Ranking AEW’s Annual Pay-Per-View Events
AEW’s Four Main Pay-Per-Views Ranked!
We’re over 3 years into AEW, and it seems like enough time has passed for fans to develop their own perceptions of AEW’s 4 annual pay-per-views. There being only 4 such events (treating Forbidden Door as its own special thing), it’s much easier to not only book patterns and identities for each show on the promotion’s end but to also assign our own attachments with each show as fans. Which pay-per-view gives us the best in-ring action, the biggest stories — and the best of both worlds?
Revolution is the first Pay-per-view of the calendar year (Feb/Mar), as well as the last of the 4 events to be added to AEW’s catalogue back in February 2020. As such, it is the only PPV not to have taken place on “Year 1.” Still, there is a lot of attachment for the inaugural 2020 event, which represented the promotion’s height right before it was stopped by the pandemic.
Some of AEW’s flat-out best PPV matches have taken place at Revolution, including: Adam Page and Kenny Omega (c) v Young Bucks (2020), which many consider to be in the discussion for greatest tag team match of all time; Pac v Orange Cassidy (2020), Cassidy’s iconic singles debut in AEW; and the pair of show-stealers Eddie Kingston v Chris Jericho (2022), and CM Punk v MJF (2022) in a deeply-personal Dog Collar match. In-ring-wise, Revolution is in the upper tier; however, build-wise, as the “season opener” of the PPVs, there is a sense that things are still being held back at these events.
Sting would make his wrestling debut for the promotion in an excellent cinematic match at Revolution (2021); but though it may have been one of the best cinematic matches ever produced, it will have always paled in comparison to Sting making his in-ring return in front of thousands of fans live, which took place months later at Double or Nothing. Perhaps the worst instance of holding things back would come a year later, when Baker and Thunder Rosa’s Revolution title match (2022) would end up being a prelude of sorts to a Steel Cage feud-ender between the two on Dynamite 2 weeks later.
Revolution is home to a number of all-time classics that will forever be revered, but Double or Nothing has not once felt like a pit-stop to All Out, nor All Out a pit-stop to Full Gear. Of course, some of it is the calendar, some of it was the pandemic, some of it couldn’t be helped, etc. All the same, other pay-per-views seem to hold their own weight and have not suffered the preview syndrome.
(3) Full Gear
Full Gear is the last pay-per-view of the calendar year (Nov), and the first of the PPV’s to feature a weekly TV build, with the launch of AEW Dynamite in October 2019. It has also been home to plenty of matches and rivalries that can best be described as “underrated” for a number of reasons. One is that the end of the year, or Full Gear-season, tends to mean the end of many major stories. Another is that matches booked around this time tend to be a means to transition to December (typically a busy month for the promotion), which leads to Full Gear matches having quick build-up.
Jon Moxley v Kenny Omega (2019) was a sick arena-wide brawl that had built-up since Moxley debuted 6 months prior at Double or Nothing. FTR (c) v Young Bucks (2020) operated on around the same time frame, as the two tandems delivered on the dream match, and created a wonderful tribute to tag team wrestling that night. Kenny Omega (c) v Adam Page (2021) was, arguably, the end of the first era of AEW, which followed Page’s journey with members of The Elite, culminating in him finally capturing the World Championship.
Big matches with relatively quick build also stand out at Full Gear cards. Jon Moxley (c) v Eddie Kingston (2020) main-evented the show in an “I Quit” match, which is huge (considering Kingston had just been signed 3 months prior), but not un-believable (because their promo days before Full Gear was anything but). CM Punk v Eddie Kingston (2021) was another enthralling grudge match, sold almost entirely off the back of a heated face-off between them the week before the event (is it too early to call someone Mr. Full Gear?).
