AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Dec. 30, 2022): Best Friends collide

AEW Rampage (Dec. 30, 2022) emanated from 1stBank Center in Denver, CO. The New Year’s Smash special featured Best Friends colliding with Orange Cassidy defending the AEW All-Atlantic Championship against Trent Beretta, Jade Cargill facing a former Baddie with the TBS Championship on the line, Swerve Strickland showing Blackpool Combat Club whose house it is, and much more.

Let’s jump right in with a recap of the show followed by reactions.

Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and Paul Wight were on commentary. Dasha Gonzalez handled ring announcer duties.

Rampage opened with an in memoriam graphic for Don West (1963-2022).

AEW All-Atlantic Championship: Orange Cassidy (c) vs. Trent Beretta

Kip Sabian was on commentary taking satisfaction in Best Friends fighting. Chuck Taylor and Danhausen were ringside for support and to clown around a bit. Trent went for a suicide dive and accidentally made contact with Chuck. No worries though. Chuck caught him for a hug.

There were a few stories at play. First was Trent getting annoyed at OC’s antics not to take the match seriously. Another was familiarity, which led to counter defense. One more was a reluctance to hurt a friend. That element showed itself a few times when one friend wouldn’t pull the trigger on the other. The final was Cassidy taking a shortcut to win.

Trent had momentum after a piledriver. Penelope Ford moseyed down to the ring. Trent sensed a trap at play and stopped the action. Cassidy took advantage for a Beach Break. Trent kicked out, so Cassidy finished with a superman punch.

Orange Cassidy defeated Trent Beretta.

After the match, Trent was clearly angry at how Cassidy won. Trent walked to the back without showing any sportsmanship to his friend. Sabian gleefully danced to the ring past Cassidy.

In a clip after Dynamite, Tony Schiavone informed Darby Allin that he was granted a TNT title shot against Samoa Joe next week. Allin was eager to prove all the hometown haters wrong in Seattle. Allin even shoved Sting to question the Icon’s belief in him to win the championship. Sting gave a pep talk that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Allin should only care about his own confidence. Sting advised that Allin will need to dig deep inside to overcome a killer like Joe. Sting closed by telling Allin to shut his mouth and win the belt back. Allin nodded then exited alone.

Kip Sabian vs. Ativa

Sabian’s opponent didn’t get a graphic name, but I believe Excalibur said his name was Ativa. Sabian squashed with a running cannonball and a flying double stomp. Ford handed over Cassidy’s elbow pad, which was left behind, for Sabin to mock the superman punch for victory.

Kip Sabian defeated Ativa.

Preston Vance has a new name, Perro Peligroso (Dangerous Dog). He has no remorse about ditching the Dark Order. If he had known belittling a child would have given him the spotlight, then he would have done it three years ago. Lexy Nair flashed an expression of shock and disgust.

Jon Moxley knew there would be an inevitable showdown against Hangman Page as the top guy in AEW. Mox knocked Hangman into another dimension to prove there is only one top guy. Moxley mocked the idea of ​​Hangman held back by doctors. Mox has been hurt for ten years. Get over it. Moxley will be waiting on January 11 if Hangman shows up for a fight.

Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett will have a tag title bout against the Acclaimed Dynamite. Lethal is sick of waiting. Jarrett plans to end Max Caster’s career after his harsh rap song.

TBS Championship: Jade Cargill (c) vs. Kiera Hogan

Leila Gray and Red Velvet were ringside as Baddies. Jade handled Hogan with ease early for a hard chokeslam and a snap suplex on the floor. On the outside, Gray held Hogan for Jade to slap, but Velvet grabbed Jade’s arm in an act of defiance.

Hogan rallied for a pinfall on a flying crossbody, however, Jade kicked out on the cover. When Hogan set up her finisher, Jade countered for Jaded to win. Velvet exited alone while staring down Jade from a distance.

Jade Cargill defeated Kiera Hogan.

Jamie Hayter and Hikaru Shida beat the piss out of each other. Hayter is using that war to set the tone for her matches going forward. As for Saraya’s partner on January 11, Hayter doesn’t care. She’s confident that she will prevail alongside Dr. Britt Baker DMD.

Mark Sterling decided that Bryan Danielson reached the limit of meddling with his friend, MJF. Tony Nese stepped up as an opponent for Danielson next week.

