag is now used by Northern Ireland, and therefore — You know what? I am so far off track, I don’t even know how I got here, and I want to go home.) The stage itself lit up with the colors of the Union Jack as a cameraman followed Ogogo out of the heels’ tunnel. Ogogo stalked to the ring where his opponent, Goldy, awaited defeat.
“I give it to Goldy — He’s got some nice biceps,” Wight said, “and he’s gonna need ‘em.”
The bell rang, and Ogogo and Goldy circled one another before jumping into a collar and elbow tie-up. Ogogo got the best of the tie-up and shoved Goldy into the downstage left turnbuckles. However, instead of chopping, kicking, or forearming Goldy, Ogogo backed up toward the center of the ring and made a “come get some” motion with his hands.
Goldy tried to assail Ogogo, but Ogogo caught him in a headlock and yanked him to the mat. Ogogo held onto the headlock and began wrenching his arm.
“Look how he’s grinding on that headlock,” Henry said.
“Goldy’s head is turning pink,” Wight added. “I appreciate the execution.”
Goldy muscled his way back to his feet, ran into the ropes, and used the thrust of the ropes to force Ogogo to break the headlock. Ogogo ran the ropes and rebounded toward Goldy with an effective shoulder block takedown. Ogogo scooped up Goldy like he weighed less than a scoop of ice cream and bodyslammed him. Goldy crawled his way into the downstage left turnbuckles and pulled himself up. Ogogo grabbed Goldy’s arm and whipped him across the ring so hard he’s lucky his shoulder didn’t go out of joint.
When Goldy reached the opposite corner, Ogogo sprinted toward him, but Goldy used the corner ring ropes to leapfrog Ogogo. Unlike most wrestlers, Ogogo understands physics, and so he stopped himself from crashing into the unforgiving turnbuckles. Ogogo turned around and lurched toward Goldy, but Goldy caught him with two well-executed arm drags.
“Nice arm drag by Goldy,” Wight said. “Nice and deep — whoa.”
Ogogo plunged a rising knee strike into Goldy’s stomach, and Goldy flipped over Ogogo’s leg, crashing to the mat.
“Aaaand, Ogogo said enough of that,” Wight quipped.
Goldy sat slumped in the middle of the right as Ogogo paced behind him. Ogogo then ran forward and punt kicked Goldy’s spine. Ogogo lounged on the ropes, smiled, and walked to downstage ropes facing the hard camera. Ogogo mounted the downstage ropes and leered at those watching at home.
“That’s something he never got to do in a boxing ring,” Wight said. “He never got to play to the crowd. That’s what makes our sport so much more unique.” (This statement does not reflect the views of David Bryant, PWTorch, or people in general.)
Ogogo pulled Goldy up, slugged him with a back elbow, and knocked him down again. Once more, Ogogo forced Goldy back to his feet. (OMG! Just pin the poor guy. He looks like a walking shell of a human being! This isn’t the Walking Dead.) Ogogo delivered two uppercuts in the downstage left corner and then floored Goldy with an uppercut in the middle of the ring.
Ogogo unwrapped the tape from his right hand while shouting unkind things at the audience.
“This is not good,” Henry said. “He’s going bare-knuckle!”
“Uh-oh,” Wight said. “Someone’s gonna get a bone sandwich.”
Ogogo performed a pop-up punch, and Goldy crumbled like dead weight. Without doing a 10-count, the referee stopped the match because she determined Goldy could not continue. (Again… for emphasis… she did this without doing a 10-count.)
WINNER: Ogogo in 3:00
(David’s Analysis: Like the first match, this wasn’t much of a fight, but it served its purpose. I really wish the referee had counted to ten before declaring the match could not continue. I mean, I know they do this in other sports, but think about how many times we’ve seen wrestlers get “knocked unconscious,” and yet the match continued? Now, I’m not saying we should be dragging Candice Michelle around the ring like she’s a rag doll, but this match has to exist in the same world in which MJF consistently knocks opponents unconscious before pinning them. Still, other than that small complaint, everyone played their parts perfectly.)
– After the match, Ogogo draped a Union Jack flag over Goldy’s unconscious body.
– A fairly entertaining advert for Dynamite aired, and it was narrated by snippets of audio taken from a CM Punk promo. The video production guys did a great job with this and should be commended for helping convince Dark Elevation viewers to consider giving Dynamite a try.
(3) RHETT TITUS vs. KONOSUKE TAKESHITA
Konosuke Takeshita came out of the faces’ tunnel. (Wouldn’t everyone use that tunnel? Who actually wakes up in the morning thinking they’re the baddies?)
“Look at the shoulders on him. This kid is a star,” Wight said. “I love looking at him.”
Takeshita posed on the turnbuckles and pointed to the crowd as Justin Roberts announced his opponent, Rhett Titus. Titus was already in the ring (and we all know what that means).
Takeshita and Titus shook hands.
“A lot of respect right there,” Henry said.
Both men sprang into a collar and elbow tie-up.
“Takeshita is all about respect until you cross the line,” Wight said. “Then he’s gonna fire you up!”
