This is THE best tag team match of all time, if the Wrestling Observer is to be believed. It’s the only tag team match to be rated six stars and is lauded as perhaps the best performance in all four wrestlers’ respective careers. But is it really that good, or is it the product of a single over-zealous reviewer that gets too excited at the sight of ten thousand flips in the air? Let’s find out.
Today we revisit the show-stealing tag team match between Kenny Omega & ‘Hangman’ Adam Page and The Young Bucks from AEW Revolution 2020.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
Much of the build for this match took place on The Young Bucks’ YouTube show, ‘Being The Elite’. That ‘wrestling show’ combines out-of-wrestling interviews and updates from the Bucks with tongue-in-cheek jokes about the wrestling business and actual show storylines. One of the stories building up to this match was showcased over the course of several BTE episodes. It highlighted how Omega was extremely close to the Bucks, which was a given considering how they had spent years wrestling and traveling together. Omega didn’t join AEW until a few months after the Bucks did, and spent a lot of time working with them to build up the brand upon its launch later that year.
In the weeks leading up to this match, Page was put in a tag team with Omega, and from there it was clear the two of them were an ‘odd-couple pairing’. They lacked the bond the Young Bucks had with each other, and Page sensed that Omega was loyal to them instead of him. Things reached a fever pitch a few days before the event, as Page walked out on a sit-down interview and said that Omega wasn’t willing to be a good partner for him because of his close connection to the Bucks.
And thus, the stage was set for something of a dream match, many fans were excited to see The Young Bucks wrestle Omega as opposed to teaming with him, and there was also lots of intrigue surrounding the Omega-Page team. Would they work together? Would one betray the other? Could they work together enough to retain their recently-won tag team titles? These questions and more would be answered in the match.
This match took place on February 29th, 2020 at AEW Revolution. It was rated six stars out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, making it the highest-rated tag team match in history. The match was also rated five stars by TJRWrestling’s owner John Canton, who doesn’t go past five stars on the rating scale. Let’s see if that rating was deserved or if it was all hype.
Omega and Nick start things up with a lengthy exchange of quick technical reversals. The crowd applauds as a standoff ensues following a springboard armdrag from Nick. Omega and Nick shake hands and Omega tags in Hangman with a lot less enthusiasm (but the crowd cheers loudly for Hangman anyway). Matt tags in and he and Hangman have their own great technical exchange that ends in more applause.
Matt extends his hand for a handshake (which gets boos) and Hangman responds by spitting on him (which gets cheers). An enraged Matt takes Hangman down and they start brawling. Omega tries to act as peacemaker but Matt shoves him aside and goes back to beating on Hangman. It takes Nick to finally get Matt to calm down. Matt tags Nick in angrily and Hangman bitchslaps Nick hard. He answers with a huge spinkick to the gut, tags in Matt, and both Hangman and Omega get taken down with double-team dropkicks. Matt tags in and the Bucks land a neckbreaker/springboard senton combo move. Matt dropkicks Omega off the apron and the Bucks land a twisting neckbreaker/knee to the neck combo. The Bucks are in full control here.
Matt goes for a scoop slam but Hangman escapes and forearms Matt in the back. He screams out in pain as he has a history of lower back problems. Smart move by Hangman. Sensing an opening, Hangman goes down on Matt’s lower back with forearms and knees. Omega extends his hand for a tag but Hangman tags by slapping him in the chest. Omega lands a single knee backbreaker for two and tags Hangman, who lands a springboard forearm to the back and knocks Nick off the apron. Hangman tosses Matt out of the ring and then into the steel barricade back-first. He teases a powerbomb through a table but his partner Omega stops him before he can do anything. He tosses Matt into the ring as the crowd boos him.
Omega and Hangman take turns chopping Matt’s chest, until he blocks one from Omega and gets forearmed in the back again by Hangman. They go for a double-team move on Matt but he counters and goes for double northern lights suplexes. But he can’t because of the damage to his back. But suddenly, he gets a burst of fighting spirit and lands the move. Double northern lights suplex on both of them. Nick tags in and lands multiple big kicks on both opponents, followed by a one man bulldog/clothesline combo. Loud applause for Nick. Springboard corkscrew arm drag on Hangman into a hurricanrana onto Omega. He kicks Hangman in the corner then dashes all the way across the ring to kick Omega in the face outside. He ducks a clothesline from Hangman then drops him with a springboard facebuster, followed by a quebrada on Omega.
Nick’s on fire as he sunset flips into a Sharpshooter, but Omega breaks it up with a bulldog. Omega Tags in officially and goes for the Terminator dive but Matt cuts him off. Matt chargers cut walks into a snap frankensteiner from Omega, which allows Omega to charge for his big dive. But just as he reaches the ropes, he runs into a big kick from Matt. Nick pins but Omega kicks out.
