Despite its name suggesting so, Double Or Nothing was far from a life or death scenario for All Elite Wrestling. Such is AEW’s rabid fanfare, that had Saturday night in Las Vegas turned out to be a disappointing opening chapter for the new wrestling organisation, fans would still have been waiting on tenterhooks for what comes next.
Perhaps the greatest compliment you could pay AEW is that even before the first bell was rung in Las Vegas, this already felt like the most exciting time to be a fan of professional wrestling in recent memory. And now, after taking every bump, high spot, and near fall in – that aforementioned excitement has climbed up yet another notch.
The greatest challenge that AEW was facing here, was to introduce so many of its roster (a lot of whom will be completely unknown to some) on a grand scale while still managing to secure fan investment in them from the off. And bar some minor hiccups, which all things considered you’d be harsh to not expect from a company’s first show – the transition was seamless.
SCU (SoulCal Uncensored) are a perfect example of this, opening the show in a six-man-tag against Cima, T-Hawk, and El Lindaman could have been a risky move. After all, that’s potentially six brand new wrestlers you’re asking the audience to digest and care about. But with that said, the work rate of the match got this over more than the need for character building. The high flying attributes of SCU’s Scorpio Sky and the hyper aggressive nature of China’s T-Hawk allowed this to be a match of risk taking spectacle more than anything else, but when all said and done: you’ll remember these six men, job accomplished.
In contrast the women’s fatal four way between Britt Baker, Kylie Rae, Nyla Rose, and surprise entrant Awesome Kong felt somewhat void of a real hook. With Kong especially appearing to be present simply for the shock and awe factor. Britt Baker correctly got the victory (who seems like the real star of the bunch) but if Double Or Nothing had a negative when it came strictly down to the wrestling: this would be it.
It’s important to point out that as excellent as Double Or Nothing was, even with bias you’d have to admit that it wasn’t the perfect pro wrestling show, and this is of course to be expected. And as absurd as it sounds, you will have come across some in the community that expected this to be a faultless, 10/10 opening exhibition of AEW’s repertoire, and this again speaks to the incredible job that All Elite Wrestling has done of marketing itself already.
Unsurprisingly, AEW’s area for improvement is outside of the squared circle. With commentary specifically being a thorn in Double Or Nothing’s side. Three man commentary teams are for some reason all the rage in today’s wrestling landscape, and even with the legendary JR at its centre, the team of Jim Ross, Alex Marvez, and ExCalibur did little to vocally elevate the in-ring storytelling. Ross started rough but returned to greatness as the night progressed, while ExCalibur put in a solid performance throughout. But the awkward, often overly forced chime in’s of Marvez were a problem for the entirety of the night, and you can’t help but feel like a duo of JR and ExCalibur would have sounded resoundingly better.
Back to what really made Double Or Nothing an absolute success though, the wrestling. Good quality tag team matches that saw Best Friends take on Angelico & Jack Evans and the six woman tag that pit Hikaru Shida, Riho, and Ryu Mizanami against Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki, and Emi Sakura added high quality filler to Double Or Nothing’s card, but it’s what came just after the half way point that made this show the success it was.
Cody and Dustin Rhodes (Goldust). Two formally mid-card WWE talents at best put on a match that really has to be seen to be believed. To steal the show on a card that involved Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, The Young Bucks, and the Lucha Brothers (we’ll get to that later) is quite an achievement. But this was undoubtedly the evenings highest point.
Think about what you love about pro-wrestling and this match included it. The intriguing story of brother Vs brother, hard hitting wrestling, near falls, copious blood loss, an emotional ending. This was the true beauty of this sport spread over 30 minutes and was the greatest match of Dustin Rhodes long career by a significant margin. Capped off by a tearful embrace between the brothers: this was a match of the year candidate where it was needed most. Just go and watch it.
AEW’s world championship reveal was completed by none other than Bret Hart, adding heartwarming nostalgia to the shopping lost of emotions Double Or Nothing put you through. Some interruptions and run ins from the likes of the No1 contender Adam ‘Hangman’ Page and MJF kept things ticking over nicely. Though, there was never a close up shot of the title, which did seem odd. Regardless, seeing Bret Hart in any capacity is always a treat.
The Young Bucks Vs Lucha Brothers was the best kind of semi-main event you can wish for in this scenario. The crowd were invested from the first tie up, the Bucks’ Nick & Matt Jackson have a chemistry level with Ray Fenix and Pentagon Jr which is a joy to behold. Some of the acrobatics on show here defied description, the crowd popped for every ounce of mayhem the teams threw their way. The Bucks won with the Meltzer Driver, but as with literally every match on this show, there were no real losers here, and the Lucha Brothers will no doubt explode in popularity world over soon, much like the Bucks themselves.
It’s fitting and both deserved that Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega can call themselves AEW’s first ever main event. In Jericho we have one of the all time greats, in Omega you have 2019’s greatest performer. The match didn’t quite live up to the heights of their first encounter in Japan, but don’t let that convince you this wasn’t masters at work. At 48 years old, Chris Jericho can still tell a story like no other, and this was a bruising, relentless battle that Jericho rightfully won, meaning he goes on to face Hangman Page for the right to be called AEW’s first world champion.
Kenny Omega didn’t need to win this, he’s the face of AEW now, and he’ll still be the face in five years. But for Jericho, who is the biggest name in the company, it was important that his actions backed up his words of intent. AEW has claimed that wins and losses are going to matter, this was their proof. Though people may be inclined to discuss what followed the match more than what happened between the bells – this was a main event fitting for such a huge show, two artists at work, painting a classic.
What followed the main event was of course the appearance of Jon Moxley aka Dean Ambrose. The crowd exploded, and it’s funny how Moxley is more interesting in 7 minutes of AEW TV than he was in 5 years post-Shield breakup of WWE TV. He double arm DDT’s everyone in sight (including the referee) but continued the assault on Omega, whom he pretty much demolished as the show went off the air. A Moxley & Omega feud? Inject that into our veins ASAP.
In the most important show they will ever put on – AEW came out looking like the alternative wrestling company we have been waiting for. Most exciting of all this, is that this, of course, is just the beginning. More names will come, the company has a TV deal nailed on, and an owner in Tony Khan with the infrastructure to invest heavily. You’ll be tempted to proclaim that WWE should be worried, and while that’s true, don’t let that distract you from the fact that AEW are only at the precipice of this mountain. Even with all that said though, was the smoke has cleared on the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, as far as first events go: Double Or Nothing was as good as we realistically could have hoped for. The future of professional wrestling is the brightest it has been in two decades.