Another week, another Athena Proving Ground Match on Dark: Elevation:
ROH Women’s World Championship Proving Ground Match
Athena vs. Taylor Rising
AEW Dark Elevation #107 – Winnipeg, Manitoba – 3.20.2023
Athena smashes Rising with a forearm, dropkicks her off the apron to the floor, and then throws her into the barricades – all with a smile on her face. That smile leaves her face when Rising reverses a whip into the ring steps. She angrily reverses a double underhook into a waterwheel slam onto the floor, regaining her smile in the process. Rising manages to pull off a tijeras and pump kick back in the ring, leading her to pull off a Pedigree for a two count. The champion comes back with a shotgun dropkick and double knees in the corner. The Wrath of the Goddess leads to the crossface, earning Athena the submission victory at 3:21. She then dumps Rising over the top rope and to the floor where she smashes Rising’s face on her title belt. I enjoy watching these every week, but how can you not watch Athena and see potential for her to do more in AEW proper? Oh well, ROH’s gain I guess. Rising was great herself, definitely one of the most convincing Proving Ground opponents yet. **¼
Orlando, FL – 3.23.2023
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman.
The show begins with Lexy Nair interviewing Samoa Joe. Joe thinks Mark Briscoe may have forgotten who he’s going to be facing at Supercard of Honor. As a reminder for Mark, Joe issues an Open Challenge for his Television title tonight. He wants Mark to watch the match, so he may be reminded of just who he is preparing to step in the ring with.
Mark Briscoe vs. Tony Nese
Mark Briscoe has vowed to go through everybody “Smart” Mark Sterling represents, because Sterling interrupted his first AEW promo. Mark defeated Josh Woods in February, and Nese is next in his crosshairs. Sterling and Woods are in Nese’s corner. Nese attacking Mark before the bell doesn’t help him for long, but a distraction from Sterling which allows him to shove Mark into the ring post does. Sterling distracting the referee also allows for Nese to kick the middle rope into Mark’s groin, and for Woods to suplex Mark onto the floor. Mark fights for a Jay Driller, but Nese frees himself and roundhouse kicks Mark for a two count. Nese misses a springboard moonsault. Mark unloads with strikes in the corner, leading to an Iconoclasm for two. Mark damages Nese’s neck further with a uranage suplex and the ratchet neckbreaker. Nese escapes Redneck Boogie and superkicks Mark to the ropes. Mark bounces back into a suplex position, but Mark strikes first and lands a brainbuster. Nese double stomps Mark after landing on his feet out of a German suplex, but Mark turns Nese inside out with a clothesline to halt the corner knee strike. A rolling Death Valley Driver leads to the Froggy Bow and Mark getting the pin at 8:55. As much as I love that Mark adopted the Jay Driller, I also appreciate that HIS finisher won him this match. Not only does it give him two built up finishers heading into the title match, but it also establishes that what he’s cultivated for himself is also effective. Nese and him kept a really good pace and Nese was a formidable opponent for Mark. This was a good way to kick off the episode and give Mark steam heading into Supercard of Honor. ***
AR Fox, Blake Christian & Metalik vs. The Trustbusters (Ari Daivari, Slim J & Jeeves Kay)
This match was set up last week after Christian and Metalik defeated Daivari and Slim J, and Daivari challenged them to find a partner and face them in a trios match. “Smart” Mark Sterling is in the Trustbusters corner. Christian is pummeled by the Trustbusters in their corner, but Metalik turns things around for their team. Kay, however, pulls Metalik down by his leg when he is about to springboard in from the apron, and he crashes face first into the ring apron. Slim J knocks Christian and Fox off of the ring apron after Metalik knocks down Daivari with a springboard back elbow. Metalik scoops up Daivari into a backbreaker, and by the time he makes it to the corner, Fox is there to accept a tag. After dishing out Ace Crushers to everyone, Fox wipes out Slim J and Daivari with a springboard somersault senton on the floor. Christian lands a twisting splash onto all three Trustbusters off of the top turnbuckle. Fox pump kicks Sterling off of the ring apron, but it leaves him open for a modified brainbuster from Kay. A double Spanish Fly/powerbomb Tower of Doom leaves Daivari and Fox standing. Fox catches Daivari coming off of the top rope with an Ace Crusher, and then quickly hits a 450 Splash for the pin at 13:20. The last few minutes were really exciting and showed what this new trio is capable of. It was a good way to establish their rapport and get them a win under their belt to justify their Six Man Tag title challenge. **¾
The Embassy attacked Christian, Fox, and Metalik after the match as a measure of retribution for last week’s attack. They hold up their titles after the fact, but give no indication on if the challenge laid out by Christian, Fox, and Metalik for Supercard has been accepted.
