Best AEW Matches of 2022 (Rampage)
AEW’s second TV show Rampage has had its fair share of well-meaning criticisms—it’s not paced as well as Dynamite, it’s not as must-see as Dynamite, etc. However, beyond the comparisons, fans recognize that Rampage has been a great platform for AEW’s massive roster to be showcased on a straightforward, one-hour wrestling show and that without Rampage, we don’t get hits such as these on its second year!
Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz v Daniel Garcia and 2.0 (No Holds Barred)
A lot of talent of varying experience and standing in AEW will lay claim to Rampage being their show, but when it comes to aggressive matches, it’s hard to argue that this is Eddie Kingston’s show. Give us Eddie Kingston, the best tag team to have not yet held gold in Santana and Ortiz, and the most unlikeable trio of thorns in their side, the Daniel Garcia and 2.0—in a street fight—and the promotion itself will have all but guaranteed nothing else on that show will come close. This felt like an ECW match in the best way; it was captivating and gritty, and it made stars of everyone involved, months ahead of the Anarchy match. Just an excellent way to kick-off the Rampage calendar.
Young Bucks v Roppongi Vice
The standard, the gatekeepers, the faces—heck, the Young Bucks of AEW’s tag team division took on Trent Beretta’s second tandem in AEW, Roppongi Vice, for the first time in AEW in February 2022. Young Bucks and the Trent Beretta/Rocky Romero tandem are well-acquainted in ROH and NJPW, but for fans who may have questioned what passage of time does to in-ring chemistry, those fans would be in for a treat. Outside of Best Friends, Beretta would go on to have quite a roll this year, and Romero just on his own steals so much shine away from the human highlight reels known as the Young Bucks, with moves as relatively simple as the Forever Clotheslines. Both teams proved in this tight Rampage opener that their chemistry will follow them forever.
Jon Moxley v Wheeler Yuta
Jon Moxley and Wheeler Yuta’s first couple of outings were nothing much to write home about. Moxley, while taking him a little longer each succeeding time, destroyed Yuta with relative ease. That would not be the story of this match. The Yuta that showed up to fight Moxley in April 2022 was the ROH Pure Champion; a man that had gained confidence in himself by being in battles with the best, and had the peripheral respect of Blackpool Combat Club’s Bryan Danielson and William Regal—but not Jon Moxley.
Yuta started the action off by diving through the ropes onto Moxley before the latter had even gotten to the ring, taking the fight to the BCC member throughout the match; but the bursts would not be enough, as the battle-tested Moxley would fight his way back into the match and leave Yuta in a bloody heap. But not even this would be close to enough, as Yuta would outlast even Moxley’s expectations of him, with the young champion showing his heart and capability until the very end. Post-match, the BCC members would enter the ring, having found their newest recruit, with Moxley telling Yuta, “Now, the real work begins.”
Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker v Toni Storm and Ruby Soho
The Owen Hart Foundation Tournament may have had quite a number of misses and unforeseen outcomes. But ultimately, the series gave us Kyle O’Reilly’s breakout match against Rey Fenix, the Dynamite debuts of Samoa Joe and Willow Nightingale, the return of Yuka Sakazaki, as well as the rivalry between Jamie Hayter and Toni Storm. Out of all the great things to have come out of the tournament, one of the best may have been a non-tournament tag match on Rampage pitting Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker against Toni Storm and Ruby Soho.
As much as the accepted rhetoric is that the women’s division isn’t big enough for its own tag team division, funnily enough, the best and consistent matches to have come from most of the women have been tag matches—and this was a great example of it. With Hayter and Storm’s rivalry extending to Storm and Baker, and calling back to Soho and Baker, the sequences that took place were energetic and exciting, and one can only think that with standout matches like this, more women’s gold will be made available sooner than later.
