By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 23)
Taped January 12, 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina at PNC Arena
Aired January 14, 2022 on TNT
The commentary team of Excalibur, Taz, Ricky Starks and Chris Jericho checked in quickly before Adam Cole’s music hit and here we go.
1. Adam Cole vs. Trent Beretta. Cole went for a pump-kick, but Beretta moved and hit some chops. Beretta landed an overhead throw before hitting some forearms, taking Cole to the mat. Beretta hit a dropkick that took Cole to the outside. Beretta stepped onto the apron, and Cole pulled Beretta’s feet out from underneath him, taking control.
Back in the ring, Cole hit a neck-breaker. Cole threw Beretta into a corner and Beretta bounced off it to hit the canvass. Cole landed another neck-breaker for a one-count. Beretta began to fight back, but Cole cut him off with a kick to the head. Beretta rolled to the outside, where Cole went for a Panama Sunrise, but Beretta countered it with a back body-drop. After that, Beretta went for a spear, but Cole moved and Beretta ran into the barricade. A PIP then began [c].
Back from the break, Beretta was chopping Cole in the middle of the ring. Beretta landed a dead-lift German Suplex. Beretta hit a swinging DDT for a two-count. Beretta ran at Cole, but Cole kicked him and climbed to the second rope. Beretta slapped Cole and hit a super-plex for a two-count. Beretta lifted Cole, but Cole fought his way out and got in a back-stabber. Cole teased Sweet Chin Music, but Beretta caught him and landed a half-and-half.
Beretta went for a suplex, but Cole countered that into a brain-buster onto his knee. The two went to the apron and Beretta hit a pile-driver on the apron. Beretta rolled Cole into the ring, but when Beretta went for his finisher, Cole countered into a Canadian Destroyer for a close near-fall. Cole went to the second rope and went for the Panama Sunrise, but Beretta countered into a suplex and then landed a clothesline.
Beretta ran at Cole, but Cole hit Beretta with a super-kick and climbed to the second rope. Cole went for the Panama Sunrise again, but Beretta caught Cole and hit his finisher, but Cole got his foot on the rope to stop the count. The two factions started fighting outside the ring. As the chaos ensued, Cole hit a low blow on Beretta. Cole landed The Boom and that was it.
Adam Cole defeated Trent Beretta via pinfall in 11:34.
McGuire’s Musings: Trent looked great. For being away for so long, he’s come back into the fold very nicely and he more than held his own with one of AEW’s best in-ring talents here. A couple of the near-falls at the end had me and there was even a moment when I thought Trent might actually get the upset victory. I could have done without the two factions brawling on the outside because it was just so inevitable and those things have become so tired with certain acts in AEW. But I digress. This was a very good match and a hot opener.
2. Shawn Spears vs. Andrew Everett. Spears conducted a half-ass cartwheel and Everett responded by doing some jumping of his own. Spears then hit the C-4 and Spears got the pinfall win.
Shawn Spears defeated Andrew Everett via pinfall in 56 seconds.
After the match, Spears grabbed a microphone and asked the crowd if he “is really the best in the world.” Spears said he’s traveled the same roads, shed blood and given everything to this. Spears said he was the guy who wasn’t supposed to make it. Spears said that he’s the guy Max sends to send a message. Spears said he doesn’t play within the lines and he doesn’t know where the line is until he crosses it. Spears said he’s the guy you don’t see coming. The crowd began chanting Wardlow’s name. Spears said Punk can’t hang anymore. Spears said seven years off is seven years too long and he’s going to expose Punk on Dynamite. Excalibur threw to a music video from The Acclaimed that parodied Sting and Darby Allin.
3. Nyla Rose, Penelope Ford, and The Bunny vs. Kris Statlander, Red Velvet, and Layla Hirsch. Hirsch and Rose began the match because Hirsch tagged herself in. Rose woman-handled Hirsch. Rose taunted Statlander. Rose hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Hirsch. Statlander and Bunny tagged in. Statlander took Bunny down and worked a head-lock. The two traded elbows before Statlander landed a snap-powerslam for a two-count.
Velvet tagged in and Statlander slammed Velvet onto Bunny for a two-count. Hirsch tagged in and Hirsch and Velvet hit a double-team move. Hirsch was going to tag out, but she didn’t want to tag out to Statlander, so Velvet tagged in and Rose rook Velvet down. The second PIP began [c].
McGuire’s Musings: You know, I’m starting to get sour on these squashes against legit indie talent. We could have seen more from Janai Kai a few weeks ago and we could have seen more from Everett here. These are good wrestlers, people. At least give them two minutes. The diss track from The Acclaimed was gold, as expected, but the video made it that much more funny. They’ve got a real good thing going if they want to keep going there. Also, the people have spoken and the people love Wardlow.
Back from break, Rose hit a choke slam on Velvet for a two-count. Rose went for a Senton, but Velvet moved. Statlander got the hot tag and Ford tagged in as well. Statlander hit a face-buster for a two-count. Ford gouged Statlander’s eyes and went for a cutter, but Statlander countered into a Spider Crab. The Bunny ran in to kick Statlander and break it up. The Bunny then tagged in and Statelander hit Blue Thunder for a near-fall. Statlander was sizing Bunny up, but Hirsch tagged herself in, the Bunny took advantage of the miscommunication and pinned Hirsch for the win.
