5/16 AEW DARK ELEVATION REPORT: Bryant’s famous asides, Henry & Wight quips, Martinez vs. Adora in ROH Title match, Cutler vs. Bear Bronson, Acclaimed team with Gunn Club, more

By David Bryant, PWTorch contributor

Analysis, detail, and results of this week's episode of AEW Dark


MAY 16, 2022

Commentators: Paul Wight & Mark Henry & Tony Schiavone & Anthony Ogogo (for some reason.)

Ring Announcer: Justin Roberts

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-Tonight’s AEW Dark Elevation taping emanated not-live from the USB Arena in Long Island, N.Y. I’ve been to both Long Island and New York City on multiple occasions, and I love how they’re so close to each other yet feel so different. New York City feels like an inverted roller coaster ride through a hailstorm of paintballs, and Long Island feels like a Ferris wheel with a breathtaking view of a party that sparkles all night long. I like both cities and all kinds of rides, but no adrenaline rush can ever beat the thrill of watching fireworks from the top seat of a Ferris wheel.

– Before the show started, an advert for Draft Kings aired. I think this is the first external advertisement I’ve seen on Dark Elevation since I began writing these reports last fall.

(1) BRANDON CUTLER vs. BEAR BRONSON (w/Bear Boulder)

(This summer, I met a concierge in Tennessee named Bear, and I made it through the entire conversation without mentioning Bear Country. Given my maturity level and innate impulsivity, you should be proud of me.)

Brandon Cutler’s music filled the arena (son of a…), and his acid trip of a music video filled the screen. Cutler himself walked out on stage, spraying cold spray into the air, and looked exactly like what I imagine the director of the music video for “The Gummy Bear” song looks like.

Once in the ring, Cutler paraded around, spraying cold spray at the cameraman, and looking like he was proud of his appearance. (Does he not have friends who can pull aside and tell him… Oh, wait. NVM. I’ve seen what the Young Bucks wear in public.) When Cutler had finished subjecting us to his irresponsible, reckless, delinquent fashion choices, Bear Bronson’s music hit.

Bear Bronson and Bear Boulder came out wearing pelts harvested from a plastic forest and reverse beartraps borrowed from the set of “Saw.” This look was a vast improvement over whatever Brandon Cutler thinks he’s doing.

“How would you describe the outfit here of…” Schiavone trailed off.

“Brandon Culter?” Wight asked.


(Are they reading my stuff? I feel like they might be reading my stuff. If they are, I apologize in advance.)

“Brandon Cutler looked like he was in a paint building, and it exploded,” Henry said.

“Yeah, that’s a good way to describe it,” Wight said, “and right now, he looks like a guy who’s getting his arm ripped off by a bear.”

Wight was right. The match had started the moment both men hit the ring, and their collar and elbow tie-up had quickly devolved into a one-sided wristlock. Bronson continually wrenched and yanked on Cutler’s arm, even after Cutler was on one knee apologizing for his outfit.

Somehow, someway, with the unfettered determination of a Girl Scout selling cookies, Cutler managed to flip his way out of the wristlock and land on his oversized feet. Cutler then slapped Bronson in the face because he’s an idiot’s idiot.

Bronson chased Cutler out of the ring and then around the ring. Cutler ran with the mannerisms of an amphetamine-laced mime.

“Governor,” Schiavone addressed Ogogo, who was there for some reason, “how silly is this?” (Silly enough that I hope he doesn’t team with Hook anytime soon.)

“It’s silly,” Ogogo said, “but look, we’re in New York, and New York is a poor man’s London.” (New York is a state, London is a city, and while New York City is a city, you’re in Long Island.)

Bronson jumped into the ring, and Cutler continued running around the ring. Bronson then executed a tope suicida (OMG) onto Cutler, who was amazingly not dead. Bronson then threw Cutler back into the ring.

“Bronson is looking good lately,” Ogogo said.

“Yeah, he’s lost a few pounds,” Henry said. “He’s gonna mess around and become a cruiserweight.”

Bronson splashed Cutler in the upstage right corner with a body avalanche, and Culter fell into Bronson and appeared to take a nap on Bronson’s shoulder. Bronson grabbed Cutler’s face-mask-wearing head and tossed him into the opposite corner. Bronson then attempted a second body avalanche, but Cutler moved, jumped onto the apron, and executed an apron enzuigiri.

Culter mounted Bronson in the upstage right corner and began punching his head 10 times. Between punches 4 and 5, Bronson grabbed Cutler’s legs and carried him to the middle of the ring. Much like Wile E. Coyote, Cutler didn’t know he was “off the cliff” until he looked down, but once he did, the ride was over.

Bronson dropped Cutler with a huge overhead spinebuster (Beep, beep) and picked Cutler up for a bodyslam. However, Cutler managed to squirm his Day-Glo torso over Bronson’s shoulder and shoved Bronson from behind. Bronson almost ran into the referee but stopped himself just in time.

