Pruett’s Pause: AEW Double or Nothing 2023 – Anarchy in the Arena delivers again, MJF defeats three other pillars, and AEW puts on its worst pay-per-view since pandemic times

By Will Pruett, Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)

On June 1, 2022, CM Punk walked out on AEW Dynamite live from Los Angeles, tried to dive into the crowd, failed, and broke his foot. As his foot shattered, so did AEW’s storytelling universe. While Punk has recovered and moved on to new injuries, AEW’s storytelling universe remains broken. Double or Nothing 2023 was the first pay-per-view where AEW truly seemed like a flailing and broken wrestling promotion.

For now, let’s ignore the two main events, which were highlights of the night and saved this from being an awful wrestling show. I want to look at the first two and a half hours of Double or Nothing.

The show started with a very good battle royal for Orange Cassidy’s AEW International Championship. This title run and Cassidy’s exhausted character are the best things going in AEW right now. This battle royal itself was actually a display of wrestlers who deserve better from AEW’s creative team. Chief among them is Jay White, who should have been in a hot feud and match for his first pay-per-view on AEW’s main roster.

Then the show began a downward slide it almost couldn’t recover from. Adam Cole, who has cooled off significantly since his big return and promo in January, took on Chris Jericho in an interference filled match playing at intensity instead of delivering intensity. FTR took on the duo of Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal in an interference filled tag match that was at least ten minutes longer than it should have been. Christian Cage and Wardlow had a ladder match filled with interference, even with some highlight reel moments. Jayme Hayter and Toni Storm then had an (understandably) interference filled match.

Taken on their own, each match could make a case for the antics and interference contained within. Taken as a four-match block on this show (which is how they were presented), you see a wrestling promotion lacking in new ideas. I don’t blame AEW for needing interference to get out of a tricky injury situation with Jayme Hayter, but I do blame them for doing so after three matches in a row all needed interference to get to their conclusions.

In this block of matches, we also saw wrestlers in spots they did not belong in. Why are Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal in a tag title match on pay-per-view? AEW should have the best tag division in wrestling, but between splitting it into a tag and a trios division and not consistently featuring teams, we were left with Jeff Jarrett in a tag title match on pay-per-view.

The creative issues did not stop at that mid-card. Look at Double or Nothing’s World Championship match. Billed as a “pillars four-way” and built with a confusing and pointless tournament, MJF defending his title against Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, and Jack Perry gave us a great match. If that is all that matters to you, then you must be overjoyed. For weeks on television, we’ve seen MJF get brought down to the level of his three opponents. By the time we got to Double or Nothing, no one seemed credible in this match and MJF was more of a pest heel than a devil.

MJF’s title run got off to a promising start with a good TV feud with Ricky Starks and a fantastic match with Bryan Danielson at Revolution. Instead of continuing that momentum, MJF has spent two and a half months in a petty and awful feud with three men who became less compelling by the week. It feels like AEW entered a holding pattern with MJF while they tried to work out issues with CM Punk. In building up three challengers for the pay-per-view, they actually just broke their champion down to the mid-card.

Even the Anarchy in the Arena match, which was excellent by the way, shows AEW struggling creatively. The talent in this match was off the charts, but AEW got less than the sum of its parts out of them. Bryan Danielson, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Hangman Adam Page, and Jon Moxley could all be in main event level matches and programs on their own. On a show lacking in compelling matches and angles, this list of talent could have been useful up and down the card. I loved this match, but would have enjoyed something like Omega vs. Danielson, Hangman Page vs. Claudio Castagnoli, Jon Moxley and Wheeler Yuta vs. The Young Bucks in meaningful matches on this card far more.

AEW has been in a creative funk for a year now. When they had to pivot to interim champions and the puzzling non-stop featuring of Ring of Honor on TV last summer, they never really recovered. Every creative decision has seemed like a bandage to cover the last one. The pay-per-views, until this show, had not suffered despite the lacking creative. This show was different.

Double or Nothing 2022 was an instant sell out in Las Vegas. Double or Nothing 2023 could not sell out and featured large empty sections on camera in the same arena. AEW is having trouble selling tickets for upcoming television shows and doing worse in markets they are returning to. They’ve significantly cooled as a promotion and, despite adding a new television show in a few weeks time, aren’t showing a ton of forward momentum.

