Super Wrestling: AEW Rampage (12-31-2021) – New Year’s Smash

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

Yes, we are still WOEFULLY behind here, but I’ll catch up on everything soon enough!  Where the last Dynamite (at least the one I saw) was the final one on TNT, Rampage isn’t going anywhere is just gonna keep trucking along on that network to give us quick and easy wrestling action to balance out the more plot-heavy shenanigans on Dynamite!  Is this another week of Rampage picking up the slack from Dynamite, or will we start to see the cracks in their formula, and perhaps they should try to shake things up as well?  Let’s find out!!

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Darby Allin Vs. Anthony Bowens

Allin is accompanied to the ring by Sting while Bowens is accompanied by Max Caster

Caster I can take or leave, but I really like Anthony Bowens and I kind of wish they’d give him a bigger push.  Now obviously AEW is pretty tightly packed so not everyone gets a real shot at the spotlight, but Bowens has got something special and I’d like to see him become a powerhouse; not unlike Wardlow, Hobbs, and Brian Cage.  Tonight is not his night to win since he’s up against Darby, but he does put on a decent performance here.  Darby gets an early lead that leaves Bowens frustrated and anxious, but that’s why Heels have guys on the outside to run distractions as Max Caster eats a punch from Darby which gives Bowens JUST enough time to land a punch of his own and toss Darby into the ring post.  This starts the heat segment which comes to an end when Darby escapes a Vertical Suplex, but the fight is much more even as Bowens lands a few moves on Darby that are mostly there to show off how much damage Darby is willing to inflict on himself.  Caster tries to run a few more distractions, but Sting finally gets up off his butt and takes care of him which allows Darby to land a Code Red followed by a Suicide Dive.  He throws Bowens back into the ring, hits the Coffin Drop, and gets the pin to win the match.  It would have been a fine match on its own, but then they do a post-match angle which kind of sours it a bit for me.  Andrade El Idolo’s music hits and he starts walking out.  He does nothing at all, but this is enough for Darby and Sting to gob at him for several seconds, so OF COURSE The Acclaimed sucker punch them and gang up on Darby!  It’s not like AEW doesn’t know how to book Baby Faces as the feud between Hangman Adam Page and Daniel Bryan has been pretty solid, but too often they rely on old tropes about foolish Baby Faces and it gets old pretty quickly.

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We get a Technique By Taz that’s basically just there to show off Hook.  AEW is really behind this kid, and if his first few matches are any indication, they could have a real winner on their hands!  He’s got charisma, a great theme song, and seems to have a good head on his shoulders for the in-ring work itself.  Will it pan out?  Well there are no sure things in this business, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic so far!

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Anna Jay & Tay Conti Vs. Penelope Ford & The Bunny – Street Fight

It’s a shame that AEW has done such a lackluster job building this feud because they put on a heck of a performance that would have been a fantastic blow-off match if it felt like there were some genuine stakes involved!  The first point in this match’s favor is that the Baby Faces are here to fight; they aren’t trying to be honorable and they aren’t letting the Heels blindside them.  In fact, the Heels seem wholly unprepared for this level of aggression as The Bunny starts off by throwing a punch with the brass knuckles only for Anna Jay to block it with a chair.  This forces the Bunny to slip them off to tend to her hand while Anna Jay picks them up and BASHES her across the face with them!  The match continues in this fashion for a while with Tay and Jay working together while the Heels find moments to really cause some damage.  An early spot involves the Baby Faces setting up a table only for Ford to knock them to the ground before putting Tay on top of it.  She hits a Moonsault from the top rope to the table on the floor which was impressive, but somewhat muted because there just wasn’t enough force to actually break the table.  Fortunately, she makes up for this by grabbing a glass bottle smashing it over Tay’s head!  The blood starts to flow now with Tay and Bunny having some deep crimson masks, and the commercial break gives them to set up even more tables and chairs which get put to good use as soon as we return… albeit it with a small bit of awkwardness.  A table is propped up in the corner, and Anna has The Bunny in a choke once we come back.  Instead of just continuing the hold, Anna decides to jump onto her back which is a bad idea since she’s standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TABLE, and so all Bunny has to do is lean back to send her into it!  That felt a bit contrived, but it didn’t take away from the match and gave the Heels a bit of time to set up the thumbtack spot!  The Bunny pours them all over the mat and tries to put Anna through them, but instead, Anna manages to push her into the corner and up on the turnbuckle to land a Superplex!  Both of them are sent into the tacks, but Bunny eats the worst of it and Anna goes for the pin… only for Ford to come flying in from nowhere and breaking it up!  Tay Conti is having NONE of this, and runs in to try and even the odds.  Ford manages to mount a good offense, but Tay comes out on top as she sends Ford through another table with a Gotch Style Pile Driver.  Both are out cold which once again leaves Bunny and Anna alone in the ring.  Bunny puts on the knuckles but ends up slipping on the tacks while Anna Jay wraps barb wire AROUND HER ARM and locks in the Queen Slayer; a submission with a headlock so the barbwire starts jabbing into Bunny’s neck.  Needless to say that she taps out immediately and the Heels don’t even get to spoil this victory by laying out the Baby Faces after the match!  Seriously, how is this one of the best matches I’ve seen in AEW in a while!?  All of the matches leading up to this have felt by the numbers, the feud itself was straightforward and uninteresting, and it’s not even a particularly important match given that we have the TBS Tournament going on!  Honestly, it might have been that the blood and guts nature of it kept AEW from indulging in some of their more annoying habits, mostly involving the Baby Faces looking like uncool dorks in front of the more savvy Heels, and while there were some occasional awkward spots, the wrestlers did a FANTASTIC job of selling the violence and brutality of it all!  I know the bloody match is supposed to be the blow-off, but any chance that we can start this feud in earnest here?

