Super Wrestling: AEW – Double or Nothing 2021

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

AEW deciding to put a Friday night show right before the PPV made things a LITTLE difficult this weekend and sure enough it ended up taking me much longer than I anticipated to finally get this recap out for you all to see.  Still, they were nice enough to move THIS weeks’ Dynamite to Friday as well which means I can get this thing out a LITTLE later than I anticipated and still not technically be behind on the show!  Hopefully things will ease back into a more familiar formula by next week, but for now we’re going to discuss the Double or Nothing PPV that aired on Sunday and everything that resulted from it!  Was it a show worthy of the Double or Nothing name, or is their first PPV back in front of a live audience a much bigger disappointment than any of us expected?  Let’s find out!!

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Serena Deeb Vs. Riho – NWA Women’s Title Match (Buy In)

As usual, AEW has at least one match on YouTube that you can watch before the PPV itself, but this time they do something a bit odd.  Last Friday I mentioned that they moved the hard camera 90 degrees counterclockwise so that it was no longer facing the stage.  The Hard Cam is back to facing the stage.  For this match AND ONLY THIS MATCH, they put the camera back where it was before.  Seems a bit odd as they would have had to SPECIFICALLY move it back there before returning it to the place it was already moved to, but that’s perhaps a bit too much minutia for this kind of recap so let’s get to the match itself!  For the most part it’s Deeb trying to grab Riho and overpower her while Riho is flying around the ring with Spectacular moves, and for the first half it looks to be Riho’s match to win.  However, Deeb’s strength looks to be too much for her cross body dives and running drop kicks to overcome, and Deeb grounds her with a Dragon Screw that leaves her vulnerable for most of the match.  It’s not until Deeb puts her on the top turnbuckle that she starts to fight back and lands a Diving Stomp from the top rope which is soon followed up by a 619 and leads to a two count.  For whatever reason they called the 619 a “Tiger Feint Kick” and I’m not sure why as it hasn’t been an issue before.

As long as she doesn’t shout BOOYAKA-BOOYAKA while doing it, I think AEW is in the clear.

Riho goes for the Diving Stomp again, but Deeb gets out of the way and she lands on the apron instead which allows Deeb to land the Dragon Screw in the rope and a Twisting Neckbreaker once she’s inside which leads to another two count.  Riho is in the corner and tries kicking Deeb, but she eventually catches both her legs and does yet another Dragon screw (albeit an interesting variation of it) that rip her out of the corner and leads to a Powerbomb from Deeb.  Things aren’t looking food for Riho as Deeb goes for a Detox, but Riho breaks out of it and lands a Knee Strike followed by a Dragon Suplex that softens up Deeb for another Diving Stomp.  She pushes her luck just a little too far however as she doesn’t go for the pin but instead tries for a double knee strike that Deeb catches and reverses into a submission.  Riho makes it to the ropes, but it’s not long after that Deeb lands an Inverted Dragon Screw which is only causing more damage to the knee.  Riho wriggles out and rolls her up for a two count, but that’s the last of her hope spots as Deeb starts smashing Riho’s knee into the mat and puts her in the Serenity Lock; forcing Riho to tap out and retaining the NWA title for Deeb.  It was a pretty good match, and about what you’d expect from a Buy In.  No storyline to speak of as the NWA title is rarely mentioned outside of the odd match here and there, but the action was good and certainly got me pumped to see the rest of the show!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Brian Cage

Taz joins the commentary team for this match

Alright, first things first… what the heck is Brian Cage wearing?  He looks like he’s either auditioning for a Mad Max movie or a Joel Schumacher Batman film which is an… interesting choice for the guy?

I hate to disappoint you buddy, but they already made the new Mortal Kombat movie.

Sorry, I just had to get that out of the way.  As for the match itself, it’s actually a lot like the opener we just saw.  Page is running away with it at the start with some high flying moves that Cage just isn’t keeping up with, but his sheer power eventually stops Page in his tracks when he catches him during a Suicide Dive and throws him into the ring post.  Cage starts to get the heat here some brutal offense on the Hangman, but he starts showboating and Page uses this to land a Crucifix bomb for a two count.  Still, the damage is done and Page’s momentum is decimated which means he has to fight him blow for blow; going for big and dangerous moves and hoping that he can tank the abuse more than Cage can.  He knocks Cage and himself over the ropes to hit the floor, he does a Moonsault from the top rope that seems to hurt both of them equally, and an attempted Hurricanrana only lands after his second yank on the guy’s neck.  Under normal circumstances Hangman’s flurry of offense would be enough to bring any competitor to his knees, but Cage’s strength along with the damage already inflicted on him is making it hard for him to do more than keep things even; and even THAT isn’t lasting very long.  Cage is one of those super flexible big dudes and he lands some impressively agile and accurate moves that are sapping away at Hangman’s endurance, and a Middle Rope Suplex onto the ramp seems to have drained what little he had left.  His ego gets the better of him however and he starts making some bad mistakes when he could have won the match, but as soon as he realizes this he goes into OVERDRIVE and delivers a series of big devastating moves that make you weep for the Hangman who is as no matter how staged this sport is, those are some MEAN slams!

“Are you SURE we have to do this seventeen times?”     “I’m sorry, are you a professional or not?”

