SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Jungle Boy defeated Isiah Cassidy: HIT
Good, athletic contest between two young studs. With Quen injured, it seems Cassidy and Hardy will be carrying the load with singles matches, and Quen can hang around at ringside so people don’t forget him (for example, I’ve had to keep reminding myself that Dante Martin has an injured brother who is due to return soon).
I suppose we are to believe that the Matt Hardy brand has just suddenly moved on from Orange Cassidy after continuing to sit-in on his matches and never really having a resolution to the feud on television. Probably a good thing in terms of keeping rivalries fresh, but what an anticlimactic end to a feud featuring someone who has continually touted “long-term storytelling.” In addition, I can’t keep up with the new additions to the Matt Hardy brand who Excalibur mentions by name and just assumes we’ve been watching enough Dark to be familiar with.
I do like Jungle Boy, and wrestlers in general, wearing bandages and tape to sell storyline injuries. However, AEW shows tend to be so densely packed that many angles don’t get much time to breathe, so it can be difficult to remember how the injuries were picked up. In this case, apparently it is just due to “overtraining,” which makes me think JB probably hurt himself for real. I find it difficult to believe his character would “overtrain” for a throw-away singles match on Rampage.
Miro Video Segment: STRONG HIT
Happy to see Miro continue to be featured. Now is not the time for him to be in a major program, so these videos are what we will need to see for a few weeks until he makes a strong return. They continue to get better as his character comes to terms with his recent losses and apparent abandonment from his God. Like his last video, he’s still challenging God, claiming that God “sits up there” because he fears him. He also vowed to return stronger.
This is worth going out of your way to see.
Hook defeated Bear Bronson: HIT
A squash victory for Hook, once again. This was a bit of a mismatch as Hook’s opponent was larger, so you essentially had a big, strong babyface job for a smaller heel. The announcers didn’t dismiss Bear’s size advantage, but they also talked up Hook’s martial arts background, dropping little nuggets of wisdom on the moves he executed. All of this added to the match’s credibility.
Hook continues to display an intangible type of charisma and connection with the crowd that is difficult to explain. I don’t know if that can carry over as a babyface, but we’re still early in his journey to complain about AEW pushing him against the grain.
Tony Nese was shown watching from the crowd. Not sure where that is leading.
Kris Statlander defeated Layla Hirsch: HIT
Good, solid match. Hirsch has this non-stop, determined wrestling style that really sells me on her desire for victory. Character wise, her style brought some aggression out of Statlander, who was initially a little lackadaisical, much like Orange Cassidy.
Hirsch rejected the post-match handshake, even though she was the one who offered a pre-match handshake. This actually made sense as Hirsch’s narcissism and frustration built up throughout the match as she was continually unable to put away Statlander. I think Hirsch can be very effective as a badass, Shayna Bazler-type heel, if they build her up properly.
Main Event Interview: MISS
Anderson started off with a very boomer-esque, patronizing speech to Sammy. Sammy followed up with one of his stronger babyface promos to date, frustrated with being perceived as a lesser star than Cody, giving him his due while also explaining why this match happening tonight is different than two years ago.
Cody didn’t say a word. He just stood there and grinned with contempt.
Cody Rhodes defeated Sammy Guevara to win the TNT Championship: MISS
Cue the “noooooooooo God” audio from the Office. There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the match. Aside from the undesired crowd reaction, this was a good contest, as you would expect with two very good workers. Nothing spectacular, but good enough. The story was that overzealous, younger babyface lost to someone with a bit more experience who lured him into a trap with simple psychology. Not a bad story to tell, on the surface.
Let’s move next to Sammy Guevara. He hasn’t been lighting the world on fire as TNT champion. In fact, he’s arguably been the most ordinary champion in the history of this title. Put aside who he lost to, him losing the championship in general is not really a bad thing. What Guevara needs is a couple of really personal singles feuds to help him hone his babyface muscles a little. He’s great in the ring, but his character needs more depth and dimension.
Onto Cody. I’ve never seen a babyface win a championship and still have such a bad night. All the traits that have fueled anger for him were on full display here, and while this crowd was generally calm throughout Dynamite and most of Rampage, they wore their hatred for Cody on their sleeve. Two years ago, David Crockett handing Cody the TNT championship in this year arena wouldn’t have been so bad. This time, however, the crowd erupted in boos the second Cody took the belt from him and raised it in the air.
The over-the-top celebration at the end with his entire entourage felt like a metaphor for how he must live his life; surrounded by people who give him nothing but positive reinforcement, even for his glaring mistakes, and are wealthy and secure enough to be able to live comfortably in that bubble.
Where does AEW go from here? If backstage reports are to be believed, Cody genuinely doesn’t understand why he’s being booed, and it will be business as usual. He will probably transition into a feud with American Top Team in an attempt to get cheered, and a majority of the AEW audience will continue to voice their displeasure to anyone who will listen.
You may want to check out fan videos of what happened after the match.
Commentary: MINOR HIT
They had their moments, especially during the Hook match, but ultimately didn’t add anything to the show.
Overall Show: HIT
This was a good show overall. More newsworthy than Dynamite, actually. AEW probably had its lowest ever TV audience see that championship victory live. That may be a good thing in the short run, but the long-term consequence of going against the grain with Cody will start to erode fan interest in the product at some stage.
In any case, I’m glad they didn’t just “phone it in” tonight. It’s certainly an episode you will want to check out.