Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Top Ten Things: AEW PPV Events, RANKED

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things, here at!  It's time to talk about AEW....

Coming up in a couple weeks is AEW's newest PPV offering, Double or Nothing 2022, but before we dig into that show and its loaded slate of matchups, let's take a trip through the company's PPV history.  Despite only being in existence for three years, this young company has already produced some of the best PPV events of the last decade (and in some cases beyond).  Limiting their schedule to four tentpoles a year (soon to be five with the addition of Forbidden Door) has allowed the company to make them feel special and to load them up as much as possible.  Over the last nine months they've basically been untouchable when it comes to delivering in the clutch, and as their roster grows and matures they'll have plenty more chances to add to an already pretty stellar PPV legacy.

Here are my rankings for every AEW PPV thus far - this list will be a living document as the company adds new PPVs to their impressive collection....

12. All Out 2020

AEW for my money has yet to deliver a bad PPV, but the weakest in their catalog has to be All Out 2020.  The big matches mostly delivered on this show but there was just too much filler for a PPV event, like the first (and thankfully only) Tooth and Nail match pitting Big Swole against Dr. Britt Baker, a silly hardcore-style match taking place in and around Baker's dental practice.  Another miss was Matt Hardy's Broken Rules match against Sammy Guevara, which was all but aborted when Matt took a bad table bump that clearly left him concussed.  The third unworthy bout was a TV-quality 8-man tag between Dustin Rhodes, QT Marshall, Scorpio Sky and Matt Cardona, and four Dark Order members.  In the middling category we had Orange Cassidy defeating Chris Jericho in a Mimosa Mayhem match, Lance Archer winning the Casino Battle Royal, and Hikaru Shida defending the Women's Title against Thunder Rosa.  Fortunately three bouts really delivered - The Young Bucks vs. Jurassic Express in a fast-paced tag battle, FTR's AEW Tag Title win over Kenny Omega and Hangman Page, and my pick for match of the night, Jon Moxley's successful AEW Title defense against MJF, a fantastic old-school tough babyface vs. smarmy heel main event.  Definitely the company's PPV nadir so far, but still a solid 7/10 or so.

11. Revolution 2021

AEW's most disappointing on-air moment so far has to be the botched climax of this show, wherein Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley delivered a very good, spectacularly brutal AEW Title main event only for the Exploding Barbwire Death Match pyrotechnics to fail at the end.  Omega and the Good Brothers stole the match from Moxley and continued to pummel him, Eddie Kingston ran down to make the save and cover Moxley just as the final explosion countdown expired, and then.....little firecrackers.  The company managed to come up with a creative explanation for this technical snafu, but whenever anyone remembers Revolution 2021, this is the moment that will surely spring to mind.  Still it was a solid overall outing, with The Young Bucks and Chris Jericho/MJF delivering a very good opening Tag Title match, Rey Fenix winning the Casino Tag Team Battle Royal, and Scorpio Sky winning the Face of the Revolution ladder match (featuring a debuting Ethan Page).  Somewhere in less memorable territory lay Hikaru Shida vs. Ryo Mizunami, Miro & Kip Sabian vs. Best Friends, Hangman Page vs. Matt Hardy, and Darby Allin & Sting defeating Team Taz in a cinematic street fight.  Overall another good-not-great show, in the 7.5/10 neighborhood.

10. Double or Nothing 2021

After a full year of AEW PPVs held in the mostly empty Daily's Place, fans were welcomed back en masse for DoN 2021, and while not an instant classic show, this one delivered the goods.  Hangman Page got a decisive, energetic win over Brian Cage in the opener, The Bucks scored another title defense over Moxley and Kingston, Jungle Boy got a well-deserved Casino Battle Royal win, Miro won a slugfest over Lance Archer to retain the TNT Title, Britt Baker got her long-awaited Women's Title win over Shida, Darby and Sting beat Men of the Year in a fun tag bout, Kenny Omega retained the AEW Title in a Triple Threat over Pac and Orange Cassidy, and The Inner Circle got a satisfying Stadium Stampede win over The Pinnacle.  The only real disappointment on this show was Cody Rhodes highly underwhelming midcard match against Anthony Ogogo.  Aside from that stinker and the overuse of outside interference throughout the show, Double or Nothing was a much-needed return to form and full live crowds.  8/10 for me.