The referee seemed dazed, and Bronson checked to see if he was okay. This distraction allowed Cutler to grab his cold spray and approach Bronson with the stealthiness of an elephant stampede. Bronson turned around, took hold of Cutler’s waist, and executed a Black Hole Slam. Bronson then covered Cutler and picked up the win.

WINNER: Bronson in 2:00

(David’s Analysis: These Cutler matches are cute, but they’re also the reason I don’t tell certain friends I watch pro wrestling.)

– After the match, an advert for Double or Nothing aired, and I kind of wish they’d rename it to All-In.

– The camera cut to the announce booth, and Tony Schiavone reminded us that Draft Kings was the official sponsor of tonight. (Are we sure they know what they’re sponsoring?)

“Use the code ‘Dark’ when you sign up to play,” Schiavone said. (Oh, wow. I guess they do.)

Wight and Henry then bantered back and forth for a bit about possibly playing the game, and I don’t know why, but it sent me. That moment of pure, innocuous, friendly banter might just be my AEW highlight of the week. I would watch a talk show hosted by these two, and I hate talk shows.


The lights in the arena went out, and somewhere backstage, at least one person went, “Not again!” However, it was not another showstopping blackout. It was The House of Black, or more specifically, Brody King, who entered alone, but did not look any less intimidating because of it.

“You talk about an intimidating entrance…” Wight said.

“Somebody hold my hand,” Henry said. (These two are smol precious beans and must be protected at all cost.)

The Dark Order’s music hit, and the words “Join the Dark Order” echoed throughout the arena. Alex Reynolds came out, followed by his cohort of merry spooky-men. Alan Angels, Evil Uno, and Preston Vance stood onstage with Reynolds but headed to the back while he headed to the ring. Once Reynolds reached the ring, he climbed onto the apron and smiled as he executed a Mother Monster/Dark Order salute to the delight of all his Little Monsters in the audience.

“This is gonna be a great contest,” Wight said. “Alex Reynolds, with all his experience and athleticism — and right now, it’s like he’s facing off against an ogre in the ring.”

The match began with King seizing Reynold’s neck and launching his body into the upstage left turnbuckle. King then ran at Reynolds and hit him with a body avalanche. (Damn.) Reynolds collapsed in the corner, and King revved up to execute a massive running cannonball.

Reynolds crawled the length of the ring, using the bottom and middle rope to hold himself up. King trapped Reynolds in the upstage right corner and hit him with an explosive-looking forearm and a blistering-looking chop. Reynolds crumbled yet again.

King pulled Reynolds onto his shoulders, but Reynolds fought his way off. However, before Reynolds could execute even a modicum of offense, King slammed him in the chest with three rising knee strikes and executed a back body drop.

“There’s a lot more to him (King) than intimidation,” Schiavone said. “I can tell you that.”

Reynold’s pulled himself into the scarecrow position in the upstage left corner, and King charged toward him for a body avalanche. However, Reynold’s got his foot up in the knick of time. King attempted his body avalanche a second time, and Reynolds dodged out of the way, ran the ropes, and came back with a rope-assisted, running back elbow.

The force of Reynolds’ back elbow caused King to stumble out of the corner and into the center of the ring. As King teetered mid-ring, Reynolds bounced into the ropes and rebounded with a svelt diving corkscrew elbow.

“Wow, that diving elbow just rocked Brody,” Wight said.

King lumbered forward, and Reynolds stopped him with a dropkick to his left leg. When King didn’t topple over, Reynolds popped back up and hit him with a forearm, a kick, and three more forearms.

“He still can’t get him off his feet!” Wight said.

Reynolds took off his elbow pad, and this momentary respite was all King needed to recover enough to shove Reynolds into the stage right ring ropes. Reynolds bounced off and attempted to run the ropes, but King caught him with a killer clothesline.

King lifted Reynolds into the air and executed his Gonzo Bomb finisher. (That move almost always looks like someone’s going to die.) Thankfully, nobody died, but Reynolds was definitely out of it. King covered Reynolds, hooked his leg, and the referee counted to three.

WINNER: King at 98 seconds

(David’s Analysis: that was a lot shorter than I expected; it was essentially a squash, but it made King look like a million bucks. There isn’t much negative to say here, except I wish the match had been a little longer, but if they’d made it longer, then they wouldn’t have made their point as effectively.)

– After the match, an advert for Dynamite aired, and it followed the same template as the advert I complimented last week. Instead of merely mentioning that Dynamite happens on Wednesdays, the advertisement ran down the lineup for this week’s Dynamite.


Nyla Rose’s music hit, but the first one out of the tunnel was not the “Native Beast” but the “Opticative Feast” Emi Sakura. Sakura wore regal attire, Rose wore evil attire, and fashion icon Vickie Guerrero wore exceptional attire.

Tonight, Guerrero sported a form-fitting, runway-ready black t-shirt courtesy of the Haus of Pro Wrestling Tees and breathtaking white leggings courtesy of grand couturier T.J. Maxx. Guerrero modeled this ensemble down AEW’s oddly-angled runway as firey flashbulb-like flames burst behind her; these flashes illuminated her exclusive look available only to everyone on shopaew.com.