Double or Nothing 2023 is the clearest evidence yet of AEW’s broken storytelling approach. Their universe broke in 2022 with CM Punk’s foot banging against a barricade and repair has proved impossible. This has led to AEW’s worst pay-per-view since All Out 2020 and worst major show in non-pandemic times.

It’s time for AEW to change. The repairs they have tried over the past year have not worked and the storytelling continues to break more and more.

And now some random thoughts:

– I was really happy to see AEW reconfigure their normal TV stage set to something different for the pay-per-view. Every wrestling promotion should do this. Not having a unique stage for each pay-per-view is lazy (and a lost branding opportunity).

– Max Caster’s rap on this show leading into the trios championship match was one of his best to date. Dominik Mysterio is over in every promotion.

– The turning point of this show was Jade Cargill vs. Taya Valkyrie for the TBS Championship. Fans were more into this than just about anything else since the opener. The match was good and didn’t overstay its welcome.

– I’m delighted to see Kris Statlander back and was really happy to see her defeat Jade to win the TBS Championship. Jade has been needing this loss and the opportunity to move on for a long while. Statlander is a great talent and someone AEW has invested a lot into. Her injuries have been super unfortunate. Hopefully she is able to put together a great title reign and give AEW’s women’s roster more to fight for.

– More wrestling shows should have exploding superkicks. That was one of the best spots I’ve ever seen.

Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at


Readers Comments (8)

  1. TheGreatestOne May 29, 2023 @ 2:12 pm

    Not even a single mention of the blackface. Typical, but still disappointing.

    Oh, and the Anarchy in the Arena “match” was moronic horseshit.

    • Hi! You know I didn’t mention the weird blackface situation here and likely should have. I don’t understand how that gets in front of the curtain and in front of an audience. I did mention it on Twitter during the show and did call it out in the post show audio we did for members.

  2. Worst Aew ppv. I wanted to justify the price to feel better but I couldn’t.

  3. And yet fans will continue, much like with the WWE, to follow aimlessly. When fans come to the realization (and I doubt they will) AEW will become yesterday’s news. But as long as Tony Khan has daddy’s big bucks filling his pockets, he really won’t care that his promotion is quickly becoming dog crap.
    I’m glad I watch the best wrestling show on TV, Impact.

  4. Because this is billed at AEW’s yearly flagship PPV event I decided to check in and see what was going on. Unfortunately if this was their Wrestlemania it most closely resembles their Wrestlemaina IX and we know the period of stagnation that WWF went through for four years following that event.

    At least WWE has a couple of compelling storylines being sustained week-to-week at the top of their roster, though the rest of the activity behind that right now is a bit hollow and hard to care about.

    Lastly it is hurting the product if Jungle Boy Jack Perry is insisted upon as being a pillar when he can’t even stand up to the unprofessional feedback from Rush during or following their match. I’d would have liked to see Rush try that going into business for himself crap when in the ring against Danny Spivey, Haku, or Brock Lesnar. Make sure that you’re ready to record just behind the curtain after such a match also. For Tony Khan not to assert himself better there and take charge doesn’t look good.

  5. “While Punk has recovered and moved on to new injuries…” Sorry, I just thought this was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  6. Although I refrain from the “OMG AEW SUCKS I CAN ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING NEGATIVE TO SAY ABOUT IT BUT OMG WWE IS GREAT AND TONY KHAN SUCKS!” tired, daily drivel that we see so often, I did just finally finish watching the PPV (work called, gotta make that $$$!), to call it the worst PPV in years from AEW is a TAD much.
    I do think Kris Statlander can be a huge star if she can avoid the injuries, and Jade definitely needed to move on from that belt. I wish they would get rid of the TV station moniker for any belt, too.
    Jeff Jarrett is in the ring as a favor, period. I wish they would keep him in the back as an advisor, not because he can’t “go”, because he still can, but because he has ALWAYS been his biggest fan when it comes to how “over” he was and is. Someone needs to explain “go away heat” to him.
    Rest of the show as good, definitely FAR from terrible, but I have been preaching for a long time, AEW needs solid storylines. In the beginning, I think throwing guys together in the ring and having great WRESTLING matches was fine, but we are way past that. The few storylines that show up on the screen are always well received but last a few weeks, at most.
    I hope Tony gets someone in his ear to convince him storylines are possible especially with ROH now going full steam ahead. Spread out the talent, get some stories going, and AEW will be fine.

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