AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with even more AEW action, and I may be alone here but I’m glad that I’ll get to go a couple of days without ANY more wrestling! It has been a busy week with four shows and a PPV to cover, but I powered through it and finally got caught up on the latest episode of Rampage! Is it one last hurrah of great matches and fun promos before a very brief break, or is the final straw that broke the camel’s back? Let’s find out!!
Andrade El Idolo Vs. Pac
Andrade is accompanied to the ring by Chavo Guerrero Jr
The story of this match is kind of the story of Andrade’s run in AEW as both have had trouble getting off the ground and you start to wonder if something is going on that no one is telling us. Fortunately those fears have been put to bed as the match FINALLY happened and Andrade FINALLY reminded us why we wanted him to be at AEW in the first place! Andrade gets a pretty strong lead at the start, but unlike his other matches where he barely needed to try to win, Pac is one tough cookie (or I guess biscuit since he’s British) and it doesn’t take long for Pac to reverse his fortunes with a Hurricanrana that sends Andrade out of the ring followed by a Suicide Drive that wipes him out completely. Pac then starts whipping him into the railing a few times before rolling him into the ring and despite all the damage he’s taking, Andrade is similarly unwilling to break and is practically BEGGING Pac to hit him harder while only giving him a one count on his pin attempt. Andrade manages to escape the assault and lands a kick that sends Pac onto the apron which he follows up by flipping over the ropes and landing a DDT on Pac on the way down! If that wasn’t enough, he ALSO gets back in the ring and lands a Plancha onto the still dazed Pac on the floor below… and yet all this gets him is a one count when he finally rolls Pac into the ring. This is what Andrade needed more than anything else; not a bunch of tomato cans he can smugly tear apart, but a GENUINE challenger to bring out the best in him and remind us why it was such a shame that he was so underutilized in WWE! I wouldn’t say he’s going full Lucha here as it definitely feels like a big heavy brawl, but he does show off some impressive moves here like the aforementioned Plancha, a Springboard Moonsault, and this ridiculous move on the top rope that got the crowd to pop right before the commercial break! Andrade drags Pac to the top rope but of course it’s not as easy as he had hoped as Pac starts to fight back. In the chaos however, Pac almost falls off the corner but manages to hook his leg around the top rope so that he’s kind of dangling there and is trying to pull himself up. Andrade uses this precarious position to land a Double Stomp on Pac that sends him to the floor with Pac tumbling down only a moment later! Oh, but Pac gets his revenge not long after that as Andrade gets on the top rope with Pac on his shoulders and is planning to spin him around for an Avalanche Power Bomb… only for Pac to reposition himself during the spin and lands an Avalanche Hurricanrana! Both men are exhausted and take a minute to regroup before they start slugging it out again and Andrade is knocked through the ropes onto the apron. Pac flips over the ropes and grabs Andrade for a Canadian Destroyer, but Andrade has the ropes and won’t fall backwards onto the floor. Instead he manages to flip off the apron, but Pac hits him with a Pump Kick. Pac is once again going to the top rope but Andrade knocks him off and somehow he hooks his leg in the same way as he did before and is dangling upside down. Andrade goes for the stomp again, but Pac is ready for it this time and leans backwards so that Andrade whiffs the stomp and lands on the floor. Despite all these ridiculous moves back and forth there’s only ONE spot where it looks like someone took a bad bump and that’s right after the failed Stomp where Pac gets up on the turnbuckle and lands a Moonsault on Andrade who is still on the floor below and Pac just kinda keeps going after he lands which means the back of his head hits the railing. I haven’t heard anything about him being injured, but that must NOT have been fun to take; nor was it probably not fun to keep going with the match after that which STILL had like five more big moves before we got to the finish! A 450 Splash, a Handspring Pele Kick, A Snap German Suplex, a Belly to Belly Suplex RIGHT into the corner, all great stuff from these two but eventually it has to come to an end; for their own sakes if nothing else! Andrade catches Pac in a Springboard and has him in a Fireman’s Carry, but Pac SOMEHOW rolls off his back in such a way that he flips Andrade over into a pin! Andrade kicks out, but Pac immediately transitions to the Brutalizer which threatens to end this match in a submission. Andrade’s associate (the one with the glasses) tries to charge the ring with a stun gun, but The Lucha Bros run down and drag him out. In the confusion however, Chavo runs in and bashes Pac over the head with an iPad. By the time ref turns around, Andrade has Pac in a pin and counts it; giving Andrade the win to a chorus of boos from the crowd! What’s weird about this finish though is that Andrade seems to be confused as to what actually happened, and that’s odd because he was looking RIGHT IN CHAVO’S DIRECTION WHEN HE HIT PAC! What, was he in TOO MUCH PAIN to see what was going on right in front of him? In any case, when the guy in the glasses (his name is Jose apparently) tells him about the finish, Andrade gives Chavo a