AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with more (and more, and more, and more) Rampage action as AEW’s attempt to fill every waking moment of my life with wrestling is moving forward unabated! Hopefully things can slow down a bit and we can get back to our standard three hours of TV a week, but the Dynamite episode of Grand Slam was pretty excellent and they’ve got a solid card lined up for this EXTRA LONG episode of Rampage, so perhaps a little fatigue is worth it if it means a few more fantastic matches! Is this a satisfying conclusion to the Grand Slam event that started on Wednesday, or will I be far from the only one wanting to go back to a one hour Rampage by the time this episode is done? Let’s find out!!
CM Punk Vs. Powerhouse Hobbs
Hobbs is accompanied to the ring by Hook
CM Punk more or less proved he could still have solid matches when he went up against Darby Allin, but now we’re gonna see if he can put some shine on the talent who aren’t already at the top of the pecking order. Hobbs came on the scene in a BIG way and was signed almost immediately, but he’s not really lived up to his potential; mostly due to a lack of marquee matches if you ask me. That’s probably why they went with him to go up against CM Punk as you can’t ask for a better match-up to get eyeballs on you, and for what it’s worth they both do a solid job here. Punk hits Hobbs with a Drop Kick as soon as the bell rings and starts working over the left leg which proves that at least SOMEONE knows what you’ve got to do to take a big man down! Still, even with Punk’s fancy tactics, it’s hard to overcome the sheer POWER of Hobbs who knocks him to his knees with ONE Headbutt from Hobbs sends Punk to his knees. On top of that, Hobbs has Hook in his corner so even when Punk gets the advantage through better technique he can’t always capitalize on it like when he puts Hobbs on his shoulders for a GTS very early in the match only for Hook to get up on the apron. You’d think Punk would be able to just finish the move despite a guy looking at him funny, but that’s one of those quirks about the wacky world of wrestling and sure enough, he puts Hobbs down to go after him only to eat a Running Cross Body from Hobbs that knocks him flat on his back. Hobbs gets the heat for a while and milks the crowd for as many boos as they can give him, and despite a few hope spots from Punk like a quick roll up for a two count, Hobbs remains firmly in control up to and throughout the commercial break. Punk finally escapes with a few elbows to the face, and a Spin Kick followed by a Swinging Neck Breaker gets him some momentum. He lands a Top Rope Elbow Drop for a two count and gets Hobbs on his shoulders once again for the GTS. Punk actually finishes the move this time but it doesn’t connect as Hobbs blocks the knee on his way down, and hits him with one of his HELLACIOUS Spine Busters! Hobbs gets him up on his shoulder for his finisher Town Business, but Punk wriggles out and puts him in a choke which nearly knocks him out. He fights back and breaks the hold with a Back Drop which he follows with a Stampede that only gets him a two count. After Punk gets an Avalanche Hurricanrana for a two count of his own, he tries to put Hobbs in a Triangle Choke which is a HUGE mistake as the number one rule of Big Guys is don’t leave their legs free, and as you’d expect Hobbs lifts up Punk and lands a Sit Out Powerbomb. Punk kicks out at two and so Hobbs just tries hammering Punk in the middle of the ring to wear him down, but this allows Punk to land a Roundhouse Kick that sends Hobbs Reeling. Punk signals for the GTS when Hook jumps on the apron once again, and of course Punk goes to deal with him which allows Hobbs to charge from behind. BUT WAIT! This is all a misdirection as Punk sees this coming from a mile away and sidesteps the charge so that Hobbs knocks Hook into next week which is perhaps the biggest bump Hook has taken since he started showing up in Team Taz! With Hobbs distracted, Punk gets him on his shoulders and FINALLY hits the GTS to get the pin and win the match to the utter delight of the fans! It was a pretty good match for the most part and I think I liked it more than the Darby Allin match. Hobbs just seems to be bringing a lot more out of Punk so that he’s less the Elder Statesman of Wrestling looking to play to impress the crowd and more of a down and dirty fighter that I find much more entertaining and I suspect is the kind of wrestling that CM Punk fans want to see from the guy. This Team Taz feud is far from over and I can only hope that the rest of the matches Punk has with them will be just as good!