Skye Blue vs. Lady Frost
As the pace quickens, First catches Blue with a rolling kick to the ribs, leading to the Snowball Fight cannonball senton for a two count. She drives her knees into Blue’s ribs, but takes too much time after popping up Blue in the corner. Blue swivels to the apron and savate kicks Frost, but when Blue looks to springboard in, First kicks her in the face to send her to the floor. Although Frost takes Blue down with a somersault senton off of the apron, Blue cracks her with a savate kick back inside the ring. Frost blocks as second savate kick, but Blue swings into a low enzuigiri. Frost impressively cartwheels Blue up into an Air Raid Crash for two. Blue recovers with a high crossbody and a twisting neckbreaker, leading to the Skye Fall for the pin at 8:20. This was a surprisingly intense match. Clearly Blue was going to win here, and she was good, but Frost left the lasting impression. Seriously, that cartwheel into the Air Raid Crash was awesome.**¾
The Foundation (Tracy Williams & Rhett Titus) vs. La Facción Ingobernable (RUSH & Dralistico)
Jose The Assistant is in LFI’s corner. These two factions were at war with one another in ROH in 2021. Even though he wasn’t involved in the rivalry at that time, Dralistico follows RUSH’ lead by not obeying the Code of Honor and flipping off The Foundation. This of course riles up the Foundation, who attack with reckless abandon, but the more composed LFI take advantage of this and end up trapping Williams in their half of the ring. Williams ends a strike exchange with Dralistico by taking him down with an inside Saito suplex and tags in the fresh Titus, who gets the better of RUSH in a forearm strike exchange and throws him across the ring in a belly-to-belly suplex. He hydraulic dropkicks RUSH into a rolling clothesline from Williams, with Dralistico making the save just before the three count. Dralistico then takes out Williams with a springboard double knee facebuster. When RUSH has him in his crosshairs for the Bull’s Horns, Williams explodes out of the corner and tackles RUSH. Titus charges at RUSH but gets belly-to-belly suplexed into the turnbuckles. Dralistico takes out Williams with a tope con hilo, leaving RUSH the opening to clobber Titus with the Bull’s Horns for the pin at 5:38. That was a hot five and a half minutes, and the wrestling perfectly exemplified the ethos of both groups. LFI got the Foundation to wrestle their match by turning them into hot heads right at the start, and it worked in their favor. ***
We’re then shown a sit down talk with ROH World Champion Claudio Castagnoli and Eddie Kingston, moderated by Caprice Coleman. Coleman asks Claudio to explain why he said Eddie wasn’t worthy of a title match and a man without honor. Claudio then issues an apology to Eddie, saying he does think Eddie has honor in his own way through pride. However, he stands by his thought that Kingston doesn’t deserve to be ROH World Champion. Kingston tells Claudio that his apology doesn’t mean anything to him. The only thing that means anything to him right now is defeating Claudio for the World Title. He says the title belonged to mentors of his – Low Ki, Xavier, and Homicide. He says the lineage of title is linked to underdogs and fighters, like him, and that Claudio is neither of those things. Claudio denies that Kingston is an underdog, saying he likes to play the victim card, and says for a fighter, Kingston is someone who quits when the going gets tough. Claudio put the work in to become the ROH World Champion while Kingston threw himself a pity party instead of going to the gym and going to training. Claudio says Kingston talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. He says Kingston could never beat him, and never will. Kingston tells Claudio to prove it. Claudio decides to grant Kingston a title shot at Supercard of Honor, but says after he beats and outclasses Eddie that he will get mad, will blame everybody but himself, and quit. He then looks Eddie in his eyes and calls him the biggest waste of potential he has seen in his life. He had the chance to reach greatness, but imploded again and again, and that’s exactly what will happen at Supercard of Honor. To my surprise, Claudio schooled Eddie in this segment, but it did achieve making Kingston seem like the under dog, even if it is his own doing.
