Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and reflects that of the writer.
It’s almost Sunday, so you know what that means: AEW Revolution.
The first hour of "the product" last Wednesday was the most fun I have had watching a wrestling show in forever. The Shaq match was just a blast and so much better than it had any right being. God damn ONITA showed up in a promo package!?!? JJ Dillon?!? Tully Blanchard actually wrestling!? Even Jurassic Express was there to give me something to hate! What I’m saying is AEW is the best.* They have something for everyone and I’m so glad they are a part of my life.
(*Editor's note: Like all of our staff, Mike was contractually obligated to say this. ^JN)
Wednesday showed how a wrestling show can have good wrestling and make moments for social media. WWE’s insistence that only the moments matter is their biggest problem. Sure, we remember those moments, but we also remember how we got there. Daniel Bryan winning at WrestleMania 30 would have meant nothing without the journey. Living your life one three minute YouTube clip at a time isn’t a way to live, especially when we all should be living our lives a quarter mile at a time, anyway.
Do me a favor: try skipping Raw (but watch SmackDown as it’s good) for a couple weeks and just watching the clips on YouTube. I promise you won’t miss a thing.
But don’t skip this show because it’s going to be a good one. Just like this past Wednesday, there’s something for everyone Sunday night. Every tag team in the company in one match, a new signing, Sting, a women’s title match, and an exploding barbed wire deathmatch?!??
Folks, they’re going to do it live and in living color.
Miro and Kip Sabian vs. Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy)
There is a lot of discussion online about how Miro is "better than this". Most often, that idea comes from a place of fandom and reflects the quality, or lack thereof, of the work being done. But the work in this feud has been good. None of it is going to be in the AEW history books or even remembered in a month, but it’s solid. Not everything can be your favorite thing of all time. Wishing everything was "better than this" is an exhausting way to live and makes me want to log off but I refuse to log off.
This whole program is intended to be silly and will probably continue to be on Sunday. The very nature of the acts involved don’t allow for being full serious. Cassidy will stand out like he always does, but make no mistake that Miro is the star here. He is the one who allows everyone else to play the roles they are perfectly suited to play. Taylor is a perfect, charming goof, Sabian is a perfect, worthless airhead and Ford is just perfect. Miro holds everything together with his gravity. This is his first real feud in AEW and is just keeping him warm until something bigger comes along. He’s just too good.
I don’t think I have ever predicted a Cassidy match correctly and I probably won’t now. This is Miro’s PPV debut so it’s game over for OC and Chuckie T.
Casino Royale for a future AEW Tag Team title shot: Bear Country (Bear Boulder and Bear Bronson) vs. The Dark Order (Alex Reynolds and John Silver) vs. The Dark Order (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) vs. Santana and Ortiz vs. The Butcher and The Blade vs. Private Party (Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen) vs. Top Flight (Darius Martin and Dante Martin) vs. Death Triangle (PAC and Rey Fenix) vs. Varsity Blonds (Griff Garrison and Brian Pillman Jr.) vs. Matt Sydal and Mike Sydal vs. SCU (Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels) vs. The Natural Nightmares (Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall) vs. Chaos Project (Luther and Serpentico) vs. TBA
I’m writing this last and this column is already over 2500 words so let’s keep it brief. This has just about every tag team in the company in it for God’s sake. I’m just picking the five that I want to say something about
- Santana & Ortiz: Still one of the best things going and should have won the titles a few weeks ago.
- Butcher & The Blade: Just outrageous, off the charts sex-haver vibes coming from these two.
- Death Triangle: Both of these guys are too good to be in a battle royal or even a tag team, really. Fenix should win this and the ladder match.
- Chaos Project: LOL
- Evil Uno and Stu Grayson: I really just love them and want them to do well.
I can see this going two ways. If Santana and Ortiz win, look for Jericho and MJF to win the tag belts later on to further the end of The Inner Circle. The other option would be Death Triangle winning because they are just so clearly the two best wrestlers in the match. Those are the predictions and thank you for reading.
Team Taz (Brian Cage and Ricky Starks) (w/ Taz) vs. Darby Allin and Sting in a street fight
The best thing in this match is not the TNT champion, not a big muscle man and not the 61-year-old legend. It is absolutely Ricky Starks: a king on the microphone, a fashion icon, and the best performer in Team Taz.
There’s a reason they let him cut a promo on Sting this week. Cage is, relatively, a bologna sandwich. Every bite has the same, underwhelming flavor. You’re eating it, but you aren’t happy about it. Our guy Ricky is a muffaletta, an impeccable sandwich. Each bite is so wonderful that the only thing that can be better is the next bite. It makes me sad that he’s the one that’s probably going to take the fall in this match because let’s face it, Sting ain’t losing. Pretty Ricky continues to stand out and be special -- a star in the making.
I guess it’s time to talk about Sting, huh? As much as I’d love to dedicate column space to the tantric singer and wonder whether or not he has finally climaxed, I will not. But yeah, Sting is back. He has been powerbombed and boy, did my stomach curl into a ball when it happened. If I were 61, I would simply not wrestle. I 35 and if I sleep funny, I’m incapacitated for like three days, so I can’t even imagine what a septuagenarian with spinal stenosis feels like even just existing.
