Double or Nothing and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan
It’s been a rocky few months to say the least since AEW’s last PPV Revolution. It’s almost as if the world changed at the very moment, with Revolution happening at the end of February; the same time as the first cases of COVID-19 in Washington turned fatal. AEW has done what it can to keep the lights on as the months wore on and more and more people got sick, but nothing has been the same since then and whether or not it’s possible to pull off a great PPV in this environment. Will this be a great show that we’ll remember despite the prevailing circumstances, or is this yet another part of this period in history that we’d all just like to forget? Let’s find out!!
The Buy In kicks off with Lance Archer beating the hell out of a tire with a sledgehammer while Tony Schiavone is trying to get an interview with Jake Roberts. In response to whatever question Schiavone is asking, Roberts instructs Archer to beat the crap out of whatever half-demolished run down building they happen to be training in, and Archer proceeds to destroy a toilet; presumably a call back to Cody destroying the throne at the first Double or Nothing. Seems a bit hokey to me, especially since I’m pretty sure that even I could mess up a toilet give a hammer that big, but it gets the point across well enough.
Private Party Vs. Best Friends – Buy In Match For Number One Contender Spot
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Private Party who became one of the biggest success stories in those early AEW PPVs, so it’s somewhat fitting that they not only return on Double or Nothing but manage to put on one HECK of a show with the Best Friends. Kassidy does a bunch of flippy kicks and stuff, Quen does his ridiculously awesome Moonsault, and despite a few hiccups here and there in the execution, the two of them do some great tandem maneuvers that give The Best Friends a run for their money. However, Best Friends have been around kicking butt and taking names for months now (not to mention their connection to the EXTREMELY hot Orange Cassidy) so there was little doubt who would be going home with the win here; especially with Trent giving some amazing Suplexes and a HELLACIOUS spear to Isaiah Kassidy. The Best Friends are frankly better than they’ve ever been and while the can sometimes slip in gimmicky slapstick mode, they are all business here and look like genuine threats to the rest of the division.
In any case, after smashing Kassidy into a post on the outside, Trent and Chuck land a Strong Zero on Marq Quen (which looks a bit like a Meltzer Driver) and get the pin for the victory. Not sure when they’ll get their shot at the title, especially if Adam Page is only here for the PPV, but I’m certainly looking forward to that match!
Arn Anderson is then interviewed by Tony Schiavone to get his thoughts on Lance Archer’s Potty Pummeling and in short; he’s not impressed. He talks some mad spit about Archer and Jake, about how they’re a bunch of blowhards with no substance behind them, and compared to Cody who’s got guts, determination, and tenacity, they have absolutely no chance. Arn actually sounds GREAT here unlike on Wednesday’s show where he spent too much time talking about Mike Tyson and trying to pull tell some bad jokes. Here, he’s serious and speaks with genuine gravitas which is certainly what you should be going for if you want to sell people on the match. In any case, let’s get on with the show!
Opening Segment – A Thank You to First Responders
The show begins with the wrestlers and (staff?) at AEW giving a thank you to all the doctors, nurses, and everyone else who’s been working around the clock to fight the Corona Virus. A nice enough sentiment to be sure, but it also feels a BIT tacky when the whole reason this show is running is due to Florida ignoring the advice of medical professionals and is allowing these sporting events as well as other non-essential services and business, to continue operations. Sure, AEW is doing about as much as they can to make it as safe as possible (and frankly WWE is doing far less), but even with the testing they’ve done it’s still taking a risk that won’t just affect the people at this show; ANY spread could affect other more vulnerable populations. Perhaps I’ve been beating the drum a bit too hard on this as I’ve brought it up on every show since they’ve returned to Florida, but they’re the ones who brought it up here so I might as well have my say once again. They also acknowledge the tragic death of Shad Gaspard who if you hadn’t heard was a former wrestler that died recently in a riptide; directing rescue workers to save his son right before he was consumed by the waves. An utter tragedy all around and it’s just been a genuinely bad week for wrestling news in general, but maybe this show can lift our spirits a bit as we soldier on from one crisis to the next.
Casino Ladder Match – Number One Contender Spot
The participants include Kip Sabian, Joey Janela, Frankie Kazarian, Scorpio Sky, Orange Cassidy, Luchasaurus, Darby Allin, Colt Cabana, and a mystery opponent.
