By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 78)
Taped February 1, 2023 in Dayton, Ohio at Wright State University
Aired February 3, 2023 on TNT
Jim Ross welcomed everyone in and was joined on commentary by Excalibur, and Tony Schiavone. We went straight to the ring with no entrances.
1. Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson vs. Ethan Page, Matt Hardy, and Isiah Kassidy for the AEW Trios Titles. Kassidy and Nick Jackson began the match with a nice sequence before Nick slowed it down by working Kassidy’s arm. Matt Jackson tagged in and the Bucks kept control until Omega tagged in as the crowd chanted his name. Matt Hardy tagged in, too and went for the Twist Of Fate, but Omega got out of it and pushed Hardy to the ground.
Omega went to the outside, where Hardy went to the top, but Ethan Page cut Hardy off by hitting Omega and rolling Omega into the ring. Page was then somehow the legal man and he worked over Omega until Omega tagged in Nick, who tagged in Matt and the Bucks took down Page. The Bucks and Omega cleaned house until Hardy cut things off with a side effect on Matt Jackson for a two-count. Page demanded he get tagged in and Hardy obliged. Page hit Matt with a back-breaker and we got our first PIP of the night [c].
Back from break, Hardy was working over Matt Jackson. Hardy slammed Matt Jackson for a two-count and went to the second rope, but Page tagged himself in and went to the second rope himself, doing the Hardy pose. When Page came off the rope, Matt Jackson hit a super-kick before getting the hot tag to Omega. Omega landed a moonsault from the second rope for a two-count. Kassidy tagged in and pretty quickly, things broke down, with the heels working over Omega as the Bucks were on the outside. That advantage ended when Kassidy was met with a double super-kick from the Bucks. Omega and Hardy clotheslined each other.
Nick and Kassidy went to the top and his respective sentons from the top on Omega and Hardy. Matt Jackson and Page fought a little and it culminated with a bodyslam from Page, but then Omega landed a knee to the back of Page’s head. A “This is awesome” chant broke out. Nick Jackson tagged in and he traded blows with Kassidy. Kassidy kicked Nick in the head and went for a splash, but Nick moved and landed a bulldog. Kassidy came back with a Canadian Destroyer on Nick Jackson and the heels had control until Hardy hit a Twist of Fate until Matt Jackson broke it up.
Page went for the Ego’s Edge, but Omega broke it up with a V-Trigger. Hardy accidentally hit Page and Kassidy landed a wild cutter for a very good near-fall. Nick Jackson tagged in Omega and Kassidy looked for his partners, but they were arguing. Omega then hit a V-Trigger on Kassidy and that turned into the One-Winged Angel and then The Elite hit the BTE Trigger for the win.
Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson defeated Ethan Page, Matt Hardy and Isaiah Kassidy via pinfall in 14:45 to retain the AEW Trios Titles.
Immediately after the match, we got a backstage interview with Ricky Starks, who said he’s in a Web of Jericho. Starks called out JAS and said in El Paso, he’ll prove why he’s absolute and he will embarrass Jericho again.
McGuire’s Musings: The opening match felt more competitive than I expected it to be, but it made sense considering the Elite’s style. They all worked really hard and while it seemed improbable that Page’s team would pull off the upset, that cutter from Kassidy led to one of the more believable near-falls I’ve seen in … well, at least February? So far? Anyway, I could do with this Hardy/Page angle ending sooner rather than later (or, for that matter, right now), but in the meantime, this was a fun opening match and as the card looks from here, I can’t imagine anything else topping it. I’ve been wrong a lot before, though, and I hope I am here.
Back from break, we got a promo from Jay Lethal and his group and Lethal called out Paul Walter Hauser again. From there, we got a promo from Best Friends and Danhausen, who was especially loud and angry. We went back to the ring.
2. Swerve Strickland (w/Parker Boudreaux, other guy) vs. Brian Pillman Jr. The two locked up and Swerve had control until things reset and they locked up again. Pillman landed a kick and after a few roll-throughs, Pillman slowly walked over Swerve and taunted him. Pillman then hit a dropkick and a double kick through the ropes as Swerve was on the outside. After that, we got our next PIP [c].
