AEW REVOLUTION PPV – SPECIAL RETROSPECTIVE: Bryant’s second-watch thoughts, star ratings, and thorough match commentary

PHOTO CREDIT: AEW and Wrestling Inc.

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

AEW REVOLUTION ’22
MARCH 6, 2022

The first wrestling tape I ever owned was given to me as a Christmas present. I almost didn’t open it because I almost didn’t find it. It had been pushed to the back and was partly hidden by the Christmas tree’s skirt. Thank goodness it was shiny! It had been wrapped in red foil and topped with a stick-on bow recycled from the previous year. Had it not been shiny, I might’ve missed out on one of the best presents I ever received.

With platitudes like that, you’d think it would’ve been something akin to WrestleMania XVII or Starrcade 88. But no, it was WWF Insurrextion — a glorified house show with a misspelled name because we used to think the letter “X” was edgy. However, the show itself was far from edgy. If anything, it was “blunty” because whoever booked it was probably smoking a blunt when they did so. It featured legendary wrestler and Hart Dungeon graduate Shane McMahon in the main event as he battled for the WWF Championship because wow.

As an adult who loves wrestling, I would’ve watched that show with narrowed eyes, but as a kid who loved wrestling, I watched it like a lion watching a gazelle. Every moment seemed like the most important moment of my life. Watching wrestling that way felt wonderful, and quite frankly, I miss it. I’ll never forget what it felt like to watch wrestling with wide-eyed wonder.

While watching AEW Revolution, for a sliver of a second, I got to feel that wide-eyed wonder again. It happened during the MJF-Punk match when, moments earlier, Wardlow had come out and patted down a suit that looked like it might rip if his muscles sneezed. He’d been desperately looking for a ring to hand MJF, and MJF had been waiting with impatient dread as the slow realization of what was happening sucked the light from his eyes. At long last, MJF’s attention was averted, and Wardlow plucked the world’s gaudiest ring from his pocket and placed it on the blood-stained canvas.

That’s when it happened. That’s when the wonder returned, and it felt intoxicating. It felt like my heart was in a rib-shaped elevator. It felt like my insides were exploding. It felt like wide-eyed wonder.

When I think back on this pay-per-view, many years from now, that moment is the moment I will remember most. That might seem silly to you. You might have a different favorite moment, or you might not have liked the pay-per-view at all. If so, that’s okay. Your likes and dislikes are equally valid, and my opinions are not better than yours because they’re on a website. But for me, a whole night’s worth of spectacular moves, death-defying stunts, and buckets of blood got upstaged by costume jewelry.

That’s the power of storytelling.

That’s the power of great wrestling.

Professional wrestlers are storytellers, and I love them for it. They’re the drama kids of the sporting world. They risk their lives to make ours a little easier to escape. Sunday night, that truth was on full display. If you watch or re-watch AEW Revolution ’22, don’t watch the mat — watch the eyes. You’ve probably heard the phrase “his eyes tell a story,” but MJF and Punk exceeded that idiom. Their eyes told a novel. This isn’t to say every second of the pay-per-view was perfect. There were both highs and lows. But hey, that’s how rollercoasters work, and AEW Revolution was a ride worthy of buying the souvenir picture.

If Revolution was a story, AEW Buy-In was its prologue, and I’ve been assured by literary agents that prologues are unnecessary appendages. While I don’t normally agree with literary agents, I have to admit AEW’s pre-show was the opposite of a counter punch to their argument. It was as overpacked as my three suitcases on an overnight trip, and I cannot fathom why it needed to be that way. Surely, Hook vs. Q.T. Marshall could have been placed on the pay-per-view, or Hirsch vs. Statlander could have been placed on Dynamite? Honestly, there was so much happening in that first hour it felt like wrestling’s version of a Gish gallop.

That said, while there weren’t any three-star matches, there weren’t any one-star matches either. The best bit for me was Hook vs. Marshall because Hook is indeed a handsome devil, and there are not enough fists in this world for Marshall’s face. The only let-down of the pre-show was Hirsch vs. Statlander. I wasn’t let down because Hirsch and Statlander aren’t talented. I was let down because they very much are. I know because I do the Dark Elevation reports (You should check them out! I run an orphanage for unwanted parentheticals.), and I’ve seen them put on much better matches than this. In fact, Statlander was in my “match of the week” last week. However, despite feeling the match was a bit of a disappointment, I want to take a moment to commend Statlander for keeping the match boop-free. (Boops are less wanted than my parentheticals.)

