‘AEW BATTLE OF THE BELTS’ Recap + Review – Baker vs. Riho, New Interim TNT Champ Crowned

DATE: January 8, 2022
VENUE: Bojangles Coliseum (Charlotte, NC)
COMMENTATORS: Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, & Excalibur

AEW Battle of the Belts features three championship matches, with Dr. Britt Baker, DMD defending the Women’s World Championship in the main event. The FTW Championship is on the line as well as Ricky Starks defends against Matt Sydal, and an interim TNT Champion is decided when Dustin Rhodes takes on Sammy Guevara.

CHAMPIONS

  • AEW WORLD CHAMPION: “Hangman” Adam Page
  • AEW WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPION: Dr. Britt Baker, DMD
  • AEW TNT CHAMPION: “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes
  • AEW INTERIM TNT CHAMPION: Vacant
  • AEW TBS CHAMPION: Jade Cargill
  • FTW CHAMPION: “Absolute” Ricky Starks
  • AEW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus)

LINEUP

  • Dustin Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara for the INTERIM AEW TNT CHAMPIONSHIP (***1/2)
  • Ricky Starks [c] vs. Matt Sydal for the FTW CHAMPIONSHIP (***)
  • Dr. Britt Baker, DMD [c] vs. Riho for the AEW WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (***3/4)

*****

“The Natural” Dustin Rhodes [w/ “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson] vs. “The Spanish God” Sammy Guevara for the AEW INTERIM TNT CHAMPIONSHIP

Cody Rhodes was initially slated to defend the TNT Championship against Guevara tonight but had to bow out after not being medically cleared; instead of cancelling the match outright AEW has put Cody’s brother Dustin in his place and will be crowning an interim TNT Champion while Cody recovers from whatever he’s got going on. The series is tied at 1-1 between these two, having battled in early-2020, so this is also acting as a rubber match of sorts. Nice way to add some more oomph to this one. Before the match Justin Roberts introduces two dignitaries sitting at ringside: Charlotte Motor Speedway President & HOFer Humpy Wheeler (GREAT NAME) and legendary pro wrestling commentator/executive David Crockett who will present the winner with the title at the conclusion of the match.

Rhodes and Guevara shake hands before the match gets going. Rhodes catches Guevara with an armdrag, Guevara responds with a hip toss, Rhodes kicks him away, Guevara nips up and they reset, neither man getting the advantage. Things ramp up, Rhodes stops Guevara so he can catch his breath and Guevara relaxes on the buckles to give him a second and show off a bit. Rhodes ducks a clothesline and hits the dropdown uppercut, Guevara rolls Rhodes up for a two-count. Guevara flips over Rhodes, Rhodes puts on the breaks to avoid a kick and they reset once more. Guevara hits a dropdown uppercut of his own and sends Rhodes to the floor with a dropkick. Guevara throws Rhodes into the barricade and points a hand gun at Anderson, who flips him off in response. SPINEBUSTER HIS ASS, ARN. Rhodes sends Guevara knee-first into the steps and follows up with a piledriver. Rhodes rolls in to catch his breath, knowing he can be champ by countout but it can be done when for a vacant championship. Ref Aubrey Edwards gets to 9 and Guevara springs up to beat the count, Rhodes immediately covering for a two-count. Guevara rolls back to the floor as the show moves to picture-in-picture. Rhodes rolls Guevara back in and covers once again for a two-count, then goes to work on the left knee that he sent into the steps earlier in the contest. 

Back to full screen as Rhodes and Guevara trade shots, Guevara runs right into a powerslam and Rhodes covers for the 1…2…not yet. Rhodes connects with countalong rights in the corner mount, teasing a Goldust taunt for the heck of it, Daniel Garcia watching from the crowd. Guevara surprises Rhodes with a clothesline, sending him crashing to the floor. Guevara waits for Rhodes to get to his feet, Guevara connects with a double springboard swanton that hurts Rhodes but also further hurts his own knee. Back in the ring Guevara hits an enzuigiri and tries another double springboard but Rhodes catches him and connects with a BRUTAL Cross Rhodes, Guevara taking it like a DDT, for the 1…2…GUEVARA KICKS OUT. Rhodes catches Guevara with a boot in the corner and follows up with a CODE RED for the 1…2…Guevara still has some life left in him! Rhodes starts heading to the top, Anderson’s mouth agape, Guevara peels him off and connects with the GTH for the 1…2…RHODES GETS THE SHOULDER UP!