While typing all of this, Anna Jay & Yuka Sakazaki definitely came out at some point. Sakazaki’s outfit is actually kind of the ish, but since all clothes were invented to be worn by Vickie Guerrero, I can’t comment further.

Incensed by Sakazaki’s discourteous attempt to upstage Guerrero, Sakura and Rose were left with no choice but to righteously attack Sakazaki and Jay from behind. To keep things fair, the referee rang the bell as soon as both women were clearly knocked to the ground. Rose and Sakura maintained their hard-earned advantage by stomping on Jay’s back and choking Sakazaki on the middle rope. The referee started counting Rose’s choking, and she stopped to argue with him over his sudden recollection of rules.

(A lower third graphic just popped up advertising Hook for the Double or Nothing Buy-In pre-show, and ugh… Why does Hook have to be on the Buy-In again? He is one of AEW’s best merch sellers and gets such a raucous reaction that he is consistently brought out at the end of the show to “send the crowd home happy.” In what world does someone look at an asset like that and think, “Pre-show material!”)

This reprieve allowed Sakazaki to turn the tables by stomping on Rose’s foot. Rose lurched toward Sakazaki, but Sakazaki rolled underneath her and tagged in Jay. Jay (of Lady Legasus fame) flitted across the ring and used her leg(asus) to kick Rose. Jay then cheap-shotted Sakura and knocked her off the apron, thus abusing the great responsibility that comes with the great power bestowed upon comic book characters.

Rose grabbed Jay’s neck and tossed her into the downstage right corner. Rose went for a back body splash, but Jay sidestepped her, allowing Rose to crash into the turnbuckles. Jay smashed Rose with a back elbow and five forearms. With Rose left crouched in the corner, Jay raced across the ring to tag in Sakazaki.

Sakazaki jumped into the ring and ran to the corner opposite Rose. Jay slammed a leg lariat into Rose’s chest, and Sakazaki ran across the ring, clocking Rose with a running leg lariat of her own. Sakazaki then jumped from the ground to the top turnbuckles (almost in a single bound) and waited for Rose to turn around. As soon as Rose did, Sakazaki nailed her with a flying missile dropkick. Sakazaki covered Rose, but Rose powered out at two.

Sakazaki jumped onto the apron for a slingshot of some kind, but Guerrero noticed that something was amiss with Sakazaki’s wrestling boot and grabbed her ankle to help fix it. Unfortunately, Guerrero was forced to let go of Sakazaki’s leg when Rose interrupted them with a body avalanche.

Rose draped Sakazaki across the middle of the top rope and climbed the turnbuckles. Rose then jumped off the top turnbuckle and hit Sakazaki with a flying knee strike. (WHOA. I did not see that coming.)

“My goodness!” Schiavone said.

“She almost took her head off,” Henry exclaimed.

“I hope she’s okay,” Schiavone added.

Rose covered Sakazaki, hooked her leg, and would have gotten the win had it not been for that meddling Lady Legasus. Jay broke up the pin at two with a falling axe-handle. As soon as Jay’s dirty work was done, she rolled out of the ring, and Rose tagged in Sakura.

Sakura, a truly excellent wrestler, made her way into the ring, forcing Sakazaki into the downstage right corner. There, Sakura stomped and clapped until the crowd was stomping and clapping along. Sakura then executed a crowd-pleasing “We Will Rock You” chop to Sakazaki’s chest. Sakura backed up and threw her arms out wide as the crowd continued to stomp and clap, and then she ran toward Sakazaki to execute a running crossbody.

Sakura delivered a Queen’s Gambit to Sakazaki (who made it look like a million bucks) and covered her for a two-count. The only reason it wasn’t a three count was that Sakura pulled off at the last minute because she saw Jay running toward her. Sakura pointed the referee toward Jay, and Jay scarpered back into the “face” team’s corner.

“She seemed more worried about Anna Jay than making a cover,” Schiavone chided. (I wonder why?)

Rose had gotten into the ring in response to Jay, and Sakura decided to hold Sakazaki in place while Rose ran toward her with a clothesline. However, Sakazaki jumped out of the way, and Rose smashed into Sakura. (Nooo!)

“Oh! Miscommunication,” Wight said. “I love to see that.” (I’m sticking “Nooo!”)

Jay jumped in to help her tag team partner and jumped onto Rose’s back. Jay then applied her Queen Slayer chokehold while Rose blundered backward toward the upstage left turnbuckles. Sakazaki lifted Sakura onto her shoulders and began to spin around.

“Here we go!” Wight said. “We’re going for the Magical Merry Go Round!”

Sakazaki kept spinning Sakura, faster and faster, picking up a dizzying speed. (That looked quite impressive.) Sakazaki then released Sakura into the air and executed her Magical Merry Go Round finisher. Sakazaki covered Rose, hooked Sakura’s leg, and picked up the win.

