Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and reflects that of the writer and not of our website.
The importance of Cody Rhodes can not be overstated.
The magnitude of his contributions to both AEW and North American pro wrestling as a whole is tremendous. He is a major reason for the current landscape of wrestling in this country. AEW does not exist without him and he is as big a part of their success as anyone. Our personal feelings towards him are just that: personal.
But clearly, Turner Broadcasting thought, and possibly thinks, enough of him to give him his own reality show and feature him on a game show. People who don’t matter and don’t move the needle don’t get that kind of opportunity. Cody wants to be remembered as his father is: someone who had as big of an impact beyond what happens between the ropes. And maybe he won’t be as universally loved as his dad, because who can be, but the impact he had had is just as big.
So the Code-man is gone, the Codyverse is no more, and that leaves a lot of space to fill. Will we, the weekly viewer of AEW, miss what he brought to our screens? Short answer, probably not. The longer and more complicated answer? We probably will. All the talk of Cody putting himself over is largely unwarranted, considering how often he lost big matches. He put over MJF at the expense of him ever being able to wrestle for the AEW World title. Without a contract, he put on an all-time great ladder match with Sammy Guevara.
Even if something was totally unnecessary -- like setting himself on fire -- he was willing to do it. He was willing to do it because of his legacy. He wants to be remembered like his father is, not just as a wrestler, but as someone who had an impact beyond what happened between the ropes. And say what you want about him personally, his booking, and whatever else, but starting a critically acclaimed wrestling promotion from nothing is as legacy-defining as it gets.
All of this might look silly if he winds up coming back in some capacity, but that’s showbiz, baby. Nevertheless, the show must go on. The two biggest matches have no title attached to them, but all the title matches are still good. This is a good card and heck, maybe even a great one!
Face of the Revolution Ladder match for a future AEW TNT title shot: Keith Lee vs. Wardlow vs. Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Ricky Starks vs. Orange Cassidy vs. Christian Cage
If I could bottle the feeling I got when Ricky Starks did his Keith Lee impression, I would carry it with me everywhere. Whenever I need a hit of dopamine, I would just watch that three-second video. Lee gives voices to all the NPCs in Final Fantasy and reads their dialogue out loud. Lee wears a pageboy cap just to unnecessarily doff it at people he makes eye contact with. What I’m saying is that Keith Lee is a cornball: a very good wrestler, but still a cornball.
Usually in a ladder match, there is one, maybe two, hefty boys and the rest are lighter dudes who fly around and bump like crazy. The big guys are the base and the little guys are the style. But this might be the thickest ladder match in history with hoss after hoss after hoss. AEW hosses are still not quite full hosses. Billy Gunn towers over 95% of the roster for God's sake, but this match has three 100% USDA grass-fed sirloin hosses. Lee is huge! Hobbs is big! Wardlow is also big! I do feel bad for Cassidy and Starks because they are going to get tossed around like crazy.
Lee has to win this. There’s a world where Wardlow does, but somehow he doesn’t need it. Whenever he finally turns on MJF, he’s immediately a top babyface with the proverbial rocket on his back. Lee winning here immediately establishes him as a huge deal and if they want him to live up to the hype Tony Khan gave leading up to his debut, he needs to be a huge deal.
Prediction: Keith Lee
AHFO (Andrade El Idolo, Matt Hardy & Isiah Kassidy) vs. Sting, TNT Champion Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin in a trios tornado match
I was hoping this would move to the pre-show, but alas, this made the main show. The AHFO is a dumb thing even though I like everyone in it. I’m much more interested in Andrade as a solo act and much, much, more interested in him getting some kind of push toward the top of the card. I’ve written many a word on this site about the wonders of Andrade (he was part of the best match I’ve ever seen live) and I have a feeling I’ll be doing it again later. I’m going to save some space and hit you with five minimally spicy thoughts about this match and the TNT title:
- Glad to see Sting is healthy!
- Sammy needs to ditch the two belts! He only has one title!
- Do people like the cue card gimmick? Who is the audience for that!?!
- Matt is just waiting for Jeff.
- Where is Miro? I miss God’s Favorite Champion. :(
Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Kingston
LeonardoDicaprioNowYouHaveMyAttention.gif. This was the definition of whatever until Jericho and King finally went face-to-face and cut whole-ass promos on each other. The ten-minute "sports entertainment" segment both sports entertained me and sold me on the match. No more backstage sniping, no more clever quips. Two beefy boys in the ring having it out on the microphone. You love to see it.
As he frequently does, Jericho said a whole bunch of words leading up to this. But something he said threw me with how right he was. He is the biggest deal in AEW. Beating him is beating the top guy in the company. Bryan Danielson is better, CM Punk might be more popular and Hangman Page is the champ, but Jericho, political affinities and all, is still the biggest deal. He’s the Hall of Famer and is in the discussion for best wrestler of all time.
