SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
AEW RAMPAGE HITS & MISSES
Andrade El Idolo defeated Rey Fenix: MINOR HIT
Very good, athletic match. Both wrestlers worked hard. Quite long for a Rampage match as it ran through two commercial breaks. However, it had very little consequence given the wrestlers’ place on the card, weak/no rivalry, and the priorities of the week. A distraction finish orchestrated by Rush, someone who only a fraction of the audience knows and hasn’t been on TV since his debut a month ago, further took the wind out of this match.
Eddie Kingston Promo: HIT
Kingston’s focus here was rightfully on Blood and Guts. That is the hotter feud, and his match on the PPV is just a stepping stone toward next week’s Dynamite.
Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee Backstage Promo: MISS
This did less to hype up the PPV match and served more to remind us that the two don’t get along well. It doesn’t help that that story has been told more on shoulder programming.
Serena Deeb and Mercedes Martinez defeated Laynie Luck and Sierra: MINOR HIT
Showcase squash. Apparently, there’s a story between Deeb and Martinez developing on Dark. Something to the effect of trying to one-up each other while remaining tag partners? Sounds fun, but that story wasn’t told well in this appearance. They seemed to be working quite well together until a contrived-looking argument at the end. In addition, Deeb is the kind of talent you need to feature on television.
“Tully Blanchard Enterprises” Backstage Promo: MINOR HIT
Tully seems to have a new faction now, featuring Brian Cage and two newer talents: Toa and Kaun. They showed highlights of their exploits on Dark, and it looks like a trio of monster heels.
Considering AEW’s track record with monster heels, I don’t have high hopes for this team, but let’s see where this goes. Apparently they will be focussed on the ROH stuff (see below), so if ROH gets its own show, this team is probably going to be better off.
Jonathan Gresham and Lee Moriarty Backstage Interview (w/ Tully Blanchard interference): MISS
Moriarty wanted an ROH title match with Gresham, then Tully came and demanded a match for one of his Enterprise members. Gresham proposed a tag-team match instead.
What a horrible segment. Gresham didn’t come across like a fighting champion (he’s supposed to be a babyface), and Lee Moriarty didn’t do much to stand up to Blanchard’s interference. The ROH World Title felt like a nothing burger.
The segment had an uphill climb to begin with. Gresham has only appeared on one or two televised AEW shows (less than other ROH champions in this company). In addition, Moriarty and Tully Blanchard Enterprises have largely wrestled on should programming, so they make for underwhelming challengers to a WORLD title.
Hook defeated The DKC: MINOR HIT
Quick Hook quash. There wasn’t much different in this outing other than how Hook taking a little more offense. He isn’t quite as over as he once was, and his segments are starting to become skippable.
Main Event Promo: HIT
Cash Wheeler and Jeff Cobb were both good here. However, I wish we heard more from Cobb and saw some video packages on his NJPW run and Olympics appearances for consecutive weeks leading up to this weekend. Too little too late.
The Acclaimed and Ass Boys Backstage Promo: MISS
I understand that it is now their gimmick to celebrate getting any sort of match on any show, but it’s still so atrocious. The over-the-top celebration for Billy Gunn using his “stroke” to get them a pre-show match just tanks their stock even more than the scissoring stuff.
In addition, why is this airing after the main event promo? It just breaks the momentum.
Jeff Cobb defeated Cash Wheeler: MINOR HIT
Decent match. Probably not as entertaining as the opener, but it had a nice promo to build it up and lacked a lot of shenanigans. Quite a “tidy” wrestling match, I would say, but it can feel lacking in star power if you don’t know who Jeff Cobb is. In addition, given United Empire’s losing record in tag matches on AEW, they don’t come across as any real threat to FTR and Roppongi Vice.
Seeing Jeff Cobb wrestle for the first time, I thought he came off well. He has good presence, and with a bit more marketing put behind him I think he has the potential to come across as a much bigger deal.
Post-Match Brawl: MINOR HIT
A bunch of AEW and NJPW wrestlers came out to brawl to close the show. This was more entertaining and less contrived that the melee to close out Dynamite. The camera team did a better job capturing the good moments, and Jericho selling for Kingston was pure gold.
Chris Jericho wizardry was back, and so is my low rating for the commentary on this show. There were some hints of a more serious heel character, but it felt a lot more contrived than last week.
Overall Show: 50-50
While there was enough to like on this show, I didn’t walk away from it happy.
As a go-home show, I don’t think anything really added an appreciable number of buys. Some things were too-little-too-late, and others just largely forgettable. AEW did not do the proper groundwork weeks in advance to properly introduce and hype up key New Japan talent – something that you can do irrespective of injuries and politics. People who are excited to buy it already made their decision a while ago, and their family, partner, and friends may watch along. The AEW-exclusive audience who don’t have “superfan friends” luring them into the PPV are unlikely to be excited this weekend. In addition, I doubt there was a sizable number of fans who were “on the fence” and looking to this episode of Rampage to help them make their decision.
As a show on its own, it was neither a waste of time nor a worthy way of spending an hour. If you’re short on time but want a quick wrestling fix, check out the opener or main event (depending on the kind of wrestling you enjoy). If you’re only interested in new developments: Tully Blanchard has a new faction featuring Brian Cage and two newer talents, and Serena Deeb and Martinez are a tag team.
While I’m positive that Forbidden Door will be an enjoyable PPV, it’s going to feel like just a notch above the WWF Invasion angle from 2001. The NJPW talents just haven’t come across like credible mega-stars to me. There was a lot of juice you could have extracted from people like Ospreay, Cobb, and White, but AEW seems content with sugar-rush pops instead of building rivalries between wrestlers.