WINNER: Jay & Sakazaki in 4:00

(David’s Analysis: This was a very enjoyable match. I’ve said a lot about how much I appreciate the work of Sakura, and she delivered, yet again, but I feel like I’ve not said enough about Rose and how much she’s improved since her debut. The folks still judging her based on those early months need to watch her recent work more closely. She’s not yet Charlotte Flair, but she’s not Eva Marie either. She’s a constantly improving talent with a unique look who works hard to add something to every match she’s in.)

– After the match, Rose attacked Sakazaki from behind and threw her out of the ring. Rose then stomped around the inner perimeter of the ring and shouted things that were probably not very nice. Jay pointed to Sakazaki and retorted, “She won!” The cameraman then cut to a close-up of Vickie Guerrero to send the fans home happy.

– After the post-match scuffle, an advert aired for Forbidden Door, which will emanate live from an absolutely jam-packed United Center. While the United Center is tied with the Greensboro Coliseum for the distinction of being the U.S.’s largest indoor arena, the ticket sales for this event has me thinking they should’ve booked a bigger place. WrestleTix claimed there were “well over 20,000 people in the queue” when the presale sold out at 11,000 tickets. AEW has since expanded their capacity to just over 15,000 tickets by selling the seats directly behind the stage. Without a stage of any kind (which is not a feasible possibility), the maximum capacity is 23,500. In hindsight, I think this event could have sold out a small stadium.

– After this advert, a clip from AEW’s interview show “Hey (Ew)” aired. It featured Power House Hobbs and Ricky Starks. They discussed the use of the word “stroke” in Starks’s chosen nickname, “Stroke Daddy.”


The first men out were the not-Ass-Boys accompanied by their father, who looked like their brother. (After seeing Billy Gunn live, my new life goal is to look 38 at 58, and now I’m pretty sure I’ve torn my TFCC again.)

“Yo,” Max Caster’s voice screeched out of the speakers. “Yo, listen!” (This feels like how I imagine banshees capture their prey.)

Anthony Bowens (looking like a man who still goes to frat parties in his thirties) put his face in the camera and had an irksome seizure that involved his tongue.

“The Acclaimed and the Gunns — it’s about to go down,” Caster did an imitation of what a ten-year-old thinks rap music sounds like. “I’m Platinum Max; I’m back in my hometown.” (I imagine a lot of people are sinking in their seats and wishing they were turtles right now.)

The director cut to the audience, which suddenly felt like a new form of identity shaming.

“Do you all really have a shot?” Caster asked of his opponents, who were already waiting in the ring. “Gonna send you packing like Barry Trotz.” (None of this rhymes, and it’s less coherent than a toddler chewing gum.)

Zack Clayton & Lucas Chase & GKM & Bryce Donovan (The Acclaimed & The Gunn Club’s opponents) collectively rolled their eyes.

“You mess with us — it’s a bad choice,” Caster continued causing permanent damage to the performing arts. “Getting beat by The Acclaimed and the Ass Boys.” (Why are these two teams together again?)

“Burp-Basket” Bowens commandeered the mic and said, “When I say ‘ass,’ you say ‘boys!’”

The Ass—I mean Gunn Club looked very displeased as Bowens led the crowd in a call-and-response chant of “ass” and “boys.” (I am displeased but for a very different reason.)

Colton Gunn stole the mic from Bowens and said, “When I say ‘Gunn,’ you say ‘club!’ Gunn! …” Colton waited. This did not go down the way he was hoping, and it went down exactly the way you’re thinking.


“Looooong Iiiiisland!” Bowens verbally assaulted the mic. “The Acclaimed have Arrriiiived!” (I would love to see how he spells that out in guest books.)

Bowens and Castor scissored in the ring like they were about to star in a porno called Forbidden Door. (Actually, you know what? I hope they are on Forbidden Door, and I hope they face the tag team of Tomohiro Ishii & Bob Holly in Tough Enough-mode.)

“Crust-Cabinet” Caster started the match off by facing down GKM. However, the crowd chanted loudly for the “Ass Boys,” and so Caster tagged in Austin. Austin immediately turned around and tagged Caster back in. Caster trapped GKM in a wristlock, and Austin then tagged himself back in. (All of this happened in about 10 seconds.)

Austin threw GKM to the mat with a hair-mare and mugged for the crowd. GKM jumped back up, caught Austin’s arm, and attempted to whip Austin across the ring. Austin reversed GKM’s whip and ran the ropes. GKM dodged Austin the first time with a canvas drop, but Austin caught GKM on his second go-round, taking out GKM’s legs.

Colton blind-tagged himself in, and as soon as Austin was out of the ring, he ran around to the face team’s corner, grabbed Donovan’s leg, and yanked him off the apron. (This is happening even faster than it reads.) Bowens applauded Austin’s actions from the corner, and Colton tagged in “Burp-Basket” Bowens, a man whose existence raises questions about the theory of natural selection, and Bowens tagged in Caster, the human equivalent of stepping on a Lego.

