Super Wrestling: AEW – Double or Nothing

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Double or Nothing and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan

Welcome to all you Marks, Smarks, and everything in between, to my very first recap of a wrestling show!!  Now I’ve been watching WWE pretty consistently for the past year as wrestling is something I’ve always been interested in but I always felt there were barriers to entry that kept me away from it.  Well thankfully WWE solved that problem right away with the amazing WWE Network that only costs ten bucks a month, had more or less up to date content (the shows there are a month behind the live broadcast) AND it had the ENTIRE BACKLOG OF CONTENT stretching back to its earliest broadcast days in case you wanted to catch up on anything that you didn’t know the full story of!  Even so, becoming a fan of this stuff has also let me in on some of the more pernicious things about the company that can sometime temper my enthusiasm.  Vince is still a MASSIVE jerk, the Saudi Arabia deal is a total disaster, healthcare for the talent is still a problem, and the company keeps scumbags like Hulk Hogan and Randy Orton on their payroll.  It’s almost like there should be a viable alternative brand out there or something, but where are we gonna get one of THOSE!?  Anyway, let’s take a serious look at what Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and a couple of billionaires managed to put together in what is no doubt the most hyped and anticipated wrestling show of the year!!

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First Impressions

Before we get to any of the matches, I wanted to point out two key points that apply to the show as a whole.  First, the production is FANTASTIC!  I’ve seen a couple of TNA shows and a bout or two of Ring of Honor, and they always looked like the lesser version of what WWE can put together; what with their massive screens, multi-camera setup, and detailed set design to really give them a flashy and professional presentation.  Fortunately AEW has realized that this is gonna be a key thing to figure out right off the bat because if they LOOK like a second rate company then people will TREAT THEM like a second rate company, and after this show I don’t think anyone will be doing that!  Sure, it’s not WRESTLEMANIA or even some of the higher end PPVs as far as production, scope, and sizzle, but its right up there with what Raw and SmackDown pulls off each week.  Where it DOES lag behind WWE however, is the commentary; particularly that Excalibur guy who doesn’t have a particularly commanding voice and seems to fumble over his lines a fair bit.  It’s not just him though; the other guy (I don’t even remember his name) and even JR seemed a bit rusty here and they seriously need to work the kinks out of this before they get to their television deal.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start with the Pre-show matches!!

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Casino Battle Royale

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The Clubs: Dustin Thomas, MJF (Maxwell Jacob Friedman), Sunnny Daze (James Dylan), Brandon Cutler, and Michael Nakazawa
The Diamonds: Brian Pillman Jr, Orange Cassidy, Jimmy Havoc (James Mcahren), Shawn Spears
The Hearts: Billy Gunn, Glacier (Raymond Lloyd), Jungle Boy (Jack Perry), Marq Quen, and Ace Romero
The Spades: Luchasaurus (Austin Matelson), Marko Stunt, Sonny Kiss, and Tommy Dreamer
The Joker: Adam “Hangman” Page

Now the thing about Battle Royale matches is that while they can be flashy and fun, they’re also kind of a mess to stage and so a lot of the time you have people hanging out in corners for a long time or someone getting a bit of momentum before being stopped in their tracks so someone ELSE can have the spotlight.  With the right timing and a lot of flexibility on the participants though, it CAN be great.  This one?  Eh… I wasn’t all too into it.  The first thing that felt odd was that they set up these rules about people going out in waves and how it was ALL random, but it still felt incredibly staged so why not just say that AEW management set up four groups themselves?  Why the elaborate explanation about a deck of cards; especially when we don’t SEE anyone draw from it?  I guess that’s the benefit of a weekly show where you can spend ten minutes having your wrestlers dramatic draw cards and set up the dynamics for each bracket, but on a PPV it felt needlessly complicated.  Ignoring that though, the Battle Royale itself felt like it moved at a snail’s until at least three of the brackets came in, but there were some highlights!  MJF cemented himself as the de-facto heel right off the bat by kicking Dustin Thomas in the face and calling him Lieutenant Dan.  In case you didn’t know, Dustin Thomas is a wrestler with no legs, which proves that MJF hasn’t seen a movie since the late nineties.  I bet at some point he’s gonna shout RUN FOREST, RUN at someone who’s running to the ring or maybe even do a SHOW ME THE MONEY gimmick.  The other great thing that happened very early in this match is Michael Nakazawa busting out a bottle of baby oil and just COVERING himself with the biggest smile you could ever imagine!  I mean it DID help him out of a jam at least, but you’d think someone would want to do that BEFORE they got into trouble!

