All Elite Wrestling has only existed for just over two years and is already responsible for some of modern wrestling’s most monumental moments. With shocking debuts, emotional twists and stunning endings, AEW has certainly earned its place in the professional wrestling history books.
Now, as we barrel towards what will undoubtedly be a landscape-changing AEW Revolution, let’s take a chronological look back at the 10 most important moments in the company’s history so far!
“I Need My Older Brother!”
AEW Double Or Nothing 2019 was nothing short of groundbreaking. Having to follow the critically-acclaimed All In on top of being AEW’s inaugural event, expectations for the pay-per-view were through the roof. And yet, despite all that, the show managed to blow away the expectations of many – thanks mainly to the five-star spectacle between Cody and Dustin Rhodes.
An emotionally-charged bout, the two brothers clashed in what is arguably the best match of both men’s careers. Literal blood, sweat and tears were spilt on the canvas but it was after Cody picked up the win with a second Cross Rhodes that the emotions of the battle truly poured out. Cody – covered in his own kin’s blood – would proclaim that he didn’t just need a partner to face The Young Bucks at Fight For The Fallen, he needed his older brother before the two embraced.
Aside from being an excellent match in its own right, Cody vs Dustin set a precedent that still follows the company to this day: AEW isn’t afraid of a little ‘blood and guts’ to put on an emotional pro wrestling masterpiece.
Jon Moxley Arrives
Double or Nothing’s surprises wouldn’t end there though as AEW had one last ace up their sleeve. After Chris Jericho defeated Kenny Omega in the show’s main event, Jon Moxley – the former Dean Ambrose – made his unannounced debut to the literal roar of the crowd, brutally laying out both Jericho and Omega.
Many had expected AEW to be Moxley’s eventual destination but very few predicted it’d happen so soon. Moxley competed in his final WWE match just 34 days prior and as such, his appearance was nothing short of stunning. Beyond the surprise, however, the former WWE Champion’s appearance would represent a paradigm-shifting change (as Moxley himself put it) across the wrestling industry as a whole.
AEW had already picked up some pretty big names – the likes of Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega and Cody – but none felt as raw a blow to WWE as Moxley did. This felt like the start of a battle not seen since the Monday Night Wars nearly two decades prior.
This felt like war.
Dynamite Debuts At Over 1.4 Million Viewers
The inaugural episode of AEW Dynamite on TNT couldn’t have started off hotter. Featuring the return of Jon Moxley, Riho becoming the inaugural AEW Women’s World Champion and Chris Jericho‘s formation of The Inner Circle, the October 2nd edition of Dynamite let fans know that AEW weren’t just here to play.
But it’s not the happenings of the show itself that make it such a huge part of the company’s history. Rather, the figures behind it do.
Dynamite would debut with an astonishing 1.409 million viewers on average, easily beating out its head-to-head competitor NXT by just under 600,000 – a trend that has since continued bar a few rare exceptions. The statistic is also over half the average viewership that that week’s RAW got, proving that AEW was here and here to stay.
Omega and Moxley Turn The Lights Out
Moxley and Omega’s long-awaited confrontation would finally come at AEW’s first pay-per-view after debuting Dynamite on TNT: Full Gear. A great show in its own right, it was its particularly violent Unsanctioned Lights Out main event between that most will remember the event for.
The two engage in a near 40-minute display using broken glass, barbed wire nets and mousetrap boards to brutally punish each other in a way some fans had never seen before. Ultimately though, Moxley would pick up the win after hitting Omega with a Paradigm Shift onto the exposed wooden boards of the ring.
Some fans would decry the bout for its excessive violence, others would applaud for the exact same reason. Regardless of where you stand, however, you can’t deny that the two men pushed the boundaries of what fans had come to expect on such a large, international PPV stage and now they look to do it once again with their upcoming Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch!
The Forbidden Door Is Closed… For Now
The only addition to the list to take place outside AEW itself, Chris Jericho’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 match with Hiroshi Tanahashi might not have seemed like a key moment in the history of AEW just a few months ago. But as recent weeks have gone by, three words have cemented this match as one of the companies’ most pivotal: ‘The Forbidden Door’.
The phrase first came about in the build to Jericho and Tanahashi’s long-awaited confrontation when Jericho added the stipulation that if Tanahashi could beat him, ‘The Ace’ would get a shot at Jericho’s AEW World Championship – therefore opening ‘The Forbidden Door‘ between New Japan Pro-Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling despite the bad blood between certain members of each promotion.
But it was not meant to be. Jericho would overcome ‘The Ace’ in his home territory in a surprise to most, leading NJPW’s lead English commentator Kevin Kelly to proclaim that ‘The Forbidden Door’ would remain closed… for the time being anyway.
You can’t have a ‘most important AEW moments ever’ list without Sting’s debut, can you?
The first of two entries on the list from Winter Is Coming, arguably one of the strongest episodes of AEW Dynamite ever, Sting rocked the wrestling world when he appeared to save Cody Rhodes and Darby Allin from a beatdown courtesy of Team Taz – making his first appearance on TNT programming since the final episode of WCW Nitro almost two decades prior.
