Okay, folks… it has been a few days now… is it safe to keep talking about the end of AEW Revolution yet?
In the immediate aftermath, anything that could be said would only be met by angry AEW fanboys and overjoyed WWE/NXT fanboy trolls. Can we talk about things like normal adults now?
I’ve gone back and watched the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. I have scrolled and scrolled through social media posts from all over the world. I’ve read reviews and recaps of the show that were posted on numerous other sites on Naomi Scott’s internet. Hell, I even went and watched three Japanese Death Match classics… Cactus Jack vs W*ING Kanemura in a Caribbean Barbed Wire Barricade Spider Net Glass Death Match, Combat Toyoda vs Megumi Kudo in a No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, and Terry Funk & Mr. Pogo vs Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka in a One Million Yen No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Double Hell Death Match.
After all that, my opinion hasn’t changed. Kenny Omega vs Jon Moxley was a very entertaining match. It was every bit as violent as it needed to be. Eddie Kingston running out to save his old friend, that he had been in a heated feud with for months, was beautifully written wrestling storytelling.
None of it will be remembered because of the very end of the show, though. I don’t care if you disagree with me. Go argue with your mother. In the grand scheme of things, the “final explosion” is what people will recall when this match gets discussed down the road. Not the 25:15 of action that took place from bell-to-bell. Not Kingston’s sacrifice. Just the Gillberg sparklers.
It was an incredibly disappointing ending to what was, otherwise, great. This was something that was hyped up to no end. It wasn’t just a regular one-on-one match that had a disappointing finish like a disqualification. No, this was the first real Death Match on live pay-per-view, featuring two of the absolute best professional wrestlers on the planet today. This could’ve been SPECIAL special.
Was it partly our fault, though?
Pro wrestling, perhaps more than any other form of sports or entertainment, has a tendency to set fans up for disappointment. We get our hopes up for a variety of reasons. Call it loyalty, positive thinking, or just plain naivety. It happens over and over and over again. Many of us are, essentially, suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
If you want to talk disappointment, journey with me back to 2001. Vince McMahon had just purchased World Championship Wrestling, officially ending the Monday Night War that had taken the business to the moon for five-and-a-half years. When wrestling fans realized that the WCW “brand” would live on in a storyline battle against the WWF, expectations were perhaps at an all-time high. You mean to tell me we’re going to get to see WCW’s biggest names squaring off against the WWF’s biggest names? “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs Goldberg? The Undertaker vs Sting? Vince McMahon vs Eric Bischoff? The Rock vs Hulk Hogan (yeah, yeah, I know)? The Hardyz (or The Dudley Boyz or Edge & Christian) vs Scott Hall & Kevin Nash? The possibilities were endless.
The first person to arrive on the scene from WCW to get things started was… Lance Storm. Okay. He’s not a bad in-ring performer. Who’s coming next? Hugh Morrus. Hmm… well, he’s not the worst wrestler WCW had, I guess. Booker T is next? NOW we’re talking. Here come the big stars. Who’s next? Chuck Palumbo? Sean O’Haire? I mean… umm… O’Haire had the look of a superstar, at least. We kept waiting for the big names, but instead of the main event talent, we got the likes of Kanyon, Billy Kidman, Shawn Stasiak, Chavo Guerrero, and Stacy Keibler. There were a lot of perfectly fine workers, but no true blue star power. What we didn’t know at the time was that many of WCW’s biggest names were sitting at home with guaranteed money contracts from AOL/Time Warner. They were being paid to sit at home, so they didn’t have to come knocking on Vince McMahon’s door for a pay day. Goldberg, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Scott Steiner, Sting… the list goes on and on. They would all show up eventually, but the “Invasion” story was long over and done with by then. What could’ve been the biggest angle, or at least the biggest show, ever just fizzled out as WWF’s best and brightest talents fought off WCW’s midcard division for a couple months.