If this is what he really wants, then god bless, my man. I’m just never going to be excited, or even comfortable, watching him try not to perish in the ring.
His arrival brings up the question: is AEW bringing in too many legends and/or ex-WWE superstars? This is a fairly loaded question and I, shockingly, have some thoughts. AEW is still a company in its infancy and still firmly in a growth period. One of the ways to grow a company, wrestling or otherwise, is to bring in someone with credibility. There’s a difference between bringing in your favorite indie wrestler vs. bringing in an established name. With one, you can reasonably count on for ratings and media buzz, while the other is more speculative. Let’s be real: signing the indie wrestler de jour isn’t really moving the needle or adding that credibility.
Signing Warhorse or whoever isn’t bringing new eyeballs to the product. Anyone who knows and likes Warhorse is probably already watching the product. A move like that isn’t putting them over the finish line. You know what can do that? Bringing in someone like Paul Wight. That demands attention and on a global scale. That is what a new company has to do to succeed. You can build a foundation that is strengthened by, and not totally comprised of, these established performers. Once they’ve succeeded and the foundation is stable, there’s more opportunity for all our favorites to get that contract.
Striking the balance is hard. It’s so easy to be on the wrong side of the tipping point. WWE’s over reliance on "legends" is no secret and it comes at the expense of the talent that is there week after week. I’m cautiously optimistic that AEW can strike that balance, even though it goes against my very nature. Maybe I’m too much of a fan of what they’re putting out there, but I believe.
Alright then, his is as easy a prediction as it gets. Darby and Sting take this one.
Winner receives the loser's 2021 first quarter earnings: Hangman Page vs. Matt Hardy
This has been a very nice and totally acceptable time filler for Page. Everyone’s favorite feelings feeler always has the most layered stories in AEW. He’s the most well-rounded character they have because he’s been allowed to feel and experience an entire spectrum of emotions on screen. Loss, inadequacy, love, fear, pride, hate, anxiety, all of it. We relate to Adam Page because we are Adam Page. Well, we aren’t handsome, famous, funny pro wrestlers or even one of those things, but we are all human. In a sport that so often leans away from humanity and into spectacle, the humans stand out so starkly.
Hardy is not someone I’m super interested in seeing week after week, but his work continues to range somewhere between acceptable and good. Even with his in-ring capacity significantly diminished, he maintains the air of importance that comes with being a legend. He also does the most vital thing in pro wrestling: he makes whatever he is a part of matter. As long as he keeps mattering, there’s a place for him on TV, even if it’s not in segments I personally care about.
The idea of this big money match is very pro wrestling. If the winner doesn’t get a Publishers Clearing House style check afterward, I will be mad online. This doesn’t feel like a feud that goes past this match. Page wins in a fun cooldown match.
Face of the Revolution ladder match: Cody Rhodes vs. Scorpio Sky vs. Penta El Zero M vs. Lance Archer vs. Max Caster vs. TBA for a TNT title shot this Wednesday
For a match that has reasonably high stakes, this falls flat. Where’s the build? Who are we supposed to care about? Is it Rhodes getting another 17-minute entrance just to throw awful cutters? Certainly not. Credit to Rhodes though: the Shaq match was incredible. Sky hasn’t wrestled in two months because of a torn meniscus. Somehow, Penta has felt like an afterthought, but this whole match feels like an afterthought. In their short history, AEW has made almost all of their matches exciting because of the time they invest in the builds. This one just doesn’t have it. Nothing really memorable has happened.
I would love for the unannounced entrant to come in and win, kind of like what happened when Brian Cage popped up in that battle royal. Except, you know, good. I would love it so much that I’m predicting TBA to take this one. (TBA is Ethan Page, right?)
AEW Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks vs. Chris Jericho and MJF (w/ Wardlow)
I must address the best thing the Bucks have done in years and perhaps the best thing in all of wrestling: Matt Jackson’s dangly earring. Rarely have I had a chance to gaze upon such beauty, to stare at such splendor, but Matthew has graced the world with this gift. It reminds me of one of my all time favorite things (Dean Ambrose’s subtle earring) so it’s only natural that I am head over heels for this. For as much sh*t as the Bucks get online, and it is a whole lot, I have no choice but to hand it to them for such an inspired fashion choice.
The earring, while spectacular, also confuses me. Do babyfaces get a piercing like that? They do not. The good guys never slap a dangly cross on an earlobe and call it a day. That’s a bad boy move. Matty J walked into the Claire’s in the Jacksonville strip mall and got the Shawn Michaels cosplay special. This just continues the frustrating alignment of the Bucks since AEW started. They have flipped between heel and face on a seemingly weekly basis which is...not the best viewing experience. Also not the best is any time the Bucks get on the mic because holy moly, is it bad. We do have some clarity in this feud considering Jericho and MJF beat up a balding, weird dad. This will always be a very pro-dad column.
