By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 84)
Taped March 15, 2023 in Winnipeg, Manitoba at Canada Life Centre
Aired March 17, 2023 on TNT
Excalibur welcomed everyone into the show as pyro shot off. He was joined by Tony Schiavone and Paul Wight. Jim Ross sat this week out. There were no introductions and we went directly to the ring for the first bout.
1. Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Rey Fenix for the TNT Championship. The two felt each other out early, with nobody gaining the advantage. Hobbs ran at Fenix, but Fenix pushed Hobbs to the outside, where Fenix landed a series of dives, punctuated with a moonsault. Fenix jumped at Hobbs, but Hobbs caught Fenix and slammed him. The action spilled to the outside again, where Hobbs ran Fenix into the guardrail repeatedly. Hobbs posed in the ring to boos.
With the action back in the ring, Hobbs threw Fenix into a corner. Hobbs choked Fenix with his boot. Hobbs threw Fenix into another corner and Hobbs crawled toward Fenix in a menacing way. Hobbs worked a claw on Fenix’s shoulder. Hobbs landed a delayed vertical suplex for a two-count. From there, we got our first PIP [c].
Back from break, Hobbs still had control and slapped the back of Fenix’s head. Hobbs went back to his version of a claw, but Fenix fought back with a corkscrew kick. Fenix went for a springboard move, but Hobbs caught him and hit a powerslam for a two-count. Fenix kicked Hobbs a couple times and paid it off with a roundhouse kick. Fenix went for a German Suplex, but Hobbs blocked it and elbowed Fenix. Before long, though, Fenix actually hit an impressive German Suplex for a two-count.
Fenix rolled into a cutter and got a two-count out of that. Fenix walked the top rope and kicked Hobbs in the head. Fenix jumped off the top rope, but Hobbs moved and ran Fenix’s back into a corner in a wild spot. Hobbs then landed a spine-buster for a great near-fall. Hobbs threw Fenix into the ropes, but Fenix came back with a pair of kicks. The two wrestlers were down and someone was busted open somewhere because Ref Aubrey put the on the blood gloves.
Fenix hit a high frog-splash for another good near-fall. Fenix kicked Hobbs in the head. Fenix did it again. Fenix did it again. Fenix went for the cutter, but Hobbs caught him with a spine-buster. From there, Hobbs landed his finisher for the win.
Powerhouse Hobbs defeated Rey Fenix via pinfall in 14:08.
After the match, Hobbs grabbed Alex Abrahantes and QT Marshall ultimately landed a cutter on Abrahantes. We went to the commentary desk, where Excalibur hyped up Adam Cole’s in-ring return. We got an Adam Cole video package.
McGuire’s Musings: A very good opening match and one that exceeded my admittedly low expectations. Rey Fenix, man. Who’s a better utility player for AEW? If you got a name better than Rey Fenix, I’d like to hear about it. The Lucha Bros consistently put on can’t-miss matches and whenever he’s thrown into the singles mix for reasons that are never quite fully explained, he always delivers. I’m a bit torn on the Hobbs stuff at this point. Granted, we all must let it play out, as the cliche goes, but the QT Marshall stuff doesn’t seem to fit and the TMZ ripoff stuff feels even more out of place. This is a no-QT-hate zone, so don’t think I’m going in that direction. I just can’t understand why Hobbs can’t be presented as the singular badass that he is. That in mind, he deserves a good amount of credit for this match, too. He sold well for Fenix and working the big vs small style isn’t always as easy as some make it look. Kudos to both for this.
Back from break, we got a promo from Stu Grayson, who called out Jon Moxley. He accused the BCC of giving Evil Uno a concussion. Grayson said he wants Moxley next week. We then went back to the ring.
2. Taya Valkyrie vs. Ava Lawless. Valkyrie was in control early and hit a back elbow/clothesline/scream combination. Valkyrie landed a double-knees to Lawless and chopped her. Valkyrie hit a spear and posed. Valkyrie then landed Jaded for the win.
Taya Valkyrie defeated Ava Lawless via pinfall in 1:18.
Jade Cargill appeared on the ramp after the match, but nothing really came of it, other than Valkyrie dancing to her theme, which she seems to like to do. After that, we got a video of Stokely Hathaway training for his match with Hook on Dynamite. It was then back to the ring, where The Bollywood Boys actually got a televised entrance.
3. The Bollywood Boyz vs. Matt Menard and Angelo Parker. Menard and Parker brawled right away, but it backfired, because the Boyz came right back and took Parker down. Parker rolled to the outside. Menard quickly took back control inside the ring and tagged in Parker. Parker landed a snap suplex and from that, we went to the next PIP [c].