Titus applied a hammerlock and then executed a Hammerlock takedown, pulling Takeshita over his back in the process. Takeshita countered by trapping Titus in a headscissors headlock. Titus managed to shrug Takeshita off while keeping hold of Takeshita’s arm. Takeshita wrapped his legs around Titus’s and forced Titus onto his stomach. Takeshita then pulled both of them back to their vertical bases. (“Vertical Base” always sounds strange to me. It sounds like something you’d steal in a sideways baseball game.)
Takeshita applied a wristlock, and Titus countered with a wristlock of his own. Titus then hoisted Takeshita onto his shoulders and executed a kneeling fireman’s carry. Before Titus could stand up, Takeshita wrapped him in another headscissors headlock. Titus grabbed Takeshita’s legs and rolled him onto his stomach, pulling his legs back and trapping him in a submission hold. However, Takeshita instantly escaped, placed Titus in a waistlock, and both men struggled to their feet.
Titus fought off Takeshita’s waistlock with multiple back elbows to the jaw and ran the ring ropes. Takeshita stopped Titus in his tracks by hitting him with a superkick out of nowhere. Takeshita capitalized on his surprise attack with a swift DDT.
“Oh!” Wight exclaimed. “Now that’s a DDT!”
Takeshita went for a pin, but Titus kicked out at one. (Really? At one? Wow.)
“That would have been more than a one-count in my bank,” Wight said.
Titus pulled himself into the scarecrow position in the downstage left corner, and Takeshita ran toward him, clocking his jaw with a high running boot. Titus teetered into the center of the ring, and Takeshita followed him, going for a high stomp which Titus dodged. Titus then seized Takeshita and executed a back body drop.
“Big, high backdrop by Titus,” Wight said.
Titus tossed Takeshita into the ropes and caught his rebounding body with a forearm across the back. When this proved effective, Titus repeated the maneuver, running Takeshita into the stage left ring ropes and, once again, caught him on the rebound with another forearm. Titus then grabbed Takeshita’s waist and performed a sidewalk slam. Titus followed this with a falling axe-handle and a cover; however, Takeshita kicked out at two.
Titus slugged Takeshita across his back and trapped him in an abdominal stretch. Titus then picked Takeshita up while keeping hold of the aforementioned abdominal stretch.
“Innovative offense by Titus,” Wight said.
Holding onto the abdominal stretch, Titus executed an… abdominal-stretch-tilt-a-whirl-side-walk-slam? I think? Maybe?
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that bomb,” Henry said.
Titus covered Takeshita, but that impressive offense was still only good enough to get him a two-count. The director cut to a close-up of Titus and Takeshita. Titus looked frustrated, and Takeshita looked in vast amounts of pain.
“This Titus guy is an encyclopedia of wrestling moves,” Wight said. “I wonder if he’s ever had a date?”
Titus stood over a kneeling Takeshita and nailed him in the face with a forearm. Takeshita fought his way back to his feet, grabbed hold of Titus’s person, and executed a Blue Thunder Bomb. Takeshita went for the cover but was only able to get a two-count. Both men willed themselves back to their feet and began engaging in a forearm exchange.
“Oh, we got a little bit of back and forth, right here,” Henry said.
Takeshita tried to whip Titus into the ropes, but Titus held onto his wrist for a short-arm reversal. Titus then executed a belly-to-belly suplex on Takeshita. Titus covered Takeshita, but again, the referee only got to two. (The audience applauded.)
Titus hit Takeshita with two knife-edge chops, ran into the downstage ring ropes, and attempted a clothesline; however, Takeshita ducked. Takeshita grabbed Titus in a waistlock and performed a high-angled release German suplex that looked both spectacular and slightly terrifying.
“He went real deep around the waist and sent him flying,” Wight said.
Takeshita and Titus ran the ropes; Titus attempted a clothesline, and Takeshita evaded it. Takeshita rebounded off the ring ropes and plunged into Titus with a running, rising knee strike. Takeshita covered Titus, hooked Titus’s leg, and scored the pinfall.
WINNER: Takeshita in 5:00
(David’s Analysis: Good match! Actually, this was a borderline great match. I hope they not only feature Takeshita on AEW’s nationally televised shows but also tell his story. This guy is really enjoyable to watch, but a well-told story makes the difference between enjoyable and accessible. I hope AEW chooses to make this enjoyable athlete accessible to their audience.)
– After the match, both men stood mid-ring and shook hands.
(4) CHEESEBURGER vs. TONY NESE (w/Mark Sterling)
Tony Nese’s music swelled as he sauntered out of the heels’ tunnel with Mark Sterling in tow. Nese unzipped his jacket and revealed abs that looked like an alien was about to burst from his stomach. (Those have to be hellacious to land on.) Nese and Sterling walked down the ramp side-by-side. Once at ringside, Nese hopped onto the apron, faced the hard camera, threw out his arms, and flexed his abs. (Are we sure there’s not a point in which a body part becomes a foreign object?) Nese made his pecs dance.
Nese’s opponent, Cheeseburger, was already in the ring. The local crowd seemed very familiar with Cheeseburger and popped for him when he raised his hand. (Sadly, I don’t think any of those fans will be having a Happy Meal tonight…)
“I wasn’t expecting that reaction!” Henry exclaimed.
“I wasn’t expecting that reaction either…” Wight said. “Listen to the crowd chanting ‘Cheeseburger.’” (The crowd was chanting Cheeseburger almost as loudly as they chant ‘CM Punk.’)
