In football, the most elite QBs can read all three levels of the field on any given play; short, intermediate and deep. A great wrestling promoter should be able to follow a similar idea. They should give you reasons to stay tuned to the show you’re watching, get excited for the show after and reasons to care even beyond that next show. Tony Khan does just that. Tonight’s Rampage helped sell Full Gear 24 hours later, set up stories for the weeks ahead of Full Gear and delivered a fun 60 minutes of stand alone TV all at once. So let’s get to the rankings.
Honorable Mention: Jade Cargill, Eddie Kingston and C.M. Punk: Cargill got a quick win over Santana Garrett catching a handspring elbow into a Glam Slam before brawling with Red Velvet after the match when Velvet speared her and sent Cargill’s one year anniversary cake into the face of Mark Sterling. Kingston and Punk exchanged verbal barbs in a taped segment. Eddie said Punk is fooling everyone who thinks he’s “helping the younger guys” and that he’s wanted to fight him for years, anywhere, not just in the ring. Punk had the line of the night though when he said it’s not about how he’s going to beat Eddie it’s about how Eddie is going to beat himself. Because by his own admission that’s Eddie’s life story; all of the talent, none of the work.Â
5: Bobby Fish: I didn’t initially understand the need for him in AEW. To me, he felt like the old guy from Undisputed Era who was hurt all the time but had a cool moustache. I enjoyed him with O’Reilly when he was healthy but I never saw the value in bringing him in as a stand alone act. Thankfully AEW found a way to make him a singles guy without having to stand alone. Tonight furthered the story of him functioning as a hitman for his former stablemate as he took his match with Jungle Boy as an opportunity to weaken him for the 6 man tag at Full Gear. Fish methodically worked over the shoulder the entire match using the apron, post and barricade and while he took the loss he accomplished his goal of putting a huge bullseye on one of Cole’s opponents at Full Gear. Unfortunately for Fish he was hung out to dry as Cole left him for dead when Christian and Luchasaurus came out to save Jungle Boy from a post-match beatdown at the hands of 2/4 former Undisputed Era members. Despite Fish taking the loss and eating a Killswitch I do want to see more of Fish interacting with the Super Kliq.Â
4: Jungle Boy: He managed to survive the onslaught from the mustachioed mercenary but at what cost? Jungle Boy left with a shoulder much worse for wear than he entered with but he fought through through the pain and came out on top by catching a kick from Fish and turning it into a snaretrap. Fish tapped out as he was passing out to really sell how much of a threat Jungle Boy is despite the bad wing. Luckily the bad wing is all he suffered because Cole and Fish had him set-up for a conchairto before Luchasaurus and Christian made the save. This 6 man match should be a hoot!Â
3: Tay Conti: AEW hasn’t done the best job building this women’s title match. Conti has largely come across like an afterthought and just another name to pad Baker’s record. Statlander, Soho, Shida and Rosa are all more interesting opponents in my opinion but they did what they could to rectify that tonight with a well done video package for Conti. We saw Conti training in her gi wearing her judo blackbelt as she landed some throws and submission attempts and her accomplishments in martial arts were touted. Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. got the final word when she said she could have whatever color belts she wants because the belt Britt has is all that mattered but this still did more to sell Conti as credible than anything on TV recently.Â
2: Dante Martin: Minnesota’s own Martin got to wrestle another hometown guy in the debuting 205 Live veteran Ariya Daivari and the crowd was on fire for both of these guys. The crowd gave these guys a “This is awesome!” chant before they even really heated up and chanted the Minneapolis area code “612!” as well. Martin and Daivari did their part going 100 m.p.h. despite getting somewhat limited time. I’ve mentioned before that little thoughtful things in wrestling impress me as much as giant flips and this match had both. At one point Martin didn’t duck a lariat but instead kicked through the arm as he was running to the ropes. But Dante being Dante hit his bottom rope springboard side dodge followed by jumping clean to the top rope and delivering a splash to Daivari outside. Martin got the win with his double jump moonsault. Martin got the win despite Rush being home with his family to mourn the passing of his Grandmother. Team Taz took full advantage of Martin being left alone when Starks got on the mic to offer him a spot in Team Taz, Hobbs presented him with a contract to join and Hook, showing just how young both he and Martin are, calling back to any H.S. friendship in any cafeteria in the country, offered Martin some of the chips (or whatever snack it was) he was eating. My assumption is we get Martin & Rush v. Starks & Hobbs in the near future but we could also conceivably see a story where Martin join his third mentor in as many months and either continues to struggle to be his own man without Darius or continues to rise to stardom under Team Taz and is conflicted when Darius returns. It’s always a good thing for stories to have multiple interesting routes they could go.Â
1: Matt Hardy: Big Money Matt shouldn’t be beating many people clean at 47 years old but I don’t mind him outsmarting and outscheming his opponents to get wins and that’s exactly what he did tonight in his lumberjack match with Orange Cassidy. The months long rivalry was supposed to come to a close in this match. Orange Cassidy said as much before the meeting. And for a while it felt like it might. Hardy showed his brain’s as big as his bag right off the bat when he offered $20,000 to any lumberjack who knocked out Cassidy. Needless to say mayhem broke out as the lunberjacks fought amongst themselves to start the match knowing such a prize was at stake. With The Butcher and Marq Quen absent Kassidy, The Bunny and The Blade joined Matt and tried multiple times to get involved and target Cassidy’s bad ribs. Cassidy’s best friends Chuck Taylor, Wheeler Yuta and Kris Statlander did what they could to even the odds though. At one point while Cassidy was being jumped outside Yuta & Taylor hit stereo dives throgh the ropes to save him and Cassidy ran through the ring and dove on to the lumberjacks on the other side. We then saw a chaotic sequence near the end of the match as Kassidy sent Orange off the top to the mat, Blade tried to attack but got cut off by Yuta with an Olympic Slam, Kassidy nailed Yuta with a pump kick, Taylor piledrove Yuta and Matt Hardy hit the Twist of Fate on Taylor. Matt then tried to lock in The Leech on Cassidy but Orange countered it with a Beach Break! Orange then went from rope to rope hitting Orange Punches on each heel that got on the apron. Statlander took out The Bunny as she tried to cut Cassidy off but this presented the opportunity for the Blade to hit Cassidy with the brass knuckles giving Hardy the win. After the match Matt locked in The Leech on Cassidy and The Blade knocked out Yuta and Taylor with the brass knucks and The Bunny did the same to Statlander. The show ended with The Hardy Family Office standing tall making us believe despite Orange Cassidy’s wishes before the match this isn’t over. Despite having a 10 man Street Fight and 6 man Falls Count Anywhere match on the PPV I’d love to see this culminate in a big 10-12 peron brawl of some sort, maybe even Blood & Guts 2 with The Hardy Family Office (Hardy, Butcher, Blade, Bunny and Private Party) v. The Best Friends (Cassidy, Taylor, Yuta, Statlander, Trent and ?)Â