Originally published on Fanbyte on April 15, 2022

When The Revival left the WWE, there was one match everyone wanted from more than anything else.

After years of online debate among fans and dozen of potshots taken online, even becoming a running gag on a popular YouTube show, everyone wanted to see The Revival take on The Young Bucks. It’s entirely understandable why. In a very broad sense, both teams appear to embody ideologically opposite ideas of tag team wrestling. The Revival always fashioned themselves after the 80s tag teams of old, whereas The Young Bucks have become shorthand for the wild excesses of modern independent wrestling.

The reality is a little more complex than that.

The Bucks

The Revival, while often drawing from the very foundational roots of classic American tag wrestling, can be dragged out into deeper waters that don’t gel with those influences. After all, they were a heavily featured act in late 2010s NXT, not exactly a bastions of subtlety and hardnosed wrestling. To The Revival’s credit, at their best, they blended old-school psychology with a more contemporary need for flash incredibly well. One need only look at their well-loved series against #DIY in 2016 for proof of that.

However, at their worst, they’re prone to the same modern excesses that people deride other wrestlers of this era for. Matches that go longer than they need to, in-ring work falling apart in favor of nearfalls, even becoming a tad too melodramatic. Par for the course criticisms for any 2010s NXT act.

As for The Young Bucks, they’re not nearly so shackled to their high spots and flair as people might think. To say that The Young Bucks have never demonstrated the skill and ability for nuance that the greatest tag teams of our time have shown is foolish and unfair to the legacy that they’ve built. Over the last two decade, even with their most frustrating and lowest points included, The Young Bucks are still no less than one of the five greatest tag teams of all time. Even as someone that’s been frustrated with The Bucks on more than one occasion, that’s an accolade that I can’t bring myself to take away from them.

The Young Bucks know how to have great matches, and they can do it in more styles than one thinks. They can do big, bombastic gimmick matches like their famed Threemendous ladder match in PWG. They can also do something a little more grounded, built firmly around traditional tag control segments, like their 2013 DDT4 final against Kevin Steen & El Generico.

But at their worst, they’re a team that sink to the level of the reductive criticisms thrown at them. Yes, they do sometimes lose sight of a match out of a need to do every possible, flashy as hell move they have. There are many of their matches that don’t have a lot of substance to them, and they do feel like they often play towards the idea of a great match far more than they actually go about creating great matches.

Despite all that, there’s no taking away just how ambitious they are.

When FTR finally arrived in AEW, the match to do was obvious. Everyone wanted FTR vs. The Young Bucks, and The Young Bucks applied their creative ambition to the build-up. They sought to tell a twisting story filled with shades of gray, shifting morality, and intricate character work.

The match itself shares a lot of that same ambition. So many ideas go into the near 30-minute epic, that it’s hard to keep track of them all. The broad strokes theme that stands out the most in the memory of many will be both teams paying tribute to tag teams of the past. Both teams bust out moves from The Steiner Brothers, The Hardyz, The Dudley Boyz, and even #DIY on that night. It all reads as an attempt to have a love letter to tag team wrestling history.

That’s just on the macro scale, there’s smaller stories being told within the match too. Things like a hand work segment on Dax Harwood or the final moral twist of the story where Cash goes for a springboard 450 only to eat shit and lose. There’s so damn much going on, each element distracting from the next. None of it ever comes together, in my eyes. It’s the kind of performance where the symbols take precedent over the actual narrative.

It commits one of the worst sins a match can make, it exposes the creative process behind it. The viewer sees the gears turning in the wrestlers’ heads the whole time. It’s an experience akin to being force-fed a sausage as you watch it being made.

It’s a real shame because I know for a fact that these two teams can have a great match. They proved it on the April 6th, 2022 episode of Dynamite. In that, all the superfluous elements were trimmed away, leaving only what these two teams do best: a modern take on the fundamentals of tag team wrestling. they were always capable of it, but it took two years to have the opportunity and motivation to do it right.

