The first show for All Elite Wrestling delivered in a major way.
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Favorite match: Young Bucks vs. Lucha Brothers
Wrestling fans want an alternative to the WWE. I was at the “All In” show last September that took place just outside of Chicago. It was fantastic. The atmosphere was incredible in the sold out Sears Centre. The success of that show led to the creation of All Elite Wrestling on Jan. 1, 2019.
All Elite Wrestling announced on May 15 it signed a deal for a weekly television show on TNT starting later this fall. The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, and Kenny Omega are both wrestling talent and executives. Chris Jericho, 48, signed a multi-year deal with AEW after recent matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling and last appearing for WWE in April 2018. According to the company, wins and losses will matter in AEW. Wrestlers are going to be allowed to be themselves and develop their characters and personalities. AEW will also focus on analytics and statistics. The company has some heavy financial backing from a billionaire family. Tony Khan, 36, is the president and owner of AEW. He is also the co-owner and senior vice president of football technology & analytics for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, a well as being the co-owner of the Fulham Football Club. His father Shahid Khan owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, which he purchased in 2011. Tony Khan is a lifelong wrestling fan who is apparently into companies like Memphis, Mid-South and the Japanese groups, so he knows his wrestling. He focuses on sports analytics for the two organizations he co-owns and will bring that element to AEW.
“Double or Nothing” was AEW’s first event in its history. The show cost $49.95 to watch on traditional pay-per-view or stream online through Bleacher Report Live, which started in March 2018 and is owned by Turner Broadcasting System. My initial reaction was that the price was too high for a wrestling show in today’s market with streaming services like the WWE Network or New Japan World, but Double or Nothing was worth it.
The show had nine matches. Some of them were built up over the past few months online through “The Road to Double or Nothing” series, with 16 episodes leading up to the show on Youtube. These were really good. Hopefully this style and presentation will wind up in some form on the weekly television show. Other wrestlers and storylines were built through the “Being the Elite” series on YouTube.
I ordered the pay-per-view through Bleacher Report Live that Saturday morning. I wasn’t able to watch the show live, and the Bleacher Report service did not have a replay available until Sunday morning at 8 a.m. central time, which was annoying. I was excited for Double or Nothing given the talent on the card. AEW did a pre-show called “The Buy-In” that streamed for free on YouTube and B/R Live. The pre-show was around an hour long. It was rough in some ways.
Justin Roberts is AEW’s ring announcer, who worked for WWE in the same position from 2002-2014. Roberts, 39, sounded fantastic and brought some authenticity to the entrances and announcements. AEW’s announcers for the shows were Alex Marvez, Excalibur, and Jim Ross. Alex Marvez has covered the NFL both in writing and in radio for over 20 years. Excalibur has done announcing for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and called last year’s All In. Exalibur wears a luchadore-style mask on-air, which at first felt silly for their announcer to look like that, but then his talent took over and it became an afterthought. Ross was not on the pre-show but joined the team for the main card.
The pre-show opened with the 21 Man Casino Battle Royale, formerly called the Over the Budget Battle Royale. This wasn’t as good as All In’s battle royale, which was one of the best ones I have seen. The Casino Battle Royale started with five wrestlers. It went about 25 minutes long. After a few minutes another group of wrestlers would come to the ring. The first five entrants were Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF), Sunny Daze, Dustin Thomas, Michael Nakazawa and Brandon Cutler. Nakazawa, 43, has worked for DDT and various Japanese companies. He got a big reaction from the crowd, with loud chants of his name. MJF got heat early on when he stomped on Thomas, who is a bilateral amputee. Nakazawa poured baby oil all over himself to get out of a suplex attempt by Sunny Daze. This was funny given Nakazawa’s reactions.
The second group was the Diamonds, consisting of Brian Pillman Jr., Joey Janela, Jimmy Havoc, Isiah Kassidy and Shawn Spears (the former Tye Dillinger). Pillman Jr. dyed his entire mohawk platinum blonde. He temporarily took out Kassidy on the entrance ramp before they even got to the ring. Havoc and Janela double-teamed Pillman Jr., giving him a suplex on the entrance ramp. Spears, 38, got a big reaction from the crowd, with chants of “Ten.” He faced off against MJF, poking him in the eye and hit him with his finisher, taunting MJF with his 10 chant afterwards. The crowd was loud for him. After another few minutes the Hearts group came out, with Billy Gunn, Glacier, Jungle Boy, Marq Quen and Ace Romero. Jungle Boy, 21, is the son of the late Luke Perry.
Nakazawa was the first or one of the first to be eliminated when he was thrown out by Sunny Daze. The announcers didn’t do a good job of keeping track of the entrants or who had been eliminated. When Daze was on the top turnbuckle, Glacier spit frozen mist at him who then fell out of the ring. MJF then quickly threw Glacier over the top rope. Jimmy Havoc stapled a lit cigarette to Janela’s forehead, which was interesting. The Spades were the next batch of wrestlers, which included Marko Stunt, Luchasaurus, Sunny Kiss, and Tommy Dreamer. Before they could even get in the ring, Romero dived through the ropes and took out Kiss, Dreamer and Luchasaurus. Dreamer eventually came back to the ring after a few minutes with a garbage can full of weapons. He took out several guys in the ring with the garbage can lid and got a loud Tommy Dreamer chant from the crowd.
