AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with another episode of the quickest hour in wrestling, and honestly, I’m glad for it as I’m ready for a break. The next Dynamite isn’t until the Saturday after the next Rampage which means that as soon as I’m done with this I’m good on wrestling for about a week! Perhaps by then I’ll be back into the spirit of things, and perhaps this episode of Rampage is just what I need to get me headed in that direction! Is it another breezy collection of fun matches that remind me why I love wrestling in the first place, or can my one week break not come soon enough? Let’s find out!!
CM Punk Vs. Daniel Garcia
Garcia is accompanied to the ring by 2.0
Daniel Garcia has swiftly become one of my favorite up-and-coming guys in the company and I think he shares a lot of strengths with Punk which could make for a VERY interesting match. What I like about Garcia is that he always finds a way to tell a story in the match and does at least ONE thing memorable in them. Here, it’s simply that Garcia is scared of Punk despite all his bluster and has to rely on 2.0 to keep him the least bit competitive. It starts with some lockups and tests of strength that Punk wins rather easily, and after giving Garcia a shoulder tackle the kid scrambles to the corner. We will see him do this a few times as he can’t get a word in edgewise on Punk, and things are starting to look desperate when he eats TWO Body Slams back to back. Punk goes for a third but Garcia escapes and lands an Elbow shot to the lower back which finally gives him an edge on Punk and Garcia gets a few moves in. It’s a short-lived advantage however as Garcia charges the corner only for Punk lands a Back Elbow and gets Garcia on his shoulders for the GTS. This is where 2.0 come in as they jump on the apron and Jeff Parker drags Garcia off Punk’s shoulders while Matt Lee distracts the ref. Garcia then drags Punk to the apron and smashes his leg into it before going to distract the ref himself as 2.0 throw the leg against the post. Garcia starts to get the heat by working the leg over during the commercial, and now that he has a clear advantage he’s back to being a smarmy jerk. This is where Punk’s strengths come in as his authenticity adds a lot of gravitas to the action and his disdain for Garcia while ALSO selling the injury makes the story that much more compelling; especially with Garcia just CRANKING on that leg to the point that you start to wonder if Punk MIGHT be getting his first loss at the company. Despite the disadvantage, Punk remains defiant and manages to get up to work Garcia in the corner for a bit, but the leg makes it impossible for him to land any big moves and a Suplex attempt ends with Garcia tackling the bad leg. He stomps Punk into the corner and goes for another charge, but Punk gets out of the way and Garcia’s Drop Kick attempt ends with him landing on his back. The two start to trade some big moves for near falls like a Roundhouse Kick and a Pepsi Twist from Punk as well as a Neck Breaker and Backdrop from Garcia, but then Punk is the one who gets too big for his britches as he signals for the GTS despite the bad knee. Sure enough, Garcia escapes and puts Punk in the Sharp Shooter which only makes things worse for his injury, but thankfully he’s able to kick Garcia away who stumbles into Matt Lee and then when Garcia charges at Punk he tosses him into Jeff Parker so that they both tumble to the floor. With all three outside the ring, Punk takes them out with a Cross Body from the top rope to the floor before throwing Garcia back into the ring for a Springboard Clothesline. He doesn’t go for the GTS again, but he DOES manage to land a Pile Driver that he transitions into the Anaconda Vice and that is enough for Garcia to tap out! A very fun opening match and once again shows us why Garcia is a great up-and-coming talent and that Punk still has a few tricks up his sleeve!
Tony is in the back with Dante Martin, Lio Rush, and Matt Sydal to give what ends up being a VERY odd interview. He’s trying to talk about Martin’s upcoming match with Malakai Black, but Sydal can’t hold his tongue and makes it clear that he is skeptical that Lio Rush is anything more than a huckster. Lio fires back that Sydal is a loser weighing Martin down which we KNOW is not true considering how much he was carrying Martin in their last tag match, but to resolve the differences, Lio is going to get Sydal a match with… CM Punk? Yeah, I’m not sure how Sydal facing off with CM Punk is going to prove anything. MAYBE that Lio is good at getting matches booked but we don’t actually see HOW he does it as Excalibur announces that Tony Khan booked the match for the next Rampage not even a full minute after this segment ends, and as far as Sydal… I mean it’s not like ANYONE’S been able to beat Punk yet, let alone Dante Martin who hasn’t won any of his big matches recently! That, and I don’t know if Punk getting roped into something like this is a good idea. He shouldn’t be fighting someone he doesn’t have SOME sort of story with and since Dynamite isn’t until next Saturday, he’s not gonna have much of a chance to make it seem like more than just a throwaway match. This whole return of Lio Rush has been pretty weird so far, but hopefully it will all make sense soon enough.
