AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
This is TECHNICALLY this is the start of a new series, isn’t it? So I guess I shouldn’t say WELCOME BACK as we’ve technically never been here before, but honestly the name change doesn’t do much to change the fact that this is the third hour of Dynamite; an extra show to give the wrestlers more time to get in front of the crowd and to make my life slightly harder as now I have to fit TWO wrestling shows into my weekly schedule! Will AEW justify their new hour long timeslot on Friday Nights with an AMAZING first show, or is this just another Dark show with the added bonus of commercial breaks? Let’s find out!!
Kenny Omega Vs. Christian Cage – Impact World Title Match
It’s clear they wanted to start things off as BIG as possible, so why not put the AEW Champ in a title match to kick off the show? Now it’s not for the ACTUAL AEW title as these two will be fighting for that in a few weeks on PPV, but for the Impact title as Kenny managed to collect that along the way. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really into this match when it started as there was a lot of jaw-jacking between the two before going to a headlock and then finally a shoulder tackle from Cage. I can’t say that’s the kind of EDGE OF YOUR SEAT ACTION I would want in a title match, but the wrestling eventually picks up and a storyline starts to form as it goes along. Throughout the match Kenny is going for his One Winged Angel to try and put Cage away, but he seems to be his own worst enemy as he’s genuinely afraid of Cage and his Kill Switch so every time he gets close and Cage shows signs of reversing, he panics and runs away. He still manages to stay in the lead, especially after knocking Cage off the top turnbuckle to the floor, but it’s a much more defensive Kenny Omega than we usually see. The turnbuckle spot does give Kenny some momentum and he gets the heat for a while, but then he gets a bit too cocky and puts Cage on the turnbuckle for a Superplex; only for the guy to fight back and land this Spinning Powerbomb thing from the top rope that KINDA looks like a Canadian Destroyer and looked like it could have EASILY shattered Kenny’s spine! THAT must have been a rough bump to take, but Cage is now in control and gets a few nearfalls. Flying Elbow, Reverse DDT, even a Spear after Kenny misses a V-Trigger; all great moves but none are enough to finish off Omega. At one point Cage snaps Omega’s neck on the top rope and follows up with a Frog Splash to get another two count, and this is enough for Don Callis gets on the apron to distract the ref so that Omega can get the low blow. If that wasn’t enough, The Bucks come out to give Omega a chair and tries to put him up for the One Winged Angel. Cage somehow escapes and drops Kenny Omega into the chair himself with the Kill Switch and shock of all shocks, HE GETS THE PIN! Your Impact champion is Christian Cage who cuts a promo after the match about how much he’s already in Kenny’s head and what that’s going to mean for their AEW Title match on the PPV. The ending more or less being a screw job at least solved one problem I had which is that I thought having them fight TWO title matches back to back would be pointless as it at least still leaves the question as to who would win in a FAIR fight, and while I wasn’t in love with the match I thought it was pretty good. WAY too slow at the start, but it picked up by the end and Christian actually getting a pin on Kenny is a pretty big deal! Kinda feel bad for Impact though who’s biggest belt is being treated as a glorified game piece in this battle for the REAL title, but I guess when one is on national television getting over a million views an episode and the other is… not, then you take what you can get.
Miro Vs. Fuego Del Sol
If Fuego Del Sol wins, he earns an AEW contract
I thought this guy was ALREADY elite! I mean he’s been hanging around long enough that they might as well be paying him a regular paycheck, and furthermore, I don’t think anyone else had to win against one of the company’s CHAMPIONS to win a contract; so perhaps Tony doesn’t even want him here in the first place? Either way, things look good for Fuego as he hits a Tornado DDT before the bell rings. Miro groggily gets back up and eats ANOTHER Tornado DDT that sends Miro to the outside. After two of these back to back, Miro is struggling to get back up and JUST barely makes it in before the ten count… ONLY TO EAT ANOTHER TORNADO DDT FROM FUEGO! He goes for a pin after this one, but only gets a two count which is the end of Fuego’s hopes at victory as Miro gives him a Samoan Drop and a big kick that knocks him out cold. Miro then locks in the Game Over and Fuego taps IMMEDIATELY! This was a really unexpected turn of events as I didn’t expect Fuego to get so close to winning even with AEW’s particular brand of squash matches, but sure enough the guy got a HUGE pop from the crowd and they kept it short enough that the novelty of it didn’t overstay its welcome!
