All Elite Wrestling
Double or Nothing 2021
May 30, 2021
Watch: PPV & FITE (Non-US)
Meet Our Reviewers
Neil David: Neil likes the little details to sing in his wrestling. A furtive glance, a simple motivation, a big lad with beefy arms. AEW gives us the little details in spades, with a healthy amount of action to ease it all into our living rooms. Neil believes this PPV, in spite of past disappointment, will be AEW’s finest moment yet. Is he wrong? Follow @chubby_cthulhu and you can laugh at him.
Reuel Castillo: A rare Los Angeles Native that now finds himself in the middle of Flair Country. Reuel is a fan of storytelling in wrestling as the foundation by which all other aspects of the business are built upon. AEW has done this better than any promotion in North America during the “Pandemic Era” – and daresay, better than any country in the world. However, their biggest moments in marquee events have fallen flat. Reuel comes into Double or Nothing with the perception that this event has the added pressure of righting the course from previous missteps. Follow @CapoCastillo to continue the discussion
BUY-IN – NWA WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
SERENA DEEB (c) def. RIHO
Neil: In a bizarre irony, Serena Deeb is the antithesis of NWA. The NWA is as dull as she is sharp, as slow as she is fast, and as boring as she is captivating. There’s a road-worn authenticity to her, which works brilliantly against the ethereal Riho. Deeb’s challenging screams and hair pulls worked excellently with Riho’s smiles and pin escapes.
Deeb’s arrogant brutality dominated the match, but it was her technical skill that laid the foundations for everything. Deeb was a master of the craft, teaching Riho a violent lesson in professional wrestling. She targeted, and destroyed, the knee throughout the match. Another wrestler might have made this feel pedestrian, but Deeb made this violent.
Riho was good, taking neckbreakers and Gory Specials before fighting back with desperate punches and a high-risk footstomp. For a wrestler whose internet hype often surpasses her in-ring ability, her 2.99 kick-outs and sudden comebacks increased the drama exponentially.
While Riho played her part, Deeb was the star here. She was everything a great champion should be – dominant, intelligent and authentic. Great match. ****
Reuel: The NWA Women’s World Championship would be contested in a match that not only showed a well-executed bout between Riho and champion, Serena Deeb but one that also told a clear story – even when that would prove to be challenging. Having fans back in a real way added a strong element to the atmosphere for this match. However, the crowd would also prove to take on a life of its own, the way that can only happen in a live event. It certainly adds a bit of buzz that has been so noticeably absent for so long.
The NWA Women’s World Title has a bit of prestige on AEW television and events, so the stakes feel real. The opening stages seemed to be a skill vs skill exhibition, and the crowd catered to both combatants. But as the challenger Riho would try to both play to the crowd and offer her respect to the champ, Deeb immediately took the opportunity to establish her role in this match. Not only did she control Riho with perfect execution, but Deeb earned believable heat, even in the face of half of the audience that wanted to cheer for her instead. Multiple times.
By the time the finish came, Riho’s heroics were utterly shut down by the Champ, and I can’t find fault in anything I saw, and indeed, was excited to see what would come next in the show. ****
HANGMAN ADAM PAGE DEF. BRIAN CAGE
Neil: I wondered how over Adam Page was going to be. While he’s still clearly AEW’s future star, his work with The Dark Order has felt like a wheel spinning very slowly. The crowd, however, was as enthused by his leaps as they were disgusted by Cage catching him mid-air and bouncing his head off the ring post.
Cage has never been a man troubled by nuance, but it didn’t matter here. He was perfect for this role. He bounced Page around and was a solid wall to block his clotheslines. Cage escalated his threat through arrogant displays of strength, leaving Hangman no choice but to revert to a scintillating moonsault. He dominated Page, and while he will always be “Mr. Get My Shit In”, it made perfect sense here.
Tazz was superb on commentary, expressing frustration at Cage’s poor pins and his inability to finish the resilient Page.
The finish of this match was excellent. AEW are excellent at presenting tropes, and sprinkling them with reality. Cage being at the center of the atypical wrestling distraction but refusing to take advantage is a prime example of this, and I love it. ****
Reuel: Double or Nothing opens as the FTW Champion faces off against Adam Page in something of a grudge match for the loss he suffered against Brian Cage in previous weeks. Perhaps the real story of this match though is if Adam Page is still ‘over’. Some contend that if there is one member of the AEW roster that has suffered from the Pandemic Era of wrestling – it’s Hangman. Without crowds to feed off of, as well as a rivalry with Brodie Lee that fate sadly set aside, Page has seemed somewhat aimless. This match shows that the capacity crowd at Daly’s is still solidly behind Page.