Nese and Cheeseburger locked up in a collar and elbow tie-up. Nese immediately got the better of the tie-up and launched Cheeseburger into the upstage right corner. Nese then got up in Cheeseburger’s personal space and John-Silvered in his face. Cheeseburger rolled his eyes and shoved Nese back into the center of the ring. Nese and Cheeseburger then went for a test of strength. (Lean Beef vs. Beefcake, I guess.) Beefcake kicked Lean Beef in the stomach, and he doubled over.
Nese slammed a forearm into Cheeseburger’s face, and Cheeseburger stumbled into the downstage left corner, laying heaped against the second rope. Nese then smashed Cheeseburger’s head into the top turnbuckle before whipping him into the opposite corner. (The crowd was booing SO loudly. Like, OMG.) Nese darted toward Cheeseburger, but Cheeseburger lunged through the center of Nese’s legs and rolled out the other side.
“I don’t think Tony Nese has ever had a cheeseburger,” Wight said.
Cheeseburger grabbed Nese in a Greco Roman knuckle lock, kicked the back of Nese’s thigh, leapfrogged Nese, crawled under Nese, grabbed Nese’s wrists, and punched Nese in the guts. (That all happened every bit as quickly as it read!) Cheeseburger applied a modified abdominal stretch on Nese, and by modified, I mean — Nese was bent over, Cheeseburger was standing on his back, pulling Nese’s left arm upward using his calf, and pulling his right arm upward using his hands. (Wow.)
“Wow!” Henry said. “Look at… I’ve never, ever seen this, Paul!” (Henry’s normally baritone voice just raised several octaves.)
The crowd was roaring with delight at Cheeseburger’s successful… (What’s the name of that move?)
“I’ve seen it, but I don’t know what to call it!” Wight said. (IDK, but I’m going with Curly Fries.)
The crowd roared in delight as Cheeseburger applied his signature Curly Fries to a man who doesn’t know what curly fries are. Cheeseburger took Nese to the mat, Nese squirmed his way out of Cheeseburger’s submission hold, and Cheeseburger leaped back to his feet with a pop-up. (The crowd clapped.)
“Now you see why he got that reaction,” Wight said.
“Man,” Henry said. “I’m a fan now.”
“I was a fan the moment I heard the word Cheeseburger,” Wight said.
Nese hit Cheeseburger with a throat thrust, and that took Cheeseburger to his knees. Nese grabbed Cheeseburger’s head, jumped over the top rope, went to the floor, and stunned Cheeseburger on the ropes in the process. Nese stalked around ringside, posing for the audience. (The crowd’s “Cheeseburger” chants are deafening, RN!)
Nese climbed back into the ring and ran at Cheeseburger, but Cheeseburger jumped out of the way, and Cheeseburger collided with the turnbuckles. Cheeseburger began to ascend the top rope, and Sterling shouted a warning from ringside. Sterling’s alert seemed to pay off as Nese spied Cheeseburger and caught him with a rising European uppercut. Cheeseburger fell across the corner ring ropes, and Nese planted his foot into Cheeseburger’s ribcage. Nese then picked Cheeseburger up onto his shoulders in the fireman’s carry position and executed a gutbuster on Cheeseburger. Nese covered Cheeseburger but only got a two-count.
“Did you hear the crowd react to Cheeseburger kicking out?” Wight asked.
Nese put Cheeseburger in a bodyscissors, and the crowd began chanting “Cheeseburger” even louder than before.
“Listen to the crowd chanting ‘Cheeseburger,’” Wight said. They want him to pull off a miracle.”
Cheeseburger hit Nese with a back elbow.
“Fight, Cheeseburger! Fight!” Wight exclaimed.
Cheeseburger hit Nese with two more elbows, and Nese released his bodyscissors leg hold. Nese grabbed Cheeseburger in a waistlock, and Cheeseburger clocked him with three more back elbows, causing Nese to release the hold. Cheeseburger applied a wrenching wristlock and executed an arm-ringer. Nese tried to regain control of the match by whipping Cheeseburger, but his arm (the one that was just wrung) gave out, and Nese held his shoulder.
Cheeseburger executed a springboard flying elbow, taking Nese down. Nese pulled himself up by the ring ropes, and Cheeseburger delivered what the announcers called a “Cheeseburger slap,” but I don’t think that is what it’s actually called. I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m going with Greasy Spatula Face-Slam. Nese fell to the mat, Cheeseburger covered Nese, and the crowd chanted along as Cheeseburger got a two-count. (This crowd is gonna be so mad in a minute or two.)
Cheeseburger attempted a sunset flip, but Nese rolled through and hit Cheeseburger with a spinning heel kick. Cheeseburger crawled his way into the upstage left corner and pulled himself into a seated position. Nese ran the ropes, rebounded toward Cheeseburger, and executed his Running Nese finisher. Nese covered Cheeseburger, hooked Cheeseburger’s leg, and picked up the win.
WINNER: Nese (w/Mark Sterling) in 5:00
(David’s Analysis: Cheeseburger is entertaining and more over than McDonald’s. The crowd’s vociferous and incessant cheering of Cheeseburger made this match feel special. I hope Khan has Cheeseburger back.)
