Fleet Files #4: This is Rampage

Months removed from the announcement of Rampage, it’s finally here! Indeed, the third hour of AEW TV has arrived and it needs to be cherished before inevitably, it becomes the fourth hour also. That’s another conversation for another day in another format though, as this is Fleet Files and until next week, perhaps the biggest one yet. Brittsburgh is the host and somehow, IMPACT’s World Title is central, as the All Out ‘main event’ receives its  prequel. This isn’t the place to decide if that makes sense, it’s the place to arbitrarily rank things. Either way, let’s get to it!

Match of the Week

This speaks for itself, the week’s five best matches. 1 point for the five spot, 2 for the fourth and upward from there.

  1. IMPACT Title: Christian Cage vs. Kenny Omega (c) – Rampage #1

Silly as it may sound, to me, this was pro wrestling. Hot crowd, world title in the balance, two industry titans with a clear contrast between them. The action was athletic and dramatic, perfectly paced for the feel of an epic without ever veering into self-indulgence. Just immense pro wrestling and ultimately, a Christian Cage match, which is a compliment in my book. Credit to Omega though, who continues to prove himself as an in-ring chameleon, putting out excellence at every turn.

2. The Elite vs. Top Flight & The Sydal Brothers – Dynamite #98

Plain and simple, the industry is better for top guys that think like The Elite. Here, they built a match around their opposition’s 20-year-old centrepiece. Dante Martin was this match and best of all, it was better for it too, as the rising star filled our feeds with gif-worthy goodness. Credit to The Sydal Brothers also, who honestly deserve more but it is what it is, there’s just so much talent in these tag ranks. Matt has been great for years, but Mike is one my favourite under the radar tales of 2021. The Elite? Well, they are elite, obviously.

3. QT Marshall vs. Alan Angels – Dark #102

This was the best kind of C-Show bout. To translate, it was one of those matches that slowly but surely, brought you a little forward, muttering to yourself “hmm, this is pretty good.” Now, that’s already a triumph but this particular match didn’t stop there, it kept going and honestly, is one of the best Dark matches that I’ve seen. Angels is criminally underrated due to the talent alongside him in Dark Order but Marshall was immense here, proving his value as a bell to bell leader.

4. The Lucha Bros vs. The Sydal Brothers – Dark Elevation #23

On a show that otherwise, didn’t pack two minutes between bells, this was a real treat. After six squash matches, we simply needed a main course before heading home and here came The Lucha Bros. In fact, I’ll be more specific, here came Rey Fenix. Penta is a wonderful presence, don’t get me wrong and again, I enjoy the Sydal Brothers but I can’t overstate the effort that Fenix puts into these matches. He’s not even really trying either, just having fun and in his hands, that’s an immaculate watch.

5. Darby Allin vs. Daniel Garcia – Dynamite #98

Weirdly enough, this was basically a Daniel Garcia showcase. After his exciting effort in last week’s electric six-man tag tilt, Garcia had a chance to produce something more substantial here. The result was solid, good even, if not great. In a more back and forth form, this could be something quite special but as is, it was some poised work in control before Allin’s brief, sudden comeback. Even still, Garcia impressed, with a polished performance in again, an unquestionably sound pro wrestling match.

C-Show Stealer

With only three places as a lesser category, this is a nod to AEW’s more subdued C-Show titans. They missed out on match of the week, but entertained regardless.

  1. Private Party vs. Best Friends – Dark #102

I love Private Party’s development in recent months. Sincerely, all silliness aside, I think that Matt Hardy’s guidance has improved them immensely and perhaps most importantly, they’ve become immense C-Show thrillers. Strong shtick + legitimately cool offence = category domination, plain and simple.

2. Bear Country vs. Chaos Project – Dark #102

Once again, it is the mere novelty of seeing Chaos Project in vaguely traditional tag matches that pops me most. This was Boulder’s return after four months on the shelf and so, they actually had some time, getting him back into the swing of things. The match was fine, solid work and wacky enough for a grin. All hail.

3. Darby Allin vs. Invictus Khash – Dark #102

Probably a somewhat unconventional pick here, as this was a short little bout that on paper, appeared to be one of many squash matches. In reality though, this was an engaging story across its 3-minute runtime, as Khash looked to prove that he can hang with his old training partner. In the end, he knew enough to virtually dominate things, but not enough to win.

The Promo Pack

The second of our three A-categories, this award also quite literally speaks for itself, the promotion’s five best verbal offerings.

  1. Malakai Black – Dynamite #98

Maybe I’m getting lost in the hype here, but I just loved this. In a relatively brief pre-tape promo, Malakai Black was more sinister than ever, finally backed by the actions to match his demeanor. Black is really clicking here for me, and these personas aren’t usually my thing either. This man is money, lore and all.

