By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 31)
Live from Estero, Florida at Hertz Arena
Aired March 11, 2022 on TNT
The commentary team of Excalibur, Taz and Ricky Starks checked in as Excalibur introduced everyone. Marq Quen and Darby Allin were already in the ring, the bell rang and let’s go.
1. Darby Allin vs. Marq Quen. Darby held control for the first part of the match, refusing to let go of a side head-lock. Excalibur announced that next week’s Rampage will be at 11:30 p.m. The action spilled outside and Quen threw Allin into the steps. Back in the ring, Quen draped Allin over the top rope. Quen continued to have control, sinking in a boot and working over Allin in the corner.
Quen worked an abdominal stretch and went to pull the top rope for leverage, but the ref broke it up. Allin then hip-tossed his way out of it. Quen moved Allin to the ropes, but Allin tried to come back. Quen responded by taking Allin’s knees out and Allin fell to the apron. We then got our first PIP of the night [c].
Back from the break, Allin hit a super-plex for a two-count. Darby went for something (I guess?), but Quen hit a back-flip knee-drop for a two-count. Quen worked Allin over in a corner, but Allin reversed an Irish Whip. Quen got his knees up, though, and hit a back-flipping flatliner for a two-count. Quen went for a suplex, but Allin landed the Scorpion Death Drop.
Allin went to the top rope for a Coffin Drop, but Isaiah Kassidy distracted Allin and Quen pushed Allin off the top to the outside. Quen then landed a 450 splash onto Allin on the outside. Wow. Allin made it back into the ring barely to beat the count. Quen got a two-count. Quen went to the top and went for a shooting-star press, but Darby moved and sunk in the arm bar. Quen tapped and that was it.
Darby Allin defeated Marq Quen via submission in 11:56.
After the match, Andrade and his faction walked to the ring, but the Hardys’ music hit and the Hardy Boys made their entrance. We then cut to a promo from Dan Lambert. Lambert said his team is there to make history. Lambert talked about wrestling history and how it relates to MJF and Wardlow. Lambert said Scorpio Sky’s streak is the best AEW has ever seen. Sky said he is the face of TNT. We then went to commercial.
McGuire’s Musings: The match was good. Darby sold the hell out of his ribs, which was the right way to go, and that’s probably the most shine I’ve ever seen Quen receive on A-list AEW TV. He didn’t disappoint and that 450 to Darby on the outside was wild. It also kind of looked like he could have made a smooth landing on the shooting-star, but clearly, it was time to go home in terms of the match itself. I’m not sure what I think of Darby using a submission finish, but it made sense tonight. The Coffin Drop is synonymous with him and in my eyes, it’s even become somewhat of a protected finisher in AEW, which I like. Also of note: Matt Hardy looked better here in his old Hardy Boys outfit than he’s looked in about two years in AEW.
The House of Black cut a promo to bring us back in. Brody King said the feeling of violence is an addiction. King said you can reach out and touch it and feel it. Buddy stepped in and said the House knows about secrets and truth. We then went to the ring with no entrances.
2. Jamie Hayter vs. Mercedes Martinez. Britt Baker and Rebel was out in Hayter’s corner. Hayter had control early, but Martinez worked her way out of a head-lock. The two stood and taunted each other and locked up. Hayter backed Martinez into a corner, but Martinez fired up. Hayter went for a shoulder-tackle, but Martinez didn’t move and ultimately landed a boot and a clothesline. Martinez hit a chop and some forearms, but Hayter raked the eyes. Hayter worked a boot to Martinez’s throat as we went to our second PIP [c].
Back from break, Martinez had control with a suplex and got a two-count. Martinez went for a Fisherman’s Buster, but Haytercountered and eventually spiked Martinez with a back-breaker onto her knee. Hayter hit a massive forearm and Martinez collapsed. Martinez came back with an overhead throw, crashing Hayter into the corner turnbuckle. The two went up to the top and Martinez hit a spider german suplex. While Martinez tried to pull herself up, Baker attacked Martinez. Hayter then hit a running lariat for the pin.
Jamie Hayter defeated Mercedes Martinez via pinfall in 9:42.
After the match, Baker, Hayter and Rebel tried to attack Martinez, but Thunder Rosa ran down with a chair to clear the ring. We then got a promo from Hikaru Shida. Shida said she missed Serena Deeb. Shida said she was always thinking about Deeb and that what she did on Rampage last week was not enough and she means war. We then went to commercial.
McGuire’s Musings: I was happy to see Hayter and Martinez get the time they got, even if it meant a long commercial break in between. Hayter is really good, and it’d be great if we saw more of her when it comes to in-ring work rather than just being a lackey for Britt Baker. Martinez, meanwhile, continues to do great work wherever she is. My only issue here is why Rosa would come save Martinez tonight even though Martinez couldn’t be bothered to help Rosa out at Revolution last Sunday. I mean, the outside interference in Rosa’s match was ridiculous, was it not? Martinez could have certainly helped. Anyway, this was good and it brought it us back to Baker vs. Rosa, which should be great in a cage on Wednesday.
