By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW Rampage (Episode 88)
Taped April 12, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at Panther Arena
Aired April 14, 2023 on TNT
This one is dedicated to those of us who watched the “Love Is Blind” season 4 weddings today and cannot wait for the reunion show to air this weekend. Anyway, Jim Ross welcomed everyone in and he was joined on commentary by Excalibur and Tony Schiavone. There were no entrances and we went right to the ring where the bell rang for the first match.
1. Aussie Open vs. Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor for the IWGP Tag Team Titles. Fletcher and Trent began, but Davis tagged in quickly and Trent worked a side head-lock on him. Davis shoulder-blocked the hell out of Trent and Fletcher tagged in. Trent telegraphed a double-team move and Trent landed a DDT on Davis. Trent came off the top and hit a cross-body onto Fletcher for a two-count.
Action spilled outside, where Aussie Open landed stereo slams on Taylor and Trent before running around the ring and slamming Taylor and Trent into one another. Back in the ring, Aussie Open kept control on Trent, complete with a Senton from Davis. Davis and Fletcher passed Trent back and forth to eventually hit a suplex. Fletcher got a two-count out of it and we went to our first PIP [c].
Back from break, Davis caught Trent, who leapt off the top. Fletcher hit a cutter for a two-count. Davis and Taylor fought outside and Taylor threw Davis into the ring steps. Inside the ring, Trent went for a super-plex on Fletcher, and Trent landed it with some help from Taylor. Trent and Taylor hit a double choke-slam on Davis and then Trent and Taylor hugged. Trent and Taylor hit a Doomsday Knee-Strike for a two-count.
Fletcher came back with a spinning Tombstone on Taylor. From there, Davis hit an absolutely wild piledriver on Trent. Aussie Open then hit their finisher on Taylor to get the win.
Aussie Open defeated Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta via pinfall in 9:25.
After the match, we went right backstage where Jeff Jarrett’s team met. Mark Briscoe was included and Briscoe had a lot of questions. Sanjay told Mark that he’s just like Jarrett because they both like fishing and such. Sanjay had a new shirt with the new team on it and Sonjay put it on Briscoe. Briscoe eventually took it off and threw it at a locker. We went back to the ring, where Schiavone introduced FTR.
Cash Wheeler spoke first and he said it took them two years and five months to get the AEW tag titles back. Cash said there’s speculation about FTR’s future and Cash said AEW is stuck with FTR for another four years. Cash said they are still All Elite. Cash said the fans never gave up on them and the new contract is about what they’re going to do. Cash said once the next four years are done, FTR will be done with wrestling. Dax talked about how people aren’t supposed to like them. Dax joked about FTR’s good looks and chiseled bodies. Dax said this is their redemption story. Dax said they’ve fought and that’s why they’re where they are now. The crowd chanted “FTR!” Dax said they are going to repay the fans with one last ride for the next four years.
From there, we went backstage, where we got an interview with Jeff Hardy, who said it feels amazing to be back. Jeff said he’s been slowly crawling out of his one personal hell. Jeff said it’s good to be back. Matt Hardy spoke and said they are ready for their match against The Firm. Matt then announced there’s going to be a Firm Deletion match at the Hardy Compound.
McGuire’s Musings: The opening match was very good and you can call me biased due to my love for Aussie Open, but even objectively, that was one of the better Rampage tag openers in recent memory (not that there’s been many). There were some impressive strength spots that you just have to see to believe – especially a particularly wild sequence from Davis and Trent. There was no way Aussie Open was going to lose, considering how early they are in their title run, but the lack of surprise didn’t hurt the match. As for the FTR promo, anyone who accidentally crossed headlines this week might have seen that they resigned with AEW, but what I forgot was that they have been saying or a while now that their next contract would be their last when it comes to full-time pro wrestling. So, this could be fun. Four years seems like a lot, but four years can also be a hell of a ride.
2. Mark Briscoe, Jay Lethal, Jeff Jarrett, and Satnam Singh vs. Luther, Angelico, Jake Manning and Serpentico. Manning and Briscoe started the match, but Jarrett interfered, which annoyed Briscoe. Luther and Angelico tried to interfere, but Jarrett put an end to that. Singh then lifted Serpentico and threw Serpentico to the outside. Singh choke-slammed Manning and Briscoe went to the top to hit the elbow from the top for the win.
Mark Briscoe, Jay Lethal, Jeff Jarrett and Satnam Singh defeated Luther, Angelico, Jake Manning and Serpentico via pinfall in 2:01.
After the match, we got a video package chronicling the Blackpool Combat Club and The Elite. We went right back to the ring, where Taya Valkyrie made her entrance.
3. Taya Valkyrie vs. Emi Sakura. The crowd cheered for Sakura when her name was announced, even though she didn’t get a televised entrance. Sakura chopped Valkyrie and Valkyrie came right back with a chop of her own. The two slapped each other’s faces and Valkyrie hit a shoulder-block to take Sakura down. Valkyrie landed a back elbow and a lariat before firing up. Valkyrie hit a double-knee strike for a two-count. Sakura bit Valkyrie and tried to lift Valkyrie, but Valkyrie blocked it and clotheslined Sakura for a two-count. Valkyrie went for the Road To Valhalla, but Jade Cargill appeared at the top of the ramp to distract Valkyrie. Valkyrie and Cargill jawed at each other until Sakura grabbed Valkyrie and slammed her before we got our next PIP [c].
