Wednesday, March 10, 2021

AEW Revolution 2021

So... seen any good fireworks?

I touched on this show in the bonus edition of the DTM-Cast, but I've allowed some thoughts to fester and they resulted in this.

(The bulk of this was written before Dynamite aired. Thoughts on the follow-up will be posted in a couple days.)

AEW World Tag-Team Champions The Young Bucks defeated Chris Jericho and MJF to retain the titles. At some point, Jericho hit Wardlow with an elbow, planting the seeds for some Inner Circle decension. Great open with everyone bringing their A-game. Even Jericho seemed to be in top form here and that's a good thing to see.

Rey Fenix and THAT MOTHERFUCKING NO-GOOD BASTARD PAC won the Casino Battle Royal, which is a Royal Rumble for tag-teams. It is every other clusterfuck battle royal I've seen where stuff happens and you forget about it afterwards. And considering the ending, nothing beyond who won was worth remembering.

AEW Women's Champion Hikaru Shida defeated Ryo Mizunami to retain the title. Fun little match until the "kick out of finisher" fest towards the end... I like Shida and I kind of dig Mizunami's swagger... and I like the idea of Shida besting someone that got the best of her for years. The match was okay, though.

Miro and Kip Sabian (with Penelope Ford) defeated Chuck and Orange Cassidy. Miro and Kip had incapacitated Orange and dragged Chuck to the ring in hopes of forcing a forfeit, but Chuck chose to fight, Oranage showed up eventually, Miro tossed someone into Penelope and Kip went to check on her because he's a good husband... but Miro doesn't give a shit about that noise.... I reckon this tandem is closing in on its end of life date, but at least Miro is off the Twitch train and is being pushed as a monster. And it's long overdue.

Hangman Adam Page defeated Big Money Matt Hardy with help from the Dark Order (who caught Hangman as he was falling off the edge of the ring and helping him to hit the winning buckshot on Matt) to win Hardy's Q1 2021 earnings. And then Hangman and the Dark Order hug and celebrate with beers because BABYFACES CAN HAVE FRIENDS TOO. An entertaining little wrestling match with a happy ending. Who would've thought it?

Scorpio Sky defeated Cody Rhodes, Penta el Zero, Max Caster, Lance Archer, and mystery signee Ethan Page (I was hoping for Karate Man since he is technically still alive, but whatever) to win the face Of the Revolution ladder match, where people fought for a "brass ring" that looks more like a gold-painted life preserving balloon ring. Make your own jokes there because I've got none.
So at the go-home episode of Dynamite, the former Big Show, Paul Wight, made his debut in AEW and promised a HUGE scoop; someone Hall Of Fame worthy would sign with AEW at the PPV. That someone ended up being Christian Cage... who made his return to in-ring competition at this year's Royal Rumble and somehow used that to leverage a deal with AEW. You know what? Good for Christian, I'm glad he's able to get cleared and he looked good for the short while he was in the Rumble. I wish him all the best and hope he gets a good run.

That having been said, I'm sure some people were disappointed that the big signee is yet another former WWE guy in his late-40s and not even one they would consider a major name. I suppose there is something to be said about underpromising and overdelivering. The two debuts are fine additions, but not quite worthy of the hype in most fans' eyes. On the other hand, Twitter sensation Maki Itoh was a pleasant surprise to the audience and that got a slightly better reaction.

The way I see it, it's a two-way street. Fans need to temper their expectations and not set themselves up for disappointment - Brock ain't going to AEW, nor is Punk, nor is John Cena or whoever - and promoters need to stop promising the moon because they'd be setting themselves up for failure... as we will later see.

Sting and TNT Champion Darby Allin defeated "Absolute" Ricky Starks and FTW Champion Brian Cage in a cinematic street fight that had more commentary than I would've liked, a lot of stock melodramatic music in the background, but it was a fun little fight, good production, may very well beat out the Boneyard... almost. Sting looked good for an old guy, which had me worried the first time around, but he was alright. That's it.