9. All Out 2019

The company's sophomore PPV effort would prove the least memorable of their debut year, yet still nothing to sneeze at whatsoever.  From the hot six-man opener of SoCal Uncensored vs. Jurassic Express to the Kenny Omega-Pac classic (Pac was a last-minute sub for a staph-infected Jon Moxley), to a wild Cracker Barrel car-wreck match featuring Jimmy Havoc, Darby Allin and Joey Janela, to an underrated Riho-Hikaru Shida bout to determine the second of two AEW Women's Championship finalists, to a solid Cody vs. Shawn Spears old-school match, to Chris Jericho becoming the inaugural AEW Champion over Hangman Page in the main event, there was plenty on this show to like.  And then there was one match that didn't really belong on the show and another that blew the roof off the Sears Centre.  The former pitted Best Friends against Stu Grayson and Evil Uno, while the latter was an Escalera De La Muerte ladder match for the AAA Tag Team titles, one of three absolutely stunning PPV bouts delivered by the Lucha Brothers and The Young Bucks.  This tag war was an unmitigated triumph that easily stole the show and for me the company's best 2019 bout.  8.5/10 for the overall show.

8. Double or Nothing 2020

AEW's first COVID-era PPV was amazingly not hampered by the lack of live crowd, partly due to the way the audio was mixed (with the in-ring sounds lower than the ringside roster members standing in for the audience) and largely due to the slate of good-to-excellent matches, including one of the company's most purely fun efforts to date.  The show opened with a memorable, high-spot-heavy Casino Ladder Match where the debuting Brian Cage took the win.  Next up was a near-classic singles match between two AEW pillars as MJF defeated Jungle Boy, followed by a very strong TNT Title match where Cody Rhodes outclassed Lance Archer to become the first champion.  A lull period was next as Kris Statlander and Penelope Ford delivered a free-TV-quality match and Dustin Rhodes and Shawn Spears delivered a poor three-minute showing.  But things picked up on the home stretch as Hikaru Shida unseated Nyla Rose in a No DQ match for the AEW Women's Title, and Jon Moxley had a wild AEW Title defense against the late Brodie Lee.  And then came the main event, an ingenious innovation during a time when fans couldn't attend shows, the Stadium Stampede, pitting The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Hangman Page and the recently-debuted Matt Hardy against The Inner Circle.  The next 34 minutes were full of joyous, chaotic violence, genuinely funny comedy spots, and delightful character interactions as the ten men brawled around TIAA Bank Field, leading to a spectacular finish: Kenny Omega hitting One-Winged Angel on Sammy Guevara, from the loge section through a camera platform.  The first Stadium Stampede was one of the great original gimmick matches of all time.  Double or Nothing 2020 gets another 8.5/10 from me.

7. Full Gear 2020

The final AEW PPV of 2020 provided another slate of excellent marquee matchups and the company's second all-time great Tag Title match, plus two significant title changes.  Things opened with a main event-quality Kenny Omega-Hangman Page bout, another chapter in their two-year arc.  Then after a solid Orange Cassidy-John Silver match we were treated to Darby Allin overcoming the odds to unseat Cody Rhodes as TNT Champion, and Hikaru Shida scored a second PPV win over Nyla Rose.  But it was once again The Young Bucks and their opponents who stole the show.  Finally we got to see the dream tag match between the Jacksons and FTR, and the result was a 28-minute instant classic as the Bucks became the fourth AEW Tag Champions.  Next, Matt Hardy settled the score with Sammy Guevara in an entertaining Deletion match, and MJF stole a win over Chris Jericho, allowing him and Wardlow to join The Inner Circle.  In the main event sold entirely by fantastic promo work, Jon Moxley and frenemy Eddie Kingston engaged in a brutal I Quit war, culminating in a barbwire-assisted bulldog choke.  With a MOTY tag title match and a slew of other strong bouts, Full Gear 2020 was arguably the best pandemic-era PPV.  9/10

