SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Lance Archer defeated Ricky Starks to advance in the AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament (+pre-match brawl): HIT
The match portion of this may not get a good rating, but the pre-match backstage brawl leading to the ring played into how they hyped this match. All told, this was an energetic start to the show.
Post-Match Beatdown: HIT
If Ricky is dealing with a real-life injury, this is an effective of a way to keep his tournament matches compelling without them needing to be mat classics.
Starks vs. Cage will be interesting for long-time AEW fans who remember the Team Taz debacle. What an underwhelming feud that was. I have no doubt they will put on a better showing tomorrow.
Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara Backstage Interview: MINOR HIT
A decent job at subtly stoking tensions between the two ahead of the fatal four-way match. Could have been better, but no one’s believing that Guevara is splitting from Jericho again so soon.
Hook defeated Lee Moriarty to retain the FTW Title: HIT
This was the longest I’ve ever seen Hook wrestle, and I thought it was a solid outing. It felt like a rare spectacle to see Hook selling and playing to the crowd. Moriarty was a good foil too, but I still don’t get his “tiger style.”
The timing of this match may not have been great as the Firm was single-handedly laid out by MJF just two nights ago. Things don’t bode well for Hathaway’s faction, but this was good nonetheless.
Rush, Jose the Assistant, John Silver, and 10 Backstage Interview: HIT
Easily the strongest (and arguably the only good) segment I’ve seen in this entire storyline. Jose actually acknowledged my gripe from last week’s episode when John Silver basically cost 10 a World Title match. In addition, we finally have some character development with 10 who wasn’t willing to team with John Silver to face Rush and Jose. Rush himself was intense and seemed to wipe the smile off Silver’s face, which made the segment more compelling than it had any right to be. Good stuff.
Athena defeated Madison Rayne: HIT
Athena hasn’t been on television in a number of weeks, so, on paper, this looked like it’d be a filler, token women’s match for a Rampage show. However, it ended up being a bit more. We were shown highlights of AEW Dark where Athena has been displaying heelish antics, attacking her opponents after the match. The announcers played it up, as did Madison Rayne in a taped pre-match promo.
For Rampage’s standards, this is a win. Instead of another mediocre Madison Rayne match, she was actually involved in something rather meaningful. Hopefully this will lead to some televised character evolution for Athena.
Post-Match Beatdown: HIT
Consistent with the tone set at the before of the match, Athena beat on Rayne afterwards as well. To top it off, when referee Aubrey Edwards tried to intervene, Athena decked her too! That’s probably the first bump I’ve seen Edwards take! Mercedes Martinez then came out to scare Athena away (quite random, but okay).
Whether you like this or not, it certainly was more unique than an average AEW post-match angle.
Best Friends and the Factory Backstage Interview: CONFUSING
So, Best Friends, Rocky Romeiro, and Danhausen want to face the Factory at the PPV. The Factory was shown a spooky Danhausen video. I assume this means Danhausen is angry, serious, and tapping into a darker persona after QT Marshall laid him out with a piledriver? I don’t know.
House of Black Video Package: HIT
Another well produced video package. Two in a row on Rampage now, and both different. You can argue that some of the “fighting” in this looked contrived, but it didn’t bother me.
Main Event Promo: MINOR HIT
I’m commenting on this as someone who has no idea who Jun Akiyama is, and I only know Takeshita from his few AEW matches.
We’ve been told that Akiyama is someone who Kingston really respects and has been wanting a match with. Both Kingston and Akiyama were silent during this promo, while Ortiz and Takeshita did all the talking. I thought that was quite badass.
AEW still deserves condemnation for being really poor at introducing new and visiting faces to audiences like me. I can’t, in good conscience, give this a “HIT” for that reason. However, the way they did this promo segment actually drew me in a little. Maybe the quality of the rest of the show put me in a better-than-usual mood watching Rampage, but still.
Jun Akiyama and Konosuke Takeshita defeated Eddie Kingston and Ortiz: 50-50
Okay, so this was fine as a tag-match Rampage main event. However, when it came down to it, the Akiyama-Kingston interactions didn’t do much for me at all. The chop exchanges felt very slow, plodding, orchestrated, and repetitive, and the crowd enthusiasm didn’t quite match the hype. Given how little the two of them interacted, I’m sure we are getting a one-on-one match between them at some point. However, this match did very little to excite me for that.
On top of that, the visitors from DDT scoring a victory over established AEW talent got very little room to breathe. Excalibur went right into hype mode for the PPV within a few seconds, and the show ended not long after.
Commentary: MINOR HIT
Jim Ross, Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and a returning Chris Jericho tonight. They were fine. A different commentary team or Jim Ross from 15 years ago might have helped the main event feel more special than it did, but alas.
Overall Show: HIT
Easily my favorite one-hour episode of Rampage in the last six months. A lot of things clicked at a fundamental level, and we even got to see Aubrey Edwards take her first bump!
Maybe it wasn’t a “great” show. The main event certainly didn’t match the hype, and the storylines featured were mostly undercard, but it was a serviceable match to cap off a good hour of professional wrestling.