From Revolution to Double or Nothing: Rising Tides and Riding Waves

Where other promotions seemingly have pay-per-view shows within a month, or even weeks, of each other, All Elite Wrestling chose instead to have four key PPV shows a year:

Revolution, Double or Nothing, Full Gear, and All Out.

This four annual flagship show model was chosen by Tony Khan because he believes this creates a special feeling around the event itself due to their less frequent occurrences, and allows for themed and week-to-week episodes to shine as something special, for free, in between. (Source) 

AEW Not Adding More Pay-Per-View Events

(Source: Ringside News)

Much earlier in AEW’s inception, Cody shared how the company is not looking for audiences having to dish out $50 for a PPV, unless it’s worth it (Source).

AEW often prides itself in its employment of long-term storytelling, and has gained the trust of its audience for its ability to give things a pay-off later down the line in a big way, even if at first something doesn’t make sense or audiences are left with lingering questions.

So with this in mind, what was the journey from Revolution in February to Double or Nothing rounding off the month of May?

What were the stories and have they paid off? What’s been developed? Who or what has set sail on the course towards the future?

The Elite vs. Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston: Bound in Blood and Shoe Laces

In February, Revolution, known for its high ranking performances, rolled around for second time since AEW’s inception. Previously, Revolution was known for hosting The Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page – a match ranking highly amongst critics, causing fans to gasp across the world – that reminded us of the deep emotional currents between the Elite and developed the stardom of Page.

Differently, the 2021 iteration marked an extremely important blunder in the history of AEW. 

Where Omega sat as the now arrogant, flaunting and title-holding antagonist who had decided he wasn’t quite finished with fan favourite anti-hero Jon Moxley, the Young Bucks on the other hand were faces, defending the tag titles against Jericho and MJF.

In an attempt to beat Moxely at his own game – unmatched TV violence – Omega propositioned Mox to an Exploding Barbed Wire Match.

If you’re unsure of what this entails, well, the title says it all: ropes are replaced with, you guessed it, exploding barbed wire. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

An interesting crowd draw for the newer American AEW audiences, and a match with important history in Japan, it seemed like the perfect blend of magic between Omega’s Japanese heart and Moxley’s ability to thrive in the bloodiest of situations. 

The match stunned, wowed, and elicited gasps as both competitors moved through the match. After a distraction from Kenny to get the final pin, he and Don Callis panickingly shuffled away as a timer began to bleep – which had been ticking down throughout the entire match – and was now counting the last ten seconds towards a devastating ring explosion.

Moxely was left to lie in a puddle of his own knocked-out confusion when Eddie Kingston, long time friend and rival, came barrelling out and covered him in an attempt to protect him from the blast.

As the timer hit 3, 2 and then 1, snaps and puffs of smoke lazily spouted from each corner of the ring. The pyrotechnics had failed. Moxely’s catch phrase, unscripted violence, took on a new meaning.

Much like the best of talents across entertainment, they made lemonade out of lemons. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

Mox and Kingston delivered hilarious video promos the following weeks, full of comradery and clever jabs that sold the narcissism of Omega at the top of the division. 

Omega and all his ‘goons’ in response mocked Moxley and Eddie collectively, setting the pair up as an established unit.

Amidst this all, the Young Bucks were not by his side and had captured the tag titles as faces. 

Kenny reached out for them to join him on the dark side, but they resisted, until they were booked to wrestle against Omega in a 3 vs 3 match with Jon Moxely as their third. 

Unable to deliver a finishing super kick or BTE trigger on their oldest friend, the Young Bucks decided it was time for an attitude change and rubbed salt in the embarrassed wounds of Moxley by Super-Kicking him into the next dimension instead. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

And so it was time for Moxely, officially out of the main title picture, to team with Eddie and address this feud with a personal attack on all of the Elite. Decidingly, starting with the Young Bucks, the pair went for the jugular: the Jordans. 

A moniker of wealth, achievement, and respect for the Bucks. 

No longer was the bond of hope that the Golden Elite formed years ago enough, they all took it upon themselves to stand on top of the hill from a far more material standpoint. 

And months later at Double of Nothing, after truck ramming trailers and stolen $10,000 shoes; after grudges, drama, comedy, and high stakes, it all came crashing around at the PPV in a tag team title match. 

The pay-off was undoubtedly a success. Fans were going wild beyond belief about being able to see this match in person for the first time.

The stakes and story played out each and every week, whether it was a match or 2 minute video package, every choice made had a motivation behind it and left everyone wondering: maybe they could beat them?

Of course, they did not – but this rounded out and gave satisfaction to anyone that had been following since Revolution, building on each ounce of anticipation, giving huge value to the concept: you’ve got to see the PPV and catch the result live. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

With Moxely now off for what is likely to be paternity leave, it gave him a reason to tap out for a while, leaving Eddie on the backfoot, unable to fight alone. Undoubtedly, when Moxely returns, the run-back of this match will leave audiences screaming, with a pay-off of ultimate satisfaction – someone finally knocking The Elite off their high horse. 

