AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
My week-long vacation from all things wrestling has come to an end, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things! Fortunately, they’re starting us off easy with a straightforward episode of Rampage followed by a Saturday Night Dynamite which should be a lot of fun! Is this the perfect appetizer before digging back into AEW wrestling goodness, or are they just filling us up with bread? Let’s find out!!
CM Punk Vs. Matt Sydal
The only story we got leading up to this is that Lio Rush SOMEHOW got Tony Khan to approve this match as I guess some sort of test or perhaps as a power play on Matt Sydal, but none of that plays into this and the whole thing comes off as more of an exhibition more than anything else; especially after the mutual respect they have for each other is established by the handshake that starts the match. It’s a pretty straightforward technical wrestling match since there aren’t that many high spots or flashy moves, but between the holds, tests of strengths, and submissions, they do throw in a few flips, twists, and impressive feats of coordination to spice things up. Sydal gets the upper hand with some creative submissions and leaping strikes, but Punk has the strength advantage and manages to land a few Body Slams to knock the wind out of him. The crowd then starts demanding a third one and Punk goes for it, but Sydal reverses into an Arm Drag followed by a Sliding Kick to turn things in his favor. He flips over Punk and transitions from a Cross Face into some sort of Superman Pin that gets him a two count and he presses the advantage further with a bunch of leg kicks and a Back Arch on Punk’s knee which he continues to work over throughout the match. All this damage they are doing to each other is not enough to put either away and it’s clear that someone’s either gonna have to land a finisher or a REALLY painful move to bring this to an end. Punk does manage to land that third Body Slam on Sydal which he does on the apron and he throws Sydal back into the ring to land a Slingshot Senton, but even this isn’t enough and only gets a two count for Punk. Intent on getting the GTS but not sure that Sydal is properly softened up for it, he instead hangs him in the Tree of Woe to land a few kicks. However, the big Drop Kick (which is pretty much the only thing you can do with a Tree of Woe) is avoided by Sydal and his AMAZING ab muscles, and he manages to pull himself up onto the turnbuckle. The two of them trade blows up there for a bit before landing simultaneous punches that send them both tumbling off the apron and to the floor. If that wasn’t enough to make Punk start questioning his choices in life, Sydal continuing to work the knee over with a few more submissions might seal the deal, but he manages to escape with an Anaconda Vice that is broken up when Sydal makes it to the ropes. Punk wants to put this thing away before Sydal can cause any more damage so he goes for the Pepsi Twist AND the GTS only for Sydal to dodge both of them and land a big kick to the head. With Punk reeling from that, Sydal finally manages to land his finisher the Lightening Spiral and goes for the pin… BUT PUNK KICKS OUT! The one thing both guys were going for was not enough to put Punk away and Sydal now has to get desperate if he wants to win the match. He goes to the top rope but Punk rolls away, so instead he jumps at him to pull him down for the Crucifix pin. Probably not the best move to go for however as Punk manages to catch him and he’s in JUST the right position for the GTS which Punk lands and gets the pin to win the match. It was pretty good for what it was. Perhaps a little bit plain by AEW standards, but a perfectly fine way to open the show and I’m glad that Punk isn’t trying to put on five star matches week in and week out. They’re already gonna have enough trouble keeping Danielson from doing that and risk burning himself out, so they don’t need Punk doing it too!
