By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
AEW’s Revolution was, indeed, televised.
Sorry. It was right there.
Anyway, AEW’s first pay-per-view of 2023 is in the books. Oftentimes, coming out of these things, there’s a clear narrative on which we can focus when it comes to Monday morning (or, in my case, afternoon) quarterbacking. But then again, sometimes, there’s not. When all is said and done as it relates to this year’s Revolution, my mind leans more toward the latter.
Yes, most of AEW’s younger talent ostensibly went undefeated against the company’s older talent (and, cough, ex-WWE talent, cough). Yes, MJF threw tequila in a kid’s face and a lot of people feel a lot of different ways about that. Yes, there were fantastic matches, a heel turn, and a surprise or two. Yes, it still didn’t go off the air until after midnight on the east coast. And yes, from top to bottom, I thought the show was quite good.
But an overarching narrative? I’m not so sure. Such is why I thought I’d break down my five biggest takeaways from the night, if only for old time’s sake, when I used to split these Monday pieces into five parts anyway. There was a lot I really liked and nothing I hated. Care to hear more about it? Let’s go.
5. Returns, debuts, and the ones that didn’t happen. AEW is clever in that producing only four big shows a year for a crowd that has been conditioned to expect one at least once a month for the past several years thanks to WWE pays dividends. Tony Khan loves his surprises and announcements and it’s not unreasonable for fans to speculate on what might pop up at these things, especially if the company only gets four shots at them a year. Also worth noting: AEW is into drama these days (and not just because its programming winds up on TNT), so speculation surrounding a handful of issues and/or people ramps up each time we’re asked to fork over 50 bucks in the name of one of AEW’s biggest nights of the year.
Sunday night was no exception. We received clarity (or, well, at least we think we most likely received clarity) on the FTR contract situation as those guys returned to AEW after taking a couple months off. If their deals are up soon and they had the option to sit home until they expired (or at least, so everyone said), it wouldn’t make much sense to come back for a quick run-in, pose for the AEW faithful and then pack up and head to WWE in a few months. There’s some thought that they’ll be the ones to dethrone the Gunns, and if that’s true, my only question is this: With the Young Bucks dropping the trios titles, are we finally going to get to run back FTR vs. the Bucks sometime soon? My guess is I’m not the only one asking that question.
As for Dax and Cash’s bud, CM Punk … I continue to believe that a random comeback probably isn’t going to happen at this moment. Perhaps he’s still recovering from surgery (though we all know that wouldn’t matter because the first six weeks we’d see him on TV would be nothing but the guy with a mic in his hand anyway), or perhaps he’s relatively healed up; whatever it is, the CM Punk/AEW situation continues to be one of the most divisive in all of mainstream pro wrestling. People hate him. People love him. People forgive him. People don’t think he’s worth forgiving. That in mind, his lack of an appearance Sunday night didn’t and doesn’t bother me because we’re still a ways away from figuring out how or if he fits back into the fold.
Speaking of someone fitting into the fold, I came across a tiny bit of Jay White chatter on the World Wide Internet leading up to Revolution. New Japan has made no secret of his departure from the company and AEW fans sure would like to see him choose Tony over Nick when it comes to Khans. Even so, the prevailing thought seems to be that White is WWE bound, and if that’s the case, I’m OK with it. White almost fits too well into the AEW fold, and we saw that in the walk-up to Forbidden Door last year. If the former Bullet Club leader winds up on the Raw after WrestleMania, everybody and everything involved will get a nice freshening up – one that White couldn’t not use, even for as good as he is.
Either way, you don’t always have to have a Big Splash Signing to tout on a pay-per-view to make it a great pay-per-view. White not showing up at Revolution is fine by me.