Despite Cage’s advantage, Ricky Starks and Hook come out to try and run interference to the consternation of Cage who shoos them away.  While trying to deal with that however, Page manages to get in position for the Buckshot and hits the move as soon as Cage turns around; getting the pin and winning the match.  It was teased a while ago that Cage was going to split away from Team Taz, and while that storyline has cooled considerably since then, it seems that is still in the cards as this proves that he is on a different page from everyone else in the crew and that’s getting in the way of his matches.  Wherever the story might end up going, this was another solid opener that MAYBE took a bit to get going but delivered by the end with Cage’s absurdly violent final push!  Hangman may have won that match, but at least Cage isn’t the one going to the back with those bruises!

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The Young Bucks Vs. Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston – AEW Tag Title Match

Kingston and Moxley as the loveable jerk bags going up against the very smug and hateable jerk bags is a pretty solid combination for a big match like this, and things start off pretty violently with Kingston and Moxley jumping The Bucks before the bell even rings and tossing them all over the place before they’re finally dragged into the ring to start the match.  I didn’t like it when Miro did it so I’m not going to say I all of a sudden approve of the cheap shots now, but they end up hardly mattering as Kingston starts to get massacred once it turns into an ACTUAL match.  It once again goes back to The Bucks being the better team as their tandem moves keep Kingston isolated even when he momentarily gets the upper hand.  He manages to drop Nick Jackson on the ropes, but Matt doesn’t miss a beat and runs over to knock Moxley to the floor before taking his spot on the apron and mockingly tagging himself in when Kingston finally crawls his way over there.

Oh, that wacky Young Buck!  What WILL he get up to next!?

However, his hubris does not go unpunished as Moxley comes back to take out Matt and Kingston manages to catch Nick mid-dive for a slam which is finally what it takes for him to tag in Moxley who runs wild on both of them Pile Drivers and DDTs.  Now any proper match with The Elite is going to have some shenanigans when they start to fall behind, and sure enough they deliver on it here once Moxley is back in control.  What works about it this time however is that they get it out of the way early; not because the shenanigans are a major detriment to these kind of matches (we’ll certainly see more of them later on), but it heightens the drama when The Bucks’ bag of tricks runs empty and they have to finish the match on their own.  What happens is that Gallows and Anderson come out for the distraction on Moxley, but Kingston bowls over Gallows and sends him packing while none other than Frankie Kazarian runs out from the back and starts brawling with Anderson!  The Bucks however are not deterred and spray Moxley in the eyes before bashing him in the head with the can, and they use this to land a Meltzer Driver on him outside the ring… which is NOT enough to keep him down!  They threw their best shot at him with those dastardly tactics, and now they’ve got nothing more than their own talent and will to win backing them up!  Still, Moxley isn’t in great shape after that and the next ten minutes are all about The Bucks throwing everything they have at the guy to try and finish him off.  There are a few spots where Kingston and Moxley get on the offensive, though perhaps the most memorable moment is when Moxley uses one of the shoes they stole during a Doomsday Device which seemed a bit hokey to me, but it was still a devastating move and nearly got them the win.

“I know you like to wear sneakers, but I’m about to take you to boot camp.” “OH SNAP!!”

With this momentary advantage, Moxley goes for The Paradigm Shift but it’s reversed into the Sharpshooter and Moxley is only saved when Kingston breaks up the pin.  Moxley then goes for the Paradigm Shift again and pulls it off, but Nick still kicks out at two.  Sadly this is the las chance that Moxley had to put it away and ends up eating a Super Kick Party from The Bucks which keeps him down for the three count; winning the match for The Bucks and retaining their title as Tag Team Champions.  The heat on Kingston was perhaps a LITTLE bit excessive at the start of the match, but that’s about the only thing I can point to as a negative here.  There are matches that are truly excellent in their execution, but when it comes to a PPV you want there to be a story told through the violence and the desperation of each competitor which this match delivers on and makes it endlessly compelling to watch; especially when they start throwing out so many moves that there’s almost no way to cover EVERY twist and turn without turning this into a straight up novel.  Moxley and Kingston went to war with The Bucks and no one left that match without leaving something in the ring which may have been all that Moxley and Kingston were hoping to do even in defeat, but we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for them now that they took their shot and lost in this fantastic match.

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Double or Nothing Casino Battle Royale

Paul Wight joins the commentary team for this match

The Casino Battle Royale has been an AEW tradition since it opened the company’s very first PPV, but they’ve also had their ups and downs with Battle Royales with some feeling like rather middling t best.  Do they pull out all the stops for the BIG SHOW (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk) and give us an all-time classic match!?

First Group – Christian Cage, Matt Sydal, Powerhouse Hobbs, Dustin Rhodes, and Max Caster.

Things start off without much action as the most memorable thing here was Max Caster’s rap where he takes shot at all the guys in the ring.  He does manage to eliminate Sydal, but then is immediately eliminated by Cage so not much of a spotlight for his wrestling skills.

Second Group – Matt Hardy, Isiah Kassidy, Preston Vance, Nick Comoroto, and Serpentico

Serpentico was a last minute replacement for The Blade who had to withdraw due to an injury so obviously he wasn’t going to be the underdog here… and yet I’m not sure why they even bothered with the guy after seeing what he does here.  For whatever reason, he doesn’t actually want to go to the ring and has to be thrown in there by his buddy Luther before getting thrown out IMMEDIATELY by Preston Vance.  Comoroto and Preston are the two stars of this section as Preston does everything he can to throw the immovable caveman over the side, but he can’t get enough leverage to get him over the ropes and instead eats a Spear for his trouble.  He tries valiantly to hold onto the ropes as Comoroto is kicking him off the apron, but out of nowhere Dustin runs up and dumps Comoroto over the side which ALSO knocks Preston off the apron as well.  Not happy about this, Comoroto bashes Dustin in the head with a cowbell and Powerhouse Hobbs eliminates him right before the next group comes in.