 Britt Baker: The Doctor is in the Building

By Revolution 2021 Britt Baker was a full-blown grimly determined aggressor, self-dubbed the ‘role model’, she had managed to press the buttons of every fan and tick off every roster member, male or female. 

However, as time went on towards Double or Nothing, her in ring talent developed and her promo delivery sparkled with far more star power. Audiences and colleagues alike wanted nothing more for her than to shine.  

Therefore, Baker was found walking the thin line of the tweener zone, neither a heel nor a face: full of nasty offence and biting remarks, and yet everyone wanted to see her win every time. 

In what can be considered a smart move, for the Revolution Buy In – a free pre-show to encourage people to buy the PPV – they paired her with fan favourite, but known antagonist in the Joshi scene, Maki Itoh. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

Interestingly, across the ring in the opposite corner, there was Thunder Rosa. Known enemy for Britt, who had managed to anger the territorial alpha as an uninvited outsider. Rosa represented a threat in the locker room, gunning for her top spot, activating an intense feeling of indignity. There was only one conclusion: humiliate her and take out what Baker dubbed, the trash. 

Two weeks later, in the first Light’s Out match on television, Baker came to clash with Rosa. If unaware, a Lights Out match means that the lights go off and, and once back on, all rules are out the window. 

However, the win or loss does not count towards the roster rankings. 

The purpose of this match type is to settle volatile and bitter grudge-based feuds that have reached the final boiling point. 

Despite Rosa’s massive crowd support and Baker’s awful attitude, the appetite for Baker as a tweener remained. Audiences and social media was frothed with the want to see Baker dominate. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

Baker ultimately lost, but the rub was huge, and it left a strange taste in the audience’s mouths. 

Undoubtedly thrilled to see Baker thriving, Rosa as the winning face should have come away with a boost towards the title and commuincated that Baker was infact a full blown heel.

Upon reflection, Rosa had many an NWA commitment and Baker was on the up regardless, and so forgiveness was given on the fans’ part, considering how successful AEW is with long term storytelling, as shown with the Elite above. 

And so Baker, with her new found ‘badass’ attitude, ascended to face another foe: women’s AEW champion Hikaru Shida. 

However, upon Double of Nothing’s broadcast, a pre-match promo aired about Baker’s attitude outside the ring: she was hard working, hustling through her dentistry job each day and training through every evening, working out mercilessly with unmatched strength, and all with Rebel singing her star power praises. Was she not a heel after all?

The crowds were electric and cheered equally as loud for the top face Shida, but her time as champ was over.

After cheating by using the belt as the surface for a curb stomp, Baker got Shida to tap out. 

The stadium roared, Britt was applauded, and bows were taken. What had been witnessed was an unbelievable transformation and growth, and sadly Shida needed a refresh from where she was headed in a division that’s not quite deep enough without the immediate access to both Japan and US-based talent.

However, much like her match against Rosa, this win had an eerie feeling to it too.

(Credit: AEW Press)

Why would commentator Tony Schiavone hug Britt after using the title to cheat against Shida, and then later criticise Kenny Omega for doing the same in his title match? 

They may have an established rapport, and Tony may indeed of been very proud of her, but what does that matter to the compared to all the work previously put in the ring by Baker as a nasty heel champion after such after such disrespectful treatment of her competitor?

(Credit: AEW Press)

The following week’s ‘Burger Celebration’ was certainly worthy of a heel, which begs the question: when working in such a way, can those in AEW put aside their love and support of Britt to cement the motivations of her legacy? 

An arguement can certainly be made: does this stop any casual viewer, of which they are trying to draw more in, from paying for the next PPV or from being confused? 

The Inner Circle vs. The Pinnacle: Stakes Higher Than Gold 

At Revolution 2021, Jericho and MJF found themselves in a tag team title match, against the previously mentioned, defending Young Bucks.

Worming himself into Jericho’s good books and convincing him of his so-called honourable intentions, MJF slyly pushed out Sammy Guavara as Jericho’s Number Two.

With this, he and Jericho worked their way to the top of the rankings with their new face attitude.

However, just like previously with Cody, everyone knew MJF was going to doublecross Jericho eventually, and so this time came on the following week’s Dynamite.

(Credit: AEW Press)

Raising the issue of Jericho taking the losing pin at Revolution, MJF put his evil plan into motion. Still, the creation of The Pinnacle came as a surprise. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

Since this moment, booking-wise, MJF hasn’t taken a singles loss since his match with Moxley in September 2020, and even in multi-man matches he has not taken pins. 

And so, when Double or Nothing came around, despite having a faction vs. faction cage match at Blood & Guts (a themed free Dynamite episode) the iconic Stadium Stampede match slot was looking to be filled.

In such a pattern with AEW, if you’re unsure, it’s a falls count anywhere stipulation, no DQ match, fought within and around the entirety of the Daily’s Place Stadium.

It stood as the second time main event spot ever for MJF, and, interestingly, the same could be said for Sammy Guevara of The Inner Circle too.

