By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
$50 is a lot of money to most of us. It’s not a fortune, to be sure, but it is a phone bill. Or a nice steak dinner at Outback Steakhouse. I’ve grown quite fond of that place.
Regardless, $50 is a decent amount of money for somebody to fork over, especially in the days of streaming services offered at $9.99. Despite that, $50 is what All Elite Wrestling charged fans to witness its inaugural pay-per-view, Double or Nothing (All In doesn’t technically count). Was it worth it?
In a word: yes.
In a bunch more words, well:
Double or Nothing was a very solid independent wrestling show. Up until the last three matches. That’s when it became a spectacle. And those matches are what earned my $50.
The various matches in the beginning half of the show were all solid from an in-ring perspective. What they lacked in storytelling, they almost made up for with athleticism. But storytelling, as we’ve learned here, is the most important aspect of professional wrestling. The majority of the matches at Double or Nothing lacked sufficient storytelling, but that’s to be expected until weekly AEW television shows begin airing. I’m curious to see how well the company does with week-to-week storytelling. Making videos and promos for YouTube is one thing; writing strong, compelling television on a weekly basis is a whole ‘nother ball game. Luckily, lately, WWE has lowered the bar pretty substantially.
The first matches at Double or Nothing were good, but the last three are what really made the show something to remember. Surprisingly, the best match on the card was not The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers or Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho – it was the battle of the brothers, Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes. The match itself was fine. It was probably the best match Dustin Rhodes has had in years and he worked his tail off to put on an entertaining show. This included a blade job that actually started to make fans uncomfortable. The match was good and the moves were fine, but the reason Cody vs. Dustin stood out was because of (here we go again) the story behind it.
Fans were invested in the characters of both men, sure. But they more interested in the real-life story between the two brothers.
Likewise, the character work that Chris Jericho has been doing is unparalleled. In a world of behind the scenes documentaries, podcasts and tweets, Chris Jericho is taking the once-broken ‘Kayfabe’ and is repairing it with a brick-and-mortar of self-congratulation. He is blurring the lines between fact and fiction and his surrealism seems to be working. From every podcast promo he cuts, video he shoots or Tweet he writes, Jericho is committed to his character more than anybody else on the roster, save for a certain Maxwell Jacob Freeman.
Sidenote: MJF was, perhaps, the second highlight of the night after Cody and Dustin. Both Jericho and MJF are unafraid of alienating fans. They are so comfortable inside their own skin that their characters have transcended into ‘real-life’ mediums. Jericho completely bailed on his Starrcast appearance, in a move reminiscent of the late, great Andy Kauffman. He yells at referees, calls fans idiots in a tone that makes you actually think he means it and he does so in a way that is so entertaining, you can’t help but be mesmerized.
It’s an age-old adage in professional wrestling that the best characters are just their real-life counterparts, turned up a few notches. Jericho is the perfect example of this. In fact, all of the main ‘faces’ of AEW are good examples of this.
The biggest reason Double or Nothing was a success, and the reason that fans were willing to fork over $50 to see their product, was because fans are not only invested in the characters of these men and women; they’re invested in the real lives of the people in this company. In a DIY age, fans want to feel like they’re part of a movement. It started with Daniel Bryan and it made its way to AEW. The brainchildren behind All Elite Wrestling knew this, and they used it to their advantage. They knew fans wanted to feel like they were a part of something, so they asked us to put or money where our mouth is. $9.99 doesn’t mean a whole lot to Vince McMahon. In all honesty, $50 doesn’t mean much to the Khan family either. But by charging that much for a show, AEW gave fans an opportunity to become a part of history.
After the final match of the night at Double or Nothing, after The Young Bucks and Lucha Brothers killed it, after Kenny and Jericho proved why they are the Alpha and Omega of the pro wrestling business, after Cody and Dustin stole the show and our hearts, and after Jon Moxley turned the wrestling world on its head, I asked myself and the people I was with the same question Thanos faced after securing the Infinity Stones – was it worth it?
It was – not just because of the match quality, but also because now fans are even more invested with the company, literally. AEW forced our hand and asked us to prove that we do, indeed, want change. We’re about to get it and now some fans can honestly say that All Elite Wrestling is their company. They proved it with their words, with their tweets and, now, with their own money. AEW is a company for fans of professional wrestling, from fans of professional wrestling. Double or Nothing was the ushering in of a new era. It wasn’t a game-changer like some fans hoped, but it was a tide-turner. It was a preview, or prelude of things to come.
So was Double or Nothing worth the $50 price tag?
Again, in a word: yes.
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