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    Sunday, February 6, 2022

    The Rampage Report (2/4/22): Fun To Watch

    Ricky Starks and Jay Lethal on AEW Rampage


    This week's Rampage has its work cut out for it as it has to follow up on the monster second hour of last Wednesday's Dynamite—but believe it or not, they actually pull it off, along with the best FTW Championship match we've ever seen in AEW.

    Short match FTW

    The show opens with a quick match between Adam Cole and Evil Uno, because after a 40-minute match you've got to cool down the crowd with something fast. Fortunately, Tony Khan did not feel the need to expend the crowd's energy any further, and Cole beats Uno in a competitive sprint. 


    While WWE and its stars often pull out fast TV matches every week on RAW and SmackDown, this match felt more complete even when it's under AEW's average match time. They still gave it enough time to unfold and blossom into a full story—not that WWE can't do that either, but the problem is short matches have become the norm over there, while this one is a bit of a rarity in AEW outside the YouTube shows.

    After the match, Cole seems to move on from his feud with Orange Cassidy and the Best Friends by calling his shot for the AEW World Championship, which he legitimately has by virtue of being (officially) undefeated since his arrival. This may be a red herring as the way the Lights Out match was written felt like it isn't quite over just yet, plus there's still the issue of the Young Bucks vs. reDRagon lingering about. Let's see what happens next.

    TNT Championship defense FTW

    And because it's apparently a new rule in Rampage that a championship has to be defended every week, we've got a TNT Championship defense against Isaiah Kassidy.


    The name of the game is putting out good TV, and Sammy Guevara vs. Isaiah Kassidy is good TV wrestling. Fans who bemoaned Sammy's lack of selling in last week's ladder match against Cody will be delighted to know that he sells his lingering damage more here, but if you want to think that Sammy's just a "spot monkey," then that's on you.

    Because this is AEW, there's a bigger picture in play for this minor storyline—it's actually to serve a larger thread, as the Andrade-Hardy Family Office try to jump Sammy (presumably because Andrade might want the TV title? Hopefully, since that guy isn't doing much), Darby Allin comes out to help (because Andrade's been trying to steal his "contract" from Sting), and Darby sets his sights on the TNT title he once held. Again, a lot of moving parts thanks to the nature of Tony Khan's storytelling nowadays, but so far, so good.

    First DQ finish... FTW?

    Thunder Rosa vs. Mercedes Martinez has the dubious distinction of being the first AEW match (or first Rampage match) that ends in a DQ finish. Yes, the very same type of finish Vince McMahon likes to employ in many of his stories.


    Mercedes nails Rosa with the lead pipe right in front of the referee, because there's apparently a bounty on Rosa's head. The DQ is such a rare occurrence in AEW that everyone makes a big deal out of it, especially Chris Jericho. I see it as TK finally embracing the fact that sometimes you do have to do a schmozz finish to advance a story; the only difference between this and WWE is that he likely won't overuse it.

    Backstage it's revealed that Britt Baker is the one who hired Mercedes to go after Rosa, not Jade Cargill or Mark Sterling (Mercedes debuted in the semifinals of the TBS Championship tournament). This means the Britt/Rosa feud isn't over yet, and I appreciate that they're giving the players something else to do (and also subtly advance Jamie Hayter/Britt Baker in the background).

    Best FTW match FTW

    Okay, so I wasn't too hyped about the FTW Championship match when it was first announced, as it's kinda tough to be hyped by Jay Lethal nowadays. That all changed when they went out there and rassled the match.


    In this match, Jay Lethal reminded me of why he achieved the success he's achieved in the first place, and Ricky Starks also came correct and did his part to make this a must-see main event. Now, this is not to say that Lethal's good wrestling negates the controversy that hounds him; it's just that he's still a pretty good wrestler. 

    No, the real good thing about it is he isn't given a chance to win and be celebrated, and honestly, that's about the best way to manage him (short of actually letting him go). Ricky Starks gets made as a guy who should actually be holding an official sanctioned AEW title and not just the belt that Taz came to work with one day, but it does go a long way in making the FTW Championship something to watch out for. Might as well legitimize the FTW title as the TV title of the company—even if yes, that move goes against the original spirit of the championship—because as long as it's "unofficial" I'm not going to think of it as legit legit.

    Rampage 2/4/22 Report: It really feels like they're close to polishing the Rampage formula as the most complete and compact hour of AEW television. If, somehow, you're reading this and you don't already watch AEW, please watch this show. A

    Photo from AEW

    *****

    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor-in-Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He gets by in this hard-knock life through working in advertising. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, and he likes taking your wrestling questions over on his Curiouscat account.

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    Item Reviewed: The Rampage Report (2/4/22): Fun To Watch Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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