AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
Welcome back to the CM Punk show where the fans came to see one thing and thing only; and BOY do they let you know it! As soon as the audio from the arena is turned on, all you hear is CM Punk chants as loud as any you’ve heard at an AEW show and the first thing you see are signs that promise to riot if he doesn’t make an appearance. This episode is going to be remembered for one thing and one thing only which is Punk’s return to the world of wrestling after seven years! Now all that said, does being a significant chapter in wrestling history mean that what we saw today was any good, or will this be remembered along the debuts of The Shockmaster and The Gobbledy Gooker; certainly SIGNIFICANT moments, but for all the wrong reasons? Let’s find out!!
The Return of CM Punk – Is this the happy ending the fans have been waiting for?
The show wastes no time in giving us Punk and letting him address the crowd who as I said are ELATED beyond belief that the guy is here at AEW; they simply couldn’t wait another minute for it! Punk spends about five minutes making his way down the ramp and it’s clear that he’s really enjoying himself and the adulation he’s getting from the crowd (some of whom are in fact crying over this moment), and he eventually makes his way to the center of the ring with a mic in hand and starts to talk. Personally, I’m just not invested in Punk as a wrestling personality and I’m just not fully caught up on the history that makes this as meaningful as it is for lots of other people. What I took away from the speech is that he doesn’t make everything about him and spends time praising AEW, talking about the people in the back, and even talks directly to Darby Allin to confirm that they will have a match at the All Out PPV in a few weeks. For me, that’s what mattered most. He can talk about his struggles and animosity towards the WWE as much as he wants to because it’s part of the story that these fans have been waiting to see resolved for almost a decade now; as long as it’s in the context of the AEW story. My concern (probably misplaced) is that his presence would overwhelm everything else at AEW and just make it that much more of a traditional “WRESTLING WAR” when AEW has done quite well for itself without overly indulging in sniping back and forth with the competition. They let their product speak for itself and Punk doesn’t take away from that, so I’m very happy with this segment and I’m actually quite excited to see that match between him and Darby Allin. Oh, and everyone at the stadium got free ice cream bars. I’m told that’s a reference to something he did, so if you got it I hope it made you smile!
Private Party Vs. Jurassic Express – AEW Tag Title Eliminator Match
Private Party is accompanied to the ring by Matt Hardy
The show must go on and if nothing else they chose a pretty good match to follow what is probably the gonna be the most highly regarded moment in wrestling this year! It’s kind of easy to forget that Private Party came into AEW has the hottest new talent at the company and they prove it once again here as Jungle Boy and Isiah Kassidy light it up for a few minutes to the delight of the crowd. Lots of flips, lots of flips, smooth transitions between moves for a very even opening salvo, and even when Kassidy tags in Quen, Jungle Boy manages to overcome with some impressive moves and extraordinary rope work. It doesn’t take long though for Private Party to overwhelm him (Matt Hardy gets a few punches in as well) and they get the heat during the commercial break, but Jungle Boy eventually manages to knock Kassidy over with a clothesline and he just barely makes it to the corner to get the hot tag to Luchasaurus. The crowd goes WILD for him as usual and he gets a few minutes to really show off and toss Private Party around the ring, but there is a spot in the middle of all this that didn’t work for me. It starts with Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus trying to do that awkward Superplex spot where Jungle Boy launches off of Luchasaurus’s back instead of the ring ropes, and the spot is interrupted by Kassidy who manages to land an ABSURDLY HIGH Canadian Destroyer on the stunned and elevated Jungle Boy. However, when he comes down he IMMEDIATELY starts grabbing his thighs and for a while it looks like he might have been injured. He gets up about a minute later and is back in the match so everything seems to be fine, but that whole sequence starting with Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus trying to over-complicate a Superplex to Kassidy looking like he was in bad shape, put a bit of a damper on an otherwise good match; not to mention that Quen does a Moonsault from the top rope to the floor only to just BARLELY hit Luchasaurus on the way down. Jurassic Express eventually get the advantage back when Luchasaurus catches Kassidy as he and Quen were trying to do a Silly String, and so Hardy gets on the apron to try and distract the ref. Marko Stunt gets up to stop him only to get thrown to the ground before Jungle Boy knocks Hardy off the ropes. In the confusion he gets rolled up by Kassidy for a very close 2 count which I thought was going to be the finish given how those kind of distraction spots usually go! Quen and Kassidy set up for the Gin and Juice, but Jungle Boy somehow reverses it into a Swinging DDT mid-move which effectively puts Kassidy out of the match leaving Quen to fend for himself. He does his best, but few can stand up to a dinosaur one on one, and Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy land a Thoracic Express on Marq Quen to get the pin; winning the match and advancing in the Tag Team tournament. I was actually surprised as I thought that Jurassic Express would be knocked out early since they just got a title shot, but honestly they can lose it in the finals just as easily and frankly it’d make for a much more marquee match. I think that Private Party lost something when they joined up with Hardy Family Office and despite their IMMENSE skill level they just don’t feel as exciting to watch as they did before going to the dark side. Maybe there’s a way to thread the needle between them being heels and still being an exciting tag team (returning them to their original wardrobe would certainly help), but aside from a little awkwardness and sloppiness in the middle, this was still a heck of a match and a great way to kick off the tournament!
