AEW Rampage is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with more AEW action, though at this rate we’re probably a solid two weeks behind here and I’m sure everyone has already moved on to talk about whatever headline-grabbing events occurred on the most recent episode. Still, it’s good to keep chugging away at these for posterities sake, and honestly, missing an episode of wrestling is like skipping over an issue of a superhero comic; you’re guaranteed to get lost if you don’t have the complete picture at all times. Does this episode of Rampage live up to the Beach Break event in ways that the Dynamite show did not? Let’s find out!!
Jon Moxley Vs. Anthony Bowens
Bowens is accompanied to the ring Max Caster
Despite Moxley’s overwhelming popularity, he’s not a guy who lets it go to his head. Where a place like WWE would want winners to be winners and never show an inch, AEW has a much less strict attitude for its wrestlers which is just another reason that fits in so well here. To wit, Moxley gives up quite a bit to Anthony Bowens who eats a lot of offense and does a lot of bumping at the start of the match but eventually turns things in his favor for the rest of it. It helps that Caster is on the outside to provide the occasional distraction, but Bowens is still a great wrestler and they certainly don’t want to bury him here, even against a top talent guy like Moxley. Bowens manages to hit a Superplex on Moxley which gets him a pretty close two-count, and Caster makes a big save by pushing Bowens out of the way of a Suicide Dive. This gives Bowens a chance to hit a DDT, but still, Moxley will not stay down as he kicks out at two. With Bowens seeing the writing on the wall, he manages to get a chain from Caster and attempts to hit Moxley behind the ref’s back, but Moxley quickly hits a Cutter that leaves Bowens flat on the mat. Caster makes a desperate attempt to even the odds, but Moxley throws him out of the ring immediately and finishes off Bowens with a King Kong Lariat and a Paradigm Shift. I’m glad that Moxley is back and putting on good matches, and I’m MORE than glad that AEW is recognizing Bowens as a solid talent, but the match couldn’t really rise above being good as I think the Acclaimed formula is getting stale. Having Caster interfere constantly and teasing the boom box spot only for the Heels to get their comeuppance is a fine formula, but it starts to lose its impact if that’s what we see every time.
Andrade is in the back trying to find Sting, but instead, he finds Darby and offers him a contract. Darby just laughs at him and wonders what the heck he’s even doing as he doesn’t even work for Sting, but Andrade still insists on speaking with his “boss”. I’m still waiting for AEW to find something consistent for Andrade as he keeps getting shuffled between different angles, and frankly, none of them have been as successful as his feud with Pac.
Lee Johnson & Brock Anderson Vs. FTR
Lee and Brock are accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson while FTR is accompanied by Tully Blanchard
I don’t think this is a bad match, but it was pretty jarring to watch playout; mostly because FTR gave up A LOT to Johnson and Anderson; two guys who barely show up on TV and barely win matches when they do. Lee Johnson is running circles around Dax and Cash who can’t keep up with his speed, while Brock is a powerhouse who can easily take them both on at the same time! These are also two guys who lost pretty decisively to guys like Malakai Black and… well Malakai Black as well. Still, these are just my expectations going into it and really shouldn’t impact my enjoyment of the match itself; if it was say The Young Bucks they were going up against, I wouldn’t be as befuddled by the back and forth nature of the match, right? Well, the pendulum ends up swinging the other way as well because if this HAD been the Bucks vs. FTR, I’d have felt like they were trying to bury them or show them as unserious threats like 2.0. They just never get any momentum in the match and are eating offense for most of it; only getting a real advantage during the commercial break heat segment. Even Tully is stooged out here as Arn menacing him before taking a swing, and if Tully did anything in the match to deserve it then I missed it! FTR do ultimately win the match with a Spiked Pile Driver on Lee Johnson, but considering how hard-fought the victory was I think it did more harm than good. Jarring ends up being the right word to describe this, and I don’t know exactly what they were trying to accomplish. Brock and Johnson don’t really have any more credibility than they did going into the match, and FTR feel like they’re getting lost in the shuffle as well. I guess this is what happens when you have this many people on your roster; you just gotta throw things against the wall and see what sticks.