AEW’s Go Home show on Wednesday seems to have been cursed because not just one but TWO of the wrestlers who were going to be on the PPV got injured and had to be replaced at the last minute. One was Britt Baker who we’ll get to later, and the other was Rey Fenix who took a jump from the ropes to the floor and NO ONE bothered to catch him; landing instead right on his ass. The details are a bit scarce now, but it seems that his hip and back are banged up; nothing serious, but he wasn’t gonna be able to do a match like THIS only three days later. I actually missed it when it happened on Wednesday and it wasn’t until Bryan Alvarez pointed it out on Wrestling Observer Radio that I went back and looked, and yeah; that was NOT a good landing. In any case, Joey Janela is a solid replacement; especially for a match that by all accounts is one of the wackiest things AEW has done outside of the rumbles. How this match works is that it’s a staggered entrance Ladder Match; starting with two people in the ring and adding one more person every two minutes with the goal being to grab the giant novelty betting chip hanging above the ring. The two we start out with are the SCU members Kazarian and Scoprio sky who feel the need to have a wrestling match instead of just getting the ladders and deciding which one of them should win; perhaps with a game of rock, paper, scissors? Not sure why, other than I GUESS it’s a more honorable bout, but their naiveté will soon be punished as the bell rings for the next entrant.
*DING* Kip Sabian enters the match accompanied by Penelope Ford and Jimmy Havoc.
Because this is ALSO a No DQ match, Jimmy Havoc (wearing his best Oxymoron cosplay) just runs in and starts bashing heads which the announcers inform us that the ref is powerless to stop. I’m not sure why as there’s nothing in the fine print that says the ref can’t EJECT people from the match, but the bigger problem is that it just feels too early for things to devolve this way. Sure, SOME interference can spice up a match like this, but doing so much so soon makes it feel like a farce.
*DING* Darby Allin enters the match
Darby Allin cleans house pretty efficiently, but sadly he takes a REALLY nasty bump on a ladder which looks to have messed up shin pretty badly. All I’m saying is that this probably isn’t the best move to put on a show that’s already had two injury replacements!
*DING* Orange Cassidy enters the match
Cassidy is so great and even in a crowd of fellow wrestlers who are there to cheer for everything; he still seems to get the biggest pop. First, the dude is so lethargic that he doesn’t actually enter the ring until a minute has already passed on the clock. THEN, he effortlessly dodges and outmaneuvers everyone who comes after him; much like the Splinter/Shredder fight at the end of the first TMNT movie. Once everyone has tried and failed to dive-bomb him, he kinda-sorta attempts to get a ladder up to grab the chip and frankly could have won if he bothered to put in the effort.
*DING* Colt Cabana enters the match
Colt feigns helping Orange Cassidy with the ladder when he enters the match, but as soon as Cassidy’s back is turned he pushes him out to the ring and puts up the ladder himself. However, SCU manages to push the ladder over while he’s on it and crush Cabana’s fingers in the process which is perhaps as good a time as any to point out how HORRIFYING ladder matches are considering just how easily they can get people hurt. There are just too many variables you can’t account for as a wrestler and in some cases it’s more about just being lucky about how you land rather than doing so with any grace or skill! Hopefully Cabana isn’t hurt (or Darby Allin for that manner), but this is why I prefer rumbles!
*DING* Joey Janela enters the match
Without missing a beat, Joey starts running as fast as he can and dives at whoever’s in his way; like a much scrappier but no less enthusiastic Braun Strowman! Janela gets a chance to climb the ladder after clearing a path so efficiently, but is swiftly cut off by Kazarian who then tries to climb that ladder himself. Not too happy about what just happened, Janela grabs a chair and bashes Kazarian in the back which must have hurt like hell, but Janela is punished almost immediately with a chair shot of his own from Scorpio Sky. Kip Sabian is the next to get a chance up the ladder but we’re at the point where the wrestlers forget how ladders work and he’s going very slowly up with more than enough time for Kazarian to recover and pull him off.
