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AEW Battle of the Belts III recap & reactions: Claudio is king

AEW brought Saturday night fights to TNT with Battle of the Belts III (Aug. 6, 2022). Three titles were on the line as Claudio Castagnoli defended the ROH World Championship against Konosuke Takeshita, Thunder Rosa defended the AEW Women’s World Championship against Jamie Hayter, and Wardlow defended the TNT Championship against Jay Lethal. Let’s break down the action.

ROH World Championship

Claudio Castagnoli retained against Konosuke Takeshita in a barn burner. It started as a slick chess match with both men trying to gain an advantage. Claudio was able to control the pace as the more dominant technician. I like how he worked a gameplan to tenderize the lower back. That strategy paid off in a pivotal moment when Takeshita’s back gave out on a powerbomb lift. Takeshita appeared to fight more on survival instinct, and that earned him a pair of close pinfalls. This hurricanrana counter out of a Ricola Bomb actually had me believing for a split-second that Takeshita could win.

Claudio came back with an amazing Death Valley Driver by catching Takeshita in the air on a jumping knee strike.

Claudio turned up the heat in the end with hammering elbows and a Ricola Bomb for victory.

Great match. It worked a blend of technical savvy with fiery passion to increase the energy toward a crescendo down the stretch. That is high praise, but let me put it in perspective a bit. I don’t think it is match of the year material, however, it was still very good. One thing that held it back was the lack of story build. AEW didn’t provide any reason for me to think Takeshita would win, so it was difficult to bite on his dramatic moments for near pinfalls.

Claudio and Takeshita worked their butts off for a memorable performance. Takeshita once again earned love from the fans. Let’s hope one day that pays off in AEW with a huge win on the way to becoming a superstar. I loved the way Claudio finished with fury. He’s right up there with the crème de la crème of AEW champions. Claudio has shown the ability that he could step right into the AEW world title picture and carry the ball if needed. He makes the ROH World Championship feel special. Just listen to his post-match promo. Claudio oozes a badass aura and backs it up like a king.

We can’t conclude this section without Claudio’s giant swing. Why? Because giant swings are awesome.

AEW Women’s World Championship

Thunder Rosa retained against Jamie Hayter. It was ironic that Thunder inadvertently received help from nemesis Dr. Britt Baker DMD to rally for the winning pinfall.

The action played out in Hayter’s favor for much of the match. She worked a mix of power attacks and grinding holds to wear down the champ. This backbreaker by Hayter onto the ring steps looked painful.

Baker assisted with interference and distractions to slow down any momentum from Thunder. In the end, Baker took it a step too far for Toni Storm’s liking. Fisticuffs led to a superkick from Baker. As the dentist gloated, she turned around into a DDT on the floor from Storm. Thunder caught Hayter peeping at the outside skirmish and capitalized for a cazadora roll-up. In the execution, Hayter thumped her head on the mat. Thunder held tight for the count to win.

Thunder and Hayter had a nice rumble in the ring. Thunder relied on babyface fire to carry her share of the load. That spirit is one of Thunder’s best qualities. Hayter continues to step up to the plate as a dominating force when given opportunities for singles action. If AEW would have pulled the trigger on a title change, I wouldn’t have bat an eye. Hayter has the powerhouse charisma, such as kissing her biceps, and the arsenal of moves to entertain.

As for Baker, her antics were amusing, however, she was also a bit overbearing and intrusive. At times, I was thinking, “Hey, get out of the way. I’m trying to watch a match here.” I would have preferred this contest to stand on its own without advancing whatever story AEW is gearing up for with Baker and Thunder. The saving grace could if this is a step toward a four-way title fight for All Out. That would certainly be an unpredictable outcome with any of the four leaving as champion.

TNT Championship

Wardlow retained against Jay Lethal. They worked well together. Lethal set up the rising star for exciting moments to pop the crowd. The match played out as expected with Wardlow’s power being countered by Lethal’s veteran experience and assistance from Sonjay Dutt and Satnam Singh as distractions. Lethal was able to work the knee aiming for a figure-four. Wardlow was too powerful in the end. He landed this crushing clothesline that made me tingle all over. I love how Wardlow winds up so dramatically and how Lethal sells the contact with a flip. It makes me laugh while also thirsty for more action.

Wardlow closed the powerbomb symphony on one note to win.

The post-match story gave me goosebumps. Wardlow and Singh had a magnificent showdown tease. Wardlow sized up Singh for a powerbomb. Unfortunately, Lethal prevented the glorious maneuver from taking place. Singh provided a silver lining by chokeslamming Wardlow through a table. The silver lining is that Wardlow should be out for revenge to powerbomb Singh, and I can’t wait!

Grade: B+

Entertaining action across the board. Three for three on good fights. The knock would a lack of drama for much of the show. It was pretty clear going in that a title change would be unlikely for each bout, and the matches didn’t do much to make me second-guess that notion. Shout out to commentary for an excellent job. Their natural enthusiasm elevated the viewing experience. Taz’s technical analysis was especially enjoyable providing insight.

Share your thoughts on Battle of the Belts III. Which match stole the show? What was your favorite moment from the broadcast?

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