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AEW Battle of the Belts II recap & reactions: Thunder Rosa’s warrior spirit

AEW Battle of the Belts II (Apr. 16, 2022) emanated from Curtis Culwell Center in Dallas, TX. The show featured three title bouts with the AEW Women’s World Championship, TNT Championship, and ROH World Championship being defended.

Let’s break it all down.

Thunder Rosa’s warrior spirit

Thunder Rosa had a monster challenge in front of her for the main event of the evening. In order to retain the AEW Women’s World Championship, she had to go through Nyla Rose.

The ladies worked a rousing style of small babyface against intimidating powerhouse. The Native Beast pummeled Thunder early. When Thunder tried to get crafty, Nyla caught her for violent slams, such as a powerbomb onto the apron.

Even though Thunder was down, she was never out. The champ kept coming forward despite the pain. Thunder’s perseverance paid off by dodging Nyla’s flying guillotine knee drop. Thunder took flight for a hurricanrana, but Nyla caught her. Thunder managed to counter into a Code Red for the move of the night.

As the match progressed, Nyla regained control on a jackhammer-style suplex. Thunder kicked out on the cover. Thunder rolled under the ropes, so Nyla went for a flying senton. Thunder moved in the nick of time as Nyla crashed onto the apron. Thunder kept chipping away at Nyla, but then she ran into a powerslam. That couldn’t keep the champ down for three though. Back on their feet, Thunder surprised Nyla with a hurricanrana pin to win and retain the women’s world title.

Thunder Rosa and Nyla Rose had a pretty good match for the champ’s first title defense. The David versus Goliath vibe was executed well. I like how it took some time for Thunder to finally knock Nyla off her feet. The finishing flow was questionable. The winning pin came out of nowhere, but it wasn’t necessarily built to a crescendo of excitement. The moment just sort of happened, and Thunder remained champion.

In addition to the victory, Thunder’s warrior spirit shined bright. Going blow for blow with the Native Beast takes guts. No matter how hard Thunder was hit, she never quit believing in herself. Thunder’s intensity and no-quit attitude are the foundation of her rise.

TNT title change and Paige VanZant appearance

The opener saw Sammy Guevara become the TNT champion for the third-time. Guevara outlasted Scorpio Sky and his crew of misfits to prevail in the end.

Guevara entered with Tay Conti by his side to share a sultry smooch on stage. Sky had Dan Lambert in his corner. Once the opening bell rang, Sammy attacked with aggression. When Guevara jumped for a leapfrog, Sky caught him in a fireman’s carry hoping to finish quick with a TKO. Sammy was able to escape unscathed.

High spots include Sammy with a moonsault off the ring steps and Sky with a TKO on the apron. Sky focused on the lower back with three consecutive backbreakers. Sammy rallied to put Sky in danger. The challenger climbed for an aerial assault, but Ethan Page ran to the ring to pull Sky away from harm. As Conti shouted at Page, Guevara leaped over the top for a shooting star press onto Sky and Page.

Sammy went back to work for a double springboard cutter. He didn’t connect clean, so Sky kicked out on the cover. Lambert tried to swing momentum in Sky’s favor by causing a referee distraction. That almost backfired when Conti cheated to knock Sky’s hands of the ropes into a roll-up. Lambert had enough of Conti, so he called in Paige VanZant for reinforcements. The two tussled in a wicked brawl.

VanZant is a superstar in the making so far. Seeing her brawl with Conti was my favorite moment of the evening. VanZant has the ‘it’ factor to pop the crowd. Her athletic MMA background provides substance to the sugar.

Back in the ring, Sky poked Sammy in the eye. Since the referee was focused on Conti and VanZant, Sammy did not hesitate to deliver a low blow in retaliation. Sammy picked up Sky for the GTH and victory.

The new TNT champ celebrated with hot tongue action from Conti. Seriously, the camera zoomed up as they played tonsil hockey.

