Photo Credits – AEW
Let me start by saying there was a lot of hype and build up to these shows and they certainly had the momentum going into these two shows in New York but for me after seeing the first show, I don’t feel like AEW hit this one out of the park. They certainly started the show strong and it had its moments but mediocre performances, booking decisions and placement on the card really hurt this show in my opinion. At no point did I consider these shows to be PPV quality like the best PPV of the year, All Out, so I’m not comparing it to that but I am comparing it to a regular episode of Dynamite and I don’t feel like we got much better than that and I think that was a missed opportunity for them. AEW started this week with the bombshell that they made a partnership deal with the Owen Hart Foundation, so after holding the best PPV in a long time in the business not just in AEW and this announcement and the hype surrounding AEW’s two massive shows in NYC was huge. Everything from the video screen ramp to the hot crowd certainly set the mood for a hot big deal feel show.
Opening Contest – Kenny Omega vs Bryan Danielson
This was the wrong match to open the show, I get why they did it because they wanted to start out strong and they likely thought the finish may have hurt the show if they ended with a draw. There was no question that this was the most anticipated match announced for the two shows and a dream match for wrestling fans for a long time. So this should clearly have been the main event of the night because the most anticipated match should always close the show. Now yes it is incredibly questionable giving away this dream match on free TV but the way that they did it somehow worked. Going into this match I didn’t expect a clean finish because doing that wouldn’t have worked in a long term story for a rematch that they want the fans to pay for PPVs to see. I assumed either we would see the Elite interfere allowing Kenny to pick up the win since Tony Khan protects Kenny like no one else or some type of draw, since you want the fans to pay to see more. Tony Khan hates DQs so I knew that was likely not going to be the finish. They allowed these two men to put on an absolute classic and was easily the match of the night. This was essentially a teaser for these two men to battle again and next time perhaps for the title and again a draw finish in this case a time limit draw after 30 minutes actually worked perfectly. If the match went a little longer it was teased that Danielson might have beaten Kenny. Both men looked incredibly strong and makes fans more willing to pay to see them fight again. I especially like that they kept the match itself clean without any outside interference and instead saved it for the end when the Elite came down and attacked an already down Danielson. Then the rundown by the Jurassic Express and Christian to make the save also sets up that 6-man tag for Rampage. To me this was exactly what it needed to be but should have been in the main event spot and the Ruby/Britt match should have opened the show and switched places with this one. Closing the show with this classic I think would have built further anticipation for Rampage and left the fans with the feeling of wanting more and I’m sure some wouldn’t have liked the show to close on a draw finish but overall in my opinion this match could have been a safe match to do that with to close the show.
CM Punk Segment:
Ok going into this show them advertising this live interview with Punk fell really flat with me because it really isn’t a big deal that Punk is going to talk. Punk has talked or had a segment on every show since he debuted in AEW and has already wrestled his first match there at All Out, so hyping this up as an interview about his first TV match in 7 years really isn’t a big deal that the graphic makes it out to be. It wasn’t even an interview, it was Punk in the ring cutting a promo. It was a nice little rah-rah promo to hype up the NYC crowd and to build up hype for his match on Rampage but it wasn’t much more than that in my opinion. You’re never going to re-capture his return promo but as a whole this promo didn’t stand out to me as very memorable.
MJF vs Brian Pillman, Jr.
This matchup had a nice little buildup as MJF did what he does best by being a heel you want to see get beat up and not only insulting his hometown a few weeks ago but making personal attacks at Pillman’s family including his sister and his late legendary father made this match a must see match on the card. To me this is the match that would have greatly benefitted from not having a completely clean finish. Arguably this match and feud is likely to help establish Pillman as a potential up and coming singles star and in my opinion with his father and his own history with the Hart family should set Pillman Jr. up as a favorite to win the Owen Hart Cup assuming he is in the tournament. I think the smart play would have seen Wardlow attacking Pillman behind the refs back and MJF taking advantage and picking up the win. Another option would have been for MJF “injuring” Pillman to pick up the win or possibly refusing to tap out and passing out due to the pain. This would have hugely gotten over with the crowd establishing his toughness and fans would have made comparisons to Austin (his father’s former tag partner) refusing to tap at Wrestlemania 13 with Bret Hart. Having MJF beat Pillman cleanly by submission to me wasn’t the best option to get the most out of extending this feud that should be a long program for both men. This is really a perfect pairing because MJF is so easy to hate and you want to root for Pillman because of his personality and because of who his father is.