The match is the greatest hits of both the FTW Champion as well as the Hangman. There’s a definite back and forth cadence to the match. Starting with Brian Cage taking control, then Page coming back. Then back and forth and back and forth. Some may complain that there wasn’t enough selling, but it did build in a sense of energy and there was a crescendo that drew you in.
As we came to the end, and it became clear that Adam Page had the Buckshot Lariat perfectly targeted, and he pulled the trigger for the win, the crowd erupted in cheers. Perhaps the best sign of approval one could ask for. And we also see the seeds for further dissension in Team TAZ – the beginning of the end for Brian Cage in this faction is coming, but it will be fun to see this evolve further. ***3/4
AEW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
THE YOUNG BUCKS © def. JON MOXLEY & EDDIE KINGSTON
Neil: Wild Thing hit, and my arms went cold. Script your promos, record take after take, but nothing will be as cool as Mox and Kingston swaggering their way to the ring through an adoring crowd. Their entrance spoke to a part of me that hasn’t been awake since 1997.
The opening act of this was defined by death. The Young Bucks were asphyxiated by Mox and at the end of a suicide dive from Kingston. Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite do enough and Kingston was soon in the wrong part of town.
This led to an example of the great irony of the Young Bucks. They are accused of killing the business, but wrestle what is essentially the most traditional tag team style with a few extra flips. They cut off Kingston to prevent the hot tag. Later, they cut off Mox and beat him bloody. There’s nothing innovative in terms of the match structure, they just do it with such skill it felt fresh and exciting. For every moment of flash, there is a wonderful moment of nuance, like their imitation of the SHIELD leading to Mox’s enraged powerup.
Of course we were treated to the ploddingly inevitable Good Brothers. While Kazarian quickly got rid of them, it was a run-in that was incongruous in its impotence and the match would have been better served without it.
From the sleeper into the 450, to the just-dodged Meltzer Drivers and the last-minute pin break after the Paradigm Shift, this was a whirlwind of nearfalls. For all the intelligence I mentioned before, it was the pure excitement of the action and the contagious empathy of Mox’s determination that sucked me into this match. It took four BTE triggers to finish Mox, and I was crushed in the best, manipulated pro-wrestling way. ****1/2
Reuel: We were witness to another test in front of a live crowd: the effectiveness of licensed music with a capacity crowd. In this case, it was ‘Wild Thing’, which had the desired effect – it got them engaged, energized, and singing along. Which would feed into the heat of the Bucks entrance – which is really the same as it ever was, but with an energy that they are so good at exuding, one that makes them palpably hateable.
Moxley and Kingston open by attacking the bucks during their signature pose, as they were showered by streamers. This led to an establishing beat down of Matt and Nick, all before the bell. However, when the Bucks manage to turn the tables on Kingston in a return to the ring, the bell can officially sound, and the Bucks begin to abuse Eddie Kingston’s knee. Given the comparative skillsets, the Bucks still manage to make Kingston look good by keeping things simple and letting him sell.
As Moxley gets the hot tag, we get Elite Club shenanigans, which are mitigated by the Elite Club Hunter – Kazarian. This gives the Bucks the opportunity to use a gimmicked spray can to get the advantage over Moxley, and ultimately deliver an Indietaker on the outside that busted Mox open. The blood would begin to really flow and the Bucks took every opportunity to extend the former World Champion’s torment. As Moc made his comeback, the crowd came unglued, and some of that residually lasted through Kingston’s own hot tag. While the crowd is behind Kingston, it’s simply not comparable to the reactions they had for Moxley minutes earlier.
While Moxley and Kingston can’t match the Young Bucks for speed and athleticism, as the match came into its closing phase, not only did it feel like everyone had been in a dogfight of a contest, the energy was at a fever pitch. The crowd as well fed into it. The energy the audience added in the final phase can’t be understated. Which is why when the Bucks relentlessly applied the BTE trigger again and again, on Jon Moxley of all people and the oxygen left Daly’s place as the ref counted three- it meant even that much more. ****1/4
CASINO BATTLE ROYAL (Winner – Jungle Boy)
Neil: Having the entrants of a battle royal start in groups – thematically linked by drawing a certain suit of cards – is a great idea. It also gave a brilliant overview of just how loaded the AEW roster is. The first suit, the clubs, was a mix of young prospects and experienced veterans that dripped with possibilities.