Bryan Danielson v Matt Sydal
Prior to a Bryan Danielson v Matt Sydal singles encounter, Rampage featured a tag team match between Blackpool Combat Club (Danielson and Jon Moxley) and the team of Sydal and Dante Martin, the story being that BCC’s “beautiful pro wrestling violence” was taking on Sydal’s “peace, love, and pro wrestling.” There is so much more that can sprout from this contrast of philosophies and mentorship, evidenced by the solid tag match that took place; but Danielson v Sydal was a more focused and tighter exchange of strikes and holds between 2 of the best technical wrestlers on the roster. With Sydal having mentored Dante for so long, people may forget that Sydal’s best work takes place on the mat; and this match represented technical wrestling very well, with two proficient wrestlers carrying an intriguing premise and putting on a clinic mere days before a big pay-per-view.
Eddie Kingston v Jake Hager
Jake Hager wrestles less than MJF, and that’s saying something. It says more than Hager ever does when he’s in the ring with Chris Jericho, though. Hager is a no-nonsense, MMA-style brawler, who made for a great foil against Eddie Kingston’s gouge-and-claw, natural underdog style of brawling.
The finishing stretch with Kingston piling suplexes, powerbombs, and back fists to shift momentum away from Hager was one of the more efficient showings of what a quick tide shift can do in a match. Prior to this, the chop exchange between the two heavyweights was as heated as it could get, and it’s a bit of a shock that the commentators brought up Anarchy in the Arena and the Hager eliminating Kingston at the Casino Battle Royale (at the Dynamite prior) as motivators for why Kingston wrestled the man with such fire, without mentioning Hager’s nasty high-angle powerbomb to Kingston from the ring onto ringside tables in the lead-up to Anarchy. In any case, don’t try to take Eddie Kingston from Rampage.
Kris Statlander v Red Velvet
For real, Red Velvet’s best match in AEW.
I know I had recently just said that about her Owen Cup match against Willow Nightingale; but this one against Kris Statlander isn’t praise for crowd reactions alone, but also for Velvet’s rapid improvement in the ring, and the intensity and smoothness both women brought to the table.
Statlander had just awakened a fire inside her since her Owen Cup entry as an alternate (and subsequent loss), and combined with Velvet’s most exciting work taking place against much larger opponents like Statlander and Jade Cargill, this really stood out in a sea of quick women’s matches as the one to watch.
Eddie Kingston v Konosuke Takeshita
In the tradition of Takeshita v Moxley (and Takeshita v everybody), Eddie Kingston would have some of his smoothest work against the 27-year-old sensation, Konosuke Takeshita. Both men fought to a steady, deliberate pace centered around gaining enough control to land the big slams: suplexes, brainbusters, powerbombs. To gain that control, crisp strikes were thrown. This match as a whole was grounded on respect for technique and for the opponent, and it made for a great atmosphere.
“Konosuke Takeshita’s the type of athlete that turns heads everywhere he goes.”Excalibur, Rampage 7/8/22
Overall, Kingston’s chemistry with wrestlers he respects is great to watch and always a little jarring. And Takeshita’s presence just makes the roster better, and he is welcome to return anytime.
Orange Cassidy v Tony Nese
Even as the main event to the Kingston v Takeshita opener, not many probably expected Orange Cassidy v Tony Nese to be the big, pendulum-swing battle that it was. But boy, was it ever.
Following AEW x NJPW’s Forbidden Door, many fans would have been reading the OC high, but following this match, Nese reminded many fans of the kind of best-kept-secret that he’s been. It’s not very often we see Nese like this; and since aligning with “Smart” Mark Sterling and Josh Woods, maybe being the internet’s wrestler of the week isn’t his priority, anyway. But after he gets his fix of pissing people off and proliferating the premier athlete archetype in AEW, the fans surely wouldn’t mind seeing legitimate peak Tony Nese again.
Hook (c) v Zack Clayton (FTW Championship)
A lot of fans seem to not like “no names” like Zack Clayton taking up precious TV time to challenge for the FTW Championship. Well, after endearing himself to the Virginia crowd and busting a nut for New Jersey on his way to the ring, then tapping out in less than 20 seconds, he sure wasn’t some no name anymore.
