AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with more Rampage Action as Full Gear is getting closer and closer! The last episode of Dynamite built some of the groundwork for the angles that will play out in the PPV, but I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag and not terribly exciting. Can Rampage, with its shorter run time and focus on payoffs rather than story-building, be the fun and engaging spectacle that I felt was missing from Dynamite? Let’s find out!!
Bryan Danielson Vs. Anthony Bowens
Bowens is accompanied to the ring by Max Caster
I always liked Bowens more than Caster as he had a bit more enthusiasm to him while Caster can come off and UNBEARABLY obnoxious. It’s a shame that so often he’s playing the supporting role in this group, but tonight is his chance to take the spotlight and lock it up with one of the greats of the business! Bowens has a decent start as his strength over Danielson and is immediately apparent! He tosses Danielson around which is impressive to see, but it isn’t doing a WHOLE lot except stroking Bowens’ ego; neither is the Crucifix pin for a quick two count on Danielson that he tries WAY too early in this match. Danielson doesn’t get a word in edgewise for a while but he’s clearly biding his time and finally gets an opportunity to land a high kick to Bowens before grabbing his arm and manipulating it to keep him under his control. Danielson uses this advantage to toss Bowens in the corner and the two trade blows there for a bit before Bowens goes for a Suplex, only for Danielson to somehow smash his knee into his head on the upswing. Not missing a beat, Danielson flips him over and goes for an Arm Bar which is only causing more damage to the arm, and while Bowens gets to the ropes to break the hold, he lingers too long on the apron and Danielson kicks him right out of the ring. It’s not looking good for Bowens whose relative lack of experience is making him an easy target for Danielson, but he does catch a break when Danielson goes for a Running Kick, only for Bowens to catch him and drop him onto the apron. If that wasn’t enough, Caster gives Danielson a clothesline while the ref isn’t looking which starts the heat for Bowens. Danielson eventually fights his way out with a series of Uppercuts, and a big elbow strike from Danielson knocks Bowens to his knees where he then lands a bunch of Yes Kicks for a two count. Danielson drags Bowens to the corner and starts hitting his Running Knee Strikes, but Bowens dodges one of them that leaves Danielson stuck in the corner, and he hits a Big Enziguri as well as a move called The Arrival (basically a Draping DDT), that gets him a two count. Bowens tries to keep up the heat on Danielson, but he escapes and takes out Caster. He then tosses Bowens over the ropes onto Caster and then lands a Cross Body from the top turnbuckle onto both of them. With Caster effectively dealt with Bowens softened up, Danielson tosses his back into the ring and hits a Missile Drop Kick that practically knocks him out. Instead of going for the pin though, he starts stomping on his face and puts him in the LaBelle Lock. Bowens taps out and Danielson wins the match ahead of the TNT Title Tournament Finals that will be on Full Gear. It was a fun match and giving Danielson a bit of juice ahead of the big show isn’t a bad idea. That said, it’s just kind of THERE without much drama involved which is why I hope they do the same for Miro as I think he has a MUCH more interesting story to tell and a much more interesting match to make out of it.
CM Punk calls Eddie Kingston out so that he can apologize for being a butt on the last episode of Rampage, but as you’d expect Kingston is too stubborn a dude to simply admit fault and uses this time to cut a devastating promo on Punk. Now the best promo since the start of AEW (yes, even better than CM Punk’s first appearance) is the face to face between Moxley and Kingston for the I Quit match. Kingston brings so much authenticity and fire to his promos, and with the right partner, it can easily become one of the GREATEST promos in all of wrestling. Moxley got him to that level, and Punk does the same here as Kingston’s fire and passion is only exacerbated by Punk’s cool, calm, and collected demeanor. I’ve theorized for a while that Kingston is the true heir to Dusty Rhodes’ American Dream gimmick in that he embodies a lot of the frustrations, anguishes, and sins of the Average Joe, and while Punk is great and beloved, he doesn’t connect as VISCERALLY as Kingston does. Punk calls him out on his nonsense and insecurities and is basically his therapist for a few minutes here which is probably makes him the HEALTHIER person in this feud, but there’s still an immense amount of satisfaction as Kingston rips into him for trying to be above it all. It’s a fantastic promo that captures Eddie’s justified disillusionment towards this business and its biggest stars, while also not letting him off the hook for just how toxic his bitterness has become as Punk doesn’t come off like a true BAD GUY in this situation. His worst crime here is being smug, but he’s not really underestimating Kingston; rather he knows what this guy is all about and isn’t letting himself be baited into dragging himself down to his level. Honestly, the only thing about this that I don’t like is that we’re blowing the match off at Full Gear which is only a week away and this kind of back and forth exchange should stretch out for weeks if not MONTHS because of how good these two are playing off each other. Still, I can’t imagine the match NOT being fantastic after seeing these two verbally spar in the ring and at this point, it might be my most anticipated match at Full Gear!
