By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 82)
San Francisco, California at the Cow Palace
Aired live March 3, 2023 on TNT
Jim Ross welcomed everyone into the show as pyro shot off the stage. He was joined on commentary by Excalibur, Tony Schiavone and Chris Jericho. Half the first match was in the ring, but then we got the entrance from the Blackpool Combat Club, which was cut off via Dark Order. The teams brawled on the outside before the bell rang.
1. Top Flight vs. Aussie Open vs. John Silver and Alex Reynolds vs. Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta in a four-way tag match. Aussie Open and Top Flight began inside the ring after the bell rang and Top Flight had control. The Kingdom were watching from seats in the crowd. Reynolds tagged himself into the match via Darius, but Kyle Fletcher came back quick and Davis helped him out. Claudio then tagged himself in via Fletcher and hammered on Reynolds.
Silver tagged in and took Claudio down, beating the hell out of him. Claudio kneed Silver in the gut to cut him off and then threw Silver onto the apron. Silver fought back and essentially ran around the outside of the ring and took everyone out before going to the top rope and trying a cross-body onto Claudio, but Claudio caught him and hit a back-breaker for a two-count. Russia and Preston Vance were shown watching the match backstage. Reynolds and Claudio were the legal men and Claudio took Reynolds down and tagged in Yuta. The BCC kicked Reynolds, posed, and we got our first PIP [c].
Back from the break, Claudio was working a head-lock on Reynolds. Claudio tagged in Yuta and Yuta cut off Silver as fans booed. Reynolds double-stomped Yuta and wanted a tag, so Dante Martin tagged in as Fletcher and Mark Davis ran into the ring. Dante landed a wild splash onto the wrestlers outside. Fletcher, meanwhile, was getting the business from Top Flight. Aussie Open came back and hit a double super-kick onto Darius Martin. Aussie Open then landed their pendulum move for a two-count.
Davis and Fletcher clotheslined Claudio and tried to rile up the crowd. Davis accidentally clotheslined Fletcher. Darius and Dark Order squared off, but Dark Order got their quick offense in. It didn’t matter, though, because once they were done, Yuta ran in, threw everyone out and pinned Darius Martin for the win.
Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta defeated Top Flight, John Silver and Alex Reynolds and Aussie Open via pinfall in 9:34.
After the match, BCC and Dark Order brawled everywhere until we got a video package profiling the Hangman Page/Jon Moxley feud.
McGuire’s Musings: A lot of action, which was expected. All things honest, I was kind of hoping for more from this match, so my smug tweet talking about how I thought this four-way would be better than the PPV four-way was sort of … probably not right. Either way, this was set up to further the Dark Order/BCC program all the while Hangman and Mox, the respective parties’ leaders (in one way or another) get some more heat for their Texas Death Match on Sunday because of it. Clever. Is it me, or whenever I see Darius Martin in a match that isn’t on YouTube anymore, I’m convinced he’s going to be the one who takes the pin? Got those vibes early here and they turned out to be correct. It’s sad because Top Flight appear to be spinning their wheels now in a different way from which we see people typically see spin their wheels in AEW. Maybe we reset after Revolution.
Easing back into action, we got a recap of the Jericho/Starks feud. Jungle Boy Jack Perry got a dark-room promo. Perry said there’s going to be a hole in the ground. Perry called his match with Christian Cage “The Final Burial” on Sunday. Back in the ring, Riho’s music hit and people seemed pumped.
2. Riho vs. Emi Sakura. The crowd chanted Riho’s name and Riho backed Sakura into the ropes, but backed away. Sakura took advantage of that and ultimately threw Riho across the ring via Riho’s hair. Riho leapt at Sakura, but Sakura caught her and slammed her. Riho came right back and hit a dropkick and a running knee for a two-count. Riho took down Sakura via a head-scissors and Sakura rolled to the outside and taunted Riho. Riho ran at Sakura and Sakura caught Riho to hit a back-breaker. From there, Sakura landed a cross-body onto Riho, who was sitting against the guardrail. From there, it was the second PIP [c].
Back from break, Sakura had control but Riho tripped Sakura and Sakura was the recipient of a cross-body from Riho. It got Riho a two-count and holy hell, this crowd was in love with Riho. Sakura came back and hit a splash in a corner for a two-count of her own. Sakura went for a slam, but Riho rolled through and tried a few pin-attempts to no avail. Sakura rolled up Riho for a great near-fall. Riho landed a knee, but Sakura got in a lariat as a response for a two-count. Sakura went to the top and tried a moonsault, but missed. Riho went to the top for the double-stomp, but Sakura moved. Riho rolled up Sakura from there for the win.
Riho defeated Emi Sakura via pinfall in 9:32.
After the match, we got a video package on the women’s three-way match for Revolution. We went back to the ring where a wrestler already stood until Powerhouse Hobbs made his entrance.
3. Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Serpentico. Hobbs landed a spine-buster and and his finisher and that was it.
Powerhouse Hobbs defeated Serpentico via pinfall in 0:40.
After the match, Hobbs cut a promo in the ring, saying it won’t matter who wins on Sunday because the next chapter in the Book of Hobbs is the TNT Championship. We then went backstage with Renee, who interviewed Takeshita, who said he had great moments during the ladder match on Wednesday. He said he was not happy and maybe he should go back to Japan. Don Callis came into the frame and gave Takeshita his card, saying Takeshita needs a killer instinct. Callis said before Takeshita goes back to Japan, he should let Callis teach him a thing or two. A tease for something like “quality TV AEW TV” showed up and I’m not sure what that was.
McGuire’s Musings: I actually think that women’s match might end up being my favorite of the night – even if they put it in the obligatory “longest commercial break of the night” spot that AEW usually puts its women’s matches in on Rampage. It was teacher vs. student and man, it worked out well. Look no more than that final sequence, when Riho was just a millisecond off when it came to getting into the finish and Sakura knew how to save it. I hope Riho’s back for a bit now. She brings a lot to the women’s division and Sakura deserves all the flowers she gets after spending so many months toiling away on YouTube. Meanwhile, Hobbs getting a squash was exactly what it should have been and then … we’re going to get Omega vs. Takeshita, aren’t we?
Back from break, we got a promo from Mark Briscoe, who said sometimes, he’s confused because he was backstage at a wrestling show and he didn’t see his brother around. He wanted to go beat some ass with his brother during the tag-team battle royal. The Lucha Bros came into the frame and called out Mark Sterling. We are getting Brisoce/Lucha Bros vs. Sterling’s dudes on the Revolution pre-show. Excalibur ran down the Revolution card and we got a video on the tag-team match at Revolution. The Mark Henry segment happened, but sadly, this week, it was a pre-tape.
4. Dustin Rhodes and Keith Lee vs. Swerve Strickland and Parker Boudreaux. Swerve got a hell of a pop for the whole “Who’s house” thing during his entrance. Boudreaux, meanwhile, continued to look angry for reasons that have yet to be defined. Kieth Lee wore a cape. Swerve and Boudreaux jumpstarted the match and Boudreaux worked over Lee inside the ring, until Lee fought back and pounded Boudreaux. Dustin tagged in and worked over Boudreaux with punches. Boudreaux came back with a short-arm lariat and we got our final PIP of the night [c].
When we got back to action, Swerve was beating up Dustin until Dustin went for a tag, but Swerve knocked Lee off the apron. Dustin hit his powerslam and then got the hot tag to Lee while Boudreaux tagged in and got the business from Lee. The sequence ended with Lee shoulder-blocking Boudreaux across the ring. Lee pulled Swerve into the ring and Swerve and Lee faced off. Swerve hit a couple boots before Lee cut him off and hit some chops and slammed Swerve from about 20 feet in the air.
Lee went to the top and things broke down between the teams. Boudreaux held Lee and Swerve used Lee as a spring-board to hit Dustin with a moonsault on the outside. Boudreaux landed a boot to Lee’s head. Swerve went to the top and hit a stomp, but Lee kicked out at two. Dustin eventually hit a bulldog on Boudreaux, but Lee then double-slapped Swerve. Lee landed a cross-body on Boudreaux and Swerve hit a Flatliner … but then Dustin hit a Canadian Destroyer on Swerve. Lee threw Dustin onto Boudreaux and Lee hit his finisher on Boudreaux for the win.
Dustin Rhodes and Keith Lee defeated Swerve Strickland and Parker Boudreaux via pinfall in 11:03.
As Excalibur ran down the Revolution card one more time from the broadcast table, Ricky Starks came to the broadcast table and attacked Jericho. That pull-apart, including a cameo from Pat Buck, ended the show.
McGuire’s Musings: I’m all for Dustin Rhodes getting more wins than losses if he’s serious when he says he’s on his way out, so color me a happy reviewer when it comes to the result of this main event. Lee and Rhodes looked good together, I thought, and I kinda dig Lee’s decision to lean into his natural gray hair rather than dye it the way he’s been doing now for years. I’m still a tiny bit disappointed we aren’t blowing the Swerve/Lee program off this weekend, but maybe more good stories will be told as we get there somewhere down the line. The match itself was fun and the episode as a whole was fun. Rampage doesn’t typically not have all its matches announced before the program begins, so this week was at least a little bit exhilarating if only because we didn’t know those two middle matches were happening going into it. If Dynamite was considered the true go-home show for Revolution, this one was a nice pre-appetizer before you get to dinner and order the salads. And by the way, the salads this time around should be pretty tasty if they include that six-man on Sunday featuring Mark Briscoe and the Lucha Bros. I’ll have more to say, as I always … well … say, on my audio review.