Third Group – Brian Pillman Jr, Griff Garrison, Colt Cabana, Anthony Bowens, and Penta El Zero M

Everyone gets a moment to shine when they come in, but the standout is OBVIOUSLY Penta; not just because he’s the best wrestler of the group, but the dude is decked out in Joker Colors and even has the smile face paint.  I have NO idea why he decided to do this, but he’s Penta so he can do whatever the heck he wants; especially if he’s doing it to Big Money Matt Hardy! 

“You wanna see a magic trick?”     “NO!  ANYTHING BUT THAT!!”

Other than the initial brawls and Penta though, things are kinda bland for this segment as Cabana gets dumped by Isaiah Kassidy without any fanfare while Bowens and Garrison are not far behind.

Fourth Group – Jungle Boy, Marq Quen, Aaron Solow, Evil Uno, and Lee Johnson

Pillman gets eliminated while the new guys are coming in which was a bit of a disappointment, but the action is really starting to ramp up here with some interesting combinations.  Lee Johnson and Solow have a pretty good rapport with each other which makes it a shame that they both get eliminated so quickly (Solow by Johnson and Johnson by Hardy), and I can’t believe I never thought of this before but I love the idea of Evil Uno and Penta facing off and want to see them in a proper match as soon as possible!  Hopefully one that lasts longer than the confrontation here as he gets thrown out by Penta rather quickly before getting eliminated himself by Jungle Boy.  Hobbs and Cage who have been MIA for most of this match return to the ring and Hobbs starts things off by giving Isaiah Kassidy one of those HELLACIOUS slams made all the better by Kassidy screaming his lungs out as he knows what’s about to happen!  Sadly that’s Hobbs’ biggest moment as he’s eliminated by Christian Cage immediately after; leaving him, Jungle Boy, Matt Hardy, and both members of Private Party.  The stage is set for the final confrontation when the bell rings to herald the final entrant.  Who will the surprise guest be!?

Final Entrant – Lio Rush

Hey, he’s not Daniel Bryan but Lio Rush is a PHENOMENAL wrestler in his own right!  It’s a shame that we don’t get to SEE any of it as he fends off Private Party for a bit before getting dumped by Matt Hardy; leaving the match EXACTLY where it was when he entered it so why did he even bother?  I highly doubt that AEW just hired the guy for one night and for a minute and a half of action at that, but the guy deserves a LITTLE more fanfare than that!

Thanks for showing up Lio! You can pick up your check in the back!

So with nothing changed, we pick up where we left off with Cage, Jungle Boy, Hardy, and Private Party.  Cage manages to toss Quen and Kassidy onto the apron in their Silly String formation (Kassidy is on Quen’s back) and Jungle Boy kicks Kassidy to eliminate him soon followed by Quen who gets a Baseball slide off the apron from Cage.  Without his back up to help him, Hardy tries to form an impromptu alliance with Cage against the youngster Jungle Boy, but it doesn’t work out as Cage just dumps him over the ropes.  It’s down to Jungle Boy and Christian Cage; the future of this business vs the guy who out works everyone!   Cage starts off strong and actually gets a few boos from the crowd who are definitely on Jungle Boy’s side, but eventually the brawl makes its way to the apron where neither can do much more than swipe at one another to try and knock them to the ground.  Jungle Boy manages to land a Pendulum Kick which sends Cage reeling, but he recovers quickly and shoves Jungle Boy as hard as he can into the post which he avoids by swinging on it around to the apron on the adjacent side!  THAT could have easily gone badly yet Jungle Boy is just the kind of guy you can rely on to get it right, and Cage is just as baffled as we are about that impressive feat of athleticism so he just tries charging him which Jungle Boy avoids and uses that momentum to throw him over the ropes and onto the ground.  Jungle Boy is the winner of the match and will be getting an AEW World Title shot in the near future, and Cage who just lost out on his shot enters the ring… to give Jungle Boy a big hug!  A great moment and a great ending for a match that for the most part was fine.  It wasn’t the best they’ve done and like pretty much every other match so far it had a bit of a slow build to it, but they eventually got where they needed to (after Lio Rush just kinda came and went) and Cage is proving more and more each week that he really brings something to the table here at AEW!

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Cody Rhodes Vs. Anthony Ogogo

Cody is accompanied to the ring by Arn Anderson while Ogogo is accompanied by QT Marshall

More so than Ogogo’s greenness in the ring, the thing that Cody is gonna have to work overtime to compensate for is the very retro and slightly tone oblivious setup for the match where he the American Dream will be fighting Ogogo who’s pretty much EXCLUSIVELY defined by his Britishness and so there’s little else to point to as to why he’s a Heel.  Sure, he beats people up with punches, but Jericho’s got the Judas Effect and it hasn’t led to a war with Canada yet!  Not only that, he comes out in a Red White and Blue jacket that others have astutely pointed out makes him look like Homelander from The Boys; all of which are just skirting the line of bad taste but thankfully the match itself plays out like a standard Heel/Face match.  There are definitely USA chants from the crowd, but Ogogo isn’t in there desecrating a US flag and Cody isn’t firing off salutes or anything like that.

