We’re just a week away from the biggest Rampage of the year, the now seemingly annual 2 hour Grand Slam offering from Arthur Ashe Stadium. Yours truly has tickets for it so needless to say with less than half the Grand Slam card announced prior to Rampage I was heavily invested in this show. So let’s see what happened and rank it all.
Honorable Mention: Diamante, Eddie Kingston, Ricky Starks and 10. Diamante confronted Jade Cargill backstage and challenged her to a TBS title match at Grand Slam Rampage. This felt veey random as commentary said Diamante has been on a roll but I can’t tell you the last time she wrestled on TV. They can’t count on people watching Dark so this felt forced. But Diamante mentioned having “An OG baddy” and “The Baddest Bitch in the 305” in her corner so that seems to be the real draw here. I can’t for the life of me figure out who that’s in reference to. Valerie Loureda was the first notable name of a “bad” woman from Miami with credibility but she’s signed to WWE now. They could go with Amanda Nunes or somebody like that but that’s Florida not Miami so I’m a bit lost. Maybe it’s somebody from outside of wrestling and MMA but I’m not sure who? Kingston revealed he’s finally facing Guevara next week and he doesn’t hate him because Sammy is only here for fame or is obnoxious with his wife or anything else but because Sammy is a “horrible, rotten human being” Sammy turned his Twitter black and posted the Truman Show bow gif so I’m not sure if he’s going dark on social media for a while, leaving A.E.W. or both but that makes this match even morw interesting. Starks told us he’s finally getting his hands on Hobbs in Arthur Ashe which I hooe gets more time than they got at All Out so they can really show what they can do. 10 makes it because during a backstage segement where Page apologized to the Dark Order and they talked about all being in the Golden Ticket Battle Royal next week Jose the Assistant and Rush approached and said he has to worry about himself and Andrade will help 10 become the star he should be. 10 turning and Full Gear featuring Andrade, Rush & 10 v. Silver, Reynolds and Page could be great!
5. Chris Jericho. Claudio Castagnoli was out with Wheeler Yuta to talk to Tony Schiavone about Grand Slam. He said his title represents honor and the BCC represents excellence. After Wednesday the BCC will have 2 Champions in their ranks and they don’t mind fighting each other because iron sharpens iron. He also said Yuta may have lost his Pure title to Garcia but when you lose you learn. I have a funny feeling we’ll eventually get Garcia in the BCC and Yuta aligned with Jericho to show some more personality. Jericho cut him off and said the J.A.S. is the symbol of excellence in A.E.W. He’s been a 7 time World Champion in WWF, WWE, WCW and AEW but he’s never held the Ring of Honor Championship and he wants the ocho so as I predicted last week he challenged Claudio for a title match at Grand Slam. Claudio accepted and said he’d beat the hell out of him. Claudio’s mic skills have been solid lately and he’s better than he gets credit for. Jericho going after this title elevates it and he and Claudio should be another strong match on what quickly became a loaded Grand Slam line-up.
4. Ethan Page. The Firm’s “All Ego” joined by Stokely Hathaway made short work of Danhausen. After Danhausen teased a curse but instead mocked Page’s smile point taunt Page mocked Danhausen’s curse and hit him with a shoulder block and brutal Ego’s Edge for the 3. Page released Danhausen rather than falling with him to the ground which made it look extra punishing. Commentary reminded us that Page wants the All Atlantic Championship and Dynamite feels a little more predictable but not in a bad way. I assume with Death Triangle getting the trios title and Page knocking out Luigi Primo on Dynamite and beating Danhausen last night the logical progression is Cassidy beating Pac and defending against Page which should be a great match!