“Hangman” Adam Page drew the Joker card and was the 21st entrant into the match. He got a big pop when he came out, limping to the ring after his match with Pac on May 18 in Nottingham, England at Wrestlegate Pro. Page took out everyone in the ring. Janela and Page faced off. Marvez had a good line about Janela when he said, “Bad Boy told me in preparation for this match he only went out to 6 a.m. last night.” Page gave Janela a discus clothesline followed by his Dead Eye finisher. Marko Stunt and Jungle Boy teamed up to do moves on Romero, who is this massive guy. They weren’t able to do much. Stunt ran in the ring and got pounced by Romero, who threw Marko with such force over the top rope. That looked sick. Stunt landed on Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen, who were eliminated at some point but the announcers didn’t highlight it. Jungle Boy immediately surprised Romero by hitting him with a dropkick to the back and then tossing him over the ropes. Spears set Janela up for the 619, which was executed by Thomas. He then hit a 450 splash by pulling himself over the top rope, which looked impressive given the core strength needed for that. MJF immediately booted Thomas in the face and killed the moment. MJF did this at several other points in the match against different guys, which was great. Spears ended up getting eliminated by Thomas after he tried to help him fend off MJF. Right after this MJF eliminated Thomas after he tried to hoist himself up for another splash. Brandon Cutler eliminated Billy Gunn, which got a nice reaction. MJF then stole the spotlight and threw out Cutler. Cutler’s story is a comeback one about a guy getting a second chance at his dream after being out of the wrestling business for seven years.
MJF, 23, was the real standout during the battle royal. The crowd heavily booed him. Luchasaurus delivered a sick chokeslam to Janela, slamming him through a table positioned on the outside of the ring. Janela just crumpled through the table, falling more on his neck with his lower body rolling forwards. It looked nasty. Sonny Kiss was delivering one of his signature moves to Dreamer in the corner turnbuckle and got eliminated. Kiss didn’t really have much of a presence in the match, which was surprising given that he was at the AEW press conference in February.
Orange Cassidy also stood out for the brief time he was in the ring. He finally came out as the 21st person in the battle royale after intentionally missing his entrance with the Spades group. Cassidy has wrestled for companies like Beyond Wrestling, Game Changer Wrestling and also recently had a match at Evolve 123 against Velveteen Dream. His character is that he’s completely apathetic. He did these lazy, super soft and nonchalant kicks to Dreamer’s knee and then wound back for a superkick below the knee. As the crowd cheered, Dreamer smiled then hit him with a right hand. It was hilarious when Cassidy popped himself back up to a standing position while still having both hands in his pockets. Dreamer threw him over the ropes and he still didn’t care. Havoc eliminated Dreamer after using a staple gun on him below the belt. A little bit after this Jungle Boy was hanging to the rope by one arm outside the ring and Havoc started biting him, causing him to fall down.
The last four guys were MJF, Luchasaurus, Havoc and Page. They all ganged up on MJF, who went outside the ring but not over the top rope. Page threw Havoc over the ropes, who managed to hang on until Luchasaurus booted him out. Page tricked Luchasaurus into running towards him, then pulled the top rope down and Luchasaurus fell out the ring. The bell rang and the announcers acted like Page had won the match when clearly MJF was still there. He came back in the ring and almost tossed out Page, who held on with both hands. MJF acted like he won but Page flipped over the top rope into a big time buckshot lariat. MJF stumbled to the opposite side of the ring and Page clotheslined him over the top. By winning Page secured his place in the match to crown the first AEW heavyweight championship. The crowd reacted huge for Page winning. The match had a weird dynamic. It featured a lot of guys you wouldn’t take serious as a champion or even as a championship contender, which contrasted with the match being so important because of the AEW title opportunity. Page is still just 27 years old, so he’s one of the guys AEW is looking to build around. My initial impressions having not seen anything of Luchasaurus before this match was that he has got potential, but his name and look comes across as somewhat goofy.
Alicia Atout was backstage about to interview Kylie Rae when a guy called The Librarian showed up to quiet Rae. Then Leva Bates, formerly “Blue Pants” from NXT, showed up challenging him as the real Librarian. They both had a “shhh” off, trying to shut down the other. I had no idea who this guy was. Apparently he’s an independent wrestler by the name of Peter Avalon. It initially came across as cringy and unfunny. The storyline is that on Being the Elite, Tony Khan wants to get over a gimmick in wrestling that has never been done before. This was not explained on the broadcast, so someone watching this with no knowledge would be totally confused. I’m sure the hardcore fans probably though it was great, but for something on the pre-show meant for a more general audience it felt out of place.
Kip Sabian vs. Sammy Guevara was the company’s first singles match. Sabian, 27, wrestles for various U.K. promotions. Guevara, 25, has wrestled for AAA and independent promotions like the Chicago-based AAW. This was a good opening singles match. It didn’t go too long and both guys looked good. Both guys had their own theme music and video playing on the screens. The announcers did explain who both men were, like their experience and championships won. The match started with some wrestling on the mat and leg scissors. Guevara did a dive outside the ring that the camera missed. Back in the ring Sabian did some leg submission work on Guevara, who grabbed the ropes. Guevara tried to hit a moonsault from the top rope but Sabian moved as Guevara landed on his feet. Guevara quickly followed it with a standing moonsault and then a standing shooting star press. He didn’t connect with all of it but the rapid sequence looked cool. Sabian hit Guevara with a nice springboard dropkick. Guevara tried to hit Sabian with a suplex in the ring but pulled him over the ropes, landed on his feet then suplexed Sabian on the ground. Guevara does this sequence a lot in his matches and it always looks crazy. It got a good reaction from the crowd. Guevara placed Sabian stomach-first on the fan baricade then did a running shooting star press from the ring apron onto him. This looked insane. The crowd went nuts. Guevara pulled Sabian back into the ring and tried to go for a 630 splash. Sabian got his knees up and hit his “Deathly Hallows” finisher for the win. Both guys looked good.
