AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
The New Year proved to be a solid start for Dynamite on TBS, but now Rampage has to keep the fort down on TBS for the occasional SPECIAL EPISODE that airs on the network; including Battle of the Belts which is just one day after this show! Does Rampage continue to thrive on TNT, or were things better when both shows were on the same network? Let’s find out!!
Jake Atlas Vs. Adam Cole
Now this is a match that I am SUPER excited about! Jake Atlas is yet another talented wrestler that WWE failed to find a use for, so now he’s here at AEW to show them just how big of a blunder they’ve made! IT starts off well with some quick action as Atlas is strong, agile, and talented, but Cole is not to be underestimated as his in-ring experience means that he can read Atlas like a book. There’s some good back and forth action between the two, but then Atlas goes for the top turnbuckle and Cole immediately knocks him off and follows up by throwing him into the post. Cole is firmly in control now and whatever Atlas tries to do to get out from underneath him is caught and rebuffed; particularly this one spot where Atlas tries for something that Kind of looks like a Springboard Coffin Drop (he’s flying backward with his arms stretched out), and Cole just grabs him out of midair and hits a Backstabber. This continues throughout the commercial, after which Atlas gets a Step Up Hurricanrana which gives him a bit of breathing room. Cole rolls out and Atlas hits a Drop Kick through the ropes before following up with a Suicide Dive. He then throws Cole into the ring and hits a Springboard Drop Kick for a two count, and the action goes back to a more even back and forth exchange. Cole goes for the Boom Knee Strike, but Atlas manages to hit Cole with a kick of his own and follows up with a move that I can only describe as a Pop-Up Pile Driver. He lifts Cole up as if he was doing a Suplex, but stops at the height of Cole’s arc and repositions so that he drops him down into a Pile Driver which gets him a two count. In trying to follow up on this, Jake goes for another Springboard move (this time facing his opponent), but Cole manages to kick him out of the air which unfortunately led to another injury for AEW. It’s not NEARLY as bad as Fenix’s arm going in the other direction, but it looks like Atlas messed up his knee when he planted it after this move; so much so that when Cole goes for the Panama Sunrise, he’s just not able to go up for it. Instead, Cole knocks him to the mat and puts him in an Ankle Lock submission and Atlas taps out immediately. The Not-Dispute Era (Fish and O’Reilly) come down to meet Cole and they’re about to pound on Atlas when Orange Cassidy and Best Friends come down to chase them off. If it wasn’t for the injury, I’d say this was a darn good showing for Jake Atlas who looks right at home in the AEW ring, but unfortunately, he may be out for a while if something bad happened to his knee. Two injuries back to back is not a good look for AEW, but hopefully, these are just two poorly timed flukes and nothing more.
Speaking of medical stuff, while this isn’t an injury per se, Cody Rhodes is out of the Battle of the Belts match against Guevara on Saturday. They don’t specify why on the show other than that he’s not been medically cleared, but it’s since been confirmed that he and Brandi have COVID and so they had to come up with something to fill in that spot. Good ol’ Dustin Rhodes is stepping up to the plate and the winner of their match is going to be the interim-TNT champion. All the best to Cody and his family as they deal with this terrible illness. Get vaccinated and wear your mask, people!
Tony is in the back asking Andrade why he came out at the end of Darby Allin’s match last week… and apparently, he wanted to ask Sting to hand over Darby Allin to be his assistant? Okay… seems like a lot of effort to go through just to get another lackey, but you do you, Andrade.
Hook Vs. Aaron Solo
Solo is accompanied to the ring by QT Marshall
Solo may not be a big guy at AEW but he’s the biggest name that Hook has had to fight against so far, and while Hook stays in control for most of this match, Solo isn’t exactly jobbing out here either. Still, it’s not until QT grabs Hook’s boot that Solo has an opening to attack as he rains fists down on Hook over and over again. Hook manages to give him a Leg Sweep and locks in the Octopus Hold, but since Hook isn’t dealing with a mere jobber here, Solo manages to outmaneuver him by moving backward which forces Hook’s shoulders on the mat; forcing Hook to break the hold to avoid being pinned. Sadly that is the last time Solo has the upper hand here as he tries to keep up the offense, only for Hook to catch him and hit a Taz Suplex. Hook lands a few more shots before locking in the Red Rum which forces Solo to tap out; giving Hook his third victory at AEW. Oh, but it’s not over yet as QT starts yelling at Hook, but then quickly realizes that this was a bad idea. QT sees death in front of him, so he tries to punch his way out of it, and Hook just hits him with a Suplex that leaves him folded like an accordion. Hook is still looking good, and even against someone more challenging which forced him to do a bit of selling, he held his own like a champ! Anything could happen, but I see good things in this kid’s future!