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I wish I could enjoy ANYTHING in life as much as Michael Nakazawa loves being covered in baby oil…

Sadly the power of slipperiness was not enough to win him the match as he was the first eliminated, and really the whole thing devolves into silliness from there.  Some dude lights up a cigarette in the middle of the ring, Glacier spits in someone’s face which utterly freezes them like the dude is Sub Zero, Tommy Dream brings a lot of his hardcore ridiculousness to the match; especially when he gets a nail driven directly into his balls.  Oh and Sonny Kiss, the one female wrestler in the match, hits Tommy in the face repeatedly with her butt.  Sigh… look I’m a HUGE proponent for mixed-gender matches and AEW could really let them shine if given the right push, but it felt like a gimmick here which it shouldn’t.  (UPDATE: Sonny Kiss uses He/Him pronouns. That was my mistake.)  At least Dustin Thomas got a 619 in which was pretty cool to see… IF WE COULD SEE IT!!  Seriously, they cut away THE MOMENT he was about to land the move!  What the heck!?

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There it is!  Back there!  Can’t you see it behind Jimmy Havoc’s head!?

Eventually it comes down to MJF and Adam Page which admittedly was a pretty great match for the few moments they had together with Hangman doing this one really cool move where he flips over the ropes, into the ring, and then shoots off like a bullet into a clothesline on MJF.  They call it a Buckshot Lariat, but I like to call it THE ULTIMATE CLOTHESLINE OF ULTIMATE DESTINY!!  Adam Page wins the match which honestly felt VERY predictable to me, but I guess it’s not such a bad thing since they are clearly setting up a storyline here.  I barely knew who ANYONE was going into this, and the only reason I knew who Hangman was is because of those Road to Double or Nothing videos that Cody Rhodes has been uploading which featured him a few times.  The fact that he’s considered such a big get for the company and the fact that they had him go LAST to make sure there were no shenanigans made it clear where this was going and that’s a title shot for Hangman later on; possible at the next PPV.

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Sammy Guevara vs. Superbad Kip Sabian

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Okay, is it just me or do these two look like they came out of a high school wrestling club?  Did they win an essay contest or something to get in that ring, or maybe sell enough candy bars at the fund raiser?  What I’m saying is that both competitors in this look RIDICULOUSLY young, am I’m not even pointing that out as a NEGATIVE!  In fact, they’re both leaning into their roles as the young kids, what with Sammy having some sort of Panda gimmick (which I guess is in with the kids these days) and Kip’s super moves being named after Harry Potter stuff like the Cruciatus Crush and The Deathly Hallows!  Now I checked just to make sure and they’re both in their late twenties, which ACTUALLY makes them a bit older than most newbies (dudes like Rey Mysterio Jr started when they were what, fourteen?), but aside from all that, how’s the match?  These guys are definitely talented athletes, though I will give Kip the edge here because Sammy… well to be a great wrestler you ALSO need to be an actor, and he’s got a great smoulder.  I’m pretty sure its intention as he’s DEFINITELY playing the arrogant heel (he chews gum and showboats throughout the match), but he had a bit of trouble selling Kip’s moves.  He never looked particular scared, frustrated, determined, or hurt throughout the match (outside the Cruciatus Crush), and this moment right here was priceless.

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“GADZOOKS!!  My sense have been SLAIN from my body and I am but an uncoordinated meat sack!  It is my GREATEST fear that someone might take advantage of this unfortunate situation and knock me to the ground from which I may never arise from!!”

Credit where it’s due though, he moved his but throughout this match!  Both of them did a bunch of flippy stuff which is always my favorite, and a part where he suplexes Kip and himself over the top rope and then suplexes him once on the ground was an impressive moment to be sure!  Despite that impressive bit of offense though, Kip ended up winning the match with his DEATHLY HOLLOWS move.  Good match all around, but also one that I understand being put on the pre-show.