They played a cool video package for Sadie Gibbs, a U.K. wrestler who signed with AEW. She was in a dingy, dark gym inside a ring doing different moves. It looked good. The announcers talked about the main card coming up and that Jim Ross was headed to the broadcast booth. Ross was shown backstage walking by himself, almost doing a Goldberg-styled entrance as his Oklahoma Sooners theme song played in the area. This looked funny. After this there was a Being the Elite-styled segment. Cody and Brandi arrived to the arena along with their dog Pharaoh. Kenny Omega was in the backstage area on a laptop wearing a white t-shirt. He did the thumbs up meme and walked away, which looked hilarious. Matt Jackson of the Young Bucks ran into Michael Nakazawa backstage and they had an interaction. Nick Jackson met up with his brother and superkicked some producer who was going to give them credentials. All five of them came out to the entrance ramp. They all teased welcoming the fans to Double or Nothing but Omega was finally the one to do it. The whole arena was chanting AEW. Matt announced they sold out the MGM Grand with 20,000 people. Cody said that wasn’t true and the building only holds like 13,000. Matt said this was pro wrestling and that you rounded up. This was a funny joke at how WWE always inflates attendance numbers for big shows like WrestleMania, which the company claims it does for entertainment/story purposes. Brandi said it was the first pro wrestling event in history to be sensory inclusive. AEW teamed with KultureCity to allow people with certain medical issues like autism, PTSD, anxiety or stroke-related problems to still be able to attend and enjoy the show. That’s pretty cool. Cody said Double or Nothing and AEW was going to be a revolution.
There were also some bad transitions from the announcers. Before the Librarian segment, Excalibur said they were going to Justin Roberts in the ring but Marvez corrected him and said they were going backstage to Alice Atout. After the segment, both were talking about the Librarian, there was a weird pause, and then Marvez just started talking about Dustin Rhodes and his upcoming match with Cody without any real transition over. The announcing for the two matches felt rough, especially in the Casino Battle Royale. They didn’t do a good job of explaining who the wrestlers were or why we should even care about them. It was presumed the viewer already knew everyone. They did a much better job of this during the main show though.
The pre-show’s overall presentation was pretty good. The video packages and graphics looked professional while explaining the important matches and angles. I don’t know if the pre-show would get people interested who are coming into it completely blind, especially with all the insider jokes and majority of wrestlers who are basically unknown outside of the very hardcore audience. The people who were going to order the PPV were going to buy it regardless, a lot of them from the moment it was first announced.
The show opened with the National Anthem sung by Grammy and Emmy winner Christopher Jackson, his wife (and singer) Veronica Jackson, and their daughter. The announcers hyped up the card’s matches and that there would be the big world title reveal.
Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky (SoCal Uncensored) faced the Japanese team of Cima, T-Hawk, and El Lindaman (called the Strong Hearts) in the opening match. Cima, T-Hawk and Lindaman wrestle for the China-based Oriental Wrestling Entertainment (OWE), and all three men were formerly Dragon Gate guys. The crowd did big SCU chants when the trio came out for their entrance. SCU did their “worst town ever” promo in the ring but said Las Vegas might be the best worst town they have been to. This match had a lot of tag team moves. It went about 14 minutes and was a strong opener for the main card. Excalibur did a good job of running down the history between Daniels and Cima, who had matches together in Japan. Marvez and Excalibur also did a good job of talking about OWE, which is a newer promotion formed in 2017.
AEW will have a rule for for tag matches that the other member has 10 seconds to get out of the ring once they tagged in their partner. Early on there was lots of back and forth between the two teams. T-Hawk got time in with Kazarian and looked good. There were a lot of double and triple team moves done to Lindaman by SCU, which all looked smooth. T-Hawk had some impressive looking chops. He chopped Daniels in the corner and Cima followed it with a running knee as Daniels layed there. Cima and T-Hawk did several double team moves together. T-Hawk put Daniels in a choke submission with his legs wrapped up, which Cima and Lindaman followed up with dropkicks to his face. This looked great. About nine minutes into the match, Scorpio Sky was fending off Lindaman and ran at the ropes. Cima raised him up and gave him a knee to the face, which was immediately followed with an enziguri by Cima. T-Hawk quickly grabbed Sky for a face-first back suplex. Before Sky could even react, Lindaman grabbed him for a deadlift German suplex with a bridge pin for a two count. This was a fast-paced sequence of moves that was awesome. Lindaman is a shorter guy but comes across as a shooter type. A few minutes later Daniels tagged back into the match from Kazarian, who had a hold on T-Hawk. Daniels climbed the turnbuckle and grabbed T-Hawk’s arms, then came off the turnbuckle and delivered a chest stomp to T-Hawk. He then ran to the opposite side of the ring and dove through the ropes onto Lindaman, who was near Justin Roberts and the timekeeper area. This was awesome. There was so much action in the match that it was hard to keep track of who the two legal men were. Towards the end of the match Kazarian hit a hurricanrana on T-Hawk who was standing on the outside by jumping over the top rope, which was excellent. Sky followed this with a big tope dive onto Cima and T-Hawk, who Kazarian was holding back. SCU won the match when Daniels and Kazarian hit the Best Meltzer Driver Ever finisher on Lindaman, which looked sick. This was a terrific opening match with so much tag team action.
The first women’s match for AEW was Dr. Britt Baker vs. Nyla Rose vs. Kylie Rae. Before the match Allie joined the commentary team. She will be having a match with Brandi Rhodes at AEW’s “Fight for the Fallen” even on July 13 in Jacksonville, Florida. Kylie Rae had a ton of positive energy when she came out for entrance and was visibly emotional. Rae, 26, has only been wrestling a few years for various independent groups. Nyla Rose started in 2012 and is the first transgendered woman signed to a major wrestling company. She’s also part of the Oneida tribe of Native Americans. Baker, 28, started her in-ring career in 2015 and is a legitimate doctor, who besides being a professional wrestler actually works as a dentist. She also competed at last year’s All In show. Before the match started, Brandi came out on the entrance ramp in her wrestling gear. The announcers played it like she was going to insert herself into the match. She told the women, “I don’t want a great match. I want a match that is awesome.” This led to Awesome Kong coming out, who got a huge reaction and was put into the match as the fourth contestant.