As far as battle royals go, it was certainly a battle royal. The spades section led to eliminations and, unbelievably, men loitering in corners with weak elimination attempts. The diamonds brought us Matt Hardy’s sneakiness, but was defined by a great hoss battle between Nick Comoroto and Preston Vance. The hearts were dominated by the incredible Penta, a man born for the live crowd. When the spades came, we got Jungle Boy’s glorious sing-along theme and some big eliminations under his belt.
The joker being Lio Rush was, like Christian’s reveal, both cool yet somehow unexciting. He’s a great addition to the roster, though, and he certainly set out to make an impact with his signature speed. He was soon eliminated by Private Party and Matt Hardy, which sets up a nice little feud.
After some clumsy eliminations, we were left with Christian and Jungle Boy. The crowd’s reaction was interesting. They sang Jungle Boy’s theme and booed Christian when he gained control. Jungle Boy’s win was incredibly smart, as a losing effort against the champion might be just what he needs to take him over the edge. The crowd was certainly ready for this next step. ***
Reuel: The one thing I can certainly say about Battle Royals that is in AEW’s favor is that they are used as a vehicle to help further various feuds within the canon of the show. Various dramas play out in what is otherwise a car wreck in the best of circumstances. And while I’ll admit something of a guilty pleasure weakness for various flavors of Battle Royal, the format AEW employs is not my favorite. And while I get that AEW treats the Casino Battle Royale as a Double or Nothing tradition, I would prefer they shelve this entry-by suits concept.
The Casino Battle Royale also serves another worthy purpose in front of a live crowd for the first time in so long: a gauge in who earns a response. Notable reactions for Penta El Zero Miedo and Jungle Boy (complete with Tarzan Boy theme) earned huge cheers from Daly’s Place. In the sense of being a match with pitch-perfect psychology or execution – that’s not really even the purpose. But as a litmus test for the first live crowd in ages, and helping to further some rivalries and storylines – it did its job well. This was no more evident than when we heard the reaction for Lio Rush, which did earn a respectable pop and served as a genuine surprise.
The finale came down to Christian Cage and Jungle Boy – the crowd solidly behind the later, with a rendition of the Tarzan-call from his entrance theme. The tension came with a series of shenanigans of the pair playing dangerously on the apron. But the true surprise came with the victor of this Battle Royal, when a Cristian Cage victory seemed sealed, Jungle Boy would eliminate the Instant Classic to earn a future World Title shot. And given the positive reaction of a live audience, this match delivered. ***
CODY RHODES def. ANTHONY OGOGO
Neil: This, the battle of the two flagshaggers, is a perfect example of what makes AEW so worthwhile. Ogogo can talk, he has a great look, but there is a question mark hanging over his wrestling ability. As a fan, I feel invited to scrutinize and my evaluations never feel wasted.
Ogogo was certainly dominant here, dropping superb knees and his signature gut punch, and he never looked out of place. He was convincing, which was compounded by a Cody run to Arn Anderson for tactics.
Whilst patriotism might not be something I can identify with, it laid the groundwork for a simple story etched in the annals of all pro-wrestling. Unfortunately, the match lacked the heat it needed. Maybe it’s because I was more interested in evaluating Ogogo’s work, but this lacked the molten heat it needed to make the Americana story land.
Cody won, which seems silly. Maybe Cody thought he could put Ogogo over with the loss, but really he just needed to let Ogogo knock his bloody block off. **3/4
Reuel: The trial by fire. Anthony Ogogo by all rights should have it all and is without doubt, a rising star. But can he perform on a stage like this? For Cody’s part, he brings the showmanship that is uniquely him with his entrance. One-part colonial soldier, one-part Tanahashi, the so-called American Dream is implied to be the Ace of the USA, feeding into the premise of this match. A rivalry from the defectors that joined QT Marshall’s Factory not being sufficient motive, there’s also a nationalist narrative as well, setting up both competitors as champions for their respective countries.
The story of the early match was Ogogo’s ribs. Earlier in the week, it’d been ‘reported’ that Ogogo suffered a potential injury to his ribs but was subsequently cleared. This allowed Cody to take early advantage of the match. However, Ogogo, when able to land offense, the American Dream sold it devastatingly. We’re left with the implication that if not for the injury to the ribs, Cody would be in even greater trouble. And for all of the offense that Cody delivered, Ogogo managed to weather multiple storms – through his injury.
