Previously on All Elite Wrestling: PAC got screwed in an Ironman Match (don’t @ me), Orange Cassidy briefly became a bunny, and Chris Jericho put Jon Moxley next to a podium for scale.
If you’d like to keep up with this column and its thinly veiled Best and Worst format, you can keep tabs on the Ins and Outs of AEW Dynamite tag page. Elle Collins is also covering AEW Dark for us, and you can keep track of all things All Elite here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
You want a Revolution? I want a revelation, so listen to my declaration. Here’s the Ins and Outs of All Elite Wrestling Revolution, originally aired on February 29, 2020.
A Quick Note About The Buy-In
Not much to talk about on the Buy-In this time around. Evil Uno gave the Dark Order the win over SCU by hitting Scorpio Sky in the back of the head with a lariat that was mostly a grazing blow with an armpit, Christopher Daniels teased being the Higher Power Exalted One before revealing he’s kidding, and All Elite Wrestling finally managed to pull that major star from the National Wrestling Alliance who should’ve just been in All Elite from the beginning. Of course I’m talking about Colt Cabana.
No actual development on the Exalted One, but I guess it wouldn’t make much sense to drop that reveal onto a pay-per-view pre-show, especially if you’re waiting on one of the myriad of options to be free and clear. Part of me really hopes the Exalted One is Lance Archer, and that a 6-foot-8, 270-pound murder monster would be like, “you know who I need doing my dirty work? A pyramid scheme of 5-foot-5 guys who can’t throw a punch.”
All Out: It Doesn’t Look Like Jack Swagger Matches Are Going To Get Any Better
One of the most curious decisions of AEW Revolution — a pay-per-view with both Darby Allin vs. Sammy Guevara and PAC vs. Orange Cassidy on the card — was to open it with a 15-minute Jake Hager match. I love Dustin Rhodes probably twice as much as the next guy and would trust him to carry a wet sack of laundry to a watchable match, and this was certainly watchable, but it was overly long, lifeless whenever Dustin wasn’t on offense, and weirdly built around Jake Hager’s wife when there was a perfectly good arm-breaking angle to get intense about and work from.
I get some heat in the comments from time to time for not liking Hager’s work, especially since I was such a big fan of the Swagger Soaring Eagle, and I understand that I hold his starring role in the disintegration of Lucha Underground as too personal an affront. I just don’t think he’s very good at understanding why he’s having the matches he’s having, illustrating his emotions (beyond “rage”) in his face and actions, and doesn’t work as a character when he’s supposed to be a bad-ass enforcer when he’s got the fighting style of Bobby Hill. Like, Jake Hager’s been around for months now, has only wrestled once, and let’s be honest, if he never showed up again and was quietly replaced by Jeff Cobb, would anyone mind?
All In: Holy Shit, Darby Allin Vs. Sammy Guevara
In our AEW Revolution predictions I mentioned that this was the dark horse candidate for match of the night, and sure enough, it was my favorite part of the show. God damn did this rule.
It was the complete antithesis of the opening match. In the opener, a grudge match built around a broken bone with MONTHS of build was wrestled with mild at best intensity and revolved around wife kisses and distraction low blows. This match, similarly identified as an Inner Circle vs. AEW grudge match built around an injury, was intense for literally several minutes before the bell even rang. Darby Allin immediately dives through the ropes and mauls Sammy with a dive, and they’re off to the races.
They start with a disconcertingly iffy dive where Allin’s foot clips the rope and he almost piledrives himself into the guard rail, but they work it into the story of the match without much trouble and are quickly giving us VIOLENT SKATEBOARD ATTACKS. Seriously, if Sammy Guevara threw a skateboard at my face like that I’d be in the hospital for a week. Thank goodness Darby is half skeleton already. Oh, and Guevara breaks out a 630 senton from the top rope to the floor through a table. And the match still hasn’t started.
