The Hits & Misses Of Double Or Nothing

Among the success of the ticket sales of Wembley Stadium, and the revolving door of controversy that is CM Punk, All Elite Wrestling had its Double Or Nothing pay-per-view on the calendar. An event that sold out previously because of the traveling crowds, this particular show still had tickets available, but as I wrote last week, that has more to do with the economy, inflation, and the fact that fans are only going to travel to a specific show once or twice before they’ve had that experience so it becomes much easier (and more affordable) to order the pay-per-view from their couch. Still, this was a pivotal broadcast for the organization because it set the tone and the direction of the product for the next few months that will lead to the previously mentioned stadium show in England. Plus, the foundation of a solid product must be cemented if Tony Khan expects the audience to devote another two hours of their schedule, particular on a Saturday night to more AEW content.

That being said, this event showcased some of the positives and the negatives of the product so it was somewhat of a mixed bag. The aspects of the programming that will garner the most spotlight going forward remains to be seen, but it creates intrigue ahead of the launch of Collision.

The show opened with the battle royal for the International title, and I get that it was a way to put Orange Cassidy over with the victory, it was still a rather illogical way to defend the championship. I’ve talked about it often with pay-per-view reviews, in the modern era it’s much more difficult to sell traditional PPV with the bulk pricing often used on streaming platforms. This broadcast had a price tag of $50, and I honestly don’t think a 25-minute battle royal segment was the most effective use of that time frame, especially to maximize the chance that the audience will get their money’s worth. That being said, the upside of Cassidy as champion, regardless of his critics, is that he continues to get consistent weekly exposure on television, which is why the belt is more established than some of the other titles on the show that are often nothing more than a prop so hopefully Tony Khan can apply that level of consistency across the board.

I can understand why Adam Cole vs. Chris Jericho was put in the early portion of the card since it was another no DQ match, but instead of the task of shuffling hardcore matches throughout the line-up, I’d suggest that Tony simply book less of them. To say this card as a whole was overbooked is a total understatement. The run-ins, interference, and gimmicks matches during multiple segments got repetitive. It also created a tedious viewing experience because you knew you weren’t getting to the finish until the run-ins in rather predictable scenarios. Plus, by the end of the night, the run-in during the main event that should’ve had the most impact was cannon fodder since it was seen several times before that during the broadcast. The early brawl was sloppy, and Sabu doing a dive through the table almost looked like a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, Sabu is an absolute legend and he never got the credit he deserves, but at his age with the lengthy history of serious injuries, he looked almost fragile trying to jump off the ropes. Plus, outside of Tony Khan being a huge ECW fan, I’m not sure Sabu’s minimal involvement added anything to the match, other than it added to the overbooking of the show. However, if it got Sabu a payday then I’m all for it. Huzzah.

As for the match itself, I have to be honest, I expected a better bout from these two. There wasn’t anything wrong with it and it wasn’t subpar, but it never seemed to get into second gear. There was a rather clunky pace at times so there were some flat points, which was probably an indication that the segment went too long. The Saraya run-in looked to be mistimed as Britt Baker seemed like she was waiting for her arrival after she hit Jericho with the kendo stick. The Baker run-in made sense, but unless there will be more done with Baker/Saraya after this, I’m not sure why the former Paige was involved in the segment. There was a very scary botch on an attempted lionsault from Jericho and it looked like he almost landed on his head. The finish of the contest was very, very flat with the referee stoppage since the ref technically doesn’t have the authority to end the bout in an unsanctioned match. All things considered, I’m not sure why these two didn’t have a traditional match with a clean finish since the win probably didn’t do much for Cole’s stock in AEW.

As much as I can appreciate Jeff Jarrett landing another job with a national promotion at 55 and that amazingly, he can still go in the ring, the entire storyline was so convoluted that it actually hindered everyone involved. After the tragic passing on his brother, Mark Briscoe had the opportunity to genuinely become one of the most beloved baby faces of the modern era and has the skills in the ring to make the most of it. Mark’s chase for success to honor his brother’s legacy is a story that writes itself and would sincerely be one of the good moments in the sport. Instead, Mark is a secondary figure in a secondary angle that had attempts at comedy that fell flat instead of authentic heat. Speaking of authentic heat, Double J is one of the very few that can still generate that level of animosity in the modern era from the audience, especially the AEW fan base. A comedy skit on the farm isn’t the best way to utilize what Double J brings to the table, and the same could be said for Jay Lethal, who is a tremendous athlete that rarely has the chance to show what he can do in the company. It goes without saying that FTR should be put in better situations to showcase that they are probably still the best tag team in the business. None of that can be accomplished with this angle because it seems like it was booked more to get an many people on the show as possible than anything else. There’s really not a better role for Mark Briscoe than a special guest referee? In a similar fashion to the other matches so far, this tag title match was fine, but nothing spectacular. Of course, it had interference before FTR retained the championship. Hopefully, everyone involved in this storyline goes in a different direction after this because whatever Tony wanted to accomplish from this angle probably missed the mark.

