Monday, March 4, 2024

AEW Revolution 2024 Review: An All-Timer

For the third straight year AEW has delivered a Revolution PPV that is unlikely to be topped the rest of this calendar year.  After the second match I said to my wife "Bryan Danielson just shit out another classic."  And that ended up the third-best match on the show.  No one does PPV like AEW does PPV....

Revolution was of course built around the retirement of 64-year-old legend Sting, and while his match delivered about as well as anyone could ever want, there were so many great bouts on this show it was actually an embarrassment of riches.  The 16,000+ fans were molten for most of the PPV, the only real lull being the Women's Title match, which still kept them interested.  Think about how rock-solid a lineup needs to be for anyone to follow Ospreay-Takeshita for example and still have the crowd eating out of the wrestlers' hands.  I don't ever want to hear anyone say a wrestling show needs buffer matches or long gaps between bouts to let the crowd catch their breath; this show was wall-to-wall wrestling and the crowd ate it up.

The main show kicked off with Christian Cage vs. Daniel Garcia for the TNT Title and the crowd was very much behind the idea of Garcia taking the title off him.  Garcia outwrestled Cage early, but Cage took over after faking a knee injury.  Garcia would target Cage's ankle to soften him up for the anklelock.  Nick Wayne tried to interfere but Garcia sent him over the barricade.  Killswitch hit a chokeslam behind the referee's back, but Daddy Magic ran down and fought him up the ramp.  Cage went for a spear but his ankle buckled and Garcia hit a piledriver for a nearfall.  Shayna Wayne distracted the ref long enough for Nick to run in with a cutter, and Cage hit the Killswitch to finish Garcia off.  Damn good opener.  ****

When they announced Eddie Kingston vs. Bryan Danielson as the second match I was shocked and a little worried the crowd would be down after the opener.  Turns out I didn't need to be.  These two tore it up once again, with Danielson dominating the match and Kingston fighting from behind as only he can.  Kingston accidentally chopped the ring post early in the match, and this played into the rest of the bout, as he couldn't strike or especially use his spinning backfist effectively.  Danielson got a nearfall with the busaiku knee and almost scored a submission with the triangle choke, but Kingston got to the ropes.  The match escalated to a series of exchanged suplexes and strikes, but Kingston knocked Danielson inside out with a lariat and finished him with a stacked powerbomb.  Post-match Danielson teased not shaking Kingston's hand, but finally did, and the two hugged.  This was great and would easily be Match of the Night on most PPVs.  On this one it ranked THIRD.  ****1/2

The third match was one of only two on this show I'd rate lower than four stars, but it was still a fun little clusterfuck.  The 8-man Scramble saw Wardlow, Hobbs, Brian Cage, Lance Archer, Chris Jericho, Dante Martin, Magnus and Hook vying for a World Title shot, and broke down into the four "meat" guys and the other four, whom the crowd dubbed "mini-meat."  This was nonstop action and aside from a couple bad Dante spots where his foot got caught on the ropes during a dive, it all looked good.  The bout built to a ton of big moves and nearfalls, with Wardlow finally cornering Dante and hitting a Last Ride powerbomb for the win.  Wardlow came off like a nigh-unbeatable monster, hitting some great agility moves and withstanding a Redrum/Walls of Jericho combination.  I look forward to the rescheduled Meat Madness match.  ***1/2

Next up was another excellent midcard title match, as the beleaguered International Champion Orange Cassidy faced Roderick Strong.  Strong went after Cassidy's injured back and ribs ruthlessly, hitting him with every backbreaker, suplex and core stretch under the sun.  Cassidy once again expertly played the babyface champion in peril, making a late-match comeback and hitting Beach Break and Orange Punch for nearfalls.  But in the end the punishment was too much and Roddy hit his gutbuster finish to win the title.  Super little match.  ****

Again members of the Blackpool Combat Club were tasked with following a very strong singles match, and again they more than rose to the occasion.  Since the BCC-FTR match a couple Dynamites ago went to the twenty-minute time limit, this rematch was given thirty, and it was magic.  Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli paid homage to the Road Warriors, wearing spiked shoulderpads to the ring, and later hit their version of the Doomsday Device (Claudio hit a springboard European uppercut and Dax Harwood took a nasty landing on his shoulder as a result).  These four stiffed the bejeezus out of each other, and about halfway through the match Claudio sent Dax into the post, gashing him open.  From there it was a war of attrition, everyone taking loads of punishment in order to dish some out.  Claudio hit Cash with a Neutralizer on the floor, Dax piledrove Claudio on the floor.  Mox hit Deathrider on Dax, who kicked out and almost won with a crucifix pin.  But Mox locked in the bulldog choke, and Claudio intercepted Cash, locking him in a choke of his own.  Dax passed out and the BCC were declared the winners.  This was fantastic.  ****1/2