3. Penelope Ford. Accompanied by husband Kip Sabian Ford took on Willow Nightingale. Early on Nightingale grabbed Ford’s arm in an armlock and smiled and waved Ford’s hand at the crowd as commentary questioned if she was taking Ford too lightly. I like little things like that. Having built in excuses or “If only…” moments for the losers of matches is something they don’t do enough in wrestling. I forget who exactly he was feuding with at the time, possibly Cena, but I remember Baron Corbin mentioning that he didn’t get to hit End of Days in a match and that was such a simple but logical explanation to me. Willow hit a falling crossbody for 2. She tried a pounce but Ford avoided it to send her crashing into the mat. With Willow on the apron Ford went up and over in the corner to deliver knees to Nightingale. Ford hit a handspring elbow to Willow followed by her licking the side of Willow’s face. That was a strange decision but considering I just met Bushwhacker Luke a few weeks ago I appreciated it. Shockingly the face lick only got a 1 count. Ford did a back bridge to avoid a lariat attempt and hit a stunner on Willow but only got 2. Willow finally hit the Pounce on Ford that sent her into the ropes and then a backslide but only got a 2. Ford hit a half nelson face buster and an Indian Death Lock that forced Willow to tap. I’m a huge fan of Willow Nightingale who I think has great charisma and moves extremely well for her size so I wasn’t crazy about her taking the L but Ford has a lot of untapped potential and the women’s division could use some fresher faces in the mix at the top so I won’t complain too much. We also saw Kip talking to the box near the end of the match to give some slight progress to his character too.
2. Samoa Joe. The ROH TV Champion defended his title against “The Technical Beast” Josh Woods tonight. Ian Riccaboni was on commentary, Paul Turner was the ref and Bobby Cruise did the ring announcing which were all nice touches to make ot feel a little more like an ROH match than a regular AEW contest. They adhered to the code of honor to start the match but Woods was anything but honorable during the contest. Woods held Joe’s arm as Joe whipped him through the ropes which wrenched it over the middle rope. As Turner admonished Woods Nese wrung Joe’s arm over the same rope on the other side of the ring. The former All American wrestler Woods then spent most of the match working over Joe’s arm. Joe tried for a falling side senton which Woods caught and turned into an armbar attempt but Joe fought through. Joe hit a spinning powerslam on Woods for 2. Joe perched Woods in the corner but in an awkwardly timed spot Sterling started to get up on the apron to hold Woods’ leg and then the ref turned towards Nese on the other side. Not sure if that’s on Sterling, Nese or Turner but that was my main nit to pick here. Woods rolled Joe up for 2 and then hit a knee lift and fireman’s carry spun out into a GTS like knee to the face for 2. Joe hit an STO on Woods in the corner and a Muscle Buster for 3. After the match, Nese and Sterling joined Woods in trying to jump Joe but Wardlow came out and Nese and Woods left Sterling alone with the TNT and TV Champs. Wardlow had Sterling set up for a powerbomb but Nese on the floor pulled Mark out by the legs and we were told it’s Wardlow & Samoa Joe v. Nese & Woods next week. Joe and Wardlow had a short stare down before toasting their titles. A unification or winner take all match between these 2 at Full Gear could be fun but in the meantime, I’m sure I’ll enjoy “Smart” Mark Sterling getting obliterated next week.
1. Darby Allin. Darby was up to his usual paralysis-risking ways tonight against Matt Hardy. He tried to hit a Jeff Hardy-like senton bomb to Matt on the apron but Hardy avoided it. Matt followes that up by powerbombing Allin into the ring post and stretching him around it. Darby tried to go up and over Matt Hardy in the corner but Hardy caught him in a nice-looking Side Effect for 2 that he followed up with another in the middle of the ring. Darby turned a Twist of Fate attempt into a backslide foe 2 and then turned a brainbuster attempt from Matt into a Scorpion Death Drop. Hardy flattened Darby with a great looking BT Bomb that I can’t recall ever seeing him pull out before but still only got 2. Darby avoided a moonsault attempt from Matt before landing a Code Red and Last Supper pin for the win. After the match Matt and Darby did a fist bump and as Darby got to the tunnel the lights went out. In the ring Brody King hammered Matt Hardy with a lariat and Julia Hart presented him with a mic. Brody had a tremendous line here where he said Darby and Sting think just because they cut the head off the snake doesn’t mean there’s not still plenty of venom in the fangs. He challenged Sting and Darby to face House of Black in a No DQ tag match on Rampage next week and choked Matt Hardy over the top rope on the apron until they accepted as Hart swept out Matt’s feet to leave him dangling. Sting and Darby accepted and the lights went out only to come back on to them helping Matt and Brody and Julia gone. That match should be great and of the Rampage line-up is a strong option to close the night, especially after the Lights Out tag closed last year though I could also see Hobbs v. Starks, Kingston v. Guevara or the battle royal as the possible last matches depending on what they have planned. It feels like they’d been slowly shifting the spotlight for House of Black on to King over the last month or 2 and now seeing Brody has solid mic chops I hope they get some more regular shine on TV.