6. Revolution 2020

AEW's fourth PPV and the final pre-pandemic one showed a company firing on nearly every cylinder and boasted maybe the company's single greatest match to date.  The first major chapter in the Kenny Omega-Hangman Page-Young Bucks storyline saw the four Elite friends facing off for the tag straps, and the results were truly epic.  For thirty full minutes these teams pulled out all the stops and delivered an all-time classic that garnered Match of the Year honors in both PWI and Wrestling Observer.  But Revolution was no one-match card by any means; Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara put on a spectacular five-minute sprint (preceded by several minutes of outside-the-ring action), MJF won his first landmark victory over former mentor Cody Rhodes in a fantastic old-school bout, Pac and Orange Cassidy had a unique mismatch of styles, the dour British heel vs. the carefree crowd favorite, and in the main event Jon Moxley dethroned Chris Jericho to become the second AEW Champion.  The card's only middling points were the Dustin Rhodes-Jake Hager opener and the Nyla Rose-Kris Statlander Women's Title match, both fine but not standouts.  As a whole, Revolution 2020 was a pretty fantastic night of wrestling.  9/10

5. Double or Nothing 2019

The show that started it all, Double or Nothing 2019 was a streamlined 7-match PPV (plus two Buy-In matches) laid out much like a NJPW show, with four multi-person undercard bouts followed by three huge main event-quality matches.  It was clear from the start that we were in for something different from other North American wrestling PPVs, and boy did this one deliver.  A blazing six-man SCU vs. Strong Hearts bout set the pace, followed by a just-okay women's 4-way (won by a babyface Britt Baker), an aerial Best Friends-Jack Evans/Angelico tag match, and a showcase of six Japanese women featuring Hikaru Shida, Riho and Emi Sakura.  But the final three bouts are what this show is remembered for, starting with the epic Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes match.  These two finally got to tell the story they'd pitched to WWE, and the result was a tremendous, drama-filled old-school wrestling match.  Even better in my book was the Young Bucks-Lucha Brothers war for the AAA Tag Team Titles, where these two teams stole the first of three PPVs.  Finally in the main event, Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho had a long-awaited rematch from WrestleKingdom 12, in a match to determine who would face Hangman Page (Page had won the Casino Battle Royal on the pre-show) for the inaugural AEW Championship.  While not quite on the level of their first meeting, Omega-Jericho II was nonetheless a fantastic main event, capping off an excellent debut for the fledgling company.  9/10

4. Full Gear 2019

AEW's finest show from their first year was this fairly loaded lineup, co-headlined by an excellent AEW Title match and an outrageously violent Lights Out match.  The Young Bucks and Santana & Ortiz kicked things off with an explosive tag bout, then Hangman Page and Pac delivered a main event-quality singles match, Shawn Spears and Joey Janela had an ok showing, and SoCal Uncensored defended the Tag Titles against Lucha Brothers and Private Party.  Once again though, the final three matches brought things to the next level, starting with a surprisingly great Riho-Emi Sakura Women's Title match.  Having trained Riho, Sakura meshed with her beautifully to deliver a 13-minute clinic.  Stealing the show for me was the Chris Jericho-Cody Rhodes old-school classic, wherein Cody vowed never to challenge for the AEW Title again if he lost.  And lose he did, thanks to MJF throwing in the towel for Cody and then betraying him post-match.  The Kenny Omega-Jon Moxley main event was most certainly not for everyone, but it can't be denied that this was an incredible match for its type - a bloody, brutal affair ranging all over the arena and culminating in a dangerous finishing sequence on the unpadded ring boards when Omega missed a Phoenix Splash and took a Paradigm Shift DDT.  With numerous ****+ matches and lots of memorable moments, Full Gear 2019 would remain the best AEW PPV for nearly two years.  9.5/10

