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AEW RAMPAGE HITS & MISSES
The Young Bucks defeated Top Flight: HIT
No entrances for this one, as usual. However, AEW did air the entrances “exclusively” on their YouTube channel, which is better than nothing, I suppose. I still prefer seeing entrances on the main product.
While the sequence of spots in a Young Bucks match continues to be implausible (at least with certain opponents), their heel characters have enough good mannerisms in between moves to keep me intrigued. In fact, I had more fun watching this match compared to the original, when Top Flight were less experienced and the Bucks were babyfaces.
At the end of the match, it sounded like they had Excalibur in a studio provide some extra commentary reminding us of FTR’s challenge to the Bucks on Dynamite. I think that’s a good use of post-production.
Kris Statlander Video Feature: MINOR HIT
Good pizzaz showing that Statlander is taking a bit more of a serious/sinister turn, without really abandoning her allies or turning heel. However, as is usual with AEW, I can’t help but feel like a few middle chapters are missing with this.
Men of the Year In-Ring Promo + Guevara and Conti Segment: MINOR HIT
This segment was a little better than last week on Dynamite. Lambert alluded to how ridiculous Guevara and Conti’s antics are while still trying to “do business” and be even more unlikable than them.
The babyfaces, meanwhile, instead of trying to go meta to explain themselves, did the classic “beat up the heel’s expensive car.” That’s the basic kind of pro wrestling angle I enjoyed as a kid, and it’s pretty timeless.
I understand the bar has been set low for this feud, but I’ll give credit where it’s due. I wasn’t left rolling my eyes too much at the end of this, and I like it when Rampage features angles and segments instead of just a string of matches and brief promos.
The only questionable element of this was Guevara’s shirt. I’m not sure if “Ew, people” is meant to refer to some kind of introversion (which would be cool, but isn’t really consistent with his TV character), or another eye-rolling, meta criticism of social media fans. In either case, it didn’t make any sense.
It’s also weird that Jericho, while was hostile toward Lambert last week, sympathized with his car this week. You can argue but he only cared about the car, but I’m happy to see Jericho protesting babyfaces.
Hook Backstage Interview: 50-50
Hook didn’t say a word. Danhausen came in immediately and started rambling about stuff. Honestly, I couldn’t understand half of what he said, but I laughed at his reaction to Hook no-selling the curse.
Good to keep Hook silent, but associating him with Danhausen might have the same effect as Goldust putting a wig on Goldberg not long after Goldberg’s WWE debut. I trust Hook is over enough to not be too negatively impacted by this, but like with Goldberg, the effect can be subtle.
House of Black defeated Fuego Del Sol and Dark Order’s Evil Uno and Stu Grayson: MINOR HIT
Last week on AEW Rampage, Dark Order came to stare down House of Black after they attacked Fuego. It felt random, but this week the announcers explained that the Dark Order has a tendency to help out defenseless wrestlers (certainly news to me; but at least there’s some explanation).
House of Black picked up a dominant victory, despite some nice hope spots. The match felt a bit like a re-run of HoB vs. Fuego and Bear Country from two-weeks ago. At some point, they need to put Fuego behind them and start getting into some serious feuds.
Young Bucks Promo on FTR: HIT
This was a good, acceptably humorous promo, but you can argue that the Bucks leaned a little too much on their out-of-AEW accomplishments. Given AEW’s short history, I don’t mind. However, this promo wouldn’t work for me five or ten years from now (at least from non-debutants).
Jamie Hayter defeated Skye Blue: HIT
A decisive win for Hayter. Seems like they are building her up for a little push; perhaps a feud with Baker. Curious to see where this goes on AEW Rampage moving forward.
Penta Oscuro Promo: HIT
Penta was good as always, and Alex Abrahantes came off less campy than the last time they cut a similar promo. I don’t know how far they’ll stretch this Oscuro character though.
Main Event Promo: HIT
I was worried this would open the show, as most marquee matches on AEW Rampage tend to do, but I’m glad to see it rightfully in the main event slot.
Another solid promo battle for a Rampage main event. We’ve had two-three good weeks of this now. Keith Lee’s cool, calm, and collected demeanor pairs nicely with the serious look he gives at the end of these.
Keith Lee defeated Powerhouse Hobbs: HIT
Good fight. Very entertaining AEW Rampage main event. There was interference from Starks that Lee had to fight off (with help from Swerve Strickland), but Hobbs was kept strong with a visual pin as the referee was distracted.
Post-Match Beatdown with Team Taz: MINOR HIT
After the match, Starks took out Strickland and came in to continue to beat on Lee. Lee managed to ward off Starks at every turn, even when Starks had a chair, but the distractions allowed Hobbs to strike and make him fall.
I thought Starks was made to look considerably weaker than Hobbs here (or you can argue that Hobbs was made to look stronger than Starks). Given the fact that Starks has won his television matches and Hobbs hasn’t, I suppose you needed Lee to boss around at least one of the heels so he can retain some dignity, but there’s really no shame in being ganged up on and beaten down by two guys with a weapon. I would have preferred if they stuck to basics here.
Commentary: MINOR HIT
Like last week, it was acceptable, but didn’t make the show significantly better or worse. Jericho was less “all over the place” than previous weeks.
Overall Show: HIT
I like judging AEW by its own merits instead of looking at the rest of the wrestling landscape. However, you have to make an exception for WrestleMania week. This week, of all weeks, it’s better to put on an entertaining show that keeps things going instead of featuring major angles. By those standards, this is exactly what it needed to be.