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Now before we get to the PPV proper, I do want to point out one thing that was announced right at the end of the pre-show which is that this is the first ever wrestling event to have sensory inclusive accommodations.  I haven’t personally checked the veracity of that statement, but it seems to have been the case and is something that WWE should definitely work on considering how many resources they already have at their disposal.  In case you were wondering, the organization they worked with to make this a reality is KultureCity so check them out!  Anyway, let’s jump right into the first match of the show!

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Six-man Tag Team Match

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SoCal Uncensored: Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky (Schuyler Andrews)
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Strong Hearts: Cima (Nobuhiko Oshima), Tomahawk TT (Takuya Onodera), and El Lindaman (Yuga Hayashi)

WOW did they start this show off with a bang!  Now I have at least HEARD of Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian based on my minor knowledge TNA, but I’ve never seen any of their matches which I should probably go back and find considering how impressive they were here!  Now that’s not to take anything away from Strong Hearts who did a lot of heavy lifting selling SCU’s moves, but at least for the first half it was definitely their time to shine!  Thankfully the second half is when both teams mounted equal offenses and the whole thing exploded in amazing action!  Highlights include Scorpio Sky jumping higher than he is tall to land a drop kick, Cima’s knee drop of Daniels, and Lindaman’s German Suplex into a pin!

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You KNOW someone’s tough as nails if they’re willing to bash their own head into the mat to make the pin!

They continue to beat the ever loving crap out of each other until Scorpio Sky jumps over the ropes and takes out Tomahawk and Cima.  Leaving Lindaman wide open, Daniels and Kazarian finish him off with… an odd move.  It LOOKS like one of them did a pile driver which is effective to be sure, but the other one did a back flip from the top ropes in FRONT of the pile driver which… makes it hurt more?  I watched it a few times and I don’t think Christopher Daniels actually made contact with that jump, but you know?  It doesn’t really matter.  It’s all theater, it was a fun match, and it set the right tone for the show right off the bat!

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Women’s Triple Threat Match – Revealed to be a Fatal Four-Way

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Britt Baker, Kylie Rae, Nyla Rose, with surprise addition of Awesome Kong (Kia Stevens)

Before we can even get to the match, we need to talk about something that happened BEFORE the PPV.  During a panel at Starcast (a wrestling convention in Las Vegas happening the same weekend as Double or Nothing), Cody Rhodes took a VERY minor swipe at WWE star Bayley for her over the top persona, specifically pointing out the inflatable tube people, as being inauthentic

“And she [Kylie Rae]’s not like, wacky inflatable tube men, pretending to be nice…”

He compares her directly to Kylie Rae, one of the wrestlers in this match, and his conclusion is that Kylie Rae is REAL while Bayley (at least the WWE persona; not the wrestler) is fake while Kylie Rae is authentic.  I spoke about this at length on Twitter before the PPV, but after seeing Kylie Rae for the first time here… I kinda get the feeling that Cody was projecting a bit.  Now Kylie Rae is great!  She does great work in the match and I’m always for happy personas over angry ones, but she is SO over the top!  She doesn’t need inflatable tube people because she basically IS one, and the way she smiles throughout the entire match feels way more staged and like a joke than anything I’ve seen Bayley do!  I don’t know, nothing against her, but maybe Cody should have kept quiet and just let the match speak for itself instead of throwing that jab out there.  Anyway, now let’s get to the match which begins with a BIG surprise that everyone there was super excited to see!  Brandi Rhodes comes out once everyone is in the ring and announces a fourth competitor; the PHENOMENAL and ALL POWERFUL Awesome Kong, and frankly if ANYONE from the other brands deserves a shot at the top of AEW’s roster; its Kia Stevens who has not had an easy time in this industry.  She left TNA back in 2010 when one of the wrestlers started making racist comments towards her, and her follow up stint in WWE hit a few roadblocks that had her leave the company only three years later.  Since then she’s mostly appeared on independent circuits and even has a big role on Netflix’s GLOW, but seeing her show up in this arena on such a big night was a fantastic experience!  NOW can we get to the match itself!?  Yes we can!