*DING* Luchasaurus enters the match
Luchasaurus is so big, so fast, and so limber, that he just cleans house with the ruthless efficiency you’d expect from a half-man half-dinosaur fighting machine! He takes out Cabana with a head-butt, Scorpio Sky with a knee strike, and he even throws Kip Sabian over the ropes onto the other competitors who were thankfully there to catch him. Despite Luchasaurus getting a pretty clear shot at the chip, Darby Allin has finally recovered and manages to land a Cod Red onto Luchasaurus which kind of looks like a Canadian Destroyer from the middle ropes. The ring is clear, but Allin can barely walk and so he doesn’t get a chance to climb up the ladder; at least not before…
*DING* The mystery opponent enters the match
Our mystery opponent is none other than… BRIAN CAGE who’s accompanied to the ring by Taz of all people! Who’s Brian Cage? I have no idea, but he’s a BIG mo-fo with bulging muscles and a bad haircut who immediately tears Darby Allin to shreds; possibly on the orders of Taz who tried to make nice with Allin the last few weeks but was repeatedly blown off. Perhaps adding yet another unstoppable monster to the roster isn’t the most prudent move since we’ve got a serious glut of them right now, but this guy is pretty impressive with some seriously hard-hitting moves. He lands a HUGE German Suplex on Scorpio Sky, he does a Suplex from the middle rope with Joey Janela so heinous that Janela starts swearing right into the corner camera, and soon it’s just him alone in the ring with nothing between him and the giant chip hanging above it. As soon as he starts climbing though, Orange Cassidy comes out of nowhere and climbs on his back. Not too deterred since Cassidy to him is like a squirrel on a buffalo, he continues up the ladder but then everyone else starts rushing to the ring and pulls on his legs which to his credit he almost manages to break free of, but eventually, Brian Cage falls to the ground and EVERYONE starts to beat on him! They curb stomp him, hit him with ladders, and eventually toss him outside of the ring bury him under everything they can find; just like what happened to Braun Strowman at Money in the Bank 2018. I won’t go blow for blow since this recap has already gone on far too long, but needless to say, there are ladder spots, wacky spots, interference spots (Marko Stunt comes out at one point to give Luchasaurus a hand), and everyone gets to do at least one REALLY cool thing that will surely appear on their highlight reel. The only spot that didn’t work for me is when Jimmy Havoc wraps his necktie around the neck of Orange Cassidy. Choking spots like that just aren’t my cup of tea and frankly feel in bad taste considering the dark connotations it has in this industry, but thankfully The Best Friends run out to break it up in swift fashion so it doesn’t stay on screen for too long. In any case, the ending is in sight once Brian Cage breaks out from under his clutter based imprisonment. He has a FANTASTIC little brawl with Luchasaurus with a lot of great strikes and agile movements, but eventually Brian gets the advantage after throwing the dinosaur into a ladder. He then focuses once again on Darby Allin with Taz yelling instructions from the sidelines (this is surely going to be a big feud on Dynamite) and they do this kind of convoluted maneuver where Brian balances a ladder between the corner ropes and puts Darby on top of it. At first Darby slips off COMPLETELY and they have to spend another ten seconds redoing the spot, but eventually Brian lifts the ladder with Darby on it and throws it over the ropes.
Finally, with all the competitors exhausted, bruised, and beaten, Brian Cage casually climbs up the ladder and claims the chip as well as the title shot for himself. All things considered, I REALLY liked this match! It certainly felt like a Mid-Card Brawl, but the AEW mid-card is full of fun and interesting characters who each got their own time to shine in this match, and Taz coming out as a heel manager is certainly a ripe starting point for future storylines. The only thing I didn’t like is that it was a ladder match and that it was DQ which is odd because that’s the ENTIRETY of the match, but this match was WAY too scary with the bumps at times and they did some REALLY rough stuff throughout, and while there were some fun run-ins later in the match, Jimmy Havoc coming out so early and doing so much took a lot of wind out of the match’s sails that took quite a while to get back. I don’t know if Brian Cage will be sticking around for long or what the storyline will be between him and Moxley, but they did a great job setting it up here and I’m interested in seeing where it goes.
MJF Vs. Jungle Boy
MJF is accompanied to the ring by Wardlow
MJF has always been more than a big mouth, but here he proves once again just how much of a genuine talent he is. The first few minutes of this match consist of Jungle Boy and MJF showing off how much agility and coordination they have in a game of one-upmanship that is an absolute blast to watch. It’s almost a choreographed dance sequence at points where they’re flipping over each other and doing these interesting move sequences; my favorite being a bit where they both somehow end up standing on their heads and start slapping each other’s faces!
