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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (June 30, 2023): Winning evolution of QTV

AEW Rampage (June 30, 2023) emanated from FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. The episode featured the evolution of QTV into a winning formula, Claudio Castagnoli retaining the ROH World Championship like a badass, and much more.

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

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

ROH World Championship: Claudio Castagnoli (c) vs. Komander

Alex Abrahantes was ringside to support the luchador. The story was power versus speed. Claudio was familiar with lucha libre training, so he had a steady set of counters in his arsenal. The champ crushed the challenger early. After a giant swing, Claudio aimed to finish with the Ricola Bomb, but Komander showed fighting spirit to escape.

Komander went on a run of offense to keep Claudio on his toes. One such move was a tilt-a-whirl headscissors with many tilts and many whirls.

Komander also walked on the barricade for a shooting star press to Claudio hanging over the barrier.

The match progressed with exciting acrobatics from Komander and rugged strength from Claudio. The finish came on a knockout. Komander flew in the air once again, and Claudio cracked a European uppercut to counter. Referee Brandon Martinez paused the action to check on Komander, and he waved off the match.

Claudio Castagnoli defeated Komander.

Blade vs. Shawn Spears

Butcher clotheslined Spears on the outside to help Blade take control. Spears rallied, so Blade rolled out to regroup. When Spears was in position for a flying attack to the outside, Blade rolled back in the ring to throw Spears off his game. Spears leaped toward Blade and missed his target. Blade charged for a clothesline, but Spears countered for the C4 finisher to win.

Shawn Spears defeated Blade.

Hype video for the Owen Hart men’s tournament quarterfinal matchups on Collision.

Johnny TV & QT Marshall vs. Matt Hardy & Isiah Kassidy

Harley Cameron entered first to sing the QTV crew to the ring.

Ethan Page accompanied Hardy Party. The good guys were rolling down the stretch. Kassidy used Hardy as a stepping stool for a leap to the outside onto QTV. Hardy planted Johnny with a Side Effect in the ring. Brother Zay climbed the corner to finish, but Harley hopped onto the apron to cause a distraction. QT pulled Kassidy off the turnbuckles, then he rammed Hardy into the steel steps. Johnny connected on Starship Pain for victory.

Johnny TV & QT Marshall defeated Matt Hardy & Isiah Kassidy.

After the match, Page entered the ring to prevent QTV from continuing their attacks. QTV provoked All Ego with shoves and slaps. Page punched QT in the mug, then Johnny kicked Page in the face. Anthony Bowens and Billy Gunn ran in for the save as QTV scattered to safety.

Mark Henry ushered in a video package hyping the main event. Taya Valkyrie and Hikaru Shida are two world travelers ready to do battle. Taya views Shida as the perfect opportunity to get back on the winning track. Shida will show Taya the best of the women’s division. Enough talk. Mark Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

Wheeler Yuta is booked to wrestle Kenny Omega on Dynamite. Yuta plans to break the Elite emotionally and mentally.

Taya Valkyrie vs. Hikaru Shida

Taya’s strategy was to work Shida’s knee by ramming it into the ring post. The idea was to prevent Shida’s signature strikes. Shida grit through the pain anyway for her patented step-up jumping knee off the chair. Taya blocked the Katana spinning strike and smashed Shida’s knee into the corner. Taya added a running double knees. When La Wera Loca lifted for the Road to Valhalla, Shida rolled down to escape. Taya stacked on top for a pin, but Shida reversed position for a roll-up win.

Hikaru Shida defeated Taya Valkyrie.

Grade: B

This episode of Rampage was quality TV. Four competitive matches on a Friday night. The ROH world title fight was the most electric, and the other three bouts fleshed out the standings.

The evolution of QTV is impressive. I think they finally have a winning formula with Johnny TV in the ring and Harley Cameron in the spotlight. Will Hobbs never felt like a fit in that group. Technically, he’s still involved, or rather QT Marshall is still involved in the Powerhouse business. Now, Johnny gives QTV legitimacy in the ring as a former champion, and Harley’s musical talent makes them appear look like stars. Aaron Solo has value for a trios team or the wrestler who gets beat up by the babyfaces. QTV has my curiosity moving forward.

As for the QTV match, Isiah Kassidy was the mover and shaker. He was on fire hitting spots and moaning in satisfaction. Brother Zay has been in the background without Marq Quen, so it was nice to see him shine on this evening. Ethan Page helping Hardy Party after the match was an interesting development. Page has the comedy chops to be a fan favorite. Plus, he just seems like a really nice person in real life. Eventually becoming a babyface would be a natural fit for him in the Hardy Party group.

Claudio Castagnoli versus Komander was a highlight reel. Komander showed he’s more than a one-trick pony walking the ropes to expand his offensive arsenal in this match. Some of his spots weren’t the cleanest in execution, but any mistakes were covered up well enough in the flow of action. I like the story told of Claudio being too powerful. Komander’s head barely reached Claudio’s shoulders, so the difference in stature was obvious. Claudio smashed the luchador often as he should have. Komander’s speed allowed him to open windows of opportunity. The knockout finish was an interesting call. I’ve criticized AEW in the past for referees stopping the action to check on wrestlers as a story tool to build cheap drama only for the match to continue like nothing happened. In comparison, the official ending here caught me by surprise when the ref waved this one off. That’s a smart way to mix things up. It also elevates Claudio’s stock by making him look completely badass.

When I first heard Taya Valkyrie versus Hikaru Shida was booked for Rampage, I was intrigued. That’s the kind of quality matchmaking that can set up the winner for a world title shot. I was also curious how the fan reaction would treat each wrestler. The Hamilton crowd didn’t show much love for La Wera Loca. Even though Taya is Canadian, she is from the opposite side of the country. Instead, they were firmly behind Shida. It helped that Taya embraced a heel attitude once the match started. The finish was a smart way to protect Taya. She’s coming off the loss to TBS champion Kris Statlander, so another L wouldn’t look pretty on paper. Taya controlled much of the match and had Shida in position for her finisher. The way Taya lost on that roll-up could be perceived as a fluke, in the sense that it could be argued Taya would win more times than not against Shida.

Shawn Spears was in an ass cheek flexing mood.

I’m not sure why Spears did that, but I suspect it was in response to Blade popping his pecs. If Spears adds that posterior pose to his routine, there is no doubt in my mind that it would get over with cheers from the crowd. That might have been his mating dance to woo Cassie Lee. We better be careful before unleashing Spears’ rump to the world on a weekly basis. The magnetic attraction may be too powerful for the masses. There is a reason that Elvis’ pelvis was banned from the screen.

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

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