Date: January 25, 2023
Location: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky
Commentators: Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, Taz
This is going to be an emotional one as the main event will feature the Jay Briscoe Tribute match between Mark Briscoe and Jay Lethal. If that’s not enough, we’re still on the way to Revolution and that means Bryan Danielson gets to wrestle again. This time he has to find a way around Brian Cage, which is quite the different opponent than he has had in recent weeks. Other than that, the Gunns and the Acclaimed are going to have family therapy, which could go in a few different ways. Let’s get to it.
I was in the arena for this show, looking almost across from the big screen (Much appreciated on the early birthday present Jacob.).
Chris Jericho/Sammy Guevara vs. Action Andretti/Ricky Starks
We are joined in the middle of Jericho’s entrance (including Daniel Garcia), which came after Justin Roberts asked if we should start early. Andretti and Guevara start things off and exchange some flips without being able to make a ton of contact. Andretti’s standing moonsault misses and they stare at each other for a bit. Guevara offers a handshake and then superkicks him in the face to take over.
A headscissors sends Guevara outside though and it’s time for a breather, leaving Andretti to do Guevara’s pose. Back in and a dropkick sends Andretti outside for a change but they change places, with Andretti diving onto Garcia (who Guevara pulled in the way). Guevara is right back in for his own dive to take over again but Andretti sticks the landing on a super hurricanrana back inside. It’s off to Starks vs. Jericho with Starks countering a dropkick into a catapult.
Starks tries his rope walk but Guevara springboards in to cutter Starks down (it would be a bit more heelish to just shake the ropes but that doesn’t work as well on a highlight reel). The villains take turns slamming Starks (Jericho: “Sammy, watch this!”) before hitting their required double pose. That takes a bit too long though and Guevara dives over for the hot tag to Andretti to clean house with a pair of backbreaker/neckbreaker combinations.
Back to back dives have Jericho and Guevara in trouble and Starks adds a tornado DDT to take Guevara down. Starks counters the Codebreaker into a sitout powerbomb for two on Jericho and it’s back to Andretti. Everything breaks down and Andretti hits Guevara with a poisonrana into a torture rack neckbreaker for two more. Starks Roshambos Jericho on the floor as Guevara goes up, only to have his cutter caught in a torture rack (dang). Garcia is right up with a bat shot though and the GTH finishes Andretti at 12:46.
Rating: B-. Here is where things get tricky with something like having Andretti beat Jericho: at some point he has to lose, and now Guevara has beaten someone who only had one or two wins. This cuts off a lot of Andretti’s momentum and doesn’t do much for Guevara, but it had to happen at some point. At least Jericho didn’t get the pin to get his heat back, but odds are he’ll find another way to do that. The match itself was entertaining with Andretti doing all of his dives and Starks adding his charisma, but Andretti had to lose at some point so it might as well be here.
Here’s what’s coming tonight.
We get a rather touching Jay Briscoe tribute video. They aired this twice in the arena and it’s still incredible on a third viewing.
TNT Title: Darby Allin vs. Buddy Matthews
Allin, with his bad leg, is defending and has Sting in his corner to counter Julia Hart. They stare at each other to start until Julia’s distraction lets Matthews send him outside for a ram into the barricade. Allin fights up and tries a suicide dive, which is pulled out of the air for some drops onto the barricade. A running powerbomb into the barricade is countered into a hurricanrana to send Allin in instead.
Back in and the flipping Stunner drops Matthews, setting up the Coffin Drop from the top to the floor. Then the lights go out and we have the rest of the House Of Black to stare down Sting. Cue Ortiz from behind with a kendo stick and everyone else brawls to the floor. Matthews hits a sitout powerbomb for two more and we take a break.
Back with Allin spiking him with a poisonrana and they go to the floor again. A crucifix bomb gives Allin two and they’re both down for a breather. Matthews hits a Buckle Bomb into a Stomp for a freakin two but Allin’s Code Red gets the same. Allin goes up but gets caught, only to reverse a superplex into a super Coffin Drop for two. With Matthews draped over the middle rope, the Coffin Drop to the back retains the title at 12:50.
