Last weekend All Elite Wrestling held what was essentially their first major show (I’m not sure if the “All In” show from Autumn 2018 actually counts as a show under the AEW banner) in the form of Double or Nothing. The event emanated from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada and was available to people of the United Kingdom and Ireland via ITV Box Office at just under £15.
I excitedly laid down the 3 Bison Dollars required to view the show and watched it live on the TV Player App for Amazon Firestick. I had little to no issues watching the show (Aside from TV Player occasionally requiring you to press a button to keep streaming after a period of inactivity) and the picture quality was fine for the most part. I heard reports of some people having technical issues, such as one friend saying he lost the feed whilst watching on his Sky Box, and I read elsewhere that some people had issues with the app during the Best Friends Vs Evan and Angelico match, but on the whole the main portion of the show seemed to have a minimum of glitches and issues.
Prior to the Double or Nothing event proper, there was an hour special that aired on ITV4 called “The Buy-In”, which featured a 21 man Battle Royale and a singles bout between the UK’s Kip Sabian and Sammy Guevara. The Battle Royale was a bit of a mess, but did have some entertaining moments such as bilateral amputee Dustin Thomas delivering a 619 that would make even Rey Mysterio Jr proud and some fun nostalgia spots from Billy Gunn, Tommy Dreamer and Glacier. The eventual winner was #21 entrant Adam “Hangman” Page, as he last eliminated the arrogant moneyed MJF to claim a chance to face the winner of the evenings main event to crown the first ever AEW World Champion.
Sabian Vs Guevara was, to steal a phrase from noted wrestling writer Scott Keith, a “perfectly cromulent” contest between two athletic and talented men. I didn’t really get that emotionally invested in the matches story, but I did enjoy a lot of the big moves within it, such as Guevara laying Sabian over the barricade and following with a devastating Shooting Star Press. Eventually Sabian was able to get the win back inside with his Michinoku Driver like move called “The Deathly Hallows”. I personally would have put this on before the Battle Royale, as it would have made for a better opening bout due to it being a straight forward singles contest rather than the more confusing Battle Royale.
The main Double or Nothing card opened up with a pulsating bout between So Cal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) and Strong Hearts (CIMA, T-Hawk and Lindaman) from the Oriental Wrestling Entertainment group. CIMA has been a prominent face in the Japanese independent wrestling scene since his break out performance in the 2000 Super J Cup tournament, so it was nice to see him on a national stage like this for the first time since his brief stint in WCW way back in 1998.
The match itself was non-stop action, a theme that would be repeated throughout the night, and the crowd were into all 6 men as they went through a vast array of big moves, including an impressive deadlift German Suplex from Lindaman. Eventually it was SCU who picked up the win, but I would certainly not be against seeing more of the OWE wrestlers going forward. Indeed, CIMA has already been announced for a bout with Kenny Omega at AEW’s “Fight For The Fallen” show in July, which should hopefully be a cracking match considering how talented both men are.
The next bout on the docket was the women’s contest between Nyla Rose, “Smiling” Kylie Rae and Dr Britt Baker. However, before the bout could proceed, Brandi Rhodes (For all intents and purposes the authority figure for the women’s division) came out and announced that there would be a fourth participant in the bout. Thankfully it wasn’t Brandi herself (As despite being an excellent valet she’s not an especially good wrestler and it would be a good idea to not build the division around her) and instead it was the monstrous Awesome Kong, fresh off a star making turn in Netflix’s “G.L.O.W”.
I actually rather enjoyed this match. Yes, it was sloppy in places, but there was fantastic energy and endeavour from all of the competitors and it really lifted the bout. Rae suffers somewhat from doing a very similar gimmick to NXT era Bayley, but her in ring ability was spot on here and my abiding thought following the end of the match was that I’d like to see her in a singles bout, possibly with Baker, on a future show. Baker seems to be the woman they’re looking the feature the most out of these three, and that seemed to be confirmed by the fact she ended up getting her hand raised when all was said and done. Her attempt at Adam Cole’s “Last Shot” move didn’t quite go how she wanted it to if I’m being honest, but it was enough to close the bout out nonetheless by pinning Rae.