This was a pretty decent match that went around 12 minutes. At the start of the match it was centered around how Awesome Kong was so big and the other women had a hard time getting an advantage on her. All the women tried to take out Awesome Kong, who individually got them down. They teased a Nyla Rose versus Kong situation a few times but Kong got rid of her. A few minutes in, Kong missed a standing splash on Baker. She got up to go after Baker but Kong got sent over the ropes to the floor. This left Baker and Rae inside the ring doing exchanges. After temporarily taking out Rae, Baker stood on the apron, superkicked Kong on the outside and then did a cross body dive on her but was caught. Before Kong could slam her, Rae dove through the middle rope and landed on both of them. This looked good and got a loud reaction from the crowd. Rose grabbed Rae back in the ring and shortly after hit a big standing leg drop on Rae that looked impressive. Rae tried to mount a small comeback but Rose hit a big spinebuster for a two count. Baker got back in the ring and hit a slingblade for a two count. Rose shortly followed that up with a heavy elbow shot to the face and Samoan drop to Baker. At over seven minutes in, Baker and Rae teamed up against Rose, who was on the top rope. They were going for a double superplex on Rose, but Kong got back in the ring and powerbombed the group, which got a massive reaction from the crowd. It looked awesome. Afterwards Kong was going to powerbomb Baker on the ring apron, but Baker got out of it and superkicked her. Rae followed that with her own superkick and Kong fell down to the floor. On the outside Rose speared her into the ring steps. Back in the ring Rae rolled Baker into a deadlift German suplex with a pin, which looked fantastic. At the end of the match, Baker hit a superkick that rocked Rae, who was standing stunned. Baker won the match after hitting Kylie with her finisher, a suplex into a ushigoroshi. Kylie Rae stood out the most in the match. Her personality is something people can get behind as a popular babyface. Baker came across as someone with a lot of potential and a great choice to focus the AEW women’s division around.
Throughout the show the wrestlers had simple but effective video packages and theme music for their entrances. The quality of the show’s overall presentation was strong and on the level of what people would expect from a major wrestling company. The babyfaces and heels also came out of different entrances on stage, which was a small touch that I really liked. What I noticed early on about the show’s announcing was that they were explaining each wrestler’s backstory and history, such as how long they’ve wrestled, the titles they’ve won, and matches they had. This was important given a lot of the lesser known talent on the show. The referees were highlighted and shown respect. The announcers told us their names and years of experience, some having over 20 years worth. The announcers also enforced during close calls that the referee’s authority was final. I really liked this touch and made the refs feel important and not just wrestling props.
In the next match Chuck Taylor and Trent Barreta (Best Friends) took on Angelico and Jack Evans. I really like the Best Friends team and think they have a great dynamic. Angelico, 32, has a lot of talent. He has worked for AAA and Lucha Underground. I saw him a lot in Lucha Underground a few years ago and always thought one of the bigger companies should sign him up. Early in the match Taylor and Barreta went for their hug after Angelico and Evans were taken care of in the corners, but it was broken up. Evans and Angelico did a lot of tag moves. A few minutes in they did some kicking combinations to Barreta, who fell to the mat. Evans put Barreta in a submission and Angelico kicked him straight in the face, which was nasty. Angelico grabbed Evans by the heel and flipped him up, who did this awesome 450 splash onto Barreta. It looked real cool. They continued to work over Barreta for a few minutes. Angelico put Barreta into a one-legged kneeling Boston crab that looked good. When Taylor got tagged into the match he got some offense in and hit a Falcon Arrow on Evans for a two count. Taylor was shocked and said, “Nobody kicks out of the Falcon Arrow!” The announcers played it up too. About a minute later Taylor hit a standing sliced bread to Angelico on the outside of the ring. At over eight minutes into the match the Best Friends were finally able to do their hug, which got a big pop from the crowd as the camera zoomed out on the ring for a wide shot of the arena. Shortly following this Taylor had Evans in a crucifix position and sent him into Barreta who hit Evans with an ace crusher for a two count. This was a great tag team move and looked awesome. Barreta later had Evans set up for his finisher (back to belly pilediver), but Angelico broke it up, which let Evans reverse it into a yoshi tonic that looked great. Baretta was getting beat up but the crowd broke into loud “Best Friends” chants. Baretta was on Angelico’s shoulders in a fireman’s carry position on the top rope. Evans did a sick moonsault off of Baretta’s back onto Taylor on the outside of the ring. That was awesome. Back in the ring Angelico gave Baretta a nasty kick to the face then hit a crucifix bomb on the opposite side of the ring. Evans followed that up with a 630 splash but Taylor broke up the pin. This got loud AEW chants from the crowd and moments later “This is awesome” chants. The Best Friends built up momentum, with Taylor taking out Angelico on the outside with a tope dive. Baretta put Evans in his finisher again while Taylor came off the top rope into a stomp to complete the move for the pinfall. This was a fun match with a lot of great action.
They did an angle when the match was over. All four guys were going to hug it out when the lights went out in the arena. When they came back on, two new wrestlers were in the ring. The lights went off again and then back on. A bunch of masked goons were surrounding the ring. The two new wrestlers, who were never properly identified by the announcers, took out the Best Friends and Angelico/Evans. After the beat downs were done, the goons made a human throne in the ring that the two wrestlers sat on. Apparently this team is the Super Smash Bros., which was teased on an episode of Being the Elite. Super Smash Bros. (consisting of Stu Grayson and Evil Uno) have teamed for several years, working for companies like Chikara, PWG, Ring of Honor and various independents. This wasn’t good, especially because the announcers acted like they had no idea who they were and never told the audience. The team didn’t come across as intimidating and looked goofy. The masked guys were either not physically fit or out of shape and looked like dorks too, which didn’t help.