You want more disappointment? How about when Ric Flair left WCW in 1991, shocking the wrestling world by arriving in the WWF? Sure, his time with the company started off hot. A few months after debuting, he won the 1992 Royal Rumble, winning the vacant WWF World Title in the process, but the end of the match saw a real wrench thrown into the plans for what everyone assumed was coming at WrestleMania 8… Flair vs Hulk Hogan. These were the two biggest names in the business. It was easy money. Instead, Hogan was placed in a feud with a newly-heel Sid Justice, leaving Flair to enter a story with “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Now, don’t get me wrong… Randy Savage was a mega star, and the Flair vs Savage match at Mania was really good. The match quality was definitely better than we would’ve seen in a Flair vs Hogan match. That isn’t always the point, though. The spectacle of Flair vs Hogan… who had spent the last decade or so being compared to each other by fans all over the world in debates about who the “best” wrestler alive is… would’ve meant more than some technical classic. It was RIGHT… THERE… and it just never happened. The world would need to wait until 1994 to see the first televised Flair vs Hogan singles match, when Flair defended the WCW World Title against the debuting Hogan at WCW’s Bash At The Beach pay-per-view. According to Hogan, he has no idea why he didn’t face Flair at WrestleMania 8, but knowing Hogan’s history of backstage shenaniganery, you might be able to draw your own conclusions about why the match never happened.
Hey, how about some more disappointment? Do you remember the roll that Shinsuke Nakamura was on in 2017 and into the beginning of 2018? If there was a hotter act in all of wrestling at the time, they weren’t hotter by much. When he won the 2018 Royal Rumble, the stars were aligning for him to become THEE man in WWE. He was put into a match with the WWE Champion, AJ Styles, in what promised to be a great match. They had made magic together in New Japan, so the expectations were very high. Styles would go on to retain the title, taking a bit of the wind from Nakamura’s sails, but after the match, we got a completely unnecessary heel turn for The King Of Strong Style. Fans all over the world were excited to cheer for him, so OF COURSE he was turned heel. Okay, whatever… he’ll still win the WWE Title, but he’ll just do it as a heel. Three weeks later at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia, Nakamura would again fail to win the WWE Title. A week later, at Backlash, Nakamura was unsuccessful in becoming the WWE Champion again. The next month… Nakamura was unsuccessful, yet again, and that was it. In the span of three months, WWE had taken all of Nakamura’s momentum, dragged it into a back alley, and put multiple bullets in its temple, killing it dead. Just an incredible masterclass from WWE on how to ruin a good thing for no reason whatsoever.
Let’s keep it rolling with some more disappointment, shall we? WrestleMania 20. Madison Square Garden. March 14th, 2004. Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar. A “dream match” of crazy proportions. Two big meaty men slapping meat. Everything was going well in the build to the match… until smart fans got to be smart fans. Shortly before WrestleMania, word got out that not only was Brock Lesnar leaving the company to try and play in the NFL, but that Goldberg was also leaving after this match. From the beginning, all 20,000 fans in attendance pulled their pants down and copped a nice, steamy dump all over everything in the match. They didn’t care about Goldberg or Lesnar anymore. What really made the entire thing worse is that neither man was able to switch things up during the match. They stuck to the script, and the lengthy stalling in the beginning of the match only made the fans angrier. Goldberg and Lesnar were clearly getting mad that everyone else was mad, and it showed. Of course, that only made the crowd even more restless. What could’ve been a special match turned into nothing more than a train wreck to the point that some people were honestly surprised both Lesnar and Goldberg would ever return to the wrestling business after how they were treated.
