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All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing: What Worked, What Didn’t & Match Reviews

Double or Nothing Cover Photo

All Elite Wrestling‘s Double or Nothing PPV — the company’s first show ever — was one of the most important non-WWE pro wrestling shows this century. AEW needed this show to do a number of things. First, it needed to be a strong showing in order to entice fans to not just tune into their TNT show this fall but to order the PPVs they had planned for this summer. Second, it needed to establish their brand — really define what this company was in every aspect. Lastly, it needed to make a splash in order to capture the eye of the lapsed wrestling fan, and the disgruntled WWE fan.

By the end of the night — it accomplished all three of these goals. However, it was not with problems. Double or Nothing was in no means a perfect. It had a number of issues that cannot be denied or overlooked due to the nature of it being a debut show, or because we all want AEW to succeed.

So let’s look at what worked, what didn’t work, and the matches themselves.

What Worked: The Surprises

The surprises — with the exception of one — worked terrifically.

Awesome Kong legit took everyone by surprise. If you predicted she was showing up, please contact me and let me know what the numbers for the NJ Lottery are going to be this week. People lost their minds over this one, and rightfully so. She’s a legend who’s been gone from the ring too long, and on this night, she proved she could still go. She was booked very logically in this match — used sparingly and effectively since she’s not as active in-ring anymore — so when she was in the ring, the crowd would just lose their minds.

Who predicted Bret “Hitman” Hart coming out? Not a one of you. Sure, he was at Starrcast II, but he was just inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for the second time. Who thought he’d be coming to AEW? His inclusion was definitely a shocking moment, and gave credence to the title (just wish they caught a better shot of it).

And then’s Jon Moxley fka Dean Ambrose. I did not think, given his much ballyhooed exit from WWE, that’d be entering an AEW ring. It seemed like he’d be doing some indie matches, maybe Japan, and eventually heading bak to WWE. Guess what? He’s in AEW — for a multi-year deal. Mox looked amped to be there.

The surprise that didn’t work was the debut of that mysterious team at the end of Best Friends vs. Jack Evans & Angelico. That team, which was shown quickly on an episode Being the Elite this year, was The Super Smash Brothers. Most people don’t know them and this is because they were banned from working in the U.S. due to their Canadian national status, and the borders can suck sometimes. If you didn’t know them, that whole thing was weird. If you do know them, you’re absolutely stoked. Once a great rival of The Young Bucks, Super Smash Brothers are going to become a favorite in AEW once they’re established — they are phenomenal.

What Didn’t Work: Shots at WWE

AEW has taken heavy criticism about their shots taken at WWE. The criticism has been absolutely justified at times, and other times it feels like people taking quotes out of context and running them for clicks or social media clout. Cody’s destruction of the “throne” was a ridiculous shot at WWE. Destroying a throne with HHH’s logo with a sledgehammer? Come on now. That’s just unnecessary.

However, let me be straight up. I’m not defending WWE. WWE is pettier than anyone and takes shots at anyone they can. Remember they named Ted DiBiase’s man servant Virgil…which happens to be Dusty Rhodes’ name? Or how about when D-X invaded Nitro? Or Billionaire Ted and The Nacho Man and The Huckster? Or calling AEW “pissants?” WWE takes shots. WCW took shots. ECW took shots. It’s the circle of life in wrestling.

However, AEW needs to focus on themselves and not concern themselves with anything WWE related. Do the work on you, and don’t waste your time on WWE.

What Worked: Tag Team Wrestling

All forms of tag team wrestling absolutely killed at Double or Nothing. Hell, we got “tag team wrestling” chants during the Bucks vs. Lucha Bros AND Jack Evans and Angelico vs. Best Friends. Don’t sleep on the two six-man and six-woman tag matches either. These were all terrific from an in-ring standpoint. If there was one thing stressed by The Young Bucks about AEW it was that tag team wrestling was important and going to be a cornerstone of the company. DON proved that with authority.

What Didn’t Work: The Commentary

The commentary on Double or Nothing just wasn’t good. Excalibur, was without a shadow of a doubt, the best in the booth. He carried this show, and he did a great job of doing so. Alex Marvez seemed to do a lot better when working with Excalibur, but when Jim Ross showed up, he disappeared. He was an afterthought who added little, if anything, to the commentary.

Then there was Jim Ross. Ross’ commentary was a rollercoaster. When it was big match time, he was solid. He found his groove. He had stories to tell. Before Cody vs. Dustin, however, he was off his game completely. It felt like either he had done little research into who he was calling, or the pacing of the matches completely through him. It was evident when he admitted prior to Cody vs. Dustin that he didn’t know where he was. AEW has two shows before All Out — the commentary team needs to do the work and get on the same page.

