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AEW Delivers With ‘Rampage’ Debut: 'This Was One of the Biggest Nights in the History of the Company'

AEW has added to its programming, successfully debuting its new show Rampage Friday night on TBS.

The show opened with Kenny Omega defending the Impact title against Christian Cage, a preview of what we will see on September 5 at the All Out pay per view, where Omega defends the AEW title against Cage. The Rampage match perfectly set up the AEW title match, as Cage defeated Omega, crowning himself the new Impact champ. The main event saw Dr. Britt Baker successfully defend her AEW women’s title against Red Velvet, which also included the AEW return of Jamie Hayter.

A scene from AEW's Rampage

AEW president and CEO Tony Khan, who is the show’s executive producer, expressed pride and excitement when describing the first hour of Rampage history.

“This was one of the biggest nights in the history of the company, and it was a great show,” said Khan, who spoke with Sports Illustrated moments after the show went off the air. “We went in with a tremendous card of three championship matches and a plan to deliver the best one-hour wrestling TV show anyone’s seen in a very long time. We needed to hit a home run, and we did. Everyone across the board, including production and staff, did a tremendous job.”

Khan also booked the show, and he explained the creative philosophy that went into the Rampage premiere.

“We highlighted our people, and that led to great moments,” said Khan. “Tonight was all about showing fans the top stars of AEW, ones that are becoming mainstream names in wrestling and even outside of it, too. This is the perfect time to launch Rampage, and I wanted to go in as hot as possible.

“Next week’s Rampage is ‘The First Dance’, and I think everyone knows what to expect—and everyone is very excited. We built a foundation here for what you’re going to see next week. This was a huge premiere, and there is tons of anticipation for next week in Chicago.”

There is an abundance of anticipation for next week’s show, which will be held at the United Center in Chicago. There are a number of tells—including the host city, Darby Allin’s recent “best in the world” comment, and the “First Dance” show name–that the show will feature the AEW debut of wrestling icon CM Punk.

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Khan was asked about the plethora of rumors that Punk will be on next week’s Rampage.

“I can’t answer that question,” said Khan. “But it’s a very good question to ask.”

Rampage mirrored the Miro-Fuego Del Sol match—fast-paced and overflowing with action. Miro retained the TNT championship by submission, ending Del Sol’s dream of earning an AEW contract. But then, in a segment that briefly featured Khan, Del Sol was still awarded a contract by longtime friend Sammy Guevara.

“That was a complete shoot,” said Khan. “Fuego had no idea that was going to happen. Sammy was the only person I told, and Fuego was legitimately surprised to receive the contract he’s been dreaming of and chasing.”

Rampage, which aired from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Petersen Events Center, was called by a four-man broadcast booth featuring Excalibur, Mark Henry, Chris Jericho, and Taz, where Jericho particularly shined with his blend of authenticity and passion. It now becomes the first weekly wrestling series to air on a Turner-owned station on a Friday night since WCW Power Hour in 1994—and there will be another first next Wednesday, as Sting returns to the ring for his first match on TNT in 20 years. Sting teams with Darby Allin to wrestle a Texas Tornado tag match against 2.0, who were formerly known as Ever-Rise in NXT. Sting and Allin were briefly on camera during Rampage, fittingly, appearing from the rafters.

“Next week is our most stacked Dynamite card,” said Khan. “It’s the fifth and final ‘Labor of Jericho’, which is a huge match of MJF vs Chris Jericho. Jurassic Express challenges the Young Bucks for the tag team titles, Sammy Guevara is going to make a huge announcement, and he’s also going to wrestle one of his biggest rivals, Shawn Spears. And it’s also the night of Sting’s first wrestling match on TNT in over 20 years, since the final Nitro when he beat Ric Flair in the final night of WCW history. That’s a huge milestone, and they’re wrestling a team in 2.0 that has made a great start in AEW. Then we’ll come right back on Friday for ‘The First Dance’ Rampage, which is going to be the most anticipated television event we’ve ever done.”

A unique blend of optimism and anticipation have already enveloped Rampage, which Khan is thrilled now exists in the world of wrestling.

“This show belongs to the wrestling fans,” said Khan. “Now is the time for more AEW on TNT and TBS. There is only more excitement to come in the weeks ahead. I’ve looked forward to this day for so long, and this was a great debut for Rampage. It’s a totally different format for us, and next week will be a very atypical episode of Rampage.

“I’m so excited for what is ahead next week. We’re going to give people very special wrestling television. ‘The First Dance’ is going to be a one-time, historic wrestling television event.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.