– After the match, Nese got the loudest boos he’s probably ever received in his life. Holy crap. Run, Nese, run!
(5) WILLOW NIGHTINGALE vs. GIA SCOTT
The stage turned a periwinkle purple, and Willow Nightingale’s name filled the overhead screens. Nightingale literally skipped her way down the ramp as she waved at the fans.
“You talk about a bundle of excitement and energy — that’s Willow Nightingale,” Wight said.
“How can you not just smile when you see her come through the curtain?” Henry asked.
Nightingale ran around the ring, arms raised and hair bouncing. (She really does look confident and ready to impress tonight.) Nightingale’s opponent, Gia Scott, was already in the ring. (Scott has a great looked tonight — very professional and intimidating.) The bell rang, and Nightingale and Scott dove into a collar and elbow tie-up.
“Nice aggressive collar and elbow tie-up,” Wight said.
Nightingale backed Scott into the upstage right corner; however, the referee insisted she break things up. The moment Nightingale broke things up, Scott flagitiously grabbed Nightingale’s shoulders, spun around, and threw Nightingale into the corner. Scott clobbered Nightingale with repeated forearms to the face and chest before whipping her toward the opposite corner. However, Nightingale cartwheeled out of Scott’s whip and ended up in the middle of the ring.
Scott ran toward Nightingale and yelped as Nightingale picked her up and executed a bodyslam. Nightingale performed a rolling senton on Scott, ran the ropes, and executed a running crossbody block on a still seated Scott. Scott tottered to her feet and doubled over, blindly stumbling. Nightingale hit Scott with a running clothesline. Scott went down, got back up, and went back down again when Nightingale hit her with yet another running clothesline.
Both women ran the ropes; Nightingale avoided a clothesline from Scott and collided with Scott in the middle of the ring, taking her down. Scott rolled into the downstage left corner and sat in a hunched position, holding the ropes to keep herself from falling over completely. Nightingale rallied the crowd and pulled the straps down on her singlet. (She had another top on underneath.) Nightingale ran toward Scott and executed a running cannonball worthy of Kevin Owens himself.
Nightingale pulled Scott into the middle of the ring, placed her in a waistlock, and executed a gutwrench powerbomb. Nightingale went for the cover, the referee dropped to the mat, and Nightingale won with a three-count.
WINNER: Nightingale in 77 seconds
(David’s Analysis: This was a squash, so there isn’t a ton to say about it, but it’s good to see AEW taking Nightingale more seriously, and it was nice seeing Scott return for the night.)
– After the match, Nightingale climbed the turnbuckles and waved at the crowd. The director then cut to a sign that read “Sign Willow Nightingale.” (I thought she was signed already… Is she not signed?)
(6) MAX CASTER (w/Anthony Bowens) vs. ZACK CLAYTON
Zack Clayton came out first. He had no entrance video and generic music but actually came out of the tunnels and was announced by Justin Roberts. (They should do this more often.) Roberts emphasized Clayton’s ties to the cast of Jersey Shore.
The stage lights then turned an obnoxious shade of pink, and infamous music antagonist Max Caster strolled out wearing a fur coat he stole from a leopard on mushrooms.
“Yo!” Caster said, making all the ladies’ skin crawl. “Listen! The Acclaimed is the best, if I’m being honest. I’ll blow this b*tch out of the water like I’m Lia Thomas.” (The more I look at that coat, the more I think Tiger Beat died in 2018, so Max Caster could wear its fur.)
“Burp-basket” Bowens pointed at the camera, and I felt personally violated.
“You know my raps been hitting,” Caster lied. “You should have sat on the bench like you’re Ben Simmons.” (None of this.)
The camera cut to audience members laughing because their only other option was to cry.
“I’m the guy you can’t disturb,” Caster said. (Well, I am disturbed.) “I’ll have you crapping yourself like Amber Heard. Your girl wishes you were Pauly D. She told us you have the smallest ‘D.’”
All of that was offensive, and not for the reasons Max Caster thinks.
Bowens grabbed Caster’s clownstick — I mean, microphone — and shouted, “PHILADELPHIA, THE ACCLAIMED HAVE ARRIVED!!!” as if the words were trying to strangle his throat from the inside out.
Bowens and Caster fingered each other in public.
“It’s gonna get weird,” Henry said. (Gonna?)
“Dildo-dumpster” Max Caster took off a jacket I’m pretty Scary Spice donated to a thrift store in 1999. He then entered into a collar and elbow tie-up with Clayton, and I can’t believe I’m rooting for someone from Jersey Shore. (I went to a prestigious arts conservatory; I learned to play four instruments, and now… here I am. I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve this, but it must have been awful.)
“Human petri-dish” Max Caster shifted to a side headlock, and I felt bad for Clayton’s head having to be so close to Caster’s pits. (You just know he wears Axe Body Spray to go along with his 1999 VMAs jacket.)
Clayton shoved Caster into the ropes and caught him on the rebound with a shoulder tackle. Clayton and Caster then ran the ropes, and Caster caught Clayton with a well-timed dropkick. Caster covered Clayton, but Clayton kicked out at one.