Unfortunately, the story starts to fall apart at the end. Ogogo had gotten his body punch, as well as uppercut finisher, but was unable to pin Rhodes, whose arm was under the ropes. This led to a meandering sequence that ended in a Vertibreaker finisher, and Cody stands tall. I felt unfulfilled by this finish and thought that there was a missed chance to build a new killer. **1/2
AEW TNT CHAMPIONSHIP
MIRO © def LANCE ARCHER
Neil: Wrestling is an ethereal medium, giving a booker a million ways to tell a million stories. What a good booker needs to recognize, however, is that sometimes things should be simple. Sometimes, two big lads need to batter each other. That’s exactly what we got here.
Of course, the build to this match was sprinkled with the signature AEW attention to detail. Jake begged Archer not to challenge, because he recognized how dangerous Miro is. Ultimately, it was the exact whirlwind it needed to be.
Miro is quickly becoming one of my favorite wrestlers, refusing to engage in that weird wrestling trope that a heel can either be physically dominating or intelligent. He emanates both, combining them into a fascinatingly dangerous aura. Nothing demonstrated this better than launching Jake’s snake down the ramp, in a wonderful, heat-ridden moment.
While Archer was no chump, this was Miro’s match. He was dominant in the way a new champion should be, and I’m excited to see his reign continue. ***1/2
Reuel: Archer starts the match like a house of fire, and takes high octane offense to the TNT champion early. Although this sequence only lasts the better part of a minute, it sets off the cynical instincts in me as a wrestling fan that Archer’s chances of victory dwindle to almost nill. While AEW does storytelling quite well in my view, they aren’t the sorts to reinvent the wheel. Once Miro endures the early offense of Archer, he takes control and never seems to genuinely let up from there. Nor should he.
Look at the two characters we have at their essence. When we were first introduced to the Murderhawk Monster, it was in some backyard ring, mowing through jabones, juggalos, and their ilk, all to Jake Roberts’ grinning approval. Miro on the other hand is some sort of Eastern European super-athlete. And while Archer has brought the fight to Miro better than anyone before him, the outcome was never in doubt. Even when Jake comes out to the ring, to use the psych-out of the snake, Miro proves impervious, tossing the snake sack to the outside.
The ending stretch of this match caught me by surprise. For a pair of legitimate hosses, the final minutes of this match had intensity, energy, and spots that still showcased the speed of each competitor. Usually, for wrestlers the size of Archer and Miro, there’d be signs of weariness – but not for either of these men. Miro’s Game Over blacked out Archer in the end, but this seems to be the beginning, not the end, to this tale. ***3/4
AEW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
BRITT BAKER D.M.D. def HIKARU SHIDA ©
Neil: Britt Baker has finally overcome her shaky start. I made the Isaac Yankem jokes along with many others, but her steady climb to this match has been undeniable. The white gear of Shida contrasting with the darkness of Baker suggested we were getting a classic battle, but this was always going to be Baker’s night.
The match was paced well, with technical exchanges building slowly into more dangerous spots. Ultimately, the problem with the middle section was Shida herself. A splash to the outside was lackluster, a chair spot was confusing and her offense was unconvincing. She was much better when she was allowed to be natural, adding convincing exclamation marks to forearms and knees.
Baker wrestled, for the most part, like a champion. She exuded power, not just in her offense but in her perfectly timed looks to the crowd and camera. Unfortunately, there were too many flat moments where chemistries didn’t mix and moves didn’t land. An attempted fireman’s carry on the top rope that ended in disaster is perhaps the perfect metaphor for this match. Shida just can’t quite raise herself to this top level.
The interference and weaponry were, as always, unnecessary. They screamed “pro-wrestling” and destroyed any big fight feel that the near falls brought.
Baker won the match, but she didn’t arrive. She needs a good first defense. ***
Reuel: The crowd is clearly behind Britt Baker as we can hear from the pre-match introductions. And while the crowd loves Shida, Baker’s got a powerful following. The question would become if Baker would use some of the tricks that Deeb did earlier to get the crowd from cheering for an otherwise-despicable Britt. However with Rebel (not Reba) encouraging ‘DMD’ chants from the crowd, this time it seems that there’s less of a concern that the crowd pull for each competitor.
