Revolution left little doubt about two very important things.
AEW still has some magic left as it appears to be pivoting to some fresh-faced younger stars and there should be no more questions – if you had any left — about MJF’s ability to have a classic with the best wrestling has to offer.
MJF and Bryan Danielson’s Iron Man match, which lasted 67 minutes with overtime for the AEW world championship, delivered everything and more during AEW’s first pay-per-view of 2023 at the Chase Center in San Francisco on Sunday.
It was the highlight of a show that had very few holes – unless you aren’t a fan of blood and death matches.
The question now for AEW is whether it can it turn the buzz leaving this show into improved television for ratings for Dynamite and that’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.
Here are five takeaways from Revolution:
Iron Forges Iron
MJF and Bryan Danielson took us on a ride that further solidifies “The American Dragon” as arguably the best in-ring performer in the world. And with the champ proving he can wrestle at Danielson’s level for 60 minutes, then his title reign should bear plenty of fruit.
There was beautiful technical wrestling and transitions early, table spots outside the ring, some gruesome submissions with blood on both men’s faces, innovative cheating from MJF and some heart-pounding closing minutes and OT. Announcers Taz, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur were really on their game for this one, too.
We needed the extra time because MJF actually tapped out to a single-legged crab to his “injured” knee just seconds after the initial hour ended.
The match was first called a draw with MJF retaining and drew boos from the crowd as AEW’s medical staff – as part of the show – administered oxygen to MJF.
Schiavone, similar to the Bret Hart-Shawn Michael’s iron match at WrestleMania 12, got instructions in his headset from Tony Khan to tell ring announcer Justin Roberts to restart the match in OT tied at 3-3.
It was then that MJF’s usual methods of cheating were thwarted. A low blow didn’t work. The referee took away the championship belt, and Danielson ducked the Dynamite Diamond ring before it was taken away. You at least for a second thought Danielson, who schooled MJF in toughness and technical wrestling at times, just might win under the circumstances.
Then things got fun.
MJF, who only earned one fall without any shenanigans, got his fingers on the ropes to break another single-leg crab but also pounded the mat. Danielson believed he had won. When he crawled below the ropes to retrieve the champ from the outside, MJF reached up and hit him with the oxygen tank and hid it before the ref could see it. That opened the door for the finish. MJF, who earlier in OT kicked out after a psycho knee, put Danielson in his own Labell Lock. The challenger rallied at first, but faded and tapped to give MJF a 4-3 win in his first defense on pay-per-view.
MJF went out of his comfort zone a few times, delivering a diving elbow through a table on the outside to Danielson and even pulled off a middle-rope springboard moonsault to the outside. He also did a lot more Roman Reigns-like talking for the camera than usual.
It should be noted MJF, who legitimately upset a young fan by throwing his mom’s drink on him, has been referring to himself as “the best in the world” and “the best wrestler in the world” and did so again during the show.
It should at least leave open the possibility that if CM Punk is to ever return to AEW it would be to work with MJF – who idolized him growing up – to try to win back the title he never lost rather than The Elite, who just may not want to work with him period.
The challengers for MJF’s title are starting to line up – from Ricky Starks to “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry to “Hangman” Adam Page and even TNT champion Wardlow.
We continue to see maturity and edge being added to Perry and Page. Perry – in the full heartthrob look of shirtless in jeans – showed he can go to a darker place by overcoming his hesitation to finally deliver a Conchairto to rival Christian Cage. He then rolled him into the coffin to end their Final Burial match, which was a cross between a casket match and buried alive contest. At what point do you think Perry’s music gets changed, as he feels a long way from the cartoonish “Tarzan Boy.”
Page got a fresh entrance with Fiend-like red lighting and the song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” instead of his traditional theme. He then when out and made three-time AEW champion Jon Moxley tap out — a rarity — by choking him with a chain over the ropes to end their bloody Texas Death match.
The Moxley-Hangman contest itself was one of those love-it-or-hate-it deals as the blood, graphic use of barbed wire, and some of the spots could have been uncomfortable to watch. It felt like something straight out of the Nick Gage/GCW playbook. If you like that style, you certainly left entertained.
Moxley stomping Page’s head on brick wasn’t even the finish, which seemed a little hard to believe. At least the hanging spot – which can be as gruesome and unnecessary as they come – had meaning. Page as the apprehensive millennial cowboys feels long gone after this.
Then there is Starks, who beat Chris Jericho clean with Roshambo. That came after blocking the Judas Effect once Action Andredi took care of Sammy Guevara trying to interfere. Starks’ stock continues to rise after the entertaining and effective opener. You could even make the case Wardlow has as good a chance as anyone to get a shot at MJF down the road after taping out Samoa Joe to reclaim the TNT championship and owning a dominant win over his former boss at last year’s Double or Nothing.
Picking a Side
Ruby Soho finally showed where her true allegiance was and AEW made the right choice with a perfectly executed turn. After Jamie Hayter pinned Soho following some roll-up counters to retain her AEW women’s championship in a solid match, the champ and Britt Baker got beat down by Saraya and Toni Storm with Soho sitting and watching.
Soho eventually stood up and tossed Saraya and Storm out of the ring, appearing to side with the AEW originals. Then, moments after telling Saraya and Storm they don’t run AEW, Soho turned on Baker and Hayter – hitting her signature move on then and even used the green spray paint to mark them with L’s. The green in Soho’s hair maybe should have been a clue.
This all makes perfect sense for Soho to side with the heels given her WWE past and her thirst to take Hayter’s championship. She is probably better as a heel anyway. It now leaves Baker and Hayter to need to make a new alliance, whether it be a single one with Hikaru Shida or Riho or move complicated one like a potentially returning Thunder Rosa or TBS champion Jade Cargill.
Fading to Black
In the surprise of the night, the House of Black defeated Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks to win the trio championships in an action-packed match filled with near falls. Buddy Matthew landed a kick as Nick Jackson leaped off the ropes to attempt a Meltzer Driver. Thwarting that allowed the group to him Dante’s Inferno as Matthews, Alister Black and Brody King claim their first gold in the promotion. Julia Hart actually took a V-Trigger from Omega in this one, too.
Unless this is just the start of their feud, the hope should be that this will move The Elite out of the trios picture altogether. It could get Omega back into a serious singles feud and the Bucks back to the tag division. Either that or the long-awaited story to reunite them with Hangman.
Top Guys Weekend
FTR is back in AEW after a little bit of break and months out of the title picture while focusing on defending the Ring of Honor, IWGP and AAA tag championships. Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood being back is the only thing that makes sense of the Gunns retaining the AEW tag team championship in the most sports entertainment match on the card. Their victory was the only time the crowd went silent all night. The Gunn beat FTR and December and held a funeral-like segment for their careers.
The contest filled with comedy, interferences and strut spots made you wonder where the company’s once unrivaled tag division went. Though Danhausen took the pinning, AEW continues to establish him as more of a serious wrestler. With the Gunns and FTR likely heading toward a match, it makes you wonder where it leaves The Acclaimed, who were among AEW’s hottest acts.
Match of the Night: Bryan Danielson vs. MJF, Iron Man match
Biggest Winners: MJF, House of Black
Biggest Losers: The Acclaimed