quick forearm to the jaw and leaves him for dead on the ramp. Chavo gets up and tries to argue with Andrade who’s already at the top, but The Lucha Bros come from behind and Superkick him; killing him for the SECOND time in the last few minutes! Then Fenix tosses Chavo in the ring and Pac locks in the Brutalizer which Andrade does not seem to mind and the refs eventually have to come in and break it up. Andrade didn’t win clean which was a BIT of a downer and frankly the explanation to kind of walk that back felt contrived at best, but DANG was this a fantastic match! There were so many big moves from the two of them and they worked together AMAZINGLY well in what was clearly meant to be a PPV quality match that for circumstances outside of their control they had to give away for free on TV! Andrade didn’t have the best start at AEW and honestly Pac’s return hasn’t been the most exciting thing in the world, but they brought the best out of each other here and gave us more than enough reason to feature them even more on the show!
Darby Allin and Sting come out to answer Tully Blanchard’s challenge from Dynamite, and they agree to the match against Shawn Spears who Darby calls a total nobody without Tully, which… fair enough I guess. It’s not like he was lighting up AEW after his initial run as The Chairman against Cody! Sting then grabs the mic and works over the crowd a bit before calling out Tully for riding on Ric Flair and Arn Anderson’s coat tails his entire career, which… fair enough I guess. Honestly, Spears and Tully are kind of made for each other in that regard, but before I can contemplate this further, Sting declares that he doesn’t want to wait and calls Tully out to the ring to finish this once and for all! Tully obliges by coming out of the tunnel but he isn’t about to get in the ring and instead runs down Sting for a bit. This however is just a distraction as Spears comes out of NOWHERE and drags Darby out of the ring to give him a Death Valley Driver on the mat before scampering away! That was ACTUALLY pretty brilliant and not only paints the Baby Faces as over confident but gives Tully and Spears a bit more credibility as genuinely smart Heels using the Baby Faces’ own bravado against them. I don’t think it’s going to be an AMAZING match, but I’m definitely more interested in seeing it now!
Cole and Danielson don’t actually make an appearance at Rampage, but we do get a video from both of them where Adam Cole pumps up The Elite and Danielson reiterates how unimpressed he is with them. Once again, he is really only interested in Kenny Omega and wants him to be his first match, but frankly he just wants to get in the ring with someone if Kenny’s not going to agree to it. THEN DO IT ALREADY! I mean I know he’s only been here a week, but Danielson is being PRETTY coy with what he wants and what he’s doing here, and frankly I don’t think I WANT TO FIGHT PEOPLE is enough of a motivation to keep us on the edge of our seats while we wait for him to get in the ring.
Ruby Soho, Kris Statlander, and Riho Vs. Britt Baker, Rebel (Not Reba), and Jamie Hayter – Trios Tag Match
As much as this is here to build up Ruby Soho for her eventual title match, it also seems to be a bit of an apology letter to the fans that were disappointed that Riho was in the Battle Royale so briefly and that her elimination wasn’t even done properly. To that end, it starts with Riho and Baker with Riho getting an early advantage with her usual shtick like when she bridges out of the pin and follows up with a Drop Kick. Something SEEMS to go wrong here as Baker does a fake out injury spot but then Riho just kind of stands there when Baker gets back up and starts punching her, but thankfully it was only for a moment as Statlander tags in and gives Baker an Irish Whip and Power Slam before she manages to make her way to the corner and tag in Rebel (Not Reba). Since Rebel (Not Reba) doesn’t wrestle all that much, they do a fun spot with her where Statlander tags in Riho and holds her up so that she can start rapidly kicking Rebel (Not Reba) in the face until she can take no more and tags in Jamie Hayter! That was fun, and the spot after where Riho gets a 619 was great too, but her momentum is brought to a halt when she starts running the ropes and Rebel (Not Reba) sneaks a shot it. This knocks Riho to the mat and Jamie gets the heat through the commercial until Riho eventually gets the hot tag to Ruby Soho who cleans house and lands an Osotogari (sweep the back leg and push her to the ground) on Hayter. Ruby tags in Statlander and they try to flip her, but Hayter fights off both of them and lands a Back Breaker on Statlander for a two count and then Hayter tags in Rebel (Not Reba) to help her Suplex Statlander. Instead, Statlander Suplexes the both of them. And she rolls up Rebel (Not Reba) for a pin that gets broken up by Baker. Statlander has to now fight off Baker and leaves her on the mat with a Pile Driver. She then puts Riho on her shoulders as they approach the nearly unconscious Baker, and being a good assistant, Rebel throws herself on top of Baker so that she takes the brunt of the damage when Riho jumps off of Statlander’s shoulder and lands the Double Stomp. Baker rolls out, Statlander tags in Soho, and Riho lands a Cross Body on Hayter to clear the area. With Rebel (Not Reba) alone in the ring, Soho lands a Pele Kick and gets the pin to win the match! I enjoyed it quite a bit. Soho didn’t do a lot in here, but she looked good whenever she was in the ring, and Riho and Statlander made a pretty good team!
