AEW Double or Nothing
May 25 2019
Hi guys, I’ve not been feeling myself of late and decided to take some time away. I found myself ranting angrily at a GCW show from early May and knew that meant I needed a little time off. I’ve taken it and I feel a bit better. I initially decided I had no interest in AEW but reports from my colleagues at RVR have suggested it is worth a gander. So here we are. I’m not watching the pre-show though. Or Chris Jackson singing.
We’re in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hosts are Jim Ross, Alex Marvez & Excalibur
SCU (Chris Daniels, Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) vs. Strong Hearts (CIMA, T-Hawk & El Lindaman)
SCU do shtick and are over. Strong Hearts are phenomenally talented but less well known to this crowd. Daniels and CIMA do an excellent double armdrag spot. SCU bring a lot of triple teams, which is something traditionally associated with Dragon Gate. This Japanese unit prefer to stand on their own merits. The great thing about this match is that SCU come out here all showy and Strong Hearts size them up, hang back at 5mph and then boom! They turn it up.
Note on comms: Jim Ross tries to call this like a sport but it’s so hard to explain why someone isn’t trying to win when what you have is an exhibition for guys new to a territory. And Jim should know that but that’s the aim of AEW. Excalibur does an excellent job of being excited without resorting to his usual PWG banter. I like that banter and hopefully they can work some of it in but he’s good as a straight commentator too. Marvez is fine but I prefer a two-man team.
It’s a really exciting opener that builds slowly and suddenly is a wacky spotfest. They do a lot of near falls and false finishes and they’re really well done. The Strong Hearts lads don’t get their personalities across as you’d hope and the Best Meltzer Ever puts Lindaman away. Good start!
Final Rating: ***3/4
Kylie Rae vs. Nyla Rose vs. Dr Britt Baker vs. Awesome Kong
Kylie Rae is a budget Dakota Kai. This was originally billed as a triple threat but we have a big surprise lined up. Brandi turns up.
She’s brought a surprise and that surprise is Awesome Kong.
WWE have recently pillaged the US Indies for women’s talent so AEW have had to go after characters. Awesome Kong is a good recruit but also that nullifies Nyla a bit as she was the division’s monster. Kylie Rae ends up the star of the match. She has the better mannerisms and she has the biggest high spots. Nyla looks the worst. Her poses feel forced and her timing is off. If someone is out of position, as Britt is at one point, just follow through and hope for the best. Don’t stop! It was a corner splash, not a running sit out powerbomb. It would have been fine. I do like the set up of the match being that Awesome Kong needs everyone to gang up to take her out. Kylie and Britt have a tidy little match with the bigger competitors down on the outside. It becomes clear during this that Kylie Rae is the big star coming out of this. Britt drops her with the Tomorrow Driver though and we get two wrestlers over in the same match. This was cool. They only made one mistake of note and everyone looked solid. Kylie Rae showed up in a big way.
Final Rating: ***
Best Friends vs. Angelico & Jack Evans
Angelico’s entrance is less good without Bangarang. Evans is here to impress, walking to the ring on his hands, breakdancing and mouthing off. The concept of a ten-count over a five-count out of the window fast as they just stop tagging and wrestle for a couple of minutes doing double teams.
JR calling Chuckie T “Taylor” is so weird. I mean, it’s technically accurate but it sounds wrong. The Falcon Arrow spot with Excalibur and Chuckie T getting upset about the kick-out is a genuine highlight. Jack Evans is so good here. It makes you wonder whether he was born in the wrong era. If he was an up and comer now he’d have the world at his feet. He’s so inventive, athletic and innovative. Plus his bumps are fantastic. When Best Friends hug production do the Okada pull back. It’s great. As fun as the match is it makes a joke of the rules AEW are trying to enforce, which is a pity. They have some awesome spots. Jack doing a moonsault off Angelico to the floor is excellent and Trent eating a knee running into the corner is perfect. It should have been the finish. Out of nowhere! Make this promotion different. Incorporate those flash knock outs. Make it a sport has been their mantra. UFC has flash knock outs and they rule. Instead we get the typical Indie mass of near falls and pin break ups before Best Friends win with a double team. I enjoyed this but they could have made it genuinely different and, in that respect, they failed. More Jack Evans in AEW though. He’s your guy.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Lights out. A random tag team appears. Lights out again. Bunch of masked men jump both teams. The fact that Marvez has no idea who the wrestlers are suggests they weren’t told beforehand. The crowd chant “who are you”, which about sums up how little of a fuck everyone gives about them.
