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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (July 8, 2022): Tully Blanchard swerve

AEW Rampage (July 8, 2022) emanated from Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. The show featured Eddie Kingston packing a wallop, Tully Blanchard up to his old swerving tricks with Jonathan Gresham, a feud erupting for the ROH Women’s World Championship, and Orange Cassidy winning his wager.

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

Excalibur, Jim Ross, and Tony Schiavone were on commentary. Justin Roberts handled ring announcer duties.

Eddie Kingston vs. Konosuke Takeshita

The match began with respectful grappling. Takeshita spiced it up when he delivered a cheap forearm blow on a rope break. Kingston retaliated with angry chop and suplexes. Takeshita fought back with clotheslines and a Blue Thunder Bomb. The action exploded into back and forth exchanges. Spinning back elbow by Takeshita, Siato suplex by Kingston, German suplex by Takeshita, enzuigiri by Kingston, then a running knee by Takeshita to close the sequence.

The fight spilled outside. Takeshita blocked a suplex on the apron to counter for a German suplex. Kingston blocked a suplex on the floor to counter for a Saito suplex. Back inside the ring, Kingston hit a heavy lariat and a Liger Bomb. Takeshita blocked a spinning backfist to batter Kingston with strikes and execute a brainbuster.

Kingston and Takeshita took turns throwing blows. Takeshita varied his strikes high and low. Kingston came back for chops to the neck and a suplex. Takeshita landed a lariat then ducked a backfist to pop Kingston with an elbow strike. Kingston dodged a jumping knee to smash a spinning backfist. Takeshita took the force and fired back with a jumping knee. Kingston absorbed the strike and used that opening to clobber Takeshita with a second spinning backfist. That one did the trick for Kingston to win.

Eddie Kingston defeated Konosuke Takeshita.

Athena and Kris Statlander had a message for Jade Cargill. They believe Jade has avoided real competition, because she is scared to lose the TBS Championship. Athena and Statlander aren’t going anywhere until they get the title shot they both deserve.

Hook highlight package.

AEW utilized ROH representation for the next bout with Bobby Cruise as ring announcer and Caprice Coleman on commentary.

Gates of Agony vs. Jonathan Gresham & Lee Moriarty

Toa Liona and Kaun were flanked by Tully Blanchard. The Gates of Agony attacked prior to the bell. They isolated Moriarty using big boy offense and suplexes. When Moriarty had an opening to tag Gresham, the Octopus was distracted by Blanchard. It seemed weird that Gresham would allow that mistake to occur. The Gates of Agony resumed control. Moriarty created space for a diving tag. Gresham pulled his hand away. This was no accident. Something was fishy.

Gresham hopped down to the floor to abandon Moriarty. The ROH world champ then hugged Tully. The Gates of Agony finished the job on Moriarty with a discus lariat from Liona and a fireman’s carry gutbuster from Kaun.

Gates of Agony defeated Jonathan Gresham & Lee Moriarty.

Kingston was allotted promo time backstage. He gave props to Takeshita as a star on the rise. Kingston turned his attention to Chris Jericho for a barbed wire challenge. Each drop of blood that Jericho sheds will be payback for Kingston’s friends. The last drop before passing out will be for Ruby Soho. It was later announced that Kingston versus Jericho will be a Barbed Wire Deathmatch with the Jericho Appreciation Society banned from ringside and locked in a shark cage. That bout is booked for the July 20 edition of Dynamite.

Serena Deeb & Mercedes Martinez vs. Kayla Sparks & Christina Marie

Deeb dominated while talking trash to her partner. Martinez tagged herself in to kick some ass. Deeb tagged herself back in to secure victory with the Serenity Lock.

Serena Deeb & Mercedes Martinez defeated Kayla Sparks & Christina Marie.

Deeb refused to let go of the submission hold. I got the impression that the referee was close to waving off the win due to poor sportsmanship. Martinez forced Deeb to relent so that the decision was not overturned. As the referee held up their arms in victory, Deeb charged to connect on a cheap shot clothesline to Martinez. Deeb then applied the Serenity Lock to the ROH women’s champion.

Gresham and Blanchard discussed their new partnership. Gresham is the foundation of ROH. He singed a contract (from Tony Khan) in March and has been sitting at home waiting for the call. When Blanchard ringed, Gresham would have been a fool not to listen. Blanchard laid out the plan for Gresham to get back to action. Due to their duplicity, Moriarty was granted a title shot against Gresham next week.