There was also a tag match between The House of Black and Dark Triangle. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this match because it featured a lot of good imagery condensed into a matter of minutes, and I love imagery in wrestling. I especially enjoyed seeing members of both teams butt heads on all fours like billy goats fighting over a spooky bridge. I enjoyed seeing Malakai Black spit his mist into Redbeard’s face mid-chokeslam, and I enjoyed seeing Brody King and Erick Redbeard collide like human monster trucks. If this match were a movie, it’d be a B-film, but as Stephanie McMahon assured us in 2013, there’s nothing wrong with being a solid B plus.

Please don’t think I’m being catty. I mean, I can be catty, but there’s not much to be catty about on this show. This show was a lot closer to being the cat’s meow than it was to being a dead dog. Again, I’m not saying there weren’t lowlights, but AEW Revolution was a lot like my hair. It was chockfull of both lowlights and highlights, and it somehow still managed to turn out dashing. (Even without Cody Rhodes.)

(1) CHRIS JERICHO vs. EDDIE KINGSTON 

The first match on the pay-per-view proper was a good example of my aforementioned hair analogy. The match was Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Kingston, and in the opening moments, Chris Jericho got murdered a little bit. Still, somehow, someway, with the unfettered determination of a crying newborn, Jericho managed to get back to his feet and put on a stellar match! In fact, this match actually surpassed my expectations, and I am an annoyingly expectant person.

This match told a story about pride. It was a familiar story, but familiar isn’t the same as bad. It told the story of an emperor discovering he had no clothes and then doubling down with a ticker-tape parade. Jericho’s belligerent face exclaiming, “You’ll never win the big one,” was the perfect prelude to Jericho’s incredulous face muttering, “I can’t,” as he walked away from Kingston’s anticipative handshake.

WINNER: Kingston

MATCH RATING: ( ***1/2)

(2) JURASSIC EXPRESS vs. REDRAGON vs. THE YOUNG BUCKS 

If the first match was about a handshake, the second match was about an earthquake… with dragons… and a three-way starring Jungle Boy! (His words; not mine.) It featured Jurassic Express, ReDRagon, and The Young Bucks vying for the titles, and boy, oh boy, did they vie. We saw a dinosaur moonsault off an apron, an impossible-looking triple clothesline, and Luke Perry’s son kick out after being hit in the head with a championship belt! To be honest, I’m not too enthused about people kicking out of title belts to the head, but the crowd was enthused about everything in this match. There was enough electricity buzzing through that crowd to light up Las Vegas, and I can’t say the audience’s fervor was unwarranted. This match had some incredible moments — Jungle Boy heaped in a pile of broken humanity, Kyle O’Reilly and Matt Jackson bumping foreheads, and a shocked fan holding his head in his hands because he couldn’t believe that AEW’s title belts were made of plastic.

I enjoyed this particular bout much like I enjoy the circus, and I very much enjoy the circus. (My profile picture on Twitter is literally me juggling fire.) In a way, these three teams played with fire throughout the match. From a superkick-assisted tombstone to an inside-out doomsday device, death never felt so cheated. This match more than earned its “this is awesome chant” as well as its “A-E-W” chant. Thank God for that last one; I thought I was watching QVC and the “V” stood for violence.

WINNER: Jurassic Express

MATCH RATING (****)

(3) THE FACE OF THE REVOLUTION LADDER MATCH 

Speaking of violence, the third match was a six-man Face of the Revolution ladder match based on a completely original concept. Despite having to follow a plethora of similarly marketed ladder matches, the athletes involved still found a way to make this particular match feel unique and worth my money. Every wrestler had a moment to shine. Keith Lee and Powerhouse Hobbs simultaneously chokeslammed one another off the stage. Lee slowly popped up behind Christian like a horror movie villain rising into frame. Even Taz stood out on commentary by complaining that “Orange” Cassidy had stolen his gimmick.

 

I was happy to see Wardlow win, and I’d like to think the confidence he obtained by capturing one of Sonic the Hedgehog’s rings is part of what led him to turn on MJF later in the show. I know there were some people on wrestling-Twitter (the dumpster fire of Twitter) who felt like this match “buried” Keith Lee. I’d like to clarify something to those fans: the only reason anyone would pay a penny for your thoughts is to get change back. Stop it.

WINNER: Wardlow

MATCH RATING: (***)

(4) TAY CONTI vs. JADE CARGIL 

The fourth match on the show was Tay Conti vs. Jade Cargil, and to all the naysayers out there… sure.