What Worked: New Stars Were Built

All Elite Wrestling’s foundation is, well, The Elite. They all looked great. However, on this night they took the opportunity to emphasize some new stars. The Casino Battle Royale gave every single competitor a moment to shine. Men like Luchasaurus, Jimmy Havoc, Jungle Boy, Joey Janela and MJF got huge reactions. When Havoc and Jungle Boy came out to dispatch of MJF who brilliantly ran down Bret “Hitman” Hart — the crowd reacted accordingly. Speaking of MJF — he’s absolute money.

The women’s three-way defined Britt Baker as the star of the women’s division, Kylie Rae as the heart of the division, and Nyla Rose as the enforcer of the division. They all looked great in their roles.

What Didn’t Work: Production

Missed entrances. Feedback on the microphones. Missing big spots. Missing the belt reveal. Hearing someone audibly coughing near the commentary area. And most egregiously — ringing the bell and playing the music on the Joshi match when it wasn’t supposed to. Listen, it’s the first show ever, so we can forgive some of it. But AEW needs to make sure production is tightened up going forward. Also, can we talk about how the AEW livestream on YouTube completely wet the bed during the Battle Royale? It was a bad look…except TNT’s live stream got over 250,000+ views — that’s something the network is really going to be into.

Match Thoughts:

The Casino Battle Royale: I’m a huge fan of matches like this. Royal Rumble is legit my favorite WWE show every year. I know some people didn’t enjoy the “card deck” rules, but I did. It was fresh, it was new. Like the All In match, the Casino Battle Royale was a showcase for nearly everyone involved. Joey Janela is an absolute mad man — getting a lit cigarette stapled to his forehead, and taking that hellacious bump through a table. Jungle Boy looked great. Brandon “No Legs” Thomas had his breathtaking moment. Ace Romero and Marko Stunt did their did spot. Tommy Dreamer got a massive reaction, and helped put over Jimmy Havoc as a the big dog of hardcore. Luchasaurus looked like a million bucks.

However, in the end, it was Hangman Page who took this home. It was the right call. If there was no PAC, they had to make a splash here. Hangman came out, which to me was totally expected, and the crowd erupted. He came off like the man Cody said, “the future of wrestling.” He knocked the hell out of people in the ring, and showed a fire we haven’t seen from him in a long time.

Overall — this a fun match.

Kip Sabian vs. Sammy Guevara: This was a really strong contest that featured some bonkers spots (countering suplexes in the ring, out of the ring, and to the floor), and showcased two men who have a long future in pro wrestling. It was a shocker to see Sabian win since Guervara is more of the established star. But, in hindsight, that’s exactly why “Super Bad” Kip Sabian won.

SCU vs. The Strong Hearts: There’s been a lot of criticism of this match. The spots were telegraphed, there was hesitation, and some sloppiness. Sure, I won’t deny that. However, I thought this was a hell of a way to open the show. Frankie Kazarian was an absolute machine here, and this is probably the best I’ve ever seen him wrestle. Scorpio Sky — the least mainstream of SCU — proved that we’ve all been sleeping on him way too long. His dropkick is a thing of beauty. And Christopher Daniels. That man is a legend. The Strong Hearts were good in this match especially when they found their groove midway through. I was surprised to see SCU (SCU!) come out with the win as I felt OWE needed to be established strong.

Final Thoughts: OWE needs to be positioned stronger in AEW. SCU is the goods.

Awesome Kong vs. Kylie Rae vs. Dr. Britt Baker DMD vs. Nyla Rose: As mentioned before, the Awesome Kong surprise melted my face. So good. The judicious use of Kong was smart — remember she’s been more of an actress than a wrestler these days. However, she still looked like a stone cold killer. Nyla Rose had her moments, but I felt was probably the least impressive of the three “OG” AEW women. She seemed a little off, and was a bit less vicious than she needed to be. This will (hopefully) change with time. Kylie Rae — the subject of much controversy — won everyone over here. She showed so much heart, and a lot of talent. She’s not all smiles and sunshine, she can go. Britt Baker is the star and she carried herself as such. Not cocky or brash, but someone who exudes confidences and that “it factor.” Her superkick is a thing of beauty. Her yoshi-giroshi finisher has some improvements that are needed.