Darius Martin vs. Matt Taven
This is a continuation of the Top Flight and Kingdom issue. Top Flight defeated The Kingdom at Final Battle, and Dante Martin defeated Mike Bennett last week, with Taven attacking Dante after the bell. Dante is not in Darius’ corner because of this. The day before this match aired, The Kingdom also cost Top Flight an AEW Tag Title match on Dynamite. Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis-Bennett are in Taven’s corner. Darius has the match at hand until a distraction from both Mike and Maria allow him to hit the Kick of the King. Bennett also cracks Darius with a forearm smash. Darius schoolboys Taven to evade Just The Tip, but Taven knocks him down with a standing spin kick. Martin stops Taven with a reverse atomic drop and spikes him with a step-up Complete Shot for two. Martin avoids the Climax and takes down Taven with a standing Spanish Fly. After they knock each other down with stereo enzuigiri’s, Taven catches Martin with Just The Tip. Martin gets his knees up to block a frog splash and German suplexes Taven. Taven rolls outside, but he ducks a suicide dive and Martin knocks down Bennett. Maria grabs Martin’s leg as he is coming back into the ring, and Taven is able to grab him and hit the Climax for the pin at 7:35. Dante Martin runs out to prevent another post-match beatdown, so I guess he was healthy enough for that. Not as good as Bennett vs Dante, but a fine continuation of this rivalry. **¾
Tony Deppen vs. Brian Cage
Prince Nana, Bishop Kaun and Toa Liona are in Cage’s corner. Cage arrogantly dominates Deppen for several minutes. That arrogance leads to Cage showboating too much in the corner, and Deppen is able to take him down with a superkick to the back of his thigh and a back cracker. A lungblower sends Cage to the floor, and Deppen follows up with a tope suicida. Deppen double knees Cage in the corner and comes off the top turnbuckle with a double stomp for a two count. Cage evades a running knee strike and knocks down Deppen with a rolling clothesline. Deppen blocks a second with a headbutt but is taken down with a spinebuster. The Drill Claw then gets Cage the pin at 4:28. A good underdog story from Deppen, who made Cage regret playing with his food and forced him to focus. The Embassy beats up Deppen until Fox, Christian, and Metalik come to his rescue, using lead pipes and chains to send them packing. I don’t know that brandishing weapons is something the Tecnico trio would do when the odds are even, but what do I know? **¼
Shane Taylor vs. Silas Young
This match was set up last week after Young defeated Marcus Kross and declared himself the most dominant Television champion of all time. Taylor challenged that claim, and invited Young for them to settle the score in a match. JD Griffey is in Taylor’s corner. Taylor is firmly in control, but a missed leg drop on the ring apron gives Young the opening to deliver a knee strike to the back of his head. Young takes him down with a corner springboard lariat, but Taylor knocks him down with his own lariat moments later. He gets two with a double choke bomb. Young comes back with a knee to the jaw and a tornado DDT. Taylor escapes Misery and pulls Young into a uranage slam. Young kicks out of a running splash. Taylor tries the Marcus Garvey Driver, but Young escapes and muscles up Taylor into a Finlay Roll. The Pee Gee Waja Plunge misses and Taylor rolls Young back into a knee strike. The Marcus Garvey Driver puts Young away at 6:46. It was nice seeing two people from the last iteration of ROH featured in a match together, and they worked together very well. I thought Taylor had really found himself in ROH right when it closed up, so I hope he ends up sticking around. **¾
Billie Starkz vs. Miranda Alize