WINNER: Cargil

MATCH RATING: (*1/4)

(5) C.M. PUNK vs. MJF 

I’m going to skip over this next match and circle back to it at the end because I’m a loquacious person, and I don’t want to derail this whole column with another master’s thesis about why MJF vs. Punk was phenomenal. I could write ten-thousand words (as my Dark Elevation reports prove), and it still wouldn’t be enough to adequately describe what took place during this match. It would be like trying to describe fireworks to someone who had never seen fireworks. This match was something you simply have to see for yourself.

WINNER: Everyone

MATCH RATING: (****3/4)

(6) BRITT BAKER vs. THUNDER ROSA 

Moving on to the next match, let me express my deepest sympathy to Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker. If I had to follow MJF vs. Punk, I’d have thrown myself into a volcano. However, these women have more fortitude than me and kept themselves volcano free. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, they managed to put on a stellar match. This match wasn’t on par with their Lights Out match, but it met all of my expectations.

During the match, we got a Thunder Rosa/DMD dueling chant; we got Rosa’s attempt at a Lock Jaw, and we got enough interference to irritate Jim Ross. We also got an unexpected outcome, or at least, it was unexpected for me. I would have bet the farm Thunder Rosa was going to win, and I’m not even a farmer.

Also, we got something else I didn’t expect. More than halfway through the match, Baker curb-stomped Rosa’s face into the women’s championship, and to my great surprise, she kicked out at two — thus confirming Jungle Boy’s earlier discovery that AEW’s title belts are made of plastic.

WINNER: Baker

MATCH RATING: (**3/4)

(7) BRYAN DANIELSON vs. JON MOXLEY 

Renee and Brie need a support group. “Wives of the Convalescing Wrestlers” sounds like an appropriate name. These two men will definitely be feeling this match for a long time to come. Oh, and it was a good match, too. If anyone in this business understands imagery in wrestling, it’s Danielson and Moxley. So many moments from this match are burned into my brain forever — Moxley trapped in a submission as he literally clawed his way toward the bottom rope; Moxley countering Danielson by grabbing hold of his blood-soaked beard; Moxley righteously stomping Danielson’s head in. (That last one was satisfying in the extreme.)

However, the best image this match provided didn’t happen during the match. It happened afterward. It was the image of William Regal standing in-between Moxley and Danielson with his nose scrunched up like he’d stepped cat vomit and his face dotted with splotches of other people’s blood. I’m pretty sure the crowd was too wrapped up in the moment to truly appreciate Regal’s acting (the truest sign of a great actor), but I imagine when they look back on the aftermath of this match, that image of Regal will be what their mind’s eye sees.

WINNER: Moxley

MATCH RATING: (****)

(8) TORNADO TAG MATCH 

If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to live inside metric-montage, this match was for you. I’m not a huge fan of the overused term “one-man-highlight-reel,” but this was a one-match-highlight-reel. In fact, despite the crowd having already seen Danielson vs. Moxley, Punk vs. MJF, and Jurassic Express vs. Plastic Belts, this match still managed to get its own “this is awesome” chant. And, in my living room, it got a subtle “please don’t die” chant — that chant happened around the same time Sting climbed onto a balcony and jumped through a literal stack of tables. We also saw Sammy Guevara attempt suicide off the top of the set, and we saw Hardy take a scorpion death drop through a chair!

This match opened with a pre-taped clip of a mock funeral, and I seriously fretted that it might end where it began but without the word “mock.” I’m very grateful that did not happen. I’m also grateful for Andrade’s upgraded outfit — use that more.

Earlier, I said this pay-per-view felt like a rollercoaster ride. This match felt like a rollercoaster right with the seatbelt loose. It’s become a cliché for wrestling promotions to place an innocuous come-down match right before the main event. This was not that. This was the opposite of that. I spent a good portion of the match feeling sorry for anyone watching it who’d been waiting to pee. Especially me. I needed that pee break so bad! Why did Tony Khan do this to me? I thought he was supposed to be the nice one?

WINNER: Darby & Sting & Guevara

LOSER: Bladders everywhere

MATCH RATING: (***)

(9) ADAM COLE vs. ADAM PAGE 

Did you know both men in this match are named Adam? The crowd does.

Did you know the difference between a liger bomb and a powerbomb? Jim Ross does… now.

Did you know this main event was so good I did not get to the bathroom for another twenty-six minutes? Well, now you do and wish you didn’t.

