All Elite Wrestling
AEW Double Or Nothing 2020
May 23, 2020
Daily’s Place/TIAA Bank Field
Meet our reviewers:
Jon Hernandez: Jon just ran into a man dressed as Elmo leading a drumline through the streets of Philadelphia on his way to buying the Diet Cokes necessary to review this show, so he’s off to a great start. Follow him on Twitter @FatmansAlright.
Sean Sedor: While the build over the last few weeks has left a lot to be desired, Sean has gotten more excited for the show as the day has gone by. He’s hoping that this show overcomes some of the lackluster build and ends up being really good, especially during these hard times! You can follow Sean on Twitter @SASedor2994.
#1 Contender’s Match – Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent) def. Private Party (Isiah Kassidy & Marq Quen)
Jon: As pre-show matches go, this was delightful. Not unlike a nice cocktail hour before the ceremony begins, with a familiar and welcoming playlist to enjoy while you take your first glance at the arrangements. Daily’s Place looks great tonight, and the atmosphere is promising. Best Friends have been a real joy for me in AEW, particularly Trent. Private Party provides their typical fare, a slew of impressive spots with occasionally messy results. Both teams do a good enough job covering for some clunkers, and the stipulation enhances an already exciting closing stretch. No need to go out of your way for this, but it was a fun way to start. **¾
Sean: First of all, I should say that they did a very nice job with the set, as they added enough props/elements that help it feel more like….well….Double Or Nothing. The giant poker chips, the giant playing cards with Jon Moxley and Brodie Lee drawn on them, and so on. As the stipulation indicates, the winners of this match would receive a future shot at the AEW World Tag Team Titles. These two teams had an entertaining tag team bout, as most probably would’ve expected. You can always count on Best Friends to have (at the very least) a solid tag team match, and Private Party will give you cool spots every time. That being said, there were a number of rough points that did take the match down a bit, at least for me. There was a Silly String attempt on Trent that didn’t look very smooth at all, and while there weren’t any clear botches, there were rough points for sure. Best Friends picked up the win with the Strong Zero, which was the right result, as they were pretty much the de facto #1 Contenders coming in. Even with the rough spots, the rest of the action in this one was too good for me to not consider it a good match. ***1/4
Casino Ladder Match – Brian Cage (with Taz) def. Darby Allin, Colt Cabana, Orange Cassidy, Joey Janela, Scorpio Sky, Kip Sabian (with Jimmy Havoc), Frankie Kazarian, & Luchasaurus
Jon: Sure, there are things about the format of this match that don’t make total sense (like how you can win it before all the entrants have come out), but what a great way to start a Pay-Per-View. The Royal Rumble-esque countdown is still undefeated. This is a great setting for Kip Sabian, who’s a very capable worker often stuck in long matches he’s not really equipped to hold up. Darby turns this thing into a total carwreck on arriva with a breathtaking leap, ripstick in tow, off the top of a particularly tall ladder on the outside. Orange’s schtick with not knowing the rules is plenty funny and gives everyone a breather. Colt Cabana enters next, and his fingers getting pinched in a ladder might be the most painful looking bump of the match. I’m personally extra jazzed for Janela on his entrance. Losing Rey Fenix was a potentially huge blow to this match, but hopefully it allows Janela to turn it his first real standout performance, perhaps since his unsanctioned bout with Moxley back at Fyter Fest.
