AEW Battle of the Belts Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and HighlightsJanuary 9, 2022
AEW Battle of the Belts Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
Welcome to Bleacher Report's recap of Saturday's All Elite Wrestling Battle of the Belts special.
This event was not a traditional pay-per-view or a special episode of Dynamite or Rampage. This was more akin to the old WCW Clash of the Champions shows. It was on free TV but was supposed to provide a premium card.
Three different titles were on the line for this event. Cody Rhodes was set to defend the TNT Championship against Sammy Guevara, but he was unable to compete as he was required to isolate after a family member was exposed to COVID-19. His brother, Dustin Rhodes, stepped in to determine an interim champion.
Ricky Starks put the rarely defended FTW Championship on the line against Matt Sydal, and Riho challenged Britt Baker for the AEW Women's World Championship.
Let's take a look at everything that happened on Saturday's show.
Sammy Guevara vs. Dustin Rhodes (TNT Championship)
AEW put what many would call the main event on first as Guevara and Rhodes squared off to determine an interim TNT champion after Cody was unable to compete.
They shook hands as a show of respect before locking up. They ran the ropes and traded takedowns before having a brief staredown.
Dustin tried to keep the pace at a level he could handle, but Guevara kept amping up his speed to get ahead of the veteran and get him off balance. He knocked Dustin out of the ring and followed him out to throw him into the barricade.
Guevara pretended to point a gun at Arn Anderson, so Double-A just flipped him off. Dustin was able to drive Guevara's knee into the steel steps to take away his speed and agility temporarily. He spiked The Spanish God with a piledriver on the floor.
We returned from a break to see Dustin hit a powerslam. Guevara countered a monkey flip and hit a big clothesline a moment later. The Spanish God hit a double springboard takedown from the top rope to the floor.
Dustin caught him in a second springboard and hit Cross Rhodes for a two-count. He hit Code Red for another near-fall as he tried to get the win again. He climbed to the top rope, but Guevara pulled him off on to his shoulders and hit the GTH for a close two-count.
Fuego Del Sol set up a table at ringside, but it was Dustin who ended up using it when he put Guevara through it with a Canadian Destroyer from the apron. After trading near-falls a few times, Guevara pinned Dustin to score the win.
Whenever Dustin is involved, you know the match is going to be paced well and have a level of technical precision a lot of stars can't match.
Dustin's experience and Guevara's otherworldly athletic ability combined to make this a fantastic match with everything from quick sequences to high spots and everything in between.
The Canadian Destroyer spot looked awesome, Guevara's high-flying moves were great and Dustin ran this match like the ring general that he is. Fuego being involved was unnecessary but did not take away from how enjoyable this was.
Matt Sydal vs. Ricky Starks
Taz gave a quick rundown of what the FTW title stands for before the match got started. Starks and Sydal talked a little trash and slapped each other before they got going.
Sydal hit a hurricanrana and a kick to take Starks down. He hit a nice twisting senton for a two-count. Powerhouse Hobbs intimidated Sydal to keep him from going after Starks at ringside as we went to a break.
We returned to see Starks controlling the pace until Sydal unleashed a flurry of kicks to his legs and head. Starks tried to hit his finisher, but his leg gave out and Sydal took advantage of the situation.
Sydal hit the Lightning Spiral for a close two-count. He hit a meteora from the top rope for another near-fall, but Starks was too close to the ropes and saved himself.
Starks drilled Sydal with a Spear before hitting his finisher for the win. Dante Martin and Lee Moriarty made the save when Team Taz tried to keep attacking Sydal after the match.
It was going to be difficult for anyone to follow Dustin and Guevara's opening bout, but Sydal and Starks did a great job making their match exciting and completely different.
At times it felt like they were moving a little too fast, but they never screwed anything up. Sydal has grown into one of the smoothest high-flyers of his generation and does not get enough credit for how good he is.
It was good to see AEW wait until after the match was over to have anyone else get involved. Sometimes there is a little too much interference, and it's great to see two competitors finish a match without any shenanigans.
Britt Baker vs. Riho (AEW Women's Championship)
The main event of the evening saw Baker put the AEW Women's World Championship on the line against the former champion Riho.
Baker scored the first takedown after they locked up. Jamie Hayter and Rebel messed with Riho so Baker could keep the upper hand, but Riho came back with a low dropkick to send the champ out of the ring.
Hayter and Baker grabbed a table, but the distraction allowed Riho to take both women down. The table and Riho fell on Hayter's leg, but she did not appear to be injured.
Riho hit a nice missile dropkick to send us into a commercial. We returned to see Baker trying to regain control as Riho kept finding ways to take her down.
DMD blocked a northern lights suplex but couldn't avoid the 619. Rebel pulled Baker out of the ring to save her from a double stomp, so Riho stomped her on the apron instead.
Baker avoided another attempt at the double stomp and hit an air raid crash for a near-fall. She took her glove from Rebel to set up for her finisher, but Riho still had some life in her.
Baker reversed a suplex and brought her down, but Riho prevented her from applying the Lockjaw. Once she got Riho situated in the middle of the ring, she hit a curb stomp for a close two-count.
Hayter and Baker got into an argument that allowed Riho to hit a series of moves for another close two-count. Baker hit another stomp before applying the Lockjaw for the win.
Both women worked their butts off to make this their best encounter to date. They did everything they could to prove they belonged in the main event and succeeded beautifully.
The first couple of minutes had one or two close calls, but everything from that point forward looked crisp. Riho sold some big spots so well that it looked like she was really injured at times.
The continuing tension between Baker and Hayter is going to have to pay off at some point, but if she wasn't losing the title, this wasn't the right time.
An hour-long show made this feel like a glorified episode of Rampage instead of a special event, but every match delivered in a big way. Battle of the Belts can be counted as a success from an in-ring standpoint.