Brian Pillman Jr Vs. Max Caster
Caster is accompanied to the ring by Anthony Bowens
The Acclaimed come out and do their usual shtick which I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of in the first place but after Caster’s recent controversy seems even less fun, though I still think Anthony Bowens has personality to spare and is doing a lot of the heavy lifting to keep the act likable. Then again, Brian Pillman Jr doesn’t make a strong case for himself right off the bat as the Baby Face as he rushes the ring and attacks Caster before the bell rings, but the crowd is into it and starts a FLYIN BRIAN chant right off the bat. Pillman has the upper hand from the start, but Caster keeps regaining control of the match due to constant interference from Bowens. Even this though isn’t get a lot of heat from me because frankly its justified AT LEAST ONCE after Brian took that cheap shot, and the fact that he came here ALONE despite having Griff Garrison as his tag team partner seems like tempting fate if you ask me. Now sure, the point of this match is to get Pillman over and why have him beat ONE opponent when he can beat TWO, but I don’t know; something about Pillman’s performance here doesn’t scream SUPER STRONG BABY FACE as much as it does GUY OUT OF HIS DEPTH. It’s not filling me with a lot confidence that he’ll stand a chance against MJF which seemed to have been the whole point of this match, but Brian has a few good spots here to keep the match interesting. There’s lots of back and forth between the two with Pillman getting the majority of the action while Caster keeps slipping away due to Bowens’ interference. It gets to the point that Pillman is on the middle rope and a distraction from Bowens gives Caster a chance to chase him up there, so when he manages to push him off he lands a Cross Body on Bowens on the floor below instead of Caster in the middle of the ring. Pillman ends up eating a Drop Kick from Caster while he’s recovering from the Cross Body, but at least Bowens is out of the way so he can bring this thing home. Caster tries a Mic Drop (Top Rope Elbow Drop) that Pillman is able to roll away from, and he gets up to land a Springboard Clothesline that’s enough to keep Caster down for the three count and win him the match. Bowens has now recovered attacks Pillman Jr after the bell rings with Max Caster is not far behind, but then Moxley rushes to the roar of the crowd and bashes Bowens with his own boom box. With Bowens out of the way once again, Pillman lands a Thrust Kick on Caster and Moxley lands a Paradigm Shift for good measure. And so the episode comes to an end with Pillman standing tall in anticipation of his match against MJF, and Moxley holding up Pillman’s arm for the hometown audience!
The show couldn’t have started stronger with that PHENOMENAL Pac and Andrade match, but after that it just kind of petered out. I enjoyed the women’s match quite a bit even if it wasn’t as amazing as the opener, and the closing match didn’t really do it for me and leaves a little bit concerned about the match Pillman is gonna have with MJF. I don’t want to be too hard on it though because it did give me a lot of things that I liked, and honestly with Rampage it doesn’t NEED to blow the doors off the arena the same way that we expect Dynamite to every week. That’s part of the show’s charm; that the whole thing has a less weighty atmosphere to it and guys like Pillman Jr can be in the main event. Besides, post PPV is ALWAYS a bit of a rough patch, so let’s give them a bit of a break! Heck, I got tired of just WATCHING this many episodes of wrestling back to back; let alone BEING in them!