Boy there isn’t a lot of Awesome Kong in here, is there?  Yeah, unfortunately the Fatal Four-Way here suffers from a lot of the same problems as the Battle Royale.  There’s not a lot of flow to it and it feels like Awesome Kong (as well as Nyla Rose) are just on hand to pop a few moves here and there before getting out of Kylie Rae and Britt Baker’s way.  They are both on the outside of the ring for SO LONG after relatively minor bumps which is disappointing, but Rae and Baker are good wrestlers so they manage to carry this match up until the end.  The best moments are Baker’s Sling Blade on Nyla Rose, Rae taking out Baker and Kong with a Suicide Dive, and Awesome Kong lifting up ALL three of them for a slam!

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“KING KONG AIN’T GOT SPIT ON ME!!”

Eventually Baker gets Rae with a Super Kick and drives her into the ground with a Neck Breaker.  One-Two-Three, done.  Solid enough match and I’m VERY hyped to see Awesome Kong in the limelight again, but it’s a bit of step down from the fantastic Six Man Tag match that came before it.

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Tag Team Match

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Best Friends: Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta
vs.
Angélico (Adam Bridle) and Jack Evans

Oddly enough, the two matches the fell the most flat for me had four people in them which is either a simple coincidence or some very subtle long term storytelling that they’re doing just for me.  In any case, I ended up falling asleep the first time I saw this one; admittedly through no fault of their own as it was a LONG week and I barely got any sleep the night before, but there’s just something kind of bland about this.  It doesn’t have the absurdity of the Battle Royale, the phenomenal skills of SCU and Strong Heart, and even the somewhat underwhelming Fatal Four-Way at least had the surprise at the beginning which carried my interest through the entire match.  This is probably the one part of the show that really NEEDED a story going for it; especially for those of us who don’t follow indie wrestling and wouldn’t have clue who these people are.  The Best Friends?  Really?  That’s the least interesting name I’ve ever heard of and tells us NOTHING about their skills.  Say what you will about Lucha Brothers; at least it tells you their style!  I’m probably one of the few people who really liked The B Team in WWE, and a lot of it had to do with the ongoing story line of them being overly sincere and somewhat lucky competitors who somehow managed to hang with the more serious teams; at least until AOP (I think?) pulverized them into the ground.  The point is that while on a match to match basis they were fine, that extra context gave me a reason to root for them which I didn’t feel in this match at all.  No one has a particular look to them, all The Best Friends do is hug each other every once in a while, and for some reason they ALL wore a very bright green color which made it a little bit difficult to differentiate the two teams.  Put simply, it’s just a wrestling match.  A pretty GOOD one admittedly, but again we’ve had a tag team match already that blows this one out of the water.  Highlights are… um… one dude lifted another guy REALLY high in the air and threw him into the turnbuckle.  THAT had to hurt!  Okay, the REAL highlight of the show is what happened after it ended with a victory for The Best Friends.  The lights go out (for a noticeably long time), and then two people are in the ring!  Okay… then the lights go out again (again, for a noticeably long time), and then the ring is surrounded by Lucha Wrestlers who snuck in like ninjas!  LUCHA NINJAS!!

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“Oh crap, it’s The Hand!  Someone call Luke Cage!!”     “What about Iron Fist?”     “Good thinking!  He’ll know where Luke Cage is!”

Yeah, I have no idea who any of these people are, so maybe there IS a long running story line here (despite it being the FIRST PPV EVER for the promotion) that I’m just not a part of.  I do feel somewhat vindicated however as the crowd starts to chant WHO ARE YOU while the Luchas are tearing the two teams apart, and that’s something you usually don’t want to hear (and have recorded on microphone) during one of your shows.  I can’t really hate on this match or even give it a negative review.  It’s just kinda meh.  I’m all in for weird costumes, silly moves, and macho posturing storytelling, and frankly this didn’t really have any of that as far as I’m concerned.