Mark Henry interviewed the main event participants. Mark Sterling explained that if Tony Nese defeats Orange Cassidy, then OC will sign the People Against Swerve Strickland petition. Danhausen, as attorney, objected. Cassidy didn’t care. Nese was angered that OC doesn’t take anything seriously. Nese warned that not signing P.A.S.S. will be the biggest mistake of Cassidy’s life. Enough talk. Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

Matt Sydal was upset about Gresham’s disrespectful actions toward Moriarty. There will be repercussions. Moriarty was confident in winning the upcoming ROH title fight.

Tony Nese vs. Orange Cassidy

Mark Sterling and Danhausen were ringside. Cassidy played his games to avoid Nese’s attacks and get under his skin. Nese was able to hit a gutbuster and toss Cassidy out of the ring for Sterling to stomp. Nese went back to work grinding OC to a pulp.

Cassidy blocked a superplex to knock Nese down with punches. Sterling hopped onto the apron as a distraction. Danhausen pulled the Esquire down. Before Danhausen could curse Sterling, Nese nailed a sliding dropkick. Cassidy capitalized for a rally stunner and Michinoku driver. Nese athletically ducked a superman punch to spring up for a barrage of kicks and a bridging German suplex.

Cassidy found his groove to hit two tilt-a-whirl DDTs and a flying DDT. 1, 2, Nese kicked out. Sterling hopped onto the apron again. OC delivered shin kicks. Sterling flopped in agonizing pain as a ploy to file a lawsuit. Nese took advantage of the distraction for a pumphandle driver. 1, 2, Cassidy kicked out.

Nese lowered his knee pad to attack. Cassidy moved away, and Nese collided into the turnbuckle. Sterling entered the ring with his petition clipboard. Danhausen punched Sterling square in the nuggets. He cursed Nese, then Cassidy landed a Superman punch for victory.

Orange Cassidy defeated Tony Nese.

Tully Blanchard is a genius. That’s hardly a revelation, but it needs to be said after the sneaky events from Rampage. Not only did he convince Jonathan Gresham to align with Tully Blanchard Enterprises, he instantly injected the ROH scene with an interesting story. Gresham was given a tough task to get over as a babyface that shows up once in awhile for pure wrestling. With Blanchard by his side, fans have immediate curiosity on what will unfold.

Gresham’s turn did come out of nowhere considering his honorable character in ROH, but he backed up the swerve with a reasonable explanation. Looking at the bigger picture for Gresham and the ROH World Championship, I’m thinking a duel with the Blackpool Combat Club could be in order. Gresham previously mentioned Bryan Danielson as a future opponent to determine technical superiority. If the American Dragon is still on the injured list for the ROH PPV, then it would make a lot of sense for Claudio Castagnoli to fill in one more time.

Eddie Kingston and Konosuke Takeshita delivered a slobberknocker. It felt like a video game fight. Both men took an enormous amount of punishment and kept moving forward until the loser’s power meter was empty. The counter game added layers of enjoyment to the story. Takeshita was the standout wrestler for the show. His style makes me want to root for his success. I really liked his high, low striking flurry. That’s not a tactic we see everyday in an AEW ring.

The contest between Orange Cassidy and Tony Nese was equal parts action and comedy. Nese looked great with his offensive arsenal. Cassidy performed as he always does. You either enjoy it or you don’t. Mark Sterling and Danhausen added a slapstick edge. Even though it was silly at times, Nese and Cassidy had me hard on a few near falls to make it satisfying.

The combustible relationship between Serena Deeb and Mercedes Martinez blew up as expected. Ever since they formed a tag team, it was clear this was the direction for a future ROH women’s title fight. Deeb and Martinez played their parts well in the simple story to stoke the fire of anticipation for a showdown.

Grade: B

This episode of Rampage was a ‘mileage may vary’ kind of show. The strong style opener, ROH PPV build, and Orange Cassidy main event are all elements that can have mixed reception. Despite that, I felt the show as a whole was executed well with purpose. The swerve from Tully Blanchard and Jonathan Gresham provided the ‘anything can happen’ vibe to keep viewers tuning in each Friday night.

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

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