Brian Cage is the mystery ninth entrant. I’m not really a big Cage guy, so I’m more excited about my guy Taz being his manager. It’s a total hoot watching him decimate almost every other man in the match with a wide array of buff dude slams. This match is succeeding in giving every participant an important and memorable role. Still, I’m beginning to lose steam as Best Friends, Marko Stunt and Jimmy Havoc all get involved, and Kazarian beefs it on an attempted flying ‘rana from atop a ladder. Seeing Luchasaurus and Cage go at it is a treat — I’m most interested in Luchasaurus when he’s squared up against another big man — and you know I enjoyed Taz with that towel, but I wish this wrapped a little earlier. This was total joy at first, pure candy, but it started to make my teeth hurt. ***
Sean: When they first announced this match and how it was going to work with the delayed entrants, it immediately remind me of the Ladders-Are-Legal FRAY! from Dragon Gate USA Mercury Rising 2013 (how many of you out there remember that one?!). The only difference here is that this is an actual Ladder Match. In a surprise twist, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky started off as the first two entrants. Kip Sabian was the third entrant, and his entrance served as a distraction so Jimmy Havoc could attack SCU from behind with a Ladder. It turned into a tag team match for a bit under Darby Allin came out as the fourth entrant. He cleaned house for a bit, but then we got a BIG spot where he tried to kill Kazarian with a skateboard stomp from the top of a ladder on the outside, and he crashed and burned HARD. Orange Cassidy was the fifth entrant, and he still doesn’t understand that he actually has to climb a ladder to win this thing (he expressed in some pre-match promos that he didn’t even know what this match was). Cassidy is absolutely perplexed about how this is supposed to work. Colt Cabana is the sixth entrant, and we get some brief comedy between Colt and Orange before Colt tosses him out and tries to climb a Ladder. Joey Janela was the seventh entrant, and he ran wild on everyone. Luchasauras was the eight entrant, and he also got his turn to run wind. The final entrant was the mystery entrant, who turned out to be BRIAN CAGE….with Taz as his manager!!
Cage ripped apart a Ladder as he came out, and then went on to destroy everyone in his path. He then tried to climb up a ladder with Orange Cassidy on his back, but then everyone ganged up on him and buried him underneath ladders, a barricade, and one of the giant poker chips. Best Friends came out to help Orange fight off the Sabian, Havoc, and Penelope Ford. We then got a spot with Orange and Luchasauras where Marko Stunt came out with a mini-Ladder to assist with a chokeslam. Cage then emerged from the rubble, killed everyone again (including another insane spot with Darby) before grabbing the Casino Chip. In general, I would say this was a pretty good match, but it absolutely fell short of expectations. Aside from a few spots involving Darby, we really didn’t get any of the insanity that one would expect from a multi-man Ladder Match. Once Cage came out, it became immediately clear what the goal of this whole thing was, but what really slowed the match down was that they left Cage buried underneath wreckage for too long. You could’ve improved it a lot if Cage just shot out from under the rubble immediately. Alas, everyone put forth effort, so I can’t totally hate on this. Interested to see where Cage and Taz go from here (I presume they feud with Darby), but this match definitely fell below what I was expecting. ***1/2
MJF def. Jungle Boy
Jon: Just like last time these two faced off on Dynamite, this one is largely succeeding out the gate on how pure the dynamic between these two is. Jungle Boy is the babiest, face-iest babyface there is, and MJF is just a few notches shy of Snidely Whiplash. It practically borders on parody at times, but it just works, especially after the total shitshow that precedes it. MJF fakes an injury for a cheap shot, Jungle Boy reels off a trio of dives and the smattering of talent at ringside is making enough noise to convince me at times there’s a crowd.
This ran a little long, but in the end I think it overachieved. MJF’s developed such a rep for taking the emphasis off of in-ring ability that I forget how good he can look at times. He also pulls out, I shit you not, a one-armed variant of the fucking MUSCULAR BOMB, so. A smattering of gnarly bumps and a neat sequence of roll-ups tie it up for the Salt of the Earth. Check this one out. ***½
Sean: These two had a very solid match on Dynamite back in February, and my hope going in was that this would at least manage to equal that previous encounter. We got a nice exchange to start off (including the upside down slap exchange which is a spot I LOVE) before MJF gained the edge after faking an injury. Jungle Boy eventually mounted a comeback, and we got some crazy exchanges between these two (certainly more than you would expect from a typical MJF match). We got Canadian Destroyers, Reverse Rana’s on the apron, Super Powerbombs, and more. The second half of this match was awesome, and again, this is not something I would’ve expected from a match involving MJF! Jungle Boy came close to getting the win, but MJF managed to sneak away with the victory with, of all things, a Zack Sabre Jr.-style European Clutch pin!! This match absolutely blew away their previous bout in February, and that says a lot considering that their first encounter actually had a proper crowd. The chemistry that these two have is pretty amazing, considering how young they are. Great action from start to finish, and it showed that MJF (despite his old-school heel gimmick) can go in the ring when the situation calls for it. ****1/4
AEW TNT Title
Cody (with Arn Anderson) def. Lance Archer (with Jake “The Snake” Roberts)
Jon: Hoo boy, Iron Mike doesn’t a flying fuck about this. But maybe we still can! These two work a much more conventional match, and we start with a long beatdown from Archer, and I love that he OPENS with a Blackout. This match is being worked for a crowd, and sure, ALL matches are, but they build so much heat, and Cody takes such wild bumps — a crowd would have been exploding on his comebacks. It’s unfortunate there is none, because this match is laid out very well. Archer hits his always impressive springboard moonsault, he tosses Cody across the ring repeatedly, and CLEAN over the corner while he mugs for the turnbuckle camera.