Not long after the slap-off, MJF fakes an injury which the ref and doctor take seriously, and of course, the precise moment Jungle Boy turns around is when MJF is miraculously healed as he jumps up and punches him in the back of the head which puts him in control of the match. To me, if you call the doctors over and it turns out you are faking the injury; especially if you cap it off with a cheap shot, the refs should call a DQ and I get that MJF is an utter tool, but everyone being unable to DO anything about it doesn’t reflect greatly on them either. The two of them trade REALLY great maneuvers back and forth for a bit with Jungle Boy getting the worst of it (MJF is working over the arm quite a bit), but Jungle Boy DOES manage to regain the advantage again with yet another INCREDIBLY scary bump in this show. In this case, Jungle Boy manages to land a Hurricanrana on MJF which you wouldn’t think could end THAT badly, but they decide to do it on the apron and MJF’s skull hits the corner in the most sickening way possible. I don’t THINK he got hurt since the doctor never got called over (and he’s flopped dead in a way someone who’s genuinely hurt wouldn’t be), but it was still terrifying to watch!
Jungle Boy tries to seal the deal after such a devastating attack, but MJF will not stay down no matter what’s thrown at him. The match eventually, albeit a bit anti-climatically, when the two of them start rolling through each other’s pins over and over again until MJF just barely manages to get the three count before Jungle Boy kicks out yet again. The thing about this match is that the great bits (particularly the opening minutes) are SO good that whatever issue I have can’t really take away from it. Yeah, the injury spot annoyed me a bit and it didn’t end with a real bang, but the two of them worked absurdly hard in this match and put on an excellent performance! That bump that MJF took though, please never do that again!
Cody Vs. Lance Archer – TNT Tournament Final
Cody is accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson while Archer is accompanied by Jake Roberts
Mike Tyson comes out first with the incomplete TNT Title Belt and is soon followed by Lance and Jake; the former of whom has some dude in his beefy mitts that he just throws threw the ring for absolutely no reason (who was that, Musa?); an act so heinous that Mike “I’ll f**k you ‘till you love me” Tyson is utterly appalled by it. Cody comes out with Arn to his rockin’ theme music (thankfully no live band this time), and ref Remsburg gives them a chance to shake hands before the match to commemorate this momentous occasion which they absolutely refuse to do. That was a nice touch as it reiterates how much they hate each other before the bell rings, and when it does Archer wastes absolutely no time and manages to land his devastating Blackout Slam on Cody who manages to roll out of the ring and saves himself from a pin mere seconds into the match. He’s definitely fighting from underneath here considering Archer’s size and strength; further illustrated when Cody tries to land some strikes on Archer which he shakes off like a kiss from a butterfly until Archer plants one on him that hits like an anvil. If he doesn’t fight smart he’s going to lose this match soon, but luckily Archer does have a few shortcomings that he can exploit. He’s constantly getting distracted by showing off, playing to the crowd, and even arguing with a few people behind the railing; all of which give Cody time to recover and to plan his next move. I like the psychology here as it’s less David and Goliath as it is Tortoise and Hare as it leads to many comebacks from Cody to get the crowd going but also gives Archer plenty of opportunities to be as devastating and scary as possible.
What seems to be a running thread in this show however is that matches start to lose momentum when they get overcomplicated, and sadly that’s what happens here as well. I’m not sure why Lance Archer INSISTS on tearing off the turnbuckle when he’s already a killing machine, but he does it here and ends up eating a bump in the corner which feels a bit wacky for an otherwise big and weighty match. Worse than that though is Arn Anderson who interferes towards the end of the match. Archer is walking the ropes while the ref is yelling at Jake for some reason, and Arn just cuts his legs out from under him which kind of shatters any legitimacy that Cody may claim to have to the title even if he does win; especially since Jake hasn’t interfered once yet! Clearly Archer is the better man if Cody couldn’t win on his own, and yet we’re supposed to be cheering for Cody as this is his big moment to become champion after his dreams were dashed by MJF all those months ago! If that wasn’t enough though, things get weirder from there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this, but ANOTHER ref comes running out from the back and tattles on Arn Anderson! Since when has that ever been a thing!? I thought the OFFICIAL ref had to see something to make a call on it, but now we’re including eye-witness accounts? To make it even stranger, Ref Remsburg decides to not just toss Arn out of the match but Jake as well! What the heck did HE do!? It’s just one big distraction in what should be an otherwise AMAZING match, and the cherry on top is when Jake comes back out with his snake bag but is chased off by a shirtless Mike Tyson. Seriously, why is he even here? The TNT Title match wasn’t big enough unless they got someone from The Hangover to lend it credibility?