They announced with a video package that AEW would be returning to the Sears Centre on August 31 for “All Out.” The video showed that tickets would be going on sale June 14. When they cut back to the announcers on screen, Marvez messed up the info and said he believed tickets went on sale June 12, and Ross had to correct him.
Yuka Sakazaki, Emi Sakura and Aja Kong faced Riho, Ryo Mizunami and Hikaru Shida in the next match. This focused on Japanese women and the Joshi brand of wrestling. I had not heard of any of the women besides Aja Kong. They all stood out and felt unique. Kenny Omega helped sign the women to Double or Nothing. I liked everyone in the match a lot. It was different in a special way that we haven’t seen on a major wrestling show in a long time. Even though I had no idea who any of them were, the women got over and I wanted to see more of them. Riho, 21, has apparently been wrestling since she was 9 years old. She came out with two big championship titles. She is the current holder of the Thailand-based Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling “Super Asia Championship” and the Singapore Pro Wrestling “Queen of Asia” title. Yuka Sakazaki, whose nickname is “The Magical Girl,” had a ton of energy when she came out, which matched her fast-tempo theme music (the full version of this is wild). She had the Tokyo Princess tag team title around her neck from Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling. Sakura, 42, trained Riho and Shida, which was a story in the match the announcers highlighted. Sakura also founded Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling in 2012. The announcers put over how much Kong, 48, is a legend in wrestling. The match went around 13 minutes. Shida, 30, started the match off against Sakazaki for a brief feeling out exchange. During the match Excalibur explained how the Japanese women body slam their opponents to make up for a lack of strength by using momentum. This was an example of the detail Exalibur went into calling the matches that added to its authenticity. Both Riho and Sakazaki are tiny compared to the other women. Kong and Mizunami did some power exchanges, with Mizunami trying to knock Kong down. Kong quickly returned the favor with some face strikes and a hard shot to the chest. Later Kong and Riho went at each other, with Kong giving her a super stiff kick to the back. It was seriously loud. The size difference between the two also made it look that good. Around six minutes into the match Kong gave a nasty front-faced piledriver to Riho and just absolutely crushed her. The visual of it looked awesome. Kong’s partners held the other team back by their corner to allow her to hit the pilediver. Mizunami, 31, looked really good and did power moves on Sakazaki like strong clotheslines and a big German suplex.
Shortly after Riho hit a 619 on Kong and went up to the top rope. As she came down, Kong kicked Riho in the stomach and picked her up for a nasty back body drop. It looked like Kong killed her but Riho kicked out at two. Kong’s team also held Riho’s team back in the corner, which is a small thing that added to the match that you don’t often see in tag contests. Later in the match Kong brought a small garbage can inside the ring but Shida countered it with her own kendo stick. The referee was distracted and somehow couldn’t hear the noise of the two women smacking the weapons against each other. Shida eventually got hit in the head with the can. Kong hit a double suplex onto Riho and Mizunami who rolled outside the ring. Sakazaki followed it up by hitting nice springboard off the ropes onto Riho and Shida. Around 12 minutes into the match, Shida hit a moonsault onto Sakura and went for a pin attempt. The referee counted to like 2.999 but the bell rang making it seem like the match was over. The referee signaled it was only a two count and for a few seconds there was some confusion. This looked bad and was obviously a botch by the timekeeper that the fans heavily booed. It did kill some of the match’s momentum, but Ross played it off like the referee’s authority was the final say, which helped the transition into the match’s ending. A minute later Shida hit a running knee on Sakura for the win. I hope AEW signs these women and makes them a highlight of the promotion. They all had personality, through their ring attire and charisma during the match. They came across like stars, but especially Riho and Sakazaki. Everyone showed great moves and hit hard. This side of women’s wrestling is such a niche aspect that they were able to translate for a mainstream pay-per-view audience extremely well.
Jim Ross’ announcing was overall pretty good on the show. Ross, 67, signed a three year deal with AEW as a senior advisor and part of its broadcast team. I thought he did better on Double or Nothing than his recent broadcasts for New Japan. Alex Marvez needs a lot of work. He was too dry and felt out of place. He had no excitement at all in his announcing. He sounded like he was calling turtle racing or something. He has covered sports for many years, so hopefully in the future he can better incorporate that viewpoint into his commentary. The announcers did start to gel better in the later matches though.
Cody versus Dustin Rhodes was tremendous. They told a heavily emotional story through the match. Cody, 33, is the younger brother of Dustin, who recently turned 50 and left the WWE this April. Going into the match it was brother versus brother along with the generational and family differences between them. In the build to the event Dustin even worse a shirt that said “Dusty’s favorite” on it, in reference to their father Dusty Rhodes who died in 2015. I always thought that Dustin was underrated, especially in the later part of his career in WWE. His Goldust character was way ahead of its time. He could also do great comedy and was generally really good inside the ring too. They played a pretty great video package on the pre-show and before this match. Cody came out with Brandi and got a loud reaction for their entrance. When they got to the ring Brandi pulled a sledgehammer out from under it. Cody went back to the ramp and smashed up a king’s throne that was there, which was in reference to Triple H. Dustin looked in tremendous shape. He was announced as “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes. He came out in red and black ring gear with half his face painted in matching colors. Cody had “Attitude Killer” written on his weight belt, in reference to a promo he cut about finally ending the Attitude Era of wrestling with his match against Dustin. Before the bell rang the fans started chanting “Dusty,” which got both Cody and Dustin visibly emotional. As the match got underway, the whole arena was chanting “This is awesome.” They also started chanting for Dusty a second time. Early on Cody did a Stardust taunt to Dustin, which is a character he did in WWE between 2014-2016. Dustin moved around in the match smoothly. He hit a running senton from the ring apron onto Cody on the outside that looked great. Brandi got involved in the match and hit Dustin with a water bottle on the outside. Dustin and Cody went back and forth, with each man trading the advantage. The crowd was really hot for the match. Around nine minutes in Dustin sent Cody into the corner. He was going to set Cody up for his Shattered Dreams move. As he walked away to transition into it, Cody removed the second turnbuckle pad and threw it at Dustin’s feet. The announcer’s highlighted that if Dustin went for the move he would also be hurting himself. Dustin went for it anyway but Cody reversed it, sending his brother face first into the metal buckle. While in the corner, Brandi came over and hit Dustin in the head with some sort of weapon, which the announcers missed. With Dustin on the outside, Brandi hit Dustin with a spear. Ross had a great line in response when he said, “What kind of family is this for God’s sakes?!” Referee Earl Hebner, 70, ejected Brandi from the match as she argued with him. Diamond Dallas Page, 63, came out and carried Brandi to the back. The fans burst out in loud “DDP” chants.