If we travel back to 1997, we’ll have the next bit of disappointment that wrestling fans have had to endure. The nWo was running roughshod over WCW, either destroying every face in the company or getting them to turn heel and join the group. The group started with Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan, but by the time Starrcade 1997 rolled around, the nWo’s roster had increased to a whopping 18 members, not including Masahiro Chono, Tenzan, and The Great Muta, who were members of nWo Japan. The group looked like they were unstoppable, but WCW had their best threat yet in Sting, who had been in the middle of a major character change. Gone were the neon colors of his face paint and ring gear. Gone was any semblance of promos from the guy. He went from “Surfer Sting” to “Crow Sting” and was WCW’s silent hero standing up to the evil nWo regime. They built and built to this match at their biggest show of the year, and Sting would go over a year without having any matches. He would just show up, rappel from the rafters, and destroy nWo members with a baseball bat. It was a simple act, but WCW fans ate it up with a spoon. They went ballistic for Sting whenever he would make an appearance. To say this was, at the time, the biggest match in WCW history would be correct. WCW was on fire, and Starrcade ended up getting the company’s highest pay-per-view buyrate of all-time. Fans were jacked to see Sting get his hands on Hogan. What they got was… Hogan largely dominating the offense in a match that went ten minutes longer than it should have. If that was the only complaint about the match, so be it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only complaint about the match. Hogan pinned Sting, with the three-count registered by crooked nWo Referee, Nick Patrick. Bret Hart, who had just signed with WCW after the Montreal Screwjob ended his time with the WWF, would come out and accuse Patrick of making a fast count and “screwing” Sting. The problem was that Patrick’s count wasn’t fast. It didn’t make any sense. Hart would attack Patrick and make himself the de facto Referee for the continuation of the match, which Sting won pretty quickly. Yes, Bret was a Special Guest Referee (he was still under a no-compete clause from the WWF) earlier in the night, but in what would he have the kind of power needed to pull off a stunt like that? Like I said, it just didn’t make sense. Sting was the new WCW World Champion for 11 days before being stripped of the title after the “controversial” ending at Starrcade, but he would win the title again the next month by beating Hogan in another screwy finish. Whatever.
One of my “favorite” disappointments in wrestling history was something that was a disappointment, then it wasn’t, then it was, and then it wasn’t, and then it was, and then it wasn’t, and so on and so forth, therefore, thereupon, ipso facto. Daniel Bryan’s run from 2012-2014 was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in wrestling, and chances are, it’s unlike anything we’ll ever see again. Bryan would win the World Heavyweight Title to close out 2011, and had himself a nice little run to start 2012, holding on to that World Heavyweight Title against Big Show and Mark Henry in a Triple Threat Steel Cage Match at the Royal Rumble, and then successfully defending inside the Elimination Chamber against Big Show, Cody Rhodes, The Great Khali, Santino Marella, and Woi Bar-ruh. Then, he lost the title to Sheamus in a mere 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28, in the show’s opening match. Fans were livid. Even as a heel, this was someone that people wanted to see succeed. He finally got this good thing going for him, and you take it from him in 18 seconds?!? He would move on to feud with CM Punk over the WWE Title, and while that’s cool and all, it seemed like the main focus of that entire story was AJ Lee and her love interests. From there, it was the creation of Team Hell No with Kane. There’s no way that was ever supposed to really and truly be a success, but both men worked their asses off to make it work. They won the WWE Tag Team Titles, and would go on to hold the titles for eight months, with Bryan getting a face turn and an elevation up the card out of the whole thing. He was becoming one of the most over performers on the roster. The WWE Universe would choose him as “their” guy. He wasn’t the “corporate” favorites like John Cena and Randy Orton. It seemed like WWE tried to ignore the fans for a while, but eventually, that became impossible. He was chosen to be John Cena’s opponent at SummerSlam 2013, with the WWE Title on the line. In one of my favorite matches ever, Bryan would emerge victorious. People were overjoyed, and that joy lasted all of a few minutes as Triple H, who was the Special Guest Referee for the Cena match, turned heel and hit Bryan with a Pedigree. This allowed Randy Orton, who was in possession of the Money In The Bank briefcase, to cash in and win the WWE Title in seconds. Collectively, Daniel Bryan fans around the world said “I THINK THE FUCK NOT” and only cheered harder and louder for Bryan. Bryan would regain the WWE Title at Night Of Champions the following month, only to be screwed out of it again at Hell In A Cell in October, with Orton winning the title back after more interference from Triple H, as well as Shawn Michaels, who was the Special Guest Referee inside the Cell. WWE tried moving Bryan over to a feud with The Wyatt Family, but once again, the WWE Universe wasn’t having that shit. They cheered for Bryan even louder, even going so far as to cheer for him when he wasn’t involved in what was going on. Those fans were beginning to “hijack” WWE programming, sending a crystal clear message to Vince McMahon and anyone in WWE management that didn’t appear to understand how special Daniel Bryan is. 2013 