I especially loved Cody doing a DDT in front of Jake Roberts, just for Archer to return with a Spinebuster in front of Arn. Eventually it hits notes of traditional Cody Rhodes Pay-Per-View bloat, peaking with Mike Tyson popping that polo off to scare off Jake The Snake. A packed house would have been rabid for it, but at a certain point it just feels a little inappropriate for the circumstances. Good outweighs the bad, Archer turns in his best AEW performance to date, Cody takes heroic bumps, mileage will vary with how you feel about the Rhodes PPV format. I think Cody holding the TNT title ***¼
Sean: I was very surprised when this was revealed as the third match on the PPV. I figured this had a shot at being the main event, or (at the very least) close to the top of the card. Archer killed some dude during his entrance and Mike Tyson (who was presenting the TNT Title) appeared to absolutely loved it. To start this one off, Archer hit Cody with a Blackout immediately, but Cody rolled to the outside. After Cody managed to recover (somewhat), they brawled on the floor, and Cody got sent flying off a railing and over the barricade by Archer. A rope-walk moonsault followed shortly thereafter, and Archer was very much in control during the early part of this bout. We then got an awesome spot where Archer tossed Cody over the turnbuckle to the floor, and then just stared at the ring post camera (which has to be the best usage of that camera angle in the history of the company). Cody started to mount a sustained comeback (despite Jake Roberts trying to distract him). He hit his brother’s spinning suplex finisher before hitting the Cross Rhodes, but only got two.
Cody and Arn Anderson managed to get one up on Jake Roberts with Arn getting involved briefly, but this led to both managers getting ejected. Jake tried to return with his snake, but Mike Tyson sent him away. Finally, Cody managed to counter the Blackout, and hit a pair of Cross Rhodes to put Archer away. Cody is your inaugural TNT Champion. Some of the shenanigans towards the end with the managers were a little “meh” (though I guess they had to do something to lead to Tyson’s involvement), but for the most part, I really enjoyed this match. Archer looked like an absolute monster throughout, while Cody was a very good babyface as he did everything he could to fight back. You could’ve gone either way with the result of this one, so I have no issues with Cody being the first TNT Champion. He’s a big star and I’m sure he’ll do a fine job establishing it right away. The outside stuff at the end kept me from pushing this into notebook territory, but this was still a very strong match. ***3/4
Kris Statlander def. Penelope Ford
Jon: I’m always pulling for Statlander. I was such a big fan of her indie run, it singlehandedly turned me around on intergender wrestling. It’s been a bit disappointing seeing her struggle at times on Dynamite. I’m happy to report that she and Penelope turn in a quality performance here. The match flies by well before wearing out its welcome. I have a greater appreciation for the Ford/Kip Sabian tandem when Penelope’s in front, and they made excellent targets for a killer dive from Statlander here. Most of all, it was great to see Ford and Statlander supply a quality Pay Per View showing from the AEW women’s division without the aid of the more experienced Joshi talent. It’s a good sign going forward. ***
Sean: Of course, Britt Baker was originally scheduled to face Kris Statlander here, but after suffering a serious leg injury on Dynamite last Wednesday (the extent of those injuries were confirmed in a promo before this match took place). Wasn’t sure what to expect from this one coming in, especially since these two both had at least one major botch together the last two times they were in the ring together (A Four-Way from back in March and another Four-Way a few weeks ago). Fortunately, they managed to have a fun little match that was entertaining from start to finish. It was by no means amazing, but it didn’t overstay its welcome, and the action was pretty solid throughout. Ford had some good moments for sure, but ultimately, this proved to be a strong showcase for Statlander, who got the win after hitting the Big Bang Theory. Once things get back to normal, I hope these two get the chance to wrestle in Japan, because they would both improve immensely if they were able to go over there (and I think Statlander is good already). Fun little match. ***1/4