I’m imagining what an Americanized version of that Bee Gees’ Sargent Pepper movie would be like, and I’m not happy with the results…

Cody’s opening gambit is to try and hold onto Ogogo’s arm and damage it to try and undercut the effectiveness of his gut punch, but surprisingly he manages to land one almost immediately in the match and Cody is reeling from it for a long time; not an immediate take down like with Austin Gunn, but right away he’s down to half speed which gives Ogogo some time to show off a few of his wrestling moves for the heat.  Even when Cody manages to get back in control of things and has some momentum, Ogogo lands another hit that knocks him back to square one.  The only thing that’s continually saving Cody is that Ogogo is just SO green that he can’t properly take advantage of the situation. Sure he can land some moves, but his pins are sloppy and just aren’t enough to keep Cody down.  QT Marshall tries to help by bashing Cody over the head when the ref isn’t looking, but Cody still won’t stay down for the three count and now QT has incurred the wrath of Arn Anderson who’s menacing him with a chair for the rest of the match.  What’s also working against Ogogo is his stamina as he seems to be fading fast and starts throwing wild punches that Cody dodges with ease.  Cody is far from good shape, but he’s got enough left in the tank to land a Cody Cutter and get Ogogo to the top rope.  However, Ogogo manages to land two punches while up there that send Cody crashing to the mat, and now Ogogo gets to show off that he knows how to do a Frog Splash!  Honestly I wouldn’t have complained too much if all he did was boxing stuff here, but he seems serious about being a wrestler and took the time to learn at least one high flying move which is very much appreciated.

“HERE’S a British Invasion for your ass!”

The offense continues and Ogogo goes for another pin, but alas he’s WAY too close to the ropes and Cody’s partially underneath it which means the ref can’t start counting.  By the time he drags Cody to the middle and lands one more move before going for the pin, Cody’s recovered enough to kick out at two.  Ogogo picks Cody up and goes for the Pop Up Punch, but Cody comes back down with an elbow to the head and immediately hits Ogogo with a Vertibreaker which is enough to keep Ogogo down for the three count and win the match for Cody.  Given the somewhat uncomfortable narrative at play and Ogogo’s inexperience in the ring, this could have gone VERY badly.  While it wasn’t the best match on the show, it is a pleasant surprise that they managed to pull this off as well as they could considering how much was working against them, and a lot of that credit does have to go to Ogogo who brought his A-Game and didn’t just coast on his boxing skills to get him through this.  It’s still very early in his career, but with his solid promo work and his in ring competence, Ogogo might just be another success story for AEW and I’m interested to see where he goes from here!

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Miro Vs. Lance Archer – TNT Title Match

Just two giant dues smashing the crap out of each other; like a Kaiju battle without the costumes!  To that end there’s not much to talk about here as they just trade big moves back and forth, but it’s all fun and they both bring a lot of personality to the carnage.  Miro in particular has to shine here as he’s the new TNT Champion, and if he’s going to have a good run then he needs to come off like a champ.  He’s got the facial expressions, the in ring charisma, and CERTAINLY the moves to sell you that he’s an unstoppable monster even against another monster like Lance Archer.  It goes back and forth for a while before Miro gets a distinct advantage which is when Jake Roberts comes out from the back with his patented Snake Bag to try and run a distraction.  Miro can see this coming from a mile away however and not only stops Roberts, he takes the bad just checks it out of the ring which I found absolutely HILARIOUS, though I’ll be changing my tune if it turns out there was an actual snake in there?

“Snake, what’s wrong?  Snake!?  SNAAAAAAKE!!”

Despite the setback with the snake, the distraction ultimately worked as Archer grabs Miro and Choke Slams him into the mat for a two count.  He then goes for the Blackout but Miro wriggles out and starts kicking the heck out of him, though him and Archer start running the ropes and Archer has the much mightier shoulder check which knocks Miro out of the ring entirely.  Not deterred however, Miro ends up getting the advantage again and knocks Archer to the ground with leaping Thrust Kicks before locking in the Game Over. Archer fights back but ultimately loses consciousness which forces the ref to ring the bell and call the match for Miro.  This was a VERY good match for what it was.  It didn’t have the technical panache of the Bucks match and there wasn’t much a story here besides THEY PUNCH EACH OTHER, but it also didn’t overstay its welcome and used both of these men’s strengths to their fullest.  I feel somewhat bad for Archer who has yet to score a major victory here at AEW despite always being positioned as a killer, but there’s no way you could doubt the man’s talent as he and Miro put on a show.  Speaking of the best man, if he’s going to have more matches like this then his run with the TNT Title is going to be AWESOME and I’m eager to see it!

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Hikaru Shida Vs. Britt Baker – AEW Women’s Title Match

Baker is accompanied to the ring by Rebel (Not Reba)

We’ve been in the Pandemic era for so long with Shida as champion and with a lot of ups and downs for the division that it’s kind of hard to forget how good these two in particular can be.  Baker’s been on an upswing ever since she went Heel, and while Shida’s been stale as the champ for the last few months, there’s a reason she was chosen to BE that champion and how excited we were when she won it.  Both of these women are great wrestlers and this match reflects that talent with smart in-ring psychology and some very tense nearfalls in between the well-executed action!  It starts off submission heavy as Baker’s primary goal is to put Shida in the Lock Jaw but ends up getting trapped in Shida’s moves instead.

“THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR TRYING TO STICK YOUR FINGERS IN MY MOUTH!”     “But I wear a glove when I do it!”     “NO EXCUSES!!”

