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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (May 19, 2023): Wild violence

AEW Rampage (May 19, 2023) emanated from Moody Center in Austin, TX. The Friday early evening episode was a violent night featuring Dustin Rhodes with the crimson mask, Swerve Strickland stomping Keith Lee, Ethan Page cracking Isiah Kassidy’s neck, Chris Jericho brawling with Adam Cole, and more. That list doesn’t even include Taya Valkyrie hitting the Road to Valhalla on Jade Cargill and the Blackpool Combat Club in action. It was a very busy show.

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

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

Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, & Wheeler Yuta vs. Best Friends & Bandido

Bryan Danielson was ringside. Bandido showed off some sweet moves.

The Best Amigos had a potential victory in hand, but they decided to give the people what they want instead. Yuta was in major trouble when Bandido caught him on a flying crossbody to counter for a suplex. Best Friends came in for the Sole Food to half-and-half suplex combo. Moxley and Claudio had been knocked off the apron, so Yuta was ripe for the picking. Rather than go for the pin, the Best Amigos did the hug spot. (Shaking my head, they deserved to lose.)

The Blackpool Combat Club promptly made them pay. Claudio blasted an uppercut to Chuck Taylor, Mox planted Taylor with a Death Rider, then Claudio and Yuta teamed up for a rocket launcher splash. Yuta covered Chuck for the win.

Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, & Wheeler Yuta defeated Best Friends & Bandido.

Kyle Fletcher explained why he attacked Orange Cassidy. Nobody is more international than Fletcher. He was born and raised in Australia. He made his name in the UK, Japan, then the USA. He is a titleholder on two different continents. Fletcher will be the new AEW international champion. He’ll get his chance in a title match on Dynamite next week.

TBS Championship: Jade Cargill (c) vs. Danni Bee

Open challenge. Squash win via pump kick. Jade’s record is now 58-0.

Jade Cargill defeated Danni Bee.

Mark Sterling grabbed a mic to ridicule the crowd. Was that the best challenger Texas had to offer? Sterling wasn’t expecting much, so he lined up another competitor for the champ.

TBS Championship: Jade Cargill (c) vs. Genesis

Squash win via Jaded. 59-0.

Jade Cargill defeated Genesis.

Sterling was feeling hot for 60-0. Bring out another contestant. The next challenger entered on stage, then Taya Valkyrie’s music hit. La Wera Loca has been reinstated from suspension. When the unnamed wrestler tried to head to the ring for her chance at Jade, Taya clobbered the newcomer. La Wera Loca wasn’t letting anyone get in her way. She entered the ropes to get physical with the champ. Sterling distracted the referee to prevent it from becoming an official match. Meanwhile, Taya hit the Road to Valhalla on Jade. Taya hit a second Road to Valhalla for good measure, then she informed the champ that it’s on at Double of Nothing.

The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn vs. Varsity Athletes

Daddy Ass showed off his abs in a posedown with Tony Nese.

The match progressed to the Varsity Athletes isolating Max Caster. Hot tag to Anthony Bowens. Nese still had some fight left in him, but his partners were knocked down when he tried to tag out. The Acclaimed finished Nese with the Mic Drop combo.

The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn defeated Varsity Athletes.

QTV. QT Marshall and Aaron Solo were entered into the Blackjack Battle Royale for the AEW International Championship at Double or Nothing. They also dished about Will Hobbs being on the marketing photos for the new AEW show Collision. It gives Hobbs a whole new group of people he can lay out, like Miro. The real story of Hobbs begins on June 17.

Hardy Party will compete against Ethan Page & the Gunns at Double of Nothing. If Hardy Party wins, then Matt Hardy will control Page’s contract. Page interrupted trying to weasel out of the match. When he asked the Gunns for help, that didn’t mean he wanted more fighting with the Hardy Party. Page was tired of wrestling them. He tried to squash the beef by pulling in Isiah Kassidy for a handshake. That was a ruse for the Gunns to hit the Hardys from behind with chairs. The bad guys set up Kassidy with a chair around his neck, and Page came crashing down from the turnbuckles. Ouch!