Dustin got busted open pretty badly. He was bleeding heavily. There was blood all over the place. On the outside of the ring Cody shoved Dustin back inside. He wiped some of Dustin’s blood on the ground onto his chest, which was a great visual. Cody went on to dominate the match. The announcers kept talking about how Dustin couldn’t see because of the cut above his eyebrow that was bleeding so bad. As the match went on Dustin’s head was like a faucet pouring blood out. The blood added a lot to the match and emotion of it. The announcers did point out several times that Earl Hebner should check on Dustin and potentially stop the match for his safety because of so much blood loss. Hebner never did though, which made the referee look stupid and wasn’t sports-like. Several minutes after getting hurt Dustin was able to hit a scoop powerslam for a two count. Right after this Cody put Dustin into a figure four leg lock. At this point, the announcers did a great job of pointing out if Dustin could even escape the hold because he couldn’t see where the ropes are from all the blood. Dustin got out of it and shortly after had Cody on the corner turnbuckle. Cody had taken off his weight belt to attack Dustin. Instead Dustin used it on his younger brother by pulling down Cody’s tights and spanking his bare butt. The crowd popped for this. Cody charged at Dustin in the opposite corner but Dustin reversed it into a Canadian destroyer, which was so awesome. The crowd went crazy too with AEW chants. Dustin followed it up with a big superplex off the top rope and into his Cross Rhodes finisher but Cody kicked out. The crowd was so invested in this match at this point. The ring mat was covered in blood. Cody was also covered in Dustin’s blood. Both men traded Cross Rhodes finishers but kept getting near falls. After Dustin kicked out of a second Cross Rhodes, Cody broke up the referee’s 10 count and hit a third finisher for the win. This was a tremendous match. It went nearly 23 minutes. The crowd was super into it the whole time. Afterwards the whole arena chanted “Thank you Dustin.” Cody left the ring but came back in. Dustin thought he was going to attack him, but Cody cut an emotional promo about how Dustin doesn’t get to retire after this match and that he needed a favor. He was scheduled in for a tag match against the Young Bucks at AEW’s next event in July. He told Dustin, “I don’t need a partner. I don’t need a friend. I need my older brother.” This was a great line and delivered perfectly. They both hugged and cried as the whole arena chanted for Dusty. This was such a cool moment. People in the crowd were even crying after it was over, which hardly ever happens now at wrestling shows in the United States. This match was a standout and really one of the better stories told in a long time because of all the drama and emotion. With his post-WWE run, his NWA title match at All In, and this match at Double or Nothing, Cody has exponentially raised his stock as a wrestler and credibility as a creative mind for the industry. He’s proof that without restrictons a person has the potential to become something great. Compared to his WWE career it’s almost like there’s two different people. It makes WWE look terrible that they had someone with that amount of talent, basically did nothing substantial with him for years and he found such success outside of the company.
They revealed the AEW heavyweight championship next, which the announcers had done a good job of promoting throughout the night on both the pre-show and main card. Bret Hart came down the ring with the belt hidden in a bag. He got a huge reaction. It was definitely a surprise to see him. He talked a bit in the ring and called out Adam Page. With Page and Hart in the ring, MJF interrupted and cut a fantastic promo challening Page’s number one content position after the pre-show’s battle royale. He even threw a zinger at Hart and told him to watch out because a fan was coming in the ring, referencing the situation at the WWE Hall of Fame in April where Bret was attacked during his speech. MJF is going to be so big. He’s only been wrestling four years but seems so far ahead of his experience. Even Hart was smiling during MJF’s promo. He was great on the mic and talks so naturally. MJF made fun of Page’s icon being a horse and the Western thing he has going on. He told the crowd, “You are jealous at the fact that you are looking at the future face of this company, because God knows a horse can’t be the face of this company!” When Page started to go after MJF he said, “Easy there Seabiscuit!” Just based on the promo MJF did I really want to see him against Hangman Page in a match. MJF came across like a bigger star than Page. When MJF was making his exit, Jungle Boy and Jimmy Havoc came out and attacked him along with Page. The AEW belt was then awkwardly revealed. As they attacked MJF through the crowd, Hart just held the title up in the ring and the segment ended. They could have done the title reveal a lot better. The title itself looks killer and one of the better heavyweight championships in wrestling nowadays.