I liked the next match more than most, as Toni Storm and Deonna Purrazzo put on a mat-based grappling clinic that unfortunately suffered from a subdued crowd response and a weak finish.  But I really enjoyed watching these longtime friends play the human chess game.  Deonna had the match won with her double Fujiwara armbar and even got a visual tapout, but unfortunately Luther was distracting the referee at the time.  Mariah May then distracted Deonna and she turned around into a Storm Zero for a Toni win.  Not a bad little match at all, but Toni is such a fun character the crowd doesn't want to boo her.  ***1/2

Alright, should we just give Will Ospreay the 2024 Wrestler of the Year award now?  Jesus, this guy.  Ospreay and Takeshita was the one match on this PPV that didn't really have a story behind it, and yet it blew everything else on the card out of the fucking water.  These guys had a basically perfect 22-minute match that started out slow and strategic and built to an incredible fever pitch, and the crowd went right along with them.  At one point Takeshita went for a brainbuster on the turnbuckle pad but Ospeay's lower back took the brunt of it and showed a sick-looking rope burn.  Another standout moment was Ospreay going for Oscutter but getting countered midair into a spinning Blue Thunder bomb.  This looked spectacular.  There was an insane series of big moves and counters ending with a Hidden Blade that Takeshita kicked out of at one, and the place went apeshit.  Ospreay hit the Styles Clash, then a Tiger Driver 93 and another Hidden Blade to put the match away.  I didn't want this to end.  These guys are superhuman.  Match of the Year so far in 2024.  *****

The three men vying for the AEW World Title were put in the most unenviable of positions following such a masterpiece, but they proved themselves more than up to the task, as Samoa Joe, Swerve Strickland and Hangman Page delivered a fantastic semi-main event full of great action and story-furthering moments.  Joe was the dominant bully champion whom neither challenger seemed quite capable of taking on alone, Swerve provided flashy offense and dramatic nearfalls as the crowd favorite, and Hangman the obsessive fallen hero, was forced to stoop to new lows to stop his arch rival from winning.  Late in the match Swerve hit his top-rope stomp on Joe and seemed to have the match won, but Page yanked the referee out.  But he paid for it when, after hitting twin Buckshot Lariats on Joe, there was no ref and a substitute had to run down, giving Joe time to kick out.  Prince Nana gave Swerve his crown to use as a weapon, but Swerve refused to cheat, cementing his babyface turn.  Joe went for the choke but Swerve countered with a rollup and Page beat up the second ref to break it up, cementing his turn to villainy.  It was a race to the finish from there, as everyone hit big moves and went for pins.  But Joe suplexed Swerve and locked the choke on Hangman, who tapped out before Swerve could break it up.  This played out ambiguously, as though Page may have tapped just to keep Swerve from winning.  Excellent title match.  ****1/4

Finally it was time for Sting's retirement match, and they played a great video package set to Avenged Sevenfold's "Life is But a Dream," a melancholy piano sonata.  Sting, Darby Allin and the Young Bucks pulled out all the stops to give the crowd a car wreck of a spectacle, a war that went all over the arena and involved ladders, chairs, tables and plate glass, plus cameos from Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat.  The most memorable spot involved Darby setting up Nick Jackson on some glass and diving off a 12-foot ladder.  Nick moved and Darby crashed through, cutting his back in hundreds of places.  Meanwhile the Bucks double teamed Sting, hitting him with multiple tandem moves including an EVP Trigger, from which Sting kicked out at one.  The Bucks at one point referenced Ric Flair's retirement match with Shawn Michaels, telling Sting "We're not sorry, we hate you" before hitting him with superkicks.  The Bucks went for the former Meltzer Driver (now the TK Driver), but Darby sent Nick crashing through a table, Sting hit Matt with a Scorpion Death Drop, Darby hit a Coffin Drop, and Sting locked in the Deathlock for the tapout win.  A fantastic match to cap off one of pro wrestling's greatest careers, and everyone looked superb.  Darby and Sting cut thank you promos to end the show on the highest and most bittersweet of notes.  ****1/4

By my count, AEW has now delivered four PPVs I would rate a perfect 10/10: Full Gear 2021, Revolution 2023, All Out 2023, and now Revolution 2024.  Of the nine matches on the main card I'd only give two of them less than ****.  That means a whopping SEVEN MATCHES landed above that mark, an astonishing feat.  If anyone puts on a better PPV in 2024 I can't wait to see it.

Best Match: Will Ospreay vs. Konosuke Takeshita
Worst Match: The Scramble, by default.  The worst match on this show was ***1/2.  Let that sink in.
What I'd Change: Beats me....
Most Disappointing Match: I guess Storm vs. Purrazzo was mildly below expectations but I still enjoyed it quite well.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That as great as Kingston-Danielson was, two matches still topped it.
Overall Rating: 10/10

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