Adam Cole & The Young Bucks Vs. Christian Cage and Jurassic Express
The Young Bucks are accompanied to the ring by Brandon Cutler while Jurassic Express is accompanied by Marko Stunt
See, this is my kind of jam! Just throw a bunch of wacky guys in the ring who are ACTUALLY really good wrestlers and let them do what they want to do; whether it’s acting like fools or putting on a clinic for the crowd! It started off a little worrisome as Matt Jackson REALLY goes full stooge against Cage in the opening minutes of this match, but it eventually settles into a solid mix of both fun pops and flawless technique that embodies what I tend to look for in a match! For the most part, it’s the Baby Face’s match as they work in perfect unison to take out The Bucks who can barely do more than sputter in disbelief and get a few cheap shots in; all the while Adam Cole is being VERY cagey about getting in the ring. I’m not sure what that’s about exactly, especially since he CALLED for this match to take place, but it doesn’t take too long for him to start throwing punches and taking bumps; especially with Jungle Boy staring at him every time he clears the ring! The tension eventually gets too high and Jungle Boy chases him around the outside of the ring only to eat a Superkick Party from The Bucks when he rounds a corner. Luchasaurus sees this and comes over to make the save but eventually gets taken out by a Double Drop Kick from The Bucks which leaves Jungle Boy in the hands of Adam Cole who has him held in the middle of the rings while The Bucks build momentum running the ropes… only to stop in their tracks and kiss Adam Cole. Then they land Double Drop Kicks on Jungle Boy to start the heat during the commercial. Jungle Boy eventually escapes from The Bucks and tags in Luchasaurus who gets a BIG pop and the dude just runs wild; taking out dudes, choke slamming other dudes, and getting the crowd to cheer for the guy in a dinosaur mask! Sadly it’s over far too soon as he tags in Jungle Boy for Thorassic Express which Cole breaks up and he and Nick Jackson land Superkicks on Luchasaurus. The dinosaur rolls out, but Cage runs in to land a Reverse DDT on Cole and sets up Nick Jackson for the Kill Switch, but Matt Jackson gives him a Super Kick to the face. A lot of back and forth as everyone runs in to land a move before getting taken out by the next guy with a move until it’s just Jungle Boy in the middle of the ring with Matt Jackson in the Snare trap that threatens to end the match. To save the Heels, Doc Gallows comes out of nowhere to distract Jungle Boy on the apron who foolishly takes the bait which breaks the hold and allows Matt Jackson to land a Superkick. Jungle Boy immediately follows up with a Running Lariat that leaves them both gasping for air on the mat so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but once again the Baby Face has to let someone else completley ruin their spot because they got up and started yelling; like the pro wrestling version of a filibuster! The whole match descends into utter chaos as all six are in the ring hammering each other with overhead fists and Jungle Boy Manages to toss the Bucks onto the ramp. He manages to wipe out Matt Jackson only to eat a Super Kick from Nick, but then Cage comes out of NOWHERE and hits Nick with a Spear. Cage tries to follow up with Nick Jackson and so Matt lands a low blow and tosses him off the ramp, and he’s soon followed by Jungle Boy who’s tossed off the ramp as well. This leaves Luchasaurus flat on his back in the middle of the ring with Adam Cole stalking his prey… AND THEN LUCHASAURUS DOES THE DEAD MAN SIT-UP! Hey, the crowd certainly popped for it, but it’s the last one Luchasaurus will get for this match as Cole hits him with a Shining Wizard and a Panama Sunrise before The Bucks Land a BTE Trigger and Cole lands a move called The Boom which I guess is his version of the V-Trigger/Running Knee; all of which is enough to keep Luchasaurus down for the three count and win the match. Jungle Boy has crawled his way back into the ring and is looking after Luchasaurus when Adam Cole gets all up in his face, and while nothing happens QUITE yet, it’s clear that this is where the feud will be going next! Aside from some foolish Baby Face spots, I thought this was a fun and frenetic match! Adam Cole could have probably gotten a BIT more ring time in here, but it’s clear we’ll be getting PLENTY more of him soon enough!