“Chlamydia-Connoisseur” Caster hot to the top rope (SHOT! He shot to the top rope. I meant to say shot.) Colton executed a Colt 45 on GKM, and Caster leaped off the top rope to execute a Mic Drop.

“Clown-Clunker” Caster tagged in Bowens, who has hot done a single move (I mean not. He has NOT done a single move — Let’s just forget that happened and try this again.) Bowens, who has not done a single move in this entire match, hooked GKM’s leg, went for the cover, and hot the win. (DAMMIT! I’m starting to see the merits of chemical castration.)

WINNER: The Acclaimed & The Gunn Club (w/Billy Gunn) at 79 seconds.

(David’s Analysis: That was quick. In fact, the other team never got so much as a tag! I didn’t even have time to think of any half-decent insults! I guess I get it if they were running short of time, but because I actually enjoy rooting against The Acclaimed, I wish this match had been longer.)

– After the match, four muscular men, two of whom are regularly referred to as “ass boys,” fingered each other in the ring. *nose pinch*

“I gotta be honest with you, Mark,” Wight said. “I like it when they do that. I think it’s great television.” *nose break*

– After Wight’s deeply disturbing confession, AEW played their advert for Double or Nothing again.

(5) DARK ORDER (Preston Vance & Evil Uno) vs. ERIC JAMES & VSK

The words “Join the Dark Order” filled the arena for the second time that night, and a wide shot of the arena showed purple and green lights illuminating both the stage and the ring. It almost looked like a slightly sinister rave or a slightly less sinister episode of Euphoria.

“Hands up, Mark,” Henry said. (I guess he’s going with “slightly sinister rave.”)

Alan Angels accompanied the team of Preston “Number 10” Vance & Evil Uno onto the stage. However, Angels returned to the back once the match started. (Despite disliking tag matches with more than two men, I’m oddly disappointed Angels isn’t wrestling. I guess I enjoy his stuff enough to put up with six-man tag matches, which says a lot.)

Vance flashed his fingers like a young Shawn Spears. (Or an older Shawn Spears.) (Or last week’s Shawn Spears.) Uno walked down the rampway side-by-side with Vance, and he held his arms behind his back in a dignified manner that always seems jarring given his mask. Once Uno and Vance made it to the ring apron, they both posed for the hard camera and saluted Lady Gaga.

Dark Order’s opponents, the team of Eric James & VSK, were already awaiting their arrival in the ring. James and VSK high-fived one another before the match started, and VSK stepped through the ropes and onto the apron. Uno and James started the match for their respective teams.

James immediately went for a big boot, but Uno caught his foot, holding him hostage in the middle of the ring. James tried to beg off, but Uno used his leg to throw him to the canvas. Uno then stomped on both of James’s hands and tagged in Vance.

Vance picked James up in a very delayed vertical suplex, and Uno climbed to the second rope to lead the crowd in a countdown (or countup) of how many seconds the “delayed” part of the vertical suplex lasted. At around “ten,” Vance transitioned from “delayed” to “suplex,” James splattered onto the canvas.

Vance tagged in Uno, and Uno quickly snatched up James. Uno then executed a (slightly) delayed vertical suplex of his own. Uno picked James up off the mat by his trunks and almost accidentally increased the show’s TV rating in the process. James tried to tag in VSK, but Uno pulled him backward and trapped him in a waistlock. James then escaped the waistlock by planting multiple back elbows into Uno’s jaw. With Uno reeling, James executed a step-up enzuigiri and tagged in VSK.

VSK entered the match via a slingshot senton over the top rope, smashing his back into Uno’s chest. VSK then kicked Uno in the head twice. However, the second kick seemed to knock Uno’s senses back into him (odd), and Uno rose to his feet. VSK went for a third kick, but Uno caught his boot. Uno shoved VSK’s leg so that he turned around backward, and Uno executed a swift neckbreaker. Uno then tagged in Vance.

Vance exploded out of the face team’s corner and ran down VSK with a clothesline. James jumped into the ring to save his partner (rules?), and Vance plowed through James with a second clothesline. VSK tried to take advantage of James’s distraction by clotheslining Vance, but Vance ducked underneath VSK’s arm, grabbed VSK around the waist, and executed a suplex. (I couldn’t make out what kind it was.)

James tried to jump onto Vance, but Vance caught him in the “wheelbarrow” position. Vance then walked James to the upstage ring ropes and executed a rope-assisted wheelbarrow suplex on VSK. Vance then hit a devastating-looking spinebuster and roared for the crowd. Uno climbed onto the second rope and implored Vance to tag him in. Vance tagged in Uno.

Together, Dark Order executed an assisted powerbomb that Wight told us would be called “The Dark Reckoning” from now on. (I wish Grayson hadn’t left.) Upon executing their new Dark Reckoning finisher, Uno hooked both of VSK’s legs and pinned him to pick up the win.

WINNER: Dark Order in 3:00

(David’s Analysis: This was another fun but short match. So far, all of the matches have been really short, and we’ve got a quarter of the show left with only one match still to come.)