The actual “match” only goes about five minutes, but they use all the momentum from the pre-match fight to stay creative and keep up the pace. There’s a Gory Special that becomes a gory Gory when Allin starts biting Guevara’s hand (pictured), a diving double foot-stomp on the apron, and my personal favorite moment of the match: this top rope balancing act that was either a swiftly recovered misstep or, if you listen to commentary, Guevara selling ankle damage while getting into position for a Spanish (God) Fly:
Ugh, I love these guys. THIS is the talent that makes this show the alternative. And unlike … well, all of the other matches on the show, the structure allows them to get their shit in and get out without a billion nearfalls. Guevara exposes a turnbuckle trying to do further damage to Allin’s throat, but Allin counters and gives him a Dolph Ziggler-style monkey flip into it. He follows that up with that piggyback Diamond Dust he does, hits the Coffin Drop, and gets the pin. Really excellent stuff from both guys here. Darby vs. Sammy for days.
All In: Elite Series
I might be completely off-base here, but I think the abuse of near-falls in matches like the Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega and Hangman Page does a huge disservice to the multitude of stories they’re telling in the ring. Like, I read a lot of criticism that says the Elite’s matches suck because they just do the same thing over and over, and everybody kicks out of everything, and it’s nothing but flips and superkicks. And on the surface level, yeah, I guess I could see that; but if you’re paying attention, they’re dropping chapters of a lengthy, cohesive story involving a ton of characters with consistent motivations and personalities.
Okay, so maybe you watched Omega and Page vs. the Young Bucks for the Tag Team Championship at Revolution and thought it was 30:20 of “flippy shit,” or “spot monkeys,” or whatever platitude depressing people are using to dismiss a generation of wrestlers this week. There’s a lot going on, though. Kenny Omega and Hangman Page have a contentious relationship that makes us think there’s gonna be a Malfunction At The Junction and they’re going to turn on each other. Even the announce team is expecting it. But Omega just had an Ironman Match with PAC on Wednesday and has an injured shoulder, so instead of being the BEST BOUT MACHINE or whatever, he’s the weak link for his team. He’s the Ricky Morton, in there taking all the heat. By doing this, they’re giving the crowd another reason to want to see Hangman — a character who didn’t have much crowd response at all when Dynamite started — flip into the ring and dish out Cowboy Justice. Page has a drinking problem, but it makes him popular, and he’s wary of his tag team partner’s BEST FRIENDS FOREVER attitude toward their opponents. Page was in the Elite, too, but he wanted to leave, and the Bucks wouldn’t let him. He was never the Bucks or Omega or Cody, so he (along with Marty Scurll) kinda felt like the “second tier” Elite. He’s outgrown it, but he’s still mired in their frenemy bullshit.
Meanwhile, the Bucks are battling a sense of entitlement and expectation with the reality of starting a wrestling promotion and not immediately making yourselves champions. They started off with the good idea of putting everyone on an even playing field, because they assumed they’re the best tag team in the world like everybody says and would just win based on talent and reputation. But they got knocked out of the first round of the tag title tournament, and it’s taken them MONTHS to legitimately earn a title shot. But they’ve got to fight their friends; well, their friend, and a guy they say is their friend but call a Ring of Honor jobber if he ever questions their authority. So they’re in the match and bothered by the fact that Hangman’s getting cheered and they’re getting booed, and know the best way to win is to go full evil and target Omega’s injured shoulder. At one point Matt Jackson just stomps the shit out of the injury and rips off Omega’s K-tape. It’s very clearly the story of two natural jerks who want to be beloved heroes, but can’t seem to be successful and nice at the same time. They’re so consumed by their own hype that they’ll maul their friends and then suck up to them after they lose, like a kid who acts out on purpose and immediately starts apologizing. It’s more about attention than anything.
To show what unbelievable dickheads they can be, they hit Kenny Omega with the Golden Trigger. That’s a signature strike of the Golden Lovers, aka Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, Omega’s ex-boyfriend he loves so much that he couldn’t ask him to come to America and keep wrestling with him because he knows how much being at the top of the card in New Japan means to him. Who knows that wound better than the Bucks? It’s such a “fuck you” to Omega and everything he stands for.
