All Elite Wrestling's big Friday night shows featured plenty of titles on the line, as the promotion starts off 2023 with a bang
Following a solid AEW Dynamite on Wednesday, Rampage continued with a special live edition, emanating from Portland, Oregon. It was an important night for the program, which would be followed by Battle of the Belts V. Needless to say, the promotion pulled out all the stops.
Rampage saw its overall numbers and interest level dip in 2022.
If this show is any indication, however, it's making a strong comeback.
The live audience was really into the action, which always adds to the viewing experience at home. The fans were making plenty of noise from the opening bell. For their part, AEW poured gasoline on that fire. The in-ring explosions that followed kept the temperature in the building set to 'red hot.'
This episode had a little bit of everything. A fantastic tag team match between The Blackpool Combat Club (represented by Bryan Danielson & Jon Moxley) kicked things off, and the show finished with a main event of Darby Allin vs. Mike Bennett for the AEW TNT title. In between, the promotion kept the pedal to the medal and rarely tapped the brakes.
That led to all the action of Battle of the Belts V, which made this a late night put on the west coast. Among all that fast-paced, Friday fury, here are three things that really stood out about this week.
#3 - Seeing The Blackpool Combat Club fully united is a great thing for the fans and AEW in general
There was some concern after William Regal returned to WWE that the BCC might go their separate ways. That would have been unfortunate, as the group is easily the most marketable faction in the promotion right now. Add in the fact that three huge stars headline the Club, and they can continue to be a valuable asset in AEW without their former founder.
Moxley, especially, seemed to be on the outs with the group after he controversially lost the World Championship to MJF due to Regal turning on him. In what turned out to be a convoluted conclusion to the story, the confusion has been cleared. The Blackpool Combat Club appears as untied as ever, and this win for them is a signal that they aren't going anywhere yet.
This quartet of Mox, Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, and Wheeler Yuta is a winning combination, but they haven't really ever been clicking on all cylinders at the same time. Here's hoping that the group has a huge next 12 months, as their 'elite' status fits the promotion perfectly.
#2 - The Acclaimed proved once again at Battle of the Belts V why they are two of All Elite Wrestling's most dynamic, young stars
It was another title defense for Max Caster and Anthony Bowens, as they defeated Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal to kick off BOTB5. This young duo is one of the best tandems in pro wrestling today, in AEW or any company. Their connection with the audience is explosive, and they never fail to bring the people to their feet.
Accompanied as always by 'Daddy Ass' Billy Gunn, they have become two of the biggest babyfaces in the company and they have a tight grip on the tag team championships for now. However, The Acclaimed are so good that they don't even need gold. Just them making their entrance is enough to light up any segment.
Hopefully, Tony Khan has locked this team down for long-term contracts. If not, he should do so immediately, as their star will only continue to rise. Both men have incredible physical talent individually, but when they activate their 'Wonder Twin powers', they become something truly special. They could even be considered early favorites to be the Tag Team of the Year in 2023.
#1 - Jade Cargill remains undefeated, but where is she headed right now?
Jade Cargill has been considered AEW's best prospect -at least in terms of physical ability - for a long time now. Basically, since she entered the company. She continued her impressive run through the competition again on Friday night.
The femme fatale defended her TBS Championship against Skye Blue to run her record to 48-0. It's a Goldberg-Esque streak but hasn't received the same kind of attention. There's a very big reason why.
Despite her impressive record and stature, Cargill is still making big-time mistakes in the ring. If she is in there with an opponent who can't carry her, then she can struggle at times. It may be one of the big reasons why she hasn't been positioned to make the big jump to the AEW World Women's Championship yet. Her skills are NOT developing to the level of her star power.
Jade Cargill has the look and size to be so much more than she is right now, but she has to eliminate in-ring errors. She even had a couple of awkward moments in this defense against Blue. It wouldn't be so bad if some of them weren't simply rookie mistakes - especially since Cargill isn't a rookie anymore.
While 2022 ended a little 'stiffer' than Tony Khan & Company probably wanted, they have bounced back quickly to start off the new year.
The booking is improving again, and it would be nice to see this trend continue. At its best, All Elite Wrestling relies heavily on stars like Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Chris Jericho, and MJF, but this week showed a lot of the company's quality depth. There was less filler talent on both shows, and Battle of Belts was handled nicely once again.
More of this should be just what the doctor ordered if AEW is going to regain momentum in 2023. While the organization is still struggling here and there with some production glitches, the overall product has begun to click again. The AEW faithful should be excited about the overall product they saw on Dynamite, Rampage, and Battle of the Belts.