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AEW Rampage recap & reactions (Jan. 5, 2024): Plots of seduction

AEW Rampage (Jan. 5, 2024) emanated from Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The show featured plots of seduction in more ways than one, Wheeler Yuta defending the ROH Pure Championship, and more.

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

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

Hardys & Mark Briscoe vs. Kip Sabian, Butcher, & Blade

The bad guys isolated Matt Hardy. Hot tag to Mark Briscoe. The bad guys isolated Briscoe. Hot tag to Jeff Hardy. The Hardy brothers found their groove, but the ruffians placed Matt in a precarious position. Butcher and Blade held Matt in place for a springboard dropkick from Sabian. Briscoe made the save, and the sex idol collided into his teammates. Sabian was ripe for the picking on a Twist of Fate from Matt, a swanton from Jeff, and a froggy bow from Briscoe to win.

Hardys & Mark Briscoe defeated Kip Sabian, Butcher, & Blade.

Sammy Guevara versus Ricky Starks was announced for next week on Dynamite. Sammy always overcomes, and he’ll do it again. Chris Jericho threatened to chop down Big Bill Morrissey if the big man tries to interfere.

Anna Jay was with Daddy Magic, Cool Hand Ang, and Jake Hager. She decided to prove herself against Hikaru Shida without their help. Harley Cameron sidled in to cozy up with a flirtatious vibe toward Cool Hand.

Kennedi Hardcastle & Notorious Mimi vs. Kris Statlander & Willow Nightingale

Stokely Hathaway interrupted to take over the official introduction. He hyped Statlander hard as thicker than a Snickers and faster than a cat with whiskers. Stokely’s intro for Willow was an afterthought. Statlander slapped him on the back of the head for the disrespect to her pal.

The match was an easy win. Quick tags for a variety of body slams, and Willow won on a spinebuster.

Kris Statlander & Willow Nightingale defeated Kennedi Hardcastle & Notorious Mimi.

Despite recent frustrations, the Hardys were feeling great after victory. Enter Private Party applauding their mentors’ success. It appeared to be all love from both sides, but there would be no more Hardy Party. It was time to let Private Party go their own way. The group shared one last celebration. The Hardys gifted their t-shirts and hung the clothing over Private Party’s head. It felt like friendly ribbing with a side of competitive jabbing.

Anna Jay vs. Hikaru Shida

Anna wrestled aggressively living up to the FABA phrase. Shida turned up the heat to rally for a falcon arrow slam. On the pinfall, Anna reversed for a roll-up. Shida kicked out, but Anna was in position for a Queen Slayer choke on the mat. Shida rolled over the top to escape. Knee strikes to the back and the front paved the way for a Meteora. Shida finished with the Katana strike.

Hikaru Shida defeated Anna Jay.

Sonjay Dutt held a meeting for his crew. He booked a tag team match for Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett to get back on the same page. Jarrett took verbal shots at Lethal being a loser. Lethal chided back taking credit for the interference in Jarrett’s big wins. Jarrett suggested that Lethal get out and start his own winning streak.

Enough talk. It’s time for the main event!

ROH Pure Championship: Wheeler Yuta (c) vs. Komander

Pure rules in effect. Jimmy Jacobs, Pat Buck, and Christopher Daniels were the judges in case of a time-limit draw. Yuta secured a double wristlock early, and Komander used his first rope-break. Komander’s speed gave Yuta trouble as the luchador swiftly transitioned from a magistral cradle to a modified single-leg crab. Yuta used his first rope-break to escape. As the match progressed, Yuta focused on damaging the left arm and shoulder. The double wristlock was his bread and butter. That same hold caused Komander to use his second and third rope-breaks.

The closing sequence was sweet. Komander hit a headscissors into the ropes, but Yuta swung through to shoot back for a bridging German suplex.

Komander kicked out, so Yuta went for the seat belt pin. Komander countered for a roll-up of his own. Yuta escaped and aggressively hammered elbows on the luchador. The finish came on a double wristlock. With no more legal rope-breaks allowed, Komander was forced to tap.

Wheeler Yuta defeated Komander.

Grade: B-

Solid action with a sturdy main event, but the real draw were plots of seduction.

Saraya’s evil plan to prevent love is coming into focus with Harley Cameron acting as the succubus. It’s pretty clear that she is trying to seduce Cool Hand Ang. His whole crew noticed, and it’s only a matter of time before Ruby Soho has feelings about it. The question will be how hard Harley pushes to create a comprising misunderstanding overseen by Ruby. Ang will need to play a cool hand to get out of this sticky situation. This should be a delicious use of Harley’s personality to extend the life of this story.

Stokely Hathaway is up to something trying to seduce Kris Statlander. His true motives aren’t exactly clear just yet. It is unlikely to be romantic in nature. Big Stoke previously said he was seeking a business relationship, but he has a weird way of going about it. Statlander isn’t buying his attempts to drive a wedge in her friendship with Willow Nightingale. If that is indeed the payoff, then we have a long way to go to get there. Something major has to give to make it believable.

Sonjay Dutt is trying to seduce harmony between Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. This story is a good way to branch Lethal out of a winless performance in the Continental Classic tournament. He needs to recover credibility, and Jeff Jarrett is the right villain for the job.

Out of all the matches, the ROH Pure Championship main event was the most interesting. Wheeler Yuta is establishing an identity in the ring with these Pure contests. The performance leaned into his strength of technical wrestling and being a natural punk. It’s amusing how he finds a way to land the closed-fist punch out of sight of the referee. That goes against the spirit of Pure rules and is worthy of earning contempt from the crowd. To make it more frustrating for fans hoping for comeuppance, Yuta goes out there to back up his Blackpool Combat Club training with smart execution. The reliance on the double wristlock for this bout was a thing of beauty.

I was curious to see how Komander would adapt to the Pure rules as a high-flyer, and he wrestled well. The luchador provided a good mix of mat work and athleticism. He even had a few tricks up his sleeve to put Yuta in prickly situations.

The Hardys and Mark Briscoe were a fun team. Commentary pushed them as potential challengers in the trios division. They would provide amusing competition for the Acclaimed and Billy Gunn. Book it! I was wondering if AEW suddenly dropped the Hardys’ new attitude, but it was on display in the verbal exchange with Private Party. I can envision the Hardys getting a nasty edge for that match.

Hikaru Shida and Anna Jay brought rowdy physicality. That was turning into an unexpected slobberknocker. It was the type of fight to make both women look good. Shida earned a quality win, and Anna showed she belongs in the mix of competition at that level with a former champion.

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

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