Jade Cargill Vs. Julia Hart – TBS Title Match
Cargill is accompanied to the ring by Mark Sterling while Hart is accompanied by Griff Garrison
Perhaps my memory is failing me, but is this Hart’s first singles match since she joined the Varsity Blondes? I remember being rather impressed with her before she joined the group and it was such a shame that they barely utilized her in-ring skills after that. Sadly this doesn’t look to be the start off a big push for her as she’s up against Cargill who is going to dominate with squash matches for the foreseeable future. Hart starts off trying to put up a good fight, but a Back Breaker from Cargill leaves her writhing on the mat and pretty much finished. Cargill is not ready to end it however and is gloating in the ring which gives hart a chance to fight back, but it’s of little use. A few kicks send Jade to the corner and she hits a few splashes, but they barely affect Cargill who picks her up into the Electric Chair. She flips her around for a Powerbomb, but Hart leans back with as much force as she can muster, and turns it into a Hurricanrana which gets her a two-count, and with that Jade is done playing. She hits a big boot and then the Jaded to get the pin and win the match, and I’m sure we’ll see plenty more matches play out this way as long as Cargill holds the TBS belt.
Jurassic Express Vs. Private Party – AEW Tag Title Match
Jurassic Express is accompanied to the ring by Christian Cage while Private Party is accompanied by Matt Hardy and The Blade
I’ve kind of stopped banging on about this and it’s just something we’ve had to learn to live with, but Private Party being at the top of the tag division doesn’t FEEL true, and by the end of this match it’s clear they are just here to help Jurassic Express segue into the next feud. They start of strong by hitting a Gin and Juice on Jungle Boy right at the start of the match, though it’s total nonsense that they are allowed to do this as Private Party started attacking Jungle Boy before the bell rang and before he could even hand his title belt over to the ref. What actually IS somewhat impressive is that they manage to hold their own against Luchasaurus once he tags in, and they end up leading him to Matt Hardy who hits his leg with a chair. With a strong start from Private Party and Luchasaurus being effectively taken out of the match so early, it’s definitely a match built to make you think that MAYBE Private Party have a chance at winning which is what you want in a title fight. I’ll give them credit for that, but the match also loses a point for yet another silly and overcomplicated spot with Jurassic Express. Jungle Boy is hammering Kassidy on the middle rope and is scooped up by Quen into an Electric Chair. Luchasaurus is right behind him however and pts Jungle Boy on his own shoulders! Ha-ha! He’s foiled their little scheme! Kassidy tries to take Jungle Boy off Luchasaurus’s shoulders with a Cross Body, but Kassidy clearly didn’t put enough forward momentum into the jump and just lands in the arms of Jungle Boy who then proceeds to flip over and lands on top of Kassidy once they hit the mat. This gets him a two-count, but all these shenanigans gave Quen enough time to recover and start fighting back against Jungle Boy. Private Party also hit a Silly String on Luchasaurus which once again effectively takes him out of the match, and an attempted Snare Trap from Jungle Boy onto Kassidy ends with a GIGANTIC Shooting Star press from Quen to break up the hold. Private Party goes for another Gin and Juice to try and put this match away, but Jungle Boy reverses it into a Canadian Destroyer on Kassidy. With Quen alone in the ring and Luchasaurus back in action, Jurassic Express hit the Thoracic Express which is enough to keep Quen down for the three-count and retain the title for Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus. So yeah, despite some early gains from Private Party the ending was all but inevitable. Truly, the match was there to set up the post-match angle which was the Gunn Club running in to attack Christian Cage and then Jurassic Express; going so far as to hold them down and smash them in the face with their own belts. With the Gunn Club standing tall as the episode comes to an end, it seems clear that they’re gonna get their shot at the belts; though getting in a match with an upset dinosaur smacks of tempting fate if you ask me.
This was definitely a better Special Episode of AEW on paper than Dynamite was, given that they had TWO title matches on the show, but I don’t think I came away from this episode with a significantly higher opinion than the one I had for Dynamite. AEW is kind of in a holding pattern as we try and figure out what the next direction is, and frankly, that’s fine. You can’t have the dizzying highs without a few lulls every now and again; though perhaps hold off on giving an episode a subtitle if it’s not going to be a benchmark episode for the year.