If one is to believe the Bible as written (and if you don’t just work with me here), Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. To put it in wrestling terms: this was a heel turn.
Ever since then, brother versus brother has been one of the most common storytelling mechanisms in world. Film, Literature, Television, Music, Reality. It should come to no shock that such a tale would penetrate the ranks of pro wrestling. Decades of pro wrestling history are littered with brother vs. brother, both fictional and real. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart, Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy, Kane vs. The Undertaker. Some feuds creatively rewarding, some less so. Either way, these feuds have played a major part in wrestling history. The story of brother vs. brother would quickly penetrate the world of AEW for its debut show: Double Or Nothing.
Cody vs. Dustin
AEW Double or Nothing needed to succeed and excel creatively, commercially, in energy, and in scope. While definitely with its faults and negatives the show successfully laid out for all to witness what AEW would strive to be and planned on accomplishing. It was the big bang theory of pro wrestling except there is no speculation, we got to witness it before our very eyes. It is one of those events I regret not going to see live. I wish I could’ve let that magic wash over me. More importantly, I wish I was there to witness what in my humble opinion is the best match so far in AEW’s short history.
That’s right. I didn’t stutter, I didn’t hesitate. Cody vs. Dustin in my eyes, my mind, my heart is the best match in AEW’s short history. Incredible when you consider how much of a colossal failure their lead-up and eventual match as Stardust and Goldust was in WWE. This was the redo, the mulligan. The “we get to do it our way” match. There were little restrictions, no roadblocks, no red tape they had to cut through. Dustin and Cody didn’t just understand they had a better match, they KNEW they had a better story, a better everything.
I confess leading up to their match I was skeptical, hesitant to believe the possibility. I liked and respected Cody, his “do the work” mentality, and how he understood his worth, bet on himself, and it worked out in ways I don’t think many of us predicted. That written I had been very spotty with how I felt about him in the ring itself. I always thought he was solid, consistent, but I never saw him as must-see. I should’ve known better. In many tag matches, in matches against Kazichika Okada and Kota Ibushi Cody’s “do the work” mentality would flourish and he would put out excellent outings.
Dustin was the journeyman. The veteran. A career of ups and downs. I had much respect for what he accomplished and his dedication. But time was an opponent that lay down for no one. I wasn’t convinced that time hadn’t caught up to Dustin. I wasn’t convinced he had one good match left, let alone a great match still in him. This is not meant to be disrespectful to either. Again, I had the highest regard for both in their accomplishments. I need to be honest though, I did not expect this match to excel at the heights it would. I needed to get my vision checked because I clearly lacked it going into Double or Nothing. I did not see what this match meant to both of them. What the levels their passion was. A passion that I strive to feel when I pursue my endeavors. They had their spotlight, they had their venue, they had their audience, and they had each other. They were brother vs. brother but in reality, they were going to work together to give us a match seared into our memories.
It was an explosion of emotions. A dramatic and physical rollercoaster of a match with blood, determination, exhaustion, desperation, hatred, respect, and in the aftermath love.
It wasn’t perfect, greatness rarely is, but who cares. I sure don’t. This was youth vs. experience. Attitude era vs. Modern day. The young prince trying to usurp the oldest. Cody wanted to show it was now his time, and Dustin wanted to show that he still had time left. As sure as Dustin’s blood bled red during this match, I found myself doing as I always do in matches I get heavily invested in. I kept leaning forward. I started rooting for Dustin. In reality, I knew the sword would swing down upon him and break my heart, but they earned that heartbreak. I wanted Dustin to get that win so bad. I tasted it just as he tasted his own blood. This match made me a believer the deeper we got into it. I clutch preciously to Dustin’s attempts to win, to get that victory, and I could hear the shatter of my heart when Cody got the pinfall. I remember on the couch of my friend’s house soaking in the experience, listening to the appreciation of the crowd.
For a few seconds, the precious rarity happened. That moment when you felt you were there even though you know that was impossible. You could feel the energy and the emotion of the crowd was over you. You can look down upon Cody and Dustin. Brothers bonded by blood, bonded by wrestling, bonded by love. You feel the bond, you think about your own sibling feuds. How you would fight, how you would hurt, how you would make amends, and how you would strengthen your respect and love. In the aftermath with Cody saying he didn’t want a tag team partner he wanted his brother, it hit me harder than a WALTER chop.
Ridicule me all you want but yes I had a few tears, and they fucking earned those tears. Seeing the shots from the crowd I wasn’t alone. So if I’m to be ridiculed for crying at pro wrestling at least I know I have company, because I wasn’t the only one that felt it. You can watch, you can listen, but if it doesn’t make you feel what’s the damn point? Dustin vs. Cody made me feel. Made me feel in a way very few if any other wrestling matches have since. That’s not a criticism, there’s been great work, there’ve been amazing matches, feuds, and story, but Cody and Dustin was my perfect storm. The story, wrestling, crowd, emotion, mixed all together for a recipe of success. So yes, I cried, and I’m not ashamed to confess to this act. Emotion is beautiful, wonderful, important, it’s part of being human, and anything that can get me to convey emotion on that level (and in a positive and healthy way) I will gladly take part in.
When it was all said and done, when my eyes were dry and my vision improved, I gained a newfound respect for Cody and my respect for Dustin was renewed with increased vigor. Cody and Dustin is my favorite AEW match, and I never saw it coming until it hit me. Brother vs. Brother, Sister vs. Sister, Sibling vs. Sibling. A story told since the beginning of time, a story that will still be told when we approach the end. Some told well, some told poorly. As for Dustin and Cody, it was told far better than I could’ve imagined, and if stories were stars, the story of Dustin vs. Cody will shine brightly among them and its light will never diminish.