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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Sept. 1, 2023): Dark Order #1 contender

AEW Rampage (Sept. 1, 2023) emanated from Now Arena in Chicago, IL. The show featured the Dark Order rising to #1 contender status, Mike Santana in the spotlight to tell his story, and more in the go-home to All Out.

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.

ROH Tag Team Battle Royale

Winner earns a shot at the ROH World Tag Team Championship against MJF & Adam Cole at All Out. The field included Best Friends, Hardys, Aussie Open, Butcher & Blade, Dark Order, Darius Martin & Action Andretti, Gates of Agony, The Righteous, Peter Avalon & Ryan Nemeth, and the Outrunners.

The final four came down to Aussie Open, Trent, and Silver. Johnny Hungiee sided with Aussie Open for the 3-on-1 advantage. Trent was dumped over but saved himself on the apron. He was able to pull the ropes down to send Fletcher flying to the outside. Silver was next on the apron in a precarious position. Reynolds was still around ringside and carried Silver to the ring steps. Trent tossed Davis when battling for position over the ropes. Trent was still on the apron, and that’s when Silver charged over to ram Trent down.

Silver was victorious via Dark Order trickery. When Reynolds was eliminated, he faked an injury to be able to stick around to help his pal. Silver was sneaky in picky his spot to return for maximum impact.

The order of elimination was Turbo Floyd by Butcher & Blade, Truth Magnum by Gates of Agony, Nemeth by Chuck Taylor, Avalon by Trent Beretta, Bishop Kaun by Mark Davis, Blade by Toa Liona, Liona by Kyle Fletcher, Butcher by Dutch, Vincent by Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy by Vincent (from the floor), Jeff by Alex Reynolds, Dutch by Martin, Andretti by Davis, Reynolds by Martin, Martin by John Silver, Chuck by Aussie Open, Fletcher by Trent, Davis by Trent, Trent by Silver, and Silver as the lone survivor.

ROH Tag Team Battle Royale won by John Silver.

Aussie Open was in a foul mood and started a fight with Chris Jericho at the commentary table. Sammy Guevara ran in with a baseball bat to help his friend.

Mike Santana had a promo package to tell his story. When his father died a few years ago, skeletons burst out of the closest. Anger and discontent led Santana to Blood & Guts, when he was injured. His career came to a screeching halt. Santana closed by inviting us to walk on this journey with him.

Nick Wayne & Hijo del Vikingo vs. Kip Sabian & Gringo Loco

Bing, bang, boom. This was the high-flying act of the evening. Springboards, double springboards, flips, and all. Wayne cleared out Sabian with a dive to the outside, and Vikingo finished with a 630 senton on Gringo Loco.

Nick Wayne & Hijo del Vikingo defeated Kip Sabian & Gringo Loco.

Johnny TV was in charge of QTV while QT Marshall was gallivanting around the globe defending the AAA Latin American Championship. Johnny wanted the dirt gossip. He got too rambunctious and threw coffee in Harley Cameron’s face. Johnny warned that big changes are coming. Harley was impressed. With her help, she could make Johnny the best.

Hangman Page vs. Bryan Keith

Keith had a promo about being a bounty hunter and here for cowboy shit. He was aggressive, but Hangman was too good. A buckshot lariat closed the deal. No bounty was collected.

Hangman Page defeated Bryan Keith.

Daddy Magic, Cool Hand Ang, and Daniel Garcia are challenging the Acclaimed for the trios titles on Collision. They took a backseat to help Jericho’s career with no success for themselves to show for it. Time to go to the promised land. Renee Paquette could barely keep a straight face around these goofball sports entertainers. Garcia was dancing, Cool Hand was combing his hair, and Daddy Magic was being Daddy Magic.

Roderick Strong was annoyed at Renee’s line of questioning about his relationship with Adam Cole. He will tell his own story on his own time in his own way. Strong walked out of the interview.

Mark Henry ushered in a video package hyping the main event. Willow Nightingale is bringing a smile, big hair, and a fight. Enough talk. Mark Henry closed with, “It’s time for the main event!”

Anna Jay & Taya Valkyrie vs. Skye Blue & Willow Nightingale

Anna was back in her Star of the Show outfit. She still had a fat ass and a bad attitude. Anna and Taya isolated Willow for the hot tag moment to the hometown girl. Blue cleaned house. The match broke down into moves all around.

Anna accidentally kicked Taya in the face. Anna lost her focus on the action, and Blue took advantage for the Code Blue to win.

Skye Blue & Willow Nightingale defeated Anna Jay & Taya Valkyrie.

After the match, Taya stomped Blue, but La Wera Loca retreated from Willow.

Grade: B-

Rampage started a little slow, but the action picked up halfway through the battle royale. The rest of the night carried forth with that same rhythm. The promo pieces elevated the show overall.

The battle royal was low energy until the Hardys fired up with their stepping stool attack on Vincent. The eliminations were cooler from then on out. There was some personality in the proceedings with things like Aussie Open staying on the floor to pull opponents out and bash them into the barricade. The Hardys and Best Friends had an amusing showdown with deletions and hugs.

Dark Order is evolving before our eyes, and it is paying off. They acted a little goofy, but there was a method to their madness. Silver played his cards right in the final four not to pick a fight with Aussie Open. Reynolds’ sneaky strategy to fake an injury also came in handy at just the right moment. The new version of the Dark Order isn’t really on the dark side yet, however, they are bending the rules to their benefit. No more Mister Nice Guys.

In a nutshell, it’s a good call for the Dark Order to win. This throws them a bone to have success from time to time. In the bigger picture, it’s a bit of a stretch having them as PPV material against MJF & Adam Cole. This feels better suited as a high-profile TV bout rather than a PPV offering. There is zero suspense in the All Out result. To be fair, I don’t think any of these battle royale teams would be beating the champs at All Out. Dark Order versus MJF & Cole should be entertaining nonetheless.

The women filled the main event slot once again. It was a standard match with big personalities. Skye Blue got the hometown pop. Taya Valkyrie and Anna Jay might have a future together. They already have the team name T&A floating around. The aftermath left some meat on the bone to explore future matches. Surely we’ll get Taya against Willow Nightingale at the least.

The men’s tag team bout was patchwork matchmaking, but they brought the flash of excitement. Hijo del Vikingo and Gringo Loco have worked together enough times that they know how to create highlight lucha libre magic. Nick Wayne and Kip Sabian is a mini feud I’d like to see evolve on Rampage. Their styles should present an interesting matchup.

The promo from Bryan Keith added a little zest to the squash match. Threading together motives between the bounty hunter and the cowboy made me want to pay attention. Hangman Page’s performance was a bit odd. Hangman hit his moves just fine, but he seemed more concerned about pumping the crowd than the match itself.

The video package for Mike Santana was a great way to reintroduce him, build a following, and develop motivation moving forward. I’m a fan of Santana, so I like seeing him get the spotlight. I’m confident that he can carry the ball to move up the card.

Quick thoughts on the rest of the show. It’s funny seeing Excalibur and Tony Schiavone in suits on the commentary table with Chris Jericho sitting shirtless. Aussie Open versus Le Sex Gods has my interest. That should be a dandy in the ring, and a good challenge to push Jericho and Sammy Guevara up the ladder for their story. Johnny TV is gold on QTV. He is so ludicrous in a humorous way. Aaron Solo and Harley Cameron are great to play off of for comedy. Renee Paquette’s interview with Daddy Magic, Cool Hand Ang, and Daniel Garcia had A Night at the Roxbury vibes. Those guys are sports entertainers through and through.

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

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