Caster pulled Clayton back to the mat with a headlock takeover, and Clayton instantly trapped Caster with headscissors to escape. Clayton stood, Caster popped up, and both men (well… more like one man and one frat boy) stared each other down. Max Caster made his scissors hand gesture in Clayton’s face, and Clayton rushed Caster in response. However, Caster plunged a knee into Clayton’s stomach.
Caster whipped Clayton toward the ropes, but Clayton reversed Caster’s whip and ran into Caster with a shoulder block takedown, yet somehow, someway, with the unfettered determination of the herpes simplex virus, Max Caster managed to immediately return to his feet and toss Clayton into the air with a backdrop.
Clayton swung a clothesline at Caster, but Caster ducked underneath Clayton’s arm and scooped Clayton up for a bell-to-back suplex. Caster scurried to the top rope, jumped off, and executed his Mic Drop finisher on Clayton. “Shroom-Tiger” Max Caster covered Clayton, hooked his leg, and picked up the win.
WINNER: Caster in 4:00
(David’s Analysis: I said last week that Caster should win more, so much to my chagrin, I am pleased by this outcome. The match felt short and one-sided, but they managed to make Caster’s victory meaningful by giving Clayton a full entrance. I hope Khan realizes what a treasure of an act he has on his hands with The Acclaimed. It takes a lot of work and a lot of talent to be as unbelievably obnoxious as these two are on a weekly basis.)
– After the match, Caster and Bowens fingered again, and it was hot okay. (NOT! It was not okay. Son of —)
“Is that what the kids are doing these days?” Henry asked. (No.)
(7) ANNA JAY & KRIS STATLANDER vs. EMI SAKURA & NYLA ROSE (w/Vickie Guerrero)
(WARNING: I am mildly biased in Emi Sakura’s favor, and I also make a totally normal amount of Vickie Guerrero fanart.)
Nyla Rose’s music played, and that can only mean one thing! A new Vickie Guerrero outfit! But first, the ever-lovely Emi Sakura (one of the best character actresses in all of AEW) swaggered out of the heels’ tunnel, looking like she’d just bathed in a bath of milk and honey in front of a starving orphan. Rose followed Sakura, and she had on an evil-looking (but totally awesome) mask that Alex Abrahantes could’ve really used these past few weeks when he was running around modeling Party City’s 2021 clearance sale collection.
Finally, having saved the best for last, out walked fashion icon Vickie Guerrero — the empress of evil, the mistress of mayhem, the consort of chaos, the dastard of Disney, the felon of Fraggle Rock — You know what? I’m gonna stop while I’m head.
Tonight, fashion icon Vickie Guerrero sported a Peruvian-tan shirt-dress with a plunging, Italian cut Johnny collar. Ms. Guerrero complimented this with strappy black heels and an understated golden necklace. (All jokes aside, this outfit, much like her outfit last week, was classy, age-appropriate, figure-complimenting, and something I would buy my mom to wear on a cruise. Kudos to whoever picked that. I mean it.)
Dark Order’s music played, and out walked Anna Jay. (Interestingly, Jay was not accompanied by a bevy of Dark Order members.) Jay stopped at the bottom of the rampway and waited. Kris Statlander’s new music hit. Menacing and dramatic teal colors filled the screens and a single bright-white spotlight illuminated the center of the stage. Statlander stepped into the center of the light, bent down, flipped her hair back, and stood upright again. Statlander then walked down the partially darkened rampway until she came to Jay’s side.
“She’s a long way from the andromeda-zone!” Henry said. (Is that like the Impact Zone but at parallel-Universal Studios?)
Statlander fist-bumped Jay and looked determined and ferocious, but she did not look evil. (I’m guessing this means her new character is going to be a face? So far, I’m into it. Everything about this new character is a vast improvement over her previous one. I also think it better complements her wrestling style.)
Jay and Sakura started things off, but Jay immediately took down Sakura with a headlock takeover. (No fair! She clearly wasn’t ready!) Sakura flailed but only for a second and responded to Jay with a skillfully applied headscissors headlock. Jay tried to kick out of the headscissors but was unable to. Sakura looked to her team’s corner as if to communicate something, but I couldn’t tell what. (She might have been getting strategic advice from Guerrero or Rose?) Jay pulled at Sakura’s wrist, and I thought for sure she was about to escape Sakura’s headscissors, but Sakura twisted free and applied the headscissors even tighter.
(Breaking character for a second and being entirely serious. The way Sakura milks every drop out of those headscissors and does so with aggressive yet gleeful facial expressions is exactly why I keep insisting she should be pushed higher up the card. I’m not saying she should be champion, but she’d make a great gatekeeper for up-and-coming babyfaces. She’s so much better in the ring than her short tag matches on Dark Elevation portend. If you don’t believe me, watch some of her matches in Japan. Khan has a gifted, veteran athlete on his roster, and she could be used at a much higher level to put over future megastars. Sorry for that rant; I just didn’t think it would fit in my “David’s Analysis section,” given I’ll probably have a lot to say after this match.)
“And Emi Sakura just playing around (with the headscissors), right now — playing games,” Wight said. “When you have the experience Sakura has, you can afford to play those little games.” (See, Wight gets it.)
