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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Dec. 22, 2023): Best Friends fight

AEW Rampage (Dec. 22, 2023) emanated from Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, OK. The Holiday Bash special featured a pair of title bouts with Orange Cassidy and Hijo del Vikingo, the Hardys losing their patience, and more.

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

Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and Chris Jericho were on commentary. Justin Roberts handled ring announcer duties.

AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy (c) vs. Rocky Romero

Competitive fire was burning between the friends, but they also had plenty of time for shimmy shoulders and pocket hands.

Trent Beretta was ringside for an awkward moment. He accompanied Cassidy, but it appeared that the two exchanged harsh words during the bout. It was unclear what was said, however, they weren’t flashing happy expressions. Cassidy had control after a penalty kick when Trent began chirping on the outside. Cassidy was distracted, and Romero recovered to go on the attack with a jumping knee and sliced bread. The match progressed with Romero putting on pressure for another jumping knee, a whirlybird DDT, and Strong Zero. The champ kicked out on the cover.

Cassidy escaped a tornado sliced bread to rally for a superman punch and Beach Break to win. After the match, the best friends shared a group hug.

Orange Cassidy defeated Rocky Romero.

Toys for Tots donations.

Stokely Hathaway interrupted Kris Statlander to drive a wedge into her friendships. He claimed Willow Nightingale was taking the credit for the tag team street fight win. Big Stoke also tried to poach Statlander away from the Best Friends to achieve solo success.

Brian Cage is too swole to control, and he’s going to give Keith Lee an ass-kicking. Prince Nana is ready for the shrimp cocktail celebration.

Hardys vs. Kingdom

Roderick Strong provided the personal introduction for his pals. He also called the fans stupid for not believing MJF is the devil. The Kingdom isolated Jeff Hardy. Hot tag to Matt Hardy running wild. The action spilled outside, and the Hardys went berserk. Jeff used his own boot to beat up Mike Bennett. Matt grabbed a chair to finish the job, but referee Rick Knox snatched it away. Back in the ring, Matt was still arguing with the ref. Matt Taven swooped in from behind to steal the win on a roll-up.

Kingdom defeated Hardys.

Cool Hand Ang sidled up to Ruby Soho seeking a rendezvous. Saraya entered the scene admitting that she needs Soho as a friend. Saraya also two-faced Ang by accepting him in front of Soho while dissing him behind her back.

Skye Blue vs. Queen Aminata

Blue opened aggressively, but Aminata was no pushover. The queen connected on several strong moves before Blue rallied to win. Aminata missed on a moonsault, and Blue delivered a pair of superkicks. Blue finished with a TKO rolling over for a dragon sleeper.

Skye Blue defeated Queen Aminata.

Enough talk. It’s time for the main event.

AAA Mega Championship: Hijo del Vikingo (c) vs. Black Taurus

Lucha libre flash. Fire up the highlight reel. After executing a strongman powerslam on the floor, Vikingo went to the air for a rope-walking Sky Twister.

Next up was a super sequence with a springboard poison rana and a crucifix bomb from Vikingo. Taurus answered with a spear.

Taurus showed his power for an avalanche military press. The bull blitzed for an Atlantida backbreaker, a powerbomb backbreaker, and a discus lariat. The champ stayed tough to continue the fight. Vikingo rallied to win on a 630 senton.

Hijo del Vikingo defeated Black Taurus.

Grade: B+

Typical Rampage style with solid action and a sprinkle of storyline material.

Orange Cassidy and Rocky Romero put on a slick match. They shared good chemistry in a competitive bout. The missing ingredient was making me believe the result was ever in doubt. I’m confused about the drama from Trent Beretta. He has had minor tension with Cassidy in the past that never went anywhere for a story. I wonder if it is leading to Trent calling his shot for a title match. They all hugged afterward, so I guess it amounts to a shrug of the shoulders for whatever details they were trying to get across on screen.

Hijo del Vikingo and Black Taurus had the crowd rocking with their amazing athleticism. This was a rematch from the ROH Final Battle show with the goal to titillate a wider audience on Rampage. Mission accomplished. The ROH bout was more wild in general, but the flow was pretty similar between the two. Taurus may have earned himself a future AEW contract with these performances. I’d love to see him in the All Elite hoss fight division. The bull is currently with AAA and also wrestled with Impact as part of the Decay faction. You’d think that a bull mask would be doomed on the American wrestling scene, but Taurus is so badass that it doesn’t matter. The mask adds aura to the full package that is Taurus.

Skye Blue rolled out a new finisher. The TKO to dragon sleeper sounds cool in theory, but I’m confused how the choke works using only one arm. Queen Aminata was impressive. I’ve seen her plenty of times in the Dark universe as a squash jobber, so she never really flashed the skill shown here. Aminata utilized a nice variety of moves to leave me wanting more.

Hardys versus Kingdom had a so-so finish. Right now, it’s hard to see the big picture that might be planned. That win didn’t do the Kingdom any favors in raising their stock as potential champions. The Hardys shouldn’t be dropping matches left and right, so the self-inflicted distraction protects them a little. The extra aggression from the Hardys could be leading to a story direction. That aspect has my attention.

The promos were delightful. I’m loving Brian Cage’s meat talk. That’s engaging hype for the hoss fight with Keith Lee. The love story with Ruby Soho and Cool Hand Ang is moving along slowly. Saraya added an amusing wrinkle with her manipulation. I don’t know what Stokely Hathaway is up to with Kris Statlander, but I’m curious to find out. She knows that he’s full of shit. I’d like to think this promo was done for a purpose rather than serving chuckles, so we’ll have to wait and see.

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

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