ended with Bryan pulling a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” routine and joining The Wyatt Family, only to turn on the group two weeks later. At this point, Bryan was receiving some of the loudest face reactions of all-time. The “Yes” chants were going viral, spilling over into mainstream sports and events. WWE couldn’t keep ignoring it, could they? Well, even after the 2014 Royal Rumble, when the fans turned on Batista and Rey Mysterio simply because they aren’t Daniel Bryan, WWE did keep ignoring Bryan’s reactions. Even after all that, Bryan was supposed to have a random match with Sheamus at WrestleMania 30. How fucking insane is that? It’s one thing for WWE to not push someone that is decently over with live crowds. It’s another thing altogether for WWE not to push someone who is being cheered for during every match on every show, even when he isn’t performing in said matches. Then, CM Punk walked out of the company after the Royal Rumble, leaving WWE in a weird spot. One of their biggest names was gone, but who was going to fill his spot? Fuck it, let’s give that Bryan Danielson fella a chance, I guess. It all culminated in Bryan being given an opportunity to wrestle Triple H at WrestleMania 30, with the stipulation being that he would be inserted into the night’s main event should he win. A win against Triple H was followed by another win against Randy Orton and Batista. Hooray, right? He was finally getting to be at the top of the mountain… but then an injury took it all away. He only wrestled four matches after WrestleMania 30 before he had to go and have major neck surgery, including a cervical foraminotomy to decompress the nerve root in an attempt to regain the strength in his arm that had been lost. We don’t even have to go any further for you to get the point. Just go from the TLC pay-per-view in December 2011 to the May 12th, 2014 episode of Raw when he was written off of television to get his surgery. That’s two-and-a-half years of, perhaps, the craziest roller coaster ride in the history of the business. It only gets crazier if you do continue, looking at his return to the ring in 2015, followed by being pushed back down the card, then having a lesion on his brain discovered, which led to his retirement from the business, and his eventual return two years later, with another WWE Title reign thrown in… and now there are too many ups and downs on this roller coaster ride. I’m going to be nauseous.
Obviously, these aren’t the only times wrestling fans have experienced disappointment. These were just some random examples I decided to write about. It’s all relative, anyway. What disappoints me may not disappoint you, and vice versa. How did we get here? What do we do? I’ve seen this topic discussed by other people, and one of the general responses is to just stop having such high expectations for things. The line of thinking is that you can’t be disappointed when the bar you’ve set for yourself is barely off the floor. One, that isn’t true at all. Two, what’s the point in even watching then? It seems weird to go into things with a “this is going to suck, but I’m going to watch, anyway” point of view unless it’s your job to do so, and even then, there are other alternatives that probably won’t leave you feeling that way. At one point or another, we’ve all been won over by the magic that is great pro wrestling, whether it’s the matches, the storytelling, the promos, or some sort of hybrid of everything jumbled together. It’s a high that we’re all on a mission to feel again. For some, that high happens more often. For others, that high is something that has escaped them for a long time.
What say you, ReaderLand? Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know how you handle disappointment as a wrestling fan. Are you one of those people that subscribes to the idea of just lowering your expectations? Are you someone who keeps your expectations high because you know how that high makes you feel when you’re able to experience it? Do you have any tips and tricks for anybody else searching for a way to handle things? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus: I think I could deal with watching these two wrestle each other some more. They are just PUNISHING each other over the last two episodes of Raw, and their bodies show the war wounds to prove it. As I’ve said in the past, this is something I could’ve bought into as a WrestleMania feud, but it doesn’t appear we’ll get that. With neither man being able to answer the call to continue the match, it seems to be setting up something like a Last Man Standing Match at Fastlane, which McIntyre will probably win. He’ll go on to face Bobby Lashley for the WWE Title at WrestleMania (unless we get Brock Lesnar’s return to WWE, which I don’t think we get), and Sheamus will probably just get thrown into a random match that won’t be remembered the next day.
- Kenny Omega vs Jon Moxley: I don’t need to say much more about this one. Kudos to both of these crazy bastards for agreeing to that shit.
- Hikaru Shida: She’s approaching the 300-day mark as the AEW Women’s Champion. She hasn’t lost a match of any kind since being pinned in a tag match on the June 10th, 2020 episode of Dynamite, and hasn’t lost a singles match since the December 4th, 2019 episode of Dynamite. Kris Statlander, the woman who last defeated Shida in a singles match, has been out of action after a torn ACL suffered, ironically, on the same episode of Dynamite that saw Shida lose in the tag team match. Statlander might have a few more months until she can make her return. If Shida is still the champion when Statlander returns, that’s an easy story to tell, but would Statlander be viewed as a legit threat? It has been an incredibly successful run for the champ, and there doesn’t really seem to be an end to that run in sight.
