The Golden Donut: AEW Revolution Recap and Review

"Kenny Omega May Be a Tough Son of a Bitch, But He Can't Build an Exploding Ring Worth a Shit."

Remember last year? Remember packed, sold-out crowds? Remember when AEW Revolution was the most anticipated wrestling show of the year? I’m sure many of you know by now that, in addition to nearly sweeping the 2020 Wrestling Observer Awards, Revolution was voted Show of the Year and its tag title epic earned the Match of the Year honors. This year, there were a bunch of distractions leading up to the pay-per-view—Impact and NJPW and Inside the NBA—but they mostly stuck the landing in spite of the build-up being less than thoughtful than in 2020. There was a chance Revolution would be a one-match card but it ended up having a more than small handful of matches worthy of anticipation, as truly bonkers as the main event driving this pay-per-view’s promotion was anticipated to be.

This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but a handful of 4th of July sparklers. Revolution almost cashed in on the hype… until the final two minutes of the event. But we’ll get to that.

AEW

The Buy-In: Dr. Britt Baker & Maki Itoh def. Riho & Thunder Rosa

Dr. Baker wrote her own doctor’s note, saying Reba (Rebel) would not compete after a “heinous attack” from Nyla Rose earlier today. After announcing this on the stage, Reba (Rebel) strides out badly with a crutch and Dr. Baker announces her new tag partner for the evening, Maki Itoh! (If you didn’t watch the Women’s Title Eliminator Tournament, she tore it the fuck up.)

One of the many things I like about Dr. Baker is the way she subtly sells even the most innocuous moves, like after Riho is forced to break the hold of Dr. Baker’s arm and she shakes it off and holds her shoulder gingerly. Some wrestlers act like brats and wrestle like killers, which lends a heavy deal of cognitive dissonance to their characters. Not Dr. Baker! Over the past year, she has effectively learned every aspect of how to be an effective heel. Also great in this match is Itoh pretending to cry and then stomping Thunder Rosa’s foot. Even missing the Kokeshi gets a huge response. Maki Itoh is another building block to what I hope is the glory of a long-suffering AEW women’s division.

AEW

Of course, the match steps up several notches when Rosa squares off with Dr. Baker, throwing suplexes and getting a huge head of steam for the senton splash. After Itoh misses the Kokeshi again, Riho goes for the shining wizard, to which Itoh rolls into a Boston Crab. Dr. Baker has tremendously improved in her technical wrestling skills, floating over for multiple brilliant pinning attempts. Reba (Rebel) sneakily hits Rosa with the crutch and Dr. Baker rolls her up for the win. I was kinda surprised by how fun this match was; it was a lot more entertaining than a couple of the matches on the main card.

AEW

AEW Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks (c) def. Chris Jericho & MJF

Someone has an “MJF is a mensch” sign in the crowd, which is further evidence that wrestling probably should not be performed in front of live crowds right now. He is the schmuck of all schmucks, and to prove that point, a person shouldn’t have to look much farther than his gaudy, clashy ring jackets. Though I do have to give Max some credit: It takes a lot of goddamn effort to make Burberry plaid look tacky.

The match starts out with a brawl, indicating this match is PERSONAL! But of course, the heavily stylized approach of the Young Bucks would come in eventually, as they lock in synchonized Sharpshooters. After a springboard dropkick swings the momentum in the Inner Circle’s favor and the Bucks make a brief comeback, Wardlow lowers the middle rope to cause Matt Jackson to fall out of the ring.

Nick gets tagged in eventually for an extended hot tag, by this point one of the Bucks’ best-loved tropes (the Superkick Party is #1 by a lot, which gets some shine for the first time in a while later in the match). Jericho and Max have a basic but effective efficiency as a tag team, knowing where each other are at all times and preventing Matt and Nick from landing moves like the Meltzer Driver toward the match’s midpoint. Wardlow hands Jericho a bat, who hits Matt in the back with it, and Max hits the Heatseeker, but only for a two count. Late in the match, Jericho mistakenly hits the Judas Effect on Wardlow, leading to another nearfall on Jericho. A Meltzer Driver on Jericho wins the Bucks the match.

AEW

Casino Tag Team Royale: Fenix def. the Members of a Bunch of Fucking Tag Teams

Early in the match, Alan “5” Angels was given a good spotlight to shine, which was derailed out of nowhere (pun intended) by a Diamond Cutter from QT Marshall, followed by an elimination of the Dark Order’s best kept secret. By the time Sons of a Gunn come in, the match devolves into people lining up with spots for a bit. The Varsity Blondes come in, who are the textbook definition of “promising” (i.e. broadly talented with very little personality). Soon, QT eliminates the Gunn Club, which provokes an argument with Dustin Rhodes—because they’re in the Nightmare Family, apparently? Am I a bad AEW viewer because I had no idea of this?—and Marshall eliminates himself and spits his gum at Dustin.

