10th Jan2022

‘AEW: Battle of the Belts 2022’ Review (Jan 8th 2022)

by Phil Wheat

Welcome to this review of the FIRST of All Elite Wrestling’s new quarterly TNT specials, Battle of the Belts (aka Clash of the Champions by any other name), an hour-long show featuring THREE title matches on one card! Let’s get into it…

Match #1: Interim TNT Championship Title Match – Sammy Guevara def. Dustin Rhodes

The following is courtesy of allelitewrestling.com:

During yesterday’s RAMPAGE episode, Excalibur announced that TNT Champion “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes had not been medically cleared to compete for tonight’s title defense against “Spanish God” Sammy Guevara. Stepping in to replace Cody was his brother, “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes, to face Sammy Guevara to crown an interim TNT Champion. Dustin and Sammy showed mutual respect by shaking hands at the start of the match. Sammy grabbed a headlock on Dustin, but Dustin shoved him off. Dustin slowed the pace, apparently needing a minute to collect himself. Sammy hit a dropkick on Dustin. Outside the ring, Sammy rammed Dustin into the guardrail. Dustin fired back with knife edge chops. Dustin rammed Sammy’s knee into the steel ring steps! Dustin nailed Sammy with a piledriver on the arena floor! Sammy pointed to his knee, and barely jumped back into the ring in time to break ref Aubrey Edward’s 10-count. It seemed that Dustin’s strategy of slowing down the pace was paying off. Dustin powerslammed Sammy for a near fall! Sammy countered a monkey flip from Dustin. Sammy flew through the air with a double springboard onto Dustin outside the ring. A wobbly Sammy attempted a double springboard cutter but Dustin caught him with the Cross Rhodes for a near fall! Dustin followed up with the Code Red for another near fall! Dustin climbed to the top rope but Sammy ran up, grabbed Dustin, and clocked him with the GTH for a near fall! Fuego Del Sol was underneath the ring. Fuego popped out and set up a table. Arn Anderson confronted Fuego and Fuego retreated. Sammy connected with a pump kick on Dustin’s jaw. Dustin rallied back with a Canadian Destroyer off the apron, sending Sammy crashing through the table! Dustin planted Sammy with two consecutive Cross Rhodes. Dustin was looking for the Tiger Driver 98 but Sammy defended himself with a thrust kick. After several roll-up reversals, Sammy rolled up Dustin for the pin!

My Score: 3.5 out of 5

Wow. Just wow. A swift change to the card that was only announced the night before meant Dustin Rhodes was seemingly thrown in at the deep end for this match but he didn’t show it at all… In fact he looked on top for, such form that he bloody well hit a Canadian Destroyer on Sammy from the apron, through a table to the floor! Madman! A brilliant start to the special, they really played up whether we’d see Duston versus Cody too, so the winner was always in doubt!

Match #2: FTW World Title Championship Match – Ricky Starks def. Matt Sydal

The following is courtesy of allelitewrestling.com:

Taz joined the commentary team for this match. Sydal got right in the face of Ricky Starks, taking the fight to him, not wanting to waste the opportunity. Sydal swept the leg and hit a standing moonsault on Starks. Sydal rolled up Starks for a near fall. Hobbs was sitting ringside, holding onto the FTW title. Matt Sydal chopped at Ricky’s legs, then hit him with a question mark kick. He capped it off with a sliding knee strike to Ricky! Sydal spiked Ricky with a Michinoku Driver for a near fall! Starks hoisted up Sydal but Starks’ leg gave out. Sydal rallied back with a lightning spiral for a very near fall on Starks! Sydal smashed into Starks with the meteora! Starks placed his boot on the ropes, breaking the ref’s count. Starks speared Sydal! He finished off Sydal with the roshambo and scored the pin! Powerhouse Hobbs and Starks continued the beat down on Sydal after the match. Lee Moriarty sprinted down to even up the odds but Hobbs outpowered Lee! Finally Dante Martin ran down and forced Hobbs and Starks to back down!

My Score: 3 out of 5

Ricky Starks in his first real match back since injury. Buyt when he’s facing Matt Sydal you know he’s in good hands and Sydal both protected Ricky’s neck whilst looking like he was all for destroying it too! Starks looked a little out of set compared to where he was pre-injury but that to be expected and it did not dtrat from the finished product at all.

Match #3: AEW Women’s World Title Championship Match – Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. def. Riho

The following is courtesy of allelitewrestling.com:

Before the match, Jamie Hayter threw the championship down onto the ring canvas. Jim Ross noted it was very disrespectful on Hayter’s part. RIHO hit two consecutive dropkicks on Baker. She followed up with a diving cross body press onto Rebel on the outside. Baker fired back with the sling blade on the floor. Hayter and Baker pulled a table out from underneath the ring. RIHO evened up the odds with a dragon suplex on Baker. Then RIHO ran up the table and dropkicked Hayter, who had been holding the other end of it. Back in the ring, Baker was waiting for RIHO and began stomping a mudhole into her. Baker suplexed RIHO for a near fall. RIHO rallied back with a double foot stomp onto Britt Baker. RIHO blasted Baker with a big knee strike in the corner! RIHO locked Baker into a leg submission but Baker grabbed the bottom rope to force the ref to break the hold. RIHO climbed to the top turnbuckle but Rebel grabbed Baker and shielded her. RIHO jumped off the top with a double foot stomp onto Rebel! RIHO tried for the double foot stomp onto Baker but Baker moved and countered with an Air Raid Crash! RIHO avoided the curb stomp from Baker. Baker reversed a dragon suplex from RIHO and tried to put the Lock Jaw on, but RIHO had it scouted! RIHO escaped when she grabbed the bottom rope. Britt went right back with a curb stomp for a near fall on RIHO. Jamie Hayter tossed Britt’s world title into the ring. When ref Paul Turner turned around, he saw Rebel with the belt and he ejected Rebel. Baker was puzzled by the interference from Hayter and turned to ask her what she was doing. RIHO dropkicked Baker into Hayter, knocking Hayter off the ring apron! RIHO hit the crucifix bomb and then a Northern Lights Suplex on Baker for a near fall! RIHO charged at Baker but Baker kicked up at RIHO. Baker curb stomped RIHO and then applied the Lock Jaw, forcing RIHO to tap out!

My Score: 3 out of 5

This match was perfectly scripted, plenty of near falls made the outcome of the match constantly in question and both women would have looked strong as champion at the end of this one. There was also some great storytelling in terms of dissension in Baker’s ranks which I’m sure will continue into 2022.

News of the Night:

  1. Sammy Guevara will defend the Interim TNT Title against Daniel Garcia on Dynamite.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

This was a fantastic show, however it felt more like an extra episode of Rampage rather than a quarterly special – it really was missing a “big fight” feel despite three titles on the line. Can’t criticise any of the matches though as everyone put on a great performance with some great storytelling. That opening match with Sammy versus Dustin set the tone for the evening and everyone else tried to match up to it. Definitely a solid start to these new quarterly specials.

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