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AEW Dark: Elevation
September 20, 2021

by Scrooge McSuck

Orange Cassidy

Taped from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Tony Schiavone, Paul Wight, and Eddie Kingston are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Unlike last week, this is a somewhat loaded show with three matches of "star vs star" potential, although the level of "star power" is about what you would expect for the C-Shows.

Thunder Rosa vs. Kaia McKenna:

First appearance in AEW of Miss McKenna. While Thunder Rosa is the long-term goal for Britt Baker's title reign, it doesn't feel like she has much momentum, though she remains incredibly over for someone on the back burner. Lockup and McKenna quickly goes for the hair. They fight for position, with Rosa taking McKenna to the canvas and hooking a top wristlock. Whip to the ropes and Rosa with a series of arm drags, followed by a dropkick. Double reversal into the corner with Rosa being sent into the turnbuckle. Slow charge into the corner and wow, McKenna's offense looks incredibly lazy. Rosa with a double reversal of her own, sending McKenna to the corner and hitting a series of chops. McKenna gets tripped up into the ropes and Thunder Rosa connects with a pair of basement dropkicks. Fire Thunder Driver finishes at 2:40. Not an impressive appearance from McKenna, downright embarrassing, and it made Thunder Rosa's effort suffer.

The Gunn Club vs. Anthony Bennet, Ray Jaz, and Leon St. Giovanni:

Who can forget when the Gunn Club (Father Billy, sons Austin and Colten) turned heel on Paul Wight to build heat for the big man's match with Q.T. Marshall? I did. The Club has an unblemished 13-0 record as a trio, but mostly against scrub opponents. Austin and Bennett start. Billy with a cheap shot to kick things off, then Ray Jaz gets dumped over the top rope for the hell of it. Colten with boots to the body of Bennett. Billy with a back breaker, holding Bennett in the air for what felt like forever. Nice to see the Gunn Club has more professional looking gear since turning heel. Austin misses a diving clothesline. Bennett avoids both Colten and Billy before tagging in Giovanni. He springs off the ropes with an elbow on Colten. Billy cuts him off with a forearm and Austin puts him away with the Colt .45 at 2:17. Make those two unimpressive squashes, though maybe working heel for the first time is throwing off the Gunn kids.

Evil Uno & Colt Cabana vs. Alan "5" Angels & 10 (w/ John Silver & Alex Reynolds):

OH NO, MORE DARK ORDER EXPLODING. How is Angels allowed to go by his own name, but Preston Vance is just known as "10"? No Stu Grayson in attendance. Angels and Cabana start, but Angels wants Uno. Cabana picks the ankle and works the arm. Angels rolls through and grabs a side headlock. Crisscross and Angels connects with a dropkick. Uno tags in and gets swept off his feet. Cabana pulls Angels off, bringing 10 into the ring. Angels hits Uno on the floor with a low tope suicida. Back inside, Uno begs off 10, saying he wants Angels. He shoves 10 in the process, and 10 retaliates. Uno grabs a side headlock, but a shoulder block doesn't have any effect. 10 lays out Uno with a shoulder block of his own and catches a body press. Angels in with a dropkick and 10 follows with a fallaway slam. Uno hangs back to avoid a spinning heel kick and powders out. Cabana cuts Angels off, but Angels wants nothing to do with his reasoning, decking Cabana in response. Uno with a running boot, knocking Angels off the apron. Back inside, Cabana teases throwing a punch but grabs a front face-lock instead, taking Angels over with a front chancery for two. Angels fights out of the corner and makes the tag to 10. He's also reluctant to throw strikes. Uno goes for the attack but 10 ducks. Cabana gets dumped and 10 hits Uno with a pair of clotheslines. 10 with a series of pump kicks in the corner, followed by mounted rights. Cabana comes in to save and gets pie faced. He tries it again and 10 lets him have it. 10 catches Uno charging out of the corner with a spine-buster and hits a slingshot spear for two. Angels rushes in and Cabana finally clobbers him with a right forearm. Cabana and 10 throw hands. 10 counters the bionic elbow but can't hook the Full Nelson. Cabana with the Flying Apple to 10 as Uno lays out Angels with a boot. 10 and Cabana fight on the floor as Uno "accidentally" unmasks Angels. Angels slaps the taste out of Uno's mouth, and Uno responds with a right hand. Uno sets up for a powerbomb but Angels counters with a rolling cradle for three at 7:43. Post-match, Angels reapplies his mask and offers a hand, but Uno rolls out, leaving the rest of the group in the ring. This was awkward but told the right story, and kudos for giving Angels a big win. **