Guevara and Sky put on a hot opener. Even before all the hijinks, they had a fiery affair cooking with cool moves on both sides. The outside activity meshed well with the overarching story, so it didn’t feel like too much to overshadow the match. By hook or by crook, Sammy did what he needed to do to regain the gold. I’m curious to see the future direction of both men. Sammy will probably defend the title more frequently while keeping the Lambert feud on the burner. I don’t know what AEW should do with Sky. His reign will go down as a footnote without building momentum to increase his star power.

One curious aspect of this bout is that the boos are growing louder and louder for Sammy, who is supposed to be a babyface. He still has vocal supporters, but the detractors are rising. It was evident from the start. Sammy took control to land a barrage of punches in the corner. Boos rained down. Sky picked up Sammy to slam on the mat. Cheers erupted. There were also dueling chants of, “Let’s go Sammy,” and, “Sammy sucks.” The negative jeer was a touch louder.

I wonder if Sammy will be the new Cody Rhodes for AEW. Sammy is becoming a divisive figure in fan reaction. His match had all kinds of shenanigans, and Page was cut to provide blood. If you replaced Sammy with Cody in this scenario, no one would bat an eye. It’s only fitting since Cody lost to Sammy in his final AEW match. That is a dangerous torch to pass.

ROH in the house with a giant sighting

The middle of the sandwich was filled by the Ring of Honor World Championship bout as Jonathan Gresham successfully defended the belt against Dalton Castle. AEW did ROH justice by keeping alive tenured traditions. The Code of Honor handshake took place before and after the match. ROH ring announcer Bobby Cruise was brought in for the official introductions. Gresham entered wearing his signature octopus mask. AEW even allowed Dalton Castle time for a full entrance with his Boys, the Tate twins.

At the end of 2021, I wrote an AEW wish list. One of the items requested Castle’s entrance in front of a full crowd. AEW answered that wish. The crowd didn’t seem fully aware of Castle’s gimmick to provide the necessary energy in response, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Thank you, AEW.

The contest was a technical wrestling duel with flash. In contrast to the chop fest between Samoa Joe and Minoru Suzuki on Dynamite, Gresham and Castle had a fun exchange of ducking chops. Another titillating sequence saw Castle lift Gresham for his spinning Bang-A-Rang finisher, however, Gresham was able to escape before impact. That led to a numerous roll-ups rolling around the ring.

In the end, Gresham dodged a high boot then stomped Castle’s foot. The Octopus locked in an octopus submission. Gresham cranked deep to increase the pressure. Castle had to relent and submit in defeat.

Gresham and Castle stayed true to their style of Pure wrestling for a solid bout. The idea of mat work is often associated with slower methodical action. When Gresham leads the way, there is constant motion. That was on display here. The antics were cheekier than usual for him, but that fits in with Castle’s gimmick to put on a show.

The aftermath went bananas with the arrival of Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt, and Satnam Singh. The giant wrecked Castle and his Boys then went after Gresham. Lethal sprang in for a blindside cutter to the ROH world champ. Lee Moriarty and Matt Sydal tried their hand at the big man as good Samaritans, but they couldn’t even faze him.

Samoa Joe entered the scene with a metal pipe in hand. Singh stood brave ready for action. As soon as Joe stepped into the ring, Singh exited to the outside. Joe gave respect to Gresham to close the segment.

Singh’s second appearance in AEW played well to his strengths. It was a great visual seeing the height difference between Singh and Gresham. Knowing Gresham’s superior technical ability, I really want to see that match to observe how he solves the puzzle. Unfortunately, I’m not getting my hopes up. I doubt Singh is ready to carry the ROH World Championship any time soon, and it is way too early for that giant to take a lose to diminish his monster aura. Perhaps we’ll get a taste in a tag match instead.

Grade: A-

The second edition of Battle of the Belts was a fun show. There were three distinct styles of matches, and each one was entertaining in its own way.

Share your thoughts about Battle of the Belts II. How do you rate it? Who stole the show?

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