The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers in a rematch for the AAA tag team titles was a crazy match. The Lucha Bros lost their AAA tag titles to the Young Bucks in Mexico on March 16. This was my most anticipated match on Double or Nothing. Pentagon and Fenix of the Lucha Bros are two of my favorite guys and the Young Bucks are fantastic. Matt and Nick Jackson came out in sweet looking, Elvis-Presley styled white and red matching jumpsuits as Young Bucks money fell from the ceiling. In the ring Justin Roberts did the big championship fight introductions for both teams. Before the match started referee Rick Knox talked to the two teams about his expectations for the match, much like in a boxing or MMA fight. These were small things that made the match feel authentic and important. The match went close to 25 minutes. There was so much action, crazy moves and near falls. The story going into the match that the announcers highlighted was that the Young Bucks were rusty compared to the Lucha Brothers. They said the Lucha Brothers had wrestled 48 matches this year while the Young Bucks had done two, with one of them being the match they won the AAA tag titles from. Early on Nick Jackson and Fenix did exchanges of kicks and flips where neither guy could get the upper hand. There were some miscommunication spots between the Bucks that showed how they were still not running on all cylinders. Close to ten minutes into the match Fenix crotched Nick on the ropes and grabbed Matt’s arm. He jumped onto the top rope, kicked Nick in the face, bounced onto the nearby rope and then hit a hurricanrana on Nick while flipping Matt. This was awesome and the crowd went nuts. As he stood on the ring apron Nick kicked Pentagon right in the face then quickly jumped into a face buster onto Fenix, followed by a fast transition into a moonsault to Pentagon on the outside floor. This was great. A minute later the Young Bucks hit double sunset flips onto the Lucha Brothers, turning them it double sharpshooters in the center of the ring that they eventually escaped from. Not too long after Nick hit a nice 450 splash to Fenix but Pentagon broke up the pin attempt.
Later on all four guys superkicked each other one by one and fell to the mat. Matt Jackson and Fenix quickly popped back up and clotheslined each other. This was great too and the crowd was hot. A few minutes after that Pentagon hit a running Canadian destroyer to Matt on the ring apron by bouncing off of Fenix’s back, which looked devastating. Fenix immediately followed this by jumping off the ropes into a Canadian destroyer on Nick for a close two count. The crowd popped big. Later Fenix came off the top rope and got some major air, but got double superkicked by the Bucks. Matt followed this up with a top rope brainbuster to Fenix, which looked like he just about killed him. Fenix collapsed out of the ring and the fans chanted “Holy shit!” The Young Bucks focused on Pentagon and hit their More Bang For Your Buck finisher but only got a two count, which kind of shocked the crowd as the Bucks looked surprised too. Matt put Pentagon into a package piledriver position as Nick came off the top rope and stomped on Pentagon’s back to drive down the move with Matt. Nick quickly ran to the opposite side of the ring, bounced on the ropes, jumped over them and landed onto Fenix on the outside. The sequence looked so smooth and the transition was seamless. Towards the end of the match, Pentagon snapped Matt’s right arm in his signature move and hit a package piledriver that still only got a two count. Fenix gave three superkicks to Matt’s right arm and shoulder trying to debilitate him. With Matt in the corner Fenix ran at him but Matt reversed it in a piledriver position, holding Fenix with only his left arm. Nick ran down from the ramp to the ring apron and jumped over the ropes to deliver a Meltzer Driver for the win and retain the AAA tag titles. This match was crazy good. It lived up to the hype.
Chris Jericho versus Kenny Omega was the show’s main event. Throughout the night the announcers were emphasizing the winner of the match got to face Adam Page for the AEW heavyweight title. This was the follow up to their January 2018 no disqualification match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in New Japan Pro Wrestling. They played another great video package before the match started. Going into Double or Nothing Jericho took credit for AEW becoming a company and signing a television deal with TNT. Jericho said if he won the match he wanted Kenny Omega to personally tell him thank you. They went around 27 minutes. It was more of a brawling/physical contest compared to the Young Bucks match or the Rhodes brothers’ bloodbath. For Jericho’s entrance he had three different guys pretending to be him at different moments in his career, like the “Lionheart” phase of his early years, the “Jericho List” era and the light up jacket part, with the fourth entrant being Jericho himself. The announcers made a big deal about the main event and how it was so important for AEW as well as the feud between Jericho and Omega. Early on Jericho reversed a hurricanrana by Omega into a Walls of Jericho, which Kenny quickly escaped from. As they fought on the outside, Jericho shoved Omega into the front of the crowd, who was standing on the barricade attempting to do a move. Jericho grabbed the video camera from a member of the crew and started filming, which Omega responded to by spitting a beverage into Jericho’s face that got all over the on-screen picture. Back in the ring Omega was able to hit his “You can’t escape” signature move of the rolling fireman’s carry into a moonsault combination on the first attempt, which in a lot of his big matches he either misses or gets countered. Around eight minutes into the match Omega had a pretty bloody nose, which was probably broken. There were a lot of physical strikes and blows exchanged between the two. Omega had blood all over his face from the nose injury. It was a great visual. Omega sent Jericho to the outside of the ring. As the fans started doing the “Terminator” clap setting up Omega for his big dive over the ropes, Jericho crawled under the ring and pulled out a table. Omega stopped for a second, dropkicked the table into Jericho, then ran back and dove over the top rope as Jericho held the table up. Omega went back into the ring, springboarded from the top rope into a diving foot stomp through the table that was placed on top of a prone Jericho. This looked great visually. It’s interesting though because this match was supposed to be different than their New Japan encounter based on the straight match rules yet they ended up doing all this table stuff and brawling outside the ring anyway.
