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Winfree’s AEW Dark: Elevation (Ep. 98) Review 1.16.23

January 16, 2023 | Posted by Robert Winfree
AEW Dark: Elevation Image Credit: AEW
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Winfree’s AEW Dark: Elevation (Ep. 98) Review 1.16.23  

Well everyone, it’s time for another episode of AEW Dark: Elevation. Tonight we’ve got LFI, Dark Order, Daniel Garcia, the continuation of Matt Hardy and Ethan Page’s shockingly amusing feud, and a triple threat tag team match for our main event of Butcher and Blade vs. Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta vs. Top Flight. We’re back to about an hour this week, probably a good call. Paul Wight and Matt Menard are on commentary.

Match #1 – Trios Match: Emi Sakura, Marina Shafir, and Nyla Rose w/ Vickie Guerrero vs. Johnnie Robbie, Vipress, and Zyra

Nyla and Robbie get us going. Quick strikes from Nyla then she tags in Emi, deliberately not tagging in Shafir. Emi with chops in the corner then a corner cross body. Nyla tags back in, then Shafir blind tags and starts arguing with Nyla. That allows Robbie to tag in Vipress, who lands strikes but Nyla with a Military Press then Shafir lays in kicks. Shafir tags in Emi, she and Nyla are not getting along. Vipress is able to tag in Zyra, but Nyla runs in with a Spear to cut her off. Beast Bomb from Nyla as Shafir takes out Robbie and Vipress and Emi pins Zyra for the win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Nyla Rose, Marina Shafir, and Emi Sakura won in 2:00

Rating: Patisson squash

The dysfunction between Nyla, Shafir, and Vickie continues to grow. I’m curious what the endgame is for that, but Nyla and Vickie have been together for long enough that separating them is a good idea.

Post match Emi is confused, Vickie is unhappy, and Shafir is angry as usual.

Match #2: Daniel Garcia vs. Kevin Blackwood

Garcia quickly out wrestles Kevin and mocks him. Kevin responds with his own mat return and paint brushing. Garcia lands a knee but eats a chop. They trade some strikes now, then Garcia shoves Kevin off of the ropes and down to the floor. Kevin gets back in the ring and Garcia attacks him with a back elbow. The crowd tells Garcia that he’s a wrestler, Garcia yells at them that he’s a sports entertainer. Chop from Garcia then some punches in the corner. Kevin fights back with a boot then a second rope dropkick. Striking flurry from Kevin then an exploder suplex. Double leg into a double stomp from Kevin gets a 2 count. Garcia with a double leg, Kevin counters with a small package then they trade position counters until Garcia hits a DDT style Codebreaker to get the win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Daniel Garcia won in 3:45

Rating: 2 stars

Decent little match, Kevin got to show off his stuff and Garcia is still visibly coming into his own in the ring in a lot of ways.

Matt Hardy and Isiah Kassidy are interviewed in the back about their 8 man tag team match tonight. Hardy says they’re excited, Kassidy objects to this being an 8 man, he knew it was him, Hardy, and Page but who’s the fourth member of their team? Hardy says Page wants some enthusiasm, and Page walks up with Brandon Cutler to interrupt things. Page wants more of what Cutler brings, he wants partying harder, and Kassidy hasn’t been bringing the fun lately. He wants to know how Page can bring the fun while Kassidy is the one being cranky. Cutler has two contracts and works hard, now he wants to Hardy Party baby. Page likes Cutler, and he’s loving Hardy lately, but Kassidy needs to get his stuff together. Kassidy storms off, and Page asks if Kassidy is dead ass, Hardy thinks he is. It’s like they’re throwing every comedic element they can into this, and you know what? I think it’ll work.

Ari Daivari has a mic as his team heads to the ring. He needs all of us to listen, they’re here in LA, the bright lights of Hollywood, but this crowd is full of phonies, fakes, and pretentious wanna bees. After they win they’re going to New Jersey for a real party. Not sure why Daivari is on the roster to be honest.