The pairing of Jericho and MJF is, somehow, just fine. The idea of the two of them together works much better on paper than it does in execution. They have the same strengths so instead of filling in each other's gaps, they just take time away from what the other does well. The setup they had this week worked very well, though. Both of them had their turn to talk and interact with the guests and it also showed just how much better Jericho is at all of this than MJF is.
A title needs to change hands during the show and I think it’s here. The Bucks can focus on whatever is happening with The Good Brothers and whoever else might come in from New Japan. This gives Jericho the title he wants and can continue the slow disintegration of The Inner Circle if Santana and Ortiz win the battle royal.
AEW Women's Champion Hikaru Shida vs. Ryo Mizunami
Mizunami rules, huh? Sporting just an outrageous amount of swagger and charisma, she and Nyla Rose hossed it up on Wednesday in easily one of Rose’s best matches in AEW. I was really worried that they were just gonna run Rose vs. Shida back for what feels like the 100th time. I’m so glad they didn’t. This is something different and something that should be great. The post-match standoff where Ryo and Shida just stiffed the living heck out of each other got me so hyped for this match. The tournament had some issues, most notably where the matches were broadcast and the amount of time it got on TV, but we wound up with an exciting title match.
Shida has been the one constant of the women’s division. She has great matches and carries herself like a champion, She just hasn’t been on TV, or really even mentioned, in like a month. Yes, she was in Japan coordinating and running the tournament over there, but that wasn’t addressed on TV. Surely they could have worked that in at some point, giving her the respect that comes with having held the belt for almost 300 days.
If this had more than a one segment build, I’d say it would be a place for a title change but alas, it did not. Shida retains.
AEW World Champion Kenny Omega (w/ Don Callis) vs. Jon Moxley in an exploding barbed wire deathmatch
I’m assuming this is a newer concept for most of our audience, so I thought hearing from an expert on these types of matches would help. I’m not that expert, but Chris Silva absolutely is. Chris runs stashpages.us, an online store specializing in imported and original Japanese wrestling and deathmatch-adjacent merchandise. Check out the store and check him out on Instagram. Here’s what he has to say:
“To some people, a barbed wire exploding deathmatch is a cool sounding idea and something they found out about a few weeks ago on TV. For others, the idea of a real, FMW-style explosion match in the USA is something that has been thought about, teased, false alarmed, and false started for decades.
The concept is just preposterous. A wrestling ring with the ropes replaced by barbed wire. The barbed wire lets off an explosive charge when anyone runs into it. Blood, pain, and smoke everywhere. No one leaves the same way they came in. The whole thing is an amazing, sick idea usually only reserved for old clips on the internet from Japanese promotions. Places like the Tokyo Dome (Onita vs. Chono 4/10/99), Kawasaki Stadium (Megumi Kudo vs. Combat Toyoda 5/5/96) or Shiodome (Masato Tanaka vs. W*ING Kanemura 8/2/97). There have been rumors and attempts to get something like this in the U.S. to happen for decades, but nothing took.
In the mid-90’s during the early days of wrestling on the internet, people traded tapes - copying a video tape, mailing it, and hoping the dude on the other end of the trade didn’t rip you off just so you could watch a show from various Japanese promotions that you didn’t have yet. Among those promotions was the one that introduced exploding barbed wire matches to the world in 1990 (you can find Atsushi Onita vs Tarzan Goto from the Shiodome on 8/4/90 wherever you get your not-really-licensed wrestling clips), FMW.
FMW founder Atsushi Onita was in various stages of talks with WWF in 1997, ECW in 1998, XPW in 2000 to participate in different variations of exploding deathmatches in the U.S. None of these actually happened for a number of reasons (logistical, legal, financial, or otherwise.) ECW made a poor attempt in 2000 with their exploding barbed wire board match between Vic Grimes and Balls Mahoney that featured boards that did more “farting out smoke” than they did exploding. Years later, in 2017, Onita would be involved in an exploding bat match for CZW in a skating rink that was a far cry from his famous explosion matches with Hayabusa (5/5/95) and Terry Funk (5/5/93).
Even seeing 60-year-old Onita swing an exploding bat in New Jersey in person was more than a teenage me would have ever thought was possible watching those FMW tapes every day after school. It took a combination of wrestlers that grew up on the 90’s Japanese deathmatch heyday, a wrestling promoter who used to frequent Internet forums in his younger days to discuss those same deathmatches, and a state like Florida that has shown us all year that they aren’t much into following safety guidelines to make the real deal happen. In other words, a whole lot had to happen. Everyone that knows me knows there’s little FMW clips playing in my head at all times, so when this was announced my phone blew up with texts and alerts. The AEW World Championship may be on the line, but to all the ghouls out there that are just like me, that’s secondary. This is going be all of our childhood and teenage imaginations brought to the bright lights of American pay-per-view after decades of only dreaming about it.”
If the forbidden door is truly open, then Omega is probably keeping the belt. The Best Bout Machine™ was born in Japan, and if that crossover is going to continue, having him on top makes the most sense, especially considering who’s at the top of New Japan. Omega stays champ after one hell of a spectacle.
Mike DellaCamera writes about wrestling on the internet, sometimes. He’d willingly risk it all for a good turkey club. You can find him here on Twitter.