On a night that will live forever in the annals of professional wrestling history for Karrion Kross’ return to the WWE, Tony Khan had a few tricks up his sleeve for the live edition of Rampage, with the debuts of not one, not two, but three new wrestlers on AEW television. That’s right, with Battle of the Belts III scheduled for Saturday – and filmed Friday night alongside Rampage – TK pulled out all of the stops to ensure a choice weekend of professional wrestling, with a very good Dynamite live from Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, a surprise running of AEW Dark Elevation broadcast from the very same arena one night later to provide some context for Rampage’s storylines, and the aforementioned Battle of the Belts scheduled for Saturday night at 8 pm EST.
All things considered, that’s a pretty good way to close out a week.
With Mance Warner, Madison Rayne, and Josh Woods all officially introduced into the AEW Galaxy within the last week, hyped up on YouTube with impressive but not too impressive showings that ended in Ws – Ryane getting a match was a W – and proper AEW matches on Rampage, it’s safe to say Khan made the most of an opportunity to insert some fresh blood into his promotion and test his ability to hype up fresh faces even if they don’t ultimately become fixtures of the main event picture.
#AEWBattleOfTheBelts III is This Saturday at 8pm ET/7pm CT & 8pm PT on @tntdrama!
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— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 4, 2022
Tony Khan made three fresh faces feel important on AEW television.
After fans got hyped as all heck to see Mance Warner of GCW and Ric Flair’s Last Match Bunkhouse Battle Royal fame take an AEW ring after the one-two punch of a Dark Elevation win over Serpentico and Luther, plus a firey promo where he let “A-E-Dub” know that “Old Mancer is here, baby,” fans didn’t have to wait too long to see the televised debut of the “Southern Psycho” on TNT, as Khan opted to start the show out with the match to save his street fight for the main event.
Unconventional? You bet, but hey, it worked, as the duo worked their butts off over an 11-minute brawl that saw incredibly hard chops, huge facial reactions, quite a bit of blood from Mancer thanks to a tumble out of the ring that resulted in a busted open head, and a brutal ending that resulted in one CZW alumni choking out the other until he lost consciousness, Jon Moxley ultimately retained his Interim AEW World Championship via submission. This match, though far from Match-of-the-Year caliber, was a certified slobberknocker the likes of which JR was very excited to call and made Warner look like a certified babyface star willing to take as much punishment as possible to impress the fans watching from home.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 6, 2022
Needless to say, if Warner doesn’t secure a contract off of his performance, it won’t be due to a lack of broken pins, as he had to quite literally get put down to leave the ring.
Then came Madison Rayne’s in-ring work, which came just after a fantastic squash of Ryan Nemeth at the hands of Konosuke Takeshita in order to hype up his Battle of the Belts III bout versus Claudio Castagnoli. While her match versus Leila Grey wasn’t quite as exciting as Takeshita’s efforts, that wasn’t on Rayne’s as a worker, as she pulled off more than a few impressive spots as the match’s resident babyface and really showcased why she was hired to help formulate fun, easy watching matches that don’t require the same frequency of spots that Kenny Omega once orchestrated into the division’s bouts.
With Rayne afforded a chance to wrestle Jade Cargill at Quake by the Lake for the TBS Championship, marking the 10th title defense of the TBS Championship and the 32nd overall singles match of the “Jaded One’s” tenure in AEW, the former Knockouts Tag Team Champion will have her work cut out for her against a woman she is supposed to coach.
And last but not least, AEW closed out the show with the match folks were most excited to see: A Michigan Street Fight.
Now, as you most certainly know, AEW has a pretty fantastic history with street fights, with a South Philly Street Fight winning Ricky Starks the FTW championship away from Brian Cage and the Best Friends turning in one of the best matches of their respective careers against Santana and Ortiz in a match that saw Orange Cassidy emerge from a car’s trunk and deliver a chain-wrapped orange punch.
Did this match reach that level of excitement? Eh, not quite, but it did see “Smart” Mark Sterling attempt to do some move off a top rope onto a table-straddling Swerve Strickland, Tony Nese kick Keith Lee onto Josh Woods onto some tables, and a whole lot more spots that really need to be seen to be believed. Though Woods wasn’t booked to go over either of the AEW Tag Team Champions, he looked darn good in his right-proper Rampage debut and was put over by Tony Schiavone as if he’s the most physically gifted new face in professional wrestling. Woods hit some massive strikes, got in some suplexes, and while he didn’t put an arm or leg in a bar on the way to a pin, fans largely seemed to love what they saw from the “Technical Beast” and certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him again back in an AEW ring.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 6, 2022
Will Warner, Rayne, or Woods ultimately prove to become top performers in AEW? Or will their current feuds fizzle out in the not-too-distant future, and fans think back on their tenure in the company a la Matt Cardona’s weird run during Cody Rhodes’ open challenge for the TNT Championship? Either way, it’ll be fun to see.