AEW Double or Nothing was presented last Saturday night at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. 13,000 plus fans slowly entered the arena about 45 minutes before the show was to begin.
There were lines around the block, looping on the inside of the venue and running down Tropicana Avenue in heavy anticipation for what AEW was hoping would be a standout performance. Many wrestling fans traveled from across the country and around the world for Double or Nothing and the weekend long Starrcast event which featured wrestlers from the past and present.
This was the debut show for AEW, so the pressure to produce a blockbuster on this night was immense. Cody, The Young Bucks and Tony Khan had months to put together an action packed show for a multi cultural audience. Their enterprising minds were able to put together a magnificent, assertive night of thunderous wrestling that proceeded to deliver an event that the wrestling audience will never forget.
Being in attendance for AEW’s Double Or Nothing, I was able to witness a magnetic, eclectic event that us as wrestling fans have been starving for since the days of the WWE/WCW merger. You had well-known talent like Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, Cody, The Young Bucks and Dustin Rhodes headlining the show. You also had burgeoning, Promethean future stars such as Adam Page, MJF, Jack Evans and Sammy Guevara put the wrestling World on notice with their in-ring prowess.
There was something for every wrestling fan in the building and at home watching on this night. The Casino Battle Royal featured all kinds of wrestlers that were of all different shapes and sizes. Sonny Kiss is an openly gay wrestler, Orange Cassidy provided comedic relief, Luchasaurus brought an intimidating and unique presence.
Dustin Thomas is a two-legged amputee. Brian Pillman Jr. is the son of a former legend. Joey Janela and Jimmy Havoc brought their hardcore, reckless gimmicks into the fray. The crowd was fully invested in the match as the winner would receive the first crack at the AEW championship vs the winner of the Kenny Omega/Chris Jericho contest.
The crowd exploded when ‘Hangman’ Page emerged as the 21st and final entrant in the battle royal. Adam Page was taken off of the card after his opponent PAC pulled out of the their match after claiming “he had done his job” maiming Page the week prior. The 2 had an impromptu contest in Nottingham, England which ended in a disqualification victory for Adam Page. At the end of the battle royal, ‘Hangman’ would go on to throw MJF over the top rope and earn the title shot for a future date.
Every wrestling event needs a solid crowd behind the spectacle. The crowd would not disappoint on this night, they stood on their feet at appropriate times throughout the vent. Chanted “AEW, AEW” when amazing moments occurred and applauded as the Double Or Nothing unfolded in front of their eyes.
Sammy Guevara and Kip Sabian would close out “The Buy In” with a high-octane, blistering paced match up that delighted the fans in attendance. Sabian would earn the win in a contest that could have easily been an incredible opener or a show closing thriller. Speaking of opening matches, they should send a much needed jolt to every wrestling event. The crowd should be involved from the jump and SCU would not disappoint. They proceeded to electrify us with a lightning fast bout with “The Strong Hearts” from OWE. The veteran’s from Southern California would leave victorious and chants of “SCU, SCU” reigned throughout the arena during the bout.
The three way dance between three extremely talented ladies turned into a 4 way free for all. Brandi Rhodes emerged on the stage before the match declaring that this match should be awesome. She introduced former WWE talent Awesome Kong, which drew one of the two biggest pops of the night. The galvanic response was a well deserved one for a woman who had not been seen by many wrestling fans in quite some time. Kong would join Kylie Rae, Britt Baker and Nyla Rose. Britt Baker would ultimately conquer the remaining 3 ladies, but all of the competitors had a shining moment in the match.
‘The Best Friends’ vs Angelico and Jack Evans left all of us in the MGM Grand Arena delighted. A very rapid fire, breakneck paced affair took place and we ate up all of the action. From insane aerial acrobatics by Evans to innovative tag team maneuvers by Barreta and Chuckie T, we were left with jaw dropping displays of athleticism and in-ring prowess. While The Best Friends would win the match, all 4 men were jumped by ‘The Super Smash Bros’. The fans serenaded the group with a “Who are you” chant that was ingenious.
The Six Woman Tag match had a Joshi infusion to it. We were all treated to a unique contest that at times perplexed us, but we were also appreciative of the style that these ladies brought to the table at Double or Nothing. High flying and calculated are words that could describe this bout which left us applauding all of the ladies at the end of the match.
The next match left our crowd on this night speechless. The year 2019 met 1984 in a beautifully written clash between two sons of a wrestling icon. Cody and Dustin Rhodes told one of the more incredibly compelling stories in the ring you will ever witness. To see this live was worth the price of admission to me and left us all wanting more and wondering where this story would take us next.
For 20+ minutes, Cody and Dustin Rhodes tangled, poked and mangled each other. Dustin would don ‘the crimson mask’ in this one as he bled buckets of blood all over the ring and his brother. Move after move was calculated, methodical and perfectly timed in a match that led us down an emotional roller coaster. The pace was workmanlike and systematic. A true old school style professional wrestling match.
Cody defeated his brother, who put on an impressive performance of a man half his age. When the dust settled, Cody gave us a promo which left some of the audience in tears. He signed a contract for AEW’s July event Fight For The Fallen which would pit him and a partner of his choosing vs The Young Bucks. Cody would go on to proclaim “He didn’t need a partner, he didn’t need a friend. He needed his older brother.” The crowd erupted in approval and left a few folks bawling at a very transcendent moment in pro wrestling history.