- Bobby Lashley: A new entrance and presentation help to make him look like an even bigger star. He should’ve beaten The Miz in under three minutes again, but a win is a win, I guess. The expected match against Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania is going to be a DOOZY.
- Scorpio Sky: The winner of the Face Of The Revolution Ladder Match, he now has a TNT Title shot against Darby Allin taking place a mere few hours after I post this column. Honestly, he should win the match. Darby is in a better spot right now, and he doesn’t “need” the title. Sky has been such a consistently good performer for AEW. He deserves the reward.
- Rey Fenix & Pac: As the winning team in the Casino Tag Team Royale, Fenix and Pac have earned themselves an AEW Tag Team Title shot. A match against The Young Bucks has Match Of The Year Contender written all over it. Fenix continues to be one of the most exciting wrestlers in the business, making anything he’s involved in must-see because you just never know what you’re going to see.
- Daniel Bryan vs Jey Uso: You know you’re going to get something good when these two are involved. This match was no different. It just places us in that weird spot of having Daniel Bryan earn a Universal Title shot at Fastlane that nobody really believes he’s going to win. Ironically enough, the first Fastlane event in 2015 was main evented by a Daniel Bryan vs Roman Reigns match that everyone and their dog knew Reigns would win. This year’s match will be good. Of that, I have no doubt. Things just take a bit of a dip sometimes when the outcome isn’t really in question.
- Christian Cage: I’m happy to see him get this shot. Would I rather have seen AEW’s big signing be someone like CM Punk, Brock Lesnar, etc? Yes. I don’t consider Christian a “disappointing” announcement, though. He’s a great worker that will now have a chip on his shoulder as he fights against the pushback from fans who, for some reason, still don’t see him as much more than “Edge’s friend.” That motivation, mixed with a roster full of talent that he hasn’t faced yet, provides a lot of potential for an entertaining run. Works for me.
- Shaquille O’Neal’s Table Bump: The entire Cody & Red Velvet vs Shaq & Jade Cargill match was a lot more fun than I expected it to be, but that table bump was insane. Shaq probably had no business taking it, but he did, anyway. Then, he morphed into The Undertaker or The Fiend and was able to FUCKING TELEPORT, but that’s not the point.
- Finn Balor vs Roderick Strong: It was a good match, yes, but let’s revisit what I just said about the upcoming Roman Reigns vs Daniel Bryan match. Did anyone expect Roderick Strong to defeat Finn Balor? No. You knew the match would be fun, but again, sometimes the enjoyment can be taken down a notch when you already know what’s going to happen. That’s definitely not a knock on Strong or Balor at all. It just is what it is.
This Week’s Playlist: “Streets” by Doja Cat… “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” by Drake & Rick Ross… “Leave The Door Open” by Silk Sonic… “Feel The Sunshine” by Kolohe Kai & HIRIE… “Ma’ G” by J Balvin… “Gimme The Loot” by The Notorious BIG… “Warning” by The Notorious BIG… “Juicy” by The Notorious BIG… “Big Poppa” by The Notorious BIG… “One More Chance (Remix)” by The Notorious BIG & Faith Evans… “Somebody’s Gotta Die” by The Notorious BIG… “Hypnotize” by The Notorious BIG… “Last Day” by The Notorious BIG & The Lox… “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious BIG, Ma$e & Puff Daddy… “Notorious Thugs” by The Notorious BIG & Bone Thugs N Harmony… “Miss U” by The Notorious BIG & 112… “Going Back To Cali” by The Notorious BIG… “Ten Crack Commandments” by The Notorious BIG… “Sky’s The Limit” by The Notorious BIG & 112… “The World Is Filled” by The Notorious BIG, Too $hort & Puff Daddy… “Dead Wrong” by The Notorious BIG & Eminem… “Spit Your Game” by The Notorious BIG, Twista & Bone Thugs N Harmony… “Get Your Grind On” by The Notorious BIG, Big Pun, Fat Joe & Freeway… “1970 Somethin” by The Notorious BIG, The Game & Faith Evans… “Hold Ya Head” by The Notorious BIG & Bob Marley