Rating: C+. Shenanigans aside, this was another good effort from Allin, who has that underdog charisma that you want to see no matter what he is doing. Allin knows how to take the fans on a ride with him and you want to see him fight back and survive in the end. Good enough match as Allin racks up another defense before he gets to whomever his next big challenger might be.
Post match Tony Schiavone gets in the ring to talk to Allin but Samoa Joe interrupts on the screen. Joe talks about how Allin stole the TNT Title and in some kingdoms, that means cutting off hands. In Joe’s kingdom, it means a beating, which is what happens when Joe comes to get his title back. There’s your big challenger.
Video on Adam Cole’s recovery as he is in the ring training. I don’t think this aired in the arena.
Matt Hardy/Ethan Page vs. Jungle Boy/Hook
Stokely Hathaway and Isiah Kassidy are here with Hardy/Page. Before the match, Page insists on his own music being played, much to the fans’ annoyance. Jungle Boy works on Page’s arm to start but it’s quickly a four way standoff. Page shoves Hook and then bails, meaning he has to run from Hook on the floor. The t-bone suplex is broken up but Jungle Boy breaks up an Ego’s Edge. Page takes over on Jungle Boy back inside and we take a break.
Back with Jungle Boy diving through the legs and bringing in Hook for the suplexes. Everything breaks down and Jungle Boy gets two off a small package to Page. Matt comes in for the Side Effect but Page wants in before the Twist of Fate. Jungle Boy pulls him down into the Snare Trap for the tap at 7:01.
Rating: C. The Page/Hardy stuff still isn’t doing anything for me but the fans were way into Jungle Boy and Hook. As annoying as the “combine two names to make a team name” can be, the fans are digging them and Hook is moved into his first serious deal. You could only have him squash people on Rampage for so long and now he is handling this part well enough so far.
We go to family therapy with the Acclaimed/Billy Gunn and the Gunn Club. Billy, who called for this, asks when his sons became so entitled. The Gunns talk about how their dad was never there for them and they want the titles. Bowens thinks they are pieces of s*** and would have been fine enough with Billy. They just wouldn’t have been the Acclaimed because no one can be. Austin says that their issues as sons are Billy’s failures as a father. They want the titles, wrapping up a not very interesting segment.
Hangman Page says he and Jon Moxley are 1-1 and he wants to knock Moxley out next week in Dayton, Ohio and win their series. Wheeler Yuta comes in and isn’t happy with Page going after someone not medically cleared. They can fight on Rampage before Moxley is back next week. Deal, with Page threatening to knock him out next week too.
Brian Cage vs. Bryan Danielson
Prince Nana is here with Cage, who shoves Danielson around without much trouble. Danielson strikes away but gets taken into the corner for the hard chops. Cage gets rolled over and elbowed in the head but it’s too early for the LeBell Lock. Danielson sends him outside instead and hits a suicide dive, followed by a high crossbody. Back in and Cage gorilla presses him into the corner before hitting a suplex onto the apron.
We take a break and come back with Danielson headbutting him out of a bearhug but the moonsault out of the corner is pulled out of the air though and a shoulderbreaker works on Danielson’s arm. Cage sends him to the apron, setting up the apron superplex and apron German superplex (cool) for two.
They go up top where Danielson blocks a powerbomb and starts firing off kicks, setting up a superplex of his own. A triangle choke has Cage in more trouble but he rolls out, only to have Danielson grab an ankle lock. Danielson pulls him back for a German suplex (cool) before trying the running knee. That is countered into a powerbomb but Danielson rolls through and stacks him up for the pin at 12:01.
Rating: B-. Watching Danielson has become such a treat as you see him figuring out his weekly puzzle. Some of them are easy like Takeshita, but he managed to get a good match out of Cage here. That is quite an amazing talent to have and it is so much fun to watch him do this week in and week out while making it look effortless.
Post match Cage goes right after the arm and crushes it against the post with a chair. Cue MJF as Cage loads up the Pillmanizing on the arm. Konosuke Takeshita runs in for the save as Danielson gets to extend his world record of “most times selling an arm injury”.
Post break, Danielson is getting his arm checked out and has a pretty serious injury. He doesn’t care though because he is coming for MJF and the title. MJF has done a lot to Danielson and now Danielson is coming to take what matters most to MJF in the world.