They slow things down with a front headlock in the center of the ring. Omega starts resisting, but Nick takes the opportunity to knock Hangman off the apron. Matt tags in and the Bucks go for some double team but Omega holds onto the ropes and kicks one of them away. Omega sends Nick flying over the rope but Matt keeps him away from Hangman. Then Matt gets some revenge as he spits on Hangman, who tries to get into the ring but is met with a ref that won’t let him. This delay gives Omega just enough time to dodge a charging Matt. He goes to tag in a now-furious Hangman, but Nick pulls Hangman down at the last possible second. Great tag team logic by the Bucks there.
The fans boo the Bucks as Matt drills Omega with a piledriver for a two-count. Matt puts Omega in another front headlock and Omega starts fighting back once again. And just like before, one of the bucks goes to knock Hangman off the apron. But this time, he sees it coming and ducks, allowing Omega and Hangman to hit a few double team moves of their own. Good to see them adapting as the match progresses.
Omega lands a modified spinebuster and tags in Hangman, much to the crowd’s delight. Hangman starts cleaning house on the Bucks with clotheslines, kicks and a fallaway slam on Matt. But wait, he’s not done. Plancha on Nick. Another clothesline on Matt. This crowd clearly loves them some Hangman.
The Bucks try to cut him off on the apron with a double team move, but Hangman yanks the top rope so hard both of the Bucks go flying over it. Orihara moonsault by Hangman. What a gorgeous move.
Back in the ring, Hangman turns Nick inside out with a big running lariat. Hangman tosses Nick into his own corner and demands he tag in Matt. This is getting more interesting by the minute. Matt tags in and they go nose-to-nose talking trash. They start the yay/boo punch sequence, and it’s pretty easy to tell who is getting the cheers. Matt wins the exchange with a cross chop to the throat, but walks into a big boot from Hangman. Omega tags in and he and Hangman hit some great double team combination moves. Omega tosses Matt into Hangman…who murders him with a sort of backdrop driver! Damn, what a sick landing! Matt landed on the crown of his head, but he doesn’t get any time to breathe as Omega drops him with a Gutwrench powerbomb for a 2.5-count.
Hangman tags in and Matt tries to keep him at bay. He lands a clothesline and charges into a neutral corner, but Hangman gives chase, only to walks into a kick from Nick. A much healthier Nick tags in and fires away with kicks on Hangman and Omega. Nick goes for the springboard armdrag again, but Hangman pushes him off the top rope. But wait, Nick lands on the (elevated) entrance ramp. Springboard Canadian Destroyer. Wow, that was sick. The fans certainly think so, as they begin chanting ‘this is awesome’. So far it’s been VERY hard to disagree with them.
Nick charges at Hangman in the corner but Hangman kicks him away. He goes for some corner springboard move, but Matt catches him and holds his head in place. This allows Nick to hit a superkick to Hangman, stopping him in his tracks. Matt tags in. Powerbomb/shiranui combination. Fantastic combo move. Matt pins, but Omega makes the save. Omega gets tossed out and the Bucks prepare to double team Hangman. Nick goes for a superkick but Hangman pushes his leg into Matt’s face. Spinning elbow by Hangman. Matt attacks him and charges, Hangman teases a superkick and Matt stop himself, but Hangman kicks him in the knee instead, sending him down. Chickenwing hold by Hangman. Suddenly, Matt rolls out and Nick lands a 450 Splash on Hangman before he can do anything. Another More Bang For Your Buck, but Hangman escapes and tosses Matt into the corner, causing Nick to fall down. Omega comes in and lands a fireman’s carry slam. Hangman lands a standing shooting star splash, Omega lands a moonsault (all of this on Matt) and Hangman lands an avalanche fallaway slam on Nick for a two-count. Powerbomb by Page. V-Trigger by Omega. Another pin. Matt makes the save. Another crazy sequence.
Omega tags in but Nick dodges his V-Trigger. They both go for German suplexes without success. Nick lands on his feet and Omega blocks his superkick. V-Trigger connects. A snapdragon suplex on Matt is reversed. So Omega V-Triggers him as well. Two snap dragon suplexes on Nick. Double Underhook brainbuster. The referee counts one, two, NO, Nick kicks out. That was a close one.