Mark Henry interviewed the main event participants. Jon Moxley spoke about Wheeler Utah having no fear in his head. The Blackpool Combat Club trains to destroy. Mox threw in a line about Killshot being his favorite wrestler for a few years. Swerve Strickland cut Moxley off. Swerve proved in 2022 that he was the best acquisition of the year. In 2023, he will prove that he is the most violent. Yuta wanted to handle this fight alone and requested that the BCC stay in the back. Enough talk. Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

Swerve Strickland vs. Wheeler Utah

Parker Boudreaux and “mystery tattooed man” were ringside as Mogul Affiliates. Technical wrestling early with Yuta gaining the edge. Swerve’s pals caused a distraction for the mogul to take control. Swerve targeted the knee and lower back. Yuta rallied with a flying elbow strike and a German suplex, but he was too slow to capitalize on the momentum due to the knee pain.

Swerve went back to work focusing on the leg. Yuta fought through the pain for a rally. He charged into the corner but stopped short when his knee buckled. Swerve attacked the injured joint once again. Swerve climbed the corner, and Yuta surprised him with a superplex. Yuta landed hammering elbows on the mat to set up the seat belt pin. Swerve escaped with a dropkick to knock Yuta silly.

When Swerve went for the JML Driver, Yuta delivered a back elbow to get free. The natural motion of Swerve falling backwards caused him to collide with the referee unintentionally. Swerve recognized the window of opportunity and kicked Yuta in the groin. A JML Driver sealed the deal.

Swerve Strickland defeated Utah Wheeler.

Best Friends collide!

Orange Cassidy and Trent Beretta had a dandy of a bout. The layers of intrigue were plentiful. It was interesting to see Trent tolerate OC’s hijinks, even though, he was clearly annoyed at not being taken seriously. Mix in the hesitation to do real damage for that drama to heighten the emotion. Cassidy earned a cheap win, but I’m not entirely sure if he knew Penelope Ford was trifling when he went for the Beach Break. Trent’s exit made me much more interested in seeing that story play out than Cassidy’s future title match against Sabian. I’m not rooting for a Best Friends breakup, however, I’m curious about the tension in the ranks. Trent is a good workhorse, who I’d like to see with a mid-card title at some point. As for Sabian, I can’t say I’m all that interested in him, but I appreciate AEW making the effort to craft a story and provide screen time.

In contrast, AEW dropped the bell setting up Kiera Hogan challenging Jade Cargill for the TBS Championship. By the way Cargill dominated, it was clear that the plan was not to focus on Hogan. That’s fine, but they should have at least given her a promo to hype the bout rather than going in cold. AEW made up for it with the Red Velvet angle. That builds interest in Velvet as a future challenger to Jade’s crown. For the TBS match, I enjoyed it varying from the typical Jade routine in the ring. That chokeslam had extra oomph on it. The win was a dominant performance en route to 46-0.

The main event between Swerve Strickland and Wheeler Yuta was strong. It was a simple story gussied up with flashy style. Attack the knee, rally attempts, sell the knee, and so on. Even though there was cheating for the finish, I like how it was set up as an unplanned spot. Swerve wasn’t actively trying to weasel out with the victory. The opportunity presented itself with the accidental ref bump, and he took advantage. Swerve is continuing to blossom into must-see TV. The trash talk with Jon Moxley has me pumped for that eventual bout, hopefully whenever it’s time for Swerve to earn a breakout win.

Quick thoughts. Sting’s speech was great. He saw through Darby Allin lashing out with insecurity, and papa don’t play that. Sting flipped it into a motivational boost. Preston Vance, or rather Perro Peligroso, cut a promo worthy of inclusion in Los Ingobernables. His ego was large, and his attitude was rude. Does Hangman Page have to be medically cleared for Lights Out? The emphasis on waiting for doctor’s clearance has me wondering if the cowboy chooses that stipulation instead if he can’t get cleared.

Grade: B

Good quality and entertaining action for the opener and closer. The story levels added extra intrigue in a positive way. Promos were focused and effective. If only AEW could just do without the weekly squash match. I suppose it is useful for timing between commercial breaks, but it’s not all that interesting.

Share your thoughts about Rampage. How do you rate it? What were your favorite moments from the show?

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