What Double Or Nothing Said About AEW

If you read the article I penned last week about the lack of hype or more specifically, the proper build for All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view broadcast, you know I had rather low expectations ahead of the event. I also mentioned that I hoped for a quality event, and thankfully, the Khan-owned organization delivered, as the hindsight of this show could be noted as a very special event within post-pandemic professional wrestling, particularly because the crowd was wild for the vast majority of the PPV.

Usually, I don’t discuss the pre-show matches, simply because the pay-per-views are usually four hours and have nearly a dozen matches so I attempt to keep these articles at a reasonable length for readers. (and I sincerely thank you for you taking the time to read this) However, the Riho/Serena Deeb match for the NWA Women’s world title was great stuff and showcased both athletes very well. The common criticism of Riho is that she’s too small to compete or doesn’t look enough like an athlete to be a convincing contender, but this performance is a prime example to prove that wrong. The bottom line is, Riho can go bell-to-bell and at the end of the day, the ability to deliver quality in-ring matches surpassed any potential criticism. Along the same lines, Deeb, who was known for the first half of her career more for the fact that she was willing to shave her head to get a spot on Smackdown a decade ago, has shown she’s one of the best female wrestlers in the United States. While the NWA crossover is a little murky because it hasn’t translated to mean all that much yet, it’s really good to see Serena get this chance to compete on this stage to be able to show her level of skill. Further, the match itself was worked well since the enthusiastic crowd was going to cheer for almost everyone on the card, but Deeb knew how to get the most from the contest with the correct psychology. She worked as the heel against her small opponent and it enhanced the narrative toward the conclusion of the bout. Deeb retained the belt, but this match was a win for everyone involved.

The pay-per-view opened with Adam Page vs. Brain Cage and it was a fast-paced contest that was a good kickoff to the broadcast. There was a little bit of everything here with dives, bumps, and some really solid back and fourth action. Page got the win following a confrontation with Team Taz and it looks as though Cage might split from the faction as the miscommunication set up for Page to get the victory. As I said in the prior write-up, I think Page should be the one to eventually unseat Omega as AEW world champion so it makes sense to give him a win on pay-per-view.

While I was on the fence about the buzz ahead of Double or Nothing, I wrote that one of the bouts that had a considerable level of anticipation was the tag title match, and it lived up to the hype from the promos that were cut on Dynamite. First and most importantly, both Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston have the “It” factor to truly connect with the audience, which is what ultimately draws money in the professional wrestling business. It was such a rowdy atmosphere as Moxley and Kingston burst through the doors into the arena and make their way through the crowd as “Wild Thing” blared in the background. When you can capture that type of energy you have a winning formula. The structure of the match worked very well and it was the right decision to have the bout resemble more of a brawl than the typical Young Bucks match. Moxley and Kingston aren’t going to be doing spring boards on the level of some of the stellar high flyers on the show so you simply don’t put them in that position. The Young Bucks still had a chance to work in their usual offense, but it was done in a way that emphasized the drama of the match as the action tilted back and fourth toward the finish. The bout had action, drama, and psychology so the argument could be made that this was the match of the night. The Young Bucks retained, but in truth, with as over as Kingston and Moxley, they don’t necessarily need the belts, at least not right now.

Speaking of back and fourth drama, I usually write-off battle royals because in most scenarios, they follow a rather generic formula and the only thing of note is, who won and does it mean anything? All due respect to the prior winners of the Andre Battle Royal, but the track record suggest that the winner doesn’t actually make progress from the victory in the battle royal. The draw of the deck with the cards as the entrants seemed a little too convoluted, even if it went along with the casino gimmick, and the only major criticism I had of this segment was the production on all levels was horrible. The camera missed eliminations, the announcers didn’t know who was eliminated, and it led to a rather disjointed presentation. Although, it was nice to know that Paul Wight wanted to make sure Will Hobbs was okay when he seemingly disappeared to get some refreshments mid-match. However, the final sequence was just tremendous and a true credit to Christian as a top-notch ring general. When you take into account that he hasn’t made a “big splash” in AEW yet since his debut, it makes sense to think that the former WWE star might be the one to challenge for the AEW championship, based on the level of intrigue it creates for a match that the fans didn’t think they would see just a few months ago. The drama as Jungle Boy and Christian traded the advantage is pro wrestling 101 and was very well done. Jungle Boy got the win and will get a title shot in two weeks, which has me a little concerned because I don’t see Omega dropping the title, and there’s a fine line between a losing effort that puts a young prospect over or a match that suggests they aren’t a main event talent. Obviously, Jungle Boy has the skills to be the future of AEW, but prehaps Tony Khan is playing this card too early unless they are ready to run with Jungle Boy as the champion. While it would disrupt the belt collector gimmick for Omega, with as over as Jungle Boy is, it might be worth considering to put the title on him for a short run.