Nyla Rose, Penelope Ford, and The Bunny defeated Kris Statlander, Red Velvet, and Layla Hirsch via pinfall in 9:12.
After the match, we cut right to a promo from America’s Top Team. Scorpio said he hasn’t lost a singles match in 310 days. He went on to complain about other guys getting opportunities. Sky said he’s the face of TNT. With the video on the commentary booth, Starks talked about Lance Archer’s return. Starks somehow parlayed that into complaining about Jay Lethal. Wouldn’t you know it, but Lethal made his entrance. Lethal said he knows Starks has been calling him out all episode. Lethal said he’s sick to his stomach because of Starks. Lethal said Starks has had no challengers for the FTW title. Lethal said Starks cares more about his outfit for the day than he does wrestling. Lethal challenged Starks for the FTW title. Starks and Lethal had a pull-apart without fighting. The commentary team ran down the Dynamite card.
The pre-main event promo segment began. John Silver said his team is ready. Reynolds and Silver played kazoos in a callback to Christian Cage. Cage interrupted them and said there’s levels to this game and the Dark Order isn’t on theirs. Mark Henry said it’s time for the main event.
McGuire’s Musings: I don’t know what I think about this slow-burn of a heel turn for Hirsch. On one hand, I’m really happy she’s getting more TV time because I’m very much a fan of her work. But at the same time, it all just doesn’t feel natural. She can go with the best of them, but I don’t know where Statlander fits into this. On one side, she’s working as the Best Friend going after Brit Baker. On the other hand, she has this passive-aggressive program with Hirsch? Not sure what that’s about. Either way, I hope Hirsch comes out better for it. Lethal and Starks does little to nothing for me, but that’s only because I’m still on my high horse when it comes to Lethal (check out the McGuire’s Mondays archive for that). And while the pre-main event split-screen promo looked different this time … yeah, this needs to end.
4. Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus vs. Alex Reynolds and John Silver for the AEW Tag Titles. Jungle Boy and Reynolds began the match by locking up. Before long, Jungle Boy landed a beautiful dropkick to take control and tagged in Luchasaurus. Luchasaurus worked over Reynolds with punches and a clothesline. Jungle Boy tagged back in and landed a Senton from the top. Reynolds and Jungle Boy went back and forth on back-slides and then Silver tagged in, landed a back-body-drop and posed.
Jungle Boy went to the top, but Silver cut him off and got in the face of Christian. Jungle Boy went for a tope suicida, but the Dark Order guys caught him and hit a combination suplex, suicide dive on the outside of the ring. The final PIP began [c].
Back from the break, Jungle Boy got the hot tag to Luchasaurus, who cleared house. Luchasaurus hit splashes on Silver and Reynolds before landing a double clothesline. Luchasaurus chokeslammed Silver onto Reynolds and got a two-count for it. Jungle Boy tagged back in and Silver elbowed Jungle Boy to the ground. Reynolds tagged in and they went for a Doomsday Device, but Jungle Boy wiggled out and hit a German Suplex on Silver.
Jungle Boy and Reynolds fought on the top rope. Eventually, Luchasaurus picked up Silver to block Silver’s attempt to interfere. As a result, all four men participated in some type of multi-duplex thing from the top rope (very technical name, I know). Reynolds and Silver hit a series of kicks onto Luchasaurus. Jungle Boy went after the two Dark Order members and after a hell of a combination from Reynolds and Silver, the Dark Order got a 2.9999 out of it. Jungle Boy hit a clothesline and Luchasaurus got involved again. Ultimately, Jungle Boy landed a Destroyer on Reynolds for a hell of a near-fall. Luchasaurus tagged in, hit a tombstone and got the win.
Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus defeated Alex Reynolds and John Silver via pinfall to retain the AEW Tag Titles in 12:36.
Jurassic Express posed to close the show.
McGuire’s Musings: If there’s anybody out there who wants to have the debate that AEW actually does just have a bit too much talent on its side, this match is for you. Reynolds and Silver were very, very good here, but how many times do we see them on Wednesdays and Fridays? Sure, Excalibur noted how they were on a 10 or 11-match win streak, or some such nonsense, but unless you watch Dark or Dark Elevation, you probably wouldn’t know. More so, it was clear you weren’t going to put the tag titles on Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy only to have them lose it in their first defense, so this spelled impossible for the Dark Order duo. It’d just be nice if those guys had more time to shine, because not only can they work, but they’re awfully entertaining, too. Anyway, yeah, the match was good. One of those near-falls at the end truly had me wondering if we should expect the unexpected, but logic prevailed in the end. It’s interesting to me that Christian has become little more than a mouthpiece in AEW. I understand he’s probably fine with that, but what happened to him wanting to wrestle?
All told, this was a missable episode of Rampage. With the show being live next week in D.C. and Jon Moxley already being advertised for the GCW event at Hammerstein Ballroom, I guess we have our reason as to why they’d run a live Rampage next week. I’m not complaining, of course. But this week served as a real reminder of the low end of these taped shows. Cole vs. Trent was good, and the main event served its purpose. But this was filled just a little too much. I thought the music video was great, but it also clearly led to a lot of the rest of the show being rushed. I’ll have more to say in my audio review for members soon.