Orange Cassidy (w/ Chuck Taylor & Kris Statlander) vs. Mike Verna:

The sooner Cassidy and the Best Friends get away from the HFO rivalry, the better, and with a hair vs hair match being teased, that should be the final nail in the coffin of the feud. Can AEW not make up their minds what music Orange Cassidy comes out to? Schiavone notes Verna is "all jacked up." I feel like I've seen him before, but I can't make him out. He taunts Cassidy by flexing and challenges him to a test-of-strength, leading to Cassidy putting his hands in his pockets. He lays into Verna with the shin kicks. Verna cuts him off with a boot to the midsection. Whip to the ropes, Cassidy rolls under a clothesline, hits a dropkick, and nips up. The arm band comes off and the Orange Punch finishes at 1:14. It amazes me that ORANGE CASSIDY gets the smoothest, quickest squashes of almost anyone on the roster. AND IT WORKS.

Private Party (w/ Matt Hardy) vs. Teddy Goodz & Jorge Santi:

How logical is it for Matt Hardy to have THREE TAG TEAMS in his employ? I might be able to accept two, and that would be a stretch, but three? Come on... I do dig that Kassidy and Quen are wearing gear straight out of the late 90's Hardy's wardrobe. Quen starts, no-selling a shoulder block and taking Santi over with a head-scissors. He takes a shot at Goodz, opening the door for an extended double-team on Santi. Kassidy in with a whip and jumping leg lariat. He unloads on Santi in the corner but misses a dive in the opposite corner. Goodz throws forearms and chops on both members of Private Party but gets cut off with a double boot to the body. They do some tandem offense capped by a double stomp to the back of the head. Gin and Juice finishes at 1:59. Nothing to really get excited about, but not a dumpster fire like the opener, either.

Hikaru Shida vs. Masha Slamovich:

Remember how I said Thunder Rosa feels like she's been on the back burner for a while? Shida, coming off a year-plus reign as the Women's Champion, hasn't seen Dynamite in months. Masha Slamovich sounds like one of those awesome gimmick names for the Russian that is obviously an American. Lockup into the ropes and Shida gives a clean break. Masha with a shove and handful of hair sending Shida into the ropes. Shida ducks a clothesline and connects with a jumping kick to the chest. Shida works the arm and cuts off Slamovich's ode to Owen Hart counter attempt. Slamovich takes control and plants Shida with a gut-wrench suplex for two. Shida catches Slamovich off the ropes with a head-scissors and unloads with mounted right hands. Shida with a headbutt and push-off dropkick, followed by a running knee strike. She connects with not-quite-a-brain buster for two. Slamovich cuts Shida off with a kick to the face and hits a dragon suplex for two. Shida comes back with a sit-out dominator and sliding forearm before finishing with a roundhouse knee (The Katana?) at 3:38. Slamovich looked green, but Shida did enough to keep this entertaining.

Sonny Kiss vs. Joey Janela (w/ Kayla Rossi):

