Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley and All Elite Wrestling spent weeks promoting the Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch main event of their Mar. 7 PPV. On the show itself, there was a big build to Omega and his henchman Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows leaving Moxley incapacitated and handcuffed in the ring as a timer counted down to zero, at which point the ring would explode. Mox’s old friend and recent rival Eddie Kingston was willing to sacrifice himself to protect Jon... then something that looked a lot like Gilberg’s entrance happed.
With the wrestle web a mixture of disappointment and laughter, the company was quick to hop on the kayfabe explanation provided by what seemed to be jokes made by Moxley, and Miro...
At his usual post-show press Q & A, AEW President Tony Khan echoed Mox. Okay, he didn’t say “Kenny Omega may be a tough son of a bitch, but he can’t make an exploding ring worth a shit!” But he did repeat the story that the lackluster ending was due to Omega being a bad bomb-builder:
“The plans for this we saw in crayon, and all through the match we say, you know, it looked very cool, and it’s a very deadly painful match. I don’t know what people really wanted, unless you wanted us to actually explode the guys at the end, there’s only so much you can do. So without actually blowing the ring and both guys up, um, you know, I think the basic explanation is that Kenny’s ring set to explode, you know, his plan, as a heel who built this thing with a hammer and nails as we saw, that the final bomb just didn’t go off...
“But again, there’s only so much that you can really do with explosions without really hurting people. So I think that’s why it was good to give us an out with the story when we didn’t actually explode the ring - maybe Kenny’s craftsmanship as a bomb builder is not his forte, maybe he should stick to wrestling...
“Clearly, the final explosion was not enough to take out Moxley and Kingston, which is good because we need Moxley and Kingston in one piece. If the ring had exploded them, we would be in real trouble - so I’m glad it didn’t blow them up completely. It gave us kind of an out there with Kenny being in charge of the construction since we couldn’t actually blow the guys up for real.”
A number of sources, including Wrestling Observer’s Josh Nason, interpreted those comments as meaning the sparklers-and-smoke ending was the plan all along.
Tony Khan says they are uploading the video of Moxley saying Omega can't build a ring worth a sh*t to YT. Says he's not sure what people expected outside actually blowing guys up. Omega building a dud is the story. Khan didn't say or imply there was a misfire. ^JN— Wrestling Observer (@WONF4W) March 8, 2021
But then that site’s main voices, Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez, went on Wrestling Observer Radio to clarify that Tony was just keeping it kayfabe in the media scrum.
Alvarez: There seems to be some confusion here... people seem to think that Tony Khan in the presser was saying that this was the plan. This was not the plan.
Alvarez: What he was saying was...
Meltzer: This is the storyline that we’re going with!
Alvarez: ... the story from this point forward is that Kenny Omega built a dud. But the story, Tony did not say, ‘hey, let’s build a dud. That’ll be funny.’ The idea was this was gonna be a gigantic explosion, it didn’t happen. Now, in an attempt to salvage it, the story they’re going to try and tell, is that Kenny built a dud. Which, as noted, is a problem, because Eddie sold the dud.
Meltzer: Yeah. Absolutely - 100%. It was bad, and it’s just what it was.
Which is fine, and I definitely think Khan’s tongue was in his cheek when answering questions about the “explosion” immediately after the show. But it’s also unusual. He’s always treated the scrums as legitimate press conferences (it was at the one after Fyter Fest in 2019 where the chairshot to Cody Rhodes’ head that Shawn Spears delivered with a badly gimmicked chair was discussed in kayfabe-shattering detail). So Tony’s attempt to work the writers on the call was not only awkward, but broke the precedent he himself established.
The Observer, perhaps sensitive to criticisms they’re a little too friendly with the man the recently brought on one of their audio shows to discuss his winning Booker and Promoter of the Year in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards, just posted an op-ed from Nason criticizing Khan’s handling of the botched ended.
In that, another baffling element of AEW’s response is mentioned. The company is issuing copyright claims against a number of Twitter accounts who posted the botched(?) ending after last night’s show.
I thought AEW was good with GIFs... pic.twitter.com/om5Fn5qaIg— Italo Santana (@BulletClubIta) March 8, 2021
This is weird for a couple reasons. One, because as referenced in that tweet, AEW has always sought to position themselves as the anti-WWE (and New Japan) when it comes to encouraging fans to create videos and GIFs of their shows. And two, because if things either went as planned or you were comfortable running with the “Kenny’s bad at bombs” angle, why would you scrub the video?
Today’s Being The Elite features a section of Revolution highlights, and everything after Omega’s hand is raised after the main event is edited out of those, too.
And again, I can forgive a young company a poorly coordinated response to the first huge creative misfire (pun semi-intended) of their existence. But there are a few parties harmed by how they’ve handled things thus far.
For one, you have fans who decided to pay somewhere between $20 and $60 dollars in hopes of seeing a ‘splosion. The “this was the plan all along” approach isn’t what paying customers want to hear, especially from a company who’s proclaimed from the start that it would always listen to its audience.
More egregious, at least for me, is where this leaves one of 2020’s best shoot stories - Eddie Kingston. This was clearly supposed to be a big character beat for him, deciding to put his issues with Mox aside to save his old friend. Whether it’s kayfabe or real, the story that Omega’s explosion was a joke throws Kingston under the bus, since he and the announcers were the only ones who stuck to the original plan.
Sure, he can come out on Dynamite this Wednesday and say he passed out from fear, but that doesn’t fit anything we know about his character. It also isn’t the kind of thing any pro wrestler wants attached to their name in fans’ memories.
The best approach probably would have been to come 100% clean last night, roll with the Botchamania coverage, and regroup. Now that they didn’t, I don’t know how you best salvage the situation. Hopefully Khan and the team at AEW have something in mind, because this was supposed to be a big night that would propel them to a bigger 2021.
Instead, everybody’s talking about how Revolution fizzled out. And everything they’re doing to try to get us to forget that is making it a bigger story.