The match evolves into an affair of bitter strike exchanges, which feeds into the story between these two: Shida’s broken Baker’s nose, Baker’s taunted Shida for months… so when Shida returns to her trademark chairspot on the outside, using it as a launcher – I’m immediately taken out of the seriousness that was built. This is an essential mistake, as the style of match Shida and Baker were crafting up until that point was not only believable, but wouldn’t expose anyone’s weaknesses. Instead, we had a silly chair prop that led to an overall sloppy exchange.
We can sense frustration coming off of Shida as the match reaches its closing stretch. It’s unclear if this is to telegraph a potential turn of Shida, but it seems to elicit that reaction from the crowd, with chants for Baker beginning to more solidly overtake those for the champ. The work here though does become a bit lackluster, especially with Shida’s punches looking especially bad. Though to be honest, much of Shida’s work begins to break down. The finish is a mess of interference, unintentional hits, foreign objects, false finishes, and I’m left feeling exhausted by the time it’s over. ***1/4
STING & DARBY ALLIN def. MEN OF THE YEAR (SCORPIO SKY & ETHAN PAGE)
Neil: For a man who paints his face, goes everywhere on a skateboard and sleeps in a bodybag, there’s something inherently authentic about Darby Allin. He feels like the most natural of stars, despite nearly everything about him defying the traditional ideas of a professional wrestler. He’s emotional, captivating and real in a way that transcends titles. The TNT title may have legitimized him, but he is now free to tell some very interesting stories that aren’t restricted to titles.
The Karate Man Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky, do not have that star aura. Luckily for them, Sting brought his working boots, and launched himself off the giant casino chips for a big splash, before dominating them in the ring. It was the perfect use of the veteran.
Of course, as the match settled, the structure was one of necessity. Sting is not a young man, so Darby got the beat down so he could catch his breath. To say he took a beatdown is perhaps an understatement, as he was launched like Crash Dudley into the crowd.
Ultimately, the problem with this match was Sky and Page. Their gurning and laughing was fake, especially when juxtaposed against the authentic concern Sting had for Darby throughout. Their control period was fine, but every move was forgotten as soon as it passed. It was helped by overbooked moments, like a tag being missed by the ref.
Surprisingly, this ended up being a nostalgia run for Sting. We were treated to Scorpion Deathlocks, Deathdrops and plenty of “wooooos.” Nostalgia has a ceiling for me, but it was certainly fun. ***
Reuel: I for one, enjoy Darby Allin’s noir vignettes, and the package the preludes the entrance of Allin and Sting I found to be evocative and captured the themes that seem to resonate so well from them. Likewise, Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page are given the dignity of a tag team name in ‘Men of the Year’, with a new, if basic entrance video. I always found it frustrating that an egomaniac character in Page felt it ok to just come out to Scorpio Sky’s entrance and video.
The match starts off hot with a dive from Darby, from there the fight is joined. In the donnybrook, the preceded the ring bell, we saw Sting not only no-sell a suplex on the ramp, he also performed a leaping Stinger Splash onto Page and Sky from the poker chips. The crowd roared, and once again we’re reminded what a difference a crowd makes.
In spite of the advantage merited by their early offense, Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page would earn an advantage over Darby Allin vis a vis illegal activity by Page and kept the former TNT Champion from his corner for several minutes – and their chicanery also cost a legitimate tag-in to Sting, extending the Men of the Year’s period of control. While the crowd seems to have a genuine dislike for All Ego Ethan Page, his gorilla press throw of Darby Allin into the first row of fans seemed to earn some energy from the fans.
Darby eventually earns a tag and in comes Sting for a hot tag. Although he’s moving a bit more gingerly for his age, the crowd erupts for everything that the Icon does. And considering her brought out a Code Red, one is surprised just how much Sting has in the tank for his age. The match would culminate in a Scorpion Death Drop on Scorpio Sky, but I was left feeling that for fun moments this match had, it never genuinely came together for me. **3/4
AEW WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
KENNY OMEGA © def. ORANGE CASSIDY & PAC
Neil: This match felt like it was battling against its own booking. I can’t imagine anyone looking at this match and not thinking it would be better as two singles. PAC could have taken this bigger spot and, even in a losing effort, had a match of the year contender. Orange Cassidy would have made a great TV defense.