– After the match, they aired another advert for Dynamite. This ad was more generic, and I feel like a lot of people watching Dark are already generically aware that there is a show called Dynamite on Wednesday nights.

(6) MERCEDES MARTINEZ vs. TRISH ADORA – ROH Women’s Championship match

(Note to the reader: Because this is a championship match, I will not be making jokes while reporting on the actual match itself. I reserve the right to make jokes before and after the bell, but once the bell rings, my reporting will become serious because championship matches are inherently serious… even if they’re on Dark Elevation.)

Okay, sooo… that’s why the other matches have been so short. We’re getting an ROH Women’s Championship match on Dark Elevation because I guess it got lost somewhere between here and Dynamite? (Sure. Whatever. Why not? We’re only on YouTube here.) However, I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I have to admit. It is kind of exciting to report on my first title match, even if it is on YouTube.

Generic music filled the arena, and the AEW Dark Elevation logo lit up the screens as Trish Adora (whose long and grueling path to the number one contendership has finally culminated in this random match on Dark Elevation) came out of the tunnels. She actually looks like a total badass. Her face is determined and ready to go, and if her resume, time spent in ROH, brief stint in NXT, and training at the prestigious Team 3D Academy is any indication, she can definitely “go” with the best of them.

Mercedes Martinez’s non-generic music filled the arena, and her name and logo lit up the screens. Martinez came out with the ROH title around her waist. She posed atop the stage and then shouted, “Let’s go!” She looked every bit as determined to keep her title as Adora looked determined to take it. This match may be taking place on Dark Elevation (???), but these two competitors are selling it like it’s a PPV, and I’m starting to buy what they’re selling.

Once in the ring, Martinez ascended the turnbuckles and held up her gleaming title belt for all to see. (The crowd gave Martinez a nice ovation and seemed excited to see her wrestle — that usually bodes well. I’m definitely rooting for Martinez here because I’ve been high on her since long before she debuted in AEW, and I’m happy seeing her hold a championship belt on AEW television.)

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Justin Roberts said, “your AEW Dark Elevation (are you absolutely sure?) main event, set for one fall, is for the undisputed Ring of Honor Women’s World Championship!”

Man, Roberts is good. Had he not gotten into sports and wrestling, Roberts would have made a spectacular ringmaster, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve heard more ringmasters than I can count, and very few could even touch Roberts’s masterful mic work. He’d be up there with Norman Barrett and Kit Haskett. Heck, he’d even give John Lee Iverson a run for his money, and to my knowledge, Roberts doesn’t even sing. (Sorry for this random aside; I’m a circus person; we’re weird.)

(Also, the captions keep saying “chimpanzee” instead of “championship,” and it’s throwing me.)

Anyway, Adora got a nice ovation when she was announced. It didn’t match Martinez’s ovation, but it was surprisingly loud for someone not currently signed to the AEW roster. (An interesting note—Martinez smiled at Adora’s ovation. She seemed glad of it.) However, Martinez’s ovation was by far the biggest of the night. You could see people on their feet cheering, and Martinez looked appreciative without compromising her steadfast expression of determination. (Also, I like the custom chyron. That makes this feel more special.)

The referee held up the title, and the camera zoomed in on it.

“Beautiful look,” Schiavone said.

“Wow. Beautiful title,” Henry agreed.

“Absolutely,” Wight said. “That is a beautiful title, and how lucky are we to have this championship match on our show.” (Again, are you sure there wasn’t a typo in the lineup?)

Martinez and Adora shook hands and began circling one another, sizing each other up. Both women cagily entered a collar and elbow tie-up, and Adora made the first move of the match, attempting to trap Martinez in a wristlock. While it appeared Adora succeeded in applying the wristlock, Martinez used her other hand to grab Adora’s arm and prevent her from wrenching the wristlock any further. This had the effect of leaving Adora trapped behind Martinez and unable to come around to Martinez’s front side so as to ascertain a more domineering grip. Martinez managed to muscle Adora away from her back just enough that she could ring Adora’s arm over her shoulder. The pain from the arm-ringing caused Adora to loosen her grip, and Martinez took advantage of this momentary diminishment by reversing the wristlock.

Adora then used Martinez’s own momentum against her and rang Martinez’s arm. This allowed Adora to reverse the wristlock once again, this time to her favor. Martinez struggled against Adora, but when she realized she could not overpower Adora via her strength alone, Martinez rolled through the wristlock to break it up. Martinez then went for a low-level single-leg backdoor takedown. Martinez went for a leg lock from underneath Adora, but Adora used her left arm to lift her body off the mat and prevent Martinez from gaining the leverage she needed to execute the hold effectively.

Martinez tried to trap Adora’s neck with one leg, but Adora twisted her torso away from Martinez just enough to thwart her attempt. However, the strain of holding herself up while twisting her torso became too much for Adora, and while Adora did not fall, she loosened her joints enough to allow Martinez the opening she needed to apply her headscissors effectively. Adora escaped by contorting her body so she could roll over Martinez’s, and once on top, Adora began punching Martinez’s upper back. Martinez countered Adora’s offense with blows of her own and was able to force Adora’s head into a firm front facelock.