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Six-Woman Tag Team Match

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Team Shida: Riho Abe, Ryo Mizunami, and Hikaru Shida
vs.
Team Aja Kong: Aja Kong (Erika Shishido), Yuka Sakazaki, and Emi Sakura (Emi Motokawa)

Okay, so all that stuff I said about the last match?  Yeah, apparently the folks over at AEW must have heard my complaining from a mile away and put something on right after it that was basically the opposite and frankly everything I LOVE about wrestling!  Now we’ve got some great matches ahead of us on this show, but I think this might be my match of the night!  Just everything about it is fun, exiting, and kept a big smile on my face as I saw it!  I don’t know who any of these women are, but they all look like rock stars (especially Ryo Mizunami; I’m already in love!), and one of them even came out as a LITERAL rock star wearing a full on Freddy Mercury cosplay!  I’m not gonna lie!  This is like… the best thing ever!

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“We came here to rock out and chew gum!”     “AND WE’RE ALL OUT OF GUM!!”     “LET’S HAVE OURSELVES A REAL GOOD TIME!!”

I mean where to even start!?  Aja Kong and Ryo Mizunami in their battle of strength?  Yuka Sakazaki flipping around all over the place before landing a devastating drop kick to Riho?  How about when Emi Sakura grabbed Riho by the head and flung her across the ring!?  It LOOKED pretty dangerous, but heck if it wasn’t effective!  That was all in the first five minutes, and it elicited a cheer of THIS IS AWESOME (perhaps the first of the night, but I don’t recall for sure) which tells you just how much fun this match is!  It’s got momentum and variety!  The wrestlers have awesome outfits and are brimming with personality!  They take A LOT of bumps; especially Riho who soon after being dragged by the head had to take a cannon ball of an elbow drop AND THEN A PILE DRIVER from Aja Kong!

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If Aja Kong had hit that any harder, Riho would have popped like a balloon!

Don’t worry!  Riho gets her revenge when she hits Aja Kong with a 619!  Now I’ve heard that some people weren’t entirely happy with one part of the match where a false three count was recorded and the bell was rung before the match ended.  Yeah, I’m fairly certain this was a flub (either the ref LOOKED like they counted one when they were just getting in position or the couldn’t see the ref stopping halfway through the third count), but I didn’t mind it because it didn’t stop the momentum of the match at all and they just played it off as yet another near fall.  Sakurai was the one who nearly got the victory and she gets right back to work on Hikaru, but gets right back to work while the crowd chants YOU F***ED UP.  Unfortunately Aja Kong goes for a punch on Hikaru and instead hits Sakurai who drops like a bag of hammers and while Aja’s being distracted by Riho, Hikaru gets the pin.  Fantastic match, loved every minute of it, and I hope we get to see more of these six in AEW!  It’s a bit unclear to me if the wrestlers on this show are ALL official members of AEW or are doing a one off from their regular promotions (Sakazaki came in with TWO separate belts from elsewhere), but if Cody had any smarts about him he’d pay them all whatever they want to stick around!

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Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes

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We’re now up to the first of the three main events they announced for the show; Cody Rhodes and Dustin Rhodes, Stardust and Goldust, locking it up in a battle of the generations!  Old vs New, Attitude vs Authentic, the big blow off moment where Cody Rhodes looks the wresting business square in the eye and declares his future dominance of the sport; clearly (and specially) immortalized by Cody smashing a chair with skulls on it that looks A LOT like something a certain Executive Vice President of Talent from a certain wrestling company would DEFINITELY have in his office if his Wrestlemania accouterments are anything to go by!  Now if Cody REALLY needs to take jabs at WWE, I’d much rather it be in the ring (the crowd ate this up like nobody’s business) than his snide remakes outside of it; especially ones aimed at the talent, but let’s not get into that again.  Dustin’s entrance was a lot more understated which actually makes things a LITTLE bit confusing as that’s usually the move of the face and not the heel, and it’s honestly not entirely clear who we’re SUPPOSED to be rooting for here.  Even if the crowd is eating it up, Cody comes off as a bit snooty and petulant (not to mention the GLORIOUS cape he came in with looking extraordinarily gaudy) compared to the more humble and straightforward Dustin, and to make matters worse the crowd is giving them both equal face pops.  The thing is, I have no investment in either side.  I’ve seen MAYBE a handful of Goldust matches and exactly zero Cody Rhodes matches, so I’m going into this as fresh as possible (certainly more so than anyone in attendance) and just trying to judge this match on those merits, I think it’s pretty great!  Not the best of the card as both Six Person tag matches were totally electrifying, but as a one on one bout with a more deliberate pace, it works fantastically well!  Cody’s got a lot of charisma to him, even if it is a lot of heel energy, and Dustin holds himself up pretty well despite clearly being much older than his brother.  The only thing that took me out of the match is that Dustin opens himself up on an exposed turnbuckle and just DRENCHES the ring in blood.  I mean it is ABSURD how much he bleeds for this show and I am honestly not a fan AT ALL of blood in wrestling.  A little bit here or there, especially right at the end to punctuate a tough match?  Sure!  This though?  Nah.  It’s WAY too much WAY too early and it’s a lot of sacrifice for something that simply doesn’t do anything for me.