Unfortunately, the three way meant that we had a match of the year contender ripped apart by Orange Cassidy being silly. He may have delivered an impressive tope suicida, but ultimately it all built towards him putting his hands in his pockets to deliver his ancient Wrestlemania weekend 3am routine. They might have done it on the top rope, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve heard the joke a million times and it wasn’t funny the first time.
Of course, the interactions between PAC and Omega were fantastic. Many wrestlers are excellent, but they are on that upper echelon. The way the move is different, like professional wrestling is a part of who they are. Pac is a man who understands the power of the spot, and he was prepared to fly through the air in a way that was extreme even for him.
Booking aside, there were some stunning spots here. PAC delivered a thrilling 450 while the other two competitors were in a pin bridge and Orange Cassidy delivered a deadly looking dive to PAC on the outside. Nobody had any respect for the necks of others and we were treated to a multitude of brutal German suplexes and snapdragons.
There was just something intangible throughout, something that seemed flat. Maybe the crowd were tired and maybe I was over-affecting by my booking misgivings, but it really struggled to find top gear. It did, however, come very close. A Black Arrow to Orange Cassidy had me forgetting that the result was a foregone conclusion, and the sprinkling of near falls were perfectly timed.
When Omega hit the ref and started doing belt shots with every single one of his belts, I realised what this match was. They’d done things that were inherently bad – three ways and cheap endings – incredibly well. Like the Bucks match at the start of the night, they took tropes and messed with them until they were authentic. The difference here is that the tropes they were messing with sucked. ***½
Reuel: The video package to this match makes more hay out of Kenny Omega being a multi-company champion than AEW has up to this point. However, it is to build to a point, that it’s going to take someone better than Kenny to dethrone him. Not just ‘almost as good’ or a ‘rising star’. PAC and Orange Cassidy, respectively, are not going to be enough, at least according to Kenny Omega. AEW World Champion. And AAA Megachampion. And Impact Unified Champion. The feel of the match begins to build with the entrances. We first feel it when the crowd reacts to Orange Cassidy’s new entrance theme, but this is solidified by Kenny Omega as he steps out draped in the gold of multiple promotions. The feeling of the ‘Belt Collector’ finally feels realized in a real way.
The match opens with something of a predictable sequence designed to send Orange Cassidy to the outside early, allowing Pac and Kenny a moment to feel each other out. However, Orange does reinsert himself into the match fairly quickly, using his offense to target Omega and PAC simultaneously. Unfortunately, this match suffers from the typical trope of finding excuses to make the match 1-on-1 while someone lingers on the periphery – they simply speed up the interval. If they insist on doing three-way matches, I would prefer they innovate new and interesting ways to tell the story with all three participants involved simultaneously.
The match started to pick up after a somewhat unnecessarily long sequence of Omega vs Cassidy was interrupted while a bridge up attempt was countered by PAC’s 450 Splash from the top. While it strained logic that the man that contested Kenny in an Ironman match would be incapacitated so long tonight, but he made up for it by giving the match a jumpstart with the high-risk move. However, while this portion of the match certainly picked up – Cassidy’s involvement hurts my enjoyment. His gimmicks, in a match at this position on the card, at this stage of the match – are unwanted. Although the crowd consistently cheers for Orange, I find him to be an albatross around the neck of this contest.
The close is a mosaic of finishers, followed by interruptions by the third man. While the execution is undeniably of the top tier, especially as how quickly sequences begin happening between Orange, PAC, and Omega, and with the crowd roused and active – it’s a style of threeway match closes we’ve seen before, and not only is there little innovation to the formula, there’s not much to maintain interest. Add to it interference and shenanigans that were spammed at the end, the match leaves me unfulfilled. ***1/4
STADIUM STAMPEDE MATCH
THE INNER CIRCLE def. THE PINNACLE
Neil: I’ve been very critical of cinematic style matches in the past. They push the boundaries of what wrestling is, and while I’m not a traditionalist, I still love wrestling. The further cinematic matches move away from wrestling, the less inclined I am to like them.
This didn’t completely abandon the tropes here. There was a ring, briefly, and a healthy amount of hatred between the competitors. The work was, for the most part, rooted in pro-wrestling. However, the cinematic camera angles, the cameos from the Jackson Jaguar coaches, the clever lines, the conveniently based props, the attempted murder by icicle, the shots of vodka… it all lives on the wrong side of the line for me. I can’t look at the irrelevant Shawn “Chairman” Spears banging a chair in a room full of chairs and feel engaged. I couldn’t look at any of this and be engaged. It was intensely, unforgivably boring.
