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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Dec. 25, 2021): Cody is king

AEW Rampage (Dec. 25, 2021) emanated from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. The Christmas night show featured Cody Rhodes back atop his throne as new TNT champion, Hook tenderizing bear meat, as well as Jungle Boy and Kris Statlander on the winning track.

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

Excalibur, Taz, and Ricky Starks were on commentary. Justin Roberts handled ring announcer duties.

Jungle Boy vs. Isiah Kassidy

Jungle Boy entered heavily taped around the midsection and thigh from overtraining. Kassidy scored the first ass pounding with a cutter pulling Jungle Boy’s throat across the top rope. Kassidy followed with a sweet corkscrew crossbody to the outside and a slingshot senton back into the ring.

Jungle Boy rallied with a lariat and fisherman driver. Kassidy shot back for a poison rana, but JB recovered to execute a belly-to-belly overhead suplex into the corner and a bridging German suplex. The action spilled outside again on a suicide dive from Jungle Boy.

Christian Cage and Luchasaurus had been ringside, but they weren’t very effective in preventing physical interference from HFO until the end. Christian socked up Marq Quen, Luchasaurus chokeslammed Jora Johl, then Christian speared Matt Hardy.

Jungle Boy was on the apron watching the shenanigans unfold. He turned his attention to Kassidy for a slingshot sunset flip transitioning to the Snare Trap submission for victory.

Jungle Boy defeated Isiah Kassidy.

Ricky Starks called out Dante Martin for his treachery towards Team Taz.

Miro was still in the white void, where he is healing himself. He is angry with his god for keeping him from his hot, flexible wife. Miro will return without flaws to become champion. His god doesn’t have the balls to stop him. The Redeemer will break all his opponents.

Hook vs. Bear Bronson

Hook shot for a takedown and pounded body shots in the corner. Bronson used his size to return fire with a sitdown piledriver. Hook felt no pain and rose to his feet. Hook exploded for a clothesline, northern lights suplex, high collar suplex, and tenderizing blows to soften up the bear for a RedRum Tazmission.

Hook defeated Bear Bronson.

Tony Nese was front row watching Hook win. He appeared to be intrigued by the rookie’s skills.

Eddie Kingston wasn’t mad about Daniel Garcia stealing a pin by grabbing his tights. He actually respected Garcia for doing what he had to do to win. Kingston is bringing Santana & Ortiz for a six-man tag next week. Garcia replied that he’s figured Kingston out. He implied that the next match will be no different.

Kris Statlander vs. Leyla Hirsch

The bout began as a friendly exhibition but quickly turned into an aggressive fight after Statlander mocked Hirsch’s size. Statlander scored a delayed vertical suplex. Hirsch focused on armbar offense. Down the stretch, Hirsch slapped Statlander hard across the face. That fired up the alien for a high kick and blue thunder bomb. Hirsch hit a German suplex, but Statlander was too much to handle in the end. The alien blasted a running boot, connected on a reverse body slam, and finished with a spider crab submission. Afterward, Statlander extended her hand. Hirsch slapped it away and exited the ring.

Kris Statlander defeated Leyla Hirsch.

Mark Henry interviewed the main event participants. He wondered how Cody would be affected with so many outside endeavors on his plate. Arn Anderson answered with words for Sammy Guevara. He warned Sammy not to pick a fight with a man that is already pissed off. Sammy chirped back about being overlooked as TNT champ. He’s not the same kid that wrestled Cody on the first episode of Dynamite. Sammy is champ now, and Cody is the one that needs to step up. Enough talk. Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

David Crockett was ringside to present the winner with the TNT title.

TNT Championship: Sammy Guevara (c) vs. Cody Rhodes

Guevara attacked with a dropkick at the sound of the bell. After he clotheslined Cody out of the ring, the veteran took time to regroup on the outside. Sammy was a step too quick, so Cody took him down to grind out energy. Cody had momentum after a delayed vertical suplex, but he took too long climbing the turnbuckles and missed on a moonsault. Guevara rallied with a double springboard cutter. The champ went for the killshot on a Cross Rhodes, however, Cody smartly rolled out of the ring after impact.