It’s not until she creates some distance by rolling out of the ring that she starts to get a bit of momentum, but it’s clearly early on that it’s Shida’s match to win as long as she can avoid Baker’s killer submission hold.  This goes on for a while with Shida holding a decisive edge, but Baker keeps finding ways to get some offense in herself and her big chance comes when she lands a Slingblade followed by an Air Raid Crash that gets her a two count.  She may not have gotten the pin, but she is in a position to try the Lock Jaw in which Shida fights like heck while crawling for the ropes.  She’s just inches away from breaking the hold when Baker switches positions to cleverly put herself between Shida and the ropes   Shida manages to escape the hold moments later and regains the advantage with German Suplex and a Diving Elbow Strike for a two count.  She follows up with a Superplex and a Stretch Muffler which is enough for Rebel (Not Reba) to try and run interference, but Shida rolls away at the last second and Rebel hits Baker over the head with her crutch instead.  All is not lost however as Baker manages to kick out despite taking a hit from the crutch and even kicks out from Shida’s Falcon Arrow finisher.  Baker then takes Shida’s belt and stomps her face into it while the ref is trying to deal with Rebel (Not Reba) and she manages to kick out of THAT.  A Jumping Knee Strike from Shida followed by a Running Knee Strike are still only able to get her a two count, but this creates an opening for Baker to roll her into a Crucifix Pin which she kicks out of, but then Baker transitions into the Lock Jaw and FINALLY manages to lock it in which Shida taps to immediately; winning the match for Baker and crowning her as the new AEW Women’s World Champion.  This was probably long overdue and the match itself that got us there did a great job of showing us why Baker deserves to be the champ even if she’s still fighting like a conniving Heel.  As much as I was growing tired of Shida as champion, I definitely don’t want her to drop off of Dynamite and I think that her fighting from the bottom and clawing her way back up will be an interesting story to go along with Baker’s run with the belt.

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Darby Allin & Sting Vs. Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page

AEW has made sure to let us know that Sting hasn’t been in a proper wrestling match for six years, though what they neglect to mention is that there are some very good reasons why that is the case; most notably his Spinal Stenosis which he got in that last match from six years ago against Seth Rollins after a badly done Buckle Bomb.  Now sure, medical science can do some amazing things and Sting isn’t typically a guy who will go for broke on dangerous things just to get a pop from the crowd, but it’s still a risk for the guy and the fact that he hasn’t wrestled in so long is likely to make him rusty and therefore more prone to a costly mistake.  Thankfully, as far as I could tell at least, everything worked out fine and Sting ended up looking quite good in here.  I mean going with the singlet isn’t the most flattering thing in the world as the guy looks a lot more his age with that than with his trademark jacket, but he manages to find the right balance between fighting safe and wowing the audience.  The match starts off with him taking a Suplex on the ramp which is probably the most dangerous thing he does in the match, and he gets up IMMEDIATELY afterwards to put the fear of god into Scorpio Sky for doing it, so it all kind of works out by as much as they can with as little as they dare to try on him.

“If I don’t move, you can’t see me!”     “You’re thinking of dinosaurs.”     “Exactly!”     “Oh, I see what you did there!”     *PUNCH*

Sting being mostly untouchable means that Darby has to take an enormous amount of punishment to make up for it which also has the benefit of building up Sting’s hot tags where gets to run wild for about a minute before finding a reason to get him back out of there.  It’s mostly heat on Darby for the first half of it with occasionally hope spots from Sting which is all fine, but where it takes a turn is when Ethan Page tosses Darby right over the ropes, over the barricade, and into the crowd which was as impressive as it was devastating to Darby.  It leads to a very interesting moment here where Darby is not able to move and Sting has to decide if he wants to put Darby back in there with Page or to let him be counted out to save him from further punishment.  It works because of the relationship that’s been built up between these two as well as the fact that you KNOW Darby is going to be very upset with Sting if he lets them lose the match even if it’s the right thing for Darby’s sake which makes the decision that much more difficult to make.  Sting eventually decides to let the match end, but Darby wakes up at nine and manages to get back in the ring before ten which arguably makes the preceding scene kinda pointless but I still think it was important to establish in just what way Sting sees Darby; not as just a means to an end or a young up and comer he can mold with his experience but someone he genuinely doesn’t want to see hurt even if it would inevitably create a rift between them.  Anyway, back to the match itself,  Page lifts Darby up and puts him in position for the Ego’s Edge since he can still barely defend himself, but Darby’s second wind continues as wriggles out and fights off Page long enough to make it to his corner and tag Sting in for his biggest hot tag yet!  He’s hitting both of them with Stinger Splashes which is cool and the crowd goes wild for it, but then he does a Code Red which, at least to me, looked pretty bad.  Normally a Code Red is a fast flip with a bit of airtime before hitting the mat, but this was more of a roll up which looked very slow and not very painful.   You can only assume it was done this way because of Sting’s age which is a bit depressing, but the crowd was still very into it and even gave him a YOU STILL GOT IT chant afterwards.  Things get a bit hectic here as Darby tags back in but Sting refuses to leave the ring and even puts the legal man Ethan Page into the Scorpion Death Lock.  Ref Aubrey tries to make hay out of this but then Sky comes in to put Darby in his own hold which only makes matters worse and she gives them a good long while to do these simultaneous submissions before finally kicking Sting and Sky out of the ring. 

