This weekend’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view is the continuation of a signature event, as the memorial day weekend broadcast has become somewhat of a tradition for the organization, but ahead of this show, it seems like there’s a lack of buzz around most of the card. As I’ve often said about traditional pay-per-view in the modern era, it’s much more difficult to sell a $50 pro wrestling card than it was in the past, with the additional of thousands of hours of content for just $4.99 a month with the WWE Network on Peacock. This gets even more difficult when you take into account that there are millions of Comcast and Cox customers that get access to the Peacock platform included in their cable package. Granted, All Elite has a dedicated fan base and those fans will undoubtedly order the event at its usual price tag, which was seen in the past with the organization’s solid buy rates. The bigger concern is that as the audience expands or at least the exposure to the product increases, will the company be able to get newer fans that casually watch the product to invest in the pay-per-views?
I’m not doubting or endorsing the notion one way or the other, but considering that the ratings fluctuate somewhat, it’s fair to say that a portion of the All Elite audience watch more casually than the diehard viewers. A solid core of fans is obviously important, but more exposure is always a goal on the national level and the ability to avoid stagnant PPV numbers is almost just as important. TNA hit the wall even at its peak in terms of the amount of fans that would invest in a pay-per-view show and it ultimately put on ceiling on how much progress the organization made on a national scale. Perhaps, it’s because some of the bouts were thrown together rather quickly, but for some reason, I just don’t see the usual amount of buzz around Double or Nothing that there is for AEW pay-per-views.
I don’t think there’s necessarily one reason for the lack of hype, as there are different dynamics for each match on the card, but the more you look into certain bouts, you can discover the reason for the lack of steam ahead of the PPV.
Cody’s promo a few weeks ago on Dynamite to set up his use of “The American Dream” moniker was tremendous and a segment that can generate that type of legitimate emotion is usually a money promo. In a vacuum, Cody’s delivery of the meaning of the American Dream is pure money, but the context of the feud hinders some of its sizzle. Anthony Ogogo has an Olympic level boxing background, but unfortunately, that was nine years ago and his brief pro career was cut short from an injury in 2016 so he doesn’t have any direct momentum from it. That’s not to say his boxing skills can’t be used to promote him in pro wrestling, but it’s not as though he had a chance to become a major star in boxing either. As far as the context of the feud, the sentimental baby face being covered in a foreign flag is an angle that was done several times in the past and it worked, but I’d almost say that considering the evolution of society, trying to sell the “foreign menace” isn’t quite as effective today as it was previously. More importantly, to attempt to cast England as a foreign heel just has a disconnect because the war of 1812 was the last time there was any heat between the the United States and Britain. As far as the actual match, Cody is such a polished pro that he will make his inexperienced opponent look good in the ring, but as far as hype, this isn’t a match that has a lot of heat with it. In some ways, this angle was booked backwards because Rhodes already beat the leader of The Factory, QT Marshall so anything after that is somewhat secondary.
Darby Allin and Sting vs. Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky is advertised as a live bout so it won’t have the benefit of any edits with a cinematic presentation. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of any cinematic matches so on one hand, it was good to hear that this will be an actual bout, but on the other hand, it’s somewhat concerning for Sting. Don’t get me wrong, his role as Darby’s mentor at ringside has worked very well, and Allin’s run as TNT champion was effective to further establish him on the All Elite landscape. However, in the very few physical confrontations that Sting was used for on Dynamite, he definitely showed his age, which isn’t meant as a jab against him, but rather a realistic observation. If anything, Sting should be limited to a few splashes in this tag match since he only has to play the greatest hits at this stage of his career to get a reaction. The problem for this scenario is, have Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky had any tag matches on Dynamite? Sure, there was the post-match confrontation with Sting after Darby dropped the TNT title, but that was immediately followed by the Lance Archer run-in to confront Miro so as talented as both Page and Sky are, this still comes across as a rather random pairing to put in the ring with a legend like Sting.
Speaking of the backwards booking of the Cody/Factory angle, another example of a somewhat backwards scenario is Miro’s title win against Darby on Dynamite so close to a pay-per-view almost makes the title defense at Double or Nothing an afterthought. Does anybody think that Archer will beat Miro for the championship this soon? Miro is finally presented as the monster heel he should’ve been booked for since his debut so there’s no reason for a short title reign. More specifically, this rivalry just doesn’t have enough time to be built as a major title defense. The in-ring action should be very entertaining, but it lacks the selling point of the title being at stake. I understand the angle was based on Darby’s consecutive defenses on television, but if Miro was going to win the belt within this specific time frame, the pay-per-view would’ve been the time to do it because as a result of the win two weeks ago, there’s less of a focus on the title defense at the PPV.