Omega maintains control as he places Nick in the corner, facing out to the crowd. Running V-Trigger to the back of the head. Omega goes for the One-Winged Angel, and starts to climb the turnbuckle for added effect. But Nick blocks him. Poisoned Frankensteiner. Omega gets dropped on his head. Hangman comes in to try and take control. He knocks Nick down and swings at Matt. But Matt ducks. Northern lights suplex over the top rope and onto the entrance ramp. Followed by a second suplex. And a third one. Hangman lands with a sickening thud. But Matt isn’t done. He wants to take Hangman out of the match completely. He hoists Hangman into the Tombstone position. Indytaker on the entrance ramp!
Both Bucks approach Omega as the crowd boos them. Superkick party by the Bucks. Then they add insult to injury by hitting the Golden Trigger double knee strike combo. That’s Omega’s double team finisher with Kota Ibushi. Matt pins…but Omega kicks out at one. At ONE! Where did that come from? Omega dares them to hit him again and they do. Another superkick and Omega kicks out at two.
Matt tags in and goes full villain by stomping on Omega’s taped up shoulder. The crowd’s raining boos on him at this point. Matt rips off Omega’s shoulder tape but Nick comes in and stops him. He’s trying to calm his brother down. Matt has a brief moment of moral conflict and then hoists Omega into the Tombstone position. Nick goes for the springboard, but Hangman appears and pulls him down. He grabs Nick and powerbombs him through a table. Great comeback.
Omega makes a sudden comeback and lands a V-Trigger knee. Then he signals to Hangman. Here comes the new tag team finisher. Buckshot lariat/V-Trigger combo. It’s over. The referee counts one, two, thr—No, Matt kicks out.
Omega lands another V-Trigger and announces the end. Omega goes for the OWA but can’t complete it because of the injured shoulder. He tries with the other arm but this allows Matt to free himself and superkick Omega. Hangman tags in and does the unthinkable. He hits Omega’s own move on Matt. One-Winged angel by Hangman. It’s ove—no, Nick breaks up the pin. A furious Hangman tosses Nick onto the entrance ramp. Buckshot lariat onto Nick. Then he goes back towards the ring. Buckshot lariat onto Matt. He goes for the pin. One, two, three! There’s the match!
Winners and STILL AEW World Tag Team Champions after 30:17: Kenny Omega and Hangman Page
Let’s get one thing out of the way first here: This was NOT the greatest tag team match ever. Not even close. I can think of at least ten tag team matches that are better than this one. I think this was a great tag match, but definitely not worth being rated six stars out of five.
That being said, this was indeed a fantastic tag team match. The action was superb and the story was great. Yes, this was a Young Bucks match, which means it has the typical pitfalls of a modern ‘indy’ tag team match: tons of high-spots, high-risk double-teams, and countless finishers and subsequent kickouts. Having those things wasn’t outright bad, per se. They led to some exciting near-falls, great drama and wild reactions from the crowd. And the last ten minutes had some truly awesome finishing sequences that could’ve ended the match, but didn’t. it wasn’t until one man, Hangman Page, overcame everything that he endured from the beginning to down both of his foes with his finisher to establish himself as, at the very least, their equal.
The story of the match was actually fantastic. It was all about Omega being conflicted between his partner Page and his friends the Young Bucks. They did a great job telling that story throughout the match, which created several moments of genuine tension and drama. Omega stopped Page from powerbombing one of the Bucks through a table and seemed reluctant to see his friends get hurt. And Page was isolated a lot later on in the match, only to become the conquering hero at the end. He showed more devotion to his teammate Omega than Omega did to him by going for Omega’s own One-Winged Angel on Matt Jackson. And despite all the drama and teasing of dissension, Page came through for Omega in the end. He looked like a star here, doing anything and everything expected of a modern pro wrestler. This was the match that made Page go from a forgettable lower-card wrestler in NJPW to a future main-eventer in AEW.
This match also demonstrated how to make callbacks to earlier matches elsewhere feel important. I’ve mentioned that many times before in reviews for matches for AJPW, NJPW, and NOAH. But this is the first time such a concept plays such an important role in a North American match. Towards the end, the Bucks hit Omega with the Golden Trigger, and Omega kicked out at one. The reason for this was that the Golden Trigger was/is the double-team finisher of the Golden Lovers, Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi. In Japan, hitting a wrestler with their own finishing move is the biggest middle finger you could possibly give them. So it made sense for Omega to respond to this move by kicking out right away and exploding with fury.
And yet, I think there were some flaws in this match, mostly courtesy of the Young Bucks. First, there seemed to be too much exaggeration and melodrama from Matt as he sold his back. He screamed like he was being stabbed with each forearm to his lower back, yet somehow was able to land a double Northern Lights Suplex seconds later. It was hard to take him seriously with this inconsistency, especially since he’d land triple Northern Lights suplexes on Page on the much-harder entrance ramp mere moments later. If you’re going to sell an injured body part, it’s better to pick one approach and stay consistent with it, instead of rotating back and forth between one extreme (selling like near-death) and the other (not-selling at all).