Match #3 – Trios Match: Dark Order (Evil Uno, Alex Reynolds, and John Silver) vs. Nick Ruiz, Zack Clayton, and Ari Daivari

Uno and Ari get us started, they tie up then Ari grabs a side headlock but can’t knock Uno over as they trade shoulder blocks before hitting a Manhattan Drop and a shoulder block. Ruiz tags in, Uno just chops him flat. Silver tags in, then Reynolds and Ruiz takes some tandem offense. Ari gets punched down but the distraction allows a clothesline from Clayton then he tags in. Suplex from Clayton then a leg drop. Some uppercuts from Clayton then a scoop slam and he tags in Ari who hits a Frog Splash for 2. Reynolds and Ari trade roll ups for a bit then Reynolds clocks him with an elbow. Ruiz and Silver both tag in, and Silver starts running wild. German suplex and a seated super kick from Silver, then a lung blower but Clayton and Ari break up the pin. Uno and Reynolds dispose of Ari and Clayton, then Ruiz takes the Ragnarok and we’re done.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Dark Order won in 3:40

Rating: 2 stars

Probably should have been more of a squash than it was.

Konosuke Takeshita is in the back getting interviewed, before he can answer a question Don Callis interrupts things. Callis brings up the crazy schedule of Takeshita, and says losses are losses. Takeshita has all the talent, but he needs help, and leaves Takeshita with his card. I’m not in the camp of putting Takeshita with Callis and The Elite if at all possible.

Match #4 – Tag Team Match: La Faccion Ingobernable (Rush and Preston Vance) w/ Jose vs. Misterioso and Diego Valens

Vance and Valens get us going, Valens tries strikes which Vance no sells then crushes him with a spinebuster. Misterioso tags in, and attacks Vance with elbows but Vance catches him with a discus lariat, but pulls off the pin to tag in Rush. Rush with the Bulls Horns and we’re done.


Rating: Pattypan squash

Delicious squash, I still think it’s a shame we don’t have Andrade El Idolo in the role here, but Rush is doing a decent job of filling it.

Post match Vance and Rush yank the mask off of Misterioso, then Valens eats a discus lariat. Some shots from an extension cord follow before LFI head out.

Ethan Page cuts their music off during the walk out, Page says the people can be happy like him and Matt Hardy. Page plays with the crowd, then brings out Brandon Cutler as their partner. The music restarts and everyone except Kassidy dances to the ring. Page singing on the way to the ring to the tune of Hardy’s music is still incredibly amusing.

Match #5 – 8-Man Tag Team Match: Ethan Page, Matt Hardy, Isiah Kassidy, and Brandon Cutler vs. Peter Avalon, Nick Nemeth, and SAP (Luther and Serpentico)

Our random Luther fact of the week is that he was a stand in for Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Page keeps his mic, and Cutler starts us off with Avalon. They tie up, then Avalon lands a shoulder block but Cutler hits a clothesline. Hardy tags in and attacks the arm. Kassidy tags in and he and Hardy double team Avalon. Cutler tags back in, and lands dancing jabs. Serpentico comes in but Cutler wipes him out. Some cheap shots to Cutler in the heel corner while Page yells at the ref on the mic to turn around. Nemeth tags in and drops Cutler with a mat return. Avalon tags back in, cheap shots Page but Cutler then gets him in an airplane spin. Both men wind up dizzy, Serpentico tags in but Cutler falls down away from the corner. Eventually Page tags in, then immediately tags in Kassidy. Kassidy jumps over Page to attack Luther and Serpentico. Kassidy with a cheap shot to Nemeth, then a jumping Flatliner to Serpentico and Luther breaks up the pin. Hardy takes out Luther and Nemeth, he sets up Kassidy for a dive and Kassidy does fly onto the pile of bodies. Side Effect from Hardy to Serpentico. Kassidy with the Swanton Bomb but Page tagged in and steals the pin.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Ethan Page, Isiah Kassidy, Matt Hardy, and Brandon Cutler won in 4:40

Rating: 2.5 stars

Well that was amusing, Page is such a glorious douchebag that it’s actually hard to hate the guy. Kassidy actually brought something to the story this time, Cutler is always an amusing guy, and Hardy knows exactly what he’s doing. This whole angle is just way more fun than it looks on paper.