2. Britt Baker – Dynamite #98

Listen, I’ll eat my words every week if these results continue. I was wrong! Britt Baker really is one of wrestling’s best promos, armed with an unparalleled confidence right now. In her hometown, Baker felt like the industry’s biggest star. She’s not, but she’s closer than anyone would’ve guessed two years ago.

3. Christian – Dynamite #98/Rampage #1

Announcing his shot at the IMPACT Title, Christian built on last week’s effort, again rolling back the years a little on the microphone. Christian is really re-finding his personality as of late, which I think is actually a credit to his chemistry with Jurassic Express, again prevalent in his post-match promo on Rampage.

4. MJF – Dynamite #98

Irate at Chris Jericho’s latest triumph, MJF was again wonderfully villainous at Dynamite’s close. This wasn’t an epic promo or anything crazy, as that wasn’t the intention. Instead, it was a fiery announcement of next week’s big stipulation, putting the final touches on that build and setting the stage for a main event match.

5. Pac – Dynamite #98

Must say, I don’t love Pac on the microphone but he popped me here, even if somewhat ironically. Questioning if Andrade is “ard” and all that good stuff, Pac once again added some intensity to a feud that thus far, couldn’t feel colder. That’s not ideal, but the match itself can quickly erase those flaws.

Squashes to See

Good television wrestling needs many ingredients, but it never forgets the squash matches. Here are the week’s three funniest showcase bouts.

  1. TNT Title: Miro vs. Fuego Del Sol – Rampage #1

Not a traditional squash match here, to say the least. Honestly, it’s not really a squash match at all, but it simply needs recognition and is most fitting here. This was electric, with two immense false finishes before the sudden completion of Miro’s inevitable murder mission. Wonderful, what a piece of business!

2. Shawn Dean vs. Peter Avalon – Dark Elevation #22

Only the show’s second match, this one really set the tone for an epic episode of Elevation. After sustaining about 10 seconds of offence, Dean swiftly rallied, legitimately hitting every move in his arsenal in one fell swoop. His finish came last, giving Dean the win in under a minute. Competitive matches? Who needs ‘em!

3. Jade Cargill vs. Amber Nova – Dark Elevation #22

Ideally, you use these shows to get Jade some genuine experience but clearly, this wasn’t your ordinary C-Show. With that in mind, I’ll happily accept the 45-second squash we were given, as it was good to have Jade back in-ring at all.

The Fleet Five

Our third and final A-category, The Fleet Five is simple, the promotion’s five best performers of that particular week. All the above decides this, so it’s a big one.

  1. Christian Cage

Your new IMPACT Champion, Christian Cage is well and truly back. In what was surely one of his career’s most validating weeks, Cage produced a television classic with Kenny Omega, becoming the first man to pin him in some time. Honestly, Cage hasn’t missed a beat and with his recent increase in personality also, he remains a major player, very much worthy of PPV main events.

2. Kenny Omega

An integral part of the week’s two best matches, Omega is topping the five on any other edition. Unfortunately for him, this was Christian’s week but even still, Omega again proved himself as one of the industry’s most versatile in-ring performers. Right now, there’s nothing Omega can’t do, in the midst of a truly historic run.

3. Matt Sydal

An impressive piece of two top five bouts, Matt Sydal earned his place in this category. Granted, it may be a rare entry but nonetheless, Sydal remains sublime, the glue of that enthralling 6-man and providing a similar role during this week’s Elevation main event. Sydal was a signing that didn’t mean much to me initially, but has proved increasingly shroud in recent months.

4. Dante Martin

The undeniable star of that aforementioned Dynamite opener, Dante Martin could feasibly deserve even more here, but that speaks to this week’s standard. Martin’s athletic ability is genuinely awe-inspiring and The Elite spotlighted his every strength, making a star of the 20 year old. One for the future? Sure, but Martin is clearly one for the present, also.

5. Britt Baker

Though her match with Red Velvet wasn’t much more than decent, Britt Baker deserves a seat at this table. Operating with a broken wrist, Baker performed admirably, pairing that effort with an excellent promo and just general star presence. Baker is over everywhere nowadays but at home? That’s something different altogether. That dynamic brought a wonderful spectacle to both A-Shows, can’t miss pro wrestling television.

League Leaders

Updated weekly, this is the result of our above categories. Below is your current top 10, the All Elite Fleet’s league leaders thus far. Tiebreaker is my preference, grow up.

  1. Jon Moxley – 24 Points
  2. Kenny Omega – 21 Points
  3. Christian Cage – 19 Points
  4. Darby Allin – 15 Points
  5. Orange Cassidy – 13 Points
  6. Malakai Black – 13 Points
  7. Miro – 12 Points
  8. Lance Archer – 12 Points
  9. Eddie Kingston – 11 Points
  10. Nick Gage – 11 Points

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