By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 2)
Chicago, Illinois at United Center
Aired live August 20, 2021 on TNT
The opening video aired and the broadcast team of Taz, Jim Ross, Mark Henry and Excalibur checked in. Ross was filling in for Jericho, who is selling his loss from Dynamite. CM Punk chants roared.
“Cult Of Personality” hit and the crowd was so loud, you couldn’t hear the song. Punk kneeled on the ground and soaked it in. “This is Jordan-esque,” Jim Ross said and he wasn’t wrong. Punk hugged some fans on his way to the ring. Punk jumped into the crowd. Images of people crying in the crowd were shown. He took so long to get down to the ring, the song ended before he could get in the ring. Punk grabbed a microphone. Excalibur threw it to break [c].
McGuire’s Musings: Wow. My mouth is still agape and I still have goosebumps. I’ve been as cynical as anyone about this, but …boy, was I wrong. Let’s see what he has to say.
“You guys really know how to make a kid feel like Britt Baker in Pittsburgh,” Punk said. Punk then said we’re winging this and he didn’t plan what he was going to say. He said he didn’t know what to say because he had to feel it. He said they had a lot to cover and they weren’t going to get to it right now. He said he’s got the time Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and he ain’t going anywhere.
Punk said the most important thing he’s going to say that if at all any of his personal choices he made, made people feel let down, he would have never gotten healthy staying in the same place that got him sick in the first place. Punk then said he wanted to tell everyone a story. He took off his hoodie to reveal his CM Punk t-shirt.
Punk sat in the middle of the ring. He said he felt before like he had to leave. He said he didn’t want to, but he knew he couldn’t stay. That was when he was in Ring Of Honor. Punk recalled how he came out with tears in his eyes as he walked to the ring for his last match at ROH. He said he cried because he knew he was leaving a place he loved. It was a home and he knew where he was going wasn’t going to be easy for a guy like him.
August 13, 2005, his last day at Ring Of Honor, he said, he left professional wrestling. August 20, 2021, he then said he’s back. He said he’s back for you and him. He said he’s back because there’s a hell of a lot of young talent he wish he was surrounded by years ago. “I’m back because I want to work with that young talent that had the same passion I had,” Punk said. He then said there are a couple of scores to settle.
Punk then called out Darby Allin. Sting and Darby were shown in the rafters. Punk said Darby is good. Punk said Darby always comes back and like every other person in Chicago, Darby is tough. Punk said he’s going to help Darby and there is nothing more dangerous he could do than wrestle CM Punk. Punk then said he’d see everybody, including Darby, in September at All Out. Punk said he’s back. Punk ended by saying he’s giving everyone free ice cream bars on their way out of the building.
The broadcast team ran down the card and went backstage to Christian Cage and Jurassic Express. Cage put over the Express, saying they’re going to win the tournament and beat the Young Bucks for their tag-team titles. Cage then said he’d take Omega’s soul at All Out. [c]
McGuire’s Musings: Electric. Absolutely electric. It was the right call to have him come out to begin the night because the last thing you wanted was all the matches being overshadowed by CM Punk chants. And even though I’ve been critical about there being a lack of surprise with CM Punk’s arrival, I guess we didn’t need a surprise because that was perfection. There was just no denying Punk’s drawing power. The only minor question would be why they didn’t just outright advertise this ahead of time, but it’s really hard to say anything negative right now. Darby and Punk should be a lot of fun.
1. “Private Party” Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy vs. “Jurassic Express” Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy in an AEW Tag Title Eliminator tournament match. After both teams made their entrance, the Young Bucks came out to watch from the ramp. Jungle Boy Kassidy began and traded flips and nip-ups. Quen tagged in, but Jungle kept control by fighting both Kassidy and Quen. Jungle Boy tried to tag Luchasaurus, but Quen held him back and the two double-teamed Jungle Boy. [c]
Back from the break, Jungle Boy got the hot tag to Luchasaurus and the big man cleaned house. Lucha then hit a double lariat, taking both members of Private Party down. Jungle Boy tagged in, but Kassidy hit a wild Canadian Destroyer when Jungle Boy was on Luchasaurus’s shoulders. That resulted in a near-fall that was broken up by Luchasaurua.
Quen landed a shooting-star press to the outside, onto Luchasaurus. Inside the ring, Kassidy jawed at Jungle Boy and Private Party went for the Silly String, but Luchasaurus broke it up. Matt Hardy and Marko Stunt had an altercation while Kassidy rolled up Jungle Boy for a good near-fall. Private Party went for Gin And Juice, but Jungle Boy countered into a tornado DDT. Luchasaurus came in and the two hit the Jurassic Express for the win.