Dustin Rhodes (with Brandi Rhodes) def. Shawn Spears
Jon: The descent of Shawn Spears from the moment he accidentally exploded Cody’s head with that chair continues. His news network segment on Dynamite wasn’t really for me, and this ain’t it either. I can appreciate his willingness to get his bare ass spanked by Dustin Rhodes, in fact I deeply respect it, but a good segment this does not make. Still, having the likeness of Tully Blanchard ironed onto his shmeckle is now the second coolest thing he’s done in All Elite Wrestling, so I’ll hand it to him for that. DUD
Sean: Spears came out in a suit (arrogantly assuming that Dustin wouldn’t show up) and they did the bit where they played Dustin’s music, but it was a trick by Spears. He then demanded that Aubrey Edwards count Dustin out and declare him the winner, but Dustin’s music hit again, and Brandi Rhodes came out to distract Spears as Dustin attacked him from behind to get this one going. Ultimately, this proved to be more of a comedy segment than a match. Dustin ripped off the expensive clothes that Spears was wearing, revealing that Spears had Tully Blanchard’s face. Dustin got the win, as he should have, and all I can say is that I’m happy this was kept short, and he didn’t have a proper match. You can certainly argue that this shouldn’t have been on the PPV, but in general, I thought this was harmless. N/R
AEW Women’s Title – No DQ, No Count Out
Hikaru Shida def. Nyla Rose (c)
Jon: Admittedly, I missed most of it because I was getting a Diet Coke from the fridge, but I’m happy to see a video package to establish a little more of who Hikaru Shida is. That sort of effort could have gone a long way with Riho. I should also note that Excalibur handled a brief tribute to Hana Kimura very well. Nyla controls the early portion of the match, playing the heel monster role well. Shida’s offense largely consists of sporadic knee strikes, some satisfyingly stiff, others looking like polite shoves. I wish, even if only in higher stakes encounters like these, we’d see more of the prior.
After a lap of outside brawling, I’m more drawn in than I expected to be when they get back to the ring. It’s satisfying seeing Nyla get a measure of comeuppance from Shida by way of kendo stick, and a springboard knee from Rose makes me wince. A table is introduced and the closing stretch feels like a war. The match earns a genuine “fuck yeah” when the kendo stick breaks over Nyla’s shoulder. Hats off to these two, and good luck to the new champ. Match of the night so far! ***½
Sean: Hikaru Shida was cosplaying as a character named Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy. They fought over the Kendo Stick at the start, with Nyla managed to get the edge. We got a spot a minute or two later that saw Shida get tossed by Nyla onto a poker table that was just sitting outside of the guardrail. The brawling on the outside continued, and Shida managed to send Nyla onto some of the giant poker chips. After they got back in the ring, Shida used her kendo stick to dish out a lot of damage, but it couldn’t keep Nyla down for the count, as she used her power to regain control. Nyla got out a table and powerbombed Shida threw it, and then used the kendo stick on Shida, but Shida managed to survive this onslaught. Eventually, Shida NAILED Nyla with the Kendo Stick, and pinned Nyla with a running knee to win the AEW Women’s Title!! This was a great match!! Both women worked very hard, and absolutely beat the crap out of each other throughout. I also loved the build to Shida’s title win. She went on a massive winning streak, earned her title shot, went through a war with Nyla Rose, but ultimately came out on top. I’m very interested to see where they go from here now that Shida is the champion. ****
AEW World Title
Jon Moxley (c) def. Brodie Lee
Jon: Big entrance theatrics, and security separating the two to start goes a long way in quickly establishing a big-fight feel here. I love that the two run at each other and start wailing immediately. Moxley scores an early dive that sends Brodie through the barricade and it’s not long before Brodie returns the favor. Somehow, qualities of both of their characters still shine through. Mox keeps a consistent swagger, and Lee is an angry cyborg. And THIS is the Brodie Lee I want. Not some slow motion spooky dude who stares at the camera and delivers meandering promos, I want this big asskicker who’ll elbow you into fucking mincemeat.
