SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Adam Cole defeated Evil Uno: HIT
A quick victory for Cole. Not as dominant as I would have liked, but AEW doesn’t tend to have completely one-sided squashes when it involves talent with a modicum of name recognition. I do remember Uno having a longer, more competitive match with Miro once upon a time, so it’s not like he’s a complete walkover anyway.
Post-Match Promo: MAJOR HIT
Very strong promo that helped rehab his credibility after the loss to Cassidy. Cole clearly hinted at aiming for a world championship match, and he has every right to ask for one, given his record. This match + promo could have easily replaced the Lambert/Rhodes segment two nights ago on Dynamite, and the show would have been much better off for it.
As an aside, it’s amazing to see how much better Cole is on the mic compared to Kenny Omega, especially when he doesn’t have the Bucks goofing off behind him. If AEW plays their cards right with Cole, he could be a much better champion than Kenny ever was, at least as a character. I doubt he’ll hold the title this year, but at the very least, I hope the eventual intra-elite feud isn’t ruined by Kenny’s antics.
Jade Cargill Promo Video: NARROW MISS
Cargill needs to avoid addressing her “greenness.” In kayfabe, you have a 26-0 record and are AEW’s most dominant champion. She’s not alone in being needlessly defensive like this; we’ve seen it from Guevara last week, and also Tony Khan himself numerous times. On television, please avoid addressing social media criticisms head-on like that. Save that for a podcast or book.
Sammy Guevara defeated Isiah Kassidy to retain the TNT Championship: HIT
Good match. Less of a spot fest than I anticipated. I like seeing the members of Private Party get opportunities to showcase their talents in singles competition. Television matches like these are how young talents improve.
Guevara had taped-up ribs to sell injuries from his ladder match last week. He sold the ribs throughout the match, but the miraculous recovery in the finishing sequence took me out of it. Guevara struggled with nailing the GTH earlier on before taking even more damage to his ribs, so it would have been better for him to finish the match with another move.
Post-Match Angle: MILD HIT
Andrade and Matt Hardy were about to gang up on Sammy Guevara but Darby Allin ran in for the save. Allin teased joining AHFO before taking a step back to join Guevara, which prompted AHFO to leave the ring. If I was producing this, I would have had Darby deck Andrade while he was standing next to him instead of taking several backward steps to join Guevara.
Allin then shifted his gaze to Guevara’s championship belts. Good to see he hasn’t lost sight of regaining championship gold.
QT Marshall Video Promo: IT HAPPENED
QT announced that next week on Rampage, he will send one of his goons to fight Hook.
Kris Statlander/Layla Hirsch Backstage Angle: HIT
Hirsch attacked Statlander from behind during a promo and laid her out. Good, simple angle to keep the heat going between these two.
Thunder Rosa defeated Mercedes Martinez via Disqualification: MISS
Note: The conclusion of this match, right until just before the main event interview, was not shown on the TSN on-demand version.
The match ended with Martinez getting disqualified after assaulting Rosa with a pipe. One month of an ordinary build culminating in a DQ finish doesn’t make for great television. If it was going to end like that, the match didn’t need to go beyond five minutes at most.
It certainly seems like this feud will continue, and there are simple ways to make it better. I want to see Rosa prowling the backstage area next week with a pipe in her hand, searching for Martinez or waiting for her in the parking lot. You need to feature your top babyface in more compelling scenarios.
In addition, why does Chris Jericho need to tell us that “we never see” disqualifications in AEW? Why does that matter within the parameters of this story? The only explanation for a line like that is as a meta defensive measure to minimize online criticism. It would sound defensive even on podcasts, but definitely shouldn’t be something you direct our attention to on television. If you’re going to do an angle like this, sell it on its own merits.
Serena Deeb Video Package: HIT
Another excellent video package for Deeb. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have any major plans for her at the moment.
