SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Adam Cole and Bobby Fish defeated Orange Cassidy and Wheeler Yuta: HIT
I still don’t know who Wheeler Yuta is or how he got to hanging out with Best Friends. Based on the way the commentators talked about him, I feel there is some intrigue behind the character that just hasn’t been explained to the non-Dark audience.
In any case, this was a very good match where all four athletes got to shine. I don’t like Adam Cole being involved in a feud that stems from a disagreement on the definition of “friendship,” but I’m sure we’ll get some great matches between him and Orange Cassidy.
Tony Nese Backstage Interview: MINOR MISS
We finally get to hear from Tony Nese, after several weeks of him just sitting in the crowd. Like many AEW debutants, he will be taking up the open challenge for the TNT title (I’m surprised how it makes sense, in kayfabe, for no one on the current roster to be responding that challenge recently).
I think Tony came off fairly confident and composed, but there was a bit too much presumed star power and recognition in his words. AEW is a bit heavy-handed in assuming people know some wrestlers well. I don’t think that’s the right approach with someone like Tony Nese, who was really defined down in WWE. I would rather he “introduced” himself a little more and explained why we should care about his presence.
He was confronted by Sammy Guevara right away, who apparently was just hanging around in that interview area. Sammy tried his best to show off a badass side to his character, which I think he needs, but he still has work to do on his promos.
Riho defeated Britt Baker to get a title shot for the Women’s title: HIT
Very solid match. Riho is an excellent worker and Baker just keeps getting better. They managed to keep the crowd invested, which is difficult after a taped Rampage’s opening match. I don’t understand why we got so many weeks of sub-par women’s matches on Rampage while talents like Riho, Thunder Rosa, Hikaru Shida, Nyla Rose, and Serena Deeb were relegated to Dark for several weeks. I don’t mind seeing a Jade Cargill squash, but it really baffles me how scattershot AEW has been with their best female workers.
The finish was surprising, but probably necessary. Baker’s matches have been too predictable lately, so it’s probably a good move to show that she is beatable. This will add some intrigue to their championship match, which I hope isn’t marred by a long commercial break as this one was.
My only other gripe with the match is Baker playing into the “DMD” chants instead of trying to build heat. She’s improved a lot over two years, but something both she (and Adam Cole) struggle with is getting a crowd to really want to see them get theirs. If she insists on staying heel, I hope she works on this.
Main Event Interview: MISS
I was worried this would be the main event. I still don’t understand Daniel Garcia’s character or why he keeps getting main events in kayfabe.
Kingston tried his best, but he just doesn’t have enough material to work with in this feud.
Eddie Kingston defeated Daniel Garcia: HIT
A decent match with an interesting clash of styles; Kingston’s brawling meets Garcia’s technical prowess. There was nothing spectacular about it though, and I’m getting tired of Daniel Garcia in feature matches when he’s lost almost every television match he has been in (let alone a lack of character explaining or why 2.0 are with him; I know more about Madcap Moss or Reggie than I do Daniel Garcia, and I barely watch WWE programming these days).
Post-Match Angle with Jericho: HIT
After the match, 2.0 ganged up on Kingston and Jericho ran from the commentary desk to make the save. He seemed a bit hesitant to do so, which suggests to me that he didn’t want to “disrespect” Kingston by saving him and not trusting him to fight his own battles. I’m curious to see where this goes.
Commentary: MINOR HIT
As per most weeks, the commentary was serviceable. Not good enough to enhance the show nor bad enough to diminish it. Jericho’s “square face” joke at one of the 2.0 guys did start to get tiring after a while though. In addition, like Mark Henry, I continue to just not notice Ricky Starks on this four-man booth.
Overall Show: HIT
A solid episode with Rampage with easy-to-follow story progression. While I have some reservations, at least AEW’s mid-card is intriguing enough to comment on and be invested in.