If you’re not familiar it’s the Super Smash Bros; Evil Uno (with the mask) and Stu Grayson.
Hikaru Shida, Ryu Mizunami & Riho vs. Aja Kong, Emi Sakura & Yuka Sakazaki
It’s intriguing that AEW have gone “all in” on the joshi scene. Shida is their big signing and the focal point of the division but having two legends in Aja Kong and Emi Sakura helps.
Emi comes out here dressed as Freddie Mercury. Yuka Sakazaki ends up being a surprise stand-out here thanks to rope moves and general mannerisms. Riho also does well absorbing punishment and taking heat. Aja can be very effective landing a few strikes on her. Mizunami looks good too. All the relative unknowns deliver in a big way. The fans eat it up. Riho is out there taking bumps like she’s about to retire. The Backdrop Driver off Aja is brutal. Emi getting the We Will Rock You going is amazing. I love this match. The production has a major balls up by ringing the bell and playing music after Emi had Shida pinned off a moonsault. Shida then blasts Emi with a running knee and that’s the actual finish. Apart from AEW cocking up the false finish this was awesome. Shida gets her hand raised as the division’s major star but everyone performed very strongly out there.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Jim Ross gets lost on the format. The sheet is right in front of you!
Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes
When they announced this I wasn’t interested but they’ve done a grand job of hyping it via promo packages.
Cody symbolically smashing a throne with a sledgehammer is pretty cool, even if they have a little gimmicked pyro thing go off. As Dustin walks to the ring JR earns his paycheck by saying it’s an awful long walk for a 50 year old man looking for respect. The storyline lands right there. That’s what JR gives you.
They blow a spot on the floor where Dustin fails to do a goofy 619 under the ropes but he follows up with a senton off the apron so I can forgive the fuck up. He’s not wrestled since June 2018 and that was a WWE house show so I doubt the standard was very high. Cody decides to play the nefarious dickbag heel and I really, really hope they don’t try and be Triple H and Steph here. Another concern after earlier ones that they’re going down the WWE route and probably shouldn’t. It’s a chance to do something new.
Dustin comes in with interesting tactics. It’s a mix of unexpected athleticism and playing the hits. Brandi kills it in Cody’s corner. She’s a total bitch. The spear on Dustin is great. Earl Hebner has seen enough of that though and kicks her out. I love Cody’s reaction, although again I’d rather this didn’t go along the Bad Guys in Charge angle. DDP comes out to remove Brandi. The distraction allows Dustin the chance to blade. Like with Cody’s dumb bladejob at All In the delay is weird. Did DDP have to bring the blade down again?
It’s a gusher. He gets blood all over himself, Cody, the mat and the ref. Oh, it’s disgusting. The blood on the ref makes it a 1.0 Muta.
The match doesn’t slow down either with Dustin bleeding everywhere. A 50 year old man who’s covered the canvas in claret and he’s out there popping off superplexes and stealing Cross Rhodes. They try some complex spots but the match is better when they’re just slugging it out and bleeding. It’s brutal. Cody hits a Kudo Driver at one point and it’s done as safe as possible. They almost don’t need spots. The blood is the match. Another Cross Rhodes and this time Dustin stays down. Fucking hell. This was a prime example of that old school bloodshed being able to amplify a story. It’s something WWE has been missing for years. This was great.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: Cody tells Dustin he doesn’t get to retire here because he needs a tag team partner to face the Young Bucks at their next show.
AEW World Championship Presentation
Bret Hart is here to bring out the new AEW World title. The Hitman is an interesting get for AEW. The association is an endorsement of wrestling’s history on this new product.
The crowd chant “holy shit” and Bret cracks me up by saying “thank you”. Adam Page won the pre-show battle royal. He’s got the title shot on the next PPV (facing either Kenny Omega or Chris Jericho depending on who wins tonight’s main event). MJF interrupts, which is great because he’s one of the best promos in the world. “Wait Bret, a fan’s coming up…” hahahaha. Oh shit, I’m in pieces.
“Easy there Seabiscuit”. He popped Bret Hart twice here. Bret corpsing is wonderful. MJF finds himself challenged by both Jungle Boy and Jimmy Havoc.