Jericho & Jake Hager Vs. Men of the Year
Men of the Year are accompanied to the ring by Dan Lambert.
This is not too dissimilar to the Sting match we got on the last show, though I think this one manages to find the sweet spot of having a Legend trample your younger talent without burying them completely. Men of the Year are definitely overselling for Jericho, but the fact is that he can do a lot more than Sting and Men of the Year aren’t taken as seriously as FTR as far as tag teams go, so the match manages to stay fun without too much to roll your eyes at. Jericho gets a pretty decisive lead on Scorpio Sky right off the bat before tagging in Hager who admittedly eats a Jaw Breaker from Scorpio but is right back in control as Ethan Page takes in and is IMMEDIATELY thrown in a Hip Toss. The Heels get the heat at one point with a well-timed kick from Ethan Page and a slap in the face from Dan Lambert while the ref was looking, but it doesn’t take long for Jericho and Hager to regain the advantage and run wild on the two of them. Jericho lands a Springboard Drop Kick to Page that knocks him off the apron followed by a Lionsault for a two count on Sky, and Hager lands a Hager Bomb for a two count of his own before putting Sky in the Ankle Lock. If that wasn’t bad enough, Jericho runs in and puts Page in the Walls of Jericho to see if they can get BOTH of them to tap out, so to save the match Dan Lambert starts shouting from the apron and, sing it with me know, CAUSES A DISTRACTION THAT FORCES THE BABY FACE TO LET GO OF THE HOLD! We’re three for three so far on that trope, but regardless of that, the holds are broken up and Sky gets a two count on Hager. Not too happy about this, Hager SLAMS the dude to the ground and would have won the match if Page didn’t break up the pin. Body Slam and a Big Boot knock Scorpio back to the ground, and Hager is charging up for something, but Lambert manages to trip Hager which sends him right into Sky who rolls him up and gets the pin to win the match. Where the last match was goofy in a REALLY fun way, this one just kinda devolved into nonsense at the end with a WWE style Surprise Roll Up finish, but the action was still solid from everyone involved so I can’t complain too much.
If Hager was upset about the distraction, then he’s DOUBLY upset about the dude costing him the match, so he cleans house on Men of the Year while Jericho drags Lambert into the ring for further punishment! Before they can really lay it into him however, a bunch of his MMA pals start to surround the ring so Jericho and Hager have no choice but to let him go. Despite this magnanimous gesture however, the MMA peeps rush the ring and overwhelm Jericho and Hager for several minutes while Dan Lambert and Men of the Year laugh in their face! I’m not sure what this is supposed to lead to and the fact is that I don’t know any of these MMA people so it doesn’t mean anything to me that they are in the ring. My biggest question is why the rest of The Inner Circle didn’t run in to try and save them, especially since…
Proud N Powerful & The Lucha Bros Vs. Hardy Family Office – Eight Man Tag Match
IMMEDIATELY after Jericho and Hager are beaten down, Proud N Powerful saunter their way to the ring!? You can’t even make the excuse that they weren’t at the stadium because they were RIGHT THERE; probably waiting INSIDE the tunnel since they were up next! Hopefully we get an answer to this on the next episode of Dynamite, but until then we’ve got this match to talk about! I’ll certainly give it credit for being the first match that didn’t do a Baby Face distraction (though something similar DOES happen here), but I just found this to be a complete and utter mess. It barely goes on for seven minutes, there’s no tagging in our out as far as I can tell, and everyone seems to be working on a different storyline from the person next to him; like five Hamelts on stage giving different soliloquies at the same time! Now there’s some cool stuff in here like when all four of the Baby Faces jump over the ropes and wipe out everyone the floor, and there’s some fun mix and match stuff here with Santana and Ortiz doing Lucha Bros moves, but it’s all isolated in its own little bubbles and doesn’t really