Ruby Soho Vs. The Bunny
While the new TBS title looms large over the Women’s division, this match doesn’t seem to specifically tie into it and much like what we saw with Punk and Sydal it seems to be here just to do it and to fill a spot on the card. While that may sound like a mark against it, these kind of JUST FOR FUN matchups are a good fit for the shorter format of Rampage, and while we still haven’t had a barn burner on this show so far it was still a solid match. Unlike the opener which at least had the contrasting speed and strength play into what was going on, there’s not much that separates these two technique-wise other than perhaps Bunny being a bit more aggressive while Soho relies on her experience. They’re about evenly matched for strength as the opening few minutes show but soon it turns into a back and forth contest of big moves into reversals to alternate the advantage. Bunny charges wildly and Soho gets a few Arm Drags out of it, and while she doesn’t get the Hip Toss she does start cranking on Bunny’s hand before landing a knee strike to the face for a one count. They go back and forth for a bit before Soho lands a kick to the face followed by a Back Heel Trip, and while Bunny is on the ground she goes to the top rope. Bunny catches up immediately however and yanks her off to start the heat segment which lasts until the fight makes its way to the outside and Soho lands a Flatliner on the floor. The two eventually make it back into the ring to start trading strikes, and Ruby gets fired up enough to start throwing Super Kicks at the Bunny in the corner before landing a Back Drop Suplex and a Running Forearm Strike to get a two count. Seeing the end in sight, she starts climbing the turnbuckle, but Bunny manages to catch up once again and lands a German Suplex on her from the bottom rope for a two count of her own. Bunny wants to put this away as badly as Ruby does so she goes for the Down the Rabbit Hole, but this ends up being a fatal mistake as Soho reverses it into a Backslide to get the pin and win the match! It’s not over yet however as Penelope Ford runs down with her brass knuckles and the two Heels attack her for a bit before Ford lands a hook to the face that knocks Soho out cold. I liked the match and I think the German Suplex was a great spot, but the fact that it just kinda ended with a Backslide was a bit of a disappointment. I guess if they want to make Bunny look like more than just a joke, then having her give Soho a run for her money was a good decision, but I don’t have a lot of confidence that a feud between them will work out any better than the feud she and Ford had with Tay Conti and Anna Jay.
The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, and Sammy Guevara) Vs. Men of The Year & Junior dos Santos
Junior is accompanied to the ring by Dan Lambert and Jorge Masvidal
Where I Found the last match between The Inner Circle and Men of the Year to be kind of underwhelming, this one has a lot more going for it and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit even if I still don’t’ know or particularly care to know anything about the MMA dudes. Speaking of whom, Junior does make a solid first impression; no doubt helped by The Inner Circle selling for him as much as they do. It kind of reminds me of when Jake Hager first showed up at AEW as the unstoppable MMA giant who ran through anyone and looked sternly into the camera. Now he’s paying it forward with a solid back and forth between him and Junior that Junior eventually gets the better of. Hager eventually makes it back to his corner to tag in Jericho who’s up against Sky, but instead of dealing with him, he gets in the face of Jorge Masvidal instead and ends up eating a hit to the back of the head from Ethan Page which starts the heat segment which seems like a REALLY silly reason to eat a shot to the head, especially since Masvidal wasn’t DOING anything! Jericho eventually escapes the onslaught by dodging a kick from Page and landing in Enziguri which gives him enough time to get Sammy the hot tag where he lands a Springboard Cutter on Sky, a Spanish Fly on Ethan Page, and even manages to knock Junior off the apron with a well-timed punch! He gets a two count on Sky with a Running Shooting Star Press and tags in Jericho who kicks Ethan off the apron and lands a Double Sledgehammer from the top rope followed by a Lionsault on Sky. This would have gotten the win if Page didn’t run in to break up the pin, and he and Junior try to cause further interference in the ring. Sammy and Hager are ON POINT however and throw themselves at those two to keep them busy and away from Jericho. Not sure what happened with Page and Sammy, but Junior’s about to land another Power Slam, this time on Hager and through the time keeper’s table, but Hager escapes and lands an Urenagi on Junior that sends them both through the table. Now that Jericho and Sky are alone in the ring, they start trading blows until Jericho gets the Double Leg Takedown and locks in the Walls of Jericho. Sky is threatening to tap so Paige VanZant gets on the corner and distracts the ref while Jorge Masvidal runs in and lands the Flying Knee Strike on Jericho. He’s out like a light and so Sky simply has to roll over and lift the leg to get the pin on Jericho and win the match. As soon as the bell rings, the rest of Lambert’s MMA crew run in to attack The Inner Circle but they are saved by Santana and Ortiz who PROBABLY should have been there the whole time, but whatever. The episode ends on something of a triumphant note as The Inner Circle is back together, but this feud is far from over!
This was very much a no-nonsense episode of Rampage that didn’t have the most stacked card out there but certainly did its job. I liked it quite a bit, even with the Top Team stuff just not being in my wheelhouse and with Rampage I’m perfectly fine with it mostly feeling like one-off matchups. If you want something with a bit more depth to it, they did do a Rampage Pre-Show on YouTube that had Bryan Danielson, Minoru Suzuki, and Bobby Fish which I hear was supposed to be a good show. I haven’t checked it out yet because Rampage is supposed to be one hour! DON’T DO THIS TO ME, AEW!! I’m giving you THREE HOURS A WEEK, and that’s all I can handle!!