Jack Evans pulls 10 off the apron, still playing spoiler for enough money to a decent pre-owned vehicle, courtesy of “Big Money” Matt Hardy. Speaking of Hardy, Private Party enter the match with a lot of gold in their gear (as the cliché goes, dress for the job you want). Fenix and PAC come in and level everybody, naturally. The match eventually whittles down to the final four of PAC, Fenix, John Silver, and Jungle Boy. Silver almost gets knocked out by Fenix but holds on, which brings Silver and PAC face to face for small meaty men slapping meat! Fenix eliminates Silver with that beautiful top rope running kick. Jungle Boy uses PAC’s momentum to eliminate him, and it’s just Fenix and Young Jack Perry. Both competitors kick it into overdrive (including that dive Fenix does where he clears the ringside guard rail and lands on the people in the front row). Fenix scores the victory by way of a hard thrust kick and throwing Jungle Boy over and out.

Backstage Interview: Dasha speaks to Paul Wight, who isn’t giving away the big secret of what big name is signing with the company, but does offer a clue: No one will be able to out-work him.

AEW

AEW World Women’s Championship Match: Hikaru Shida (c) def. Ryo Mizunami

The context of the history between Shida and Mizunami has a big hand in making the match intriguing for joshi obsessives and neophytes alike, and it was a great idea to dive into that context to get the latter group to understand why this match matters. Shida has been champion longer than anyone ever in AEW, and Mizunami—who Shida has never beaten—is here after barnstorming the Japan bracket of the Women’s Title Eliminator Tournament.

Both competitors measuredly approach the match at first; Mizunami catches Shida off her signature jump off the chair at ringside, proof that she has been paying attention to what Shida has done to be such a longstanding champion. Shida hits a Bastard Driver on the stage, which begins a phase of dominance in the match, and then gets personal by throwing taunting kicks to Mizunami’s face while she’s down. In the climax, Mizunami and Shida hit knockout blow after knockout blow, but can’t keep the other down until the champ hits a Tamashii but can’t follow up.

Mizunami hits the spear and the guillotine leg drop, but only gets a two count. By the end of the match, Shida is countering everything but doesn’t have enough to follow through. This match has been a long and winding road, with so many heavy blows and misdirects, with Mizunami kicking out of several knockout shots, but it’s still not enough to stop Shida from hitting one last kick to score her first win over Mizunami.

After the match, Nyla Rose and Vicki Guerrero come out so Rose can attack both women, and then Dr. Baker, Reba (Rebel) and Itoh come out to help. Thunder Rosa comes out to make the save, which means her issue with Dr. Baker is far from over and I can remain having visions of stiff blows dancing in my head.

AEW

Miro & Kip Sabian (but mostly Miro) def. Chuck Taylor & Orange Cassidy

Alex Marvez goes to interview Chuck and Orange, but Kip and Miro bumrush them and Miro sends Chuck’s head through a plate glass office window, instructing the production team to play his music. Miro drags Chuck to the ring, and gets on the mic to berate him for not coming along with him (or, in his words, “strapping the rocket to his head”). Chuck tells Bryce Remsburg to ring the bell and gets pummeled by Miro. Taylor continues to withstand a beatdown while bleeding from two different places, but mounts a comeback as Cassidy tries to make his way to the ring. But Orange was playing possum, as he nails Miro with an Orange Punch.

The match goes on—drags a little, to be honest—until Cass and Miro square off in the ring. One Orange Punch sends Miro to a knee, and Cassidy goes for another, but Miro sends him into Penelope. While Kip checks on Penelope, Miro takes over the match until it’s Game Over on Chuck. A little friction brews between Miro and his stablemates after he shows no remorse for Penelope being hurt.

Backstage Interview: Marvez told Jericho and Max they failed to capture the tag titles and Jericho goes off on him, saying (among other things) there will be an Inner Circle War Council on Wednesday, and Max solemnly agrees, saying it is time for a change. That sounds like some healthy foreshadowing!

AEW

Big Money Match: “Hangman” Adam Page def. Matt Hardy

Hangman tries to go for the Buckshot Lariat early, but Hardy scurries out of the ring “like a scalded dog.” (J.R. didn’t actually say it this time, but you know he was thinking it.) To his credit, Hangman isn’t afraid to leave the ring. Hardy slams Hangman’s right hand into the ring post and starts working it. A very simple, meat-and-potatoes concept which both competitors play to the hilt. Hangman throws a hard right and sells it; one of those smart details Hangman is known for at this point. (I’ve seen plenty WWE and indie matches where wrestlers just forget to sell the body part the match is supposed to be built around.) Hardy goes for a German suplex from the middle turnbuckle; Hangman holds on but his injured hand loses its grip and he lands on the back of his head.

