By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 86)
Taped March 29, 2023 in St. Louis, Missouri at Chaifetz Arena
Aired March 31, 2023 on TNT
Jim Ross welcomed everyone into the show. He was joined by Excalibur, Tony Schiavone and Chris Jericho on commentary. There were no introductions or entrances for wrestlers and we went right to the ring.
1. Sammy Guevara vs. Konosuke Takeshita. Guevara took control early with a dropkick and a pose. Guevara toyed with Takeshita and Jack Perry was seen watching the match from backstage. Takeshita came back with one of his signature clotheslines and mocked Guevara’s pose. Darby Allin was then shown watching the match backstage. Guevara draped Takeshita over the top rope and went to the top to hit a Senton to take Takeshita out. Takeshita found himself on the outside and immediately rolled in for a boot and ultimately landed a splash onto Guevara, who was on the outside. Back in the ring, Takeshita placed Guevara onto the top turnbuckle and went for a German Suplex, but Guevara fought his way out by biting Takeshita and then hitting a double-stomp. We then got our first PIP [c].
Back from break, Guevara went for a brain-buster, but Takeshita countered with one of his own. Takeshita landed a hell of a lariat. Takeshita went for the deadlift German Suplex, but Guevara landed on his feet and then hit a Spanish Fly for a good near-fall. Guevara went to the top for a shooting-star press, but Takeshita moved and the two traded kicks before Guevara hit a Destroyer. Takeshita came right back with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a really close near-fall.
Takeshita went to the top, but Guevara cut him off with a kick. Guevara teased a Spanish Fly from the top, but Takeshita fought his way out of it. As a result, Takeshita hit a release Avalanche German Suplex from the top rope. Takeshita followed that up with a lariat and another good near fall. Tay distracted Takeshita and Guevara hit a knee strike before the GTH for the win.
Sammy Guevara defeated Konosuke Takeshita via pinfall in 9:44.
After the match, Guevara signaled to the Double or Nothing sign and we got another QTV segment.
McGuire’s Musings: A very good opening match that sits above a lot of the recent Rampage opening matches. The outcome wasn’t really in doubt because Guevara is kind of/sort of in a main event program with his fellow four pillars, but Takeshita has become so good at losing in AEW, you can’t help but fall in love with his matches. It was a good time to show out, too, because of it being WrestleMania weekend. The problem, though, is that AEW’s sister company (Ring Of Honor) is running one of its few Big Shows of the year while this is being aired on cable television. Even so, this becomes one of those Very Good Matches That Nobody Will See this weekend. The QTV stuff, on the other hand, sucks. That’s it and that’s all.
Back from break, we got an interview with Ethan Page and Matt Hardy. Page is going to face Hook on Dynamite and Hardy said he’s best friends with Page. Page signed the contract on Hardy’s back and something smells funny. But we went back to the ring and the House of Black music commenced.
2. Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor vs. Malakai Black and Brody King. Trent and Black started the match by locking up. Tony Khan will have a “very important announcement” on Dynamite, according to Excalibur. In other news, sometimes, the sun makes things warm. Taylor tagged in, but Black kept control with a stomp to Taylor’s head and a handful of punches and kicks. King tagged in and ultimately clotheslined Taylor for a two-count. Action spilled outside and King threw Trent into the guardrail as we went to the next PIP [c].
Back from break, Trent got the hot tag and fired up on both Black and King. Trent hit a DDT on King and landed a splash onto King, who was on the outside. Trent went to the top and hit a shotgun dropkick on Black for a two-count. Taylor tagged in, and Best Friends hit a Soul Food combination before hugging in the middle of the ring. That quickly ended because King came in and chopped the hell out of everyone. King spilled to the outside when he ran at Trent and Trent pulled down the top rope.
On the outside, King choke-slammed Trent onto the apron. King grabbed a chair, but Taylor stopped King. As a result, King power-bombed Taylor through a table. Trent hit King in the back with a chair and things kept getting out of control, so that was it.
Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor defeated Malakai Black and Brody King via disqualification in 9:18.
After the bell rang, Orange Cassidy and Buddy Matthews fought on the apron. House of Black hit Dante’s Inferno on Taylor inside the ring. House of Black stood over Cassidy after the beatdown. Matthews was the one who hung around the most, so it seems like Cassidy might move into a program with him before the rest of the House. From there, we got yet another video chronicling the rivalry between Swerve and Keith Lee.