“Jurassic Express” Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy defeated “Private Party” Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy via pinfall in 10:05 to advance in the tournament.
Backstage, Don Calls and Kenny Omega cut a promo. Omega said he’s going to retire Christian Cage at All Out.
McGuire’s Musings: It was a tough position to be in … following CM Punk … in Chicago … returning for the first time in seven years, but this was a fun match. They actually had me with the roll-up and the holding of the tights. I thought for a split-second that we might get the upset. Or, for that matter, that the Bucks would interfere to cost the Express in some way. But, the right team went over. That Canadian Destroyer was absolutely insane. My god, one of these days, something’s going to go wrong, with the chances these guys take. I hope it doesn’t, but man, some of these spots make me hold my breath. Anyway, I hope Jurassic Express get their rematch.
2. Jade Cargill (w/Mark Sterling) vs. Kiera Hogan. Hogan didn’t get a televised entrance. Cargill began by throwing Hogan to the ground. Hogan fired up the crowd, but then ran into a kick from Cargill. Cargill hit her finisher and that was it.
Jade Cargill defeated Kiera Hogan via pinfall in 1:01.
The broadcast crew recapped CM Punk’s arrival. Jim Ross then announced that Punk will be on Dynamite this Wednesday. The broadcast team then ran down the rest of the card for Dynamite. They also announced that the tag-team championship eliminator tournament finals will be next week on Rampage. Mark Henry then held a split-screen interview between Moxley and Garcia. 2.0 was with Garcia and said Garcia Tonya Harding-ed Moxley on Wednesday. Moxley said Garcia has a better chance of getting him pregnant than making him submit tonight. [c]
McGuire’s Musings: Oh, OK. I get the Rampage formula. Long match. Squash. Mark Henry split-screen. Main event. Interesting. Anyway, I like the way they are building Cargill as unstoppable. Her matches aren’t long enough to expose her, but she looks awfully impressive each time she’s out there, even if it’s only for a few minutes. The addition of Mark Sterling is a plus, too. Poor Kiera Hogan. It kind of feels like AEW could do more with her.
3. Jon Moxley (w/Eddie Kingston) vs. Daniel Garcia (w/Matt Lee, Jeff Parker). Moxley came from the concession stand and through the crowd. Eddie Kingston was with him. Garcia didn’t get a televised entrance. Moxley began by stomping a mud-hole in Garcia. Moxley hit a couple tough-looking kicks. Garcia hit a dropkick on Moxley’s leg and took control while working on Moxley’s leg.
Moxley briefly regained control with an arm bar but Garcia landed some elbows and chops. Moxley ducked a move, however, and hit a series of German Suplexes. Going for a third one, Garcia got back to Moxley’s leg. Moxley made it to the ropes for a break. Moxley then hit a clothesline. Back on their feet, the two traded elbows. Moxley hit some headbutts. Moxley went for the Paradigm Shift, but Garcia rolled through and sunk in a leg submission.
Moxley countered with a bulldog choke and Garcia tapped out immediately.
Jon Moxley defeated Daniel Garcia via pinfall in 4:04.
After the match 2.0 rushed the ring and attacked Moxley and Kingston. Darby and Sting came out for the save. Sting hit a Stinger Splash and the Scorpion Death Drop. Darby hit a Coffin Drop on 2.0. The show went off the air as the babyfaces posed.
McGuire’s Musings: It was nice to see Mox give Garcia as much of the match as he did. A lot of people have a lot of high hopes for Garcia and he looked good here. The moment wasn’t too big for him, which was encouraging. I don’t know how you have Sting and Darby come out to close the show, and not have CM Punk make a return to go off the air and confront Darby face to face. But, so it goes. If there’s such a thing as a rocket-ship in AEW, it’s clear the powers that be have strapped it to Mr. Allin. Between Sting, Punk and his TNT title reign, that guy’s got a hell of a future if he wants it.
In all, this was pretty much everything it needed to be. Punk’s return hit all the right notes and all the skepticism from idiots like me proved to be unwarranted. They did sell out the United Center. The crowd did lose its absolute mind. Punk did deliver on a heartfelt 20-minute promo in only the way he can. And we even set up an opponent for him, to boot. Oh, yeah. Plus there were some matches here, too. I can’t imagine a better Rampage. What a night for wrestling. My same night AEW Rampage audio reviews are available exclusively to Dot Net Members.