The Bunny Vs. Red Velvet – TBS Title Tournament Match
Red Velvet runs in hot and starts pounding on The Bunny with reckless abandon! Ground and pounds, body shots in the corner, Clothesline on the floor, it’s not until Velvet gets distracted by Jade Cargill in the crowd that The Bunny gets a shot in and starts to get a TINY bit of a heat segment. The Bunny throws her into the barricade as well as the steel steps before throwing her back into the ring, but it isn’t long until Velvet is back in control and gets a two count with a Stunner. The Bunny managers to follow up with a Death Valley Driver for a two count, but when she tries for the Down The Rabbit Hole, Jade escapes and hits her finisher The Final Slice to get the pin and win the match. Much like the Anna Jay and Jamie Hayter match from Dynamite, there wasn’t a whole lot to this and is mostly there to set up the NEXT match; in this case between Red Velvet and Jade Cargill. Even that though is probably gonna be a nothing match because we’re clearly building up to Rosa and Cargill in the Semi-Finals. What we needed on this side of the bracket is at least one decent feud to work itself out in the opening matches; much like the Shida/Deeb match. They didn’t need to save that for later in the tournament and it made the tournament as a whole more exciting for that side of the bracket, while this side was two placeholder matches back to back.
John Silver Vs. Adam Cole
Adam Cole is accompanied to the ring by The Young Bucks
Okay, so they mentioned this on the last episode of Dynamite, but I didn’t bring it up because I had no idea what the heck they were even talking about. Thank goodness for Mark Henry because in ONE SENTENCE, he tells us what the deal is which is that John Silver asked Adam Cole on BTE to be his manager. Not only that, he wanted Cole to shave his head and go by the name BUDGE which is what they were talking about on the Dynamite show and the reason I completely NOPED out of it, but with the added context that this is a BTE bit and that he wanted Cole to be his manager, it’s clear that this is all a big riff on the supposed plans WWE had for Adam Cole if he had resigned with the company. He was going to get called up to the main roster, he was going to be a manager for Keith Lee (who incidentally has been released by WWE since then) and would most likely have to change his name since WWE hates for more than one person to have the same name and there’s a Michael Cole on the announce team. Yeah, that was probably a lot of context for a match like this and if they’re gonna reference BTE then it’d be great if we actually got to SEE What they were talking about on the show, but all of that aside, do they have a good match? Well for the most part I’d say yes, but the big problem is that they are continuing the story of Cole getting that con-chair-to from Dynamite, and so the whole match he’s having issues with his head. The announcers make it VERY CLEAR that he’s been medically cleared for this match but it’s STILL a bit off-putting where a guy is having to stop and clutch his head after almost every move; especially given wrestling’s history with concussions and brain injuries. It’s just not a good look for Silver to be focusing on the head and landing a bunch of strikes to it when HE’S supposed to be the Baby Face in this situation, but the two guys do put on a very impressive show. Silver spends the first minute of the match mocking Cole and eats a boot to the face but Cole can’t capitalize on it as much as he should because of his aforementioned head injury. Still, he manages to maintain the lead and tosses Silver to the apron where he lands another boot to the face and a Snapmare that sends him tumbling to the ground. Cole follows up with the Camel Clutch (getting kisses from The Young Bucks in the process) as we start the heat segment, but eventually Silver manages to escape in a slugfest a few minutes later. Silver gets some real momentum here as he throws Cole into the ropes and lands a Back Body Drop, and he even reverses a Hurricanrana from Cole into a Liger Bomb. There’s more brawling but Cole’s head is still an issue which allows Silver to kick things into tenth gear as he starts going to TOWN on Cole, but Cole breaks through the offense to land a Brian Buster out of NOWHERE which was very impressive but only got a two count. Cole wants to finish this with the Boom Knee Strike and starts running the ropes, but Silver lands a Clothesline that turns him inside out. Silver then follows with a Running Kick, a Release German, and a Running Knee Strike of his own before going for the pin, but The Bucks put Cole’s leg on the ropes to break it up. Ref Remsberg is suspicious and The Dark Order runs down to chase The Bucks off; all of which is one big distraction for Silver which allows Cole to attempt a low blow on Silver… BUT HE MISSES! Silver catches his arm mid-strike and lands a low blow of his own behind the ref’s back before hitting a Spinning Liger Bomb that could bring this match to an end… BUT COLE KICKS OUT AT TWO! Utterly shocked but undeterred, Silver puts Cole on the turnbuckle and goes for a Superplex only for Cole to fight back and knock him off. Seeing his opportunity, Cole goes for the Panama Sunrise, but Silver’s beefy arms manage to catch him and he shoves Cole into the post. With the momentum back on his side, Silver goes for a series of Running Elbow Strikes in the corner, but Cole kicks him in the face with a Super Kick; stopping Silver in his tracks and leaving him open for ANOTHER Super Kick. Silver falls to his knees and Cole finally hits The Boom which is enough to get the pin and win the match; bringing the episode to an end as Cole’s music plays and he celebrates in the ring!
This was probably more flawed than the last episode of Dynamite, but I think it also had the better highlights with the Danielson match being a lot more fun than the opener on the other show, and the Silver match being very exciting to watch even if the head injury angle dragged it down quite a bit. The best part though is obviously the Kingston/Punk promo and once again Kingston proves himself to be the best in the game! He’s delivered two of the greatest promos in AEW history, and it definitely gives this episode a couple bonus points from me! Hopefully, next week is full of all the exciting angles we need to make the Full Gear PPV feel like a big event, but even if those episodes end up being disappointing I’m still gonna be there for the big show to see Eddie Kingston and CM Punk punch their way through the emotional walls they’ve built between them!