By Don Murphy, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@DonThePredictor)
AEW Rampage “Grand Slam” (Episode 111)
Taped September 20 in Queens, New York at Arthur Ashe Stadium
Aired September 22, 2023 on TNT
[Hour One] The Rampage opening aired. Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and Ian Riccaboni were on commentary…
1. Sting and Darby Allin (w/Nick Wayne) vs. Christian Cage and Luchasaurus. Both teams received televised entrances. Darby Allin attacks Luchasaurus while Sting goes after Christian. The bell rings and the action spilled to the floor with all four battling around the ringside area. Luchasaurus ran Darby into the ringpost. Sting and Nick Wayne got him back into the ring as the heels took the advantage. Darby hit a springboard elbow on Christian and tried to make the hot tag to Sting who was knocked off the apron by Luchasaurus. The show went to a picture-in-picture break. [C]
The heels maintained the advantage. Luchasaurus hit a chokeslam for a near fall that was broken up by Sting. Christian missed a diving headbutt and Darby was able to make the hot tag. Sting cleaned house for a bit on both heels. Christian accidentally splashed Luchasaurus in the corner allowing Sting to hit a double “Stinger Splash” on both. Sting hit a Scorpion Death Drop on Christian as Darby tangled with Luchasaurus.
Sting and Darby hit a combination Scorpion Death Drop and Coffin Drop on Luchasaurus. Darby tagged in and dropkicked Christian into the corner a Sting fought Luchasaurus on the outside. Christian attempted his Killswitch finisher on Darby but Nick Wayne jumped up on the apron. Darby rolled up a distracted Christian for the win. After the match, the heels and babyfaces stared each other down.
Sting and Darby Allin defeated Christian Cage and Luchasaurus in roughly 8:00.
Don’s Take: This was a fun opener which served as a nice hook for the Triple Threat match for the TNT Championship tomorrow night on Collision. The announcers are starting to question why Luchasaurus allows Christian to walk around with his title. While I think it’s a long time before Luchasaurus snaps, it’s nice that they are slowly starting to plant the seeds. And while the match included brawling elements, Sting didn’t take any dangerous and unnecessary risks which was refreshing.
2. Orange Cassidy, Hook, and Kris Statlander vs. Matt Menard, Angelo Parker, and Anna Jay (w/Jake Hager). Hook initially faced off with Menard who immediately tagged out to Parker. Hook executed takeovers on both Menard and Parker. Menard tagged out to Jay who had to face off with Statlander. Both exchanged holds while Menard and Parker distracted the referee. This allowed Hager to knock Cassidy off the ring apron. Menard attacked Hook on the floor, giving the heels the advantage. Menard and Parker worked over Hook as the show went to a picture-in-picture break. [C]
Hook made the hot tag to Cassidy, who went after Menard and Parker. Cassidy put his hands in his pockets and dropkicked both. Cassidy then dove onto Hager on the floor. In the ring, the babyfaces hit a triple suplex on the heels. Menard and Parker threw Cassidy out of the ring.
Hook hit T-Bone suplexes on Menard and Parker. Jay distracted the referee which allowed Hager to clothesline Hook. Cassidy knocked Hager off the apron with an “Orange Punch.” Jay jumped on to Cassidy’s back. Statlander grabbed her and slammed her down. Hook cinched his Redrum finisher on Menard while Cassidy hit the “Orange Punch on Parker for the win.
Orange Cassidy, Hook, and Kris Statlander defeated Matt Menard, Angelo Parker, and Anna Jay in roughly 10:00.
Don’s Take: This match was fine for what it was. Initially, Orange Cassidy’s style wasn’t for me, but his run with the International Title won me over. I hope they can still find meaningful programs for him and that he’s not relegated to these types of matches that go nowhere. And there was a time that Hook was deemed the next big thing. I’m not sure what happened to that but he’s another one I’d like to see elevated.
We went to everyone’s favorite segment – QTV. Harley Cameron did her impersonation of a hot dog. Johnny TV emerged and asked Aaron Solo and Cameron if they enjoyed their trip to Montreal. Solo said he wasn’t invited. Johnny introduced footage of QT Marshall defending the AAA Latin American Championship courtesy of Lutte Académie. Johnny said QT was looking for a tag team partner for next week – someone he can trust. Solo thought it was him but Johnny said it was him. Solo looked dejected…
Don’s Take: I’ll take a Johnny TV/QT Marshall tag team match over QTV any day.
In the ring, Tony Schiavone brought out Don Callis and Konosuke Takeshita. Tony mentioned how much the fans hate Callis. Callis started to speak and was booed heavily. Callis said a few weeks ago the wrestling world was abuzz about his pursuit of Chris Jericho. He didn’t end up with Jericho but he ended up with who he really wanted. He introduced Sammy Guevara as the newest member of the Don Callis family.