Ruby Soho vs. Toni Storm
During the entrances, Storm mocks the homegrown AEW women while Soho says the only thing that matters is how hard you work. Soho knocks her to the floor to start but gets knocked down back inside. A tornado DDT is blocked and Soho strikes away so Storm pokes her in the eye. The running hip attack knocks Soho hard to the floor and Storm whips her into various things until we take a break.
Back with Soho hitting a German suplex, setting up No Future for two. Soho gets in a shot to the face and hang on as Storm’s face is messed up (allegedly). The goldbricking Storm snaps off a German suplex and hits the running hip attack in the corner. A tornado DDT gives Storm two but here is Britt Baker for a distraction. Soho grabs Destination Unknown for the pin at 8:43.
Rating: C. This was more about advancing the outsiders vs. insiders feud and as a result, it was nice to have it go short. It’s also nice to see Soho getting a win, as she is still trying to get and keep herself on the right track for once. Beating a former Women’s Champion always helps and maybe this is the start of her first better run around here.
MJF is sitting in what looks to be a closet, saying he isn’t “the first Jew to have to hide from a man with blue eyes.” He likes Konosuke Takeshita’s abilities but either stay out of his business or face the consequences. As for Bryan Danielson, he was talking about wanting this title, which is the thing that proves that he is the best. Danielson is a legend but he needs to chase the title. Danielson’s shoulder is hanging on by a thread so MJF has made a phone call. Next week: Danielson vs. Timothy Thatcher.
Video on Thatcher. This has potential.
Here’s what’s coming on various shows.
Video on Jamie Hayter vs. Emi Sakura, who face off on Rampage.
Jay Lethal vs. Mark Briscoe
This is the Jay Briscoe tribute match on what would have been his 39th birthday. Jay is crying on his way to the ring (alone) and Mark has both Ring Of Honor Tag Team Titles. We get the Big Match Intros and a rather emotional handshake. They trade takedowns to start and that’s an early standoff. An exchange of chops goes to Mark so he clotheslines Jay down and hits a running boot to the face. Lethal is right back with the Lethal Combination but Mark hits grabs his brother’s hangman’s neckbreaker for two.
We take a break and come back with Mark Iconoclasming him down for two but Jay blocks a Jay Driller. Another Lethal Combination looks to set up a Figure Four but Mark rolls him up for two. The Lethal Injection connects, only to have Mark roll outside. A ram into the barricade lets Jay put him on the table but Mark is right back up.
Lethal is knocked to the floor for the running apron Blockbuster as the fans are rather pleased. Mark puts him on the table and hits a huge Froggy Bow to drive Jay right through it. That’s good for two back inside so Mark hits him with a hard running clothesline. Another clothesline sets up the Jay Driller to give Mark the pin at 12:24.
Rating: B. I thought about not rating this one and that still might have been the right move. This was about letting two people who meant a lot to Jay Briscoe go out there and have a good match in his honor. They did their jobs well, with Mark showing that he could more than hang at this level. It would be nice to have him around if he wants to be, but taking some time away would not be a surprise either.
Post match the locker room comes out, many of them in Jay Briscoe shirts, for the big tribute. Lethal and Mark both go up the ramp and have quite the tearful embrace.
Overall Rating: B-. It wasn’t the greatest show, but they made what they had work pretty well. That’s as much as you can ask for with a bit of a weak card, as we start to head towards Revolution. They’re doing a nice job of setting the show up as you can see a lot of the card, but there is still a lot of work to be done. That being said, this is going to be remembered for the main event and honoring Jay Briscoe, which is a lot more important than building to a show in a month and a half. This was an emotional night and that is what made it special, so good for them for making it work.
Chris Jericho/Sammy Guevara b. Action Andretti/Ricky Starks – GTH to Andretti
Darby Allin b. Buddy Matthews – Coffin Drop
Jungle Boy/Hook b. Matt Hardy/Ethan Page – Snare Trap to Page
Bryan Danielson b. Brian Cage – Rollup
Ruby Soho b. Toni Storm – Destination Unknown
Mark Briscoe b. Jay Lethal – Jay Driller
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