“I HATE YOU!”     “I HATE YOU MORE!”     “I HATE YOU SO MUCH THAT I HOPE STING BREAKS MY LEG!”     “WELL I HATE YOU SO MUCH THAT I HOPE SCORPIO SKY BREAKS MY LEG TWICE!!”

At this point, Darby and Page are completely tapped out and just barely make it to their respective corners so that the remaining two guys can finish this fight.  Sky looks a bit shaken but manages to throw a few blows at Sting and even avoids a Stinger Splash which he tries to use to his advantage by following up with a Cutter, but it was not meant to be as Sting catches Sky and instead finishes him with a Scorpion Death Drop.  Sting goes for the pin, gets the three count, and wins the match for him and Darby in what is probably the last time we’ll see Sting in the ring for a good long while.  If you have A LOT of nostalgia for Sting, then you’ll probably love this match as he hits all his highlights and still looks pretty decent doing it.  For everyone else, there’s a solid match here as none of the other three guys are slouches and there’s a fun and somewhat meaningful story being told throughout, but it’s far from the best thing on the show so far; ESPECIALLY after what comes next which is…

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Kenny Omega Vs. Orange Cassidy Vs. Pac – Three Way AEW Title Match

Don Callis joins the commentary team for this match

I’m just gonna say this right off the bat; this is BEST match on the entire show and whatever recap I give here will not do it justice; not just because the darn thing is over THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES, but there’s so much going on that there’s a new story with its own arc every five minutes in the match, so while I’ll only be hitting the highlights here, just now it’s a FRACTION of what made this match so great!  Now Kenny wanted this to be a match between him and Pac so the first thing he does is knock Cassidy out of the ring which he PROBABLY regretted immediately as it turns out that Pac is pretty evenly matched with him and they even do simultaneous Crossbody jumps so that they end up colliding in midair.  With both men on the mat, Cassidy lackadaisically rolls back in to try and pin both of them to no avail, so he steps up his game and takes them both down with simultaneous Hurricanranas; something I didn’t think was possible if I didn’t just see him pull it off!  Pac is now out of the ring and a Swinging DDT from Cassidy gets him a two count on Omega.  Not looking good for the champ so far, but he gets something of a break as Pac drags him to the outside and knocks him out with a Moonsault to keep him out of the way while he gets the heat on Cassidy for a while.  Pac is very methodical here and lands a few impressive Shotgun Drop Kicks, but soon Kenny is back in control.  He does do a lot of showboating for a guy who until now was mostly on the mat or outside the ring, but there are enough big and devastating moves during this part that prove he’s walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.  Still, taking things more seriously might have kept Cassidy from surprising him with a Stundog Millionaire, and the two trade pins for a bit until Pac lands a freaking 450 Splash on both of them. 

“You spin me right round, baby, RIGHT ROUND!”     “My GOD!  Pac plans on winning this match and taking that belt from Kenny, dead or alive!!”

We get a lot of back and forth action which is VERY impressive to see as the action is very well coordinated so that everyone gets a shot in at JUST the right moment and take their bumps without missing a beat.  Eventually, Omega gets Cassidy on the top rope and is trying to put him in the Snap Dragon hold for an Avalanche Suplex, but Cassidy fights him off and ever so slowly gets his hands in his pockets; making it impossible for Kenny to close the hold.  Pac runs up and gives Kenny an Avalanche German Suplex, and for his trouble Cassidy jumps on Pac with the hands in his pockets.  A bit more action from there, all of which good but is mostly just more back and forth moves that would take too long to do a play by play on, and the next big move is when Kenny has Pac on his shoulders on the top turnbuckle and is gonna do an Avalanche One Winged Angel which to me sounds like the most DANGEROUS THING IMAGINABLE.  Pac manages to slide down off his shoulders to the relief of everyone and does this Sunset Powerbomb thing that was quite impressive, and he quickly gets Kenny up to the top turnbuckle so that he can do his OWN absurdly dangerous move; an Avalanche Falcon Arrow.  He manages to land it but before he can get the pin, Cassidy runs in like a bat out of hell and tosses Pac over the ropes to then go for the pin himself, but he only gets a two count.  Kenny rolls out after that which just leaves Cassidy and a VERY peeved Pac in the middle of the ring which is a position no sensible person would EVER want to find themselves in.  Cassidy however is not your Average Joe and is unfazed by Pac’s presence; so much so that he goes for his tiny kicks to show how little he cares… and then Pac just straight up kicks him in the nuts!  Without any shame, he kicks Cassidy right in the little oranges and does a Black Arrow from the top to hit the point home.  Heck, it probably would have been the end of the match if Omega didn’t break up the pin!

Good thing he’s still got The Best Friends in his corner, because two of his buddies just disappeared after THAT mighty boot from Pac!