Guevara came out wearing a tropical shirt. He shook hands with Callis and Takeshita. Schiavone questioned why Guevara would call Callis family. Guevara said he couldn’t hear over the boos. He said he hated Callis for a long time and about as much as the fans hated him. He said he thought Callis was trying to rip apart his family, but he realized that Callis was trying to show him that he never really had one – until now. The two embraced.
Guevara rhetorically asked why he turned on Chris Jericho on Dynamite. He said that for the past four years, Jericho has been holding him back and took him for granted, just like the fans. Last year, he said the fans were behind him and now they boo him. Sammy said he’s done looking for the fans’ approval. He said he has a hot wife at home, a beautiful baby girl and a fat paycheck. He said Chris Jericho is dead to him and he never wants to see him again.
Chris Jericho made his entrance and went right after the heels. Jerihco got the upper hand on Guevara. Takeshita took Jericho down with a chair shot and both Guevara and Takeshita took turns beating Jericho with the chair. They held Jericho for Callis who was about to stab Jericho with the screwdriver when Kenny Omega ran out to clear the heels from the ring. Omega and Jericho stared each other down to end the segment… [C]
After the break, Alex Marvez interviewed Kenny Omega said he didn’t save Chris Jericho because he cared about his safety. He said that this is about Omega taking care of Callis. Chris Jericho entered and said he appreciated Omega coming out and said that AEW was built on their rivalry.
Jericho said Callis never thought that the match he put together in Tokyo would unite to take him out. He called Guevara a Judas and challenged the Callis Family to face him, Omega and Kota Ibushi at WrestleDream on October 1. Omega said WrestleDream would be a “Wrestle Nightmare” and that Callis would look like Freddy Kruger when they’re done…
Don’s Take: A solid segment aside from the fact that Jericho initially ran out with no backup which is the classic “dumb babyface” mood. It will be interesting to see who Callis gets as their third. Sammy’s first promo with Callis didn’t blow the roof off but he’s now properly slotted as a heel.
3. ‘The Righteous” Vincent and Dutch vs. Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy vs. “Best Friends” Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor vs. “The Kingdom” Mike Bennett and Matt Taven in a four-way tag team match for a shot at the ROH Tag Team Titles at the WrestleDream pay-per-view. The Hardys squared off with the Righteous while the Kingdom faced the Best Friends. The action went to the floor as Taven dove onto the pile. The Best Friends hugged in the run and dove onto the pile outside. The show went to picture-in-picture break. [C]
Taven and Beretta were down. Matt Hardy and Vincent tagged in and Hardy took over on offense. The Hardys hit double team moves on Vincent and prevented Dutch from making the save. Jeff attempted a pin on Vincent that was broken up by Dutch. Dutch then hit sidewalk slams on both Hardys and Mike Bennett. Beretta hit Vincent with a dropkick and followed up with a back suplex on Dutch, Taven took out Beretta while Taylor hit a thrust kick on Taven.
Bennett hit a low blow on Taylor. The Kingdom hit their “Hail Mary” spike piledriver finisher on Taylor but the pin was broken up by Beretta. Jeff Hardy hit a “Twist of Fate” and “Swanton Bomb” on Taylor but Vincent tagged himself in without Hardy’s knowledge. Dutch pulled Hardy out of the ring and Vincent hit Taylor with his own Swanton Bomb for the win. After the match, the Kingdom attacked the Best Friends on the floor to end the first hour.
“The Righteous” Vincent and Butch defeated Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy, “Best Friends” Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor, and “The Kingdom” Mike Bennett and Matt Taven in about 10:00 to earn an ROH Tag Title shot at WrestleDream.
Don’s Take: As one would expect, this was nonstop action from the beginning. It’s nice to see the Righteous get moved into a title match, though I don’t see them having a shot to win. They’ll likely be used as fodder to continue the MJF-Adam Cole storyline. And with Cole’s injury, who even knows if this match will take place as scheduled.
[Hour Two] A pre-taped Mike Santana promo aired. He talked about his injury and road to recovery. He said for 30 days he wondered where his life went. He added that he survived too much to piss it all away. He said he’s hungrier than ever and that everyone is food. He said he’ll put anyone down who gets in between him and his money or his ability to feed his daughter. He said for anyone that didn’t like it “F— You! Fight me or fire me!” He said that his opponents have two options, they can get down or lay down…
Don’s Take: More good stuff from Santana and I look forward to his in-ring return.
