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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (June 2, 2023): AAA, NJPW, & ROH title fights

AEW Rampage (June 2, 2023) emanated from Viejas Arena in San Diego, CA. The Championship Friday episode featured defenses of the AAA Mega Championship, the NJPW World Television Championship, the NJPW Strong Women’s World Championship, and the ROH Pure Championship, as well as Aubrey Edwards choking Karen Jarrett.

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

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

AAA Mega Championship: Hijo del Vikingo (c) vs. Dralistico vs. Komander

Lucha libre madness. Fire up the highlight reel. Vikingo had a step-up springboard moonsault to the outside.

Vikingo executed an implosion rana then followed with an outside-in Phoenix splash.

Komander had a rope-walking dive.

That’s just a taste of the cool moves that were captured with video clips.

The closing sequence started with Vikingo loading Dralistico and Komander onto a table for an inside-out springboard 630 senton.

Dralistico had rolled off the table in the nick of time, so Vikingo and Komander took the table contact. Dralistico tried to capitalize on the champion with a powerbomb in the ring, but Vikingo countered for a hurricanrana pin to win.

Hijo del Vikingo retained the championship.

Jeff Jarrett’s crew was threatened with suspension for Karen Jarrett smashing a guitar over the head of referee Aubrey Edwards at Double or Nothing. Mark Briscoe interrupted to inform them that they were safe. If the Jarretts were banned, then they wouldn’t be around to get the ass whooping they deserve. Briscoe hinted at ‘we’ and Karen Jarrett wanted to know who. Enter Edwards. The ref snapped and started choking Karen. The end of this scene is hilarious.

NJPW World Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Action Andretti

Clash in styles between an expert in technical wrestling and a speedy high-flyer. The finish came down to Sabre countering a springboard attack into an armbar. Sabre worked to trap both arms with his legs and crank hard. Andretti verbally submit.

Zack Sabre Jr. retained.

NJPW Strong Women’s World Championship: Willow Nightingale (c) vs. Emi Sakura

The match started with a fun duel of shoulder tackles. Sakura took control on the outside for a running crossbody into the barricade. Sakura kept on the pressure to control the flow for much of the match. Willow turned the tide with a huge pounce and a cannonball into the corner. Willow had a little more work to do, but she got the job done with a gutwrench powerbomb to win.

Willow Nightingale retained.

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

ROH Pure Championship: Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Lee Moriarty

Pure rules in effect. Jerry Lynn, Christopher Daniels, and BJ Whitmer were the judges to determine a winner in case of a draw. The first rope-break came one minute into the match when Moriarty grabbed the ropes to escape a kimura. Moriarty used his second rope-break at six minutes to escape a figure-four. Moriarty’s third and final rope-break was at the eight-minute mark on a sleeper. Moriarty scored offense of his own during the bout and even locked in the Border City Stretch submission finisher, but it was clear that Shibata was the superior wrestler. Shibata seized victory with a sleeper to set up a running penalty kick for the winning pin.

Katsuyori Shibata retained.

After the match, former Pure champion Daniel Garcia entered the ring for a staredown to close the show.

Grade: B+

This show was all about the wrestling. With all these outside championships, this was the type of episode that you won’t see anywhere else. Rampage went four for four in entertaining matches. The action was at a high quality TV level. The knock would be a lack of drama in believing there could be a title change in any of the matches. The cherry on top of the sundae was Aubrey Edwards choking Karen Jarrett.

Hijo del Vikingo continues to be amazing. I’ve seen his crazy moves a lot through AAA, AEW, MLW, and ROH, and I still pop from them. Those step-up springboard twisting attacks are sick. I could be more specific, but he has a handful of them, and they are all cool. Vikingo also breaks out new moves on the regular. I was particularly impressed by the springboard corkscrew reverse rana.

Zack Sabre Jr. is a stud. He works the technical style so well. His ring awareness is top-notch. Sabre applied an armbar over the ropes and put his weight down to stretch Action Andretti’s arm at an awkward angle for a painful visual. I was impressed by Sabre securing a choke while in the torture rack. I’ve never seen that counter before. The finishing submission was brutal with how Sabre cranked with aggression. Sabre is an example of a wrestler that doesn’t necessarily look the part, but his skillset is so strong that it would be believable for him to beat anyone on the roster.

Commentary referred to a dropkick from Andretti as the John Woo dropkick. That sounded pretty slick. It made me ponder that all of Andretti’s signature moves should be named after action movie references. I’m not sure if that is a good idea or not, but it is amusing to consider.

Willow Nightingale provided the Willow experience. Her charisma bursts though the screen. She has the sports entertainment mannerisms perfected with resting her chin on her hand for a pin, exploding for a big pounce, pulling down the straps when it is go time, and so on. The Doctor Bomb finisher had extra oomph on this evening by lifting dead weight high into the air then crashing down with force.

Katsuyori Shibata is a treasure. His presence always feels like a big deal. AEW and ROH have done a great job keeping his mystical aura. Shibata’s killer instinct to finish is vicious. He remains stoic while dishing out brutality. As for the match, I appreciate the little details from Shibata. For example, he hooked the heel to prevent escape on the figure-four. Also, credit to commentary for pointing these things out.

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

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