With Omega back in the ring, he tries to get Pac with the One Winged Angel but somehow Pac manages to maneuver himself into the Brutalizer so that he’s basically choking out Omega while clinging to his back.  The best part of this is when Cassidy comes in and shoves Omega into the ropes which sends Pac flying to the floor!  Sadly we don’t get a shot of his fall, but you can imagine what that must have been like!  Not missing a beat Cassidy follows that up by hitting the Beach Break on Omega but only gets a two count for his troubles.  Once again, Kenny just rolls out of the way leaving an even MORE peeved Pac to deal with Cassidy and he goes for the Powerbomb which almost took Cassidy out of this match two weeks ago, but Cassidy escapes and lands not one but TWO Orange Punches that leave Pac practically out on the mat.  Cassidy goes for the pin, Ref Remsberg makes it to two, but then he’s dragged out by none other than Don Callis who just robbed Cassidy of his rightful win.  Cassidy and Omega brawl for a bit before Pac, who I can’t imagine POSSIBLY being more peeved than he is right now, grabs Cassidy and just throws him in the brutalizer.  Omega doesn’t want Cassidy to tap, so he starts bashing Pac over the head… to absolutely no effect.  This dude is so enraged and is full on EYE OF THE TIGER that he will not let go no matter what Kenny does, so he goes with Plan B; bash Ref Remsberg over the head!  Like with the Don Callis spot, this is all TECHNICALLY legal because a three way is a no DQ match, but I’m not the biggest fan of that rule going so far as to allow someone to interfere with the ref.  Even in a no DQ match, I feel like the ref should be off limits.  In any case, the ref is out and Kenny can do whatever he wants so he has Don Callis toss him his title belt to bash Pac over the head with.  Oh that’s right, he has more than one belt doesn’t he?  Because of that, he just has Callis do this four times; toss him the belt, bash Pac, and do the same with the next belt!  I mean sure he could have just hit him with ONE belt FOUR times, but where’s the fun in that!?

“Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me four times-” *SMACK*

Kenny is riding high off of this display of violence and doesn’t notice Cassidy is back up and smashes him in the face with an Orange Punch!  Because Ref Remsberg is still down, Ref Aubrey has to run in to make the count, but by the time she’s in there, Cassidy can only keep Kenny down for two.  Not only that, but Kenny immediately puts Cassidy in a Crucifix, and sure enough he manages to keep him down for three to win the match and retain his title.  It was everything I wanted and more from this match which could have EASILY been a disaster, especially with what happened to Orange Cassidy just two weeks prior, but it was fantastic title match that seems to have gone off without a hitch!  The only thing that kinda bugged me were the ref spots as I mentioned before, but other than that the action was just nonstop and varied enough that you never got bored, and the match just kept evolving as time went on with new ideas being thrown out and brilliantly close near falls that ratcheted up the tension at just the right moments!  We’re not quite halfway through the year, but this match is definitely a contender for the best one of the year, at least in my book, and I feel sorry for anything that would have to follow it!  SPEAKING OF WHICH…

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Okay, before we get to the next match, they do announce that Mark Henry has joined AEW and he comes out form the back to make a brief appearance for the crowd. I’m not too familiar with his work so I can’t really say how much of a GET this is for AEW, but it IS surprising as I didn’t even know he was no longer with WWE and figured he be one of those guys who always stuck around there. Then again, I thought the same thing about Paul Wight which shows you what I know! Now then!

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The Inner Circle Vs. The Pinnacle – Stadium Stampede Match

Like with the other match, I’m not gonna keep you in suspense and just let you know right off the bat that this was a VERY GOOD MATCH.  Not as good as the World Title Match and perhaps a notch or two below the Tag Title Match, but it’s still a good bit of fun that ends this PPV on just the right note.  The match begins with MJF rolling up in a limo but is then immediately outclassed when the Inner Circle zip line down from the scoreboard like Sting used to do from the rafters.  The rest of The Pinnacle come in on a pickup truck while The Inner Circle are trying to coax MJF out of the limo, and everyone gets into a big brawl before splitting off into their own fights. 

Our first match is MJF vs Jericho who both run to the back and start hitting each other with anything they can find.  It’s mostly comedy though as the weapon spots are very goofy, including one spot where Jericho screams into a megaphone to try and pop MJF’s ears.

“JUDAS IN, JUDAS IN MY MIND!!”     “NOT THE BUTT ROCK!  ANYTHING BUT THE BUTT ROCK!!”

The two keep brawling around the back; moving from room to room and finding new things to throw at each other.  At one point they even run into one of the Jaguar’s coaches (brand synergy!) and later on we get to see MJF get a note stapled to his head which has already become an iconic image of this show.  For some I could see it being TOO goofy for what is supposed to be a serious feud with a weighty stipulation, but frankly it’s never NOT fun to see this little twerp getting wrecked in Three Stooges-esque slapstick spots and the man is FANTASTIC at selling all this pain!

Elsewhere we have Wardlow and Hager duking it out which feels like it’s trying to be more serious than MJF and Jericho and that honestly makes it even funnier.  These two kinda big awkward dude (Hager more so than Wardlow) are in the freezer area trying to beat the hell out of each other and it only kinda works.  Shoving each other into metal doors and taking Choke Slams onto wooden pallets is one thing, but when they start selling shots from empty plastic jugs and when Wardlow tries to use a fake icicle to run through Jake Hager like he’s the freaking Highlander, it gets kind of hard to take seriously.

“THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE, YOU GIANT GOOFBALL!”     “Well there’s no need to be hurtful about it…”

Still, I enjoy the Try Hard gusto of it all and it does end on a rather satisfying note.  Wardlow is clearly in control of this fight and keeps trying to leave after pounding Hager to the ground (a strange choice considering someone HAS to be pinned for their team to win the match), but Hager is going full Rocky here and isn’t gonna stay down no matter how much punishment is thrown at him!  Eventually the fight takes them to the roof of some sort of service vehicle in the back and Wardlow tries to get Hager up for a Power Bomb, but Hager lands a nut shot on Wardlow and Choke Slams him into a pile of wood off to the side!  They may not be the best guys on their respective teams, but they are quite a pair when they get to work together!