McGuire’s Musings: The eight-man match was fine, but I’m not sure I buy into this Briscoe/Jarrett’s team story. I understand the weird “Briscoe got bamboozled into this” angle, but … why? I hope there’s a satisfying payoff because right now, it feels aimless. I’m happy to be wrong, though. It just seems like there could be a much more affecting way to use Briscoe, especially after he took that loss against Samoa Joe at Supercard.
Back from break, Sakura had control and ran Valkyrie into the ring steps. Sakura then landed a splash before rolling Valkyrie back into the ring, where Valkyrie came right back and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two-count. Back on their feet, Sakura slapped the hell out of Valkyrie, but Valkyrie responded with a strong spear. Valkyrie then landed the Road To Valhalla.
Taya Valkyrie defeated Emi Sakura via pinfall in 8:34.
After the match, Leila Gray received a Road To Valhalla. Cargill stepped into the ring and brawled with Valkyrie. Valkyrie tried to lift Cargill for a Road To Valhalla, but Gray interfered. After that, Cargill actually landed Jaded on Valkyrie. From there, we got a Dralistico vs. Vikingo video because that match will happen on next week’s Rampage. We went back to the ring, where Matt Menard, Jake Hager and Angelo Parker rapped. Menard started and talked about his nipples being hard. Parker rapped that The Acclaimed were adopted. Hager rapped awkwardly and ended with talking about his hat. The Acclaimed’s music then hit and Max teased rapping, but instead ran into the ring and attacked the JAS. Gunn got scissors and teased cutting Menard’s hair, but JAS pulled Menard away. The Acclaimed challenged them to a match on Dynamite.
McGuire’s Musings: I’m not so sure I agree with Jade and Taya getting their hands on each other before meeting up in a match. This makes me wonder if this means Taya will be the one to dethrone Jade … because gosh-darn-it, AEW brought Taya, who is great, into the company just to work a feud based solely on sharing a finishing move before losing and being dominated in the weeks leading up to said loss? I don’t know. I’m not sure I would have booked it this way, but then again, that’s why I’m typing this and not sitting backstage with a headset on my head. The JAS/Acclaimed stuff was fun – especially considering Hager’s completely unsurprising lack of rhythm – but we’re nearing the expiration date on that feud.
When the show returned, we got a real, live split-screen Mark Henry segment. Jack Perry said he’s here to move a step closer to MJF and getting his title. Spears interrupted Perry and said he was gone because he had a baby boy. Spears said he’s not longer friends with MJF. Spears said he and Perry are chasing the same thing. Mark Henry said it’s time for the main event. Wardlow and Hobbs will face off for the TNT title on Wednesday. Adam Cole and Chris Jericho will confront each other and Jay White vs. Kommander will happen on Dynamite. Next week’s Rampage will feature Vikingo vs. Dralistico. We went back to the ring for the main event.
4. “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry vs. Shawn Spears. The crowd seemed to be into Spears and Spears brought out a “10” sign that he pulled out of his trunks. The two shook hands and then locked up. Spears rolled up Perry and then did the “10” thing, but Perry slapped the hell out of Spears and took control. Perry then mocked the “10” thing. The two went outside and Spears kicked Perry in the leg. Perry came back with a kick of his own and threw Spears into the guardrail. Videos of Guevara and Allin watching the match were shown. Spears threw Perry over the guardrail and we got our last PIP [c].
Back from break, Spears placed Perry on the top and chopped him. Spears went for a super-plex, but Perry fought out of it and hit a cross-body for a two-count. Perry fired up, but Spears cut him off with a big boot. Perry equaled things out with a lariat and the two were down. Perry was on the apron and landed an enziguri. Spears responded with a draping DDT and a two-count. Spears went for a C-4, but Perry reversed into a leaping flat-liner for a two-count. Perry rolled Spears up, but Spears came back with a back-breaker. Spears went for a roll-up, but Perry countered with a roll-up of his own and got the win because of it.
“Jungle Boy” Jack Perry defeated Shawn Spears via pinfall 9:03.
After the match, Spears and Perry shook hands as the show ended.
McGuire’s Musings: As has been pointed out on this website in past AEW reviews, it’s hard not to know who’s winning these matches that include Perry, Allin and Guevara as we so clearly march toward a four-way between the pillars of the company, but in the meantime … hey, it was nice to see Shawn Spears again. It didn’t feel like Spears will be sticking around in a more consistent roll – and I’m also not so sure that the whole “10!” gimmick is the way to go at this point – but he can still wrestle, and he was a good dancing partner for Jungle Boy on this night. All told, this isn’t an episode of Rampage you have to see, but it’s one that wouldn’t waste your time, which, as it goes, is a victory in and of itself. With the NBA and NHL playoffs now kicking into full gear, I’m interested to see how much thought they put into some of these Rampage shows. Only time will tell. For now, I’ll have more to say in my audio review.