Hikaru Shida vs. Britt Baker is a bout that falls somewhere in the middle in terms of build up as compared to the rest of the card. Shida has done a really great job as champion and always delivers a solid bout, with an extended reign as champion. That said, it’s obvious that now is the time to make the switch to Baker, especially after her stock increased following the tremendous contest against Thunder Rosa. I could be wrong, but I have to think that Rosa will appear to challenge Baker for the title. Some have criticized Rosa’s lack of appearances of Dynamite since the incredible bout against Baker, but I would say it was a smart move. If the Baker/Rosa title angle was booked too soon after the no DQ match, anything they did in the title feud would be secondary to the great match they had before so allowing some time between it, gives the chance for their history to help build a title match without it looking secondary by comparison.
Another match that is in the middle of the road is Adam Page vs. Brian Cage. It should be at least a decent match, but it just doesn’t have much sizzle to it one way or the other and seems to be more of a way to keep Page busy at this pay-per-view than anything else. For my money, when Omega finally drops the AEW belt, which shouldn’t be for a while to get the most mileage from the belt collector gimmick, Page should be the competitor to win the championship.
Within the same category is actually the Stadium Stampede match, and it’s somewhat puzzling that the company will put another bout that won’t be in front of the live crowd on pay-per-view when they’ve finally a sold out venue for the show. I know the common criticism is that the blood and guts match is a finale to a feud, but it was booked as one of the first matches between these factions, and some might cite is as the common flaw so this observation isn’t breaking new ground, but I would still completely agree with it. This is actually meant as a credit to the performers, but they delivered in the cage match in a major way, despite any timing issues that had certain points clunky, the bout was very memorable. Now, the problem is, in yet another case of booking backwards, I really think that anything done after this will be seen as rather flat by comparison. FTR bled buckets, Sammy got tossed around both rings, Proud and Powerful looked like stars in the war paint, and Jericho took a bump off the top of the cage. What else can realistically be done to top any of that? You’ve had the special event gear, the blood, and the big bump. The war games match more or less used everything in the playbook, which is fine for the finale or a rivalry, but I don’t know how the momentum can be rebuilt for another crescendo in the rivalry. Furthermore, if the Stadium Stampede was booked first for television, I think it’s an easier sell to the fans as a return of the gimmick match, but after blood and guts, it seems more like a recycled concept to have something another than a traditional match to put on pay-per-view. As mentioned, traditional PPV is a tougher sell today, and blood and guts would’ve been a solid selling point to the audience. I could be missing something, but I really don’t understand why the company couldn’t wait a few more weeks to book the cage match at Double or Nothing.
Speaking of Blood and Guts, that was the episode of Dynamite where it was randomly announced that Pac and Orange Cassidy where contenders for the AEW world championship, and the segment with Kenny Omega trying to dismiss Cassidy didn’t work. It was flat and the timing of the verbal exchanges seemed off. Since that time, the Pac/Cassidy match was a no-contest to set up a three-way match for the title. There’s less than a month of build up for this title match and that defeats the purpose of AEW running quarterly PPVs because the booking didn’t maximize the time between the events to sell a world title match. In truth, since Omega and Pac had matches under the AEW banner before, it appears that Cassidy was thrown into the mix just to add some type of variety, but I would say that an Omega/Pac rematch would be a better quality contest because threat threat matches are difficult to structure. Another aspect is that while Cassidy had much more steam behind him after the Jericho feud last year, booking wise, not much was done with him since that time so he’s not necessarily in the process of a push toward the main event. I hope the match is great, but as for as hype, it just lacks what you’d think there would be for an AEW pay-per-view main event.
The casino battle royal isn’t really something that is used as one of the main selling points for the show so there’s not a lot of discussion for it.
The only match on the card that really has anticipation around it is the tag title match, particularity because of the solid character work done for everyone involved. Moxley is a star, Kingston is an authentic gritty baby face, and the Young Bucks are believable heels. Regardless of the high spots and the star ratings, the ability be promote character that are over with the audience is still the key to drawing money on a national level.
I’m sure some of the diehard AEW fans will reaction negatively toward this article, but I wasn’t trying to parse every match in an attempt to criticize it. Instead it was to attempt to discuss the lack of hype around the pay-per-view. As I’ve said many times, the existence of All Elite has done more more to benefit the industry than anything else in the past decade so I actually hope they continue their success, but if I had to pick a specific reason for the lack of buzz around Double or Nothing, I would say that it just doesn’t have the marquee match with the “big fight” atmosphere on the card. Yes, I know there’s still the edition of Dynamite this week before the PPV broadcast, but it’s doubtful that an episode at 10 PM on a Friday is spark more momentum than the usual episodes of Dynamite the past few weeks.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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