In the wrestling world, two truths tend to go underappreciated:
- Everyone has their own cup of tea.
- Sometimes it’s important to learn what you don’t like (and be okay with it.)
At least for one viewer that sporadically watches AEW Dynamite and, before Revolution, had never ordered an AEW pay-per-view, these two lessons were the theme of Sunday night. From an outsider’s perspective, All Elite Wrestling has been the source of a lot of buzz and excitement for months now, and this excitement reached a fever pitch heading into Revolution.
The show proved to be divisive, as one might expect from a card that was topped by an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. The leak that the Street Fight was taped ahead of time added even more controversy to the show before it even aired. By the time AEW Revolution faded to black late Sunday night, the show left this writer with a bad taste in his mouth, but ironically, most fans could agree that the finale to the polarizing event was a dud.
The Main Event Did Not End With A Bang
Heading into Revolution, the main attractions were the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match and the mystery surrounding AEW’s acquisition of a “Hall of Fame level” talent.
Fans of bloody, hardcore wrestling probably enjoyed the main event until its lackluster conclusion. Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley put their bodies on the line in some gruesome ways, and at different points, both men were “bleeding like stuck pigs,” as Jim Ross would say. They sold the brutality of the match; this bout featured two enemies that basically wanted to kill each other. The contest was a tribute to the old-school barbaric wrestling seen in FMW and other likeminded promotions. But it’s fair to say that your mileage will vary with this main event match.
The bout was off-putting and, at times, disturbing because it was arguably the most brutal wrestling fans have seen in a national promotion in quite some time. Between the blood and the explosions, it was hard to swallow. This violence could generate a conversation about what wrestling is: is it the hardcore brutality that ECW and other companies made famous? Is it the the technical brilliance that once turned Ring of Honor into a beloved alternative to the mainstream? Or is it something else entirely? You be the judge.
Putting aside the match’s style, the ending left a lot to be desired. Fans who were hoping that the Exploding Barbed Wire would keep The Good Brothers away were doomed to be disappointed. Once again, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows tipped the scales in Omega’s favor, souring the outcome of what had been, generally speaking, a main event in which two elite competitors gave it their all. The duo’s interference helped Omega put Moxley down once and for all, but the real story came after the match.
Omega and the Good Brothers beat Moxley down, determined to leave him helpless ahead of the impending explosion in the ring. Throughout the match, the announcers made it clear that 30 minutes after the bell, all the explosives in and around the ring would detonate in a devastating blast. Instead, the fans got the equivalent of some sparklers on the Fourth of July.
— Alastair McKenzie🏴 (@mckenzieas93V2) March 8, 2021
Plenty of the conversation has ripped Revolution, and AEW itself, apart for this conclusion, so we won’t dwell on it. But it’s hard to remember a more frustrating ending to a pay-per-view in recent memory, especially in AEW’s relatively short history. The ending to this main event has already been turned into a joke, and though some would argue that fans have short memories, AEW might struggle to live this down. The embarrassment was maximized by Eddie Kingston’s selling. When “The Mad King” ran to the ring to save Moxley, seemingly turning face in the process, he dove onto the former champion’s body. He protected Moxley as if he had just been shot. Even after the failed blast, Kingston didn’t budge.
Evidently, Kingston passed out from the heat caused by the explosion. That could make sense, but visually, it made a lackluster moment appear even more laughable. It’s hard to ignore the argument that the ending would have been much more effective if Kingston simply protected Moxley and helped him get medical attention.
On paper, the script for the main event reads well. Two warriors tried to destroy each other, and one of them cheated in order to win. Fine. Both men were bleeding profusely. Even better, as it sold the story of the match. The bad guys cheated to win. Not great, but it works. An unexpected hero emerges to save the fallen challenger from disaster. That sounds like a good ending to the show. But the “explosion” made it difficult, if not impossible, to appreciate this narrative.
Christian’s Arrival Was Bittersweet
Tony Khan and Paul Wight both hyped up AEW’s newest acquisition as a game-changer, a wrestler who could potentially tip the scales in the struggle for power in the wrestling world. In response, fans speculated that everyone from Kurt Angle to Brock Lesnar would be revealed as this newcomer.
When this surprise turned out to be Christian, the moment elicited a complicated response. Christian is a legend, he’s widely respected in the business, and he deserves a chance to go out on his own terms. But in the long run, how much does this move really help AEW?
First, hats off to music producer Mikey Rukus for producing a great song for Christian. It echoed the music “Captain Charisma” used in his run with TNA, which was a cool touch. But Christian’s arrival fell flat because he didn’t say a word. Not because everyone “knew” or any other reason, but he simply signed a contract and showed off his first AEW merchandise, a shirt that reads, “Out. Work. Everyone.” Sure, actions speak louder than words, and AEW can be forgiven for wanting to save his first promo for Dynamite this week. (It’s all about the ratings.)
But his debut could have been more effective if he said something, anything, about his arrival. In hindsight, this disappointment is worsened by the main event’s shortcomings. If the Christian reveal had been more satisfying, fans might have been a little more lenient toward the main event. But because both buzzworthy segments let the fans down, it’s fair to say that Revolution didn’t live up to the hype.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) March 9, 2021
That might seem harsh, and your perspective probably depends on how you feel about AEW’s decision to sign Christian. Personally, this writer was hoping for a talent that could single-handedly take AEW to new heights because that’s practically what Khan had promised. Christian isn’t that guy.
He’s a tremendous talent, and he’s renowned for his brilliant mind, which could prove to be priceless behind the scenes. But considering the on-screen product, it’s hard to see how Christian will genuinely benefit the weekly Dynamite shows and the pay-per-views to come. He’s 47 years old, and he’s coming out of a premature retirement due to injuries he suffered in his WWE career. Sure, he looked great when he returned to the ring at WWE Royal Rumble, he’s a great promo and an exemplary wrestler.
But this addition feels like a short-term play. Will he still be with the company five years from now? Is three a stretch? Even if he is, it’s fair to expect him to decline as he nears his fiftieth birthday. If AEW uses him to build new stars, it’s hard to complain too much because Christian is quite popular, so he could work wonders in that role. Still, it’s hard to overlook the feeling that AEW is leaning a little too close to TNA territory by bringing in stars who are either past their prime or near the end of their full-time careers. Khan has a roster that’s full of remarkable talent, and one can’t help but think that AEW would be better off if it focused on organically building its young stars instead.
Page Gets Paid
You might expect to hear about the Street Fight, the Face of the Revolution Ladder Match, or the Tag Team Championship Match in this space. But because everyone else is talking about those bouts, let’s focus on a contest that has been flying under the radar. The “Big Money Match” between Adam Page and Matt Hardy was one of the best bouts on the card. It exceeded this writer’s expectations because it offered the audience a hard-hitting, physical brawl that was driven by storytelling. The conflict, which stemmed from the wrestlers hoping to take each other’s earnings, was a compelling nod to old-school wrestling. But the best part of the contest came at the end, as the Dark Order helped Page earn the victory.
This moment paid off several months of the narrative surrounding the stable’s recruitment of Page. “Hangman” cracking open a cold one while he was surrounded by AEWs lovable one-time cult was a heartwarming moment. The narrative that flowed during and after this match showcased how much AEW has grown since it launched in 2019. More than ever before, the company is successfully telling long-term stories that continue to delight. On a show that had its fair share of shortcomings, this match was a pleasant surprise, from start to finish.
maybe the big money was the friends we made along the way https://t.co/aH6f8LWXJM
— HANGMAN PAGE (@theAdamPage) March 8, 2021