Back from break, the two were trading blows. Swerve then hit a back-breaker, but Pillman came right back with a thrust kick for a two-count. Pillman went for another kick, but Swerve caught him and kicked Pillman’s knee before hitting a kick to Pillman’s head for a near-fall. Swerve placed Pillman on the top rope, but Pillman fought back and slammed Swerve’s head on the turnbuckle. Swerve’s dudes interfered and Swerve landed a Death Valley Driver on the apron. Swerve went to the top and then hit a double stomp for the win.
Swerve Strickland defeated Brian Pillman Jr. via pinfall in 8:19.
After the match, Swerve and his group attacked Pillman, but Dustin Rhodes ran out for the save. From there, we got a House of Black promo that included Malakai saying the House doesn’t want Eddie Kingston. Malakai said there is no forgiveness for people like Eddie Kingston. We then went back to the ring.
3. Toni Storm and Saraya vs. Charlette Renegade and Robyn Renegade. Storm and Robyn started the match and the two locked up. Storm face-palmed her and Robyn fought back with some elbows, but Storm responded by punching the hell out of Robyn. Saraya interfered and Storm landed a hip attack, which took Robyn out to the floor. Saraya threw Robyn into the steps and Storms threw Robyn into a guardrail. Back in the ring, Storm tagged in Saraya, who landed a series of clotheslines. Saraya hit a knee for a two-count.
Storm tagged in and the two double-teamed Robyn. Storm hit a suplex for a two-count. From there, Storm worked a full-nelson, which was neat. Storm toyed with Robyn until Robyn slapped Storm. Robyn then hit an enzuigiri and Charlette got the hot tag, but the momentum ended quickly with a hip attack from Storm. After that, Storm landed the Storm Zero for the win.
Toni Storm and Saraya defeated Charlette Renegade and Robyn Renegade via pinfall in 5:10.
After the match, Storm and Saraya spray-painted the twins with an “L,” and what’s up, NWO? Right after the spray-painting incident, we got an Adam Cole video.
McGuire’s Musings: Let’s work backwards. The women’s match was fine, but inconsequential. I can’t say I’m a fan of the spray-paint bit, if only because the NWO became so watered down and so indulgent by the time … wait, why am I even trying to re-litigate the NWO in the year 2023? Anyway, God bless Robyn, who took the bulk of the punishment there. That thing felt like a handicap match for a lot of it. As for the Swerve match, Pillman got a little bit of spotlight, but am I the only one who remembers him supposedly having some fun on one of those YouTube shows as he imitated Kenny Omega? I’m not so sure that was a one off. His mannerisms have become so much like Omega that it’s hard not to wonder if that’s his personal coach at this point. I mean, just look at the way he runs the ropes.
4. Rush (w/Jose, Preston Vance) vs. Christopher Daniels. Things kicked off with Daniels taking control early and running Rush to the outside. Almost immediately, Daniels landed a Tope through the ropes and we went to our final PIP of the night [c].
Back from break, Rush had complete control. Daniels was on the outside, and LFI slapped Daniels with a bunch of money. Eventually, Preston Vance accidentally kicked Jose The Assistant and Daniels rolled Jose into the ring. Daniels then rolled up Rush for a two-count. Daniels landed a clothesline and some punches before hitting a thunder powerbomb for a two-count. Daniels hit some elbows, but Rush fought back with chops. Rush kept going, but Daniels cut him off with a Death Valley Driver for a two-count. Daniels worked a submission, but Vance put Rush’s foot on the ropes for a break.
Rush rolled Daniels up for a two-count, but Daniels came back by slamming Rush. Daniels went for the Best Moonsault Ever, but Rush got the knees up and then hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Daniels. Rush stomped his feet a few times and landed the Bull Horns for the win.
Rush defeated Christopher Daniels via pinfall in 9:51.
LFI celebrated as the show went off the air…
McGuire’s Musings: There isn’t a shred of intended disrespect when I say this, but I have to say this: You’re Tony Khan and you’re trying to convince us that you’re going to load up the Rampage cards to ensure that it’s not just a throwaway B-show and your main event is … Chris Daniels vs. Rush? Huh? What did I miss? The former is rarely on AEW TV anymore and the latter came in with a good amount of fanfare but has since found that weird purgatory AEW provides to high-profile signings merely weeks after they sign. The match was fine, but I can point to at least two better matches I’ve seen from Christopher Daniels on NJPW Strong in the last six months or so. Or, at a minimum, matches of his that I’ve seen with more heat. One step forward, three steps back with this show. When it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s bad, it’s immensely missable. This week wasn’t the former.