Red's Pro-Wrestling Digest no.120: Wrestling, eh! (AEW Spark-road to Battle of the Belts VII part two)

Check out this playlist episode of AEW content from the first week of July, HERE.

Cole and MJF worked out and bonded to kick us off. Good shit.

Swerve teamed with Keith Lee, the former getting some cheap shots in on his rival and temporary partner throughout, as they'd face Orange and Darby in Blind Eliminator action. The latter team would move ahead. Good action with expected in-fighting drama.

Jericho's going face? Don Callis had an offer for Chris, along with some solid heat, as a response to this teased turn. All he'd get is a "maybe" for his troubles in response to an offer to join Don's family.

Cole and MJF worked well enough together, getting the win over Butcher and Menard. Not enough aired via YT to rate and I didn't go for the full thing. It still made for decent TV. After, MJF tried to throw a makeshift birthday party for Adam. They continue to bond and I'm all for this program.

Ruby had some help from her nWo girls and picked up a win over Baker, next. It's good to see Soho not being the fall girl once again, as well as a guarantee that Baker wouldn't repeat, but the shit finish stuff can be a bit much at times and I'm sure this one rubs many folks the wrong way.

Don tried to sway the results of Yuta versus Omega. Failed. Yuta continues to show that he's legit and Kenny was Kenny. A very good battle that allowed both dudes to look good, especially Wheeler as they continue testing waters, while also adding a small block to the story.

Soup and Claudio attacked after until The Elite ran them off.

Darby put over Nick Wayne and talked about his relationship with the kid. A good way to prop Wayne up ahead of his debut while also giving Allin some TV time. It's promos like these, the raw ones where it's just Darby being real, that they need to always lean into. He's just a bit too rough at times with a live mic and a storyline to sell.

Over to Rampage 100 next. I actually watched basically the whole event. That's right, I watched an entire Rampage. Due to the nature of things, this being the one-hundredth installment of the Friday night afterthought show, It just felt like the right call.

The Elite and Dark Order ran it back for a great one with a big heel turn finish to kick the in-ring action off. Nonstop action and excitement and a decent runtime, this closed with Takeshita getting a finger in and Evil Uno turning heel and landing a pin on Page. I strongly approve of basically everything done here with this one!

Matt refused to use the guitar, then Red Death got the W after a blind tag; pinning Matt after Sammy hit a finish. Guevara and Garcia move on. Okay stuff, but I still remain completely unwilling to call the Double J experiment worthwhile. Like, what does he actually add?

Shida got a win in a largely forgettable contest with Shafir next. I dig what Shafir aims for, but it doesn't always translate well. Shida winning was the right choice, at least.

Big Bill and Brian Cage beat Sydal and Trent next. I really dig the big boss team of W. Morrissey with Mr. Gauntlet. 

CMLL fans are used to matches and tournaments like what TK is doing with the Blind Eliminator. I'm glad the dynamic is being used on US television right now, though.

Anyway, Ramapage 100 was far closer to what the show should just be in general. It still felt like a clear B-show, but at least one with a bit more focus than usual.

Over to Collision, and we have CM Punk in Regina with a mic. He pumped the crowd and plugged his match with Joe. He even plugged the remaining field and urged fans to chant for Owen. Decent stuff.

Starks and Hobbs' program resumed in a semifinal match for The Owen next.  Commentary tried to sell Hobbs' strength to excuse some roughness, then the QT goons at ringside got involved in a backfire spot. Ricky would win moments later thanks to his opponent being distracted, arguing with his ally. A bit much for me and an average match that could've been so much more.

FTR and Bullet Club Gold was high quality TV and made for nearly 30-minutes of excellent, top shelf tag team professional wrestling. I've argued that the tag division of AEW has been booked a bit rough at times this year, though far above the TNT division, and I feel this is exactly what the doctor called for. Both sides went all out, keeping a strong pace, and the ebb and flow provided the perfect amount of drama as it went along. The finish saw White and Juice get the win, and a title shot. The finish was a bit off, but was logical and the outcome ensured a rematch so it was hard to complain.

Joe and Punk's prematch package was fun and set a good vibe. It also likely raised expectations for folks that somehow forgot how epic their series was. Punk versus Joe 7 didn't admittedly hit that high bar, though. They did however provide for a strong main event that still felt important. The Owen Hart chants where nice touches. The finish would see a flash-pin finish as CM Punk would finally get a win over the King of Television. Borderline great content at the very least, though I do feel your mileage might vary.

Punk versus Joe Scoreboard

  1. Joe b Punk, ROH 2003
  2. Joe b Punk, PWG 2003
  3. Time Limit Draw, ROH 2004
  4. Time Limit Draw, ROH 2004
  5. Joe b Punk, ROH 2004
  6. Joe b Punk, FWA 2005
  7. Punk b Joe, AEW 2023

The energy of Collision is strong. If only Rampage actually mattered.

After, the two would be left alone in the ring for some dramatics. Punk would go to shake Joe's hand, but was put to sleep for his troubles. A broken FTR would hobble out for the save as Joe was about to enter the ring with a chair. Ricky Starks would come out on the ramp to stare down Punk to conclude things, teasing the finals.

In all, this week of AEW had a lot of fun stuff and a made for an entertaining enough experience. It's hard to ask for much more than that!

Match Ratings

  1. Blind Eliminator Quarterfinal: Darby, Orange vs Lee, Swerve ***1/4
  2. Bling Eliminator Quarterfinal: Better Than You, Bay Bay vs Menard, Butcher NR
  3. Owen Hart Cup Quarterfinal: Baker vs Ruby NR
  4. Yuta vs Omega ***1/2
  5. The Elite vs Dark Order ***3/4
  6. Jarrett, Matt vs Guevara, Garcia NR
  7. Shafir vs Shida **1/4
  8. Blind Eliminator Quarterfinal: Bill, Cage vs Sydal, Trent ***
  9. Owen Hart Cup Semifinal: Starks vs Hobbs **1/2
  10. Eliminator: FTR vs BCG ****1/4
  11. Owen Hart Cup Semifinal: Punk vs Joe ***1/2

Rampage 100: 70%

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