Cody Rhodes vs Malakai Black
Out of all the matches scheduled for these shows, this was the match that had the best storyline build up going into it. For me personally, I really like both men but the way Cody carries himself with that over the top entrance has always rubbed me the wrong way. It comes off as arrogant and full of himself and I don’t think that is the tone or appearance you are going for when you are the babyface in the storyline. I know Cody says we don’t have faces and heels but that is complete and other nonsense. The reason wrestling has survived as long as it has is based on one very simple principle it is good vs evil and this feud is no different. In a lot of ways Cody reminds me of Homelander from the Amazon show, The Boys. He even wore similar gear to his costume. Cody and Brandi just come off really bad as faces and there have been comparisons by fans that Cody and Brandi are Triple H and Stephanie wannabes. It certainly didn’t help when Cody praises Hunter in interviews. I’ve never been a fan of Arn Anderson playing the coach role for Cody because it doesn’t make any sense. Cody isn’t a rookie and he is literally a former ROH and NWA World Champion, so why does he need a coach? Arn with the piece of paper every week is also completely ridiculous this isn’t a football game there John Madden that you are calling plays. If you are going to use Arn in this way put him with a young talent that you want to push.
To the match itself it was mediocre at best and the horrible spot with Arn “falling off” the apron then getting knocked off a second time looked completely ridiculous. Arn has been in the ring for over 40 years suddenly doesn’t know how to make a turn on an apron and falls down? It was even worse that the camera completely missed it. Does Brandi show any concern for Arn? Nope. Part of me wonders if this was a botch on Arn’s part because he hopped back on the apron and this time gets knocked off by Cody and suddenly Cody goes to check on him and Brandi again does nothing. I don’t understand why she is out there other than getting herself on TV as she did nothing in this match. If the first fall by Arn was planned it was poorly executed with the camera missing it and served no purpose. I know why they did this to give Black time to get the packet in his mouth for the black mist spot. To me this was the worst match of the night because it had the most potential as a overall package because of the storyline and they failed to deliver in my opinion as both men were capable of so much better. The tough NYC crowd was not fully behind Cody and Brandi and their reality show will likely make people hate them more and after this Black feud is done should seriously consider a heel run and embrace the criticism and go full throttle on the power elite couple that think that they are better than they actually are.
FTR vs Sting and Darby Allin
This to me was the second best match of the night and really helped the show in a big way. FTR has been the best PURE traditional tag team and bring out the best in all their opponents. For my money FTR are the best pure old school tag team. Darby is an incredibly special talent and I knew that the first time i saw him in Evolve years ago. Sting is a legend and AEW has perfectly booked him when he does wrestle it is either in tag team or cinematic matches which helps protect the 62 year old. The days of Sting pulling off a 20 minute solo match are likely gone. The way he is used protects the mystique of the Sting character and the fans get to see the best of Sting without going “why is he still wrestling”. The smoke and mirrors use of Sting couldn’t be better executed. FTR put on a hell of a performance and made their opponents look absolutely amazing. This was a overall solid match and delivered exactly what it should have and the crowd loved it.
Main Event – AEW Women’s Championship – Britt Baker (c) vs Ruby Soho
As I previously stated in this review, I don’t think this match should have closed the show. This is not a knock on either performer but Omega vs Danielson is the more anticipated and bigger drawing dream match. Now this match had a nice little buildup since All Out, with Baker and Soho taking nice little insider shoots on each other. The match itself was ok but certainly wasn’t the strongest match of the night to close the show with in my opinion. Some nights things click and others they don’t and for me I think these women will meet again because there is certainly interest there but as a whole I don’t think this match was as good as I know these women are capable of in the ring.
As a whole, I think the show was more a Double or Triple than a Grand Slam. The show was definitely greatly helped by the very strong Omega vs Danielson and FTR vs Sting and Darby matches. I look forward to see if Rampage Grand Slam is a better show.