After the tremendous tag title match and the electric reaction to the Jungle Boy victory, any match that followed would’ve been in a tough spot. Cody Rhodes was booked in this match to basically make the inexperienced Anthony Ogogo look good, and he did his best, but this bout was just average at best. As I said last week, I’m not sure how relevant Ogogo’s boxing background from several years ago is today, and the narrative of the British heat just didn’t work. Essentially, this was Cody working around an opponent that just doesn’t have the experience to be on live pay-per-view in a nearly 10-minute match. Cody got the win, but this contest wasn’t anything memorable.

The card picked up from there when Miro beat Lance Archer to retain the TNT belt, and while it was only about eight minutes, these two made those minutes count as they went full speed throughout this bout. As far as a big man match, this one had it all, the agility, the power, and the physicality. In some ways, this reminded me of Boss man vs. Vader from 1994 because Miro and Archer can move very well for their size. This is the Miro that AEW should’ve booked upon his debut and I think most would agree that in retrospect, the entire association with the video games was a mistake since it didn’t fully utilize his skills. Archer is another great talent and he would be a great asset on any roster.

I’ve read some criticism about the AEW Women’s title match online, but I have to say I completely disagree. Sure, it had some sloppy moments, but the grittiness really emphasized the competition for the championship. The back and fourth aspects worked and for a finish that seemed obvious before the bell, the near falls worked because they put the result in doubt. This was the right call for Britt Baker to win the title, as it capitalizes on the momentum from the Thunder Rosa match, but it would be great to see a rematch because this contest also boosted Shida’s stock as well.

Sting and Darby vs. Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky was probably better than it had any right to be, and the fact that Sting did a dive at his age was incredible. This is where his status as a legend can be used to minimize his risk and maximize the impact. Let’s be honest here, if Sting did the splash, a roar to the crowd, and the Scorpion death lock, the fans will be happy. Anything beyond that is just a bonus and the fact that Sting is willing to give this type of effort when he could easily coast on his reputation speaks volumes about him as a performer. Page launching Darby into the first row was insane, and was from the ECW playbook of Bam Bam Bigelow and Spike Dudley from 1997. I’m legitimately worried that Darby is going to suffer a career-ending injury because he gets the chance to truly have a top run in AEW, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong because he’s one of the most dynamic performers in the sport today. Sting pinned Sky after a cool sequence saw Sting counter into the Scorpion death drop for the win.

The AEW World title match was really great and it went over thirty minutes so to discuss the details would be too lengthy, but generally, the bout worked so well because it actually incorporated all three wrestlers instead of the recycled format where one performer is always thrown out of the ring. There were spots that showcased each competitor well and while I didn’t know what to expect from this match, it was a great contest. Omega retained and it was the right decision based on the belt collector gimmick.

Much of the same can be said for the Stadium Stampede, it was a good bout that went past the 30-minute mark. I wasn’t a fan of the club scene, but the Konnan cameo was entertaining. Just to be clear, I’m not and won’t be in favor of any type of cinematic elements because random or unexplained background music is just too phony. That said, the brawl that took the taped portion into the live arena was a good way to get the match stipulation the company wanted, but also involve the live crowd. Considering that this was the first pay-per-view with a full capacity audience, it made sense to book the baby face faction to get the win at the conclusion of the show.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta