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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Aug. 20, 2021): CM Punk debuts

AEW Rampage (Aug. 20, 2021) emanated from the United Center in Chicago, IL. The First Dance special featured CM Punk debuting in AEW, Jurassic Express advancing in the #1 contender tag team tournament, CM Punk cutting a promo, Jade Cargill in action, CM Punk making fans cry, Jon Moxley choking out some fool, and CM Punk with ice cream bars. Oh, did I mention CM Punk showed up on Rampage? That’s right, he did.

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

Excalibur, Taz, Mark Henry, and Jim Ross formed a four-man booth on commentary. Justin Roberts handled ring announcer duties. Excalibur explained that Chris Jericho was absent to do some soul searching after losing to MJF on Dynamite.

CM Punk in AEW

Fans were vocal with ‘CM Punk’ chants right off the bat for the most anticipated announcement in AEW history. The chants petered out after a minute. Back to loud Punk chants again. Once Punk’s logo hit the screen, the crowd erupted. Punk came out wearing a black hoodie and black pants to the sounds of, “Cult of Personality.” Punk dropped to his knees to soak in the cheers with a smile.

On Punk’s way to the ring, he took a dive for some crowd surfing. Before Punk could speak, it was time for a commercial break. Excalibur cracked me up with his sell job. We’ve waited this long to hear Punk speak, and we only have to wait 90 seconds more. Punk’s entrance took up the first nine minutes of the program.

With a mic in hand, Punk explained that he didn’t plan what to say. Punk has good news and bad news. The bad news is that he won’t get into all his business tonight. The good news is that there is time, because he is not going anywhere.

If Punk’s life choices (retiring from wrestling) made anyone feel disappointed, then he understands. He also asked for those people to understand that he was never going to get physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy staying at the place that got him sick in the first place (WWE).

Punk sat cross-legged in the center of the ring to tell a story. There was a time when he felt like he had to leave, but he didn’t want to. Punk was speaking about his time in Ring of Honor. ROH was a place he helped build where people could get paid to learn and love the craft of pro wrestling. When he departed ROH, that is when he left pro wrestling. On this date today, Punk returned to pro wrestling with AEW.

Punk pointed out that AEW is full of young talent with the same passion he had for wrestling. He has a couple of scores to settle in the locker room, and there are some fresh faces he wants to work with. Punk called out Darby Allin, who was in the rafters with Sting. Allin is first on the list. Punk announced his return match versus Allin for All Out on September 5.

Punk’s closing note was that fans in attendance can grab a free ice cream bar on him. His promo took the first 20 minutes closing with commentary chowing down on ice cream bars.

Christian was with Jurassic Express to hype the tag team tournament and his match against Kenny Omega at All Out. His message to the Bucks was that nobody can help them inside a steel cage. For Omega, Christian has his number. Omega is starting to feel the pressure. Christian took Omega’s confidence when he won the Impact World Championship. He will take Omega’s soul when he wins the AEW World Championship.

#1 Contender Tag Team Tournament: Private Party vs. Jurassic Express

Matt Hardy and Marko Stunt were ringside. I’m saddened to report that Taz did not sing along with Jungle Boy’s theme song. Excalibur better fight someone.

The Young Bucks came out to observe the action. They sat in high chairs on stage. The Lucha Bros and the Varsity Blonds were in the front row. Those two duos will wrestle in the four-team tournament on Dynamite.

Private Party isolated Jungle Boy for an extended beatdown. Hot tag to Luchasaurus to clean house. Jungle Boy was on Luchasaurus shoulders for a superplex, but Isiah Kassidy countered into a Canadian Destroyer to JB off the dino.

Kassidy connected on a cutter to Luchasaurus over the top rope. Marq Quen followed with a springboard shooting star press down to the floor.

Kassidy spit sass at Jungle Boy, so JB reversed an Irish whip into a teamwork cutter with his dino pal. Hardy hopped onto the apron. When Stunt confronted Hardy, Money Matt shoved Stunt down to the floor. JB rammed Hardy in retaliation. Kassidy scored a roll-up on Jungle Boy grabbing tights, exposing butt cheeks, and putting his feet on the ropes. JB was able to kick out.

Private Party went for Gin & Juice, however, Jungle Boy countered into a DDT. Jurassic Express closed it out with a teamwork powerbomb on Quen for the win.

#1 Contender Tag Team Tournament: Jurassic Express defeated Private Party to advance to the finals.

Kenny Omega was flanked by Don Callis and Michael Nakazawa for a promo. Christian cheated and had a crooked referee to beat Omega. That will not happen at All Out. Omega will retire Christian for another seven years making him wish he never came back.

Kiera Hogan is the hottest flame, not a toy for Jade Cargill to play with. Jade said that she will feast on Hogan.

Jade Cargill vs. Kiera Hogan

Mark Sterling was ringside. Kiera was knocked to the mat on a lockup. As Jade flapped her gums, Hogan went on the attack. Hogan made the same error by wasting time to hype the crowd. She ran into a big kick. Jade executed a marching Glam Slam for victory.

Jade Cargill defeated Kiera Hogan.

Mark Henry interviewed Jon Moxley and Daniel Garcia prior to the main event. For Garcia to be the biggest name in the company, he has to beat Moxley. 2.0 chimed in doubting Moxley’s tough guy status after he went down quick when Garcia clipped him on Dynamite. Moxley was in a surly mood. He will bounce Garcia’s head like a basketball and choke him out.

Jon Moxley vs. Daniel Garcia

Eddie Kingston and 2.0 were ringside. Moxley bullied Garcia into the corner then unloaded a suplex. Garcia went low to attack the knee. Mox was back on top for two German suplexes. On the third German, Garcia went low again targeting the knee. Moxley crawled to the ropes to break a submission. Moxley challenged Garcia to hit him with his best shot. Garcia pounded away, but Mox ate them with no worries. His response was headbutts and a big slam. Garcia escaped Paradigm Shift to roll for another leg submission. Garcia cranked backward too far. Moxley snatched Garcia’s neck for a bulldog choke to win.

Jon Moxley defeated Daniel Garcia.

Immediately after the match, Garcia went back to attacking Moxley’s knee. 2.0 took care of Kingston. Allin and Sting ran in for the save. Paradigm Shift to Garcia. Stinger splash to 2.0. Scorpion Death Drop to 1.0. Coffin Drop to 2.0. The stars stood tall to close the show.

AEW talked big, and they backed it up by delivering CM Punk. It’s amazing to think this moment would ever arrive. I’m not even a fan of Punk, but his appearance was absolutely invigorating. Punk’s speech did well to cover the past, present, and future. Sure, he squeezed in shots at WWE. If there is one man where it makes complete sense to do so, Punk fits the bill. Best of all, he did not waste any time in calling out his first target. Punk versus Allin is going to tear the roof off the building at All Out.

Beyond Allin, I’m pumped to see Punk’s future endeavors within AEW. There are two things in particular that crossed my mind. I’d like to see an interaction between Punk, Serena Deeb, and Luke Gallows. All three were members of the Straight Edge Society in WWE. I’m also curious to hear Punk’s response the first time an opponent trashes his subpar MMA career in a promo. It might be wise to avoid that topic, because I don’t know if there is a snappy comeback that would suffice.

Jurassic Express and Private Party lit the ring on fire with flashy moves. The Canadian Destroyer off Luchasaurus’ shoulders was spectacular. The right team advanced. Christian cut a solid promo, but Jungle Boy should have spoke a little in that situation. He is ready for the big time, however, his mediocre promo ability is holding him back from superstardom.

I have mixed feelings about Jade Cargill’s time on screen. It’s great seeing her appear on TV, however, I’m ready for her to get cooking within AEW. Jade’s last meaningful match was in April against Red Velvet. I appreciate building her up as a superior threat, but these quick squashes don’t cut it anymore on the entertainment side. I want more skills shown in the ring. It seems like she’s stuck in purgatory at the moment. Her first loss will be important, so she has to be protected. Too many wins will put her in the title picture, and Jade versus Dr. Britt Baker DMD doesn’t seem like a direction AEW is ready for.

As a fan of Kiera Hogan, it was a bit of a bummer that she didn’t get much time to shine a little.

I loved the finish to Jon Moxley’s win. The choke transition was cool and creative. I also enjoyed how Moxley told us what was going to happen, then he backed it up in the ring. That’s not the first instance of this either. When Mox speaks, his opponents better listen.

The closing scene was a nice touch to send fans home happy. They were already elated by the debut of Punk. Adding physicality from Sting was the cherry on the sundae.

Grade: B

CM Punk’s segment was electric. The tag match was rocking. The second half of the show was filler carried by star personalities.

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

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