Back to the actual match at hand, Archer tries for another Blackout Slam, but Cody manages to wriggle out of it and gets Lance right in position for a Cross Rhodes followed by ANOTHER Cross Rhodes which is just enough to finally put Archer down for the count. Cody wins the match and is your first TNT Champion! The ending kind of spoiled this match for me as I really wanted it to be a straight-up fair fight where Cody had to outsmart Archer, but with Arn’s interference and the shenanigans at the end I just didn’t get the POP I was hoping for at the end. Still, just like the previous match, it manages to be a fun and exciting match up even if it does kind of waver at the very end, and Cody is more than deserving of the title considering how much time he’s put into this company and how much the fans love and want it for him. I hope his title run is long-lasting, full of worthy challengers, and has lots of excellent promos!
Before the next match we get a medical update on Britt Baker. Now I may have missed Rey Fenix’s terrible bump on Wednesday’s show, but there was NO missing what happened to Britt Baker who got smashed in the corner by Nyla Rose who was tossed there by Kris Statlander and sure enough, she’s been replaced on the PPV. Gotta say, TWO injuries three days prior to the big PPV is not a good look, and neither is this interview which does give a pretty grim update on her condition (an anterior lateral tibia fracture) but also makes a joke about it as the doctor says that her personality is worse than her injury. Haha… yeah, whatever. We’ll find out when she’ll return to the ring on this Wednesday’s Dynamite, so fingers crossed for a swift recovery; otherwise we might get segments like this again.
Penelope Ford Vs Kris Statlander
Ford is accompanied to the ring by Kip Sabian
Okay, Kris. Okay, Penelope. You’ve got a HELL of a couple of matches preceding yours, and let’s face it; your matches haven’t been the highlight of Dynamite in the last few weeks. I’m reminded of the Huricanrana that missed by a mile which Statlander still sold only two seconds too late, but regardless of that, let’s see what we can do here! In the end… the match was fine. Not a bad match, not a particularly great one either, and while there were a few bad spots here and there nothing was particularly egregious. Thankfully they have a crowd of wrestlers who will cheer on the match no matter but, but unfortunately the announce team fails them because they are looking for anything to talk about besides the match, and I’m not exactly sure why since again, it wasn’t a BAD match! They did their moves, most of them hit, and I think for what it was it managed to be quite a bit of fun! Perhaps not a PPV quality match, but given the circumstances I’d hardly put the blame on their shoulders for that!
On top of that, they kind of redeem themselves for the Hurricanrana incident with Ford landing a silky smooth one on Statlander a ways into the match. Ford eventually goes for a cutter to try and end the match, but Statlander catchers her and slams her down into the mat before picking her up again and landing her Big Bang pile driver to get the pin. The match certainly didn’t have any real screwball moments in it (Kip Sabian is on the outside on crutches though doesn’t interfere all that much) so I’ll give it lots of credit for that compared to the other matches on the show, but the quality of the wrestling just isn’t quite there. Both of them have lots of potential (Ford in particular is a great worker already) and I hope these two have even better matches going forward.
Shawn Spears Vs. Dustin Rhodes
Remember that Summerslam match between Dolph Ziggler and Goldberg where the cocky younger guy gets IMMEDIATELY destroyed by the much more grounded and old hand? Yeah, this match SHOULD have been that but it wasn’t, and it’s actually more like the Barron Corbin Vs. Braun Strowman match at TLC; only not as good. Shawn comes out in a suit and tie and taunts Dustin who apparently never even bothered to show up at the stadium and demands that Ref Aubrey count him out which she starts to, but then Dustin’s music hits and Brandi comes out of the tunnel. This creates a distraction for Dustin to sneak up on Spears and bash him right in the face. For the rest of the match, Spears is undressed, humiliated, and left to cower under the awesome might of Dustin Rhodes, which fair enough I guess; I DO think Dustin should win over Shawn Spears, but having him wrestle in socks and wearing boxers with Tully Blanchard’s picture on the front of them, I just can’t imagine this being what Spears was hoping for when he joined AEW.
