AEW's Best Ever PPV? | AEWeekly Review #58
Welcome to the #AEWeekly review discussion where PWM contributors reflect on the highlights of the last week in AEW. The week we are predominantly focusing on AEW Revolution, as well as the week leading up to it.
This week’s contributors are Sergei [@SergeiAlderman] covering match of the week and the best promo, Gareth [@Gareth_EW] covering move of the week and the key story beat, Peter [@PeterEdge7] with the moment of the week and Trish [@TrishSpeirs48] giving us the weekly MVP.
Match of the Week: Sergei
A Mat Masterpiece Reinvents the Iron Man
The Iron Man stip tends to get three primary criticisms: too long, too slow, and no drama. But this Iron Man match flipped out expectations upside down!
The pace of this match was insane for a match of its length. This despite the fact that MJF does some stalling, and makes a joking point of it, mocking the idea that it might cost him a Meltzer star.
At 15 minutes in, something happens that you'd never see in any prior Iron Man match: the babyface goes up 1-0! Normally, an Iron Man leans heavily on the protagonist desperately trying to punch up from behind to highlight his determination. This match instead has the antagonist coming from behind to highlight his nervy insecurity.
Due to the "No rest period" clause, MJF is desperate at this point to stop Danielson's momentum. So he uses a sacrifice play, taking a DQ fall to turn the tide and get two quick falls in succession to tie it back up.
Over the course of the hour they each earn one more fall, to be tied once again. At 55 minutes and counting, Friedman is in tears of pain, frustration, and exhaustion, while Danielson is laughing with the sheer joy of doing the job he loves, and the crowd is on their feet chanting and clapping. Then, Danielson gets Friedman caught in a simple single-leg crab. But Friedman only had to survive for one minute to get the draw. Friedman seemingly retains his title based on a 3-3 draw, but as the medical staff attend to the competitors, including giving Friedman oxygen, the ring announcer lets everyone know that the match will continue in sudden death. The delight on Bryan's face and the horror on Maxwell's is a treat! MJF manages to get in an unseen low blow, but that still isn't enough to keep Danielson down. Then Danielson hits a POISONRANA! Danielson calls for the "yes" chants and hits his finisher and it seems to be over.
I admit it, I bit. For that moment, I believed. And all the credit goes to Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Because normally one would say, "of course he has to kick out." It's too soon for him to lose, it would be damaging to a guy they intend to build the company around as the primary antagonist. But, seeing the way that his fatal flaws of insecurity and arrogance led him to this point made me believe he could hold his value as an antagonist even in a loss.
But, no. MJF kicked out! But this transitioned to him back in the single-leg crab, and this time tapping out is the end! Then he gets to the rope, and rolls out. Danielson crawls to the edge of the ring and reaches down to draw MJF back and the champion hits him in the head with the oxygen tank! Rather than use his armbar, MJF puts Danielson into his own LeBell Lock. Bryce does the three arm drops test, and on the third Danielson starts to fire up, but Friedman struggles him back down and after everything, Danielson is forced to tap to his own submission hold.
This was a match for the ages, and changed an entire stipulation. Instead of a match one might hesitate to use because of worry of falling into lazy tropes and boring the audience with stalling, now the Iron Man is a match one may be reluctant to pull out simply out of trepidation at the prospect of living up to this example! And Maxwell Jacob Friedman is now established as a threat to absolutely anybody, but more importantly, as someone who will be able to maintain their danger even through future losses.
Promo of the Week: Sergei
Moxley Delivers a Blood-Soaked Tour de Force
I think that one of the guiding principles of making great pro-wrestling content is simply capturing genuine amazing moments. The other half is artificially creating moments that only seem genuine; that's the stagecraft aspect, and that's important, too. Maybe someday I will learn that Jon Moxley just wasn't feeling it after the Evil Uno match and so he took a shower and cooled off and got his mind right and recreated the look of a stuck pig with makeup. But I doubt it. Sometimes a performer is just in a moment where they look like they just came out of a fight for their life, and they feel that way, too, and the key is simply to NOT let that moment go to waste!
And that's exactly what Jon Moxley does: he's covered in a cinematic river of blood and hyped to the moon and he captures that feeling and moment in a promo. He starts out paraphrasing Apocalypse Now: instead of napalm and gasoline smelling like victory, the iron taste of blood in his mouth tastes like victory! But then he corrects himself: not just victory, life! In other words, it's not only that he won, but that the fight itself made him feel alive.
But then he makes the important turn to self awareness: he realizes that feeling that way about being soaked in blood and pumped full of adrenaline doesn't make him normal or admirable—he's not claiming to be anybody's role model.
He then has the traditional airing of the grievances and the "you pulled me back in" denial of liability for what he's going to do and the praise of the enemy. But the admission that Adam Page is a great man rapidly crescendos to a shouted climax: the claim that Page "is NOT THE SAME ANIMAL!"
A lot of pro wrestling is done live in front of an arena full of fans and a second take would be impractical. Backstage promos are a different beast and can generally be recorded whenever is convenient, using as many takes as needed. But sometimes, even with a pretape, the moment is so raw and visceral, no second take is imaginable. Moxley's promo was an example of this, and he nailed it! Not letting a perfect moment go to waste is one of the skills that makes Jon Moxley one of very best at what he does.
Moment of the Week: Peter
Hangman Page lives up to his name
Sometimes professional wrestling does what it says on the tin. We expected blood, violence and chaos on this Sunday night in the Texas Death Match and we got it. A Hangman victory? Well that was a 50/50 call in this rubber match but the ending shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise. There’s a reason why he’s the Hangman, it’s not because he’s a hairdresser on his days off.
