By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Double Or Nothing Hits
Matt Hardy, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, and Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, Santana, Ortiz, Sammy Guevara, and Jake Hager in a Stadium Stampede: As much as I’ve grumbled about some of the cinematic matches we’ve seen during the empty venue era, this was a really creative and well produced spectacle. Some of the football related gags worked for me because they combined my love of football and pro wrestling, though I can totally understand if some viewers found some of those moments to be too silly. Guevara was a blast throughout the match. He had the perfect facial expressions when he was chased by the horse and the golf cart. The bar brawl was a lot of fun, even if it was strange that Hager would opt to find Page rather than lean into the man advantage that the Inner Circle had while Page was off boozing it up. Matt Jackson deserves props for doing everything he did in this match despite his rib injury. The big spot at the end looked amazing with Omega performing the One Winged Angel on Guevara. Sure, there was a crash pad below and I’m not always big on those types of stunts, but a big spectacle match needs a spectacular ending. As much as I enjoyed this match, I can’t say that I’m keen on the idea of making this an annual event. AEW initially claimed that this would be an authentic feeling product. And while I totally understand that strange times call for strange measures, as a traditionalist I really hope to see AEW and other promotions get back to taking a more traditional approach coming out of the pandemic.
Nyla Rose vs. Hikaru Shida in a no disqualification, no count-out match for the AEW Women’s Championship: The only thing I didn’t care for was the outcome, though it’s cool if it was done as a feel good moment following the tragic death of Hana Kimura. Rose was really clicking as the monster of the women’s division. One loss isn’t the end of the world, but it does take away from that invincible feeling that she was starting to develop. The actual match was a really well worked brawl. It may have been better to put some distance between this match and the AEW Championship match due to the similarities, but this match totally exceeded my expectations.
Jon Moxley vs. Brodie Lee for the AEW Championship: Although it was billed as a double main event, this match didn’t have the burden of being the true main event of the show. As such, they were able to have a fast paced 15-minute brawl rather than feeling the need to go longer and deliver something more epic. It was a good match with a clever finish that gives Lee an out in that he did not submit.
MJF vs. Jungle Boy: A strong match that showed off the improvement of both wrestlers. MJF has already proven himself to be a world class talker, and he’s clearly putting in the hard work to become the total package. I liked that MJF didn’t steal the victory with help from Wardlow or by some other heel tactics. While every heel will get those types of wins from time to time, it’s important to give MJF some clean wins over quality opponents to establish that he’s more than just a mid-card pest heel.
Best Friends vs. Private Party to become No. 1 contenders to the AEW Tag Titles: A decent pre-show match with the Best Friends picking up the win to earn a title match against Hangman Page and Kenny Omega. The athleticism of everyone involved was enough to offset some of the clunky moments. I remain surprised that Private Party has slipped into the background. They missed some time due to the pandemic, but they’ve been relegated to AEW Dark since then. If the team formerly known as The Revival come to AEW, I hope they end up being paired with Private Party, who would definitely benefit from working with a more traditional tag team.
Kris Statlander vs. Penelope Ford: A minor Hit for a brief but solid match. I continue to hope that AEW will come up with some explanation for Statlander’s alien gimmick, as I find myself nodding along whenever Jim Ross takes issue with it on commentary. I enjoy Statlander’s work and she would be a star within the division if they can find the right approach.
Overall show: AEW delivered a consistently strong show. Sure, I found some Misses that largely consist of personal dislikes that other viewers may have enjoyed, but I was never bored. That’s actually high praise in this empty venue era. It can’t be mentioned enough that AEW benefits from being the only company with wrestlers serving as spectators at ringside for their matches. It was asking a lot to charge full price for this pay-per-view given the state of the economy, but those who opted to pay the $50 fee likely came away very satisfied with their purchase. AEW did a really good job of building up Lance Archer, Nyla Rose, and Brodie Lee as monsters only to have all three lose their pay-per-view matches. As such, I assume we’ll be getting an Empire Strikes Back edition of Dynamite to put some heat back on those heels and the Inner Circle. Assuming that AEW will be signing some talent that was cut from WWE, they have a chance coming up at the end of those 90-day non-compete clauses to create the old Monday Night Wars feel that you had to watch their show because you never knew who might show up next. They didn’t take that approach when Dynamite launched because they opted to have most of the talent debut on their shows prior to Dynamite’s debut. When the time is right, AEW would be wise to make a big fuss over the possibility of new faces appearing, as it’s a major advantage that they have over their Wednesday night competition. Sure, NXT can bring in wrestlers from Raw and Smackdown, but it feels much bigger when a wrestler jumps from one company to another.
AEW Double Or Nothing Misses
Casino Ladder Match with Brian Cage vs. Darby Allin vs. Colt Cabana vs. Orange Cassidy vs. Joey Janela vs. Scorpio Sky vs. Kip Sabian vs. Frankie Kazarian vs. Luchasaurus: My initial take was that the rules of the match were unfair because the match could conceivably end before everyone entered the match. Of course, there’s a trust factor that promotions have with their fans, so I can’t imagine that anyone actually thought this match would conclude until all nine entrants arrived. And while there is a potential storyline advantage for those who enter early because the match early, they also have the storyline disadvantage of wearing down while the later entrants are fresher. My biggest issue with the match was all the outside interference. The no disqualification rule in ladder matches, Triple Threats, etc. has led to lazy booking in all promotions when it comes to outside interference being tolerated. It would be so refreshing if AEW or one of the other companies adopted the logical and common sense approach of not disqualifying the wrestlers in these matches for anything they do to one another, yet having a zero tolerance policy for other wrestlers interfering. On a positive note, Cage worked as a surprise entrant for me and I really like the pairing with Taz as his manager.
Cody vs. Lance Archer for the TNT Championship: A good match and a Hit from an entertainment standpoint. It would have been even better had it not been overbooked with a second referee coming out to tell the actual referee about Arn Anderson’s interference, which caused the first referee to eject Anderson from ringside per the recommendation of Mike Tyson. This also led to Jake Roberts leaving at the same time as Anderson, and I’m still not sure if Roberts was also ejected from ringside or if he was simply going to get his snake bag. I would feel differently about this if I thought there was any chance that this would be enforced consistently, but there’s virtually no chance that it will. It was a great move to have Tyson at ringside, but it was strange that he didn’t play a bigger role by delivering a knockout punch to Roberts or even Archer during or after the match. I’m not a fan of Cody winning the title in this match. I strongly preferred the idea of Archer becoming the first champion and remaining the unbeaten monster so that Cody had a long term mountain to climb. A longer wait would have made for a better payoff. And if Cody proclaiming that he’ll never challenge for the AEW World Championship is to be believed, then he’s already reached the peak by winning the only singles championship he’s eligible to win in AEW. It also felt Roberts putting the snake on Brandi Rhodes hasn’t gone anywhere and didn’t even lead to a strong Cody promo.
Dustin Rhodes vs. Shawn Spears: Spears being stripped of his clothing to reveal sock garters and a Tully Blanchard image on the front of his underwear felt like something a WWE creative team member would write to get a laugh out of Vince McMahon. The Cody and Spears feud started because Spears took offense to Cody labeling him a good hand. Unfortunately, Spears has been booked to be just that in AEW thus far. And there’s no shame in being a good role player, but I continue to believe that Spears could have played a bigger role with the right creative push behind him.