In my eyes, FTR’s first foray into dream match territory didn’t work at all.

Dem Boys

Then there’s The Briscoes.

Much like The Young Bucks, The Briscoes are an institution at this point. They’ll be the first to tell you that they’ve been with Ring of Honor since Day 1. Through 20 years of ROH, The Briscoes have remained a constant. From the armories in the early days to the SGB purchase of the 2010s, up to the uncertain hiatus the company entered at the end of 2021, The Briscoes saw it all.

It was natural for them FTR to want a shot at The Briscoes. The story of North American tag wrestling this century isn’t complete without The Briscoes, tapping into that legacy—and potentially surpassing it—holds an innate appeal for FTR.

The two teams have been trading shots at each other online for months. At Final Battle 2021, when FTR attacked The Briscoes after they won their record-breaking 12th ROH World Tag Team Championship, it confirmed that the match would finally happen. Although The Briscoes never made their way onto AEW television, both teams continued to cut promos on each other online.

The build to FTR/Briscoes had been so hotly anticipated that many even assumed it would be the surprise main event to GCW’s first ever Hammerstein Ballroom event. That’s how heated this rivalry got with just a few Twitter promos and a single altercation at Final Battle. It’s the polar opposite of The Young Bucks feud and all the twists and turns it took. The Briscoes and FTR came at us with a simple premise: two teams don’t like each other, and are convinced they’re better than the other.

It doesn’t really get any more elemental in pro wrestling than that.

The match itself also doesn’t aspire to much else than just delivering a damn great encounter. Unlike the Bucks/FTR match, there are no grander gestures towards making an overarching statement on tag team wrestling, and that’s to this match’s benefit. These two deliver on one of the best kinds of matches there is—taking two incredibly hot acts that have been kept apart and then throwing them at each other at full speed.

No shock, but I thought this was fantastic. Even when the match is in its feeling out stages, there’s a simmering aggression to every move. The animosity is so damn palpable that by the time we start seeing apron suplexes to the floor, this feels like one of the most explosive matches in recent memory.

It’s also a masterful work of pacing. They find ways to make the early exchanges feel significant without having to burn out the crowd or overcomplicate things. For example, when Jay and Dax have their first interaction, it climaxes with this really fun king of the hill segment where Jay refuses to let Dax get back into the ring. A perfect way to demonstrate the hatred these two have for each other while still leaving room for things to go crazy in the endgame.

And things sure do go crazy. The tone of the match changes halfway through when a skirmish on the floor ends with FTR slingshotting Jay Briscoe’s face into a ringside table, busting him up. From there, everyone goes balls to the wall with their offense. There’s a lot of nutty dives, crazy bumps, and even brutal striking in this. Everyone’s going to come away GIFing the jaw dropping vertical suplex over the top rope, sure, but few things in this were as horrific as Dax’s punches to Jay’s freshly open wound.

I will say that I don’t think this match is without flaw. There’s a better version of this waiting to be unleashed. If they had focused a little more on some extended control segments, shaved off a bit of the runtime, had a bit more of an explosive brawl, this might just be one of the greatest tag team matches of all time.

What we get instead is the “dream match” version of the encounter. One that has a suitably epic runtime that escalates its way to a big explosion of action at the end. All things considered, it’s something they still do remarkably well. In fact, even with my own complaints of this not quite being the perfect embodiment of what these teams can deliver, this is still easily one of the best matches of the year by a very cushy margin. Extending that out even further, this is probably the best tag team match anywhere in North America in years.

It’s a match that had a lot of hype to live up to, and did so with poise and confidence. The Briscoes/FTR match succeeded where the first Bucks/FTR failed because it didn’t bite off more than it could chew. All fans wanted was to see these two teams wrestle, and that’s exactly what they delivered.

It doesn’t have to get much more complex than that.

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