McGuire’s Musings: The Valkyrie match was what it should have been. It felt odd that either the crowd wasn’t mic’ed well, the crowd was thin because it was late in the night, or, well, there aren’t as many people who care about Valkyrie as I thought there would be. That’s a shame because I tend to like Valkyrie and her work. Excalibur did a good job explaining that Valkyrie has been using Jaded a lot longer than Jade Cargill has been, and that’s worth noting, considering how their feud might just be based around that move. Either way, here’s hoping they can heat Cargill/Valkyrie up over the next few weeks.
Back from break, the Boyz were in control, but that didn’t last long, because Parker hit an elbow drop before Menard and Parker landed their double DDT for the win.
Matt Menard and Angelo Parker defeated The Bollywood Boyz via pinfall in 6:49 (of TV time).
Menard and Parker scissored each other. We then got a video featuring Don Callis courting Takeshita in an airport. From there, the video hyping Omega vs. Vikingo aired.
McGuire’s Musings: The tag match was a glorified squash, but it made sense because all four guys are from Canada and I think all four guys were planning on getting a bigger reception than what they got from the crowd. Again, maybe it was late, maybe they aren’t mic’ed well. Whatever it is, there wasn’t much response. I was hoping for more from the Omega/Vikingo package, but, hell. It’s almost 1 a.m. on the east coast. My whining meter is waning.
When the show returned, we got a recap video of the nine-man main event from Dynamite. Out of nowhere, the Mark Henry “It’s time for the main event” clip aired. Can’t get much lazier than that. A video of the Gunns taunting Top Flight outside aired as Excalibur ran down Wednesday’s card, which will include Grayson vs. Moxley, Hook vs. Hathaway, Omega vs. Vikingo, the Gunns vs. Top Flight for the tag titles and more.
4. Brody King vs. Daniel Garcia. Chris Jericho accompanied Daniel Garcia to the ring. Garcia immediately rolled to the outside after the bell rang. King followed him until Garcia rolled back into the ring … before Garcia rolled back out of the ring. The routine repeated until Garcia stomped on King when King rolled into the ring. King came right back with an elbow and a chop. Garcia went back outside and King followed him again. Julia Hart stopped Garcia from walking around and King chopped the hell out of him. King threw Garcia into a guardrail. King placed Garcia in a chair and hit a splash onto Garcia, who was sitting in the chair. King chopped Garcia and threw him into the ring steps, but Garcia hit a drop toe-hold to run King’s head into the steps and we got our final PIP of the night [c].
Back from the break, King was firing up and then landed a side-slam for a two-count. King hit a piledriver for another two-count. King chopped Garcia and Ref Bryce had the blood gloves on his hands. King then landed a wild cannonball for a two-count because Garcia got his leg on the rope. King went for another piledriver, but Garcia worked his way out of his and worked King’s leg before going for a sleeper hold. King ran Garcia into a corner to get out of it. King landed a spinning lariat and went for a Gonzo Bomb, but Garcia wiggled out of it and rolled King up for a two-count.
Garcia worked a Boston Crab. Or the Walls of Jericho. Whichever you prefer. King made it to the ropes for a break, but as the ref was backing Garcia away, Jericho hit King with his bat. Garcia then sank in a submission for the win because King was out.
Daniel Garcia defeated Brody King via ref stoppage in 12:23.
Garcia and Jericho posed to end the show.
McGuire’s Musings: I went into this wondering how they’d come away with Garcia being on the winning end, hoping he wouldn’t be, but wouldn’t you know it … that’s just what happened. King got all the shine and the story was obviously that King continues to be the monster he is despite the loss due to the late-match antics of Chris Jericho. All of my hats are off to both Garcia and King, who worked twice Wednesday night, this being the later match of the two and it still delivering in a very respectable way. It’s hard for me to look at Brody King like someone who should lose sometimes. Yeah, that sounds ridiculous, but after seeing him in Ring of Honor and even on New Japan Strong for so long, he’s just the best when he’s booked to be indestructible. I understand the booking decisions made here, but I can’t say it wasn’t disappointing.
That said, this was a better episode of Rampage than I thought it would be. On paper, it wasn’t special, but the book-ended matches were really pretty good. I can’t imagine anyone was watching it, and when that all-important ratings number comes out early next week, I’m sure there will be rhetoric from both the AEW die-hards and the AEW haters. But in all, this was a fine hour of wrestling. Not too much to be mad about. I’ll have more to say, if I can muster the voice, in my audio review.
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