All jokes aside, this match was no joke. I started this column talking about a World Title Match match in the early aughts that lacked a bit of “oomph.” This match had enough “oomph” to fill the entirety of outer space. This match featured a leaping Deadeye through a table, a Panama Sunrise on the floor, and a superkick to the face of Adam Cole while he was upside-down in the middle of a moonsault.

WINNER: Cole

MATCH RATING: (****1/4)

I truly believe that had that final match gone on first, or third, or even fifth, the roar of the crowd would have broken the building. However, that main event had the unfortunate fate of going on after four-and-a-half hours of showstopping, heartwrenching wrestling. Yet, despite the uphill battle Adam and Adam faced, the last thought I had as AEW went off the air wasn’t, “Finally, this is over!” — it wasn’t even “Now I can pee!” — no, the last thought I had as the show went off the air was, “God… wrestling is good again.”

Actually, that last part’s not entirely true. I didn’t “think” those words. I said them out loud. My friends were staring at the screen in silence, and the words just slipped out of my mouth without so much as thinking about them. No one in the room disagreed with me, or if they did, they didn’t speak up. In fact, the friend sitting next to me said, “I’ve missed this.”

When he said those words, I thought, “Me, too.” I thought back to what it felt like watching that old VHS tape of WWF Insurrextion and how so many images from that tape’s over-booked main event remain tattooed across the cortex of my mind. The match was absurd, but I loved it because of the images it left behind. So much of wrestling is about imagery because wrestling is about storytelling.

That brings us back to the best match of the night, the best match of MJF’s career, and possibly the best match of the year — at least, so far. If my description of C.M. Punk vs. MJF sounds hyperbolic, it’s not. If you missed this, you missed out, and I hope you go out of your way to see it. These men fit a movie’s worth of story into a sitcom’s worth of time, yet it felt nothing at all like the overly-crowded pre-show. This match felt like it took place in a time machine because had it not been for my stopwatch, I would have sworn it was no more than ten minutes.

I already went over what I thought about this match, but there really are no words to describe the magnitude of witnessing it. It was unreal. It was one of the best matches I’ve seen in a long time. It got me emotionally invested, and while I get emotionally invested in a lot of matches, this was a different kind of emotion. It was the kind that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. Years from now, this match will be placed on a pedestal next to Piper vs. Valentine, and it will belong there.

In closing, I want to be clear — when I said I agreed with my friend about “missing this,” I don’t mean that as a dig at WWE or, for that matter, any other promotion. I mean it as a compliment to AEW and nothing else. It’s not something I said to slight anyone. I said it because I meant it, and I say the things I mean. It felt good to watch a show so engrossing as to make me forget it’s not real. It felt good to watch wrestling with child-like fascination and shamelessly mark out as Wardlow pulled a ring from his pocket.

You may not feel the same way I do, and it’s okay if you don’t! Everyone has the right to like what they like, and I’m not here to “yuck” on anyone’s “yum.” I’m just here to tell you what I experienced when I watched this show, and when I watched this show, for a split second, I experienced wide-eyed wonder.

SHOW GRADE: A

ALL MATCH RATINGS (Including the Pre-Show):

(A) LEYLA HIRSCH vs. KRIS STATLANDER (*1/2)

(B) Q.T. MARSHALL vs. HOOK (Match: **1/4, Hook’s Hair: *****)

(C) PAC & PENTA OSCURO & ERICK REDBEARD vs. MALAKAI BLACK & BRODY KING & BUDDY MATTHEWS (w/Alex Abrahantes) (**3/4)

(1) CHRIS JERICHO vs. EDDIE KINGSTON ( ***1/2)

(2) JURASSIC EXPRESS vs. THE YOUNG BUCKS vs. REDRAGON (****)

(3) FACE OF THE REVOLUTION LADDER MATCH (***)

(4) JADE CARGIL vs. TAY CONTI (*1/4)

(5) MJF vs. C.M. PUNK (****3/4)

(6) BRITT BAKER vs. THUNDER ROSA (**3/4)

(7) BRYAN DANIELSON vs. JON MOXLEY (****)

(8) ANDRADE EL IDOLO & MATT HARDY & ISIAH KASSIDY (w/Jose “The Assistant”) vs. STING & DARBY ALLIN & SAMMY GUEVARA (***)

(9) ADAM COLE vs. ADAM PAGE (****1/4)


David Bryant covers AEW Dark Elevation every week for PWTorch.com.

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