AEW World Champion Kenny Omega defeated Jon Moxley in an EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATH MATCH via pinfall after interference from those fucking bald jobbers from Impact, the Good Brothers, so that was a boner of an ending to what was up to that point a pretty sick match. For something that is widely considered to be a visual spectacle, this was a pretty good wrestling match buried underneath the harder stuff that told a simple story; one guy tries to get the other guy into the exploding barb and the other returns the favor. Then Mox eats the first explosion and is probably happy that it's coming from barb wire and not an exploding television. Then Kenny eats about two more explosions. All these explosions are loud and made for a nice visual; not megaton explosions, but still satisfying enough. Then someone gets tossed into a board of wire in the corner and that made no kaboom... lame. But then Mox hits Kenny with a Death Rider (Paradigm Shift, whatever) on the board outside and that made boom boom. Not quite a big boom boom, but still a boom.

Then loud, pulsing sounds play in the background to indicate they've got a few minutes before all the bombs go off... because that's a thing... unfortunately, in hindsight. Then Kenny hits a One-Winged Angel and I'm thinking it's either over or it's a kickout, but Mox is a smart man and uses his leg to blow up the wire in Kenny's face. That's a good, creative way to get out of that finisher without making it into a total joke with a kickout. And I'm like, "Holy shit! This is great!"

And then the Boner Bros. show up to distract Mox while Kenny gets an EXPLODING BARB WIRE BASEBALL BAT that he hits Mox with and after another OWA, Kenny gets the win. Great match. Fun spectacle. Shitty ending. But if it had ended there, I would've been happy.

But then they kept beating up Mox for what seems like forever. And then the countdown clock hits the screen... oh boy! There's going to be a big boom! The heels leave, Eddie Kingston shows up and tries to get Mox out of there, but Mox is too heavy for Kingston and with seconds left, Eddie covers up Mox for the eventual explosion... that never came.

Hence, the Marvin the Martian reference that opened this post via post banner.

The official explanation is that Kenny Omega built a faulty bomb and that's why we got the weak-ass explosions. Okay, fine. It still doesn't explain why Eddie and Mox were "killed" by sparklers shooting outwards nor did it explain why the announcers kept talking as if it were a big bang. And I can't imagine Eddie being thrilled that he gave this the selljob of his life, reacting only to audible bangs, not knowing what was actually taking place in the ring. 

Later on, during a post-show media scrub, Tony Khan had openly asked what people were expecting and if they really thought the ring would explode both guys... which is such a dumb wrestling thing to do because it's basically the sort of response that you'd expect from WWE and AEW is supposed to above making excuses and blaming the fans for setting their expectations high... and the reason for those high expectations is because the fans were promised a spectacle the likes of which haven't been seen in this country. Expectations were high, so much that even Terry Funk promised this would give Vince a kick in the balls... and instead of a spectacle, they were given a fart in church.

People wanted to know when we'd cross the hump between the honeymoon period and lowering standards and this may have been it. AEW, rather than own up to the botch, tried to turn it into a storyline and people saw right through it. One dud is not going to sink AEW - anyone believing this would be foolish - but it is the first chink in the so-called armor that shielded the company from harsh criticism beyond those with a perceived axe to grind.

The lesson from this year's Revolution PPV is best summed up by F4WOnline's Bryan Alvarez; it's best to underpromise and overdeliver. People were thrilled to see Maki Itoh because she was a genuine surprise to the audience, while the two announced mystery participants received "less than hyped" response. Yes, fans need to temper their expectations when promoters promised them the moon, but promoters shouldn't be promising things they can't ever hope to deliver.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the show. There was some good stuff, some fun stuff, and despite the ending, I thought the main event was a fun little brawl. But at the end of the day, that ending was what this show will be remembered for and the rest of it really doesn't matter. Last year's Revolution showed what AEW was capable of at their absolute best... and this year's Revolution did the exact opposite for all the wrong reasons.

Better luck next time, guys.

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