inform the flow of the match. The most notable thing is probably something that wasn’t even a part of the match itself which is when Matt Hardy threatens to cut Ortiz’s hair for… reasons, but is interrupted by Orange Cassidy who comes sauntering down the ramp. Matt Hardy sends Jack Evans to take care of him, but the stooge ends up eating an Orange Punch, and I guess that just killed the mood for Hardy who didn’t try to cut anyone else’s hair despite Orange Cassidy leaving as soon as he landed his finisher. From there it eventually settles down to an in ring match as the Baby Faces take out The Butcher and The Blade which leaves Private Party to try and contend with all four of them. To their credit, they land some impressive moves here, but Isaiah Kassidy is roundly destroyed by Penta and one last gasp of offense from The Butcher didn’t go anywhere which leaves Marq Quen all by himself. He’s immediately caught by The Lucha Bros who land a Fear Factor before handing him over to Santana and Ortiz to land the Street Sweeper. A pretty cool combination of moves and it’s more than enough to keep Quen down for the count. It had its moments but this was utter chaos with the ref being powerless to stop them, and I just couldn’t be asked to follow it which is a shame because I like everyone involved. But hey, at least they kept it short!
Matt Hardy is in the back ranting about Orange Cassidy sticking his nose in his business whenever he decides to randomly cut someone’s hair which… I mean you’d HOPE someone would be intervening there, but instead of being dragged out by AEW security he instead challenges Cassidy to a Hair Vs Hair match. Oh, but not against Matt Hardy! No, no, no! He will be facing Jack Evans which is a surprise to… well Jack Evans, who tries to protest but is cowed by Matt Hardy’s intensity. Jack is a talented guy so I’m sure he’ll have a solid match with Cassidy, but with the way HFO have been acting recently, I doubt that the two of them will be left alone to do that and it will be full of shenanigans.
Oh, look who’s also here! Sammy comes out with Fuego to do the cue card bit, but Miro shows up and CRUSHES the both of them! Honestly, he had it coming considering he didn’t do anything to help Jericho and Hager, though Fuego getting thrown off the stage definitely made Miro look like an even bigger jerk than he already is.
Anna Jay Vs. Penelope Ford
I feel like the feud between Jay, Tay, Ford, and Bunny could be a LOT more interesting if they had some promo time to really get into each other’s heads or if they gave an ACTUAL reason for them to be feuding, but for the most part, it’s felt like a filler story and that’s DEFINITELY true here. Jay attacks Ford as she’s coming down the ramp and runs away with the first part of the match. She then goes for the Queen Slayer, and you’ll never guess! THE BUNNY COMES DOWN THE RAMP AND FORD BREAKS THE HOLD! OF COURSE Ford comes from behind, drapes her on the ropes, and lands a Running Kick to the face! Ford gets the heat for a bit but then Anna Jay manages to lock in the Queen Slayer again. Ford thrusts backward to shove Anna Jay into the post to break the hold which is when The Bunny throws the brass knuckles to Ford who uses them when the ref’s back is turned and bashes Anna over the head to get the pin and win the match. Short match, nothing special, and a screw job finish, so yeah; definitely filler.
The two Heels attack Anna Jay after the bell to which Tay Conti runs out to try and make the save but is immediately overwhelmed and hit with the brass knuckles as well. HFO come out to celebrate because of course they do when Orange Cassidy and Kris Statlander come out from the back to stare them down and are followed by a fully reunited Dark Order who chase off HFO. Everything looks all hunky-dory for this band of misfits, but then Evil Uno just wanders off as he still seems cagey about mending fences. Grayson seems less conflicted, but goes with his tag team partner and so the rest of the Dark Order is left there wondering where things stand. Frankly, I’m in the same boat as I’m still holding out hope that it’ll somehow start going in an interesting direction but chances are it will all resolve once Hangman is back in the picture.
Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston Vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer – Lights Out Match
See, I thought I would be the odd one out in not being too enthused with the Suzuki/Moxley match from two weeks ago since I don’t have a connection that history between them. As it turns out, I got to avoid being ANGRY because I didn’t realize while watching it that Suzuki’s entrance was cut short and that was a BIG no-no for Suzuki fans. If nothing else, it did give them an excuse to do this rematch with plenty of time and the full entrance; both of which are much longer than what we saw last time. In what I can only assume is symbolic vengeance, Suzuki and Archer attack Moxley and Kingston during THEIR entrance so that it gets cut short this time, and we’re off to the races as all four dudes start wailing on each other. Suzuki and Moxley start swinging chairs at each other on the entrance ramp with Suzuki getting the better of the bout, but Kingston runs up and hammers him with a bunch of gut shots before they start trading chops in the ring; most of which Suzuki no-sells because he is ONE BAD MOTHER! Suzuki eventually takes Kingston out with a big boot that sends him flying into a table that’s propped in the corner, and Moxley as well can’t get a word in edgewise as he jumps from the top turnbuckle only to be caught in the iron grip of Archer and getting knocked to the mat with a boot as well. Now I wouldn’t say that there’s a distraction here like there was in almost every other match on the show, but Archer DOES leave the ring and start attacking ring attendants for no good reason when he could have been pressing the advantage on Moxley, so I’ll give it half a point for that, though he DOES eventually Choke Slam Moxley from the apron to the floor onto a crowd of said ring attendants, so I GUESS it was all building to that? In any case, Kingston is nowhere to be found and Moxley is barely holding in there, so Suzuki and Archer drag him back into the ring, tie his hands up with duct tape, and for the next few minutes of the match they just keep hitting him with leather straps, kendo sticks, and trashcan lids. Kingston tries to make the save a few times, but Archer is not one to be trifled with and keeps him at bay rather easily. There’s one point where Kingston gets a poke in the eye and tries to chop him to smithereens, but then Archer lands a Heli-Coaster on the poor guy and that’s all she wrote. Suzuki sets up some chairs for Archer to throw Kingston into with a Blackout Slam… when all of a sudden someone’s music hits! Suzuki and Archer look at the ramp to see who DARES to interrupt their match, and none other than Homicide runs into the ring and BASHES them with chairs before freeing Moxley from his duct tape predicament! He’s immediately tossed out by Suzuki, but the damage is already done and Moxley lands a Paradigm shift which forces him to roll out of the ring. Moxley tries to follow but Archer grabs him by the throat once again for the Choke Slam only for Kingston to stop him with his Spinning Backfist; freeing Moxley and allowing him to land a Paradigm Shift on Archer which leaves him dead on the floor. Moxley chases after Suzuki while Kingston gets a trash can from Homicide, puts it on Archer, and then bashes it over and over and over again with a Kendo Stick! Over and over and over and OVER again with Archer remembering to kick his legs at least some of the time, and after the can starts to resemble a Homer Simpson art project, Kingston yanks it off him and gets the pin; winning the match for him and Moxley! Suzuki gets thrown into the ring steps as the music starts to play, and Kingston, Moxley, and Homicide all celebrate in the ring as the episode comes to an end!
I’ve said before that Rampage works best when it’s trying to be its own thing instead of the second version of Dynamite, and that ends up being the problem with this episode. It started strong and ended strong with at least three matches I REALLY liked, but the whole middle section was kind of a mess of chaotic matches and hasty storytelling that shouldn’t have even been on this show in the first place. Rampage CAN tell stories, but matches on it should be payoffs to feuds or significant advancements like with the Tag Team Title Tournament a few weeks back. We shouldn’t have Matt Hardy trying to cut people’s hair on the outskirts of a match that really should have been an absolute blow-away fight, and I’m skeptical that a beat down without retaliation is what Jericho and The Inner Circle needed on this show. There’s definitely a solid hour of great wrestling action on this show and I hope that AEW sticks to that length going forward.