Sadly the weak link in this match is the Proud N Powerful Vs FTR portion.  There’s just not as much fun stuff going on here despite trying harder than any other section to BE fun.  For whatever reason, the majority of this match has been in generic concrete hallways or simple office spaces where last year they were all over the stadium including one part where they were at a freaking pool.  Here they at least go to some sort of bar in the building that’s decked out to look like a night club (complete with bystanders and a Conan cameo), but once it gets down to brass tacks between the two teams, it’s just a lot of wild brawling.  Everyone is hammering each other over the head with punches for like five minutes with the only parts of note being a VERY obvious fake knife spot on Tully (Santana hit the chair BEHIND Tully and on top of that it looked like a PLASTIC fork to me) and Santana brawling with Dash Wheeler all the way to a waiting elevator which is the last time we see either of them. 

“This may be a big let-DOWN for you to get the SHAFT like this, but you’ve been PUSHING MY BUTTONS and driving me UP THE WALL for weeks now!”     “Can you just shut up and punch me!?”

So yeah, that was all a bit disappointing.  Still, we’ve saved the best for last which is Sammy and Spears.  Sammy is looking for the guy backstage and is drawn to a nearby room where he does indeed Shawn Spears… who is surrounded by THOUSANDS of folding chairs!  The Chairman of AEW has found his happy place, and Sammy is a stranger man than for not turning tail and running as far away as he could!

“I ask you, good sir!  WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW!?”

Now while that is perhaps my favorite moment of the entire match, it’s not the only reason why this part works so well.  As the brawl moves from there to other parts of the arena, the two really start to get into their element and put on a heck of a fight with Sammy doing some straight up martial arts movie moves like flipping off a wall and an awesome looking roundhouse kick!  Spears however has some genuine menace here as he may not be able to move as fast as Sammy, he’s still stronger than him and downright meaner as he tosses Sammy head first into a steel shutter door and even throws a ladder as his face to try and finish him off.  If nothing else, the spot works well enough for Spears to handcuff Sammy to a metal rack which is kind of an odd note to end this section on considering he just gets out of it pretty quickly, but it’s mostly just a prelude to what happens next.

There has certainly been some solid action in this Stadium Stampede match, but it still doesn’t feel as EPIC or has as many interesting spots as last year’s so it can’t help but feel like a bit of a letdown.  However, they make one change here that sets it apart and even elevates this type of match because after all this carnage we see, Both Jericho and MJF as well as Sammy and Spears make their way to Daily’s Place to finish things up in front of the live crowd.  The MJF/Jericho bit is pretty straightforward as they brawl their way to the top of Daily’s Place and MJF nearly throws Jericho off the balcony to the shock and horror of everyone in attendance.

“Dibs on his boots when he falls to his death!”     “Oka fine, but I’m taking home the cast!”

Since Jericho probably shouldn’t be taking a bump like that (especially with his arm still banged up!), he manages to escape and smashes MJF over the head with a light before Power Bombing him into some sort of wooden box which effectively takes him out of the match.  All that’s left now is for Shawn Spears and Sammy to finish their fight and find out who the winner is, and it starts off decidedly in Sammy’s favor as he didn’t just escape from the backroom but found a golf cart and is now chasing Spears to the Daily’s Place and to the ring inside!  His luck seems to have run out however as they take the fight to the ring and Sammy goes for a Springboard move… only for Shawn to BASH him out of the air with a chair; leaving Sammy in a crumpled heat yet still only getting a two count with his pin attempt.  Undeterred, Spears sits Sammy up and taunts him for a bit before bashing him once again in the face with a chair… and STILL he only gets a two count as Sammy manages to kick out!  Clearly frustrated by all this, Spears then sets up a chair between the ropes in the corner and picks Sammy up toss him into it.  Sammy, despite all that’s happened and the chair shot he just took, manages to escape from Spears’ hold and gives him a GTS (Excalibur calls it a GTH which I can only assume stands for Go To Hell) and drags Shawn to the corner so that HE can knock him into the chair!   Once again, Shawn ends up having one of the best moments of the night as he screams NO SAMMY, YOU SON OF A B**CH before eating the chair shot and laying dead.  This dude kind of became a joke after his initial feud with Cody, but he is a FANTASTIC bad guy here and I want to see more Baby Faces get in the ring with him!

“HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A SPEARS SCORNED!”     “Yeah, whatever dude.”     *SMASH*

After the face bashing, Sammy goes to the top rope and lands a 630 Senton before finally going for the pin and winning the match; saving The Inner Circle and ending the show on a high note as the rest of the Inner Circle hit the ring and celebrate while the crowd sings Judas!

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AEW had to knock it out of the park with their first big show in front of fans, and I think they did just that.  There were moments here and there that didn’t work for me, but I can’t say a single match was bad or even mediocre.  PERHAPS the Cody match was a bit cringy and the Battle Royale didn’t live up to its potential, but overall this is a great show that they put together and is certainly setting the stage for things to come; especially once AEW is back on the road.  The Pandemic isn’t over by any means as less than half of the US population has been vaccinated, but it was good to see a big crowd react to everything that was happening and the prospect of more shows like this with similar crowds is definitely one of the things I’m looking forward to in the Post COVID era.  I’ll certainly do my best to see a show if whenever they come to my area, but even if you can only watch it on a screen instead of seeing it in person, the future looks bright for AEW.

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