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Cody Rhodes Vs. Ethan Page – TNT Title Match

Cody is accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson while Page is accompanied by Scorpio Sky and Dan Lambert

Cody’s third run as champ is going to be an interesting one since he’s clearly leaning into his Hated Baby Face shtick, and even against a guy as outright hateable as Ethan Page, he still gets a crowd that’s split right down the middle.  Speaking of Page, the guy has always been great but it really does hit you every time he shows back up that the guy is really impressive!  For one, he’s deceptively big as he doesn’t really lean into the BIG MAN aesthetic, but his moves are definitely powerhouse hits and he uses his large size to his advantage; even against a guy who’s already big like Cody!  It’s solid back and forth action with some interference from both Lambert and Arn as well as some action outside of the ring, but the match takes a turn when Ethan goes for a Suplex and Cody Floats over to hit him with a Chop Block.  I wouldn’t imagine that a Chop Block would be so devastating, but I guess if Ethan’s a Big Guy then he’s got to have the Big Guy flaw, and so Cody proceeds to pound on him as he’s stuck on the ground clutching his leg.  Cody continues to focus on the leg during the commercial with a few submission holds, but Ethan finally gets his second wind and starts to simply bowl over Cody with his deceptively massive size!  A DDT on Cody gets Ethan a two count and forces Cody to roll out, only to be attacked by Scorpio Sky.  Arn’s looking to put a hurt on the guy, but out of nowhere comes Dustin who just beats the heck out of Scorpio Sky as they fight their way through the crowd!  It’s such a great brawl that Ethan Page gets completely distracted by it and walks right into a Cross Rhodes for a two count!  Page is far from done however and manages to land an Avalanche Power Slam for a two count of his own, and the two start to trade shots in the middle of the ring; including one of Cody’s Kitty Kat Uppercuts.  Page lifts Cody up for the Ego’s Edge, but he escapes and hits a Cody Cutter that only gets a two count due to Cody not making the cover fast enough, but he’s back in control and locks in the Figure Four Leg Lock which is doing nothing to help Page’s wounded leg!  Page reverses the move which forces Cody to break it, Ethan hits a Jack Knife pin for a two count, and Cody goes up top only for Page to toss him off.  It’s not looking good for Cody, but Ethan goes for the Ego’s Edge once again which Cody manages to escape a second time and somehow reverse it into a Cross Rhodes!  He follows up with another Cross Rhodes and a Tiger Driver 98 which is finally enough for Cody to get the pin and win the match!  A very satisfying title fight and Cody celebrates his victory as the episode comes to an end!

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Where the final episode of Dynamite on TNT was a good example of why things needed to change, Rampage (which is staying on TNT) shows us what they’ve done right and why Rampage is becoming the more fun of the two.  I get why they book a lot of the same wrestlers week after week, but to me it just gets tiresome and the angles have not been up to snuff these last few months.  Rampage doesn’t exactly fix those problems, but it at least gives us a breath of fresh air with some interesting matchups and much fewer go-nowhere, repetitive promos.  Hopefully, Dynamite’s move to TBS will be the start of a new era for them, but Rampage is doing fine just where it is!

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