Page hits Deadeye on Hardy and Private Party—earning the 70% of the split they’re entitled to—distract Rick Knox and offer their boss a little time, which sends Hangman out after both members. Hangman goes for a Buckshot Lariat, but it gets reversed into a Side Effect, which is followed up by a Twist of Fate for a two count. The Dark Order come out to even the score, catch Page as he falls off the apron, and he hits the Buckshot for the win.

Dark Order celebrate with Page after the win, and Colt Cabana even brings out a couple cold ones for the Hangman. Extra earnings for the quarter means beer thirty is coming even earlier than usual!

AEW

Face of the Revolution Ladder Match: Scorpio Sky def. Cody Rhodes, Penta El Cero Miedo, “Platinum” Max Caster, Lance Archer, and “All Ego” Ethan Page

Lola Bunny, Dr. Seuss, and Andrew Cuomo are all referenced in Caster’s rap, proving he is getting better at rapping and that he is extremely on Twitter.

Max Caster Battle Rap Rating: 4 Mics

I wonder if Cody’s going to go back to his original theme once Go Big Show‘s season is over. I hope so, because as much as I enjoy Snoop, “Gin & Juice” or “Drop It Like It’s Hot” this theme is not. And the surprise mystery competitor is… “All Ego” Ethan Page, looking like he’s been training even harder during his non-compete clause period. His Impact run and tag team with Josh Alexander gets a lot of pub when it comes to his notoriety (and maybe when he and ACH decided to troll fans of serious wrestling), but I think his claim to fame is the insane blood feud he had with Darby Allin in EVOLVE.

The match gets fast-paced early, with Penta hitting a Slingblade on Archer while he holds the ladder. Jack Evans comes out again with the boombox, but 10 comes out and flattens him. I’m still processing my feelings about the brass ring these dudes are fighting for. I love a cheeky, passive-aggressive shot at WWE as much as the next fan, but it looks kind of like an inflatable pool float for a child. I was hoping it would look more like a Sonic the Hedgehog ring or something, but I’m quibbling about aesthetics when Penta just hit Cody with a Destroyer on a ladder. Five or six people are checking on Cody’s injured shoulder and he is walked to the back.

The first half of the match is pretty tame for a multi-man ladder match, but I guess it’s better than the sort of crazy stunt that almost shattered Darby’s entire ankle at Double or Nothing last year. Scorpio Sky’s frog splash on Caster on top of the ladder was a key spot in this middle stretch. Of fucking course, Cody rejoins the match, which inspires a spate of boos from the crowd. Archer superplexes Cody off the ladder, and Caster hits him with an elbow from the top rung. Archer eventually hits Caster with the Blackout on a ladder, and as he climbs to reach the brass ring, Page attempts to stop him with a low blow and a Razor’s Edge. Then Jake Roberts comes in and hits Page with a short clothesline, and Penta knocks Jake on his ass with a kick. Penta uses his brutality to hit Cody’s injured shoulder with a chair. Scorp hits Penta in the ankle with a chair and he and Cody race for the top.

Scorpio Sky grabs the golden donut for the win and the TNT Championship match this Wednesday.

AEW

And the Huge Mystery Signing of Which Everyone Has Been Speculating All Week Is…

Christian Cage, which has been heavily, heavily rumored since the news of this signing broke on Dynamite last Wednesday. Highly regarded as one of the most decorated (and yet still underrated) wrestlers of the past 25 years. A wrestler’s wrestler; I’ve heard many a talent say Christian is one of the “best pure workers” in the history of the business. He looked great in his 2021 Royal Rumble return, I’m kinda looking forward to seeing what he does in AEW, as long as he doesn’t refer to himself as Captain Charisma.

AEW

Cinematic Street Fight: Sting & Darby Allin def. Team Taz (Brian Cage & Ricky Starks)

“Live” from an undisclosed location, Starks and Cage drive a BMW i8 to a creepy warehouse with a ring inside. Sting drives a Toyota Tacoma while Darby skateboards, eventually hitching a ride, with a Real Slim Shady-esque legion of cronies marching inside. The bell rings and the masked, hooded cronies beat on the ring like they’re at the American Legion Hall in Reseda, CA as the two teams start to go at it.