Mercedes Martinez/Britt Baker Backstage Confrontation: MISS
Martinez was being interviewed by Schiavone when Baker appeared and asked her why she didn’t finish the job, implying/announcing that Baker had paid Martinez to take out Rosa. There’s a lot to unpack here.
Firstly, I don’t understand why Baker was interested in making sure Rosa didn’t win the TBS championship, when Martinez first attacked her. Wouldn’t that title have kept Rosa away from the world title? In fact, when Baker was initially interviewed about her thoughts on the TBS championship tournament, she was actually happy that it would keep some of the roster away from her. By her own logic, it would have been in her best interest to keep Thunder Rosa feuding in the TBS title division, away from Baker.
In addition, why would Baker confront Martinez ON CAMERA when no one knew about her paying off Martinez beforehand? You are presenting yourself as a “smart” heel, so why reveal yourself now? It’s not like AEW has told us a story of Baker getting increasingly paranoid and irrational recently. The more I think about it, the inclusion of Baker in this story makes no sense whatsoever.
To make things worse, Baker concluded by threatening Martinez that her “time in AEW will be shorter than her time at her last job.” Baker just sounds silly when she continues to take digs at WWE, especially as a heel. As a main event talent, Baker’s promos need to be more high-end than this.
By the way, Tony Schiavone just looks completely lame when he plays along with Baker’s catchphrase after she orchestrated a hit job on a babyface. How can I take his criticisms of someone like MJF seriously after this? Schiavone’s on-air character places personal allegiance over any dastardly act, and that seriously undercuts his credibility as a play-by-play announcer.
Main Event Backstage Interview: NARROW MISS
Lethal is quite composed and comes across nicely on TV. I have liked both promos I’ve seen from him thus far. Starks was okay, but a lot of what he says, such as being “the last of a dying breed” is very confusing. There’s been very little character development for the guy on television. Most of his recent TV time has been on commentary, where he is constantly overshadowed by Chris Jericho. However good he might have been in NWA, I just haven’t seen anything convincing from Starks during his time in AEW.
By the way, why they don’t they start doing these interviews for Dynamite main events? Dynamite has had many more marquee main events that would truly benefit from pre-match interviews like this. The Rampage main events, for the most part, have had pretty lackluster builds, and talents involved usually don’t have much to say.
Ricky Starks defeated Jay Lethal to retain the FTW Championship: MILD HIT
A better match than I expected. Both competitors worked hard, and the finishing sequence with Starks reversing the Lethal Injection was great. However, it was clear that some of the color commentators weren’t used to seeing the move, so the set up to it was anti-climatic until Excalibur interjected at the last second.
I must say though, I almost fell asleep somewhere in the middle of this match. I just don’t see Starks or Lethal appear enough on television, and that makes it difficult care for them after 10.30 pm. The crowd tried to get into it, with some of them chanting “lets go Lethal; Ricky Starks,” but that chant just undermines the babyface/heel story of the match, and it didn’t last long either.
I also don’t think this match should have main-evented the show. The TNT title match ended with a nice angle that would have worked fine as a show closer. In addition, Taz was selling the idea that the FTW title is a “renegade” championship that isn’t recognized by AEW. It’s difficult to believe that when the company was promoting this show as “two championships on the line,” and headlining with the same “renegade” title. I understand these are minor issues, but AEW really needs to sort this stuff out and present a more coherent product.
The commentary was alright tonight, but Jericho’s remark about DQ finishes in AEW was eye-rolling enough to drag down the rating.
Overall Show: NARROW MISS
The main story coming out of this show was the Martinez-Baker alliance, and there’s several logic gaps in that story. It’s no where near as bad as what I’ve seen on WWE television, but we need to judge AEW on its own merits. In addition, after hyping a “scoop,” Tony Khan didn’t deliver any concrete news, preferring to wait for Dynamite instead. If you needed any more evidence that this is definitively a B show, this was it.
The only thing worth going out of your way to see is the Cole promo (because it was great) and the Baker-Martinez segment (which was confusing, but important to the story).