Monday, March 7, 2022

AEW Revolution 2022: Another Triumph

AEW does it again.  For the third straight time, All Elite Wrestling has presented an absolutely stellar PPV, full of excellent matches up and down the card, with very few exceptions.

The festivities included three pre-show matches, which for me felt like a bit much; the crowd was pretty tired at later points in the show from the extra hour of wrestling.  I'd have limited the Buy-In to the one six-man match (and probably shortened it by a few minutes).  That said, the House of Black-Death Triangle/Redbeared was a tremendous bout, one of the best pre-show matches you'll ever see.  Erick Redbeard looked great in his AEW in-ring debut, free of WWE's narrow definition of what a big man should do between the ropes.  The heels won as expected, after Malakai used the mist on Redbeared and Brody King finished him off with his variation of the Rikishi Driver.  This was a helluva six-man and I look forward to Rey Fenix coming back for the rematch.  ***3/4

The PPV proper kicked off with Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Kingston, in a 14-minute war that would've been right at home on a G1 Climax show.  These two stiffed the hell out of each other in an AEW career highlight for both of them.  Jericho flipped off the crowd early to solidify himself as the heel in this story.  After a brutal-looking half-nelson suplex from Kingston, they chopped each other red multiple times during the match.  Both guys used eye pokes, but Jericho took over with a suplex off the apron to the floor.  The finishing sequence saw Jericho hit two Codebreakers, but Kingston fought through and hit two spinning back fists, followed by his Stretch Plum submission, forcing Jericho to tap out.  This was a great moment for Kingston, finally winning a high-profile match over the former AEW Champion.  Post-match Kingston offered a handshake but Jericho refused and walked out, reneging on his promise to acknowledge Kingston as the better man if he lost.  Really strong opening match that exceeded my expectations.  ****

The first true Match of the Night contender was next as Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus defended against The Young Bucks and reDRagon, in exactly the kind of match you'd expect from these three.  This was 19 minutes of non-stop tag team beauty.  It would be impossible for me to recap it all, but all three teams looked great.  Jungle Boy kept right up with the four tag veterans, while Luchasaurus got several big moments where he'd come in and clean house with power moves and then defy his size with aerial tactics.  Midway through the match the alliance between the Bucks and reDRagon broke down as these things tend to do, and each team stymied the other's chances for victory.  After a series of nearfalls, Jurassic Express hit their tandem powerbomb finisher on Matt Jackson to retain the titles.  Super fun tag title match that furthered the Bucks-Dragon dissolution while making the babyface champs look great.  ****1/4

Next up was the Face of the Revolution ladder match, one of the more innovative ladder matches I've seen in some time.  It helped that there was such a variety of styles here.  The three power guys each got time to stand out, Christian Cage got to direct traffic as the resident ladder match expert, Ricky Starks did some hotshotting, and Orange Cassidy made his unorthodox imprint on the match.  One of the most memorable spots involved Cassidy doing the Bubba Dudley helicopter deal with the ladder, knocking everyone down with it, but then Wardlow and Hobbs lifted the ladder off the ground with him still attached, and Cassidy skinned the cat to get on top and reach for the brass ring, only to slip and crotch himself on the rungs.  Another great spot was Starks diving from the turnbuckles through a ladder to spear Christian.  Still another was Keith Lee beeling Cassidy over the ropes onto Christian and Starks.  Wardlow took out the other two big guys by spearing them both off the stage through a table, returned to the ring to powerbomb Christian off a ladder, high-jumped onto a ladder bridge, and powerbombed Starks onto it.  Wardlow then retrieved the brass ring, taking his first big step toward becoming a main event star.  This was an excellent ladder match and probably the best this company has put on so far.  ****1/4

The first match not to reach four-star territory was next, as Jade Cargill defended the TBS Title against Tay Conti.  But as Cargill's work goes this was a solid effort.  Tay provided a firm guiding hand while Jade stretched her moveset, at one point hitting a picture-perfect Frog Splash.  Anna Jay ate a pump kick on the outside and proceeded to interfere in the match, hitting Jade with a chair and giving Tay a rollup nearfall.  Jade hit Tour of the Islands and the aforementioned Frog Splash but Tay came back with a piledriver for two.  Jade then countered Tay's top rope move attempt with Jaded to retain the title.  I'd say this was Jade's best match thus far.  As always she came off as a big star and with her match quality headed in the right direction we should start to see her able to actually lead a match by year's end.  Not too shabby at all.  **3/4