Following the Kingston feud in 2020, Moxley would go on to drop the World title to Omega in December. Following the Kingston feud in 2021, Punk would begin an all-time rivalry against MJF. Following a last-minute tag match between Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo v Cody Rhodes and Pac (2021), Black would begin recruiting Julia Hart for the House of Black. Between Dynamite: Winter Is Coming and the Christmas/New Year’s editions of AEW TV, December is the month that sets in motion some of the biggest stories that open the new year, with November’s Full Gear being sort of a pit-stop to that point.
(Shout-out as well to Chris Jericho v Cody Rhodes (2019). It was a good bout with terrific build and follow-up, but it didn’t fit any of the categories above.)
(2) All Out
All Out is the third pay-per-view of the calendar year (Aug/Sept), and it seems to be the show that houses the biggest angles and headlines in AEW’s short history. For instance, the match to crown the 1st AEW champion, Chris Jericho v Adam Page (2019), main evented the first All Out. And who could forget the highly-touted All Out 2021, which featured the triple whammy of CM Punk’s in-ring return, and the back-to-back debuts of Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson following the main event? Elsewhere on the card were the AEW debuts of Minoru Suzuki and Ruby Soho, a really good opener between Miro (c) and Eddie Kingston for the TNT title, and the Steel Cage match of a lifetime between the Young Bucks (c) and the Lucha Brothers for the World Tag Team titles.
If it wasn’t already clear, this was top to bottom the best PPV of the year by a wide, wide margin. No other AEW show has swallowed the others whole on a year-end review quite like All Out did in 2021. (Suffice it to say All Out 2022 has a lot to live up to.)
There are matches like Pac v Kenny Omega (2019), Lucha Brothers (c) v Young Bucks (2019) in an Escalera de la Muerte, and others help elevate the event in terms of bell-to-bell action. But that aspect tends to pale in comparison to the buzz that All Out-season creates. And all things considered, it can’t realistically be understated the monumental growth and success that the event has given to the promotion overall, and many fans seem to recognize it, with All Out receiving over 60% of votes (213 out of 350) on an informal poll asking fans, “What is AEW’s premier PPV to you?” (From: r/AEWOfficial on Reddit)
(1) Double or Nothing
Double or Nothing is the second pay-per-view of the calendar year (May), as well as the first show in AEW history. As the event that launched the promotion, Double or Nothing would have to be the sentimental favorite among the 4 annual PPVs. From that first show in 2019, AEW gave us the classic Cody Rhodes v Dustin Rhodes, which set the tone for the kind of brutal, emotional matches we could expect from the brand-new promotion; the first Casino Battle Royale won by Adam Page, kickstarting his 3-year World title chase; Young Bucks v Lucha Brothers, establishing a foundational rivalry in their first show; and the trios match that introduced a wave of joshi talent to the AEW audience, including ex-Women’s World Champions Riho and Hikaru Shida.
Through the pandemic, the event was also home to the zany Stadium Stampede match (2020, 2021), a no-DQ faction warfare that takes place literally all over the Daily’s Place venue. These matches were the spiritual predecessors to the crazy violence that was Anarchy in the Arena (2022), which took the insanity and comedy of Stadium Stampede and introduced to it a bloodbath previously unseen and a live audience of 14,459 to encourage the brutality. Later that same show, Adam Page (c) v CM Punk (2022) would have what many fans had considered the most unpredictable Pay-per-view main event in AEW up to that point.
Overall, Double or Nothing is very much associated with the milestones of AEW, as well as the promotion’s ability to bounce back and grow from huge challenges. And on top of those aspects, it has also dropped classic after classic, year after year, which all in all makes a strong case for this event to be the top pay-per-view in AEW.
As a final note, perhaps it’s important to acknowledge that, on that same poll where fans voted All Out as AEW’s premier event, a number of fans that took the extra time to comment on the post shared similar sentiments:
“You should have an option for ‘All 4 are the same level.'”
“I feel like all 4 feel important.”
“All of them are on the same level IMO.”
“Who says there is a premier event?”