But The Middle?..
Another Road Rager program, Rampage offered some quality this week. But only some. It’s been a little lacking in recent weeks and this one was no different.
So Let’s Start With The Strengths
Mr. Regal. Whether William or Steven, he’s a godsend for AEW programming. Enjoying his role more than he perhaps ever has before and seemingly cherished for the wrestling skill he can give to the Blackpool Combat Club and his wonderful turn of phrase, Regal gives himself full rein.
After telling us on Dynamite that he hoped Chris Jericho would have his head shaved so it looked like ‘a baboon’s chuff’, he responded to a Dante Martin Somersault Huracanrana on Rampage with the exclamation ‘flipping heck!’ – flipping, see?..
That match with Mox was rather fine, Dante smiling through most of it, invited to chop away on Moxley’s chest, but not as happy when his opponent showed him a rather well-executed Backbreaker and he must have rued what could have been when he hit a sweet Sliced Bread but failed to get the pin.
Particularly as Mox turned it round to a Lariat and then a Grapevine for the pin.
A very good way to start Rampage. As Regal told us; ‘thank you and goodnight!’
Ruffin’ It? Is that what you chose to call a team of Bear Country and the wonderful Leon Ruff? It makes it sound as though they had some thought for their match against Max Caster and the Gunn boys here on Rampage…
I don’t have any issues with Max Caster (except the positioning of his mic when he mentioned ‘Ass Boys’ could have been rethought.) but his rap about NDA’s was on point and his in-ring work is regularly great.
Except that after an admittedly cool Quickdraw and a Mic Drop splash, we had the pin.
With Ruff and Bear Country buried.
For no good reason.
And the other match in the middle of Rampage was Willow Nightingale, whose work and character I enjoy, versus Jade Cargill, who…is the TBS champ.
Cargill did some good work to end this match as the Double Underhook Facebuster and Jaded combo was smooth, but Willow took most of the offense, even though Cargill smartly gave us a Samoa Joe walk away which left Willow stretched out after a Pounce.
And then Jade flexed. And flexed. Whilst Nightingale waited for her on the top buckle. Sorry to have to say, but this is simple ring smarts and knowledge of match flow – it looked so artificial.
Willow, annoyingly either side of an advert (such an important Rampage match), Willow hit chops, a Shotgun Dropkick, and lovely Cannonball, but we knew she wasn’t going to win.
And then Athena had another disappointing run-in. Last week on Rampage she looked weak when being held back as the (oh God, do I have to write it?) Baddies ridiculed her, this week she took out Keira Hogan but was bested by Cargill and had to be helped by Kris Statlander. If they keep doing this, fans will have lost interest before they give her a run with the champ.
Are Swerve and Keith Lee really wearing their own merchandise? What’s up lads, sales a bit low? They do their ‘I thought we were friends’, ‘you know I want titles’ thing and it’s soooo boring. Remember what I said about Athena? Keith Lee is perilously close to it…
The Happy Ending
I didn’t expect much from the Rampage main event of Bobby Fish v Darby Allin, perhaps because I’ve been buffeted by AEW booking.
Ignoring the match afters of ‘IIIIIIIIIIT’S STIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!’ stuff, this was stupendous.
Early on Allin showed his intention, clattering Fish into the guardrail, with Fish returning the favor with a Dragon Screw, then Darby did something extraordinary.
After Fish had delivered 2 Suplexes, he turned a Brainbuster into a sort of high Scorpion Death Drop. Wonderful. Then Darby hit a Code Red and went into a Coffin Drop on the outside.
The ending was a delight too. Fish locked in an Ankle Lock, but Allin was having none of it, reversing it to his leg capture for the pin, whilst his leg remained captured. Yep, stupendous.
And there was just the slight matter of Fish having his leg Coffin Drop Pillmanised after…
What a cracker of a match.
Some Rampage Good, Some Rampage…
2 great wrestling matches. The bookended matches were just great. And that’s what AEW does so well, wrestling.
The other? A squash, Willow Nightingale trying to inject some energy into a Cargill match. And a bore of an angle.
AEW can get Rampage so right sometimes. And then other times…