3. All Out 2021

Starting in the summer of 2021, AEW reached a new level of quality when it came to PPVs (not to mention Dynamite episodes), and All Out 2021 would become their defining show for this new era.  Like WWE's most critically successful shows, All Out had a little something for everyone and drew record buyrates for the company, becoming the first non-WWE show since 1999 to break 200,000 buys.  A sold-out Now Arena crowd in Chicago packed in to witness the long-awaited in-ring return of their hometown hero, CM Punk, and everything was riding on his bout with Darby Allin.  Fortunately these two delivered a ****+ outing, with Punk shaking off seven years of ring rust and Darby more than holding his own.  This match was obviously the biggest drawing card on the show, but it was hardly the only memorable one.  After three solid opening matches (including a very good AEW Women's Title defense from Britt Baker), The Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers once again blew the roof off the place in a spectacular, action-packed steel cage match, wherein Penta and Fenix dethroned the iconic Jackson brothers.  Next up Ruby Soho made her AEW debut, winning the Casino Battle Royal to earn a title shot against Baker, then Chris Jericho put a cap on his feud with MJF with a hard-fought submission win, Paul Wight made short work of QT Marshall, and Kenny Omega fended off the title challenge of Christian Cage in the main event.  Following the bout though, two major acquisitions made their surprise debuts, Adam Cole (who teased challenging Kenny before joining The Elite), and Bryan Danielson, who would go on to face Kenny in an all-time great free-TV match a month later.  Between Punk's in-ring debut, Cole and Danielson's appearances, and the amazing cage match, All Out 2021 was a landmark achievement for AEW, and from an in-ring standpoint they'd incredibly they'd top this show twice in the coming months.  9.5/10

2. Revolution 2022

The absolutely LOADED Revolution 2022 would test just how much intense pro wrestling a live crowd could endure in one sitting.  This show had just about every type of match one could want; physical fights, high-spot tag team wrestling, wild No DQ matches, old-school violent brawling, and a big-fight main event.  Chris Jericho-Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley-Bryan Danielson (my personal favorite of the night) fell into the first category, Jurassic Express-reDRagon-Young Bucks fell into the second, Wardlow's Face of the Revolution Ladder Match win and the absolutely nutso Darby/Sammy/Sting-AHFO brawl into the third, the CM Punk-MJF Dog Collar match into the fourth, and of course the Hangman Page-Adam Cole AEW Title match into the final category.  Even the two weakest bouts on the show, a solid-but-short Jade Cargill-Tay Conti TNT Title sprint, and a disappointing Britt Baker-Thunder Rosa AEW Title match designed to set up their trilogy finale, were alright.  It could be argued Revolution 2022 was too much of a good thing, but I'll take that any day over not enough.  This show was spectacular.  9.5/10

1. Full Gear 2021

Six.  That's how many matches by my count, of the nine on this show, met or exceeded four stars.  The brilliantly-paced MJF-Darby Allin young star showcase, the blazing Lucha Brothers-FTR Tag Title match, the gritty Bryan Danielson-Miro fight, the wild and crazy Superkliq-Jurassic Express/Christian Cage Falls Count Anywhere war, the deeply personal CM Punk-Eddie Kingston brawl, and the epic AEW Title main event pitting Kenny Omega vs. Hangman Page in a climactic showdown two years in the making.  Name me another wrestling show with six ****-or-better matches, I'll wait.  On top of those six we were treated to solid work from Cody Rhodes & Pac vs. Malaki Black & Andrade, Britt Baker vs. Tay Conti, and a highly entertaining Inner Circle vs. American Top Team Street Fight.  Full Gear is simply one of the greatest wrestling shows I've ever seen, an essentially perfect cross-section of their something-for-everyone approach to big PPVs.  This show stands next to WrestleManias 17 and 19, and WrestleKingdoms 9 and 10 as an all-time classic.  It's a perfect 10/10 for me.

And that's where my rankings stand for AEW's PPV back catalog.  It will be interesting to see where future installments land, but in its young history this company has already produced numerous neo-classic shows and they have all the tools to keep doing so.  Check back every few months on this one and let's see how the rankings change over time.....

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