4. Billy Gunn and “The Acclaimed” Max Caster and Anthony Bowens vs. “The Dark Order” Evil Uno, John Silver, and Alex Reynolds for the AEW Trios Titles. Max Caster rapped about being in New York, the Dark Order being the cure for sleep disorders, the faction being left with the three worst members, and the Dark Order being laid up like Aaron Rodgers – ouch.
Reynolds started off against Caster and grabbed a side headlock. After some chain wrestling, the heels took over. Caster eventually brought Silver into his corner and tagged in Bowens. He maintained the advantage and tagged in Gunn. After hitting several double team moves, the Acclaimed set up for their “Scissor Me Timbers” move which broken up by Reynolds. The show went to “picture-in-picture” break with the heels in control over Caster. [C]
The heels continued to work on Caster for several minutes coming out of the break. Caster eventually backdropped Reynolds and got a near fall before tagging out to Gunn. Gunn cleaned house for several minutes while Caster and Bowens hit the “Mic Drop” on Reynolds for a near fall broken up by Silver. With the referee distracted, Uno hit Caster with one of the title belts for a near fall. The babyfaces recovered and hit Reynolds with a variation of a “Magic Killer” for the win.
Billy Gunn and “The Acclaimed” Max Caster and Anthony Bowens defeated “The Dark Order” Evil Uno, John Silver, and Alex Reynolds to retain the AEW Trios Titles in roughly 10:00.
Don’s Take: What a difference a year makes. Maybe it was the sound on my TV but the crowd was not as hot for the Acclaimed as they were last year. As I’ve said, the scissoring act is slowly starting to get old and something new is needed.
5. Julia Hart (w/Brody King) vs. Skye Blue. The match went back and forth for the first several minutes heading into the picture-in picture break. [C] Blue gained momentum but was eventually thwarted by Hart who performed a moonsault coming out of a spider walk in the corner which I assume was a tribute to Bray Wyatt. Hart made Blue tap out with her “Heartless” submission hold. After the bell, she applied the hold again and was run off by Willow Nightingale…
Julia Hart defeated Skye Blue in roughly 7:00.
Don’s Take: If they’re trying to build up Hart to be a top contender for Kris Statlander, this wasn’t the showcase win needed. She shows potential in the ring but at this point, there’s no reason to believe she’s in line to win the title.
Bullet Club Gold was backstage where Jay White cut a brief promo plugging his match with Andrade El Idolo on Collision…
6. Mike Santana vs. Bear Boulder. Boulder got some brief offense in but was completely dominated by Santana. Santana finished Boulder off with a double underhook Dominator variation. After the match Satana had a stare down with Ortiz.
Mike Santana defeated Bear Boulder in roughly 2:00.
Don’s Take: A simple and effective to start the reboot. I’m looking forward to seeing more and really hope AEW doesn’t rush to the showdown with Ortiz.
Mark Henry previewed the main event while Excalibur ran down the Collision card. He also noted the matches already signed for WrestleDream, as well as the Swerve Strickland/Adam Page contract signing for Dynamite.
7. Hangman Page and “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson vs. Brian Cage and “The Gates of Agony” Bishop Kaun and Toa Liona (w/Prince Nana) for the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles. A brawl to start before Page squared off with Cage. The babyface trio took turns hitting double and triple team moves on the heels. Swerve Strickland’s music played and he came out to distract the babyfaces. This allowed Mogul Embassy to gain the advantage on Nick Jackson as the show went to the final picture-in-picture break. [C]
Matt tagged in Adam Page who took over on Cage. Strickland remained at the top of the entrance ramp. Cage attempted a power move from the ropes but Page countered with a huracanrana. The Bucks then re-emerged and hit superkicks on the heels. The heels hit simultaneous power moves for a neat fall on Page.
The heels worked over Page and got a near fall that was broken up by the Young Bucks. After another series of superkicks by the Bucks, Page hit a double “Buckshot” Lariat on the Gates of Agony followed his Deadeye finisher on Cage for a near fall. He went for a “Buckshot” Lariat on Cage, but Cage ducked and Page came face to face with Strickland who was on the apron. Cage remained dazed and Page rolled him up for the win.
Hangman Page and “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson defeated. Brian Cage and “The Gates of Agony” Bishop Kaun and Toa Liona to win the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Titles roughly in 13:00.
Don’s Take: While AEW has too many titles under its umbrella, I did like the bit of credibility it brought to the Gates of Agony. With this loss, here’s hoping Kaun and Liona move to the tag team division while Cage works more as a single. I can’t say I’m that intrigued by Page and Strickland, but let’s see what Wednesday brings.
This was a better than normal episode of Rampage due to the Grand Slam name. It did taper off at times and the crowd fell silent. I was also surprised, given the likely small uptick in audience that they didn’t do more to push Collision. With college football season upon us, Collision needs all the help it can get.