Ruby Soho & Riho Vs. Britt Baker & Jamie Hayter
Baker is accompanied to the ring by Rebel (Not Reba)
I guess it’s good to keep the champ and the challenger in the spotlight leading up to a title defense, but there was just nothing to this match. Rebel (Not Reba) drags Soho out of the ring before the match begins, and everyone brawls for a bit until we eventually start with Soho and Hayter. The Heels are much better at working together and they get the heat during the commercial, but eventually, Soho gets as Suplex on Baker and makes the hot tag to Riho. She runs wild for a bit on both of the Heels and even hits her Tiger Feint Kick ( I guess they can’t call it the 619) until Baker manages to shove her off the post, and Hayter almost gets the pin but it’s broken up by Soho at the last second. The turning point of the match is when Hayter throws a punch at Riho who ducks and instead hits Baker by mistake. As is the case anytime a wrestler makes a mistake, their stamina and strength immediately leave their body as Riho is able to roll up Hayter and gets the three count to win the match. Like I said, nothing special here. Riho got to do a few of her moves in anticipation of her title fight with Baker, and the Hayter/Baker split gets teased here what with the accidental punch in the face. It would have helped if it didn’t have such a clichéd ending with the Surprise Roll-Up, but however it would have ended, this is just filler as we make our way to the much more exciting match as I have no doubt that Baker and Riho will knock it out of the park.
Proud N Powerful & Eddie Kingston Vs. 2.0 & Daniel Garcia – Street Fight
I wasn’t a big fan of last week’s version of this match, and sadly this isn’t any better. A No-DQ style match can usually go one of two ways; either the violence is used to enhance an already interesting match, or the violence overtakes everything else and is just there for its own sake. This ends up being the latter as it turns into three separate matches we cut between every few seconds as one set of guys are beating each other up with weapons only to see that the other set of guys is beating each other up with weapons while the third set of guys is, you guessed it, beating each other up with weapons. There are some highlights like at the start where Kingston uses a Trashcan to great effect on Daniel Garcia, but most of this feels like bloody padding until we get to the finish. At some point, 2.0 and Garcia have taken out Proud N Powerful and have Kingston in the middle of the ring. Garcia cracks him over the head with the ring bell again and goes for the pin… ONLY FOR KINGSTON TO KICK OUT! That was a bit surprising as a shot like that is usually a match ender, but even if the match isn’t over yet, Kingston is in bad shape and rolls out of the ring to try and get his bearings. All he ends up doing however is put himself right next to the time keeper’s table where the Heels land a Triple Suplex on him. Thankfully, Proud N Powerful have recovered and Santana takes out all three Heels with an expert use of a folding chair. It’s Garcia and Ortiz in the ring alone as they slug each other over and over again, but Santana runs in and the two hit an Assisted Sit-Out Face Buster on Garcia who rolls out of the ring just as Jeff Parker runs in to try and make the save. Proud N Powerful pinball the guy around the ring for a bit until Santana knocks him out with a Discus Lariat and gets the pin to win the match. Even in victory however, the Baby Faces can’t enjoy the win as the Heels IMMEDIATELY get back up and continue their attack. Doesn’t seem like the Baby Faces did much winning here since the Heels are standing tall in the ring, but it’s all a setup for Jericho to run down and make the save. The Heels scatter and Jericho is standing tall in the ring as the episode comes to an end.
It wasn’t as good as last week’s Rampage, nor was it as good as this week’s Dynamite. Still, it had a solid first half with matches that I did like (even if one of them might have ended in an injury), and the show’s short length means that the saggy second half couldn’t sag for too long. Rampage is still the go-to show for quick and fun wrestling action, though not every week is going to be a classic episode. Hopefully, next week will have fewer people getting hurt, and things will flow a bit better. Oh wait, we don’t have to wait until the next Dynamite or even the next Rampage, because we’ve got Battle of the Belts, so perhaps they were saving up all their best matches for that!