Hangman’s budding connection with the crowd informs the finish, as well. He gets hit with the Indy Taker on the ramp and is ostensibly out of the match, allowing the Bucks to go 2-on-1 on Omega and try to shut him down. When it looks like all is lost, Page staggers up, pulls a Jackson off the apron, and powerbombs him through a ringside table. A few minutes later, Omega’s trying to go for One-Winged Angel — the one move that has never been kicked out of, in a circle of guys who kick out of EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME — but can’t get it, because of the injured shoulder. The work in the match pays off in some way for the finish. Like it’s supposed to. So Page comes in, hits the One-Winged Angel his damn self, and the pin gets broken up. Knowing it’s now or never, Hangman Buckshot Lariats Nick Jackson on the ramp, Buckshot Lariats back into the ring to Rikishi bump Matt, and wins. He just powered up and shut those motherfuckers down.
And what happens after the match, where the Bucks spent almost 30 minutes trying to injure their friend and send him violent messages about his past failures? The Bucks are up trying to hug and fist-bump Kenny. Hangman, through some combination of time, adrenaline, and rampant alcoholism, sees through it. He doesn’t want those hugs. He doesn’t want to bump fists. He defied the odds by being true to a partner he no longer really trusts or believes in because it was the right thing to do, and he was repaid with a reminder that The Elite likes themselves more than they like him. So he just bails, and takes one, beautiful moment to stand against the ropes while Omega’s back’s turned and make everyone in the world think he’s going to flip in and clothesline him.
But he doesn’t. Because that’s not the cowboy way.
Fuck yeah, storytelling.
All Out: The Women’s Championship Match In An Unwinnable Position
The Women’s Championship match between Nyla Rose and Kris Statlander had so much working against it. They didn’t get anything resembling a story to build any heat for the match, and the entire thing was based on Nyla saying she’s better than everybody else and Statlander poking the title belt with her index finger. They also had to go on immediately following 30 minutes of Kenny Omega and Hangman Page vs. the Young Bucks. They would’ve had to perform a literal miracle to bring the crowd back from being burned out. It’s why “cooldown matches” aren’t always a bad idea, even if you’re All Killer and No Filler.
So they have the match, and it’s not great. The crowd’s not into it, and they don’t seem comfortable working together. There’s a superplex spot where Statlander can’t seem to get both feet on the top rope before going that looked dangerous, but thankfully everyone was okay. And then they build to this Beast Bomb off the second rope that either Statlander can’t get up for or Rose doesn’t have the power to execute on someone Statlander’s size, and it looks dangerous, but thankfully everyone was okay. That’s the vibe. A lot of “oh no, I hope nobody gets paralyzed here.” But not even in that fun pro wrestling way, like when Rose wrestles Riho. The bad way, where you just kinda want them to wrap it up and try again later.
They do get one really cute moment, though, when Statlander counters Rose’s diving knee to the back by turning into Kris Handstander and walks it back into the middle of the ring.
I think these two have a great match in them, but this wasn’t it.
All Out: The Two Extremely Bad Things About Cody Vs. MJF
Thing 1: Cody gets played to the ring by Downstait, who are either terribly out of tune, awful at live performances, or both. I can’t sing for shit, but me out there doing a karaoke version of Cody’s theme legitimately would’ve sounded better. It’s like they hadn’t actually heard the song until five minutes before they were supposed to go on.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) March 1, 2020
There isn’t anything I can say here that the entire Internet and Brandi Rhodes haven’t already said. I mostly just wish he’d gone to someone who knew how to draw a star. At least it’s not as bad as Jack Gallagher showing up to 205 Live with a pirate ship on his chest looking like the Kirkland brand Conor McGregor.
In The Middle: The Actual Cody Vs. MJF Match
I didn’t like this match very much, but that was by design.
It wouldn’t be very pro wrestling to build up Cody Rhodes as an avenging angel for several weeks, including doing a majestic dive off a giant cage and taking a bunch of lashes for our sins like he’s Jesus, just to have him actually win and get his revenge. No, pro wrestling doesn’t let you have that feeling of catharsis very often. First it’s really got to put you through the wringer and completely lose hope, and mirror the real world by having the worst person in any situation do most of the winning.