Chris Jericho was angry about Adam Cole’s cowardly attack on Dynamite, so he ripped up the legal paperwork banning Cole from the building. Jericho wants an unsanctioned match at Double or Nothing. Cole obliged by entering the venue for a pull-apart brawl.

Hype video for the main event. Enough talk. Mark Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

Bishop Kaun vs. Dustin Rhodes

Prince Nana was ringside. Keith Lee accompanied Rhodes on stage, but Rhodes rolled solo for the match. Blood flowed early when Kaun sent Rhodes through the ropes colliding into the camera. Rhodes gushed red.

There was no rest for the weary. Kaun executed a neckbreaker off the apron down to the floor. Rhodes wasn’t going down easy in front of his home crowd. The Natural fired up to rally for a Code Red. Kick out by Kaun. Piledriver by Rhodes. Kick out by Kaun. Kaun regained control, but he missed the mark on a corner splash. Rhodes pounced for a bulldog and the Final Reckoning to win.

Dustin Rhodes defeated Bishop Kaun.

Brian Cage immediately rushed the ring to pummel Rhodes with a powerbomb after the match. Enter Lee to do some smashing. He handled Cage and Kaun on the outside then stepped into the ring across from Swerve Strickland. Swerve didn’t back down. He slowly took off his jacket with no fear of Lee. That was a trick to buy time for Cage and Kaun to attack again. Kaun hit Lee with a chair, then Cage lifted Lee for an F5 onto the steel object. They placed Lee seated for Swerve to land a flying double stomp to close the show.

Grade: B+

That episode of Rampage was a lot of fun. It was a wild and crazy time full of violence. This show was about the moments that make you go, “Ooh!”

Dustin Rhodes versus Bishop Kaun was a better match than I was anticipating. Kaun looked like a stud. I’ve been a fan of his work since the ROH trios champ days with Shane Taylor Promotions, so it was cool to see him get the spotlight to shine in the main event. Kaun battered Rhodes on offense, then he showed toughness kicking out of heavy-duty moves. For Rhodes, this was the perfect way to use him. Elevate a younger star in the process of earning a win. The home crowd was on fire for Rhodes, and he responded in kind with fire of his own. The blood wasn’t really necessary, but I’ll take it as way to make Kaun look dangerous. And I’ll admit that the visual was pretty cool of Rhodes with blood covering his face on the hero comeback.

The post-match scene was nuts. Brian Cage muscling Keith Lee into the air was stupendous. That is the larger-than-life stuff I crave in professional wrestling. Swerve Strickland was a badass not backing down from Lee. Sure, it was a trap, but Swerve sold it in a stylish villain type of way. Swerve smartly played the crowd for his flying double stomp by soaking in the boos before lift-off. The visual of the move onto a seated Lee was awesome. That scene has my hyped for what is to come with this feud.

The only knock I have on the closing segment was Lee taking so long to arrive. He was right there on stage for Rhodes’ entrance. Where did he go during the match? Did he have a cape fitting in the wardrobe department?

The Jade Cargill segment was a great twist of entertainment in more ways than one. I love how they deviated from a simple squash to an open challenge train of dominance. Add in Taya as an uninvited guest, and it was money. The little detail of Sterling preventing the referee from making an official match is the kind of thought and effort I appreciate in storytelling. My regret was writing this off in my mind as another Jade rinse and repeat that I wasn’t fully prepared to soak in the glorious moment of Taya hitting the Road to Valhalla, not once but twice.

Thoughts on the rest of the show. The bad blood was boiling between Chuck Taylor and Wheeler Yuta. As viewers, it is easy to forget the past of Yuta palling with Best Friends. Taylor has not forgotten, and that’s an instance of making the characters feel real. Taylor versus Yuta is a singles match that I want to see in the near future on Rampage.

Ethan Page’s chair stomp on Isiah Kassidy’s neck was brutal. It was the most violent attack on the show, in my opinion. There is no way Kassidy will be ready to compete at Double or Nothing, unless he bathes in Matt Hardy’s lake of reincarnation. Otherwise, send Hook.

Was QTV dropping hints at Will Hobbs versus Miro? I’ll gladly accept that hoss fight, thank you very much. Chris Jericho and Adam Cole had a lively skirmish. It worked on me to sell the fight.

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

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