Up next was a tag bout as The Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta) took on Jack Evans and Angelico. This match probably had a tad too many kick outs and saves when you consider there were other big tag matches still to come, but it was an enjoyable contest overall and did a good job establishing both teams should they remain an active part of the AEW roster going forward. The Best Friends eventually won thanks to a spiked reverse piledriver on Evans, but they didn’t have much time to celebrate as they were jumped post-match by what looks to be the repackaged Super Smash Bros of CHIKARA fame.
I’m unsure what the name for the Smash Bros will be going forward (You have to think Nintendo will put the kibosh on them using that one going forward) but it was an interesting makeover for them and the addition of a swarm of masked minions to help them in the beat down was certainly an interesting visual image. I haven’t watched them wrestle for a long time but I enjoyed their act back in the CHIKARA days so hopefully they’ll be able to contribute to the tag division going forwards.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not an especially big fan of Japanese women’s wrestling, also known as “Joshi” by its devoted fans. I don’t know what it is but I’ve just never really got on board with it. I think it’s because most Joshi I’ve ever watched seemed to have the same match pattern of women sprinting across the ring to deliver front dropkicks to each other whilst screeching and it all got quite samey after a while. There’s also the fact that the target audience for Joshi wrestling appears to be young teenage Japanese girls, so being a 30+ English man I’m probably not the audience the genre is going after.
That all being said, the Joshi bout on Double or Nothing, featuring the team of Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki and Emi Sakura taking on Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe and Ryo Mizunami, was not only a whole lot of fun but it was probably my second or third favourite match on the whole show! What I liked about it was that this was more of a brawl between the two teams as opposed to the sort of Joshi stuff I’d seen in the past and it was far more enjoyable for me as consequence. Aja Kong is getting on a bit now, but she’s still a believable monster and that came across throughout the bout.
The only downside of the match was an unforgiveable gaff from the timekeeper where they rang the bell on a close near fall. It should be said that the referee did absolutely nothing wrong in this situation as she clearly pronounced it as a two count and quickly waived off the time keeper. Time keepers should only ring the bell when prompted by the referee, but this one went into business for themselves and nearly ruined the whole match as consequence. Thankfully the referee was strong enough in her convictions to wave it off and the real pin came not long after with Shida kicking Sakura in the head for the victory.
Up next was my favourite match of the evening, as Cody Rhodes took on his brother Dustin in a battle of generations, in this case the modern era vs the Attitude Era. Before the match could start however we had to have some silliness, as Cody Rhodes smashed up a throne with a sledgehammer in a not so subtle dig at Paul “Triple H” Levesque. I know some people loved this but it looked kind of small time to me. In my eyes the best thing AEW can do regards to WWE is to try and avoid mentioning or referencing them, and instead focusing on their own company. History as shown that taking pot shots at the opposition usually only leads to the company throwing the shade looking lesser for it (See the WWF’s Billionaire Ted skits and WCW spoiling the result of Raw when Mick Foley won the WWF Title)
However, once all the pre-match silliness had been dealt with, the eventual match was absolutely fantastic. Despite being 50 years old Dustin Rhodes had got himself into great shape and was with the younger Cody every step of the way. The main source of drama in the bout was a gory bladejob from Dustin, which not only stained the ring mat but also his brother as the bout progressed. I know some people are a bit squeamish with blood, and I get that, but to me blood when it isn’t overused can be an excellent way to ramp up the stakes in a big match like this, and it was done to perfection here. Dustin probably did too good a job all told, as his blood loss rivalled that of Eddie Guerrero in his famous bout with JBL 15 years ago this month (And wow does that make me feel old)
Eventually Cody was the winner of an emotional and physically exhausting bout, finally managing to keep his brother down with his “Cross Rhodes” finishing manoeuvre. However, following the bouts conclusion a tearful Cody asked for Dustin to be his tag team partner in a future bout with The Young Bucks, a request which Dustin tearfully accepted. Indeed, it was tears all around the MGM Grand as the two brothers embraced in a memorable moment. It’s a shame that WWE didn’t allow these two to have this sort of match when both of them were under contract there, as we could have had a real classic on our hands. However, their loss was AEW’s gain, as this bout was fantastic and almost justified my purchase of Double or Nothing all by itself.