It was great how quick all this was, at the expense of our new favorite Stormtrooper. The legend of Hook continues to grow off the back of men who talk too stiffly, and too much.
Sammy Guevara v Eddie Kingston
Despite Jon Moxley’s banner year everywhere in AEW, it’s fair to say Rampage has been Eddie Kingston’s show in 2022. He’s had to fight 5 members of J.A.S., and every single one has a been a hard-hitting, memorable encounter.
Unfortunately, the excitement for his match against Sammy Guevara on Rampage Grand Slam stems mostly from a backstage altercation between the two, leading to Kingston being suspended. What didn’t suffer, however, was the drama in this match. Every chop from Kingston, every weasel-y escape from Guevara, had you salivating for a Guevara loss via knockout. Which makes that ending so cathartic it almost makes up for that ending.
Jun Akiyama and Konosuke Takeshita v Eddie Kingston and Ortiz
The narrative here is simple: Eddie Kingston has always wanted to fight his hero Jun Akiyama. Tonight, out of nowhere, he gets his wish.
Kingston’s tag partner is one of his closest friends Ortiz. On Akiyama’s team is Konosuke Takeshita, who first battled Kingston earlier this year, and together with Akiyama represent DDT Pro-Wrestling. But none of these extraneous stories register to Kingston.
Tonight he’s not sharing the ring with Jun Akiyama of DDT. He’s facing the fifth pillar of AJPW, and one of his biggest influences in life, nevermind in wrestling. He’s overwhelmed and overjoyed, constantly looking for approval in between chops and big moves to Takeshita. He doesn’t know what to focus on. His big dream just fell into his lap one week, and now he doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t know whether to fight Akiyama or impress him. Just wholesome, compelling stuff all around, housed in a tight match.
FTR (c) v Top Flight (ROH World Tag Team Championship)
If FTR v Young Bucks is FTR’s best AEW match this year, this is their second best. And boy, I wonder why.
Of course, styles make fights, and this year FTR themselves have improved upon their signature brawling style with more mat wrestling and high-impact moves. But the obvious similarities are there between the Bucks and Top Flight: quick, high-flying styles from two brothers. Brothers who are young.
Top Flight, who are in their earliest 20s, shouldn’t be as refined as they are, but they are. And this is Top Flight with one-half of the team having just recovered from a terrible car accident earlier this year. Dante and Darius Martin absolutely earned this part in this career-defining, epic title run of FTR.
Jon Moxley v Konosuke Takeshita
Everything I said about their Dynamite match in July, I’ll say it again but louder. I guess we can just always expect something great when Jon Moxley and Konosuke Takeshita are on opposite sides of a ring. There is no hint of aloofness to Moxley here. And I’m convinced Takeshita shares Moxley’s principle of “I don’t care too much for where or why, let’s just fight.”
Moreover, something about Rampage seems to fire Moxley up. In fact, this match made me look at Rampage as a litmus test. If a wrestler can drum up buzz on Rampage, which is often the 4th hour of wrestling to the live crowd, it should hold more weight than any other show.
And when you’re Moxley, well, the fight just isn’t fair.
- Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson v Matt Sydal and Dante Martin (May)
- Thunder Rosa (c) v Jamie Hayter (Women’s World Championship) (Aug)*
- Claudio Castagnoli (c) v Konosuke Takeshita (ROH World Championship) (Aug)*
- Pac (c) v Trent Beretta (All-Atlantic Championship) (Oct)*
- Hook (c) v Lee Moriarty (FTW Championship) (Nov)
- Orange Cassidy (c) v Trent Seven (All-Atlantic Championship) (Dec)
*Battle of the Belts events. Taped alongside Rampage.
The author’s Rampage Match of the Year:
Jon Moxley v Wheeler Yuta (Apr)