3. Keith Lee vs. QT Marshall. Powerhouse Hobbs stood behind the commentary team for the match. The “Bask In His Glory” chants began the match before Lee hit a headbutt and worked Marshall’s wrist. Marshall fought back with some punches and mocked Lee, but Lee hit a double chop to take Marshall down. Lee threw Marshall across the ring. Marshall hit a neck-breaker and went to the top to hit a missile dropkick for a one-count.
Marshall landed some punches to Lee’s head. Lee started to fire up and stopped Marshall from whipping him. Lee hit a strong lariat that flipped Marshall over. Lee lifted Marshall, but Marshall’s lackeys distracted the ref and Marshall hit a thrust kick and a step-up enziguri. Marshall went for the Diamond Cutter, but Lee caught him and hit a shoulder tackle. Lee then hit his finisher for the win.
Keith Lee defeated QT Marshall via pinfall in 4:03.
After the match, Nick Comoroto tried to attack Lee, but Lee cut him off and gave him a power-bomb. Lee then threw Aaron Solo out of the ring and Ricky Starks and Hobbs ran to the ring. The two tried to beat Lee down and Hobbs lifted Lee for a spine-buster. Hobbs stood tall to end the segment. We then went back to Mark Henry. Tony Nese said he is the premiere athlete. Nese said he hasn’t been beaten this year. Nese said Swerve got a big PPV debut. He said this isn’t a hip-hop show and this is a wrestling show. Swerve said Nese is a real “hatin ass dude.” Swerve called out for the crowd to say it’s Swerve’s house. Mark Henry said it’s time for the main event and then Excalibur ran down the card for Dynamite.
McGuire’s Musings: The match was what it should have been. I don’t know why Marshall seems to be the gatekeeper in AEW, because the outcomes are always so predictable and the work is always the same. That’s not to say it’s not good; it’s just to say it’s become a bit too formulaic. The post-match attack from Team Taz is intriguing because you have to think a Keith Lee vs. Powerhouse Hobbs match could be awfully good. For that matter, a Keith Lee vs. Ricky Starks match could be awfully good, too. Now we’re onto the 205 Live … er … AEW Rampage main event.
4. Shane “Swerve” Strickland vs. Tony Nese. Tony Nese made his entrance first and flaunted his abs. Some things never change. The two played with the crowd before Swerve grabbed the wrist. Nese rolled out, but then Swerve took Nese down, but Nese worked a wrist-lock before Swerve landed a hip-toss and went for a single-leg crab, but Nese made it to the ropes for a break. Nese hit a boot, but before long, Swerve hit a dropkick to the side of Nese’s face. Nese tried to throw Swerve out the ring, but Swerve landed on his feet. Swerve hit a heel kick to take Nese down on the outside. Nese put the apron skirt over Swerve’s head and kicked him as we went to the final PIP [c].
Back from break, Nese was in control, working a body-scissors. Swerve worked his way out with chops and strikes, but Nese tried to fight back. Swerve eventually went to roll through something, but Nese caught him and and went for a springboard moonsault, but Swerve moved. Swerve hit a punch and a loud chop. Swerve hit an uppercut to the back of Nese’s head. Swerve landed a deadlift brain-buster for a two-count.
Swerve went to the top, but Nese cut him off, kicked him and lifted him fo ra fireman’s carry onto a knee-drop for a two-count. Nese sunk in his boot onto Swerve’s neck. Nese eventually hit a roundhouse kick and a 450 splash, but he only got a two-count. Swerve fired up and went for a tombstone, but Nese bent out of the ring, onto the apron. Swerve hit a foot-stomp onto Nese on the apron. Swerve rolled through to hit a face-buster for a two-count. Swerve then kicked Nese in the head and hit the Stomp Swerve for the win.
Shane “Swerve” Strickland defeated Tony Nese via pinfall in 12:58.
Swerve posed on the middle rope to end the show.
McGuire’s Musings: Boy oh boy oh boy oh boy Tony Nese is good. Why haven’t we seen on him big time AEW television, again? He was all but thrown away in WWE and I was hopeful that whatever this AEW run would be, would be much more significant, but I almost even forgot he was on the roster until tonight. He’s damn good. This was a so-so debut for Swerve. There were some moments that weren’t all that smooth, and I wonder how he’s going to be received once we get past the fact that he’s the latest high-potential signing for AEW. Will those “Who’s house?!” chants continue to be loud? Only time will tell. Here, though, I thought we could have seen more.
In all, this wasn’t an episode of Rampage that you really have to see. Nothing stuck out as newsworthy, and there wasn’t really a great match on the card. I appreciate the notion that they wanted to make Swerve’s debut a big deal, but in the end, it felt more like a regular AEW match that had some good moments and some OK moments and some less than OK moments. I’ll have more to say, as always, in my members only audio review later tonight.