4. 65:20. Or at least that’s what I had the Iron Man Match clock in at when I added up the overtime. The match was tremendous. Special. Legendary. As close to perfect as perfect gets … unless if it was just plain perfect in the first place. What else is there to say about it? I could have spent the entirety of this piece waxing poetic on its greatness, but we already know it was great and there isn’t much more to add. Some call it the best Iron Man Match ever. Maybe it was. That’s for friends to debate on barstools and in chatrooms for years to come.
What I wonder about now is what happens to both wrestlers. If everything said about Bryan Danielson behind the scenes is even half-true, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by titles or high-profile programs, but even with that in mind, TK has been wise to keep him working with a strong mixture of stars and workers. He got matches diehard fans crave with Rush, Takeshita and others – but that was only because it was couched within his program with MJF.
Would we ever just get a random Dynamite in April that features Danielson vs. Kommander with no build in the middle of the card? I doubt it. So, what does he do now? Take some time off? Re-explore his story with the Blackpool Combat Club now that Regal is gone? I can’t imagine him going after a title other than the biggest one AEW has to offer, but he just lost a match for that thing (for the fourth time, mind you), and I’d think an Iron Man Match kind of puts the lid on any potential rematch with MJF. So, how’s this going to work?
Meanwhile, MJF continues his title reign – alone, with no manager or faction or bodyguard – and it’s looking more and more like he’s going to hold that belt all the way up until his contract is “supposed to be up” (who knows what’s real or not in this saga) and the notion of him going to WWE becomes a tacit story on AEW programming (which, if you ask me, isn’t always the best idea). AEW has its share of top babyfaces, especially now that Adam Cole is coming back as one and Hangman Page got his groove back. Does Wardlow drop the TNT title to Hobbs and move into a story with MJF, considering their history? I wouldn’t mind that. Kenny Omega is freed up as a singles wrestler now and maybe MJF’s obsession with being recognized as a great wrestler continues by working with Omega.
Whatever happens, I can’t help but wonder how MJF heats up whatever’s next (unless if whatever’s next somehow involves CM Punk). There were some murmurs from even the strongest AEW fans that the lead-up to the Danielson match saw MJF grow a tiny bit stale at times – and this comes after he seemingly pulled out all the stops, with the fiancé and Danielson’s family and the high school story, etc. How’s he going to upstage how personal he made it with Danielson and how’s he going to continue to be on such a high level when it comes to entertaining people? Lots of questions for both guys coming out of Sunday.
3. A woman’s world. Enough about the guys. How about the ladies? Ruby Soho turned on newly minted babyfaces Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter and it looks like we have the Riott Squad 2023 with her, Saraya and Toni Storm. That’s fine. And the three-way for the women’s title was pretty good, too. They all worked hard and it’s clear that such a cadre of females – Baker, Storm, Saraya, Soho, Hayter – seems to make everyone involved happy and the more they all work together, the better they’ll all become together. It’s a nice lane to be in.
But one of the low-key issues that I’m kind of surprised to see is hardly getting any attention is what in the hell is going on with Jade Cargill. It’s easy to forget, but … she’s an actual champion in this company. She’s also real-life undefeated (as opposed to Goldberg-life undefeated). Plus, she’s also … well … a star. A bona fide star, really. And not only was she not on this PPV, but it never even felt like she was a consideration going into this PPV. Instead, she’s been toiling away on Rampage, facing ex-friends and dominating everyone in six minutes or less.
So, what’s the deal? The AEW women’s division has been sort of/kind of run by Britt Baker since the day this company began. Even in the early days, when she wasn’t in the title mix, she defined herself as AEW’s biggest female star and that definition translated into the company’s fanbase belief pretty easily. Baker also appears to be one of the main characters in the upcoming AEW reality series, so it’s hard to think she won’t be in the spotlight in some manner moving forward – even if that means she’s just running to the ring with her buddy, who doubles as the women’s champion. But outside of whatever she’s involved with, it feels like AEW lacks the ability to keep the spotlight consistently shining on someone else, too.