3. Taya Valkyrie vs. Marina Shafir. The two locked up, but not much came of it. Jade Cargill and her crew walked out onto the stage. Shafir had control briefly, but Valkyrie came back with a kick and a knee and a clothesline for a two-count. Shafir didn’t got away quietly, though, and chopped Valkyrie down. Shafir went for a submission, but Valkyrie slapped Shafir, punched Shafir, and hit the Road To … you know it’s Jaded. Valkyrie got the win.
Taya Valkyrie defeated Marina Shafir via pinfall in 2:37.
After the bell rang, Valkyrie was served papers for using Jaded. Cargill ran to the ring, but Smart Mark and Leila Grey held Jade back. We went to the back, where Lexi interviewed Anna Jay, who said Julia Hart really pissed her off. Jay said pain doesn’t her because she has “a fat ass and a bad attitude.” Jay screamed that she’s going to choke Julia out.
McGuire’s Musings: Let’s work backwards. I can’t say I felt any type of way about the Valkyrie/Cargill program, but AEW has done a good job of heating that up incrementally through the weeks. It’s not lighting the world on fire, but I feel myself getting more invested each week. That was helped this week by Cargill’s attempt to rush Valkyrie with authority. Good stuff there. (Also, let the record show that I’m not a fan of Marina Shafir taking so many losses like this on AEW important television, but I digress). On the other hand, hey. AEW (see what I did there, RJ City?) doesn’t do DQ’s, so I liked it. And if we’re heading toward Buddy winning the International title off Cassidy, I’m OK with that, too. What’s wrong with the HOB holding multiple AEW belts? This is turning out to be one of the very better episodes of Rampage in a lot of weeks and it’s such a shame because of the weekend on which it comes.
When the show returned, we got a pre-tape from Juice Robinson and Mark Henry said it’s time for the main event. Excalibur ran down the card for Dynamite, which will include Juice vs. Starks, Hook vs. Page, Hayter vs. Riho, FTR vs. The Gunns, and the House of Black against Best Friends and Orange Cassidy for the trios titles. Next week is a live Rampage followed by a Battle of the Belts. Hey. Let’s hang out next Friday?
4. Juice Robinson vs. Action Andretti. Andretti started with a quick roll-up and a two-count. Andretti ran at Juice, but Juice landed an elbow and threw Andretti into a corner before hitting some chops. Juice yelled at Andretti, saying he was Ricky Starks and it was funny. Andretti fought back with a splash and a cover for a two-count. From there, we got our final PIP [c].
When things returned, Juice had control and landed a gut-wrench suplex. Andretti fired up with chops, but Juice cut him off with a whip into the corner for a two-count. Juice played to the crowd in a way only Juice does. Andretti tried to come back with a shot to the midsection and a leaping elbow. Andretti landed some kicks that sent Juice to the outside, where Andretti hit a Tope. Andretti landed a springboard moonsault onto Juice on the outside. Inside the ring, Andretti came off the top, and eventually hit a spinning DDT for a good near-fall. Andretti ran at Juice, but Juice hit a leg lariat and a spike DDT (Juice Is Loose) for the win.
Juice Robinson defeated Action Andretti via pinfall in 9:02.
Juice grabbed Andretti and mocked Ricky Starks, but Starks ran to the ring and Juice ran away to end the show.
McGuire’s Musings: You haven’t lived unless you’ve been in the crowd to see Juice Robinson mouth off to a New Japan crowd that only has about 200 people in it and I’ve been very lucky to be in that type of crowd a time or two in my life. I say that only to illustrate that I’m a big believer in Juice and this didn’t disappoint. He’s still doing the schtick and he’s still very good at it, especially considering how weird/entertaining/funny him pretending like Andretti was Starks was through this match turned out to be. The match was fine, but my biggest takeaway was … OK, why did we do what we did with Action Andretti? He made a name for himself in MCW, so I appreciate that, living in Maryland and all, but after that Jericho win, they didn’t really quite know what to do next, now did they? Still, he main-evented here and it was a fine main event. In fact, this was a better-than-fine AEW Rampage and I don’t know if I can even type something like that once a month. But here we are and kudos to the wrestlers for what they did. If you’re an AEW fan, definitely check this whole hour out if you get a free hour over this wrestling-intense weekend. If you aren’t, I promise you’ll still find things to like, so maybe give it a chance with one finger on the fast-forward button, if you so please. Either way, a very fun hour of wrestling for AEW and it’s awfully refreshing. I’ll have more to say, as always, in my audio review.