It’s been a while since Jericho was cutting a promo not in service of himself or trying to get a bad catchphrase over - looking at you ‘GFY’ - and it’s nice to see him engaged with something that isn’t purely self-serving. There’s some truth to what he was saying, too. We are imperfect, impermanent creatures and it is our nature to doubt ourselves.
Indulge me here for a second. Is the reason Eddie never got into great shape because he believed, in his heart, he couldn’t do this? Did he doubt his substantial gifts? If he got rid of one of his hangups or perceived faults, he wouldn’t have a reason for his failure. It wouldn’t be "Oh Eddie is talented but he doesn’t have the right look" and is instead "Oh Eddie just doesn’t have 'it’." Being forced to confront your inadequacies head-on is terrifying and it certainly makes sense for him, or anyone, to try and avoid them. Often, the scariest thing any of us can do is try. Jericho held a mirror up to Eddie’s insecurities and they smacked him right across the face. I can’t wait to see these two go at it.
When wrestling is good, like it is here, it can let us explore deep human emotions. It’s great! They should do more of it!
Bryan Danielson vs. Jon Moxley
The Purveyor of Violence vs. its Poet Laureate is a match worthy of the pay-per-view price on its own. If this was the only match on the card, I would gladly pay full price for it. Danielson is a supreme being -- a pure aspect of pro wrestling delivered to an undeserving world. He is as close to perfection as it gets: a wrestler working at an S+ tier level while not overshadowing the rest of his peers. It’s a tough line to walk, but somehow Bryan does it better than anyone. He walked into AEW and immediately started doing some of the best work of a historically great career.
Where Bryan is elegant and calculating, Moxley seems to make it up as he goes. Unpredictable, frenetic and appearing unpolished, he is the chaos to Bryan’s order. Compared with Bryan’s surgical precision that wastes no movement and spares no limb, Moxley almost looks sloppy, almost haphazard. But that’s just who he is. He doesn’t care about technical precision; he just cares about hurting whoever he’s in the ring with.
Look at the two of them when they have gone face-to-face. Bryan barely moves when he talks, delivering his message calmly. Moxley can’t sit still. He’s moving constantly, pacing around the ring, gesturing at the crowd and gesturing at Bryan. He can barely keep the words in his mouth. He’s like a shark; if he slows down or doesn’t get the conflict he so desperately wants, it’s all over.
(Before I get to the match prediction, can someone please tell me when Bryan’s theme song got a chorus with vocals? Apparently, this version of his theme has been around since September which seems...impossible? Surely he did not come out to this when he wrestled Adam Page? There is no way! (He did not, I checked.) I am both professionally and recreationally medicated, but there is no way I missed this. If anyone can tell me when Bryan started using this entrance at a show, I will buy you one (1) large cheese pizza no questions asked. If you know, let me know and I’ll hit that Venmo for the ‘za.)
As different as they are stylistically, these guys are both at the absolute apex of what they do. That’s what makes this match such a treat. They are two guys that just want to fight, two guys that just want to bleed together. Guys being dudes, what’s better than that? What’s better is what comes next: the potential pairing of these two. Them teaming up and creating the next generation of violence in AEW could be the best thing the company has ever done. I’ve gone back and forth on this, but I can’t see Moxley losing and then partnering with Bryan. It just goes against his fundamental alignment.
CM Punk vs. MJF in a dog collar match
We witnessed a perfect wrestling promo on February 23rd -- one that had a single, perfectly timed tear. It was a promo that deftly subverted our expectations...at least for a week. I kept waiting for MJF to pull the rug out, except he never did. How many times have we seen a version of the promo that flips the last 15% on its head? Not this time. Young Maxwell stood on the rug with us and made us uncomfortable. And who is he to make us feel something? To make us feel anything other than loathing and disgust? Impossible. For someone who hasn’t won a title in AEW, Max has done a whole lot. But on February 23rd, he did something implausible. He made us relate to him. That’s what made this past Wednesday work so well.
Everything about it hit the right notes. The telltale white t-shirts. Punk questioning his role/alignment in all this. The unsure handshake turned hug. The callback to Punk’s 2005 ROH promo on the day Tony Khan acquired ROH. Just beautiful. It all worked -- a masterclass of pro wrestling. The build to this has been exceptional to the point that it’s overshadowing most of the rest of the card.
After all of this, MJF has to win. He needs to come out on top so he can move from smarmy heel to full-on evil megalomaniac. I’ve gone back and forth a bit on MJF but not in terms of how talented he is because goodness gracious, is he talented. But I like him so much more when he leans away from the expected “you people are fat” and “Cleveland has ugly women'' stuff. Anyone can do that. Anyone can refer to Punk as "Phil" and get a muted "oooooh" from the crowd, but Max has shown he is capable of so much more. His ability on the microphone is so far beyond that and he proved it in the shadow of WWE of all places. He wins on Sunday and starts his path towards dethroning Hangman.