There was very little in the way of plot. Instead, it was just a series of cuts from one backstage brawl to another. The effort was evident in some of the bumps taken, but it was all a waste. This sort of nonsense was forgivable when there were no crowds, but this PPV had a capacity crowd that would have relished being part of this red-hot feud.
There were vehicles. There was running from vehicles. There was briefly a crowd, but it felt like the “here’s what you could have won” moment in a gameshow, when the jackpot was permanently out of reach.
As the match went on, time dilated. I was being sucked into a black hole. A second became a minute, which became an hour, which became a day, which became a month, which became a year, which became… *
Reuel: The entrances that predicated the Stadium Stampede match weren’t what I was expecting, given the build for this match. We were told that the tones at themes would be more serious – and in comparison to last year, perhaps they are, in a technical sense. However, these aren’t mutually exclusive ideas from austentatious. MJF opens with a promo (not one of his best), which is followed by the Inner Circle repelling down the stadium scoreboard followed by a dramatic walk toward the camera, and it’s clear that this match might lack the involvement of the Jacksonville Jaguars Mascot, but this is going to be a cinematic presentation and not actual wrestling.
The cinema takes a turn for the cringe as MJF emerges from the limousine in which he took refuge, only to find Chris Jericho waiting for him. While most of the time these are the best promos AEW has to offer, this exchange, in this context, comes off as low-tier Shaekespeare in the park. While the crowd could be heard engaged in the sing-a-long-with Jericho segment of the entrance, by the time the match transitions to a back-stage walk and brawl between Le Champion and MJF, the crowd is dead cold.
The scene shifting to Hager squaring off against Wardlow, seems to stir some embers of interest from the crowd, but when Wardlow takes an icicle from a walk-in refrigerator and threatens to stab his opponent, the energy that could have built instead drains once again. This is compounded by the Spears vs Guevarra segment – where Spears awats Sammy, drenched in Broadway stage lighting before the pair begin their more serious exchange. While their violence escalated to a somewhat enjoyable level, it started in a setting where I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a dance sequence or not. And it ended up with Spears overdoing it with his psycho character, leaning too far into his Reservoir Dogs inspirations.
Proud & Powerful are seen walking into a b-movie nightclub set, to find FTR and Tully Blanchard at the other end. I wasn’t quite sure how we got here, but the cinematics kick into full gear, and there’s a shared drink before a bar brawl. Oh and Konnan drops the beat. But a promise of a lack of silliness seems broken at this point. Although I feel that this was an attempt at a more serious approach, the flaw is that the premise is inherently ludicrous. However, although I do think the attempt at seriousness was there, it’s half-hearted in many places as well.
At the end of the day, this is not a wrestling match. There’s nothing really by way of wrestling psychology. Hell, there’s even less of this year’s Stadium Stampede that takes place in a wrestling ring compared to last year. I suppose in leaning into the absurdity, I found last year’s Stadium Stampede to be far more enjoyable than this year’s ‘more serious’ approach. The contrast made the absurd seem to be amplified, and stand out in a negative fashion. I’m reticent to rate this as a match because it lacked so very few elements of one. Albeit Guevarra brings the crowd back to life as he and Spears close things out, and he saves the Inner Circle to fight another day, I feel like I watched something that lacked any real hooks, or the moxie of this match’s predecessor. NR
Neil: This had the potential to be brilliant, and much of it was. I loved several of the matches, but they were all lumped at the start of the card. By the end of the show, I was tired. I was tired physically, but also tired of managers interfering and missed booking opportunities. A simpler main event, and a complete removal of the Stadium Stampede, would have paid dividends. AEW are getting closer to having a great PPV, and there were plenty of great moments here, but they’re still chasing that great main event.
Reuel: I was hoping that Double or Nothing would end a streak of big AEW events with disappointing finishes to a close. I can’t say that was the case. While I enjoyed the undercard, as Double or Nothing got to its marquee matches – the Three Way for the World Title, and the Stadium Stampede, I felt all of my energy and enjoyment starting to flag. If there’s an MVP for this year’s Double or Nothing, it was the full house of AEW fans. Their reactions and passion helped elevate many of the matches on this card, and although I felt the semi-main and main events were both left wanting, the presence of a Daily’s Place full of AEW faithful still gave the early portion of this show an undeniable buzz.