Sakura allowed Jay to escape the headscissors but only so she could apply a wristlock instead. Sakura went for a backhanded short-arm clothesline, but Jay ducked underneath her swinging arm, and Sakura looked momentarily bewildered that she missed. Just as Sakura turned back around, Jay smashed a forearm into her chest, captured Sakura’s wrist, and tagged in Statlander.
Upon tagging Statlander, Jay threw Sakura to the ground with a snapmare, and Sakura set up, looking pained and terrified of what was about to hit her. What was about to hit her was Jay with a flipping neckbreaker and Statlander with a running elbow drop! Statlander covered Sakura, but Sakura kicked out at two.
Statlander pulled Sakura to her feet via a wristlock and attempted a bodyslam. However, Sakura managed to wriggle her way over Statlander’s shoulder and land on her feet behind Statlander. Sakura captured Statlander in a standing waistlock, and Statlander forced her way free with multiple back elbows. (RIP Sakura’s face.) Statlander tried to whip Sakura, but Sakura countered the whip by grabbing the top rope and shouting, “Noooooo!” Statlander tried to whip Sakura a second time, and for a second time, Sakura grabbed the top rope and shouted, “Noooooo!” (I am so entertained right now. This is just brilliant… “Noooooooo!”)
Statlander attempted a third whip, and Sakura cleverly countered this whip by scratching her nails down Statlander’s arm like she was trying to perform surgery without a knife. (Both women did a great job of selling this.) In frustrated agony, Statlander attempted to stomp Sakura’s foot, but Sakura sidestepped Statlander’s attempt. However, this foot-stomp attempt was enough to distract Sakura and allow Statlander to finally whip her across the ring. However, Sakura reversed the Irish whip, only for Statlander to reverse her reversal. Sakura then reversed Statlander’s reversal of Sakura’s earlier reversal and sent Statlander chest first into the stage right ring ropes.
Statlander tumbled backward, and Sakura hit her with a basement dropkick. Sakura then bulldozed Statlander into the heel team’s corner (Sakura will never be a heel in my heart) and tagged in Rose. Rose came out of the corner, looking every bit the “Native Beast” her nickname foreshadows.
Rose plunged two hard, energetic fists into Statlander’s gut, followed by another fist to Statlander’s chest. (The camera angle on this was perfect because it looked like Rose’s hands nearly disappeared into Statlander’s torso.) Statlander tried to fight back with three wild forearms, but the “Native Beast” was having none of it. Rose shook off Statlander’s frantic offense and violently slammed Statlander’s face into the top turnbuckle like she was trying to crush a bug on the inside of the back of Statlander’s skull.
Statlander looked as weathered as a storm, but Rose wasn’t finished yet. Rose pulled Statlander into a vertical suplex, executing it with merciless delight. Then, amazingly, defying what I thought were the laws of gravity, Rose rolled through the aforementioned vertical suplex, kept hold of Statlander’s body, and executed a SECOND vertical suplex onto Statlander. (If you’re watching this and aren’t enjoying it, IDK what to say. I guess everyone likes different stuff, but to me, this match slaps.) Rose went for a cover, but despite that incredible display of strength, she only got a two-count.
Rose wrenched Statlander up by her hair and, using only one hand, threw her into the stage right ring ropes. Statlander bounced off the ring ropes, and Rose went for a big boot; however, Statlander slid under Rose’s leg at the last minute and dropkicked Rose so hard she went tumbling halfway across the ring and landed in the face team’s corner.
Statlander tagged in Jay, who executed her signature running, spinning, Lady Legasusing leg lariat onto Rose’s “scarecrow-positioned” body. Rose wobbled out of the corner like the canvas was a funhouse floor. Statlander then climbed to the top turnbuckle, blew her hair out of her eyes, sized up Rose’s teetering position, and flew through the air, landing a crossbody block onto Rose.
Jay immediately followed Statlander’s crossbody with a running elbow drop and covered Rose; however, Jay only scored a one-count. (A ONE-COUNT? They almost murdered her? They were like two blows away from committing a crime. What will it take for the “Native Beast” to stay down?!)
Jay ran the ring ropes, and Alfred Dunner cover girl, Vickie Guerrero, picked Jay’s ankle, stopping her momentum. Jay turned around to bicker with Guerrero (which is not the wisest decision when you have an un-murderable beast in the ring with you). Jay stuck her head through the ropes to get into Guerrero’s pleasantly scowling face, and Sakura took exception to this, running down the apron and kicking Jay back into the ring. This was the point in the match where Jay turning her back on Rose proved to be a horrible miscalculation because Rose blasted her from behind with a body avalanche.
Jay crumbled to the floor, and Rose mud-stomped Jay’s chest. Then, Rose held onto the ropes and stood on Jay’s chest, exoing her endoskeleton in the process, I assume. Rose roared, and Guerrero turned toward the camera with the face of a beautiful rabies-infected cat. Guerrero snarled, pointed at Jay, and shouted something profoundly enlightening that I could not hear.
Rose slammed Jay’s entire body into the downstage left turnbuckles, hit her with a hip attack, and nailed her with a clothesline. Rose covered Jay, but Jay kicked out at two, and one of the more passionate fans (me) chanted, “Fight forever,” real quiet so as not to wake anyone up. Rose tagged in Sakura.
