AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
It’s always fun trying to find time to watch everything on a PPV weekend, but I managed to do it and am eagerly anticipating how it all shakes out on the big show! Does AEW’s last show before All Out prove to be the last burst of energy they need to finish the build and kick up the hype for the PPV, or do they stumble at the one-yard line? Let’s find out!!
Malakai Black Vs. Lee Johnson
Black has been an unstoppable and terrifying force for the last few weeks, but at some point he was gonna have to fight more than a minute or two and Lee Johnson gets the honor of being in his longest match by far. Black starts off by mocking him and not taking Johnson seriously which is honestly a pretty fair assessment as Johnson looks ABSOLUTELY terrified, but Johnson’s got a lot of speed that Black isn’t expecting and this gives him SOMETHING of an opening to get a few shots in. He even lands a fury of punches and a Dropkick that sends Black out of the ring and follows up with a Suicide Dive, so Black is not invulnerable and even eats a Frog Splash from Johnson after getting thrown back into the ring. It’s all for naught however as Black just needs to land a few kicks to stop Johnson in his tracks and even gives Johnson a chair at one point to even the odds. Johnson is barely in enough shape to hold the darn thing, let alone use it, and Black finishes him off with a Roundhouse Kick to the face; knocking him out and getting the pin. It was fine as a match, but there was something missing in it to justify the length. Johnson got some offense in and Black sold for him, but there was never anything that made you think that this guy had a chance and so adding extra minutes to the match just felt like diminishing returns. Still, Black is great to watch with a theatricality to his performance that few can replicate, and Johnson got a bit of shine here as well so not a bad way to start the show.
Dustin comes out to attack Black, but Black once again ignores their next would be competitor and leaves them to stew in their own hatred. Dustin then cuts a promo backstage where he confirms that they will have a match on the next Dynamite and that while Black may come from a place of darkness, he THRIVES in Darkness! Has done so for five decades in fact, though I’d skip over the whole Seven thing, and honestly Black Reign can probably go as well. I’m certainly excited to see it as Dustin is ALWAYS great whenever he shows up, and I’m willing to bet that he’s gonna bleed like a pig for Black to really push his Heel credibility to the moon if he’s not there already!
Miro comes out to the ring to call out Eddie Kingston for his SINFUL ways and says that even HE took a “charity contract” to be here at AEW; a blatantly UNTRUE statement as Kingston didn’t get a contract until AFTER he blew everyone away with his match against Cody, but that kind of naked hypocrisy and rewriting of facts is the kind of thing that makes a PERFECT Heel, and Miro is selling it for all it’s worth! Kingston comes out and calls Bull-Pucky on ALL of this nonsense, but in the spirit of respecting his religious beliefs he says that his UGLY looking God must be mad at him; otherwise why would he have put The Mad King in his path!? Miro is visibly getting enraged and promises to end Kingston here and now if he takes one more step towards him… to which Kingston replies REDEEM THESE NUTZ and rushes the ring! Miro ducks out of the ring and starts walking to the back which annoys Kingston quite a bit, but it’s all a trap as Miro BASHES Kingston with the belt when he tries to follow him! Miro then drags him back to the ring and is about to stomp the belt on him when Kingston dodges and lands a Back Fist followed by a DDT which is more than enough to keep Miro down as Kingston heads back up the ramp. It’s not been a deep build, but these are two immense talents and I can’t wait to see them butt heads on the PPV!
Kris Statlander Vs. Jamie Hayter & Rebel (Not Reba) – Handicap Match
Hayter & Rebel are accompanied to the ring by Britt Baker
This was a bit of an odd match and I’m not sure that it does as much for Statlander than if they had simply given her some time on the mic or even a contract signing with Baker. Sure, she’s fighting two on one (tag rules still apply so the other team can’t rush her with impunity) but it’s almost a comedy match with how much of it is making the other two look like dorks; especially Rebel (Not Reba) who’s never been great in the ring and isn’t booked in a way to make beating her an accomplishment for anyone. It starts off with Statlander and Hayter locking up as they try to out-power one another, and Hayter eventually wins with a bit of help from Rebel (Not Reba) which leads to the heat. Once we’re back from commercial and Statlander starts her comeback, she runs through these two like she’s Moe and they’re Larry and Curly; particularly this one spot where Statlander throws Hayter into Rebel (Not Reba) and then kicks her leg out from under her so that she does a sort of DDT on Rebel (Not Reba). Then for the finish, she has Rebel (Not Reba) on her shoulders and catches Hayter mid-Cross Body which means she’s holding BOTH of them and drop them onto the mat. Hayter rolls out as she is done with this and Statlander puts Rebel (Not Reba) in a submission hold (Excalibur says it’s a Spider Crab?) and Rebel (Not Reba) taps out almost immediately. Now she may have won the match, but Britt, Jamie, and Rebel (Not Reba) are far from done with her as they start encircling her like a pack wolves, but then Red Velvet hits the ring and the three of them decide to back off for now; presumably planning something for the PPV match which is right around the corner. It was okay I suppose and I probably would have liked it as a standalone match on a random Dynamite, but as the final chance for them to make this Women’s Title match feel like it MEANS something it felt REALLY lacking and didn’t add any weight to this feud at all.
