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3 Big Takeaways from AEW Rampage: Slam Dunk - Feb 17, 2023

This week's edition of AEW Rampage came at a special time and delivered some fast-break intensity and slam-dunk action

If you happened to tune in late on Friday night and were wondering where AEW Rampage was, don't worry. Quite a few fans were thrown off by the special start time due to Turner Sports' coverage of the NBA All-Star Weekend.

Starting a couple of hours early didn't hurt this special 'Slam Dunk' edition of the show, as the company continues to produce a solid product. The highs aren't quite as high as they were when All Elite Wrestling initially rose to prominence in 2019, but the lows aren't nearly as low as last year.

It's been more about consistency as the promotion rolls along here in 2023, and Tony Khan must be given a lot of credit. The house seemed to be on fire just a few weeks ago, but he's managed to at least douse a few of the flames. And things have definitely been on an upswing as we get closer to AEW Revolution.

Having stated that, here are three things that stood out about this Slam Dunk edition of AEW Rampage.

#1 - The Buck-trotters were in the house with Kenny Omega to defend the AEW Trios Titles against Top Flight & AR Fox

The California kids and their Canadian buddy are all hoops fans, so naturally, they came to the ring with basketballs. They would come into play during a few spots early in the match, where the balls were incorporated. However, once the buckets had been made it was time for the beatings to ensue.

As one might expect from these six men, there was a lot of the usual high flying in this one. Of course, they had to bring the props back in and continue to tie in with the NBA promotion as much as possible.

So... Let the basketball analogies and puns begin. And man did they. Chris Jericho and Don Callis were either being fed lines or had a basketball-only thesaurus because they wore out as many expressions as they could regarding the sport.

In the end, The Elite successfully defended the belts, but it was the post-match appearance of The House of Black that had everyone buzzing. It's clear the two factions are on a collision course for a showdown at revolution.

#2 - Now undefeated with 53 straight wins, what's next for Jade Cargill?

The TBS Champion once again easily defended her title on this week's show to continue her unstoppable run. It's become almost absurd at this point, after over 50 straight victories, that she hasn't been positioned to challenge for the World Championship yet.

However, there may be one other step in Jade's journey first.

If the 'war' between AEW originals and WWE invaders is really going to go down, then Cargill could be the powerful force that eventually turns the tide toward the home team. She is an All Elite home-grown talent, and their greatest physical specimen. To see her step up and defend the organization would make her instantly one of the most over babyfaces that they have right now.

A newly empowered Jade, becoming an unlikely hero and coming to the defense of her AEW comrades? Now THAT'S a storyline that would be worth watching.

#3 - Dustin Rhodes vs. Swerve Strickland saw a familiar face (and huge body) reappear

Coming off a challenge that was laid out earlier this week, The Natural took on Strickland in the final match of the night. Once again, Rhodes' veteran style and presence are so elevated that he just carries any match he's in. That's not a slight at Swerve, who is a terrific performer in his own right. But Dustin is so much of a veteran and a ring general now, that most of his matches almost look like they are on cruise control.

The big story on the night was the return of Keith Lee, who ran off his former partner and Parker Boudreaux when they attacked Rhodes. The Limitless One looks very different now, with no beard or mustache and his hair now a salty gray.

These four are headed for a tag team match that probably just leads to nowhere. Still, it was nice to see Rhodes looking sharp in the ring, as well as the pleasant surprise of Lee's return. Not the highest note to close the show on, but it's certainly not a flat ending, either.


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