Omega hit his first V-Trigger to the back of Jericho’s head who was facing the second turnbuckle, which really rocked him. Omega followed this with a big back body drop from the top rope to Jericho. In the second half of the match Jericho did look tired and gassed. Around 15 minutes into the match Omega blocked a Lionsault attempt by getting both knees up then quickly followed with a standing V-Trigger that rocked Jericho. Jericho got out of Omega’s One-Winged Angel attempt and gave Kenny a release German suplex. He then sucessfully hit his first Lionsault, which landed mostly on the back of Omega’s head instead of his upper body. Jericho then hit a second Lionsault onto Omega’s upper body for a two count. Omega countered a Codebreaker from Jericho with his third V-Trigger and tried to possibly deliver a Tiger Bomb near the ropes. Jericho reversed the attempt into a back body drop to the outside of the ring through the table from earlier in the match. When Omega got back in the ring Jericho attempted to superplex him from the top rope but Kenny shoved him down. Omega attempted a dive from the top but Jericho reversed it into a big Codebreaker for a close two count. A few minutes later Jericho blocked a running V-Trigger attempt and put Omega into the Walls of Jericho in the center of the ring. Omega got out of the submission, fought back against Jericho and hit another V-Trigger at around 24 minutes into the match. Omega picked up Jericho on his shoulders and attempted the One-Winged Angel again. Jericho went for a reversal but they botched the spot and Jericho brought Kenny down into an awkward DDT, which Ross called “the ugliest DDT I’ve ever seen.” Oddly Omega was the one who went for the pin attempt, with Jericho kicking out. Right after some brief offense by Jericho they repeated the same sequence. Jericho attempted another Lionsault but Omega grabbed him while he was still near the ropes. While on Omega’s shoulders Jericho reversed the move into a much cleaner looking DDT on Kenny. Jericho immediately followed this with a running Codebreaker. As Omega stood up a second time, Jericho hit him with his new finisher called the “Judas Effect,” which is a spinning back elbow that he teased going into the match. Jericho got the three count as Omega looked dead in the ring. Jericho looked completely out of energy after the match was over.
In the ring Jericho cut a promo on the crowd and told them he doesn’t care about their boos or cheers and to “lighten up marks.” He said, “This is not a company for the fans. This is a company for me.” Jericho talked about how he’s the one who put AEW on the map, getting them a big television deal and even selling out Double or Nothing in four minutes. He mentioned that he beat Omega, and even though it was by the skin of his teeth he still beat Kenny. This was a nice subtle way of putting over both himself and Omega at the same time. While Jericho was waiting for his thank you from the fans and AEW, the arena started buzzing as Jon Moxley, the former Dean Ambrose, made his debut by coming through the crowd. Moxley, 33, came across as a huge deal. Jim Ross made a great call, really putting over the excitement of Moxley showing up. The crowd was going crazy. Jericho looked shocked as Moxley confronted him. They exchanged some words before Moxley hit his signature DDT on Jericho. He then hit the referee with a DDT. Ross called it great by saying, “Good God almighty! The referee is down!” During all this time Omega was still laying on the mat. Moxley picked him to go for another DDT, but Omega pushed out of it as they fell out of the ring. They started punching each other then brawled through the crowd as loud AEW chants erupted in the building. There were these giant poker chips set up as part of the entrance stage design. They climbed on top of these poker chips and Moxley gave Omega a DDT onto it that was awesome. He picked up Omega onto his shoulders and then tossed him down onto part of the entrance area, which looked nasty. Ross was just great throughout all of this and sounded like the old version of himself. “Good God! Oh my God! Get the EMTs out here! Moxley has destroyed Kenny Omega!” It was a great debut by Moxley, made even better with the announcing by Ross.
The main event was a pretty good match. Jericho is still able to put on high caliber matches at this point in his career. The repeated ending sequence did somewhat hurt the main event though. It seemed like Omega’s broken nose also somewhat hurt it too since that changed the match’s dynamic and overall pace. It didn’t feel at the level of a Kenny Omega match against guys like Kazuchika Okada or Hiroshi Tanahashi but it was also a different kind of feud. Omega’s story of chasing after the IWGP title in New Japan was better than his actual title run. Not to say that it was bad, but Omega coming from an underneath position was better. Later down the line when Omega gets another opportunity for the AEW championship it will be a bigger deal and better story.
Moxley’s contract with WWE expired on April 30 and he chose not to resign. He instead signed a multi-year deal with AEW and will be a full-time roster member for the company. Moxley will make his in-ring debut for AEW on June 29 in Daytona Beach, Florida at “Fyter Fest” against Joey Janela. WWE did the big send off for him with the Shield group then he goes and signs with AEW. He was actually completely miserable working there, which he revealed in a few recent post-WWE interviews.
Double or Nothing was a fantastic first official show for the company. I would say it’s the best wrestling show I have seen so far this year and one of my favorites in the last several years. It was an historic show. The pre-show was an hour long. The main card was 3 hours and 47 minutes. That’s close to five hours of wrestling but it didn’t feel like it. Unlike when you watch a WWE show, which is so tiring to watch and it feels like it goes on forever, Double or Nothing didn’t drag and was easy to get through. The show is a great building block for the company’s future. While there was a lot of tag team wrestling, it showcased different talent and were great matches. I was worried while watching the pre-show but the main card was awesome. Marvez needs more experience. I don’t think he would be a good fit for a weekly show at this point. I hope Brandi doesn’t turn into a Stephanie McMahon-type of television character, because you can already kind of see that on the shows like the Road to Double or Nothing. One great thing AEW did after the show were interviews with various talent and the media, like a real sporting event. I hope they incorporate this into all the big shows because you get a different perspective. It also gives real world credibility to the matches and storylines.
I think AEW having a core group of guys in their early ’30s steering the direction of the company helps tremendously, compared to WWE that is run by a 73-year-old. They just need to work on getting these undercard guys who aren’t well known into stars for their weekly television later this year. AEW’s next shows are “Fyter Fest” on June 29, “Fight for the Fallen” in Jacksonville, Florida in July and “All Out” over Labor Day weekend. It was officially announced that Adam Page will face Chris Jericho for the AEW title in the main event at All Out. I would give Jericho the title, especially going into their weekly television show to help build an audience. He’s the company’s biggest star and him later losing to someone AEW wants to build the future around would be a great story.