AEW Battle of the Belts: An Above Average Episode of AEW Rampage

AEW Battle of the Belts consisted of three televised matches (though there was a full house show card for the audience in live attendance, with the matches taped to air later on Dark). In the opening bout, Sammy Guevara defeated Dustin Rhodes to win the Interim TNT Championship since real champion Cody Rhodes couldn't make it to the event due to "medical protocols" (read: COVID), in a match of the typical high quality of workrate one would expect from those two competitors. Ricky Starks successfully defended the FTW Championship against Matt Sydal in a match tacked on at the last minute that, even with the belt on the line, didn't feel like it had any stakes. And Dr. Britt Baker successfully defended the AEW Women's Championship against former champion Riho in a good match with an extremely predictable outcome because nothing about the way Riho has been presented over the past year made it seem likely she would beat Baker for the title.

AEW Battle of the Belts: An Above Average Episode of AEW Rampage

It wasn't a bad show, but it didn't necessarily add anything important to the AEW cannon either. The most interesting match on the original card by far was Cody vs. Sammy in a rematch for the TNT Championship. Baker vs. Riho was never going to end any other way than it did, and Starks vs. Sydal would be more at home as the main event of AEW Dark, or at least as a filler match on a bigger card. It was a filler match here, too, but the last thing a one-hour, three-match show needs is a filler match. In truth, Cody's lack of medical clearance was the biggest factor that dragged down Battle of the Belts, taking away what was likely the show's biggest draw and the only match with an ending that wasn't a forgone conclusion, but that wasn't the only factor that made this quarterly special feel anything but.

I understand that maybe AEW was originally expecting this special to be two hours long, and maybe that would have meant one or more of the AEW Championship match, the Tag Team Championship match, or the TBS Championship tournament finals would have been on this special instead of on Dynamite earlier this week. Then again, that would have harmed the card for the Dynamite TBS debut, which is probably the more important show to draw a lot of viewers for. Either way, it's hard to not view Battle of the Belts as a rare disappointment from AEW. It would have made for an excellent card for an episode of Rampage, a supplement to the more important action on a great episode of Dynamite, but it's all about setting expectations, and what was originally teased for these quarterly TNT specials — essentially, PPV-quality cards airing in-between the actual PPVs — was not what was delivered here, whatever the reasons.

Instead, what was delivered was utterly skippable, fun to watch if you had nothing better to do, but leaving no lasting effects on the characters or storylines involved, like one of those old comic book issues that takes place in Jimmy Olsen's dreams. And that's something that could also be said of a lot of episodes of AEW Rampage lately, too. Dynamite remains much-watch TV most weeks, but the company needs to be careful it isn't making the classic wrestling blunder of stretching itself too thin and diluting the product overall, lest the shows begin to be viewed as non-essential viewing, like Raw or Smackdown. Much love to AEW — you're still my favorite — but extenuating circumstances are no excuse; Battle of the Belts underdelivered.

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About Jude Terror

A prophecy claims that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero would come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events. Unfortunately, nobody can tell when the comics industry has reached its "darkest days" because it somehow keeps finding new lows to sink to. No matter! Jude Terror stands vigilant, bringing the snarkiest of comic book and pro wrestling clickbait to the undeserving readers of Bleeding Cool.
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