Super Wrestling: AEW Rampage (12-03-2021)

AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Whenever I start to get into a less than enthusiastic mood about wrestling, I still like to see Rampage because it’s a small enough dose that I can still enjoy it even when the burnout is starting to creep in.  I’m probably not at that point yet, but Wednesday’s Dynamite was kind of a disappointment for me.  Despite it clearly being a show they put a lot into, I just didn’t connect with the storylines involved and a flaming table spot is not going to automatically add an extra star to the match.  That’s why we have Rampage though; to be the fun desert after the big Dynamite meal!  Is there enough self-contained and exciting action to clear the way for a hopefully better episode of Dynamite next week, or are we gonna need something a little bit stronger to cleanse the palate?  Let’s find out!!

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Sammy Guevara Vs. Tony Nese – TNT Title Match

The TNT title continues its long tradition of giving wrestlers their first big shot at AEW via the open challenge, and while Nese has been around for a few weeks now in Dark matches, this is going to be his first TV match for AEW.  Sammy starts off strong with some impressive acrobatics and a Suicide Dive that leaves Nese almost defenseless against an assault outside the ring, but fortune starts to turn in his favor once they’re both back in the ring.  Sammy goes to the turnbuckle to show off even more of his impressive athleticism, but Nese manages to get up and knocks him off so that he’s lying across the ropes; his body parallel with the mat.  Nese then kicks him SO HARD that Sammy flies through the air and lands on Nese’s shoulders which is something I’ve never seen in a wrestling match before, and he follows it up with a Gut Buster for a two count.  Now this is particularly bad as Sammy’s ribs are still taped up from… actually I don’t remember why they’re taped up, but he’s been nursing this injury for a few weeks now and Nese is well aware of this which is why he focuses on them during the heat segment that follows the pin attempt.  Sammy eventually gets a bit of a breather when he breaks out of a submission with a Backdrop, but it isn’t long before Nese is back in control with a Single Leg Boston Crab. Sammy does his best to fight through the pain and even manages to escape to land a Springboard Cutter, but his ribs are proving a detriment and he can’t make a proper cover in time.  Sammy goes for the GTH, but Nese escapes with ease and once again puts him in a Single Leg Crab, and Sammy only manages to escape it this time by twisting over and rolling Nese into a quick pin attempt.  Nese tries to run the ropes to shake up his offense, but he ends up eating Spanish Fly for a two count and then a Springboard Moonsault.  Sammy tries for another Springboard move to finish this match, but Nese is able to get up and knock him of the apron to the floor below which gives him an opening to land a Suicide Dive and a 450 Splash; showing off his athletic skills which are comparable to that of Sammy’s.  This only gets him a two count though, and the two start slugging it out in the ring until Nese lands a Buckle Bomb and Guevara lands a Pump Kick.  The Pump Kick is somehow the more effective of the two moves, and it allows Sammy to get Nese up on his shoulder for the GTH!  He hits the move which is more than enough for him to get the pin and wins the match to retain the TNT title!  This was a really good match and a great way to start the show!  The TNT title has a great track record as far as these open challenge matches, and Sammy is proving to be as effective with the belt as his predecessors like Cody, Brodie, and Miro.  The only thing is that I hope they drop the rib angle soon because I’m never a fan of wrestlers fighting through injuries; Kayfabe or otherwise.  Maybe once or twice, but at some point you’ve got to let the guy just wrestle at a hundred percent and trust that he can still generate drama in the match.

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Christian Cage and the Jurassic Express are in the back where Cage is talking about how awesome his buddies are and that the three of them are gonna… scout the competition?  He’s putting a lot of gusto into this promo to basically let everyone know they’ll be sitting in the crowd for the main event, and not to be a spoil sport here, but they don’t actually follow up on this.  At no point in the main event do we see these three sitting in the crowd, so what was the point of the promo!?

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Jade Cargill Vs. Janai Kai

Cargill is accompanied to the ring by Mark Sterling

Thunder Rosa joins the commentary team for this match

Janai Kai definitely has an interesting look, but that’s just not enough to stand up to Jade Cargill who gets a Pump Kick and hits the Jaded to win the match in under a minute.  Thunder Rosa tries to play it cool despite the fact that she just talked up Kai moments before she got killed, and when Cargill keeps attacking Kai after the match, Rosa runs down to make the save.  The two brawl for a while until the refs manage to break it up, and it’s all to build up the next round of the TBS Tournament.  While I could see Rosa as the next champion, it seems much more likely that she’ll be challenging for Baker’s title down the road, so I’m putting my non-existent money on Jade to come out on top in their match.