Speaking of matches that were fine, the TNT title contest wasn’t subpar, but outside of a few dangerous ladder bumps, for whatever reason, this bout didn’t gel the way I thought it would with such a ring general like Christian involved. The former world champion, despite being in the latter stages of his career, is one of the most solid performers of his generation and still one of the best heels in the business. The turtleneck attire for a ladder match was brilliant. This will sound like a broken record, but on a show with too many gimmicks and too many run-ins, this segment had too many gimmicks and too many run-ins. Luchasauras, who decided to stand at ringside before getting involved, despite no DQ in a ladder match, looked rather foolish just waiting for his spot. Arn Anderson “biting” his thumb with the fake blood was lame and phony. Double A is a total legend, but the visual of him falling over in the ring and then looking like he had red food coloring all over his face was silly. The Wardlow swanton through the tables was an impressive moment, but it came across like an attempt to try to recreate the iconic Jeff Hardy dive at Wrestlemania 16 than something that was needed in this contest. Wardlow retained, but this segment was really a mixed bag.

It was reported that Jamie Hayter was injured prior to the pay-per-view and the title switch suggested that to be accurate, but it wasn’t as though they did a quick finish just to get the belt off of her so she could take time to heal from the injury. They did enough in the match to make her look completely noncompetitive without the storyline that she went into the match with a shoulder injury. Toni Storm is a very talented performer so she will do well with another reign as AEW Women’s champion, but the way this was booked was an odd choice.

On a card that “just okay” became a common theme, the Trios title match was in that category. Truthfully, with The Acclaim’s reduced role on television, this seemed more like a Dynamite match than a PPV bout, given that there wasn’t any build up since it was an open challenge. The House of Black Rules are too convoluted, and fans shouldn’t need a score card to keep track of the stipulations. The House of Black retained.

The TBS title match between Jade Cargill and Taya Valkyrie was okay, but nothing too spectacular or memorable. As much as Jade looks like and presents herself like a star, her in-ring work is stagnant. You’re more or less going to see the same type of Jade match now that you did at the start of her undefeated streak. Perhaps, the booking of the matches are protecting her too much and she already has the ability to add another dimension to her in-ring work, but hasn’t got a chance to show it yet. On the other hand, maybe she hasn’t had a chance to get the experience to add the finer point of in-ring technique, but either way, she’s going to have to progress beyond the typical 7-minute match if she’s going to realize the potential that it seems like she has to be a star. As far as Taya, there wasn’t really a point in the match where it seemed like it was believable that she was going to end the streak, and despite her solid skills, I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets lost in the shuffle after this feud. That being said, getting the title off of Jade with the surprise return of Kris Statlander was the right call because it was done in a way that didn’t hinder Jade and avoids the usual pitfalls of an undefeated steak without a destination.

The AEW World Championship match had a lot of good action and showcased how much young talent, as well as they amount of potential they have, are on the roster. That said, there wasn’t a point in the nearly 30-minute contest where it looked remotely believable that anyone was going to dethrone MJF for the title. There are good work rate matches on Dynamite on a regular basis, but the premise or selling point of a title match is typically if the title will change hands. I guess it really depends on what you look for in a main event, as I was impressed with the fast-paced action, but when the result is obvious, the drama that builds toward a memorable conclusion in a title match wasn’t possible. Another point that I mentioned in an article last week, when you try to get everyone over, nobody truly gets over, and as entertaining as the action was throughout this bout, I’m not sure any of the challengers are bigger stars after being in this spot since there wasn’t a focus on the individual competitors. MJF retains and it will be interesting to see who challenges him for the title next because if it’s Adam Cole, the earlier contest didn’t exactly make him look like a threat to the championship.

The Anarchy in The Arena match was more or less what you’d expect with the wild brawl throughout the building. In truth, all the gimmicks and run-ins should’ve been saved for this segment. It was entertaining for what it was since it’s a rather simple presentation. I’m not sure who the Violent Idols are, but I’d suggest that they pursue any profession other than music, as their rendition of “Wild Thing” wasn’t exactly stellar. I really hope that Konosuke Takeshita’s involvement to help The Blackpool Combat Club get the win will lead to a better spot for him. Takeshita is a tremendous talent that made a made impression with the audience during his debut several months ago and then he was lost in the shuffle. Takeshita has the potential to be a main event talent and if this finish helps push him to that level then it was a wise decision.

The biggest takeaways from this show are that it exposed some of the biggest flaws in the product. Tony’s E-fed style booking with the over saturation of gimmick matches and run-ins created a tedious viewing experience for a portion of the event. When there are solid narratives during matches, it provides much more substance than the artificial sizzle of a myriad of stipulations. This wasn’t a flop, as there wasn’t anything blatantly terrible or subpar on the pay-per-view, there just wasn’t anything stellar either. Hopefully, from a booking perspective, this was a learning experience for Tony Khan, as no promotion has a perfect battling average, and there’s undoubtedly stellar talent on the roster, but this missed the mark of a pay-per-view.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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