Statlander beat the top turnbuckle, bit her lip, and reached desperately to tag in Jay, but Rose made sure that would not happen. Rose picked Jay up like a boy at a bar and tagged in Sakura. (She did that with Jay still held sideways in her arms, mind you). Rose walked Jay to the middle of the ring and finally put her down on her knee in a less-than-cozy-looking backbreaker. Sakura ran the ropes, and Rose assisted her in gaining height for an elbow drop. Sakura covered the apparently kryptonited Lady Legasus, but to Sakura’s surprise (and mine), she kicked out! In fact, she kicked out at ONE! (Fight forever!!! but quietly because my six-year-old niece is sleeping.)
Sakura pushed Jay into the downstage right corner, and Jay pulled herself up into the scarecrow position. Sakura then began stomping and clapping, and the audience stomped and clapped along. (If you haven’t heard Sakura’s theme music, check it out on Apple Music. It contains Mercury, May, and Taylor’s timeless stomp-stomp-clap!) Sakura then turned that “stomp, stomp, clap” into her signature “stomp, stomp, chop!” (Finally! The past three times we’ve seen her, we haven’t gotten to see her do her beloved (by me) “We Will Rock You” chops! ) Sakura performed her We Will Rock You chops, backed up, ran forward, and slammed into Jay with a calamitous running crossbody.
“Oh!” Henry exclaimed as the ring post camera shook.
Sakura pulled Jay out of the downstage right corner to the center of the ring. There, she went for a Queen’s Gambit, but Jay escaped her grasp and countered with a Dangerous Jay Kick (because she’s Lady Legasus). Jay leaped toward the face’s corner to tag in Statlander.
Statlander ran across the ring, ducked under a clothesline from Sakura, advanced to the heel team’s corner, and kicked Rose off the apron. Statlander then turned around to immediately catch Sakura and execute a backbreaker from behind. Rose climbed back onto the apron, and Statlander dropkicked her right back off the apron!
Statlander and Sakura ran the ring ropes with manic speed, and just as it looked like they would crash into each other, Statlander caught Sakura for a Dustin Rhodes worth powerslam! Rose stepped into the ring to protect her friend Sakura, and Statlander rapidly met her with a running uppercut followed by a running knee strike which sent Rose tumbling out of the ring like an elephant off a tightrope!
Statlander apprehended Sakura, lifted her in the air, and executed a wind-swept Blue Thunder Bomb for the wi— TWO COUNT! Sakura kicked out. Rose didn’t even interfere. Sakura KICKED. THE. F. OUT! (This is so ****ing good!)
“That was as close as it gets,” Henry exclaimed.
The director cut to a close-up of Jay screaming for a tag while bouncing anxiously in place, her arm fully extended. Statlander reached for Jay’s tag, but just as she was about to touch her hand, Rose yanked Jay off the apron, and Sakura simultaneously yanked Statlander away by her wrist. The director cut to Guerrero, whose face was awesome. The director then cut back to the ring, and as soon as he did, Sakura executed a swinging reverse DDT on Statlander.
Rose began climbing to the top turnbuckle (What is she doing? That is so high up for someone her size!) Sakura grabbed both of Rose’s hands, and Rose jumped into the air, flipped over Sakura, and executed a Swanton bomb onto Statlander, and I think she’s now a little bit dead!
Rose raised her hand above her head and triumphantly shouted into the air. Meanwhile, Sakura covered Statlander for the wi— JAY BROKE IT UP! Jay broke up the pinfall right before the referee could count to three, and this incredible cyclon-ride of a match continued onward! Sakura sat up in utter shock, her mouth frozen in an open “O” and her eyes wide and blinking. Sakura held out her arms to a nonexistent entity as the light in her eyes exploded into the sparks of a thousand different emotions being experienced all at once.
Rose caught Jay by the throat, lifted her into the air, and slammed her to the mat with a — No! Jay countered Rose’s chokeslam, landing on her feet! Jay attempted another Lady Legasus worthy Dangerous Jay Kick, but Rose ducked underneath her limber leg and smashed her forearm into Jay’s face. Sakura ran to Rose’s side, and Rose and Sakura lifted Jay into the air for a double DDT, but Jay countered, pulling them to the mat instead. The crowd burst into applause as Jay pounded the mat with her hand, feeding off the audience’s energy.
“Let’s get this party rocking!” Wight shouted. (If this party gets any more rocking, the speakers will blow.)
Jay leaped into the air and landed on Rose’s back; Rose stumbled, screamed, and reached for the ropes as Jay applied her Queen Slayer submission hold. Rose faded and fell through the ring ropes to the floor with Jay STILL holding onto her back!
Statlander smashed a roundhouse kick into Sakura’s face, picked Sakura up, turned her upside down, and executed her Night Fever finisher. Statlander covered Sakura, hooked her leg, and the referee fell to the mat and counted to three. (Holy ****)
WINNER: Jay & Statlander in 7:00
(David’s Analysis: I enjoyed this. While this match’s outcome hurt my feelings, I loved everything else about it! What a great showing by all four women. This is probably the best match I’ve ever seen Jay compete in. Rose looked like a total monster, and that senton off the top rope looked deadly. Guerrero gave a masterclass in acting on the outside of the ring, and Statlander gave a masterclass in making people forget about stupid gimmicks. Emi Sakura… Y’all, Sakura is talented on a whole other level. I hope she gets pushed a little more. I know I sound like a broken record, but it feels like I’m screaming into the void week after week because I never see her on Dynamite or Rampage.)