Using the sheer might of her muscles, Adora pried Martinez’s hands apart, rolled underneath Martinez’s arm, and reversed Martinez’s front facelock, turning it into a wristlock. Martinez bent her elbow and lifted her arm, improving her leverage enough to turn the wristlock into a Greco Roman knuckle lock. Adora began to heave Martinez toward the stage left ring ropes, but moments before she was able to press Martinez into the ropes, Martinez countered by snatching Adora in a side headlock. Adora struggled against the headlock, but Martinez refused to let go and executed a side headlock takeover.

To counter this, Adora contorted herself until her legs were almost entirely over her head and grabbed Martinez’s neck in a headscissors neck lock. Martinez struggled but was unable to escape. While maintaining the headscissors, Adora lifted her body off the mat using both arms. This gave Martinez an opening, and she strained her shoulders enough to squeeze underneath Adora’s body and turn Adora over. This allowed Martinez to sit up. However, Martinez was still trapped in Adora’s headlock. Martinez pulled at Adora’s leg with her hands but could not free herself. In a last gasp effort, Martinez threw her torso backward and, in the process, threw Adora off balance. At first, I was sure this would be enough for Martinez to escape, but Adora held on, once more lifting herself off the mat with her hands.

Adora began doing pushups while holding Martinez in the headscissors lock. This showboating succeeded in giving off the appearance of arrogance while making the headscissors look even more painful. Realizing how close she’d come to escaping the first time, Martinez sat back up and once more threw her torso backward. This time, Martinez came close to escaping, but close was not enough, and Adora maintained her vice-like headscissors.

Martinez then lifted her legs and threw them backward, much like she’d done with her torso. This new variation of Martinez’s defense was enough to turn Adora’s iron-clad headscissors into a loose front facelock. With both women still on the mat, Martinez managed to rip her head away from Adora and clocked Adora with an open-handed strike. This sent Adora tumbling sideways. Martinez carted Adora off the mat and returned her to an upright position. However, before Adora could get in any offense of her own, Martinez slammed a fist into Adora’s face and lit up her chest with a stiff knife-edge chop.

“Looks like all that wrestling’s out the window now,” Henry lamented as Martinez’s and Adora’s aggression began to build steam.

Martinez plowed three forearms into Adora’s face.

“I liked the unifying of those championships,” Wight said. “It simplified who was the champion.”

Martinez attempted to whip Adora across the ring, but Adora countered with a short arm reversal into a wristlock, followed by a roll-up in which Adora held onto Martinez’s arm, forced Martinez’s legs over her head, and then rolled across the backside of Martinez’s legs, pushing herself into a bridge. She then used the backside of that bridge to pin Martinez while peripherally hooking both of her legs. (You don’t see that every day.) Martinez kicked out at one.

“Look at that!” Henry exclaimed in response to Adora’s unique pinning predicament.

Adora lunged into a single leg takedown, this time without the backdoor push through, and took command of Martinez’s leg. Then, with Martinez on her back, Adora tucked Martinez’s leg under her arm, planted her foot into Martinez’s waist, and allowed her body to fall backward. This pulled Martinez’s left leg over her head and forced her shoulders to the mat in a way that looked impossible to get out of. (I have no idea what to call that pinning predicament because I have never seen anything quite like it in my life, but it looks both effective and excruciating.) Martinez tried to kick out at one, but the hold was too strong. Martinez tried to kick out at two, and this time, she managed to do so… barely. (You guys need to see this. Even if you read the report, you need to see it. If you don’t have time. Make time.)

“That was called a stump puller,” Henry named the pinning predicament Martinez had just escaped.

“Really loving the style of Trish Adora,” Wight said, sounding remarkably sincere. “Putting in new wrestling maneuvers and pinning combinations—”

“I love it!” Henry interrupted.

Martinez and Adora returned to their feet, and Adora instantly trapped Martinez in a vertical belly-to-back double underhook body lock. Martinez tried to stomp Adora’s foot to escape the hold but was unsuccessful. Not panicking but definitely taking nothing for granted, Martinez coercively backed Adora into the upper left corner. There, Martinez clocked Adora with three stiff back elbows, and Adora was forced to relinquish her underhook body lock. Martinez slammed a barely open-handed punch into Adora’s face. (These two were not holding back.)

The referee immediately stepped in to make the count, but Martinez put her hands in the air and walked away, frustrated but determined to keep the match clean. Once Adora had been granted a reasonable moment to recover, Martinez ran back toward her, executing a back body splash, but Adora lurched out of the way at the last second. Martinez had no time to stop her momentum and crashed back-first against the upstage left turnbuckles.