Darby Allin Vs. Daniel Garcia
Allin is accompanied to the ring by Sting, Garcia is accompanied by 2.0, and CM Punk joins the commentary team for this match
2.0 and Garcia have been proved themselves as real talents in the last few weeks, and having him face off with Darby turns out to be a great way to build up a match that’s already about as hyped as it can be. It’s a solid match in its own right, but having Punk there on commentary effectively studying Darby and looking for shortcomings gives this match some weight and makes it feel like more than just an exhibition. In any case, the two trade shots right away and are brawling like a grudge match which eventually goes outside the ring. Darby like a fool starts charging at Garcia from halfway across the stadium so of course Garcia gets out of the way and Darby crashes and burns over a table! Taking advantage of this, Garcia throws Darby into the stairs and tries to press the advantage in the ring, but Darby’s wrestling skills finally come into play and he twists and turns his way into a few submissions that force Garcia to roll out of the ring himself. Not a great idea as Darby follows him and SMASHES his arm into the chair, but Garcia recovers quickly and returns to the ring to try and submit Darby. Darby once again proves to be the superior mat worker and escapes with easy, but then he goes up to the turnbuckle where Garcia catches him and lands a Superplex for a two count. Garcia gets the heat for a bit and is maintaining a solid lead with a series of Rear Naked Chokes that Darby’s about to pass out to, but he gets his second win, picks up Garcia who’s still hanging onto his back, and makes it to the second rope before falling backwards in what I guess would be considered a variation on the Coffin Drop. He then lands something called the Pepsi Twist which is apparently a CM Punk move, but it proves to not be all that effective as Garcia is back up and lands a few uppercuts. A Code Red from Darby gets another two count, and he swiftly follows up with a crossed leg pin of some kind that keeps Garcia down for three. So what did we learn watching all of this? Darby attacking Garcia like this is a grudge match shows that he has a temper and will fight any random schmo with everything he has. He’s willing to take big risks and take big bumps which means he can be baited into bad ideas like the table spot, but his resilience makes it hard to press that advantage for long. As much as he is a daredevil and throws his body around like a ballistic missile, his mat work is strong and he can easily turn things in his favor if you rely on that. All of this is on full display throughout the match and is more or less commented on by the announce team, so it works as a learning tool for Punk which should make things interesting in the PPV match. If there’s one thing that’s a little off, it’s that in trying to show off as much of Darby’s repertoire as possible, Garcia does a lot of no selling and so the flow of the match is a little wonky for it. Still, Garcia and 2.0 did their job well and Darby is looking strong going into the PPV which is a win-win for everyone!
2.0 don’t see it this way however and so they IMMEDIATELY rush the ring and starts pounding on Darby as soon as the bell rings with Sting not far behind them. Sting is busy with Garcia while 2.0 keep kicking Darby on the ramp, and much like on Dynamite the save comes a LITTLE bit late as CM Punk just kinda sits there in the booth for a while before getting his butt down there and even the odds. 2.0 are pretty terrified of the guy and start backing off, but this gives Darby enough time to get back in the ring and hits them both with a Suicide Dive. With 2.0 and Garcia roundly defeated, Punk and Darby start to stare each other down as the final episode of Rampage before the All Out PPV comes to a close.
It definitely had more hits than misses, but this was a bit of a wonky episode. The opening match was solid but wasn’t there to help the PPV, and while the Kingston promo as well as the Darby match were excellent ways to build up their respective matches, the Statlander match didn’t do a whole lot to help with one of the matches that’s struggling the most to stand out on a crowded card. Rampage is a short show and so it can’t do as much heavy lifting as a typical Dynamite so it catches a break with me in that regard, and two good matches with a good promo is enough to give this a passing grade. The PPV is right around the corner and AEW is out of time to sell it. I know I’m gonna watch it and CM Punk being involved will get others to as well, so all we can do now is wait to see if AEW can pull it off.