Rhodes rolls to the floor, Fuego del Sol (Guevara’s best friend) emerges from under the ring and sets up a table at ringside, Anderson scares him off by teasing he has a gun or some sort of nonsense. Rhodes escapes a Spanish Fly, Guevara responds with a pump kick, Rhodes escapes a cutter and HITS A GODDAMN CANADIAN DESTROYER THROUGH THE TABLE! Takes a minute for both to recover, Rhodes rolls Guevara in for the 1…2…Guevara kicks out! Rhodes connects with a second Cross Rhodes, and hangs on to hit a SECOND Cross Rhodes. Rhodes goes for the Tiger Driver ‘98, Guevara escapes and connects with a kick, both men connect with a clothesline and crash to the canvas. Guevara goes for a sunset flip, Rhodes sits down and grabs the legs for the 1…2…Guevara reverses for the 1…2…Rhodes shifts his weight back for the 1…2…Guevara reverses once again and traps both arms for the 1…2…3!

Sammy Guevara defeated Dustin Rhodes via pinfall to win the INTERIM AEW TNT CHAMPIONSHIP (16:15)

  • JON’S THOUGHTS: Great match, loved the story of Dustin trying to workaround the speed and youth of Guevara and not even hiding the fact that it was leaving him winded. I thought Dustin was going to pull it off there at points. It’s wild that a Canadian Destroyer through a table isn’t enough to win matches anymore but that’s pro wrestling for you. Good win for Guevara, I wonder how long he’s going to be champ before Cody returns to unify. (***1/2)

David Crockett presents Guevara with the TNT Championship and Rhodes gives him a hug in celebration. We’re all best friends. Rhodes leaves the ring to allow Guevara to celebrate but that’s cut short by Daniel Garcia, shown earlier to be watching in the crowd. A brawl breaks out almost immediately, the AEW referee crew rush out to separate the two. Oooo gimme a Daniel Garcia interim TNT Championship run, it doesn’t technically count.

-New champs Jurassic Express (Tag Team) & Jade Cargill (TBS) discuss their wins on Dynamite, plus a clip of Hangman Page beating Bryan Danielson.

Tony Schiavone interviews Sammy Guevara backstage. Guevara says the TNT Title has always been about open challenges and challenges Daniel Garcia for Dynamite on Wednesday.

Taz joins commentary for the next match since the FTW Championship is on the line.

“Absolute” Ricky Starks [c] [w/ Powerhouse Hobbs] vs. Matt Sydal for the FTW CHAMPIONSHIP

Starks announced he would be defending the FTW Championship on tonight’s show during the previous night’s episode of Rampage, hoping to send a message to hated rival Dante Martin. Sydal holds two singles victories over Martin, so if Starks can beat Sydal then he should be able to easily dispatch Dante.

Sydal gets right in Starks’ face, slapping him in the face and surprising him with a hurricanrana and leaping kick. Sydal sweeps the legs and connects with a standing mariposa (sp?) for a two-count. Sydal rolls Starks up with an inside cradle for a two-count. Starks pulls Sydal in and slams him to the canvas, stopping to pose for the crowd. Sydal catches a charging Starks with a kick, sending him to the floor. Hobbs gets in the way of Sydal, staring him down as the show moves to picture-in-picture. Starks stumbles into Sydal’s grasp, who quickly pulls him away from Hobbs to lay into him. Starks goes on the offensive, gyrating in Sydal’s face while in the corner count before connecting with rights. Sydal escapes with an inverted atomic drop and follows up with a chop. Starks drops Sydal with a series of jabs in the corner and chokes him with his knee. Starks gets a nearfall as the commercials go full screen.

Starks splashes Sydal in the corner, following up with a twisting uranage for the 1…2…Sydal kicks out. Sydal stuns Starks with a series of kicks followed by a sliding knee strike in the corner. They battle on the buckles, Sydal escapes Starks’ grasp and connects with a jumping rana followed by a kneeling Michinoku Driver for the 1…2…Starks kicks out. Sydal rolls Starks up for the 1…2…Starks kicks out. Sydal escapes Rouchambeau, Starks blocks a crucifix but eats a kick and Sydal follows up with a lightning spiral for the 1…2…Starks kicks out! Sydal takes flight, connecting with a Meteora for the 1…2..Starks powers his leg to the rope despite Sydal having it hooked. Nice. Sydal ducks a clothesline, Starks connects with a spear followed by Rouchambeau for the 1…2…3!

Ricky Starks [c] defeated Matt Sydal via pinfall to retain the FTW CHAMPIONSHIP (8:02 shown)

  • JON’S THOUGHTS: Good match and a solid win for Starks, who I keep forgetting is no longer injured because I mostly hear him on Rampage doing commentary. He and Dante Martin should have one hell of a match when it finally happens. (***)

Starks and Hobbs put the boots to Sydal, Sydal’s protege Lee Moriarty tries to make the save but gets laid out. Dante Martin runs out and makes the actual save, sending his upcoming Dynamite opponent Hobbs to the floor with a shotgun dropkick. 