AAA World Tag Team Championship
Young Bucks (c) vs. Lucha Bros
Bucks turned up in Mexico and won the Lucha Bros tag straps to set this match up. The Bucks have been so busy with AEW they’ve only wrestled twice this year; at WK in January and in March in Mexico. The former was a three-way and the latter was 7 minutes long. Will there be ring rust or has the break given the Bucks a chance to heal? Penta is all fired up as the crowd do the Zero Miedo thing along with him. I hate the dueling dropkicks spot but they do it on the floor here after the action spills outside and I kinda dig that. A lot of guys do dumb spots but Rey Fenix does them better than anyone else.
There’s an issue again here with rules not being enforced. If they’d not said anything about it I wouldn’t care but they did say it would be ‘sports style’ and it’s not. The Bucks look fresh here. Their arsenal has been improved and Matt’s back injury has cleared up. The story of the match is that the Bucks have rust and miscue frequently. Meanwhile Fenix is out here hitting insane high spots. The double springboard super rana is blowaway good. Not everything in this hits 100% but a lot of it does. When this match clicks it’s a lot of fun. The double Destroyer spot has me jumping out of my seat. They do a ridiculous number of false finishes. It’s unfortunately overkill as the match peaks and they’re still flipping around. They pull me back again with the Turnbuckle Brainbuster. A move not seen since El Generico went to work in that orphanage. Matt does a great job of selling his arm after Penta breaks it and manages a one armed Tombstone as his part of the Meltzer Driver. Bucks retain. This was a thrill a minute but could have done with some trimming of the fat in the middle third. The post match highlights package is amazing. So many incredible high spots here.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho’s company man shtick is really good. He’s an accomplished storyteller and he’s able to move with the times. We get Jericho Through The Ages entrance. I like the Lionheart one.
Jericho is 6 years older than me. He’s 48 years old. He’s been a phenomenal professional wrestler over the years. It’s astonishing to see him still going. He’s looking a little flabby around the midsection but I’ve had middle aged spread for years and I’d be quite happy with that Dad Bod. The crowd start to annoy me for the first time tonight with the “too sweet” “woop, woop” near falls shit. Jericho flips them off! Yes! Omega is also bleeding. His blood coming from the nose. I can’t tell if that was hardway or what as they cut away when it happened. The match is somewhat ambitious but it feels very much like the two men’s starpower is what puts it here. The show has peaked already with the two previous matches and the crowd are grinding at me.
Another major issue is they try and have an Omega match and Jericho is too old for that. He tries like hell to keep up, in all fairness to him, but they had a way better match in New Japan when they played into Jericho’s current strengths; character and brawling.
With them trying to do Omega’s MOTYC style contest it only really works when Kenny throws himself into a spot. The prime example being him coming off the top and landing in a Codebreaker. Where Jericho just needs to use his positional sense. I appreciate Jericho using the Liontamer in this match, rather than the Walls of Jericho. There have been a lot of throwbacks today but that one popped me. “The ugliest DDT I’ve ever seen” is another one of those moments where Jericho can’t keep up with Omega. Kenny overcompensates as well so he’s doing very OTT bumps. Jericho pulls out the surprise win with the Judas Effect, his elbow strike, and that’s it. Huh. The frequent ugly botches hurt this a great deal. There was a lot of effort but the execution was extremely patchy.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Chris Jericho demands a thank you and JON FUCKING MOXLEY IS HERE!
He drills Jericho with that DDT of his but Omega isn’t taking that shit and they brawl all over the building. Holy shit. Jericho vs Page, Bucks vs. Rhodes’ and Omega vs. Mox for the next PPV. Exciting times. Plus the undercard looked strong tonight.
Double or Nothing was a home run of a show. It was everything that All In failed to be. It established a world and introduced us to feuds, families and supporting casts that will entertain for years to come. I have never been particularly excited about anything AEW until now. Because now they proved they can do it. If they can get a little more control over certain performers (namely Jericho thinking he’s 20 years younger) they could really have something here. The Moxley appearance makes it highly likely AEW will not only be chasing down the best of the Indies but also gunning for anyone unhappy in WWE. They are a player. Dean Ambrose made a very, very smart move. The happiest I was all night was during the joshi match and there’s a hope here that AEW can get Japanese women’s wrestling properly over. Not just stealing the top tier guys from the country, as WWE have, but rather cultivating the scene and helping it expand. AEW is a chance to do it differently. As much as I’ve not agreed with a lot of their creative so far, hope outweighs long-running failure. Excellent show.