SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
On the streets of Chicago Saturday afternoon and into the early evening, folks were bundled up to the brim with winter hats, coats, gloves, and boots in order to fight the blistering cold air of the Windy City. Such is Chicago life in late February.
The inside of the loud and newly minted Wintrust Arena told a different story. There, 10,000 rabid wrestling fans warmed themselves without layers by simply sitting beside the scorching hot fire of a product that was All Elite Wrestling’s third PPV event, Revolution.
The AEW main event acts and money players set the tone for the night and were the necessary kindling to get the fire started. AEW’s second tier stars were the lighter fluid. Acts like Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, Orange Cassidy, and Adam Page clicked on an intense level with the live crowd and delivered performances that shattered any glass ceilings that may have been above them.
After being herded like sheep through the doors of the arena, AEW fans took over the building. Merchandise lines, food lines, and of course the beer lines sprouted up out of nowhere like a Cody Rhodes neck tattoo. For as hot as the AEW product was, the available merchandise served as the freezing cold water. Ever heard of a selection, Tony Kahn? Fans of Jon Moxley and Cody were super-served with options, but outside of that, the AEW brand itself was the item of the night.
As the beer lines grew with people going back for seconds, and well, thirds, the in-ring action kicked off with a dark match that pitted Riho and Yuka Sakazaki against Britt Baker and Penelope Ford. Baker carried the heat of the match itself with some stellar heel work that was over big with the thawing audience. The crowd enjoyed Riho as well, but it was Kip Sabian that stole the moment. Sabian acted like a pestering nat toward the babyfaces and his work hooked the crowd in what was an otherwise A to B showing all around.
When the dark match concluded, ring announcer Justin Roberts took over as the star of the show. To a chorus of chants, Roberts introduced the Buy In and explained the purpose of special light-up bracelets that were waiting for the audience at their seats. The Buy In match began soon after and featured the team of Scorpio Sky and Frankie Kazarian of SCU against the Dark Order. Ahead of the match, Sky and Kazarian left Christopher Daniels behind which prompted immediate discussion amongst the live fans as to whether or not they’d see the Exalted One debut and if said Exalted One was Christopher Daniels. Neither would end up being true. The match worked as an opener and set the tone nicely for the main show to begin.
Throw another log on the fire. As 7pm CST rolled around the audience with beer flowing through its veins roared in approval. Hot pyro heated an already hot environment and the main show kicked into gear with Dustin Rhodes vs. Jake Hager as the opening contest. Chicago thoroughly enjoyed seeing Dustin and while the match went too long and created a sense of restlessness early, Hager’s victory gave him the credibility he needed as a key act in the company.
From there, Darby Allin collided with Sammy Guevara. If Chicago’s reaction to Darby Allin is an indication, AEW has a giant star on their hands in Allin. Darby got the pop of the night to that point for his entrance, but the rest of the audience engagement with him strictly took place within what he did in the match. Allin didn’t pander for cheers; he earned them with his work. Credit Guevara too as he sold for Allin in a way that nobody on the roster has before.
Time for two more logs on the fire. The tag team championship match was up next and this had to be the greatest tag team match any of the 10,000 in attendance had ever seen. They certainly reacted like it was. Adam Page, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks had the live audience in the palm of their hands and manipulated them left and right within the 30-minute match. Storyline nuances and premiere in-ring psychology anchored everything down while each man’s physical prowess and wrestling creativity layered on top. Chicago gasped as Page teased decapitating Omega with the Buckshot Lariat, but breathed a sigh of relief when he put his arm around his partner instead. That’s investment and it was on full display here.
Nyla Rose vs. Kris Statlander followed the tag team classic as fans scurried up the arena steps and back into the bathroom and beer lines. This was inevitable. It didn’t appear that the audience outright didn’t want to watch Rose vs. Statlander, but the bathroom and beer were priorities.
A tired audience filled their seats as MJF made his entrance for the grudge match against Cody. If you were expecting nuclear heat for MJF, the Chicago crowd didn’t comply. Sure, MJF was booed, but between the audience being tired and already having a visual of Cody celebrating a large victory in their minds, it created an environment of passive engagement. The crowd went through the motions. Cody’s entrance rocked the building and woke fans up for a bit, but it took an efficient 10-plus minutes of wrestling for Cody and MJF to fully bring the people back to life. There was nothing terrible here, but it certainly was not a memorable final product in the eyes of the live viewing audience given all that went into the build for the story.
Want to talk memorable moments? Throw another log on the fire, please. Meet Orange Cassidy everyone. If you didn’t know who he was, now you do. The guy can work and this match against PAC showcased the full range of his character. PAC deserves all the credit in the world for being a viable dance partner for Cassidy here and the match melted the crowd. They badly wanted Cassidy to win and not just because of silliness. There’s more there and certainly more to come.
Finally, and as the AEW Revolution event burned white hot for the Chicago faithful, the world championship main event began. Jon Moxley hit the ring first to a large reaction for a long entrance. Chris Jericho walked out next with a choral performance of his entrance music and the audience loudly belting the words along with them. The Jericho song was an issue for the match itself. After singing it word for word, it connected the crowd with Jericho and in a positive way that was counterproductive to Jericho getting the heel heat he needed for Moxley to shine brightest. They fought through that mixed reaction throughout the entirety of the match and only truly beat it when Moxley covered Jericho for the victory and championship win. The live fans didn’t react to this match as a four- or five-star classic. However, it did add another flavor to the show in terms of the style of match featured. This wasn’t like anything else and it popped for that reason.
When the show ended, fans bolted out of the arena doors. Smiles permeated their faces as discussions of “match of the year” and “new world champion” took place. They walked briskly into nearby bars and hotels, but this time went hatless, coatless, and bootless. The cold Chicago weather be damned. Like the AEW product, they were hot.
NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: All eyes on Cody to become wrestling’s new mainstream babyface star