If Jon Moxley’s Double or Nothing appearance was the fuse-lighting spark, then Sting’s debut was the earth-shattering cannonball that followed. The Stinger’s jump to AEW, and subsequent reversal of his self-imposed retirement, is one of, if not the, most defining moments in both AEW’s history and the ‘Wednesday Night Wars’ as a whole.
The question is, will his first match back in almost six years live up to the hype as he and Darby Allin take on Team Taz’s Brian Cage & Ricky Starks in a Street Fight at Revolution?
The Cleaner Reigns Supreme With IMPACT
The rise of Kenny Omega in AEW is perhaps the company’s slowest yet most worthwhile story to date. After struggling to find his feet in singles action and forming (and subsequently disbanding) a hugely successful tag team with Hangman Adam Page, ‘The Best Bout Machine’ finally claimed the AEW World Championship at Winter Is Coming in controversial fashion.
Omega went back-and-forth with Jon Moxley for an intense 25 minutes but, eventually, he would use a microphone planted by the match’s guest commentator Don Callis to strike the reigning champion, hit the One Winged Angel and got the pinfall victory – turning heel in the process. The twists didn’t end there though: As Callis and Omega made a quick escape, the former would make proclaim that fans would hear from Omega the following Tuesday… on IMPACT Wrestling!
Fans had perhaps expected a partnership with the likes of New Japan Pro-Wrestling or even Ring Of Honor due to both company’s extensive histories with The Elite, making an IMPACT crossover even more shocking. This is, of course, not the first working relationship AEW forged as they began working with NWA throughout 2020 but working with IMPACT felt like a different beast entirely.
Brodie Lee Jr. Is Made TNT Champion For Life
On December 26th 2020, the AEW Twitter account revealed the tragic news that Brodie Lee – who had last competed for the promotion just under three months prior – had passed away from an unexplained lung issue. In the days that followed, the company would announce that the final AEW Dynamite of the year would pay tribute, and celebrate the life of, the late TNT Champion.
What followed was arguably one of the most emotional and greatest episodes of televised professional wrestling in history. The show would feature almost every member of Lee’s faction The Dark Order picking up a win and an appearance from his long-time WWE tag partner Erik Redbeard, but neither of those compared to the event’s final segment.
In a heart-wrenching moment, Tony Khan and Cody Rhodes would present Brodie’s son with the same TNT Championship his father held just two months prior and awarded him the title for life. Afterwards, a tribute video to Brodie would close out the show – featuring clips from his time in AEW and pictures from throughout his life.
Just hours after the show, users of Cagematch.net would vote to make the 66th episode of Dynamite the highest-rated wrestling event of all-time – an achievement the show maintains today.
The Bullet Club Reunites
Just one week later, AEW would kick off 2021 on an incredible high with the first night of their New Year’s Smash Dynamite specials! Capped off with a spectacular AEW World Championship defence over Rey Fenix, Kenny Omega would look to put the Lucha Brother out of his misery for good before Jon Moxley attempted to make the save.
The two rivals brawled before Omega was aided by the debuting Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, IMPACT Wrestling’s Tag Team Champions, who fended off Moxley as well as a slew of AEW roster members who attempted to back-up the former world champion.
Eventually, The Young Bucks would make their way to the ring and shockingly superkicked the remaining roster members over Omega and The Good Brothers before all five men threw up the Two Sweet – the signature taunt of their former NJPW stable Bullet Club!
Sadly, not much has been made of the angle since. Headed into Revolution, The Young Bucks have been preoccupied by their World Tag Team Championship challenger Chris Jericho & MJF whilst Kenny Omega has similarly had his sights set on Jon Moxley. The Good Brothers have somewhat faded into the background though are still make regular appearances on Dynamite.
KENTA Kicks Down The Forbidden Door
Taking place just over a month ago, the final and most recent entry on the list links reestablished ‘The Forbidden Door’… or rather, blew it completely wide open!
Fresh off returning to NJPW after almost a year’s absence, IWGP United States Champion Jon Moxley bided his time ahead of his eventual defence of the belt in late February by embroiling himself in a feud with AEW World Champion Kenny Omega. At AEW’s Beach Break Dynamite special, things didn’t end well for Moxley when he, PAC and Rey Fenix fell to Omega and The Good Brothers.
Things turned from bad to worse for the former AEW World Champion, however: After a post-match assist from Lance Archer, Moxley managed to get some revenge on Omega before being blindsided by a masked man – who would reveal himself to be Moxley’s future challenger and NJPW star KENTA! The former Hideo Itami would leave Moxley unconscious in the ring to close the show, allowing Omega to stand tall over him!
Whilst the appearances of Moxley, Sting and The Good Brothers were all shocking surprises, KENTA was on a whole other level. No one, nobody at all, predicted any sort of NJPW crossover less than two years into AEW’s existence – nevermind an appearance (and later a match) from a top NJPW wrestler! KENTA’s appearance established that ‘The Forbidden Door’ was well and truly gone.
Only the forbidden possibilities remain.
AEW Revolution takes place on March 7th. Viewers outside the United States can watch the pay-per-view via Fite TV.