People have been wondering who’d be the first person to quite AEW, and if you don’t count Awesome Kong I feel like Spears MIGHT just be the guy. A year ago he was bashing the biggest babyface in the company over the head with a chair, and now he’s stripped naked doing goofy spots. It wasn’t a great match but at least they kept it nice and short so that we can move onto something better as soon as possible.
After the match we get a memorial to Hana Kimura who had committed suicide that day and we some words from the announce team who go the extra mile by calling out toxic people on social media for the part they played in her tragic decision. It really has been one of the worst weeks for the wrestling community, and I’m glad they made time for this despite how recently it had happened and how little time they had to prepare for it.
Nyla Rose Vs. Hikaru Shida – No DQ Women’s Title Match
How long has Shida been the number one contender? Heck, how many times has she had to defend her spot AS the number one contender while waiting for her chance at the belt? If they had built on that storyline more about her being constantly denied her rightful shot this certainly would have been a more hotly anticipated match, but aside from that I thought this was pretty good! The stipulations definitely help Rose as she’s called more to be brutal and aggressive than to be all that technical, and Shida, being as good as she is, manages to elevate this match even higher! It also doesn’t hurt that she’s cosplaying as Tifa too!
I didn’t really notice any botches from Rose which is a definite improvement for her, but there was definitely some technical issues as it seems like one or two of the cameras were out of position, so sometimes you’d get a random shot of the mat when no one’s there and at other times you might see a guy with a camera frantically running at the bottom of the screen. The biggest takeaway though is that Shida is a STAR and she is just oozing with power and charisma that can’t rival anything that anyone else in the women’s division is bringing to the table outside of MAYBE Riho, but I’m curious how well she’d look without the crowd behind her like Shida’s had to work these last few weeks. Rose does everything she can to put Shida away; kendo stick shots, pile drivers, even that terrifying and kind of awesome move where she drapes her opponent over the top rope and knees her in the back of the head from the turnbuckle, but no amount of damage can outmatch the heart that Shida has! Eventually the match comes to an end when Shida hits a devastating Kendo stick shot which sets up Rose for a running knee to the face. As soon as it connects, Shida rolls her back over and gets the pin; winning the match and becoming the new AEW Women’s Champion! This is perhaps the best outcome as Shida does indeed have what it takes to be a great champion, though it is a bit disheartening that Rose’s run was cut so short which gives off the impression of buyer’s remorse. I don’t think she’s a bad worker as she certainly proved here, and she definitely has a lot of charisma and gravitas on her own so maybe she doesn’t need the belt right now and can still be an unstoppable force of nature in the division without it. Heck, Jericho hasn’t had his belt for months and he’s STILL the most talked-about guy there!
Jon Moxley Vs. Brodie Lee – AEW Championship Match
Brodie Lee is accompanied by Ten The Creeper, John Silver, and Alex Reynolds
Despite The Dark Order’s MO being strength in numbers, Brodie Lee decides to fight this match mano-a-mano so he sends his cohorts to the back while he handles his business. Moxley of course comes in from the crowd, but despite ALL the shenanigans and bad blood we’ve seen on the show so far, THIS is the match where they have a bunch of redshirt security dudes in the ring to keep them separate until the bell rings. Kind of an odd detail to just throw at us this far into the show, but it hardly matters as soon as the match begins and Brodie Lee gets to work on destroying Moxley! Similar to the TNT Championship match earlier, it’s a scrappy guy fighting from underneath a much bigger guy, but where that one was about outsmarting and outwrestling his opponent; this is more about Moxley proving he gives a crap less than Brodie and therefore about hurting his opponent as much as possible even if he gets messed up in the process. It’s late in the show so I started to feel a bit of burnout by this point, but I really like Brodie Lee’s fighting style and Moxley is a good foil for him. It reminds me a bit of the match Moxley had with Brock Lesner, albeit with a not so inevitable ending, and Moxley continually finding new tricks to pull and opportunities to take is a lot of fun to see. The only thing that kind of takes away from this is that unlike the Women’s match was announced as No DQ; this one is decidedly NOT that kind of match and yet the refs won’t do anything about it. They fight outside the ring for like three minutes straight and the announcers have to let us know that the refs don’t WANT to end this match in a count-out; that such an ending to a championship match would be unsatisfying. I mean… they’re right but that’s why you don’t put yourself in that situation!