The brawling on the floor is effective. I love Brodie stomping the prop poker chip into Moxley, and likewise his rising from the entrance ramp bloodied after being Paradigm Shift’d through it. He keeps kicking out until he’s forced to go to sleep, and a breathless champ flips him one more bird for his trouble. This reminds me in some ways of Sugiura/Nakajima in NOAH earlier this month. No crowd? No problem. Just beat the hell out of each other. ****¼
Sean: Honestly, I had no issue with making this the semi-main event. The Stadium Stampede Match was clearly the hotter of the two. Brodie Lee came out with the AEW World Title (which he stole from Moxley) while Moxley came out with this cool black and gold jacket. Red-shirted security guys were in the ring to keep the two separated. While Moxley did manage to nail Brodie Lee with a dive, it was Lee who was in control in the early minutes of the match. This included a spot where he just tossed Moxley into a guardrail that was propped up against one of the fixed railings just outside of the ring at Daily’s Place. Moxley finally managed to mount a sustained comeback, and nailed Lee with the Gotch Piledriver before deciding to move around some furniture (the steel steps in this case). Some might complain about the Gotch Piledriver not putting Lee down, but I didn’t mind it here. If it was Minoru Suzuki hitting it, Lee would stay down. However, this is just Moxley stealing his finisher, and not doing it as well, because he’s not the master of it.
Both men took turns taking some big bumps on the floor. Moxley backdropped Lee off the steel steps and onto the timekeeper’s table, while Lee tossed Moxley into the giant cards at ringside. They eventually brawled onto the stage, and Moxley managed to nail Lee with a Paradigm Shift that sent both men crashing through the entrance ramp!! The two men emerged from the hole, but Lee was busted open. A Paradigm Shift in the ring only got a one count, but another Paradigm Shift and a choke hold managed to put The Exalted One down. This was an excellent World Title match that played to both men’s strengths. Moxley always excels in these kinds of environments, but Brodie Lee more than held his own in this one. It was easily Brodie’s best outing in AEW to date. The closing sequence was particularly strong, and the finish was fantastic. It put Brodie Lee over in a big way, as it took a ton of punishment to put him down (I absolutely LOVED that emphatic one-count kickout), and when Moxley did put him down, it was a referee stoppage. Brodie lost clean, but he wasn’t pinned or submitted. Again, a great brawl from start to finish that saw both men just beat the crap out of each other. ****1/4
Stadium Stampede Match – The Elite (Kenny Omega, “The Hangman” Adam Page, & The Young Bucks) & Matt Hardy def. The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, & Proud ‘n’ Powerful)
Jon: How I feel about this is changing with each passing segment. The football intros are fun, and the two teams colliding at midfield are a blast. Hangman is missing, but Omega tells the Bucks not to worry. Eventually, Page turns up on horseback and begins chasing Guevara into the concession area. I begin to worry. Hear me out: I watched Wrestlemania live, I reviewed night one for this site. I was certain we were dipping into the trappings of the WWE cine-match, and even as a Boneyard apologist I wasn’t interested in having it here. Two things ease my nerves. First, I have to have faith that whatever Hangman’s doing will pay off, because somehow whatever Hangman’s doing always pays off. The other is that the sequence is immediately followed by the remaining talent getting into the conventional wrestling ring on the fifty yard line, and offering up a taste of an incredible six-man tag, seemingly just to show that they can.