Match #6: Willie Mack vs. Brian Cage w/ Prince Nana

Mack hits the ropes and lands a running kick to drop Cage. Cage catches a jumping Mack with a Catatonic to take over. Mack fights back with rights, Cage cuts him off with a knee lift. They hit the ropes, Mack with a float over neckbreaker. Exploder from Mack, then some running attacks in the corner to set up a running senton in the corner which gets a 2 count. Cage runs into a back elbow but catches Mack on the top rope and lands a super kick then an electric chair face buster for a near fall. Mack eats a couple of elbows, then ducks a rolling elbow and hits a Samoan drop then kips up. Standing moonsault from Mack gets a near fall. Cage lands a boot then a jumping tornado DDT. Mack lands a head kick, Cage lands a super kick, wheel kick from Mack but Cage comes off the ropes with a discus lariat and both men are down. Stunner from Mack, then he heads up top but Cage avoids a Frog Splash then hits a pop up powerbomb and follows up with a one armed running and swinging neckbreaker to get the pin.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Brian Cage won in 5:43

Rating: 3 stars

These two have had great chemistry for years, seriously if you didn’t see their work together in Lucha Underground you’re missing out, and it’s really nice to see Willie Mack getting bigger looks these days.

Match #7: Athena vs. Zeda Zhang

Zhang avoids an elbow, trips up Athena but can’t follow up. Athena lands a knee strike then unloads with mounted strikes. Mat return from Zhang, Athena works up to her feet then lands a big boot. Corner stomps from Athena. Zhang tries to fight back but Athena clubs her down. Kicks from Athena then the Randy Orton reverse headlock backbreaker right into the Crippler Crossface and Zhang taps.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Athena won in 2:04

Rating: Reticulata squash

Not great stuff here, I’m not sure what the issue was but pretty much nothing about this actually clicked. It’s also beyond time we move Athena on from this.

Post match Athena tosses Zhang into the barricade then hits the powerbomb into a Codebreaker in the ring. Athena’s beat down is interrupted by the returning Yuka Sakazaki. Yuka unloads with elbows and Athena has to retreat from Yuka’s offense. Minor shame on both Wight and Menard for neither of them knowing the returning Yuka, kind of steps on the moment when commentary isn’t on the ball.

In the back Prince Nana gets an interview, he thinks The Embassy will be on a roll for 2023, but Dark Order crash his interview. Nana doesn’t like Dark Order, but they offer Nana a spot in Dark Order. Nana doesn’t have a reason to join the Dark Order, he smells good and is a man of luxury, he’d never join them. Alex Reynolds then brings up that he once sent a couple of grand to Prince Nana to help build an orphanage then never heard back from him. Nana runs off and Dark Order try to figure out which of them stinks.

Before our main event officially begins Claudio, Yuta, Butcher, and Blade all start brawling on the entrance ramp. That sets up some stereo dives from Top Flight.

Match #8 – Triple Threat Tag Team Match: Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta vs. Top Flight (Dante and Darius Martin) vs. The Butcher and The Blade w/ Bunny

Darius and Yuta get us going proper, they trade some strikes then Dante tags in and lands some corner offense. Quick tags from Dante and Darius as they isolate Yuta. Yuta fights back but Buther levels Dante and is technically legal. Butcher attacks Dante then he and Yuta start going at each other. Butcher catches a diving Yuta and tags in Blade to set up a double team move, Snake Eyes into a clothesline. Another clothesline from Blade then he tags Butcher back in. Yuta fights out of the corner, but Butcher cuts him off with a right hand. Butcher with cheap shots to Dante and Darius but Yuta is able to fight back again and hits a German suplex on Butcher. Both men tag out and Claudio starts running wild on Blade. Corner uppercuts from Claudio, a lot of them before Bunny tries to save Blade. That distraction allows Butcher to land a boot, but Claudio fires up and gets Butcher in the Giant Swing. Blade cuts that off after 10 revolutions. Dante tags in blind on Butcher, things break down for a bit and it’s time for Everyone to Get Their Stuff In. Eventually Dante hits the Nose Dive onto Blade while Darius plays goalie and that gets the win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Top Flight won in 4:58

Rating: 2.5 stars

Decent little sprint here, all of the men involved have talent but again something felt a little off, there just wasn’t quite a spark here for whatever reason.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Close to Good this week, but a few issues hold it back. Commentary not knowing Yuka Sakazaki on her return was kind of an issue, the main event was solid but also didn't quite hit the right gear to push this over the top. Cage vs. Willie Mack was your match of the show without too much issue. All in all a more digestible episode than last week, and still a decent little hour of wrestling content.