There’s a lot going on here, but in a very sports-entertainment kind of way. I’ve gotten used to my Cody Rhodes matches being tributes to classic tropes of southern wrestling pathos, but this felt more like a 2003-ish WWE main event than anything. Not that those don’t have a place in the modern wrestling landscape, it’s just not my bag. There are a ton of people at ringside, there’s a damsel in distress spot with Wardlow and Brandi setting up Cody accidentally knocking out Arn Anderson, multiple referee distractions, a foreign object shot to win the match for the villain, the whole nine. Lots of moving parts with little of it relying on how the characters feel. Mostly just a catalogue of reactions. It is what it is. It’s heated, but not really as heated as the program made it seem like it’d be. MJF gets some Shayna Baszler blood on his face that looks weird mixed with all his self-tanner and does his normal I learned it by watching you heel work, and at the end of the day it feels more like a new first episode instead of the season finale.
The short version is that it was good, but not satisfying, and had too many variables for such a straight-forward equation. But like I said, pro wrestling’s gotta pro wrestling.
All In: You Gotta Get Up And Try, Try, Try
Orange Cassidy and PAC, on the other hand, was everything it needed to be, and maybe more important, was only what it needed to be. PAC doesn’t take Cassidy seriously or think he belongs. He thinks he’s just a joke, like most of his critics. Orange has become one of the most popular people on wrestling television by doing almost nothing, which you’d think would make him BELOVED to old-timers who think everyone’s doing too much, but [shrug]. Orange needs to step up, and PAC needs to use his magical-ass PAC abilities to make even the most basic offensive moves look like kill-shots to make him look like a million bucks.
I’ll be honest with you. If you watch this match and still don’t “get” Orange Cassidy, I think it’s a lost cause. This is the showcase, All Elite Wrestling “moment” where you finally get to see what Orange is doing. He’s not bad at wrestling. He’s so good at wrestling that he can be this good at being bad at wrestling. It’s kind of a juggling act, but brother, the man can do a flying armdrag with his hands in his pockets. It’s like painting the Mona Lisa on the head of a pin.
There are actual main-eventers on wrestling shows who’ve never gotten the crowd response Orange Cassidy gets here for rolling across the ring to make PAC take the long way around and meet him on the other side, only to smile at him and slowly roll back. And it got a “rolly shit” chant. That’s pro wrestling as jazz music, where the performers and announcers and fans are all writing and performing as they go. Oh, and I’m happy these columns are written instead of voiced, because I don’t want you to hear the embarrassing amalgamation of a cheer and a snort laugh I made when OC hit a Superman Punch and fired up. You can’t see it, but I’m giving this match the laziest thumbs up my heart can muster.
All In: The Gospel Of Judas
— 👈🏽Feast Your Eyes (@RatedAstro) March 1, 2020
♫ your time is up, my time is now, your time is up, my time is now ♫
Meredith Bell is truly a saint for putting this energy into the universe. Plus, how funny is it to do a gospel arrangement of a song called ‘Judas?’
All In: Going Through A Rough Patch
The main event of the night, of course, is the AEW World Championship match between Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley. I’ve read some commentary that amounts to, “WWE has Goldberg squash the Fiend while Jericho puts over Moxley in AEW,” and I want to point out something important. This is an illustration for why it’s not Goldberg’s age that made his Universal Championship so bad, it’s Goldberg’s ability. Chris Jericho’s 49 years out out here putting on high quality, 25-mintue championship main events on pay-per-view after a solid five months of great television. Age isn’t the rub. Still valuing and prioritizing lumbering oafs who can’t reliably do their own shit over dynamic and charismatic performers who can actually add creativity and excitement to your program is. The age old problem, pardon the pun, of constructing and maintaining a global wrestling company for an audience of one.
Anyway, that’s not really important. What’s important is that AEW has taken the next step in its growth as a promotion. Giving Jericho the first title run felt like a bad idea to some, because he was an aging, established name who’d be at the top of a promotion praising itself as being the young, fresh alternative. But Jericho’s position has been crucial, because he’s got a brilliant wrestling mind and has always shared that position of power with the people around him. Jericho on top never feels like he’s above everyone, or more important. Jericho on top feels like a veteran using what we assume to be his career’s remaining relevance and clout to promote a new organization, put over stars as varied as Darby Allin and Jungle Boy, and ultimately transition the role of “team leader” to the next biggest star to arrive in the company: Jon Moxley.