The brawling continues around the stadium, and every prop under the sun comes into play. Matt Jackson does a moonsault off of a goal post, Santana and Ortiz try to drown Matt Hardy in a wading pool. This leads to another round of Hardy transformations through different incarnations of his character, including a graphic from the old 2.0 gimmick. Hardy’s going to be a point of contention here. The gag is funny enough (to me at least), but is it worth compromising a universe that’s kept itself at least on the fringes of reality? Well, this match also has a 100-yard Northern Lights Suplex, and a participant that leaves on horseback to get a beer. Maybe the better question is, who gives a shit?
Speaking of that horsebacked participant, the Hangman bit did, in fact, pay off again. A barfight sequence between him and Jake Hager is easily the best “wrestling” of the entire segment, before Omega shows up to assist in an incredible Buckshot Lariat by Page over his partner’s back. The two share a drink and just like that are re-established as the best tag team in wrestling this year. I don’t know how Page pulls it off every time, but he does.
Going into the home stretch, Jericho scores a Judas Effect on a mascot, and then demands to have the play reviewed after a nearfall on Nick Jackson. Referee Audrey Edwards abides, complete with a trip into the booth. This in conjunction with Matt Jackson’s touchdown celebration is about the moment I’m willing to come out and say it: the match is funny. I’m so accustomed to being horrified when American professional wrestling takes a stab at humor, but god damnit they’ve really managed it here. The closing stretch is a breeze (so long as you’re willing to tolerate another Matt Hardy drone) and you’ll gasp at the One Winged Angel Guevara takes from at least twenty feet in the air for the finish. Sure, some of this dragged, and I’m definitely not seeking out any more pre-taped hour long wrestling matches in strange locales, but this was a whole lot of fun. I have no idea how you rate this, but I have to, I’ll hit it with ****
Sean: We’ve got a ring at mid-field, but other than that, there are no rules, and falls count anywhere in the stadium. We also had the Jacksonville Jaguars mascot and cheerleaders out there. The Inner Circle got a football-style entrance (as did The Elite), but The Inner Circle were all decked out in custom football jerseys. Some of them even had custom football helmets! Hangman doesn’t come out at first, and the match starts without him, as the two teams charge each other. Hangman Page then arrived ON A HORSE and chased Sammy Guevara out of the stadium!! That was amazing. After all of that, they eventually got back to the ring and did some actual wrestling. However, things broke down again after some big dives, and began brawling all over the building once again. One of the highlights at this point saw Matt Jackson hit a moonsault off the crossbar of one of the goal posts.
We then got into a cinematic portion of the match, as they did a spot in a pool that’s in the stadium that saw Matt go through a number of his “transformations” before stuffing Santana in an ice chest and taping Ortiz to a wheelchair. We then transitioned to a scene where Page and Hager had an awesome brawl in a stadium bar that had some very cool spots. Omega came to Page’s aid and they beat the shit out of Hager. We cut back to the field, and Jericho had a funny brawl with Nick (which included Jericho hitting the Jaguars mascot and challenging Aubrey Edwards to go to a booth review on a kickout) while Matt hit continuous Northern Light Suplexes on Guevara. After Guevara was the only one left, Omega and Matt Hardy chased him with a golf cart again, and that led to a spectacular spot where Omega gave Guevara the One Winged Angel from a massive ledge that had to be at least twenty feet onto a setup that was clearly designed to break their fall. We got a gatorade bath with The Elite as the show went off the air.
What really made this whole thing work was that the cinematic stuff was kept to a bare minimum. You really can’t call this a cinematic match when the only stuff that could be considered that was the Matt Hardy stuff in the pool as well as the new version of Vanguard (who didn’t even really do anything), but that was only like…five to ten percent of the match (maybe not even that much). The rest of it? Freaking fantastic! The fact that the bulk of this was grounded in reality is what really made it work. We got some serious wrestling when they were in the ring, some cool brawling, incredible spots, and moments that were legitimately funny (unlike WWE, who don’t even understand the concept of doing good comedy nine times out of ten). Everyone worked hard, and from start to finish, it was a blast to watch. It was a DDT-style match that worked brilliantly. I don’t think I’ll go as far as to call this perfect, but it was as close to perfect as you can get. If you didn’t have a big smile on your face while watching this, then I don’t know what to say. ****3/4