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We get an odd promo here as Adam Cole and the Young Bucks cut a promo against The Best Friends.  I say odd because for whatever reason, Don Callis just kinda wanders by in the back on a phone call.  Oh, and Nick Jackson squawks at the end of it.  Either way, it should be a good match!  Speaking of good matches…

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Eddie Kingston mock 2.0 for beating up Jericho and he wants it VERY CLEAR that he does not care about him in any way.  He’s just in this to beat up 2.0 and that’s what he’s gonna do, but since his tag team partner is gone for a while, chances are he’s gonna be teaming up with Jericho at some point soon which sounds like an amazing matchup!  Jericho hasn’t done a lot of stuff outside of The Inner Circle, but they seem to be off doing their own things, so it’s good for Jericho to expand his friend circle!

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Pac & Penta El Zero M Vs. FTR

Penta is accompanied to the ring by Alex Abrahantes while FTR is accompanied by Tully Blanchard

Alright, so we saw Pac with an eye patch on Dynamite, which he’s still wearing here, and apparently it’s because Malaki Black spit in it during their last match.  So… is because he has Pink Eye or something?  I have no idea and frankly it looks pretty silly which is frankly the last thing this feud needs; lest I remind you that a PPV match ended with a bad frog mask and a mistaken identity angle.  It’s been kind of hard to take this whole thing seriously what with FTR winning the AAA belts and their whole Super Frog nonsense, but there’s no denying the talent involved and these four men do what they can to make this match great.  Whether or not they succeed… well let’s see if we can find out.  It starts off with some hammy back and forth shtick from Penta and Cash with the latter being SERIOUSLY outclassed (nothing can beat CERO MIEDO) and the Baby Faces end up running over FTR.  It’s not until the Drop Kick Nut Shot from the Baby Faces that FTR find an opening to regain some ground, by which I mean Cash just runs in and drags Penta over to their corner so that he and Dax can overwhelm him for a while.  Hey, you can’t fault the effectiveness of such a simple strategy, and the two work over Penta for quite a while; including an Assisted Leg Drop that manages to get a two count.  Penta eventually escapes and tags in Pac who runs wild for a bit, but the eyepatch causes him to lose his balance on the ropes which allows Dax to drag him to FTR’s corner; starting a heat segment once again.  This one goes on even longer as Pac tries several times to escape, but whichever member of FTR he deals with is immediately tagged out and the other guy manages to reel him back to the corner.  Cash is thrown over the ropes, Dax just drags him back and tags in to stop Pac.  Pac hits a Step Up Enziguri and goes for the tag, but then Cash knocks Penta off the apron.  This one in particular sets Penta off and the ref has to hold him back which allows FTR to hit an Elbow Drop/Back Breaker combo for a two count.  It’s not until Dax attempts a Superplex which Pac turs into a Shotgun Drop Kick that things start to swing back to their side.  Dax does get to his corner and Cash tries to stop him from getting the tag, but a Back Body Drop is enough to let Pac close the distance and get the hot tag to Penta.  From here we get lots of big move from both teams and even a distraction spot from Tully that ends with him getting knocked down the apron, but it’s not Pac tales out Cash with a Moonsault that things finally come to a head.  Penta is out and so is cash after the Moonsault, but Dax is barely able to get up and is pleading with the ref about his leg.  Pac is waiting for him to get up so he can take his head off with a Drop Kick, but then none other than Malaki Black climbs the apron and spits more mist into Pac’s face; allowing Dax to IMMEDIATELY rolls him up to get the pin.  Bit of an anti-climax, but they have a few minutes left to go so the Heels try to finish the job now that the match is over.  FTR take Penta’s mask which is still something I’m not a fan of seeing (Alex Abrahantes covers him with a jacket to keep his face hidden), and Malaki Black tries to rip out Pac’s last remaining eye.  Gee, this would be a GREAT time for Cage and Jurassic Express to intervene if they were in fact watching the match!  Almost like that’d be the whole reason to have that promo where they say they are going to do that specific thing, am I right?  Instead, Pac just ends up writhing on the floor until Black lets go and we see blood on his hands; presumably from Pac’s now ruined second eye that I’m sure won’t deter him from fighting in a match next week.  Perhaps we’ll see him rock the double-eyepatch look!

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This was a solid show for the most part, but I wasn’t as impressed with the main event as I probably should have been.  I’m gonna put the blame on the ending which felt like a total letdown and the post-match stuff felt excessive, which is odd to say about a show that’s only an hour long, but it felt stretched out; like they were trying to fit a Dynamite main event in a Rampage time slot.  Still, we had the great TNT title match with Tony Nese and a decent enough squash match with Jade Cargill which is the kind of thing I come to Rampage to see.  It was certainly an easier sit than the Dynamite show on Wednesday, but it’s also far from my favorite episode of Rampage.

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