Miro, relishing in his victory, tears up the contact that was to be Fuego’s prize if he wins and walks to the back; leaving Fuego all alone to wallow in his misery. BUT THEN, Tony Khan and Sammy Guevara come out and confirm that despite losing the match, he gets a contract and is All Elite! A happy ending for all involved I suppose, and a quick bit of fun that works for a shorter show like this.
Britt Baker Vs. Red Velvet – AEW Women’s Title Match
Whether or not anyone at the company expects this match to be good or not is immaterial because they’ve been building to Britt’s big hometown match since before she got the title belt, and while it’s unfortunate that she broke her wrist in the Nyla Rose match, they’re gonna soldier on and find a way to make it work! The answer as it turns out is to focus on mat work and submissions rather than big moves and flippy stuff as it’s all about the wrist but Velvet makes sure to attack it in the least potentially damaging ways possible which is a GOOD thing since we don’t want to extend Baker’s injury doing an asinine stunt here, but it’s clear that’s what they’re doing. Velvet by the way gets a pretty raw deal here as Baker is still the Heel in this match but she’s the one getting booed all the time even when she does flashy moves like Drop Kicks and Moonsaults, and it ALMOST looks like she might do something interesting here as she refuses to go after the wrist early one which could genuinely get the crowd to sympathize, but then she goes ahead and starts working it over. So… it’s basically a Baby Face acting like a jerk vs a Heel who’s also a jerk? The work was fine but I Just couldn’t really get into the match itself and was just kind of waiting for them to get to the finish. Baker goes for the Lock Jaw but… I guess her cast won’t fit in Velvet’s mouth, and Velvet escapes only to start taking apart Baker’s cast. Rebel (Not Reba) tries to hand Baker the belt but the ref sees it and tosses her out of the match which distracts Baker long enough for her to eat a Super Kick and a Moonsault from Velvet for a two count. They go on for a bit after that including a spot where the two did not seem to be on the same page for (it looks like Velvet was going up for a Suplex while Baker was going for a Back Breaker, so her knee lands closer to Velvet’s neck than it should have) but eventually Red Velvet goes for the Lock Jaw herself only to discover that Baker has devised a cunning stratagem to overcoming her own finisher! She just refuses to open her mouth. I mean when you say it OUT LOUD it seems kinda obvious, but you can’t deny that clenching your jaw and shaking your head like a toddler makes it very hard to lock the move in! With Velvet unable to lock in the move, Baker reverses and tries to put HER in the Lock Jaw but Velvet grabs the injured arm and bashes it on the mat. Baker is hurt but not out as she reverses the move and uses the OTHER hand for the Lock Jaw which Velvet taps out to immediately! I guess she didn’t catch on to how Baker avoided the move just a minute prior, but regardless! Britt Baker has retained her title and is still the AEW Women’s Champion to the utter delight of the Pittsburgh audience!
Baker is not done with Velvet however as she starts attacking Red Velvet after the match, but Kris Statlander runs in to lay her out… to the boos of the crowd who I guess WANTED to see Baker curb stomp Red Velvet on the title belt. Well the end up getting their wish as Kris Statlander is attacked by Jamie Hayter who as far as I can tell had two matches on Dynamite in 2019 and is back as the extra security that Britt Baker alluded to a few weeks ago. With Statlander out of the picture, Baker drags Velvet over to the belt and stomps her head into it as the first episode of Rampage comes to an end!
I like that the fact that this is a leaner and more instantly gratifying show, but I also can’t say I was feeling it all that much. The opening match took a while to get started, I just had no investment in Fuego Del Sol, and the main event was fine but I didn’t think it had the same energy or excitement as what we’ve been getting on Dynamite recently. Still, the crowd was a HUMUNGOUS asset to this show and I did have a decent amount of fun with it. Even with the big titles being fought over here it still feels like a B-show, but is there really anything wrong with that? I think the fact that they tried to make it anything BUT a B-show is what made this first episode feel a bit awkward and I think they’ll have much more success with this if they lower the stakes a bit. We just saw an episode of Dynamite that had a bunch of matches without any real storyline purpose and it was GREAT, so getting something like that for an hour every Friday? Sounds like a winning formula to me!