Welcome to this week’s AEW Rampage review (18/02/23 Australia), truthfully one of the best Rampages in my time as a fan. This week was branded Rampage ‘Slam Dunk’, and also given an earlier start time as a lead into NBA All-star weekend. The quality of matches (apart from a squash match) was excellent. Storylines pushed forward and created a clearer picture of feuds and opponents as we edge ever so closer to Revolution in two weeks.
(Match 1) The Elite (c) v Top Flight & AR Fox for World
In the spirit of this week’s theme ( NBA All-Star weekend), both teams sported All-Star t-shirts as they came to the ring and carried basketballs with them. On a side note, it’s fantastic to see that both entrances were shown during the broadcast, it gives the show a more professional look. The use of the basketballs was a harmless gimmick in the early stages of the match. Nick Jackson and Dante Martin started by throwing the ball back and forth to each other before the referee promptly started the match with a literal tip-off. AR Fox proceeded to take out The Elite with a dive over the top rope on both sides of the ring, once again incorporating the basketball as he took out the Young Bucks on the third dive. As The Elite took control of the match, AR Fox was able to perform a cutter before reaching out to Dante Martin for the tag. This sequence with Dante and Kenny was superb, Dante in particular, showing his quickness and athleticism. Elbow strikes turned into an atomic drop, into a suicide dive, and finished with a diving cross body for a two count. Matt Jackson took out AR Fox and Dante with a top rope dive, which was followed by a one-winged angel on Darius to retain the titles. I enjoyed the way they attempted to differentiate this from their last encounter, an amusing match overall. After much anticipation, the House of Black appeared on the stage for a moment before quickly disappearing. HOB v The Elite seems to be the obvious direction they are going with for the trios’ titles. Hopefully, this feud goes beyond the Revolution PPV as two factions of their caliber deserve a much longer and more compelling storyline.
The Gunns appeared in a backstage interview with Lexy Nair, claiming that they are “at the top of this division”. They expressed their disdain for The Acclaimed putting themselves in the match at the PPV while also disregarding the two unknown tag teams that they will face in the match. Signing off with “Welcome to the Gunn show”.
They follow on with Mark Henry interviewing Orange Cassidy, discussing his current winning streak in AEW, before they are interrupted by Wheeler Yuta. He tells Cassidy that the best thing he ever did was leave him to join the Blackpool Combat Club, as they have taught him more than Cassidy ever did. They presented a more serious Orange Cassidy during this segment as he eventually put up the challenge for the All-Atlantic title, telling Yuta to “come and take it”.
(Match 2) Ricky Starks v Daniel Garcia
Ricky started this match off hot, throwing some heavy consecutive right hands and
forcing Garcia to the corner. He followed up with an old school, very reminiscent of The Undertaker, although it’s always impressive how far he’s able to walk along the ropes before he jumps. Garcia had a heavy focus on targeting the knee and leg of Starks throughout the match. Garcia eventually locks in the Dragon Tamer, Sammy Guevara helps him out by holding the rope away from Starks as he attempts to crawl towards them until Action Andretti ran out to make a timely intervention. After a quick roll-up, Starks kicks out and hits the spear, followed by a Roshambo to claim the win.
Following the match, Sammy Guevara called out Tony Khan, demanding a matchup with Action Andretti next week. The match itself was decent, they did what they needed to do. Hopefully, this feud ends at Revolution and allows Ricky Starks to move on to greater things.
(Match 3) Jade Cargill (c) v VertVixen for the TBS
The match went as expected, a two-minute squash match for Jade Cargill. VertVixen
couldn’t muster up any attack during the match. A quick lock up in the corner, a hip
thrust, a big boot, and then into Jaded for the one-two-three. Jade retains her
championship and extends her winning streak to 53-0. It’s time to put her in more
prominent matches going forward, she’s beyond squash matches at this point.
(Match 4) Dustin Rhodes v Swerve Strickland
Swerve makes his entrance first, accompanied by only Parker Boudreaux on this occasion. Boudreaux is ordered to take out Dustin on the ramp but is taken out with a turnbuckle to the midsection. Rhodes charges into the ring and takes out Swerve with a clothesline over the top rope. Swerve performs a running drop kick outside the ring, which crushes the head of Rhodes against the barricade. Despite coming into this match with one side of his (Dustin) face painted red, by this point of the match, his whole face was red, covered in blood. Dustin miraculously kicks out at one after a shot to the side of his head and fires up the crowd. A Canadian destroyer on Serve followed by a death valley driver on the apron to Dustin resulted in two counts.
As it appeared that Dustin was going to pull off the unlikely victory with a final cut, Parker Boudreaux pulls him out of the ring and attacks him, which resulted in a DQ victory for Rhodes. Swerve and Parker pulled out a cinderblock to use on Rhodes until Keith Lee came out to make the save for Dustin. The match quality itself was brilliant, possibly the best Rampage main event that I’ve seen in my time watching. The finish is very questionable though, I don’t mind a disqualification finish every once in a while but this is a match where Swerve should’ve won clean. Regardless, I thought the efforts of Dustin Rhodes were phenomenal, he can undoubtedly still hang in the ring. As for Keith Lee, it’s wonderful to have him back (despite how awful that save was). A possible match between him and Swerve at Revolution will be one to watch.
Thank you for reading!