My match of the night would follow the emotional battle between the Rhodes brothers. The Young Bucks and The Lucha Brothers had a tall task to climb. They proceeded to send the pro AEW crowd into an uncontrolled frenzy. Matt and Nick Jackson promised the world that AEW would prominently feature tag team wrestling; something that is often pushed to the side in most promotions. Much like the matches that preceded them, they over-delivered on this night.
We chanted ‘Cero Miedo’, ‘This is awesome’ and ‘Tag team wrestling’ out of respect for two of the best teams to grace the Earth. Double team flips, synchronized submissions, Canadian Destroyers and 450 splashes left all of us in attendance in awe of the athleticism being displayed. The Young Bucks would win this phenomenal match-up and left all of us standing in ovation at the end of this near unimaginable display of a wrestling bout we had just witnessed.
The main event between Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho was very well put together. It had to follow a tag match that was a chaotic and organized whirlwind. Not easy to do but the two men would also put on a match which featured showmanship that looked to be written by a scribe.
The original entrance of Chris Jericho that showcased his many personas throughout his 2 decades of elite (pun intended) performances. Kenny Omega would not be outdone, debuting his new theme song and video game themed costume. While at times we the fans seemed quiet, we had a New Japan-esque appreciation for the 2 men. They would duel back and forth in a well detailed main event.
Both men would provide their greatest hits. The Lionsault, Code Breaker, dragon suplexes and thunderous V-triggers would be executed. We applauded every move. Encouraging Kenny with ‘The Terminator’ clap and booing Jericho’s dastardly deeds. After failed attempts by Omega to hit his ‘One Winged Angel’ finisher, Chris Jericho would defeat Kenny Omega after a ‘Codebreaker’ and his new finisher “The Judas Effect.’ With his victory, Jericho earned the right to wrestle Adam Page for the vacant AEW heavyweight title.
Jericho would stand over a bloodied Omega and grab a microphone. He told us all that he was indeed AEW. He proclaimed the company to be his and that he was the reason for the ticket sales, fancy logos plus the pomp and circumstance. Jericho asked us for a thank you, which then elicited a roar at the MGM Grand that would not be topped on this night. The eruption wasn’t for Jericho. The crowd parted ‘The Red Sea’ for a figure running down the stairs and into the ring. It was Jon Moxley!
Moxley confronted Chris Jericho and hit him and the referee with his finisher “Dirty Deeds.” The crowd stood in shock, awe and delight at the sight of AEW’s newest signee! We were treated to Moxley and Kenny Omega brawling onto the poker chips that were constructed next to the stage. Moxley would hit a DDT on Omega and throw him off of the stack of chips onto the stage. He would raise his hands in an uproar and we all saw a side of Jon Moxley we haven’t seen in quite sometime. He looked rejuvenated and thrilled to be in AEW.
To lay this entire production on a silver platter for all of you, this indeed injected some much-needed adrenaline into this writer. The same old recycled stories, in ring promos and six minute quick fixes that the WWE calls matches have become stale. Professional wrestling needs an alternative: a promotion that will entertain us. A promotion that can keep us compelled as wrestling fans to watch their product and be fully invested in the programming.
We all want that “what is going to happen next?” feeling that we haven’t seen since the days of the ‘Monday Night Wars.’ Unpredictability, amazing chain wrestling, new wrestlers and well thought out angles are exactly what the doctor ordered. AEW is on its way to supplying us with that and a diverse buffet which will have every one of us entertained by something on future shows.
Appearances by wrestling legends Bret Hart, Diamond Dallas Page, Billy Gunn and Tommy Dreamer among others were icing on the proverbial cake. This show was not perfect by any means – a bell rang before a match had officially ended, a move or two wasn’t executed properly, etc. – but that was perfectly fine. Cody in a promo that was featured off air to close the show said ” we were told we couldn’t and mediocrity loves company. But that is not us, we are All Elite Wrestling. We will never, ever, ever let you down.”
Being in attendance at AEW Double or Nothing was an absolute honor and privilege for me. The talent on the All Elite Wrestling roster performed admirably, told compelling tales which left me and many others wanting more of the product. The exhilaration and raucous crowd on this faithful night in Las Vegas was treated to one of the most complete, top to bottom wrestling shows they will ever witness. Words such as creative, fresh, poised, impressive and well constructed were used to describe what we just saw at Double or Nothing.
Fans left the MGM Grand jubilant, ecstatic and inquisitive about how AEW will follow-up Double or Nothing. While we are unclear exactly how the company plans on giving encore after encore while carrying out organized stories and continuity, we have newfound confidence that they can build upon this inaugural event. It gave us a vote of assurance that we have an alternative and upstart to the norm of the Worldwide conglomerate that is World Wrestling Entertainment.
Congratulations, All Elite Wrestling, welcome to the spotlight of the wrestling universe. Now that you have laid down a new foundation, it’s time to build upon those initial blocks and start a wrestling war that we have sorely needed since the death of WCW. Thank you AEW for providing us hope, stamping your proclamation and giving us a beacon of light that can shine upon professional wrestling once again.