After Dark – Week 2

Hopefully I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew with these Elevation & Dark round-ups. So far I’m 2 for 2 in 2023!

Jan. 9 – Dark Elevation

So this week Vickie Guerrero does actually come out with Nyla & Marina but when they walk down the ramp, Vickie stays behind on the stage. Nyla turns to look but Vickie shoos her off. This division continues.

“Already in the ring” are Danika Della Rouge and Amira. Rouge is a 4-year veteran trained at the Buddy Wayne Academy, so another product of NW USA. Amira, I don’t know much about her besides that she’s from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Nyla’s got jokes early into the match by kicking Rouge off the apron and then standing in her spot reaching out her hand for the tag. Amira without looking up tags in Nyla who beats the piss out of her.

Marina Shafir is her usual terrific self, manipulating her opponents limbs to dictate where they can go. I often worry that when it comes to Shafir, the average fan doesn’t observe and appreciate all the little things she does that ooze credibility. She really takes the sport of pro wrestling to another level. So long as Tony Khan believes in her though, I have faith we’ll get there. It may just not be her time.

Nyla, as always, has her power game but it’s easy to forget how light she can be on her feet. For being a monster of the women’s division she absolutely does not “lumber” around.

Shafir & Nyla’s double-team finish, which is like an assisted spike DDT looked awesome. So awesome in fact that after the post-match where Nyla seemed to be taking Vickie’s distancing harder than Marina, I couldn’t help but think, “Damn, if these two are going to break up it’s a shame to waste that finisher”. Hard to know what will happen but it scans as a breakup (although maybe that’s just the effects on a brain that’s watched WWE for years).

Winner: Marina Shafir & Nyla Rose (2:52)

Once again, this new entrance ramp, I’m already nostalgic for the O.G. Dynamite set but these entrances look so great with the layered coordinated lcd screens.

Equally wonderful as Athena’s entrance: Athena. Actually, that’s under-selling it. She has this genius way of throwing a new wrinkle into one of her own tropes that’s absolutely delightful.

Viva Van makes every second of her “already in the ring” intro count with a handstand and then slow rise from her knees. Athena laughs this off.

Athena opens the match goading Viva into striking her in the chin the same way Athena herself likes to open her matches. Athena dodges the strike, drops her with a thrust kick to the stomach and then shows Viva how she feels her little intro routine should be done. I mean, to use your crazy athleticism as a throwaway gag. This woman man. This woman.

Athena absorbs an elbow strike from Van before obliterating her with her authentic Athena elbow strike. Athena takes the fight to the floor, throws Van into the steel steps and then FUCKING METEORAS HER FACE AGAINST THE STEPS. What a cool bitch.

Athena does win via submission and continues to beat down Viva post-match when this happens:

I’m ripping my dick off over here! Two of my faves facing off in rolls worthy of them! I love Marina’s intensity walking down the ramp and, it’s kind of a hilarious detail, but I love how Athena is the one wrestler immune to freezing at someone’s theme song coming on. She just continues beating on poor Viva Van and when Shafir reaches the apron she asks for a moment to finish her meal and Marina obliges. Because real recognizes real. Shafir gets in and points at Athena’s ROH World Title. And I don’t know why I love this detail but she points at it like a gun. Goddamn I love this segment, I love these women, and I love how it doesn’t play out like one big trope we’ve seen 1000 times before. They put their own spin and flavour on it and that makes it feel fresh. I cannot WAIT to watch Athena vs Marina Shafir! 

Winner: Athena (2:00)

JAN. 10 – DARK

I’m still not over these entrances with the new set. Sorry, Imma probably talk about this for a while.

Being that we’re heading towards Ruby Soho & Willow Nightingale vs TayJay A.S. in a Street Fight, this match scans as a warmup for the former. While this isn’t a No DQ match but despite this, they capture the chaotic nature of a street fight on the outside of the ring without using weapons.

Sometimes matches exist to function as a storytelling device and this was one of those matches. Not great but hit its aim.

Winner: Ruby Soho & Willow Nightingale

Hey Teal Piper got her own entrance! She’s introduced as Rowdy Roddy Piper’s daughter. 

So again, while this match does serve to be a warmup before their street fight with Ruby Soho & Willow Nightingale, that doesn’t mean the journey on the way to the destination can’t also be fun. Kel had some impressive selling spots. She didn’t get a lot of offence in but she at least looked like a solid enough worker that I’d be interested in searching YouTube for an actual match of her’s.

Teal Piper gets the hot tag and delivers a few clotheslines and a Rowdy Roddy style eye poke before getting pump kicked by Tay Melo and tagging out. Anna Jay quickly beats Kel with the Queens Slayer.

It was aight.

Winner: TayJay A.S.

This was a match in which fans who were in the arena in Portland were starting to tip off fans on Twitter not to miss this match. It was a very good match indeed.

Furthering the Vicious Vixens storyline, Vickie Guerrero will accompany Marina Shafir to ringside but, in the past, she won’t when Nyla Rose is out there too.

The match starts out with mat wrestling which isn’t like typical pro wrestling chain wrestling but Shafir is looking for a submission while Athena escapes. This looks very real which, as I’ve discussed, is for me it isn’t for everyone.

After taking a moment to try and chase of Vickie, Athena returns to the ring and they continue their mat wrestling, highlighted by Athena reversing an arm bar by lifting Marina off the canvas into a powerbomb.

The strikes in this match are lush. At one point Shafir kicks Athena in the stomach and makes terrific back tumble out of the ring. It’s a bit of a strange match as Marina Shafir, despite being an established heel, works a hard-nosed but fair style and never cheats. Athena, meanwhile, works a bit like a cowardly heel, including trying to take her belt and leave the match.

Later on there’s a couple spots where Marina tries to sink in a sleeper hold. The first time Athena drops back first to shed Shafir off which she does momentarily and the next time Athena drops off the middle turnbuckle in the same fashion to break the hold.

We get some vicious strikes from Shafir. Athena follows by stomping down on her bare foot. Shafir is sent out and Athena hits her meteora spot against the steel steps. In the finish, Marina reverses a submission in a pin which Athena reverses again and grabs the tights for good measure.

Post match Athena is celebrating with her ROH Title at ring side cockily into the camera. Marina rises up from behind and tries to pull her back into the ring by the hair so Athena bashes her in the face with her belt.

re-evaluating Marina Shafir (spoiler: she still rules)

As enormous a fan as I am of Marina Shafir even I have to admit that I feel like she’ll need to compromise her style a bit more for an AEW crowd. There were spots in this match that energized the crowd but they were spaced out too far for the fans liking in a 12-minute match. And if you watched either of the shows from Rampage, this was a great crowd. Shafir’s strikes in this match were so great, especially her forearm shots at one point where she just started feeding Athena repeatedly. There’s a massive AEW breakout match tucked in this woman’s arsenal somewhere. And once she unlocks it, it’ll be full steam ahead.

Winner: Athena (12:02)

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