The Lucha Bros Vs. The Acclaimed – AEW Tag Title Match
The Lucha Bros are accompanied to the ring by Alex Abrahantes
The Lucha Bros got their titles in one of the greatest tag team matches of all time, and so it’s been a bit difficult to find a proper direction for them since then as they’ve spent most of their run so far taking on lower-tier guys instead of building up a feud. Case in point; The Acclaimed, who are not without talent but they’ve never been high on my list of stars and Caster’s rhymes just never clicked with me. Still, this is PROBABLY their best match in some time as The Lucha Bros can carry a bag leaves to a four star match, and it starts with them attacking The Lucha Bros before the bell rings; throwing them around the outside of the ring for a bit to give us a plausible reason why they aren’t jobbed out within a minute. Once things get back in the ring The Lucha Bros get a strong lead with a bunch of Thrust Kicks, but a Suicide Dive from Fenix ends nearly takes him out of the match as Bowens gets the boom box up and Fenix goes face-first into it. This is probably the best luck The Acclaimed could hope for as Caster isn’t fairing too well against Pentagon’s kicks, and having Bowens run in to back him up gives him a bit of breathing room. They manage to land a Running Knee and Senton combo but it only gets a two count and Pentagon manages to get his second wind after that a Cazadora Roll Up and DDT combo that takes out both of them, and Fenix is finally back on the apron to get the hot tag. He runs wild for a bit with lots of kicks and a cutter on Bowens, but then he eats a Thrust Kick from Bowens in return and the whole thing devolves into chaos as every Thrust Kick is met with a Thrust Kick from someone else. Fenix eventually breaks the cycle with Stereo Cutters on Caster and Bowens, but Bowens is undeterred and rakes the eyes of Fenix before landing a Rolling Elbow. He then gives Fenix a Power Slam to the ground and Caster goes up top for the Mic Drop, but Pentagon runs in at the right moment to knock him off the post. With Bowens momentarily distracted, Fenix puts Bowens in position and Pentagon lands a Double Stomp to the junk which I STILL can’t believe is a legal move, but the ref doesn’t call it so what do I know it? To put the final nail in the coffin, The Lucha Bros land an Assisted Pile Driver on Bowens and get the pin to retain the title. As I said it was probably my favorite Acclaimed match in a while, but it’s still far from what I was hoping for from a Lucha Bros title run, and honestly, I don’t think it’s a great idea to incorporate a low blow into a finisher; especially for a team that is ostensible Baby Faces. Everything just feels like a step down from the cage match which is PERHAPS unfair, but I’m sure there’s a middle ground between that and what we’ve been getting in the last few weeks.
Jade Cargill Vs.Skye Blue
Cargill is accompanied to the ring by Smart Mark Sterling
Sky Blue is starting to feel like the Fuego Del Sol of the Women’s Division; in that she’s always just kinda THERE and the fans really like her, but it’s probably gonna be a while before anything of note happens. I still haven’t seen that great match she had with Red Velvet a month or so ago, but it seems to have been enough to keep her around; albeit it as more or less a jobber. She goes for an Elbow Strike and a Cross Body on Jade who is unfazed and simply catches her before dropping Skye with a Fallaway Slam. A Pump Kick from Jade knocks all the wind out of Sky Blue, but she tries to fight off with a few punches and manages to get up long enough to go for a Cazadora. This SEEMS like a REALLY bad idea since that’s the exact same position Jade needs her opponent in so she can land the Jaded, and sure enough, she turns it into her finisher which is enough to get the three count. Not done with her prey, Jade attacks Skye Blue after the bell rings and Thunder Rosa runs down with a chair to chase her off. It was perfectly fine and exactly what you’d want out of a squash match, but I’m just wondering how people who are REALLY into Skye Blue feel about her current place here. Then again, there is no jobber at AEW who can’t one day pull themselves up and get at least SOME of the spotlight, and I’m sure that day will come for Skye!
Ricky Starks Vs. Brian Cage – FTW Title Philly Street Fight
Now Cage obviously has a HUGE strength advantage, one that he demonstrates by tossing Ricky around the ring, but it really seems like a bad idea for someone with THAT particular asset to agree to a Philly Street Fight since weapons are the great equalizer. It starts off well for Cage who even uses a chair himself, and there’s this fun spot where Starks tries to Spear him only for his mighty muscles to absorb the blow with ease, but when Cage goes for a Suplex and Starks escapes it, he eats a bunch of shots from a pool cue that Starks found and we go into the heat segment for the commercial. A bunch more weapon spots from Starks before he wedges a chair into one of the corners of the ring, and even when Cage manages to get back up he’s still taking a lot of weapons shots which makes him seem pretty foolish to agree to this match in the first place. It’d be one thing if Starks came off as a master tactician, but as recently as the last Dynamite he was acting like a fool and had his “plans” crumble immediately! The answer of course is Hook and Hobbs who are always waiting in the wings to jump in when necessary which comes after Cage FINALLY gets the advantage with a Thrust Kick, a garbage can shot over Starks’s head, and a Body Slam into that well-worn garbage can. With Starks nice and softened up, Cage goes for the Drill Claw which is when Hook runs in with the belt. Cage dodges and gives him a Clothesline only for Hobbs runs in who Cage dodges and gives a Thrust Kick to. In fending off those two however, he has given Ricky Starks enough time to get back up and he hits Cage with the belt that Hook dropped. Starks finally lands a proper Spear and goes for the pin… AND CAGE KICKS OUT AT TWO! That was pretty unexpected as the interference spots have ALWAYS led to the finish in this feud, and it gets even better when Starks goes for the Spear again only for Cage to dodge it and the charging Ricky goes headfirst into the chair he wedged into the corner earlier. Cage lands a Discus Lariat on Starks and goes for the pin… but it’s broken up by Hobbs, because of course it was. He fights off Hobbs when Hook runs in and lands a low blow, and Ricky lands a Roshambo to get the pin. Ricky Starks is still the FTW champion and the episode comes to an end as he goes up the ramp with Hook and Hobbs.
Perhaps I’m still feeling some burnout which is why I wasn’t too enthralled with the matches after the opener, but I did enjoy this episode of Rampage just fine. The FTW title match though kinda stuck in my craw for a few reasons. I’m glad they AT LEAST gave us that moment of hope when Cage kicked out of the Belt Shot, but this feels like the third or fourth time we’ve seen this finish and it’s starting to get a bit old. There are rumors that Cage is not happy at AEW so perhaps they don’t want to give him a big win and the FTW belt if he’s not going to stick around, but whatever is going on I hope they sort it out soon because this holding pattern with the Team Taz feud is starting to wear a bit thin.