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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Oct. 27, 2023): Santana & Ortiz deliver intense grudge match

AEW Rampage (Oct. 27, 2023) emanated from The Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. The show featured Santana versus Ortiz in a grudge match, Abadon earning a title shot, Mark Briscoe in the house, Konosuke Takeshita sharing a banger with Kyle Fletcher, and more.

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

Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and Ian Riccaboni were on commentary. Justin Roberts handled ring announcer duties.

No DQ: Ortiz vs. Santana

Staredown to start the grudge match. Ortiz gave Santana the first shot. Santana clocked him hard. The action spilled outside when Ortiz hit a suicide dive. Ortiz brought in the weapons to hit Santana with a trashcan and a kendo stick.

The action progressed with two huge spots. First was Ortiz powerbombing Santana through a table on the floor. Ortiz’s execution added extra force to make it feel like a genuine grudge match. Second was Santana with a suplex off the apron onto a pile of chairs on the floor.

The intensity increased for fisticuffs with headbutts, punches, German suplexes, and double lariats. Both men were down. Badass sequence.

Sound on for this discus lariat from Santana.

That hefty blow cleared the path for a cannonball in the corner followed by a torture rack powerbomb for victory.

Santana defeated Ortiz.

After the match, Santana was jacking his jaw at Ortiz, but he did offer a fist bump. Ortiz declined. The message seemed clear that respect was there, however, this friendship was over.

The story wasn’t over. Sonjay Dutt slithered into the ring trying to get in Ortiz’s ear. Ortiz wasn’t interested, but Dutt appeared to open a crack of curiosity from Ortiz.

MJF hyped his world title defense against Kenny Omega as a dream match. The hype package showed Jay White chirping in Omega’s ear, and Don Callis approaching MJF. Neither Omega nor MJF were receptive to those scallywags.

Kris Statlander wanted to know what’s up with Willow Nightingale and Skye Blue since being misted with darkness from Julia Hart. Willow agreed that this negative attitude wasn’t really them. Blue guffawed at that notion. She is still under the evil spell.

Kip Sabian mocked the local Philadelphia sports scene. Surely someone would come out to shut him up? Mark Briscoe! Briscoe made a surprise return from injury to beat up Sabian.

Anna Jay wanted her boys to be focused on her huge opportunity in the #1 contender match. Callis entered the scene requesting a tag team to deal with Omega and Chris Jericho. Anna had to refocus her crew. Also, peep eyes on flirtations between Cool Hand Ang and Ruby Soho.

Willow Nightingale vs. Anna Jay vs. Skye Blue vs. Abadon

Winner earns a shot at Hikaru Shida and the AEW Women’s World Championship on Collision. Hectic pace with a few story bits developing. Blue was still a meanie with her black mist effect, Willow got increasingly annoyed at Blue’s aggression, Anna tried to pick her spots, Abadon was a zombie, and Toni Storm was on stage scouting.

The finish kicked off with Anna grabbing Abadon for the Queen Slayer. Blue unloaded a blindside thrust kick to Anna. As Blue ran the ropes for a Code Blue, Willow pulled her out of the ring. Abadon was in the right place at the right time to counter Anna for a leg-trap DDT finish.

Abadon defeated Willow Nightingale, Anna Jay, and Skye Blue.

The Acclaimed will celebrate National 69 Day next week in relation to their 69th day as trios champions. Max Caster had a personal invitation for MJF.

No Mark Henry this week, so I’ll say it for him. Enough talk. It’s time for the main event!

But first, here’s a little bonus context from a promo on social media between the Callis Family and Kyle Fletcher. When Fletcher threatened too close to Callis, Konosuke Takeshita stepped in. The match was made.

Kyle Fletcher vs. Konosuke Takeshita

Don Callis was flanked by Will Hobbs on commentary. He was impressed by Fletcher’s mean streak and the hatred in his eyes. This match was fire. Neither man held back.

Takeshita looked like he had the victory in hand with an amazing avalanche piledriver, but Fletcher shocked the crowd when he kicked out on the cover.