Rather circular itself, Guevara had travelled quite the journey in 365 days. The annoying ‘Spanish God’ had transformed from a gloating child to the man who won the match. He had risen from a staggeringly savage pin from Omega the year before, to smashing Spears through the very chair he tried to use to bash Guevara’s skull in with, and getting a clean 1, 2, 3 in the centre of the ring.

(Credit: AEW Press)

Ultimately, it’s fair to say from the previous year’s Revolution Stadium Stampede match was not outdone.

But the real pay of came instead by the message sent sent by AEW: they are putting more trust and investment in MJF and Guevara going forward. More so, placing MJF as the counter point leader, mirroring Jericho, MJF is on his way to becoming a main event player.

However, the wider story didn’t necessarily pay off to give any sort of conclusion in the context of the larger feud.

Although, it’s also important to note that it seems entirely dependent on how each individual viewer feels about either faction. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

There is seemingly a larger want for the Inner Circle to win as during the show at Double or Nothing and the following episode of Dynamite, Inner Circle t-shirts were littered heavily over audience members’ bodies. 

So, regardless of any concepts of if this feud is becoming dragged out or exhausted, what can be said is that it provides faith in AEW’s ability to balance current stars, the Elite, and the stars of the future, MJF and Guevara. 

Hangman’s Predicament: A Broken Man on a Beaten Path

Hangman came into AEW by winning the Casino Royal to face Jericho as the inaugural AEW champion. This set an aura of intensity upon each move and motivation of Page. Rumours of AEW being the making of him, and notions of finally stepping back from being in the shadow of Elite, rumbled across the wrestling discourse scene. 

But after losing, and then not living up to his own expectations, his friends in the Elite became a sobering reminder of the toxic situation he had gotten himself in. 

In an effort to avoid reality, and literal soberness, Hangman set himself apart from the straight-edge members of the Elite, and began drinking on the regular. 

After what can be described as an incredible and ultimately cursed tag team run with Kenny Omega, failing to beat Omega as a No.1 contender to the title, and being kicked out of the Elite; Page’s self-hatred weighed heavier than ever. 

Cast out on his own, originally, Hangman became the courting subject of other roster members. However he found himself aligned with the Dark and and rejected an joing offer from Brodie Lee, wanting to stay the lonely cowboy face to a then more heel based Dark Order.

But after the tragic untimely passing of Lee, the Dark Order took a turn that made audiences invite them into their hearts. 

Page again said no to their follwoing offer, but has also seemingly let them into his heart. 

Despite thier rejection, The Dark Order did not give up and continued look out for Page as he was on the up, propelling him up the rankings with thier support.

Where he couldn’t spread his wings and fly before, he finally broke free of feelings of rejection and dejection as Dark Order invited him in regardless of his flaws, supported him through his tribulations, and acted as unquestioning hype men. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

And so Revolution saw Page booked in a Big Money Match vs. Matt Hardy, where the winner gained the others earnings, incited by Hardy’s personal vendetta aginast the Dark Order. Team Taz also became involved after Hangman also rejected their invitation to join them.

(Credit: AEW Press)

Weirdly, despite Page’s winning triumphs, he seemed to reach a state of stagnation, always at the top of the rankings but then losing the No.1 contenders match.

Expemlified after Revolution, Hangman continued to have a rivalry with Team Taz facing and losing, again, in a bulldozed fashion to Brian Cage in a No.1 contenders match on a episode of Dynamite on the course to Double or Nothing, only to be booked into another match against Brian Cage at the PPV.

However, the pay-off seems to have happened in a void, yes Page won over Cage, but left Hangman once again without any true development for his character.

(Credit: AEW Press)

He continues to be outstanding in the ring, but ultimately his motivations remain unclear as he sits in a midcard situation: undoubtedly affected by the pandemic, and with AEW seemingly wanting to wait to truly fire all cylinders on Hangman’s ascension to the top once crowds were back.

A tease towards this came in the form of a Marvez interview segment where he avoided the situation all together, making people think: when and how will Hangman snap?

(Source: Orgainlly broadcast on AEW Dynamite, via Daily Motion)

And so, what is left to answer is, where will the Elite go next? 

Can the Inner Circle keep it together? With Santana and Ortiz teasing a tag team title shot, could the rest of the faction support this without feelings of jealousy?

Can MJF and Guevara project, and protect themselves, to the main event scene? 

Can Hangman ever be AEW champion and a drunk? Will he finally address his problems, or even the Elite, now that crowds are back?

What can most definitely be said is that AEW has created faith across global audiences, as they continue to grease their gears, numbers of viewers often only increasing. 

Perhaps the beats don’t always hit home, but we’ve seen it play out well before. Therefore where the questions are presented above, viewers can look forward to seeing them hopefully be answered in the future, making every PPV cost worth it at the end of the day. Which arguably, in one way or another, they already do depending on where an audience’s interests lies.

Equally exciting, we have yet to see Serena Deeb’s next move as a heel, the development of Antony Ogogo, Miro’s TNT reign, and the addition of a second weekly show. 

(Credit: AEW Press)

With in-person audiences and promotional crossovers setting the sail in the wrestling world once again, the only way is up as AEW sets sail to Full Gear.