Adora attempted a running forearm, but Martinez caught her with a rising knee strike. Adora clutched her jaw, and Martinez sprinted out of the corner, taking Adora down with a high-angled clothesline. Adora got right back up, and Martinez took her right back down with a second clothesline. Martinez let out a battle cry as she went for a big boot, but Adora managed to shove Martinez’s leg aside and went for a running knee strike. However, Martinez caught Adora mid-strike, hooked her leg, picked her up, and executed an exploding suplex. Upon impact, Adora howled and grimaced in agony.

Adora used the middle rope to aid her as she crawled toward the downstage right corner turnbuckles. Adora pulled herself up into the scarecrow position, and Martinez took full advantage of Adora’s prone position. Martinez connected with a running flying forearm, a running rope-assisted big boot, and a running rope-assisted basement dropkick. This offense left Adora crumpled in a heap, partially leaning on the turnbuckles and partially leaning over the bottom rope. Martinez grabbed Adora’s left leg and pulled her out of the corner. She then hooked both of Adora’s legs and covered Adora with all her might. However, Adora found the strength to kick out at two.

“Wow, that’s some strong resilience right there,” Henry said, emphasizing the word “strong.”

Adora seemed only marginally with us, and Martinez wasted no time placing her in a sitting abdominal stretch. Adora reached out in vain for ropes that were not there, and Martinez tried to amplify the pain of her abdominal stretch by smashing her forearm into Adora’s torso multiple times. After four stiff forearms (You could literally hear the thudding impact.), Martinez reached all the way across Adora’s torso with both arms, tightening her torturous stretch and choking Adora with her shoulder in the process.

Adora’s hands flailed as she grabbed at thin air. Adora then managed to hook the crook of her arm around the top of Martinez’s neck and used the leverage that positioning provided to roll herself out of the abdominal stretch. However, Martinez was quick to recapture Adora in a front facelock. Adora slowly countered Martinez’s facelock into a wristlock and pounded at Martinez’s face with six forearms. This allowed Adora to bulldoze Martinez into the upstage ring ropes.

Adora used the momentum provided by the spring of the ropes to attempt an Irish whip, but Martinez reversed the whip, sending Adora into the downstage ring ropes. Martinez attempted a back body drop, but Adora executed a smooth float-over and landed on her feet. Adora pummeled Martinez from behind with a bevy of forearms, a wristlock, and a step-up enzuigiri.

Both women looked devastated by the brutality of the fight, but neither looked anywhere close to giving up. Adora seized Martinez around the waist and executed a slow-motion bridging German suplex to earn a two-count and a “Wow!” from Henry. (That “Wow” was deserved.)

Adora set back on her knees, frustrated and exasperated. Adora seized Martinez’s arm and applied an over-the-top armbar which quickly turned into a top wristlock. The crowd began to clap in hopes of giving Martinez the extra motivation to get to her feet. Martinez fed off the crowd and muscled her way back up, unable to break Adora’s lock.

Martinez then spun 360 degrees, ducked underneath Adora’s arm, hooked Adora’s leg, and placed her in a fireman’s carry. Before Martinez could execute her next offensive move, Adora writhed her way off Martinez’s shoulders and landed on her feet. Adora swung a clothesline at Martinez, but Martinez ducked, captured Adora’s torso, and executed The Three Amigos suplex combination.

Martinez kept Adora in a front facelock as she pulled her back to her feet. Martinez then punched Adora’s torso, draped Adora’s shins over the top rope, and executed a toprope neckbreaker. Martinez locked Adora’s legs around her own, punched Adora’s ribcage hard enough the mics picked up the sound, and applied her Brass City Sleeper submission hold. Adora tried her best to not give in to the pain, but the submission hold was too much, and Martinez forced Adora to tap out.

WINNER: Martinez in 6:00 to retain the ROH Women’s Championship

(David’s Analysis: This was by far the best match on the show, and it was the best match Dark Elevation has seen in a good while. You should go out of your way to watch this. Not only is it an ROH Women’s World Championship title match, but it was a well-fought contest between two resolute individuals bent on winning decisively. This match surpassed my expectations, and I hope it will surpass yours when you see it. This should have been on Dynamite, Rampage, or a PPV.)

– After the match, Martinez helped Adora up and shook her hand.

– After that, another advert for Dynamite aired.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The first five matches were mediocre affairs, but the night’s final match was stellar. If I gave star ratings to Dark Elevation matches, this would easily be three to three-and-a-half stars. Based on this match alone, I think they should consider signing Adora. Her chemistry with Martinez is good enough that I would love to see a rematch. If you only have the time to watch one match on AEW Dark Elevation this week, watch the ROH Women’s Championship bout. If you have time to watch two matches, check out Sakura & Rose vs. Jay & Sakazaki, and if you have time to watch three matches, watch The Acclaimed & The Gunn Club vs. Clayton & Chase & GKM & Donovan. However, I would like to emphasize one last time that you should find a way to make the time to see this ROH title defense. It only went 6 minutes, but Adora and Martinez made the most of every single second.

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, reading my columns will reduce your lifespan by the exact number of minutes it took you to read them.

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