In the end, Takeshita paved the way for victory with this badass wheelbarrow German suplex. Fletcher popped up with passion. A high knee from Takeshita put him back down on the mat.

Takeshita connected on a running knee to finish the job.

Konosuke Takeshita defeated Kyle Fletcher.

After the match, Takeshita dumped Fletcher from the ring, so Callis could enter in peace. Fletcher returned with a chair to hit Takeshita and Hobbs. Callis had a change of heart about the young man. He was mesmerized by the hate from Fletcher. Callis recruited him to be an apprentice and join the Callis Family. Fletcher was a bit confused, but he went tentatively along with the program.

Grade: A

That might have been the best episode of Rampage in the history of the universe. The phrasing is hyperbole, but the praise is not. This was a great episode that AEW fans need to watch. The grudge match was hot, the women’s four-way had real stakes, the main event showcased rising stars, the promos added intrigue all night long, and important story moments occurred.

Santana and Ortiz tore the house down. This match was anchored by emotion built through weeks of promos. Their words weren’t just fluff. They delivered heavy when it came time to throw down. The intensity was at a maximum. You could feel the bad blood through the screen with every strike. The big moves had extra snap upon impact. I love how the match broke down at times into furious fisticuffs, like the slap fight. This was a slugfest, however, Santana and Ortiz also showcased their wrestling skills with slick sequences demonstrating familiarity of tendencies due to their lengthy partnership over the years. The final blow was an emphatic statement to drive the nail in the coffin of their partnership.

Ortiz impressed the heck out of me. I already believed in Santana, so it was Ortiz that surprised in how well he stepped up for the big moment. Ortiz put in fantastic work for this feud, and he deserves more screen time in the future. I assume Santana is already set in that department with a singles run coming.

A potential association with Sonjay Dutt seems weird for Ortiz to join that ragtag group of hooligans, then it dawned on me. Dutt might be greasing the wheels for insider information on Eddie Kingston when Jay Lethal challenges for the ROH World Championship. We’ll see how that shakes out.

Konosuke Takeshita and Kyle Fletcher also had a badass match. This was more in line with the modern era video game style. The movement was graceful and explosive. The sounds of the strikes were thunder claps. The avalanche piledriver false finish made me leap out of my seat. Sure, it is acceptable criticism to say nobody should be kicking out of a move like that, especially on a random Rampage, but I didn’t care in the moment. They had me hook, line, and sinker for a ride. Takeshita’s final salvo was awesome to diminish Fletcher’s fighting spirit meter. I loved the execution of that wheelbarrow German suplex.

I have to applaud AEW for how they handled Fletcher. They developed this story right under our noses without a sniff of the end result. Fletcher was booked in high-profile matches and continually put on a heck of a show. In the past, AEW was content with just that. This time, all that exposure had a real payoff for Callis to choose Fletcher as his apprentice. That came out of left field in the moment, but it makes so much sense with hindsight. Fletcher is now established as a man with value that demands your attention when on screen.

Quick thoughts on the rest of the show. The women’s promos were an effective tool to build interest in the four-way beyond the prize. The action did well in that match to play into the character interactions. I’m okay with Abadon winning, since Collision is close to Halloween and Shida already has a little history with the zombie. I don’t know where the flirting is leading between Cool Hand Ang and Ruby Soho, but that’s a story I want on a weekly basis. Keep feeding us the little morsels until it is time for something bigger from them.

The return from Mark Briscoe was a jolt of excitement. If fully healthy, I hope he gets the call to challenge Eddie Kingston for the world title at the upcoming ROH PPV. Kip Sabian played his role well as a sex idol with ignorant hot takes on sports. One question though. What was he wearing? Does that sleeve job count as a shirt to qualify in restaurants that say no shirt, no shoes, no service?

We’ll close with Ian Riccaboni rhyming free-style to Willow Nightingale’s theme. The enthusiasm and energy is contagious.

Share your thoughts about Rampage. How do you rate it? What were your favorite moments from the show?

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