Dr. Britt Baker, DMD [c] [w/ Jamie Hayter & Rebel] vs. Riho for the AEW WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

As successful as Baker has been in AEW, there is one person that she has been unable to defeat: the first-ever champion Riho. This continued in the lead-up to this match, with Riho getting a non-title win over Baker and also getting the win in a tag team match. Can Baker finally overcome her biggest obstacle (not named Thunder Rosa) in AEW? Let’s find out. Lots of talk about increasing dissension between Baker and Hayter, the latter of which not proving to be as subservient as Rebel.

Baker drops Riho with a shoulderblock and covers, Riho bridges out and connects with a pair of dropkicks sending the champ scurrying to the floor to regroup. Rebel checks on Baker, Riho takes Rebel out with a top-rope crossbody. Baker takes advantage, connecting with a sling blade. Hayter pulls out a table, Baker helping her set it up but this leaves her open to a Dragon Suplex, Riho following up with a leaping dropkick off the table to take out Hayter. Back in the ring Riho connects with a missile dropkick, Baker catches her charging in and sends her into the buckles with a Flatliner. Action moves to picture-in-picture as Baker gets distracted arguing with Hayter, Riho surprising her with a roll-up for the 1…2…Baker kicks out and goes back on the offensive. Riho connects with rapid forearms, Baker throws her in the corner and chokes her with her boot to put a stop to that. Baker connects with a pair of suplexes, covering for the 1…2…Riho kicks out, Baker switches to a full mount and tries to keep her shoulders down but still Riho escapes. Baker levels Riho with a knee strike and covers for the 1…2…Riho kicks out, Baker settles into a chinlock, trapping the arm behind her for extra leverage. Riho tries to escape, Baker rains down forearms and switches to a Dragon Sleeper. 

Riho gets to her feet, Baker grabs a waistlock, Riho ducks a clothesline and rolls Baker into a double stomp for the 1…2…champ kicks out. Baker blocks a suplex, Riho escapes the counter suplex and catches a charging champ with a pair of boots followed by a tilt-a-whirl headscissors. Riho drills Baker with a corner knee, Baker gets sent into the ropes and Riho with a Tiger Feint Kick for the 1…2…Baker kicks out, Riho immediately locks in a BRIDGING HALF-CRAB but Baker makes it to the ropes. Riho heads to the top, Rebel pulls Baker to the apron and covers her to shield her, Riho gives no f*cks and double stomps them both anyway. Hayter stays out of it as she should. Riho heads back to the top, Baker dodges the double stomp and connects with a ripcord forearm followed by an Air Raid Crash for the 1…2…shoulder up. Rebel puts the glove on Baker’s hand, Riho dodges the stomp and they trade strikes. Riho goes for a Dragon Suplex, Baker counters her to the canvas and goes for the Lockjaw but Riho gets to the ropes. Hayter and Rebel peel her hands off the bottom rope, Baker rolls her back to the center of the ring, Riho pops her hips and covers for the 1…2…Baker kicks out and immediately connects with a curb stomp for the 1…2…RIHO KICKS OUT. Hayter drops the Women’s Title in the ring, Rebel hands it to her and finally the ref ejects Rebel from ringside. I’m sure Hayter implicated her accidentally. Riho sends Baker into Hayter and connects with a crucifix bomb followed by a Northern Lights suplex for the 1…2…BAKER KICKS OUT. Baker counters a charging knee with an upkick and rolls through a roll-up attempt, connecting with a superkick and a second curb stomp for the 1…2…Riho kicks out, Baker immediately transitions into the Lockjaw for the tap!

Dr. Britt Baker, DMD [c] defeated Riho via submission to retain the AEW WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (12:45)

  • JON’S THOUGHTS: Great match, I thought Riho had it there at the end. The feud between Baker & Hayter continues to simmer, excited for them to come to blows at some point. Baker finally getting her win over Riho is awesome, now she needs to avenge her loss to Thunder Rosa at some point. LET’S RUN LAST YEAR’S MATCH BACK. (***3/4)

Baker & company celebrate to end the show.

*****

FINAL THOUGHTS

AEW Battle of the Belts is a fun hour of television; all three matches deliver and are worth checking out. I hope they do more of these and it becomes their version of Clash of the Champions

  • FAVORITE MATCH: Dr. Britt Baker, DMD vs. Riho
  • FAVORITE MOMENT: Dustin Rhodes hitting a Canadian Destroyer through a table