Battle of the Belts
Date: January 8, 2022
Location: Bojangles Coliseum, Charlotte, North Carolina
Commentators: Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, Excalibur
It’s the first of AEW’s quarterly specials but I’m assuming they couldn’t get the rights to Clash Of Champions. This show is all about the titles, with three championships on the line. One of them is a new title, as Cody Rhodes’ medical issues means we need an Interim TNT Title. Let’s get to it.
Interim TNT Title: Dustin Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara
This is a new title as TNT Champion Cody Rhodes is missing due to Coronavirus issues. Arn Anderson is here with Dustin. Respect is shown and it’s an armdrag to take Sammy down. That’s fine with Guevara, who grabs a hiptoss but gets kicked away to give us a standoff. They run the ropes and Dustin needs a breather (because he’s old you see) so Sammy flips over him a few times before knocking Dustin outside.
A whip into the barricade rocks Dustin again but he’s back with more chops. There’s a piledriver on the floor to leave Sammy laying but he beats the count as we take a break. Back with Dustin hitting the powerslam and hammering away in the corner. Dustin’s monkey flip is blocked though and Sammy sends him outside, setting up a heck of a double springboard flip dive.
Back in and a cutter is countered, allowing Dustin to hit Cross Rhodes for two. Dustin’s Code Red gets two so he goes up top, only to get pulled into the GTH for a very near fall. Cue Fuego del Sol from underneath the ring with a table (because reasons) but Arn chases him off, allowing Dustin to hit a Canadian Destroyer off the apron through the table (there’s your scarier than it needed to be crash). That’s only good for two so Dustin hits back to back Cross Rhodes. What looks to be the Tiger Driver 98 is countered into a rollup for two. The pinfall reversal sequence is on until Sammy gets a sunset flip for the pin and the title at 16:13.
Rating: B-. Dustin is one of the true marvels of wrestling as he has been at this for over thirty three years and is still going fairly strong. That isn’t the kind of thing you see anyone do and you can throw him into a spot like this with no worries. I don’t think there was any doubt about the winner here, but it was nice to hear commentary hype up a potential Dustin vs. Cody match to make you think they might go the other way.
Post match here is Daniel Garcia to jump Guevara but it’s broken up.
Post break, Sammy issues the challenge to Garcia for Dynamite.
FTW Title: Matt Sydal vs. Ricky Starks
Starks, with Powerhouse Hobbs, is defending and gets small packaged for a fast two. Sydal sends him outside in a hurry and it’s a standoff with Hobbs as we take a break. Back with Sydal firing off a bunch of kicks to the head and chest. A super hurricanrana sets up a Michinoku Driver for two more on Starks as the champ is in trouble. Starks loads up Roshambo but his knee gives out, allowing Sydal to kick him in the head. The Lighting Spiral gets two more so it’s the two rope Meteora, with Starks’ foot needing the ropes to escape. Back up and it’s a spear into the Roshambo to retain the title at 9:05.
Rating: C+. Another good enough match here, but above all else it’s nice to see Starks healthy enough to get back in the ring without having to use a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Starks could be a big deal around here in the future and the neck injury derailed that for a long time. Sydal is often good for a solid performance and he was fine enough as a challenger of the week here.
Post match Hobbs comes in to go after Sydal but Lee Moriarty and Dante Martin run in for the save.
Video on Britt Baker vs. Riho for Baker’s Women’s Title.
Women’s Title: Britt Baker vs. Riho
Riho is challenging and Baker has Jamie Hayter and Rebel with her. Riho starts fast and knocks Baker to the floor, where a big dive takes Rebel out. That’s enough for Baker to get in a shot of her own but Hayter is annoyed at Baker for not checking on Rebel. A table is set up but Riho uses the distraction to take out Baker and Hayter. Back in and Baker knocks her hard into the corner to stomp away as we take a break.
We come back with Riho hitting a double stomp for two and a running knee strike rocks Baker again. A 619 gets two and we hit a half crab to keep Baker in trouble. Riho goes up top but Rebel pulls Baker away before Riho can dive. That’s fine with Riho, who hits a double stomp onto Rebel to take her out.
The same double stomp misses Baker though and an Air Raid Crash gets two on Riho. Lockjaw is loaded up but Riho slips out into a cover for two of her own. Baker isn’t happy and hits the stomp for two more. Hayter throws in the belt and Rebel hands it to Baker, which is enough to eject Rebel. Riho sends Baker into Hayter and grabs a bridging northern lights suplex for two. Baker kicks her in the face and hits another stomp for two. Lockjaw goes on and Riho taps to retain the title at 12:49.
Rating: B. They had the drama going here and Riho got in some good near falls, to the point where I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Baker still feels like the dominant champion though, and while the issues with Hayter continue to grow, that rematch with Thunder Rosa has to be looming. Best match of the show here though and a solid main event.
Post match Rebel and Hayter argue over who gets to hand Baker the title to end the show.
Overall Rating: B-. Three good matches throughout the card, though I was expecting something to actually happen. As it is, it’s an entertaining but uneventful show, with only the Interim Title changing hands (which isn’t quite the same thing). Maybe the virus issues shook things up too much, but this felt like a glorified Rampage more than anything else.
Sammy Guevara b. Dustin Rhodes – Sunset flip
Ricky Starks b. Matt Sydal – Roshambo
Britt Baker b. Riho – Lockjaw
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