There was also an unshakeable sense of choreography that cast a pall over this match and made it less enjoyable because it clearly exposed how the wrestlers were working together. I get it, wrestling’s scripted. But in the best wrestling matches, the wrestlers do whatever they can to conceal this and create the illusion that the story and moves are at least somewhat realistic. For example, Nick had Page in the sharpshooter and Omega came into the ring to stop him. Nick saw Omega enter the ring but two things happened. First, Omega decided to charge for his ‘cool move’ instead of stopping the submission hold right then and there, thus giving his opponent critical additional seconds to further weaken his partner. Second, Jackson saw his opponent coming and did nothing to either brace for the move or possibly counter it. He basically sat there and took the move knowing it was what was supposed to happen next. Minor details like that are why I have a hard time really enjoying modern wrestling matches: they focus so much on big spots that they sacrifice common sense and airtight logic for the sake of spectacle.
Another great example of this was when the Bucks had Omega in position for the Meltzer Driver and Matt was facing his brother Nick. He could see that Page appeared out of nowhere and took Nick out, yet he still held Omega in position. All Matt had to do was drop to his knees and execute a Tombstone Piledriver to further weaken Omega’s already-damaged neck. So what if Nick didn’t get to do his somersault on the maneuver? The point should be to weaken one’s opponent with a move, not show off.
Furthermore, there’s something about the Young Bucks that makes it extremely hard to believe that they’re as tough as they’re presented. A great example of this took place during the final ten minutes of the match. Omega and Page debuted a new double-team finisher in this very match…and Matt Jackson immediately kicked out of it. Matt Jackson, who earlier in the match got necked with an All-Japan-style Backdrop Driver and who had taken a monumental beating for over twenty minutes. I’d be able to suspend my disbelief on this if this were a monster like Brock Lesnar, Big Van Vader, or even John Cena. But Matt Jackson? It was at this point that the ability to suspend disbelief became all but impossible. You don’t debut a new tag team super-finisher at the peak of a match, only for it to be kicked out of in the same match. What’s the point of using it going forward when it’s already established to not work as intended?
What’s more, there was no consistency in how tag team rules were established. The referee just stopped counting the Bucks out as they landed a Golden Trigger, then he pushed the referee aside at one point. The ref basically had no power, and because of that, the match felt a bit chaotic and inconsistent. I’ve seen both extremes when it comes to the referee’s power in tag team rules. There’s one end (WWE, where the ref can disqualify a legal man for pretty much anything if he’s not legal and for disobeying the referee), and the other (All Japan, where wrestlers come and go as they please, requiring the wrestlers to beat them up more to stop constant interference). Here, it seemed like a hodgepodge of both, without a clear understanding of when the wrestlers have to leave and how close they were to possibly getting disqualified. If the referee’s power isn’t respected, then why bother going back into one’s corner at all?
Final Rating: ****3/4
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic tag team match with lots of intense action and a great story. It succeeded in its goal of taking Hangman Page, a guy that was at once doomed to take the fall in New Japan multi-man tags, and turned him into a world-title contender. He was an absolute star here; his facial expressions, sense of timing, understanding of story, and connection with the crowd were all on point here. If this wasn’t a star-making performance for him, I don’t know what is.
And yet, this match focused a bit too much on pure spectacle and ‘BIG MOVES’ for my taste. The Young Bucks were particularly guilty of showing off and putting on an athletic display at the expense of telling a deeper story. And the more I thought about it, the more their wrestling style reminded me of one of the silliest things I’ve seen in the past five years as a wrestling fan. Their antics in this match, especially their insistence on successfully executing their wild tandem offense in order to ‘get their shit in’ reminded me of a terrible match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin from WWE Battleground 2017. That match was terrible because the ending followed a philosophy similar to that of the Bucks’. Corbin looked to be completely unconscious from a weaker move from Nakamura; but instead of pinning him (which was the common sense thing to do), Nakamura stalled for time and teased his finisher because ‘he had to show off his cool move’. Ultimately, that philosophy cost Nakamura the match, as it did the Young Bucks in this match. They were so focused on their own obsession with the spectacle that they seemed to forget about the goal of winning the match. Once Matt wasted too much time waiting for Nick for the second half of the tandem Meltzer Driver/Indytaker/whatever you want to call it, it gave Omega and Page the opening they needed to take over the match and win.
All in all, this is a fantastic modern tag team match, but it falls incredibly short compared to older, better historic tag team classics.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.