Final Thoughts: This was a statement match for the AEW women’s division. It’s really good, and has massive potential. Britt and Kylie are stars. Lots of upside for Nyla. Let’s hope this isn’t the last time we see Awesome Kong in AEW.

Best Friends vs. Jack Evans & Angelico: This was hands down one of the best matches of the night. As I predicted on our Double or Nothing podcast, this had the potential to steal the show, and it nearly did. Having watching most of these men for 5+ years (Evans for at least 15) — this was the fastest, slickest, and most intense I’ve ever seen them.

Final Thoughts: Run don’t walk to see this match. I’m not going to break it down because I don’t want to spoil a damn thing for you.

Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki, and Emi Sakura versus Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe, and Ryo Mizunami: This match had a lot going against it. First, there were Jim Ross’ comments about why the match was on the show. Second, outside of Aja Kong — no one knew who the other women were — unless you’re really into Joshi wrestling. The crowd was a bit tepid on the women during their introductions, and the opening part of the match. But then Aja Kong came in and told everyone, “Pay attention.” Not with words, but with actions. That’s the mark of a ring general, and an absolute legend. From there, the women built up a terrific match that the crowd slowly bought into. When the climax of the match hit, the crowd was IN IT. Then … the blunder of all blunders. The timekeeper rang the bell early, and music hit, but it got waved off. That killed everything in this match. Team Shida won in the end.

Final Thoughts: If these Joshi stars (outside of the already signed Shida) can be semi-regulars in AEW, that is a massive get for the company. These win women showed they can absolutely go, and can overcome a lot to win over a crowd. Also, give me Aja Kong vs. Awesome Kong.

Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes: As predicted this match was overbooked, and overlong. But that doesn’t mean it was one hell of a fight. As a fan of Dustin Rhodes since he pinned Ted DiBiase with a back slide in 1990 — I can say he has not looked that good since his days teaming with Barry Windham or Ricky Steamboat. His coast-to-coast blade was INSANE, and that’s the most (intentional) blood we’ve seen in a major wrestling show in quite some time. I thought the multi-layered story told here — Cody wanting to “destroy” the Attitude Era, the brother vs. brother angle, and Dustin’s potential last match — worked for the most part here. The Attitude Era stuff didn’t resonate as much as the brotherly fight, and it being Dustin’s last match. The crowd was losing their minds over everything here. Cody winning sets up the angle where Cody convinces Dustin for at least more math.

Final Thoughts: This was right in Cody’s wheelhouse — an emotionally charged brawl. Dustin looks great, and if used correctly, he’ll be a tremendous in-ring asset to AEW. If he does hang them up soon, he’s going to be a terrific backstage presence. I do wonder where this puts Cody though.

The Young Bucks vs. The Luchas Bros: The GIF below should describe the insane levels this match went to. As expected — match of the night for me. The story with The Bucks being off really could’ve been held off, especially since the main event was a victim of ring rust. The Lucha Bros are just so damn crisp, and killer right now. These four have an endless chemistry, that I hope that they do indeed “Fight Forever.” I’m a bit surprised The Bucks took the win here because it would’ve made more sense for The Lucha Bros to win the titles back. I’ve heard that The Jacksons will likely drop them at a AAA PPV. Would not be surprised if it’s Triplemania which happens on August 3.

Final Thoughts: Seek it out. Love it. This was another declarative statement by AEW about the importance of tag team wrestling.

Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho: The highly-anticipated return match left something to be desired. Whether it was ring rust, miscommunication, injury or all of the above — this match turned into a brutal slugfest. At times it was a violent delight, at others it was hard to watch. Jericho seemed to lose all the gas in his tank by the finish while Kenny could not find a groove. I have faith that both men will shake the rust off with more matches down the line. Jericho’s new finisher, The Judas Effect, was absolute killer. He never teased it — he just hit out of nowhere, and the crowd reacted like they say a devastating move. In the end, Jericho is the right person to put in the title match. He’s the gateway drug to mainstream audiences.

Final Thoughts: While it wasn’t pretty it didn’t hurt the show. These guys need a rubber match to make up for this for sure though.

Final Thoughts on Double or Nothing: It wasn’t the greatest wrestling show of all-time like many in the company predicted. But do you know what it was — fun. I had an absolute blast watching this show, and Double or Nothing proved to me that I want to invest my time and money in All Elite Wrestling. It proved it has the potential to be a true alternative to WWE. It proved that athleticism would trump storylines. Promos felt natural. Things felt different. Was it perfect? Nope. But it didn’t have to be. There’s room for improvement, and like many I am ready to see more AEW in the near future


Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


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