The first of two bloodbaths was next as CM Punk faced MJF in an old-school Dog Collar match.  They teased Punk's traditional entrance but then cut it off to reveal MJF was just toying with everyone.  But Punk made his own entrance using his ROH music, sporting his old straight-edge jacket and baggy fight shorts (I always thought Punk looked coolest in these).  Once joined at the neck, the two men used the chain to try and control each other, with Punk hanging MJF over the ropes and whipping him around.  MJF came back and whipped Punk's back, leaving a chain-shaped welt all the way across.  MJF wrapped the chain around his fist and punched Punk, busting him open (unfortunately the hard cam caught Punk's bladejob, an issue that was repeated in the Danielson-Moxley match).  Punk bled like a faucet for most of the match, but he made MJF bleed not long after this.  They traded signature moves, MJF locking in Salt of the Earth, but Punk reversing into the Anaconda Vice.  MJF countered with a cradle for a nearfall.  Both men traded piledriver attempts on the apron, with Punk ultimately hitting a brutal-looking Tombstone.  Punk went for a chain-wrapped top-rope elbow but missed, and MJF went under the ring to retrieve a bag of thumbtacks.  MJF superplexed him onto the pile and screamed for Wardlow to come down and help him.  Wardlow sauntered to the ring reluctantly and MJF demanded the diamond ring.  Wardlow nonchalantly looked in each of his pockets, unable to find it.  Punk hit MJF with Go to Sleep, and suddenly Wardlow found the ring, placing it within Punk's reach and walking away.  The crowd went nuclear for this.  Punk punched MJF with the ring and scored the pinfall.  This match was deliberately paced like an early-80s chain match but featured fantastic storytelling and character work, and was suitably bloody and brutal.  The Wardlow babyface turn came off like a major moment.  Damn good stuff.  ****1/2

The most disappointing match was next, unfortunately placed in the toughest slot.  Britt Baker, sporting a brand new Women's Championship belt that's light years better than the old one, defended against Thunder Rosa in a match that sadly went too long and didn't keep the tired crowd engaged.  Baker had long stretches of methodical offense that made the bout drag, and when Rosa made her comebacks they were repeatedly cut off by Rebel and Hayter interference.  Rosa got a visual pin after a Tombstone as Rebel distracted the referee, then later countered Lockjaw with her own Lockjaw, into a sleeper hold that yielded a visual tapout as Rebel interfered again.  Rosa had had enough and speared Rebel through the ropes to the floor, but as she came back into the ring Baker immediately hit a curb stomp to retain.  I guess this win had to be tainted in order to give Rosa a second chance at the belt in two weeks (assuming she beats Leyla Hirsh on Wednesday), but they went a little too far in that direction and the match wasn't good enough to make up for it.  Not a bad match but easily the one disappointment on this show.  **3/4

I think my favorite match of the night, as expected, was Bryan Danielson vs. Jon Moxley, which also played out like a G1 Climax match, but could've main evented one of those shows.  This was twenty minutes of incredibly physical action, with stiff striking, airtight submission holds, and plenty of blood.  After a feeling-out process involving mostly grappling, they started laying into each other with palm strikes, chops and kicks.  They busted each other open with dueling elbow strikes, which fired up the crowd.  Each guy locked in a submission for teased finishes, Danielson using a dragon sleeper and later the LeBell lock, and Moxley using the bulldog choke.  Danielson countered with a Regalplex, hit his running knee, and then used the Triangle choke, but Moxley countered it with a cradle for the three-count (a la Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker in 2006).  Danielson protested the decision and the two men started punching each other again, but William Regal emerged from the crowd, drawing an incredible crowd reaction, and ordered both men to cool off and shake hands.  Fantastic, violent wrestling match with a big post-match moment.  ****1/2

