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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (July 21, 2023): Darby Allin outsmarts Swerve Strickland

AEW Rampage (July 21, 2023) emanated from TD Garden in Boston, MA. The show featured the Royal Rampage two-ring battle royale, Kris Statlander defending the TBS Championship, 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.

Royal Rampage

AEW made use of the two rings from Blood & Guts by holding the Royal Rampage battle royale. Twenty total participants with ten men in each ring. Staggered entrance like the Royal Rumble. Over-the-top elimination. The lone survivors in each ring come together to duke it out for victory. The prize was a TNT title shot at All Out.

The field included Darby Allin, Swerve Strickland, Jay Lethal, Nick Wayne, Minoru Suzuki, Brian Cage, Ethan Page, Komander, Butcher, Big Bill Morrissey, Blade, Isiah Kassidy, Toa Liona, Matt Sydal, Bishop Kaun, Matt Hardy, Daddy Magic, Jeff Jarrett, Cool Hand Ang, and Jake Hager.

Notable eliminations were Lethal first by Page, Suzuki dumped by Butcher, and Jarrett tossed by Hardy.

The nitty-gritty for ring one came down to Allin, Liona, Kaun, Daddy Magic, and Cool Hand. The heels teamed up against Allin, but JAS tried to pull a fast one by sending the Gates of Agony over the ropes. Kaun and Bishop reversed it, and Allin helped dump JAS. Allin was crafty dodging the Gates of Agony until Liona crushed him with a killer body block. Wayne exited his ring to help Allin even the odds. They eliminated Kaun, and Allin low bridged the ropes to send Liona out.

The final four for ring two included Swerve, Wayne, Cage, and Bill. The 7-footer was confident goozling Wayne over the ropes, but the youngster pulled Bill with him. Swerve double-crossed Bill to dump him out. The Mogul Embassy teamed up on Wayne. Wayne played quick to create accidental contact between Swerve and Cage to knock the Machine out. Swerve had veteran tricks up his sleeve to pull Wayne’s arm over the rope to send him reeling back off the apron down to the floor.

Allin and Swerve consolidated into one ring. Prince Nana hit Allin with the skateboard to help Swerve take control. Swerve powerbombed Allin onto the skate trucks.

Swerve tossed Allin over, but he held on to the ropes. Swerve went for a flying double stomp out to the apron. Allin got his feet up, but Swerve blocked the block. Swerve lifted Allin for a suplex. Allin shifted his position to re-enter the ring, while Swerve was hanging on by a nail. Allin charged forward for a suicide dive to win. Since Allin leaped through the ropes, he was safe from elimination.

Darby Allin wins Royal Rampage.

The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn vs. Johnny TV, QT Marshall, & Aaron Solo

Harley Cameron was ringside. The Acclaimed started strong, then QTV took control. QT and Solo spun Johnny on Max Caster’s stomach for the Intestinizer. It was like a helicopter breakdance move. QTV was close to victory on Billy when they unloaded a kick to the mush, a cutter, and a flying stomp, but Daddy Ass kicked out on the cover. The Acclaimed rallied with the Mic Drop combo for Billy to pin Solo.

The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn defeated Johnny TV, QT Marshall, & Aaron Solo.

Mark Henry ushered in a video package hyping the main event. Kris Statlander was Marina Shafir’s first match in AEW, and the result will be the same. Shafir plans to inflict pain on Statlander. Enough talk. Mark Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

TBS Championship: Kris Statlander (c) vs. Marina Shafir

Shafir worked her martial arts game with success on Statlander until the champ hit an electric chair slam. After a delayed vertical suplex, Shafir kicked out on the cover. Shafir countered Statlander’s finisher for a standing figure-four. Statlander kicked her way free then unloaded a powerful lariat. The Friday Night Fever piledriver sealed the deal.

Kris Statlander defeated Marina Shafir.

Royal Rampage was interesting, in good ways and bad ways. I’m always excited for a battle royal in almost all their formats. I think I draw the line at the TNA reverse battle royal. Anyway, the Royal Rampage has a special aura as a once-a-year attraction. In that regard, it stood strong. The big boys were rocking. Toa Liona’s body block on Darby Allin earned a genuine, “Ooooh!”

I had issues with the booking toward the end. Allin and Nick Wayne as superheroes made my eyes roll. They took such a beating from super heavyweights and overcame the odds for sneaky eliminations. I can sometimes take beanpoles with a grain of salt, but this was far too salty for my taste. The other issue was Swerve Strickland’s arrogance (no urgency to win) mixed with idiocy (the flying stomp on the apron). He had Allin for easy pickings and couldn’t get the job done. The character wasted valuable time, and he took unnecessary risks to a stupid degree. Part of that was wanting to inflict more pain, and part was Allin being impossible to beat. Swerve deserves to be demoted after failing to win in that scenario.

On the positive, there was cool creativity on the finish. That powerbomb onto the skateboard was brutal. Allin using a suicide dive to win was an outstanding display of awareness.

For storylines, several current feuds continued. It was more like business as usual rather than popping fresh. I was hoping to see some different directions emerge. One possibility would be Minoru Suzuki versus Butcher as payback for elimination, or have Suzuki tag with Chris Jericho to wrestle Butcher and Blade. That would be a physical delight.

Grade: C+

Royal Rampage was cool enough, but booking agendas dragged it down as a whole. The other two matches were fine to finish out the night.

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

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