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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Sept. 29, 2023): Shida & Soho battle for world title shot

AEW Rampage (Sept. 29, 2023) emanated from 1STBANK Center in Denver, CO. The show featured Hikaru Shida battling Ruby Soho in a damn fine main event for a world title shot, Eddie Kingston spinning right round in a NJPW championship defense, and more heading into WrestleDream.

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

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

AEW World Trios Championship: The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn (c) vs. Hardy Party

Open challenge. Anthony Bowens started strong with a high leaping Fame-asser leg drop on Isiah Kassidy.

The match progressed into an amusing showdown between Billy Gunn and Matt Hardy. They dueled with, “Suck it,” and, “Delete,” chants.

The champs isolated Brother Zay. Hot tag to Jeff Hardy on fire. Matt Hardy hit a Twist of Fate on Billy, and Jeff added a Swanton. Bowens made the save. The Acclaimed regained momentum to clobber Zay. They finished with a teamwork elevated powerbomb to retain the gold.

The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn defeated Hardy Party.

AEW announced that the Acclaimed & Billy Gunn will defend the trios title against NJPW’s TMDK crew of Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls, & Bad Dude Tito on the WrestleDream Zero Hour pre-show.

Eddie Kingston has respect for Rocky Romero. It will be an honor to defend the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship against Azucar. Jay Lethal interrupted with disgust in his eyes about Kingston representing ROH as world champion. Kingston laughed off the insults.

Andrade will wrestle Juice Robinson on Collision after interference costing El Idolo the win against Jay White.

NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Eddie Kingston (c) vs. Rocky Romero

Romero used his speed to keep Kingston on his heels all match long. Kingston was no sucker though. Romero hit two consecutive suicide dives. On the third attempt, Kingston caught him for a suplex on the floor.

Romero regrouped for an avalanche Sliced Bread.

Kingston showed fighting spirit in the end. He embraced the pain of Romero’s strikes to fire up with intensity. Kingston surprised Romero with a spinning backfist. Kingston struck a second spinning backfist, then he hooked the stretch plum submission for victory.

Eddie Kingston defeated Rocky Romero.

Afterward, Katsuyori Shibata entered the ring for a staredown with Kingston. Respect was mutual for a rugged handshake in anticipation of the WrestleDream title bout.

Aussie Open wants FTR to feel the pain of defeat. They plan to burn down FTR’s claims of being the best tag team in the world.

The Righteous vs. Caleb Crush & Gunnar

Squash. Vincent stepped off Dutch’s chest for a tornado cutter.

The Righteous defeated Caleb Crush & Gunnar.

AEW aired a video package promoting the beef between Santana and Ortiz.

Nick Wayne has a debt to settle with Luchasaurus. He’s coming to collect on the PPV pre-show.

Zack Sabre Jr. feels fresh as a daisy arriving on his long-distance flight. Bryan Danielson is on a retirement tour, but Sabre plans to make it a final retirement in their match.

Mark Henry was absent on this evening. I’ll say it for the man. Enough talk. It’s time for the main event!

Ruby Soho vs. Hikaru Shida

The winner earns a shot at Saraya and the AEW Women’s World Championship at Title Tuesday Dynamite on October 10.

Shida gained early control, and the crowd was fired up for her success. Soho slowed down the pace to grind Shida on the mat. The action escalated into furious strikes back and forth. Shida slammed a brainbuster. When she went for the Katana finisher, Soho ducked and rolled out of the ring to regroup. Shida gave chase to brawl up the ramp. Referee Paul Turner made his count, then the ladies sprinted back to the ring to beat 10.

The match progressed with Soho reaching into her grab bag of cheating gimmicks. She snatched the kendo stick knowing full well that the referee would intervene. As Turner took away the foreign object, Soho dug into her pocket for spray paint. Shida blocked the illegal funny business. In the scuffle, they clocked Turner in the head with the canister. Ref down!