– After the match, the audience gave all four athletes a standing ovation.
(8) DARK ORDER (Evil Uno & Stu Grayson & John Silver & Preston Vance & Alan Angels & Alex Reynolds) vs. ANTHONY BENNETT &. JADEN VALO & ELI ISOM & BRETT WATERS & MIKE LAW & KORI MESHAW
Up next is a twelve-man battle royal featuring — Oh, wait. Nevermind. I’m misreading the graphic. Up next is a twelve-man tag team clustermatch.
Twelve? That’s a lot of people. (I feel like Tony Khan’s trolling me.)
The first entrants for tonight’s 12-man clustermatch (I wanna say cuss words so bad RN) were the team of Dark Order featuring… everyone. There was Evil Uno & Stu Grayson & John Silver & Alan Angels & Alex Reynolds & Preston Vance & Vivian Vance & Vance Archer & Advance Auto Parts.
*Expletive Removed* my life.
Once Dark Order made it to the ring, they all managed to somehow fit on the ring apron at the same time, and then they all saluted Lady Gaga. John Silver looked especially intense, but he always looks intense. I love his intensity. He’s like Popeye if the spinach were injected into his eyeball.
Already waiting in the ring were a bunch of people, BUT I recognized at least one of them! Jaden Valo is back, and that’s a good thing! (They better not pick on Valo in this match, or I will be significantly annoyed.) Valo jumped up and down as he waved to the fans. (He’s so excited to get slaughtered again. It’s endearing.) The other men on team Everyone Else included Anthony Bennett, Eli Isom, Brett Waters, Mike Law, and Kori Meshaw. (For a minute there, I thought Justin Roberts was gonna pass out.)
Grayson and Bennett started things off. Grayson took Bennett down twice with two shoulder tackles. (There’s only two minutes left in this show. How are they going to fit twelve men into this *Expletive Removed* match? You know what? Nevermind. I’m wasting time typing because I’m sure they have a well-thought-out, coherent plan.)
Grayson lifted Bennett into the Guerilla press position, and all twelve ran into the ring because reasons.
“Everything’s broken down!” Wight shouted 15 seconds into the match. “Aubrey’s completely lost control!” (I’m getting an ice cream headache without getting to eat ice cream, and that makes me feel cheated.)
Aubrey Edwards — who is the most entertaining thing in this match right now — was running around pointing at everything on God’s green earth. She spotted a spotlight; she spotted a fan; she spotted the guy who blew up Vince’s limo, and she will tell us about it someday. Maybe. (Probably not.)
Suddenly, in ballet-like unison, all six members of team Dark Order picked up all six members of team Everyone Else and simultaneously bodyslammed them.
“Bodyslam party!” Wight encouraged this *Expletive Removed,* and I think a vein just burst in my peripheral vision.
All of the members of Dark Order celebrated their “bodyslam party” by saluting Lady Gaga again. Then there was more chaos, more chaos, simultaneous suicide dives onto random people outside of the ring, and I am done. I don’t know who did the dives. I don’t know who caught the dives. I don’t care anymore. They win. They wore me down, and now we’re going to find out if watching a wrestling match can cause a detached retina.
Vance threw Waters over the top rope onto a gaggle of people waiting to catch him. Vance sent Valo into the upstage left… or right… Oh, who cares? — Vance sent Valo into a corner. Silver hit Valo with a step-up enzuigiri; Reynolds hit Valo with a rolling punch; Silver hit Valo with a dropkick; Reynolds hit Valo with a stunner; Silver hit Valo with a German Suplex; Vance hit Valo with a spinebuster, and as promised, I am significantly annoyed.
Grayson and Uno executed their Fatality finisher on Bennett, who I guess is the legal man. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t even know if Edwards is still in the ring. She’s probably in the back playing Candy Crush while waiting on an Uber. Her services were clearly not needed here.
Angels executed a frog splash on Bennett while seven men stood in the ring. Angels covered Bennett. (I thought Grayson was the legal man?) Angels hooked Bennet’s leg. (Oh, there’s Ewards. Her Uber must be late.) The referee fell to the mat and counted to three because that still mattered for some reason.
WINNER: Dark Order (Angels & Reynolds & Vance Auto Parts & Quicksilver & Unos Pizza & Fifty Shades of Gray & Whatever) at 98 seconds
(David’s Analysis: *Expletive Removed*)
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you want to know everything I hate about wrestling, watch the main event. If you want to know everything I love about wrestling, watch Sakura & Rose vs. Statlander & Jay. In fact, Sakura & Rose vs. Statlander & Jay was far and away the match of the night. To be perfectly honest, this was a one-match show, but it was one heck of a match. If you have time to watch only one match this week, check out Sakura & Rose vs. Statlander & Jay. If you have time to watch only two matches this week, check out Titus vs. Takeshita. If you have time to watch only three matches this week, check out Nese vs. Cheeseburger. If you have time to watch more, don’t.
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 world could be a better place if we could all agree that we wanted it to be.