TBS Champion Jade Cargill vs. Tay Conti for the title
The introduction of green into Cargill’s gear and presentation is perfect for non-coitus-havers like me. Of course, she’s wearing shades of green as she’s money, people are jealous of her, etc, etc, etc. But what I specifically appreciate is the wink to the main criticism of her in the fact that she’s, well, green. A lack of experience shouldn't immediately be a critique of a performer. Sure, there are cases where someone is clearly not ready for their spot, but that’s not the situation here. The ringwork is coming along and everything else is more than ready.
As quickly as Jade is growing, Conti has come a long, long way herself. Not even her staunchest of supporters could have claimed to see this coming when she was in WWE NXT. She’s spoken openly about how hard that experience was for her and how freed she feels in AEW. No one does their best work in a stifling environment and it’s great to see her flourishing. She gets better each time she’s in the ring and works a style that is unique both to who she is and her background.
The first person to beat Jade needs to be a big deal. It should be a big deal! It’s the chance to really make someone a star. The first person to put an L on her ledger should be made on the spot. It’s just not here because it’s just too soon.
AEW Tag Team Champions Jurassic Express vs. reDRagon vs. The Young Bucks in a three-way title match
As I age with an alarming lack of grace, more and more I’m appreciating the difference between the critical good and the casual good like the popcorn movie type of good and the kind of good that requires nothing from you. There’s a difference between sitting down and watching Now You See Me - the wildly underrated *magician* caper from 2013 - and watching Funny Games or the end of Oldboy. One requires nothing of you and one requires significantly more of an active brain.
The more I have to stretch my hips in the morning, the more I’m appreciating these simpler pleasures. Does this make me sound kind of like an a**hole? Sure! But there are levels to this and enjoying them for what they are, let us (me) enjoy them even more.
Jurassic Express is a reasonably enjoyable action flick. Some people do what they do better, but the crowd just eats them up. They might not be my cup of tea, at least the reptilian half, but they serve a purpose and their matches always have a hot crowd. The people love them, even if I don’t. And you’ve got to give the people what they want. This formally, and sadly ends my crusade against Luchasaurus...unless he gets a big singles run. If that’s the case, I am BACK, baby.
This match is going to absolutely rule. PPV Young Bucks are always great and ReDRagon always delivers in big matches. The spots will be plentiful and the thigh slaps robust. Maybe this is a bit of an upset, but I think ReDRagon winning opens up the tag division for more compelling matchups - mainly them vs FTR - and that’s where we go Sunday.
AEW Women's Champion Dr. Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa for the title
Is it time for Britt’s reign to end? She’s closing in on a year with the belt and this feels like the first time it could reasonably end. She is still the best overall performer in AEW. The sheer force of her talent has made her run with the title memorable, but none of the feuds have been great. This one is different. These two had the best women’s match in AEW history. Taking it a step further, it was probably the best North American women's match since Bayley/Sasha in Brooklyn. I still can’t help but feel like this should have more heat. These two should be doing everything they can to get their paws on each other. Something is missing here and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Regardless, a rematch between these two should be electrifying.
As great as Britt is as a performer, Rosa isn’t far behind. She’s intense in the ring and so passionate outside of it. Listen to any interview she’s done and it immediately becomes clear just how much this means to her and how seriously she takes her craft. She’s unique, she’s different and she’s magnetic. Comparing her and Britt on the mic isn’t fair because Britt outclasses everyone there, but Rosa is just as good everywhere else.
This is one of the places where a title change makes sense. Britt is great with the title, but has proven she doesn’t need it to be over. She’s made no matter what. This is a chance to put the belt on someone new that the crowd is firmly behind.
Prediction: Thunder Rosa
AEW World Champion "Hangman" Adam Page vs. Adam Cole for the title
When a world title match is like the fifth best match on the card, you know the card is a banger.
Booking a pure babyface champion is so much harder than booking a heel. Page hasn’t been as prominent on weekly TV as some other champions, but the booking he has been a part of has been fantastic. His two matches with Danielson deserve all the praise they have received and then some. It’s easy to give Danielson most of the credit in those because he’s Bryan Danielson, but you can’t have a classic without both parts bringing it. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are only as good as the peanut butter and the jelly together.
The criticism of Cole’s booking is just wild to me. Losing a gimmick match to arguably the most popular wrestler in the company is just that: a loss. If losing one match and getting a world title shot is a burial, then bury my shell at wounded knee. People have to lose matches. The same people that complain about so-and-so being buried are the same people that complain about WWE’s penchant for DQ finishes and rematches. If you want wins and losses to matter, then everyone is going to lose at some point. Not everyone can hold the title at the same time.
Page’s long-fought coronation didn’t happen just for him to lose his first PPV defense. Between the Bullet Club, The Elite and ReDRagon, Cole has far too much on his plate already. Adding a title to that would be way too much. Page closes Revolution the same way he closed Full Gear: as AEW World Champion.