This is the right time for Moxley. Like him or not, when he’s free of “Dean Ambrose” he’s an electric performer who connects with crowds with every movement of his body or twitch of his face while wrestling in a ring, hold for hold, or in a bunch of glass and barbed wire. The best way I can describe him is that he feels like the wrestler Mick Foley ultimately would’ve wanted to be — part teenage “Dude Love,” handsome and loved and admired, but still part Cactus Jack, with a bloody edge. Plus, Moxley’s showing that he shares that thing Jericho and Shawn Michaels are both great at where he’s absolutely ACES at communicating dramatic gestures to a wrestling crowd so everyone in the building knows what he’s saying without a word. For example, look at how he takes off an eye patch to show that he’s been screwing with Jericho and baiting him in the entire match:
That’s a guy with modern sensibilities who still knows the old school technique of performing for every fan in the building, from the front row to the very back of the nosebleeds. Everyone can see and instantly recognize the full complexity of that gesture. Whereas a lot of wrestlers, even at the highest levels of the sport, struggle with believably communicating themes and images that are designed to do the communicating for them. The difference between Dean Ambrose and Jon Moxley is so dramatic to me, and I feel crazy trying to explain that without sounding like I’ve got my head up my own ass and am making shit up.
Anyway, that’s how Revolution ends: with the first AEW World Title change, ending the first chapter of All Elite’s existence as a television show and welcoming its next era of prosperity and growth. It feels positive in a whole world of wrestling negativity, and they don’t suddenly spring some new thing to worry about on us at the last minute. Mox wins, and celebrates, and we get to celebrate with him.
And before I forget to type it again, thank you, Jericho. Just … for all of it. Like 25 years and a lifetime of things to love about pro wrestling. He’s not going anywhere, don’t get me wrong, I just can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
All In: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Beastmode Ate My Baby
Page drops his drink and the glass shatters.
JR (instinctively): BY GOD THAT’S STONE COLD’S MUSIC!!!
Anyone who ever said that Hager never drew a dime has obviously never seen his wife.
Mox, Keith, and Bay are all champs. It’s a good time to be in the Lee family.
Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
Brb, ordering a copy of the Bucks’ book and having it shipped to Corny’s house.
Hangman thinks a Canadian Destroyer is a 30 of Molson Ice and a Degrassi High VHS boxed set
The Voice of Raisin
Quick story: when I would do pay per views with my hasbro guys, I’d line up the wrestlers in order of the card, so opponents were next to each other. When I did backyard cards, I’d write the matchups down. I’d always put the champions on the right, since they come out second and are like the “home” team. WWE always puts its champions on the left. AEW ran down tonight’s card with the champions on the right, and I feel a little more vindicated and a little less alike in the world. I love this company.
Kris Statlander vs. Nyla Rose – Alien vs. Predator
Baron Von Raschke
Renee: No mousteraps?
Renee: No barbed wire?
Renee: No thumbtac…
Jon: Sorry, babe, I’m in the bowels of the arena, bad reception…I’ll call you later. Enjoy the show!
Think about where Dean Ambrose was 365 days ago, and think about where Jon Moxley is tonight.
The fireworks factory can be pretty sweet sometimes.
free range clouds
Mitch is looking down smiling.
All In: Aubrey Winding Up And Knocking People Off The Apron With The Sheer Force Of Her Ejection
Wanted to work that in here somewhere before I forgot.
So hey, that’s AEW Revolution. They really knocked it out of the park with this show, and while it’s a rare example of me loving the show but not especially loving what the Rhodes Brothers did — who am I, honestly — there’s so much to love here that it’s a full-on must watch. Also, we’ve got THIS to look forward to:
Time to finally do War Games right. Hallelujah. Oh, and if we’re going to name AEW shows after things Vince McMahon has said, I want a post-show wrap-up called AEW Quite Frankly.
Thanks for reading, as always. If you liked anything you read here, give us a share on social media to keep us in the business of wrestling jokes and referee GIFs. Be sure to drop down into our comments section below and let us know what you thought of the show, and be here on Wednesday for the Revolution fallout and the Murderhawk Monster.