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“They’re all gonna laugh at you, Dustin!!”

This is also the only match on the card that had any sort of interference, mostly because this is the only one that had something of a story going on between more than two people, as Brandi Rhodes was on the outside of the ring and speared Dustin when she thought the ref wasn’t looking which got her booted from the ring.  Still, it felt like interference for the sake of it because the spear wasn’t devastating enough to cost Dustin the match and Cody wasn’t particularly stymied by her absence.  I don’t know, it just felt like the pacing was off as we got the BIG MOMENTS fairly early on which sapped a lot of the momentum from the middle of the match until we get to the finale.  They both start throwing finishing moves at each other which spreads the blood ALL over the gosh darn place, and after like a bajillion kick outs Cody finally gets the pin.  After the match though, Cody grabs the mic and tells Dustin that, despite this hellacious match, he’s already signed him up for a match at the next PPV as none other than Cody’s own partner in a match against The Young Bucks.  Cody says he doesn’t need a partner or a friend; he needs his older brother.  Both basically burst into tears at that point and start hugging it out in the middle of the ring to THUNDEROUS applause.  I guess this the part where I just need to take a step back as a new wrestling fan because for many people out there, this was a culminating moment of decades of wrestling history; both in the ring and out.  Because I don’t really have that context, it felt a bit awkward for me.  The clash of in ring theatrics with real world implications has never sat well with me; especially with WWE’s almost obsessive control of their talent outside the stadium, but while it feels a bit disconnected here for anyone who’s just jumping on board, I guess it’s not hard to suss out the deeper meanings and I enjoy the fact that they are willing to be that vulnerable on such a large stage.

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World Title Presentation

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Hosted by Bret Hart with appearances from Adam “Hangman” Page, MJF (Maxwell Jacob Friedman), Jungle Boy (Jack Perry), and Jimmy Havoc (James Mcahren)

Now this is the only non-wrestling segment in the entire show and frankly I couldn’t be happier!  Yeah, the matches are all good and the wrestlers do a great job of getting themselves across in the ring without extended segments on the mic, but we’ve got two more PPVs at least before the TV show starts so it might be worth setting up a few things between now and then to pique our interests!  First big surprise of this segment is who they got to reveal the World Title belt which is non-other than Bret Hart!  This is kind of a big deal (at least I THINK it is) considering that Bret and WWE seem to be in a better place right now as he was inducted into their Hall of Fame not even a month ago, but then again Bret has MORE than enough reason to still hold grudges against Vince for what he’s pulled and what happened under his watch.  None of us really know yet what WWE is “planning” as far as AEW, if they’re just ignore it or if they’ll try to make any moves against them, but this feels like more of a “shots fired” moment from the startup company than any clumsy snide remark from Cody or him symbolic taking a sledgehammer to Triple H.

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They’re not using a red tarp to cover Dustin’s blood; THAT’S how much he bled!