It’s safe to say Darby had at least a little bit to do with the cinematic nature of this match; his style of art school dropout filmmaking gets its share of flak, but I greatly prefer it to other instances of art school dropout filmmaking in wrestling. It’s also a good use of Sting, just as it was for the Undertaker’s final match last year—especially with Ricky Starks’ character acting to fill in the gaps. There are parts of the match which are clearly excuses to show off Cage’s inhuman strength. He walks Darby up an entire flight of stairs in the suplex position before dropping him onto a trash can; he hurls a fucking tire.

Taz does a great job on commentary here, his confidence rising and falling along with the action of the match, and even openly admitting he’s having a low-grade panic attack as he stumbles over words and the match swings in Darby and Sting’s favor. The visual aesthetic fits the vibe of wrestling street fights, with their tables and 2x4s and glass bottles and fire extinguishers. Powerhouse Hobbs and Hook join in on the action, with the latter hitting a sick judo throw on Darby. Hobbs and Cage swing Darby through a glass panel window, which was very stimulating visually.

Broken bats and swinging shovels and Darby hitting an elbow drop from a story high. Eventually, the action moves back to the ring wtih Starks taking on Sting, with Stinger Splashes and low blows, and ending with the immortal Scorpion Death Drop. This match was great, and in my opinion the A1 example of how to use the cinematic form for a new way to tell age-old wrestling stories. I know the Boneyard Match is most people’s standard for such things, but if you want that action movie vibe without the WWE Studios cheese, I highly recommend this one.

AEW

Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match for the AEW World Championship: Kenny Omega (c) def. Jon Moxley

Mox’s Onita tribute jacket is a look and a half! So is Remsburg wearing a bomb suit. Kenny wearing kneepads over bootcut jeans might be his most obnoxious look yet, which is saying a lot given the heights of tackiness he has scaled since becoming AEW World Champion. As Kenny (finally) looks deathly serious about a title match, Mox feels a sense of comfort in grave situations, but even he has to take a shot of whiskey to quell the nerves of this extremely dangerous match.

Of course the match starts with the strategy for each competitor to avoid the barbed wire; it’s a dance of extreme tension. Mox sends Omega outside of the ring and goes for the plunder, hitting Kenny with a barbed wire bat and a kendo stick. Kenny blinds Mox with powder and sends him into the ropes, bringing the match to its first explosion. A Kintaro Crusher onto a trash can busts Mox wide the fuck open. Kenny sends Mox into one of the barbed wire boards, his back absorbs them like a pin cushion. Mox reverses a Figure Four attempt, sending Kenny into the ropes for an explosion, and hits Omega with a shotgun dropkick to send him into another explosion.

The match gets to the point where even their standard signature moves feel excessively violent; even as they take their time, every move seems deliberate and excruciating. Omega sends Mox into the ropes, going head first into another explosion; Kenny pours water into his eyes to try and regain his vision. They fight on the apron, eventually leading to a Paradigm Shift onto the exploding board at ringside.

A warning drum sounds off and the urgency is ramped up a little, with both men trying to win before every explosive is detonated. Omega starches Mox with V-Triggers and hits a One-Winged Angel, a move nobody has ever kicked out of. Mox kicks the ropes to set off the explosion. Then out comes the Good Brothers (greaaaaat), who Mox fights off until Omega hits him with an exploding barbed wire bat. Omega hits a One-Winged Angel onto an unfolded chair and wins the match.

The Good Brothers help Kenny up as they celebrate. Commentary is saying the explosions are still set to go off as Kenny, Gallows, and Anderson handcuff Mox and beat him down, sawing the barbed wire into Mox’s face until he literally shouts, “That’s enough!” (The camera probably shouldn’t have caught that, but what are you gonna do?) The countdown clock goes off and with 20 seconds remaining, Eddie Kingston comes out to save his friend from certain mortal danger.

Kingston tries and tries to pull Mox out of the ring and realizing he’s out of time, goes to cover his old friend. When the timer reaches zero… pyro goes off around ringside and the ring posts are alight with sparklers? Boos pepper the crowd as Kingston continues to cover Mox and they both sell whatever the fuck just happened as serious and concussive. Dr. Sampson, Aubrey Edwards, and various trainers tend to Mox and Kingston as the event goes off the air and the crowd is painfully silent.

This is absolute proof that a bad ending can ruin even the best movie. It’s literally so laughably awful, Mox wisecracks to the live crowd in order to add some levity to what was supposed to be a seismic emotional moment. Larry David couldn’t have written an ending so humorously embarrassing.

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Martin Douglas

The unofficial poet laureate of Tacoma, WA, Martin Douglas is an essayist, critic, and journalist specializing in the fields of music (KEXP.org, Bandcamp Daily, Pitchfork) and pro wrestling (Seattle Weekly, quite a few online zines). He's also a hip-hop beatmaker, fiction writer, disposable camera photographer, and all-around renaissance man.

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