Janela's mysterious muscle finally has a name. Janela turned heel roughly 6-8 weeks ago after teasing a split from Sonny for another month or so. Last week, Kiss finally got a little bit of retribution, leading up to this encounter. Sonny Kiss is introduced from Jersey City, NJ and has new gear for the match. New music, too that sounds a little more "professional wrestling" appropriate. Kiss ducks a clothesline and decks Janela with a rolling elbow. Janela powders out and Kiss follows with a baseball slide, followed by a moonsault from the top rope to the floor! Janela decks Sonny with a right hand and distracts Aubrey Edwards, allowing Rossi to spear Sonny into next week. Janela (busted open) rolls back outside and plants Sonny with a brain buster. Back inside, Janela covers for a two-count. Sonny fights out of a stretch but is cut off with a Super-Kick. Kiss cuts Janela off from climbing the ropes and tosses him with a press slam. Kiss with a moonsault, dropping knees across the chest of Janela for a two-count. Janela pops up with a jaw breaker and bounces off the ropes with a lariat. Janela follows Kiss to the apron and misses a flying senton. Sonny with a tope suicida into a DDT! Back inside, Janela's turn to cut Sonny off on the top rope. Janela climbs up and hits a Spanish Fly for two. Janela with a pair of piledrivers for another two-count. Janela comes off the top with an elbow and Sonny cradles him for three at 5:05! WHA?!?! Post-match, Rossi lays Sonny Kiss out with a forearm to the back of the head. Janela grabs a chair and puts it to good use, including a moonsault double-stomp from Rossi with the chair across the back of Kiss. This was WAY better than I anticipated. Maybe I should give Janela a little more respect. ***

Santana & Ortiz vs. Avery Good & J.T. Dunn:

I'm loving some of these names of the enhancement guys but using two guys with the last name "Good(z)" is a bit much. The crowd is way into Santana and Ortiz, rocking their Dead Presidents war paint. Ortiz starts, fighting out of a headlock and hitting Dunn with a jumping heel kick. Santana with the blind tag, rolling over the back of Ortiz and hitting a springboard cross body. Ortiz with a senton and Santana uses his partner for a springboard moonsault. Good runs in and gets taken out immediately. Dunn tries to fight off both Santana and Ortiz and doesn't do well. Santana with a springboard cannonball, Ortiz with a pop-up sit-out powerbomb, and Santana kicks Dunn's head into the 13th row for the finish at 1:20. Fun squash that was hard to keep up with for the sake of play-by-play.

Dustin Rhodes vs. Q. T. Marshall (w/ The Factory):

The Factory is represented by Aaron Solow and Nick Comoroto. I'm sure there's some who wanted this match pulled in response of the "Plane Ride from Hell" episode of Dark Side of the Ring, but that's an argument for someone else. Marshall tries to attack before the bell, but Dustin cuts him off. Whip to the corner and Dustin with a clothesline, sending Marshall to the floor. Dustin follows, sending Marshall back in the ring. Solow with a quick distraction, allowing Marshall to land a boot to the side of the head. Whip and Marshall with a spinning elbow for two. Remember when these two were the Natural Nightmares? Eddie Kingston remembers. Whip is reversed and Marshall with a dropkick for two. Solow with a shot from the floor with the referee distracted. Dustin fights out of a chin-lock and nails a pair of clotheslines. Whip is reversed and Dustin drops down for a right uppercut and snap powerslam. Marshall blocks the clothesline and counters with an enzuigiri (that mostly misses). Marshall with a Liger-Bomb for a near-fall. Marshall signals for the Diamond Cutter, but Dustin counters with the Curtain Call for two. Marshall blocks the bulldog again. He meets a boot charging into the corner but recovers to cut Dustin off on the top rope with an enzuigiri. Marshall climbs up and connects with a super-plex for two. Dustin with a cradle for two. Code Red from Dustin for two. They trade rights, with Dustin getting the better of the exchange. Dustin blocks the Diamond Cutter and comes off the ropes with a bulldog. Dustin with a rude gesture, setting Marshall up for Shattered Dreams (or "The Unnatural Kick"). Lee Johnson comes out to brawl with Solow and distract the referee as Dustin hits the low blow, and the Final Reckoning finishes at 6:37. Good action, though it was too short of a match to try and make epic with so many false finishes. **½

Final Thoughts: Three matches worth checking out that are out of the range of squash matches, including a nice homecoming performance for Sonny Kiss, the further adventures of the Dark Order, and a solid Main Event between Dustin and Q.T. The show opened poorly with one of the worst matches I've seen in the history of Dark (topped only by a female wrestler named Roche Chanel) and the Gunn Club finding their way in their first match as a heel trio, but after that, the show hit a decent stride.

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