What with the Hangman Page and PAC bout originally planned for the show falling through, we instead got an angle where Bret Hart made a surprise appearance to reveal what the new AEW World Title looked like. Commentator Jim Ross, who had spent years operating under WWE’s rules where you weren’t actually allowed to refer to Title belts as belts, almost gleefully declared “that’s one fine strap” when “The Hitman” removed it from its bag, with the tone of a cheeky school boy who had managed to talk his way into an extra bowl of ice cream.
The highlight of this segment was MJF making a return to try and derail things by cutting an insulting heel promo. MJF’s delivery was spot on, so much so that Bret Hart even broke character to laugh at some of his supposedly insulting jabs. Eventually however he was ran off by Page, Jungle Boy and Jimmy Havoc, men who had competed previously in the Battle Royale. It was good to see four fresh faces on the national stage get to rub shoulders with a legend like Hart, and hopefully all four of them go on to have featured roles in the company. Ultimately AEW can’t just rely on already popular stars from WWE, they need to promote and develop fresh talent that hasn’t had the chance at the top level yet. Hopefully this segment was an example of them going in that direction.
The only Title match of the evening was next, as The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) defended their AAA Tag Team Titles against The Lucha Brothers (Pentago and Fenix) in a thoroughly insane bout full of big moves, eye watering dives and heart stopping near falls. The only critique I would have for this match was that the near falls eventually reached the point of sheer ridiculousness. The 25 minute contest could have happily gone just 20 and still delivered a tremendous spectacle. As it was, it went on a tad too long and the teams ended up missing the peak point to take it home, but it was still an amazing athletic feat from all four men and would probably be my second favourite match of the night. At times, this one was genuinely Match of the Year calibre stuff. If anything, this should have been the main event, but I understand why it wasn’t.
Sadly the eventual main event of Double or Nothing didn’t quite live up to what had already come before, but despite this the Kenny Omega Vs Chris Jericho show closer was still a well worked match with a big surprise finish and an even bigger surprise coming after it. The surprise came from Jericho defeating Omega clean as a sheet with a big back elbow mash, named “The Judas Effect” by the Fozzy frontman. Going in I felt for sure that Omega was going to win, likely to set up a match with Hangman Page for the AEW Title, so to see Jericho take the victory instead caught me unawares.
On paper it makes sense, as Jericho is probably the biggest ex-WWE guy that AEW has on the roster who can still go in the ring, and the eventual match with Page could now conceivably finish with either man holding the Title. Jericho can win to set up a rubber match with Omega down the line for the Title, or they could pull the trigger on Page and make him a star in one night by having him get the big win over the former “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla”
Jericho crowed on the microphone following his victory, but his joy was short lived as The Artist Formerly Known As Dean Ambrose, now known as Jon Moxley, showed up to gate crash the party by dropping Jericho, the referee and eventually Kenny Omega with his Double Arm DDT finishing move, the latter taking place atop a collection of giant gambling chips in the Double or Nothing entrance way.
This would seemingly set up a Moxley Vs Omega match down the line, which I’d be very interested to see. Moxley has gotten a bit of a rep for not being that great in the ring, but I personally think the end of his WWE run is not really an accurate depiction of his in ring abilities due to how demotivated he was obviously feeling at the time. Hopefully a change of scenery and some fresh faces to work with will give Moxley the impetus to deliver a better standard in the ring. One thing is for sure, the man knows his way around a microphone so we should have some great promo’s to look forward to in the coming months.
Overall, I really enjoyed Double or Nothing as a show. The production on the whole was good, the wrestling for the most part was excellent and I’m genuinely intrigued to see where AEW will go next in the coming months. I’d personally put the World Title on Hangman Page and go all out to make him look like a star due his overall freshness and lack of baggage, but I can understand if they decide they want to go with Jericho as Champ due to his name value.
One thing is for sure, if AEW can continue putting on events of this quality whilst also providing a good television product when they eventually hit the airwaves of TNT and ITV later in the year, then they might just be able to provide WWE with some genuine competition. Here’s hoping!