Sammy kept up the pace for a double springboard 450 flying attack to the outside. He charged for a hurricanrana off the ring steps, but Cody caught him and tossed the champ onto fans in the front row.

In the ring, Cody connected on a springboard kick. He slowly applied the Cross Rhodes positioning while gauging fan reaction. The lack of urgency allowed Guevara enough time to recover to escape for a roll-up. Cody kicked out then swiftly went forth for the Cross Rhodes. Cody was arrogant on the cover, and that left space for Guevara to kick out.

Cody stacked Sammy onto the turnbuckles for a reverse suplex. Cody was once again slow to pull the trigger. Sammy flipped out and caught Cody for a GTH fireman’s carry knee strike. Cody dramatically kicked out on the cover.

Sammy was in shock that Cody still had life left. Precious time was wasted deciding on how to proceed. Sammy chose to finish with a 630 senton, but Cody got his knees up. Cody pounced for two Cross Rhodes and a double underhook tiger driver for victory. The crowd was not pleased with this outcome and showered Cody with boos.

Cody Rhodes defeated Sammy Guevara to win the TNT Championship.

Dustin Rhodes, Brandi Rhodes, Lee Johnson, Brock Anderson, Red Velvet, and Shawn Dean came out to celebrate with Cody. Crockett handed over the gold to the new champ.

Congratulations to Cody Rhodes for becoming a three-time TNT champion.

The main event was very entertaining. Cody’s big match theatrics were toned down to just the one spot of tossing Sammy Guevara onto the fans. That spot itself was pretty cool. Too bad the fans were terrible actors at pretending to be in pain. It turned the moment to the cheesy side. The finish was exciting. I tried to avoid Rampage spoilers, but there was a vibe in the air that Cody had already won. When Guevara connected on the GTH, I totally second guessed and thought perhaps Sammy would be winning. That’s how good the sequence was in making me believe. It was not meant to be for Sammy. Cody kicked it into a higher gear to crush with multiple Cross Rhodes and a tiger driver for a definitive win.

Cody has returned to being king of TNT. I don’t mind him reclaiming gold, because he consistently puts on interesting matches. Cody’s abilities can run the gamut from a clean contest to a violent fight to a sports entertainment bonanza. At the same time, it’s too bad Sammy’s run is over. I don’t think he had enough time to establish himself at the next level of stardom.

As good as the match was, the overarching story has been poorly maintained. The pre-match hostility came out of nowhere. I enjoyed the feistiness from Guevara to add zestful emotion to the match, however, there was no sign of these bitter feelings the past few weeks on TV. It made me feel out of the loop like I missed something. For Cody, his performance on this evening did not reflect the teachings of gangster Arn Anderson. Cody lacked urgency at times and showboated on a pinfall. The vignettes with Arn were very cool, but it didn’t amount to much in the end. Cody is pretty much still the same Cody as he always was.

Jungle Boy and Isiah Kassidy delighted with athleticism. That was a hot opener paving the way for the rest of the show.

Hook looks like a natural to the game of professional wrestling so far in his young career. His suplexes make me froth at the mouth in excitement.

I do think it’s a little early for Hook to be superhero no-selling a piledriver, especially from a man as large as Bear Bronson. From a strategy standpoint, Hook is going to pay dearly one day for turning his back on his opponent so often.

Kris Statlander and Leyla Hirsch ratcheted up the intensity. I enjoyed how it quickly went to fun and games into an aggressive fight. Too bad Hirsch lost. I was hoping she could build some momentum toward a quick title shot in the new year with fresh rankings. At least Hirsch created intrigue by slapping away Statlander’s post-match handshake. I’m curious if something will build off that.

Grade: B+

Rampage is the gift that keeps giving. Four entertaining matches and a title change on a holiday.

Share your thoughts about Rampage. How do you rate it? Who stole the show?

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