First off, it needs to be said how great that finish was. The Texas Death Match has been modified over the years. AEW’s version of this match added a submission element which had yet to be used in the 3 additions to this match's history. Revolution was the first time someone had tapped out in a Texas Death match which was something that was necessary to establish it within the ruleset of an AEW "Texas Death".
This all started on October 5th when Jon Moxley told Hangman Page that he admired him as a person but that he was in the way of his pursuit to greatness and then things escalated fast.
After the barbed wire, chairs and bricks with Hangman stood on the apron, Moxley in an act of defiance stood there waiting to be hit by the Buckshot Lariat. He thought he could take Page’s best shot and get before the count of ten.
On May 9 2016, Page hung Chris Sabin with a noose to solidify his turn to the dark side and join Bullet Club. He was victim to a defeat via submission when hung by a leather strap by Frankie Kazarian at ROH Best in The World 2016.
Page knows the damage done by such an act and to finally set Moxley to rest, to get on with his career, to set right the moment one night in Cincinnati, to get back to having a chance at winning AEW’s World Title... he had to hang Jon Moxley.
Moxley would tap out for the first time in 10 years. The club of people to submit Mox is small enough to put round a dining table at a Starbucks, and Hangman Page joined that club at Revolution. Not just to remove the barrier of Jon Moxley but the all those barriers set in front of Adam Page since that night in Vegas last May.
When you listen back to that Moxley promo on October 5th, Jon talks about there being one last man standing in AEW and while Moxley hit a knockout blow in the October 18 match, in the long term it turned out to be 'Hangman' who was the last man standing.
Story Beat of the Week: Gareth
Ruby Soho Picks Her Destination
There's a storyline building momentum in AEW's women's division of a sort of "outsiders" vs. "AEW loyalist" allegiances. Saraya and Toni Storm have entered the company and shaken it up. Whilst Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter seek to defend what they built.
In the middle at AEW Revolution we had Ruby Soho. Now, this story has been criticised for various reasons, but after their three-way match, Ruby picked a side. First appearing to side with the loyalists before delivering a No Future kick to the AEW Women's World Champion, Jamie Hayter, who had just pinned her.
Ruby, a former-WWE wrestler, like Storm and Saraya, aligned with the Outsiders, and with Britt Baker saying that this story would be a slow burn, it's fair to assume that this is just one of many twists in this narrative.
The question this turn poses is not necessarily what Ruby does next. But rather how do the "loyalists" respond? Who joins up next? Where is this all leading?
As previously stated, this story has been criticised and, I think, for good reason. It's been shaky and a little all over the place. However, now we can move onwards with some real momentum with the heel side of this story gaining a numbers advantage.
Move of the Week: Gareth
Jungle Boy Becomes Jungle Man
When Christian Cage, Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus fought The Young Bucks & Adam Cole at Full Gear 2021, the match ended after 'Jungle Boy' Jack Perry delivered a Conchairto to win his team the match. A devastating move made famous by his mentor, Christian.
However, as the months have rolled by since that moment Cage proved himself to be not much of a mentor at all. Rather someone looking to ride the coattails of a younger star's obvious talents and when he'd milked that dry, he turned on Jungle Boy.
Fast forward to the build to this match at Revolution 2023 and, when presented with the chance to deliver a Conchairto to Christian, Jack Perry hesitated. Cage delivered a low blow and then a Conchairto of his own.
However, when we got to the match itself, Perry had no such hesitation. Instead knowing the condition he'd put Christian in and taking his time. Looking to the sky, signalling to his late-father Luke Perry, before delivering an impactful blow to the Cage's head, just as he did at Full Gear 2021. Before dragging Christian's lifeless body into the casket.
At Full Gear Jungle Boy opened a toxic chapter in his life when he committed himself to Christian's mentorship. At Revolution he closed that chapter when he hit the Conchairto on said "mentor" and close the lid of the casket. Burying that chapter once and for all.
MVP of the Week: Trish.
EVERYBODY! (Cop out!)
In a similar nature to the equally heralded Forbidden Door PPV last June, it is hard to pick out one individual from this show due to just how many standout performances there were throughout.
AEW's veteran core, including Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Chris Jericho and Christian put everything thing in to elevating the generation they hope will take the company forward. Christian gave a perfect heel performance to close out his feud with Jungle Boy, Chris Jericho went down clean to Ricky Starks to set the mood in the opener, Jon Moxley gave his first submission loss in ten years to Hangman Adam Page and Bryan Danielson crafted a spectacular main event aimed solely at solidifying the reputation of MJF as a top tier in ring performer.
AEW's homemade talent overcoming the more experienced names established elsewhere used to be a featured signature of the promotion. The industry veterans had a firm understanding that it was important in order to differentiate themselves as an alternative as well as to ensure fans would have trust in investing in the new characters and their journeys. This felt like a return to that ethos; even if just for one night.
And it wasn't as though those who were having the light shined on them were not up to the task. AEW's two top homemade stars in particular, in Maxwell Jacob Friedman and Hangman Adam Page felt like they finally solidified themselves into AEW's upper tier with these performances whilst also advancing the development of each character. The special entrances for each only helped them to feel more distinctive when placed with their more experienced compatriots.
With shadows still hanging over the company to some extent and worked shoot stories in overdrive, Revolution 2023 was a reminder of not only what this roster can do but also where the focus should be. On this night the team delivered on this single goal.