All that stuff is for the wrestling forums though!  What ACTUALLY happened in the segment?  Well since Hangman Adam Page won the Battle Royale, he’s the first person who will have a shot at the World Title against whoever wins the main event match tonight between Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho.  Because of this, Bret calls him out to the ring to be there while he takes the World Title out of the bag to show off to the world, but there’s one person who’s not too happy about that and is DARN sure he’s gonna let his opinion be known!  MJF waltzes out from backstage and starts taking shots at both Hangman and Hart (“LOOK OUT BRET!  A FAN!”) and it’s actually a pretty great segment.  In case you don’t remember, this is the dude who called Dustin Thomas “Lieutenant Dan” and now with this segment its clear AEW wants him to be the marquee heel of the company; at least for the time being.  Now to me, MJF is about as blatant a knock-off of The Miz as possible (rich, gaudy, hateable haircut, and a three letter name starting with M), but the thing is that I LOVE The Miz to an absurd degree (going so far as to review BOTH of his Christmas movies on this site) and MJF certainly has the potential to be that kind of “love to hate” heel.  MAYBE he comes off a bit too strong for my taste (talking about blowing a horse’s brains out, even metaphorically, is not something I want to hear on a wrestling show), but he makes his point clear; he wants the title shot that Hangman won at the Battle Royale and says that his recent leg injury will hold him back in the upcoming match.  After thinking about it for less than half a second, he takes a swipe at MJF who scurries off like a wuss but gets stopped by both Jungle Boy and Jimmy Havoc who stop him in his tracks and those two along with Hangman proceed to knock the crap out of him all around the ramp.

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“I THOUGHT WE WERE SCARF BROTHERS!”     “My scarf is cool; yours is a liability!”

It’s a good segment!  It takes something rather basic as a belt revealing ceremony (which Bret does once MJF has been dealt with), and gives four of the company’s wrestlers a moment in the spotlight to build them up for whatever comes next.  If nothing else, at least I now know that Jimmy Havoc has a sweet coat!

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AAA World Tag Team Championship Match

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The Lucha Brothers: Pentagón Jr and Rey Fénix
vs.
The Young Bucks: Matt and Nick Jackson

You know how I said that this PPV had a problem with four people matches?  Yeah, this kind of throws that theory out of the water because this is indeed a VERY good match.  Not my FAVORITE of the Tag Matches tonight (it’s exhausting how much offense this is in this match), but both teams are very skilled and what I liked most is just how much drama is baked into their in ring behavior.  Whatever is going on between these two teams (I don’t watch AAA), it gets across loud and clear with every move they make.  A lot of great moments here like when Matt drops Rey with a Gorilla Press Drop (I think) and then follows it up with a spear to Pentagón Jr, the Super-Kick-Palooza, and probably my favorite moment early on when Nick and Fénix drop kick each other, no sell it, and immediately get back up to stare each other down!

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“Headbands!”     “Masks!”     “HEADBANDS!!”     “MAAAAASSKKKS!!”

No surprise here that The Young Bucks won in the end since they’re two of the main guys behind AEW, but honestly I probably would have had them drop the titles here; mostly because they aren’t AEW’s titles.  I’m still a bit confused about this and maybe it’s more common in non-WWE promotions, but why are they fighting over AAA’s belts in their own arena?  Would AAA even have recognized the title change if The Lucha Brothers HAD won the match?  Plus, now that The Young Bucks STILL have them, either they need to go back to AAA at some point to defend them or that promotion’s belts are gonna be tied up until at least the next AEW PPV!  I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill here though as this was a fun match either way and I was very impressed with The Lucha Brothers who I hope will be showing up in future AEW shows.  Again, it’s not clear if these wrestlers who are with other promotions are moving to AEW full time or not and throwing around belts from elsewhere isn’t making it any easier to unravel.

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Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho

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This is the main-est of the Main Events here at Double or Nothing, and it starts off PHENOMENALLY!  Jericho’s entrance was this thing where the lights would cut on and we’d see someone standing in for a younger version of Jericho before the lights cut and came back with Jericho at the NEXT phase of his career, and eventually when the lights came back it was indeed the real Jericho on the ramp!  THAT was cool and is frankly on par with any number of WWE entrances at their big shows!  Kenny Omega’s was fine as well.  Nothing that THEATRICAL, but he’s got an interesting feel to him that’s distinct from everyone else there.  His song isn’t another rock track or pop song; it’s like an atmospheric foreboding soundtrack to a Terrance Malik film; plus his jacket looks like something out of Kingdom Hearts in stark contrast to Jericho’s duster with SPIKES ON IT because he’s HARDCORE!!