We immediately cut to Kenny and Calis who are lamenting the outcome of the match we just saw and Kenny is SO pissed that he just straight up tells Christian he’s gonna retire him again. Christian spoke earlier in the show about how he’s in Kenny’s head and it seems pretty obvious that despite getting that One Winged Angel on the last Dynamite that Kenny is still not in the right head space for the All Out match, so it’ll be interesting to see where this goes and what Don Callis will do to get Kenny his groove back
Jade Cargill Vs. Kiera Hogan
Cargill is accompanied to the ring by Smart Mark Sterling
Well with the Punk promo and a tag match that had a decent amount of time, it makes sense that this only goes for about a minute before Jade lands the Jaded and pins Hogan. Nothing much to write home about, but Cargill does look strong and I’m still not sure why we couldn’t have done this SEVERAL TIMES in the last few months instead of hearing about her endorsement deals on Dynamite.
Jon Moxley Vs. Daniel Garcia
Moxley is accompanied to the ring by Eddie Kingston while Garcia is accompanied by 2.0
Speaking of the time left, if there’s ONE thing I have negative to say about the CM Punk promo it’s that it only left us with six minutes for the main event match which is a shame because I really think Garcia has something and having a blow away match with Moxley could have done a lot to elevate him. Instead, they do the best they can with the time they have left and it’s still a solid match all things considered . Perhaps not a MAIN EVENT match, but there’s not much that could have been done since Rampage only gets an hour. The story of the match is that Garcia is trying to work over Moxley’s left leg which he attacked on Wednesday, so he snaps it back and kicks it a few times in the hopes of winning via submission. Moxley however is not an opponent to be taken lightly and every time Garcia hurts the leg it just fuels him even more to beat this little twerp to a pulp! Moxley gets two German Suplexes which leaves Garcia dazed, but he manages to wriggle out of the third one and flips Moxley over into an ankle submission. The attacks from earlier seem to have done their job as Moxley is threatening to tap out, but he just barley makes it to the ropes to break up the hold. The two start trading blows, but Moxley clearly has the advantage here and puts him in his place with a series of headbutts before slamming him to the ground. He goes for the Paradigm Shift to bring an end ot this, but Garcia wriggles out and puts him in another leg submission. It looks like this may be enough to tap out Moxley, but Garcia cranks TOO far on the leg and puts his head within arm’s reach of Moxley. He grabs Garcia puts him in the Bulldog Choke which he taps out to immediately; winning the match for Moxley.
2.0 charge the ring as soon as the bell rings and overpower Moxley as well as Kingston who tries to make the save, but then Sting and Darby Allin come down the ramp to break it up. Once the Heels are roundly subdued, Moxley lands a Paradigm Shift on Garcia, Sting lands a Stinger Splash and Scorpion Death Drop on 2.0, and then Darby finishes them with a Coffin Drop as the episode comes to an end.
CM Punk is only going to debut one time and you might as well make the most of it, so AEW gave him all the time he needed and all the time the fans wanted for him to say his piece and promise a bright future for everyone. The consequence of this is that the second half of the show felt rushed and the main event suffered because of it. Garcia is a rising star and I definitely wanted him to have more to do in his first main event match on AEW, but there were simply bigger fish to fry and he will no doubt get more chances in the future to show what he can do. Hopefully with the big first episode and the even bigger return of Punk that Rampage can settle itself into a proper rhythm, but this was still a fun show and would have been well worth your time even WITHOUT the most anticipated debut in wrestling history!