SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Darby Allin defeated Anthony Bowens: HIT
Really good match. Anthony Bowens is a star on the rise and Darby Allin is underrated in terms of his ability to work a slower, grittier pace. Nice way to open the show.
Post-Match Angle: MISS
After the match, Andrade El Idolo came out and applauded Darby’s performance. This distracted Darby long enough for the Acclaimed to ambush him and Sting. I’m not sure what Andrade’s beef with Sting and Darby Allin is, why the feud with the Acclaimed must continue, and why they have moved on so quickly from the FTR beat down and Tully Blanchard’s challenge to Sting, but there’s AEW’s scattershot storytelling for you.
“Technique by Taz” on Hook: HIT
This was an excellent minute or so. It was a pre-recorded breakdown of some of Hook’s special moves in the ring, which can work to get us to pay attention to them more. I really like this, especially considering how difficult it is to retain match information on any AEW show, where nothing really gets time to breathe. Taz’s delivery was just smarmy enough to remind us that he is definitely embellishing, but not so full of it that we can just laugh and ignore him.
Tay Conti and Anna Jay defeated Penelope Ford and the Bunny in a Street Fight: HIT
This was a brutal, bloody street fight that probably isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. All four women worked hard, but an argument can be made that the feud and positioning on the card didn’t warrant this level of violence. It didn’t have the opportunity to take us on an emotional journey (especially with the commercial), but it was good for the circumstances they were in. A crowd-pleasing conclusion to a feud that has largely played out on Rampage, and now it’s onto fresher waters for both teams.
Main Event Interview: MISS
Lambert was unremarkable, and Anderson talked mostly about himself before implying that Cody can simply just get disqualified and still retain the title. Not sure how that is supposed to help us get behind him.
Like last week, Cody didn’t say a word. He was wearing a shirt with a checklist saying “Heel, Babyface, Winner,” which was just horrible. It reminded me of the worst of Roman Reigns when he would say “I’m not a bad guy, I’m not good guy, I’m THE guy.” I came to AEW to get away from that, not be reminded of it.
Cody Rhodes defeated Ethan Page to retain the TNT Championship: MISS
At WrestleMania 2015, John Cena was the “American hero” who came out to defeat the “evil foreign heel,” Rusev, and bring the United States Championship “back home.” This still didn’t help him overcome the mixed crowd reactions had plagued him since 2005.
Throughout that summer, Cena would host “open challenges” every week on Raw, and have competitive matches with various challengers, including a wrestler by the name of Stardust. He won some of the crowd back after he kept putting on good matches on television week after week at such a late stage of his career. During this time, Seth Rollins was a young WWE champion who needed all the help he could get to achieve megastardom. However, Cena was still the focal point of most shows, and positioned much stronger than Seth Rollins.
It’s too early to tell if Cody will go down the same path with his current TNT title run. AEW is such an ensemble show that several mid-card storylines can end up being a lengthy topic of conversation. However, given how much attention wrestling analysts and fans have devoted to Cody lately, it’s fair to be worried. I thought his match with Ethan Page tonight was good, but it didn’t seem like people were interested in the match as much as just letting us know what they think of Cody. The focus was indeed largely on Cody and my first thought from the main event interview onwards was “will this be a 60-40 crowd, or a 90-10?” They chanted “Lets Go Cody; Cody Sucks” and it almost didn’t even matter who he was in the ring with. There was very little heat for Ethan Page; he was just a body in the ring to put against Cody. How invested is the average AEW viewer in the basic psychology of his feud with Men of the Year? It’s definitely a question worth asking.
Anyway, it’s early days. While I don’t see many promising signs right now, we can probably trust Cody to deliver better television than Cena or Reigns at their worst. Being closer to John Cena of 2015 is better than the John Cena any of the 10 years prior.
Schiavone was here in place of Taz tonight.
Overall Show: MILD HIT
If you can ignore the embarrassing way in which this show was promoted on social media, it wasn’t a bad show. A good first two-thirds, and a final third that is entertaining enough to satisfy morbid curiosity. The only segment worth going out of your way to see is Technique by Taz.
CATCH-UP: 1/1 AEW RAMPAGE RESULTS: Keller’s report on Cody’s TNT Title defense against Ethan Page, Darby vs. Anthony Bowens, bloody street fight with Bunny & Penelope vs. Conti & Jay