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Did he ALSO paint his hair white to look like RIku!?

There was this one awkward moment before the match started though where a Cracker Barrel branded wooden barrel was being put into the ring and then they decided not to.  Was that an inside joke or something?  I don’t know, but the match started proper after that, and… I liked it fine.  Most of the time a Main Even is mostly that because of the people involved, and while I do know a bit about Chris Jericho, I’ve never even HEARD of Kenny Omega, so watching these two lock up didn’t feel THAT much more significant than any of the other matches I saw.  It certainly was fun and it’s clear that Kenny Omega is VERY skilled, but this is the final match of the PPV and frankly I was fatigued by then.  There were a few great bits with a table which are always fun (usually it’s one and done, but they get at least THREE spots out of it) and Jericho does this really cool drop kick where he bounces off the middle rope first, but it’s also a bit slow and plodding for a show that has been so high octane and full of energy.  Still, there’s no denying that the hits might be fewer and farer between, but they hit with a lot of impact; unlike The Young Bucks match where they threw everything and the kitchen sink at each other to the point that it somewhat undercut the whatever the believability in whatever damage those moves were supposedly doing.  Eventually Jericho gets the pin on Omega which means that he’ll be facing Hangman Page in the next PPV.  My guess is that Hangman is gonna win and THEN he’s gonna face Kenny Omega after that, so giving the win to Jericho now lets them keep the story going for a bit longer; though it IS a tiny bit unrealistic that Jericho gets a more or less CLEAN win over someone over a decade younger than him, especially since this was definitely an attrition match and not a tactical one.

Oh well.  It’s a good enough note to end the show on, and we’ll definitely be seeing this feud develop over time.  Guess it’s time to turn off the- OH WAIT A MINUTE!!  SOMEONE’S COMING TO THE RING!!  IT’S FREAKING DEAN AMBROSE!  DEAN FREAKING AMBROSE IS AT AEW!!

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“Sup, bro?”     “Hey, aren’t you a member of the-”     *SMACK*

Okay, he’s actually going under one of his former ring names Jon Moxley, but whatever!  IT’S DEAN FREAKING AMBROSE in the AEW ring; possibly the biggest name they could realistically get and the biggest dig they could take at WWE!  I don’t know if he’s enough to get people to switch over, but this is a serious ace in the hole that AEW has acquired and hopefully they don’t mess it up like… well every other promotion with a bit of cash that tried to take on WWE.  Moxley by the way proceeds to clean house; not just on Jericho, but also the defeated Kenny Omega who he drags out of the ring and throws him off a large stack of fake casino chips!  I mean it’s not SUPER high up, but it gets the job done and gives us a fantastic image with which to end the show on!

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“BUY!  MY!  MERCH!!”

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Final Thoughts

I’m not a wrestling expert and I’m sure that a lot of stuff either went completely over my head; both in terms of whatever history is being hashed out here as well as the nuances of the wrestling at play.  I’m more in it for the flashy stuff and the drama which is why I’ve gravitated a lot to BIG personalities like The Miz, Bobby Roode, and Asuka.  The thing is though that I’m PROBABLY not alone on that and if AEW is going to be anything more than a niche product it’s gotta appeal to those of us who aren’t exactly Smarks, so do they manage to do that here?  I think so!  The lack of story lines in the ring was a bit of a bummer, but the wrestlers went in knowing that and so most of the matches did a great job of telling some sort of story within the ring; not to mention how much of the focus was on flips, hits, and teamwork maneuvers over the more technical stuff and submissions.  Frankly the only match that DID feel more like that was the final one with Jericho and Omega, and MAYBE I wouldn’t have put it at the end  because of that… except for the surprise ending that blew the lid off the whole thing and ended the show on such a high note!  If nothing else, this show did convince me to buy the next one which I wasn’t sure I was going to do, so AEW can take comfort that at least they did a good enough job to get another fifty bucks out of me!

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