Another match given an unenviable slot, but one that rose to the occasion, was the Tornado Trios match pitting Sammy Guevara, Sting and Darby Allin against Andrade, Matt Hardy and Isiah Kassidy.  This was an insane garbage match, with all six guys brawling around ringside from the start.  Andrade, Sammy and Darby seemed to have numerous large bruises on their bodies and I'm not sure when those happened.  The first of two absolutely batshit crazy spots occurred when Butcher and Blade placed Sammy across two tables in the entranceway, while Kassidy climbed atop one of the tunnels.  But Sammy climbed up to meet him and hit a Spanish Fly off the tunnel through the tables.  Absolutely nuts.  In another part of the arena, Darby and Andrade fought on a stack of tables, with Darby laying Andrade out for Sting to do a diving splash from the loge section, crashing Andrade through the whole structure.  Darby and Matt Hardy ended up alone in the ring, with Darby hitting a Scorpion Death Drop, followed by a Coffin Drop (which Matt tried to evade for some reason) for the pin.  Not a great match per se, but certainly a memorable spectacle that kept the tired crowd energized.  ***1/2

Another match that managed to pull the crowd in despite the show's long running time was the main event, as Adam Page and Adam Cole wove together a superb modern pro wrestling match.  Chants of "Let's go Adam" rang out early on, giving me a chuckle, and the match was was off to the races.  They cut a pretty ferocious pace considering they were going 26 minutes, with Cole gaining an early advantage after Page accidentally clotheslined a ring post.  Cole dominated for several minutes, Page attempting comebacks but Cole countering each of them.  Page at one point attempted a moonsault but Cole countered with a midair superkick.  Page countered a Panama Sunrise attempt by running up the ropes and hitting a moonsault slam from the top.  Fish and O'Reilly ran down and distracted the ref long enough for Cole to take over on offense with a low blow.  Cole hit Panama Sunrise and quickly followed up with a Last Shot, forgetting to pull down his kneepad, thus Page was able to kick out of the pin.  reDRagon set up a table but the strategy backfired as Page hit a Deadeye through it.  The Dark Order chased off O'Reilly and Fish as Page hit the Buckshot Lariat, but Cole got his hand on the rope to break up the pinfall.  Page tied Cole to the top rope using his belt and kicked him multiple times, but Cole returned the kick and freed himself.  Page kicked Cole again, pulled down his kneepad, and hit the Last Shot, followed by the Buckshot for the win.  Excellent main event that featured tons of action and psychology.  ****1/2

So by my count this PPV equaled Full Gear in the number of ****+ matches, but was missing that one major Match of the Year contender.  Still three ****1/2 bouts, two at ****1/4 and one more at **** adds up to a stellar night of wrestling.  Revolution wasn't quite as good in-ring as Full Gear and didn't have the significance of All Out, but any company besides AEW will be hard-pressed to top this show in 2022 (Good luck following this with your little WrestleMania, Vince).  This promotion continues to deliver in spades on all their big shows while furthering storylines and elevating new people.  MJF-Wardlow is sure to yield some great television, Danielson and Moxley are sure to create some tag team classics, and Hangman Page is now 4-for-4 in delivering great title defenses.  Anyone claiming he's been a failure as champion isn't being honest with themselves.  Revolution 2022 was a smash.

Best Match: I think Danielson vs. Moxley over the main event, just by a hair   
Worst Match: I rated the two women's matches equally but I think Jade vs. Tay better accomplished its goal than Baker vs. Rosa.  So I gotta rank the AEW Women's Title match at the bottom.
What I'd Change: I might have put more of the shorter matches earlier in the lineup to make the show feel shorter and thus not burn out the audience.  New Japan's approach to match order works better for me than what North American companies tend to do.  I'd have also limited the Buy-In to the six-man tag.
Most Disappointing Match: Britt vs. Thunder.  Considering their first match actually won PWI's Match of the Year award I expected this to at least be a worthy follow-up.  Hopefully the rubber match will redeem both of them. 
Most Pleasant Surprise: Jade's continuing growth as a performer
Overall Rating: I won't quite go the full monty for this show but it's right up there with All Out 2021.  9.5/10

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