Case in point: Cargill. She was organically building steam as a main player in the women’s division, and then TK even gave her a belt to prove it. She still hasn’t lost, but she also hasn’t seen anything consistent in months. I thought the Baddies gimmick could have worked, going city to city and putting out a call for her own little cheering section, but for whatever reason, everything involving the TBS champ has seemingly dissipated. It’s a shame because she’s one of the most impressive AEW-only stories the company has ever seen. Here’s hoping someone in the back has something for her creatively as we come out of Revolution.
2. House Of Black – House, House Of Black. If you sing that to the tune of the BTE theme song, it works, I promise. My favorite match of the night was the match I was looking forward to the least and it was the trios match, where the House of Black became the AEW trios champs. And why did I have little expectations? The Elite don’t do much for me. They never have, if we’re being honest. And Kenny Omega in AEW, in whatever gimmick he’s chosen, hasn’t clicked for me. I know I’m not the only one saying or thinking those things, but … well, I had to explain myself, now, didn’t I?
Anyway, I came out of Sunday night’s trios match giving Omega all the credit in the world for how great that match turned out. For whatever reason – and for the first time ever – it was like a knob turned and he looked like the tremendous wrestler he is – but this time, in an AEW ring. It didn’t hurt that the House Of Black features three guys whose work I admire immensely. It also didn’t hurt that the six wrestlers kept the contrived, comedy(ish) stuff to a minimum. Either way, it proved that put in the right position, Kenny Omega still has time to be KENNY OMEGA in AEW for those of us who have been a little let down by his time in AEW thus far.
If it’s up to me (even though it’s not and never will be), I’d look to get some steam behind him as a singles wrestler by himself. Things are looking like Don Callis is going to align himself with Takeshita, which could mean a heel turn for both manager and student, and that could be just the trick Omega needs to launch him into overdrive. Think about it. Work a great program with a great up-and-coming wrestler and your former manager. Come out of it looking better than ever. Maybe move into the main event picture. Continue to be healthier than you’ve been in years. Seems like a formula for success, right?
Either way, I thought Omega had a great outing Sunday night and it left me excited to see what’s next for him.
1. You say you want a revolution. I do not apologize for two-straight musical references to round up this week’s piece.
There’s something about this February/March AEW pay-per-view that has caught me off guard each year it’s existed. To me, Revolution has consistently been the throwaway Big Show of the year and I can’t explain why. All Out and Double Or Nothing feel like the two biggest shows AEW puts together. Full Gear has a special place in my heart because I was at the first two – the second of which was a pandemic show at Daily’s Place where the camera unforgivingly caught me singing along to Judas, which is a shame I’ll never live down. Revolution, though? Something about it feels second-rate.
It makes no sense because one of the best matches in the company’s history took place at the first one (Omega/Hangman vs. The Young Bucks), and I actually covered the third one last year for this very website. So, it’s not like the Revolution show should be discounted or scoffed at each year it comes around; it’s just that … well, I guess it is. To me, at least.
Still, this one delivered mightily. There were only eight matches on the main card and we didn’t go far enough into Monday morning on the east coast to make me regret my life choices Sunday night, which is a plus, because some of these AEW PPVs have been awfully taxing on my attention span. Each match delivered beyond what I thought it would be (poor Wardlow and Samoa Joe, who had to somehow follow that wild Texas Death Match). The Iron Man Match will forever go down in AEW lore as one of the company’s best moments. Danhausen always makes me smile. And Christian Cage wrestled in a turtleneck, proving as Kevin Garnett once implied, anything is possible.
It adds up to one, big … “Why do I keep discounting this show?” Naturally, none of this will matter next year when Revolution comes around and I toy with the idea of actually not buying the show, but for now, it’s imperative we celebrate the good while we have it, and this was a damn good show. I have absolutely no idea where 90 percent of the roster goes from here, but that’s also half the fun of pro wrestling. If this marks a mild reset for AEW, I’m all for it.
In the meantime, allow me to raise a glass of tequila to this Revolution, in particular, being televised.