I also wasn’t THRILLED with the ending which is yet another gimmick spot; albeit one that I wasn’t sure was real or not. Towards the end of the match, Brodie and Moxley are brawling on the stage and Moxley lands a Paradigm Shift that sends both of them THROUGH the ramp and to the floor below. I HAVE to think that this was gimmicked as the match continued after that (I also didn’t see the ref give the X sign, but I don’t know if AEW uses that or not), but just think about this. They had the ramp rigged the ENTIRE night to break if enough pressure was applied to it, and they waited until the LAST match of the show to pay it off? What if Kip Sabian or Scorpio Sky fell off a ladder and landed there at the start of the show? It just doesn’t seem like something you’d gimmick like that which is why I believed it was real at first, and I just don’t like those spots where they blur the line like that.
The two of them eventually drag themselves out of the hole and Brodie Lee’s head is streaming blood. The man is clearly dazed but not about to stop fighting, and so Moxley lands a Paradigm shift without much effort but only gets a one count. Seeing no other way to finish this, he starts pounding on the head wound and drops him right on his head… only to get a two count. Out of desperation, Moxley puts Brodie Lee in a Sleeper Hold to knock him out before he can truly wake up again and Brodie Lee does go out just long enough for Moxley to be declared the winner. I liked the match for the most part, but once again the refereeing and the ending kind of get in the way of what should be an EXCELLENT match. I thought the final spot was unnecessary, but I do like the way they kept Brodie Lee looking strong despite having to eventually lose to Moxley. He still needs Evil Uno and Stu Grayson backing him up to REALLY sell the Exalted One gimmick, but he did a great job of showing himself to be a genuine threat to more than just the jobbers at the company and his own followers.
Before the big finale, there’s a commercial for the AEW action figures… and yeah, I want that Kenny Omega one. I’m not a big merch collector, but he’d look GREAT on my desk next to Sailor Jupiter and Master Chief!
The Elite Vs. The Inner Circle – Stadium Stampede Match
There’s a lot going on here. Okay, first; there has GOT to be more than fifty people in this stadium. If not, then it’s REALLY close because they’ve got cheerleaders, a marching band, and smoke machine operators ALL there and wearing masks. The Inner Circle THEN comes out in themed football jerseys like they’re about to play the big game while The Elite… well I guess they aren’t any LESS flamboyant and silly-looking in their regular outfits, but they at least aren’t wearing shoulder pads! In the middle of the field is a wrestling ring from which Ref Aubrey blows a whistle and both teams make a mad dash towards each other; carrying weapons, wearing helmets, it’s basically that fight scene out of Anchorman, albeit with better fighters.
If that wasn’t enough, Hangman Adam Page comes out a few minutes later riding a freaking horse and chases Sammy Guevara all the way to the back of the stadium! This match is certainly something and frankly I don’t know if I can spend ALL day doing a blow by blow of all the wacky nonsense that goes on, but I’ll try to hit the highlights. The first thing that caught my eye and made me wince was Matt Jackson with taped ribs jumps from the goal post. I guess that’s a good visual for the ol’ highlight real, but if he didn’t land on Jericho, Sammy, and his brother Nick, I wouldn’t be certain if those ribs would EVER recover. What we are up to, like ten spots in this one show that probably shouldn’t have been done? Well let’s add another to the list which is Kenny Omega eating a Powerbomb from Santana and Ortiz onto a steel barricade. The barricade broke so I’m guessing it was gimmicked to have a bit of give, but that still must have sucked! Matt jumps in to make the save and apparently, there’s a pool at the stadium and so Santana and Ortiz throw Matt Hardy into it. They dunk his head under the water, but he comes out from under the water in his Hardy Boyz outfit. Then a graphic comes up on the screen that Santana and Ortiz can somehow see, and they are not impressed with what they learn from it.
