3 Big Takeaways from AEW Rampage - March 17, 2023
It was a St. Patrick's Slam night this week, and the stars of All Elite Wrestling were looking to have the luck of the Irish in chilly Winnepeg
Sometime late on Friday, after Florida Atlantic had finished eliminating the Memphis Tigers in the NCAA Tournament, AEW Rampage took to the air. It's the St. Patrick's Day Slam edition of the program... So by the time the show finally aired in the States, many of the viewers were already full of green beer.
They also got drunk on the action, as Rampage had plenty of in-work from the stars of All Elite Wrestling. We started off the show hot with a title match, and things stayed fairly solid from there.
It's no secret to anyone who pays attention that Rampage is considered the 'poor, sick cousin' of Dynamite, and it doesn't draw huge ratings. Part of that has to do with its time slot. But a LOT of it - at least for a time - was because it featured a lot of throwaway matches and performers who were just passing through, In some ways, it almost felt like a smaller, disjointed segment of the AEW metaverse.
But that has changed as of late, and the show has been slowly improving. Tony Khan seems to be employing more of the prominent personalities, and fewer 'non-characters' from the ranks of Dark or Elevation. That's not a shot at those wrestlers, and they certainly have a place on TV from time to time, but they shouldn't be taking up time that could be reserved for big-money performers.
With all those matters out of the way, here's a closer look at this St. Patrick's Day Slam edition of AEW Rampage, and five things that really stood out:
#1 - Powerhouse Hobbs continues to build his golden resume
The show kicked off this week with the freshly-minted TNT Champion Will Hobbs taking on a very worthy opponent in Fenix. While it's not often that we see the high flyer in solo action, he's one of the most electric athletes in the ring today. Even if he actually spends most of his time soaring above it.
Powerhouse is obviously working as the heel here, and he imposed his will on the smaller man. Like a great babyface, Fenix continued to rise. He gave a heroic effort before falling short. Hobbs retains his title in an unsurprising finish.
FINAL THOUGHT: The rise and reign of Hobbs should be interesting to watch. In many ways, he's standing in the same spot Wardlow was not too long ago, receiving a major push as an unstoppable force. Some even call it the 'Goldberg push'.
So, the test now for Tony Khan and AEW is not to squander this momentum in the same way they did the first time around. They dropped the ball with Wardlow's initial push and have been scrambling to find it again. If they do the same with Hobbs, it will be a warning sign that the promotion can't develop a dominant heavyweight.
#2 - Taya Valkyrie is a welcome shot of adrenaline to the women's division
She's barely gotten in the door at All Elite Wrestling, but you can already sense the loyalists getting behind her right off the bat. And for good reason.
Valkyrie would be the first to tell you that she isn't a total technical wizard in the ring. Instead, she has a mix of power moves, the Mexican style, and high-impact blows in the ring. So, she's a good wrestler. But it's her personality that completes the package.
She got an easy win on Rampage against Ava Lawrence. It was a quick showcase meant to highlight the promotion's newest female star, and it worked out just fine. The crowd has already accepted her as a babyface and the next challenger for Jade Cargill. This was a good signing for AEW, as Valkyrie not only brings value in front of the camera but also leadership in the locker room.
FINAL THOUGHT: Taya is one of those rare, magnetic figures that easily hold your attention, and she was a part of the 'second wave' of the new generation of female performers. While she's a veteran of the industry, she hasn't been overexposed on national television, so she's still fresh in the eyes of a lot of fans.
While it appears that she COULD be the one to finally dethrone Cargill and end her undefeated streak. But ultimately, Valkyrie will likely play into the Outcasts storyline, because (just like Ruby Soho) she has a reason to be aligned with either side. So, she might be the next one who has to choose where her allegiances lie.
#3 - Just exactly who IS Daniel Garcia?
The main event saw things pick up where they left off from Dynamite's main event when we had trios tag team turmoil. The Blackpool Combat Club, Jericho Appreciation Society, and House of Black had a donnybrook on Wednesday, and two members of those factions took to battle.
Brody King and Daniel Garcia had a solid, but not spectacular bout to close the show. Garcia got the win after Chris Jericho interfered at ringside. The baseball bat came into play again, for what turned out to be a cheap way to close the show.
FINAL THOUGHT: The question here is... What happened to the version of Garcia that - not too long ago - captured the AEW Pure Championship in his hometown of Buffalo to massive cheers? What happened to the heroic kid, who was a street fighter?
Garcia was a great performer then, and he still is today. But he was much better suited in the role as the underdog shoot fighter, battling the odds against the sports entertainers. Now, that role has been handed over to Axction Andretti. Meanwhile, Danny G. is lined up as one of Y2J's backup dancers.
When Garcia inevitably turns babyface again, you only hope it will be a huge shot in the arm. Because as a member of the JAS right now? He's essentially just treading water.