Soho took advantage of the calamity to strike with the Destination Unknown. Shida was down, but the ref was out. No count on the pinfall. Soho went for the kendo stick again. Shida blocked it, grabbed the weapon, and bopped Soho on the head. Shida unsheathed the Katana on the mark. Soho was down, but the ref was still out. Aubrey Edwards ran down to make the count. 1, 2, kick out by Soho.

Soho was back on the attack. Shida put her knees up to block a flying senton. Shida seized the moment for a Falcon Arrow. 1, 2, kick out by Soho.

Shida grabbed her opponent, but Soho countered for a No Future Kick. Shida bounced back for the Katana. 1, 2, 3, match over. Commentary explained that Soho didn’t land her finisher flush whereas Shida made clean contact on the button.

Hikaru Shida defeated Ruby Soho.

Saraya came down as a tease for the upcoming title bout against Shida.

Grade: B+

The trios title bout was an amusing treat, and the women’s main event was fantastic. This grade rose after watching Hikaru Shida and Ruby Soho go to work.

Shida and Soho put on a treat in the main event. They worked the drama well on near falls with all those shenanigans. The tit for tat finisher sequence with the referee down made it a fair fight. I like the detail of Shida staring up stage and urging Aubrey Edwards to hurry up to the ring as backup referee. That demonstrated how difficult Shida knew it would be to keep Soho down. Later, they had me hook, line, and sinker when Soho kicked out of the Falcon Arrow. That was the type of performance that elevated both participants in my eyes.

Eddie Kingston versus Rocky Romero was enjoyable, however, I feel the bigger picture was lost. Kingston has a super tough challenge to get past Katsuyori Shibata at WrestleDream. Kingston did not look good in this bout with that context in mind. I’m referring to the story of the match. He wrestled just fine and performed as intended. My issue is that Romero looked like a superstar as Kingston took a backseat letting Azucar shine. That’s not a problem on a normal week, but this isn’t a normal week. Kingston should be surging to peak performance to make fans salivate heading into the marquee PPV bout. He barely squeaked by in victory over Romero. I suppose it could be explained as a ‘trap game’ for Kingston. I assume he’ll be extra motivated to bring his best against Shibata. If he doesn’t, then he’ll be mincemeat. My point is that I shouldn’t have to assume. Kingston should have been a steamroller on this evening to drive that point home firmly.

On the positive, that handshake muscle flex between Shibata and Kingston was badass. That alone makes me eager for the fight.

The trios title bout was good fun. The catchphrase duel between Billy Gunn and Matt Hardy had the crowd rocking. The Acclaimed’s powerbomb finisher is a nice change to the routine that was growing stale. Their winning formula was beginning to feel too repetitive, in my opinion. The new finisher freshens up their act in the ring to add variety in closing matches.

It’s time for the Hardys to pick up some wins. They have eaten defeat too often lately. The Hardys offer value on screen as legends, however, they are getting to the point that a loss is expected. Their competition has been tough on this run, so it’s not like they are being used as jabrones. They are straddling that thin line of putting over too many people where it devalues their own worth, which in turn makes passing the torch less effective.

Andrade’s promo content was poor. It didn’t make sense to question why Juice Robinson had a problem with him. Of course, Juice is rock hard for Andrade. That’s understood automatically when picking a fight with the Bang Bang Gang. Maybe the idea was to make Andrade appear loopy with the comical bandage on his head. If that’s the case, then the promo would make sense in a funny way.

The promo from Zack Sabre Jr. shows how cold his feud with Bryan Danielson is on TV. I believe this is supposed to be the main event of the PPV. The build has been piss poor. I understand Sabre being occupied with work in NJPW, but AEW should have planned ahead for video promos over the weeks. They just automatically assume everyone will be hooked just because they say it is a dream match. That’s not flying here. Show me, don’t tell me. AEW has one more broadcast with Collision to hype the bout. They better bring the fire to heat this match up in a hurry.

Shout out to Excalibur for the altitude references in Denver. Even though nobody visually showed fatigue in matches, it’s the idea that counts. His observation adds those little details for a sporting feel.

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

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