He comes up again after that as what I can only assume is Big Money Matt Hardy who they dunk again before he turns back into Broken Matt Hardy and takes back the advantage. It gets wackier from there involving a giant bell and a wheelchair, but none of it is enough for any of them to get the pin so we move on from there. I’m not in love with this match so far, but the comedy in this bit with Hardy and Proud N Powerful was amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it. So what happens next? Well we cut to Jake Hager who’s looking for Adam Page and finds him in a bar downing a tall whiskey in a short glass. Hager doesn’t immediately start pounding his head though, as the two of them enjoy a drink at the bar first. After all, if you’re gonna do this, then do it with some class! This was actually pretty great as well as it definitely has a fun bar brawl feel to it that feels more like a scene in Roadhouse or Lethal Weapon than a wrestling match, and both guys do a great job of selling it.
Kenny Omega comes to the rescue and the two tag team champions proceed to break bottles over his head before Kenny lands a V-Trigger and Page lands a Buckshot Lariat. The two of them SHOULD go for the pin at this point, but we’re not quite done with wacky spots so Omega pours Page a whiskey while Page pours Omega a cup of milk. We cut from there to The Bucks fighting Sammy and Jericho which includes a Nothern Light Suplex combination on the former (going from one end of the field to the other) and a wind machine spot on the latter. Jericho and Nick do some wacky football spots before the Jaguar’s mascot Jaxon De Ville starts to jeer at Jericho who responds with a Judas Effect right to his oversized novelty head!
As much as I enjoyed the wackiness of the match, there is a point where I feel it goes too far and that’s when the refs start getting involved. First, Ref Aubrey only gives a two count for a pin Jericho attempts on Nick Jackson and so he calls for a replay… which Ref Aubrey obliges. They go to the replay tent like it’s an actual football match, and they rewatch the video. Then after Matt Jackson completes his hundred yard Northern Light Suplex combination on Sammy, he celebrates in the end zone which Ref Knox calls a penalty on, and Matt Superkicks him in the face. I don’t know, even in the wackiest and brutalist of matches the refs should stay in their roles; otherwise there’d just be no point in them being there. In any case, let’s wrap this one up because it’s been going on for quite a while. Sammy is out in the field, presumably dazed after eating like a hundred Northern Light Suplexes, and out from the tunnel comes Matt Hardy and Kenny Omega; once again in a golf cart with their eyes set on Sammy. Dude books it harder than I’ve ever seen anyone run (except maybe Tom Cruise) and jumps up to the stands where Matt and Omega follow on foot. Sammy actually manages to get the advantage and has Matt pinned against a… thing (some sort of light fixture perhaps?) when we hear a familiar whirring sound! It’s not Vanguard One who tragically died all those weeks ago; it’s NEO One (Natural Electronic Organism One) who’s come back for revenge and distracts Sammy long enough for Kenny to land a V-Trigger and follows up with a One Winged Angel from an IRRESPONSIBLY high position right into a crash pad below. Audrey jumps in out of nowhere, and counts the pin; giving The Elite the victory in this utter farce of a match!
The match went a bit long, not all of the segments landed for me, and the refs being in on the joke kind of ruined it… but I still liked this match! We’ve seen pre-taped wackiness like the Boneyard Match and Firefly Fun House Match work for WWE, and giving everyone their own little piece within this larger whole of a match certainly kept everything focused and gave a lot of chance for the wrestlers to shine. I don’t know if I want to see something like this every PPV, but if we’re still holding off on the Blood and Guts match until stadiums can be filled again, this is definitely a nice alternative to fill the time until then.
The one overall criticism I have about this show is that they overthought things. Because there isn’t a BIG crowd there to cheer and boo, I guess they felt that they needed to compensate with wackiness, interference spots, and shocking plot twists to make it feel much bigger than it was. The Stadium Stampede match was definitely a good call, but undercutting Cody’s victory by having Arn Anderson interfere; not so much. On top of that there were WAY too many scary bumps that felt especially tacky on a show where two people already had to drop out due to injury, and I just feel it sets a bad precedent. AEW has always been about taking risky bumps like Darby Allin’s Coffin Drop onto the apron or Cody jumping from the top of the cage, but that kind of stuff is gonna wear the talent down and put them on the shelf like it did to Baker and Fenix. Other than that, I thought almost every match on the show was good to excellent with the sole exception being the Dustin/Spears match. Everyone certainly brought their A-Game, especially in that ridiculous Ladder Match, and it was certainly a feel-good show as I don’t think a single heel outside of the surprise appearance of Brian Cage got over on this event. Where does that leave us going forward? Well I guess we’ll have to find out on Wednesday; assuming anyone can still get out of bed after what they did here!