Alize was a finalist in the inaugural ROH Women’s Title tournament, and this is her first match in this era of ROH. Alize fights dirty, biting Starkz hand and powdering to the floor when Starkz begins to pick up momentum. Starkz follows her out with a suicide dive, but back inside the ring, Alize swings her into the ropes and throws her head into the mat. She decides to strike Starkz in the back of the head instead of going for the Drive By. Starkz escapes the Miranda Rights. A roundhouse kick leads to a Death Valley Driver and a two count. Alize baits her into a shoulder attack to the stomach and uses the bottom rope to pull off a Frankensteiner. Alize drops Starkz with an Ace Crusher. Starkz blocks the Drive By and tombstones Alize for the pin at 6:57. Pretty surprising to see Alize lose in her return, but not a bad thing necessarily. Starkz had a bit of buzz, and if Athena remains champion after Supercard of Honor, Starkz would be a perfect TV defense for her. I just hope it doesn’t mean the end of Alize. **½
Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
Aussie Open challenged Daniels and Sydal to a match after Daniels and Sydal defeated The Outrunners last week. They bust out the Doi and Yoshino drop toe hold dropkick combo on Fletcher. Daniels helps Sydal swipe out Davis’ leg, then Sydal assists Daniels with a standing moonsault before landing one of his own. Fletcher blind tags in when Daniels attempts a sunset flip on Davis. Aussie Open then knock Daniels down into a PK and senton splash. Fletcher slingshots Sydal into an uppercut from Davis. Aussie Open then drove Daniels and Sydal back first into each other ringside. Daniels slipped out of a Dental Plan attempt and dropped Davis with a tornado Complete Shot. Sydal uses spin kicks on both members of Aussie Open, and gets two on Fletcher with a high speed huracanrana. Sydal then tries a super Frankensteiner and gets another two count, so he goes up top hoping for a shooting star press. Instead, Davis stops Sydal on the top turnbuckle. Daniels comes to his partner’s rescue, low bridging Davis to the floor and holding Fletcher for a Meteora/powerbomb combo. Davis leaps back inside just in time to stop Sydal’s pin attempt. Sydal uses a Frankensteiner to counter Close Your Eyes and Count To F*ck. However, with Fletcher’s help, they pull off the Dental Plan and Aussie Arrow. Daniels interjects, dropping Davis with a Complete Shot and pulling Sydal so he can tag in legally. Daniels takes out Aussie Open with a double clothesline and lands a Blue Thunder Bomb on Fletcher for two. Fletcher avoids the Angel’s Wings and Daniels blocks Dental Plan. Fletcher pulls Sydal into a spinning tombstone when he jumps in and superkicks Davis. Daniels uranage slams Fletcher, but Fletcher grabs his legs to halt the BME. Davis enzuigiri’s Daniels when Daniels hooks Fletcher’s arms for the Angel’s Wings. After a double clothesline to his neck and back, Aussie Open dropped Daniels with Coriolis for the pin at 14:11. Now with two victories over former tag champions, Aussie Open has to be considered amongst the favorites to win the tag titles next week. They had awesome chemistry with Sydal and Daniels, who you’d never know hadn’t teamed in almost sixteen years. Just about all the matches before this were good, but this was the great match this episode sorely needed. ***¾
ROH World Television Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Cheeseburger
Joe has been champion since 4.13.2022 and this is his sixth defense. Joe followed the Code of Honor, but as soon as the bell rang he turned into a beast, pummeling Cheeseburger down into the corner. He yelled into the camera that Mark Briscoe needs to remember who he is. The Muscle Buster got Joe the pin at 1:02, which might be the shortest title match in ROH history. Joe gives Cheeseburger another Muscle Buster after the bell, and tells the camera he will make Mark remember. Joe brings a chair into the ring, looking to do more damage to Cheeseburger, and Mark Briscoe chases him off before he can do any more damage. Well that certainly is an effective way to rebuild Joe as a monster heading into the PPV. I’m really looking forward to that match, but what a strange choice to end the episode.
This was a fairly easy watch and set the table for two big title matches on Supercard of Honor. The show is still too long, and while the match quality was consistent, there’s only one I’d strongly recommend. You could tell some crowd fatigue was setting in as well. We will have a new episode next week, though they’re playing coy as to exactly what will be on that show since everything from the tapings has been shown. As far as this being the final episode to include fresh matches before the PPV, this could’ve been better.