June 3, 2023

AEW Double or Nothing 2023 (5.28.23) review

AEW Double or Nothing 2023 (5.28.23) 


May 28, 2023 


We’re in Las Vegas, Nevada at the T-Mobile Arena. Hosts are Jim Ross, Excalibur & Taz. This is a great commentary team. Excalibur has always been a good play by play guy, especially for quick stuff. JR brings a pathos that it’s hard to teach. Taz is just funny.  


I’ve not seen an AEW show since the very beginning. I get the feeling this isn’t the best of shows to drop back into it but hey, here we are. There isn’t a single match on paper that I want to watch on this card, which is a bit sad.  


Battle Royal 

We kick off with a battle royal for Orange Cassidy’s International belt. There’s a bunch of guys out here. Pentagon Jr, Rey Fenix, Bandido, Juice Robinson and Keith Lee stand out. It’s crazy AEW has this many guys that they can use so many in a complete throwaway. In order to allow guys to work a load of them hang around at ringside, which makes it hard to tell who’s eliminated and isn’t. It needs organisation. Brian Cage gets over by throwing dudes around. It takes me half the match to notice Jay White is in there. I’m horrified to discover Big Cass, now dubbed “Big Bill”, is in this company.  

Keith vs. Swerve, former tag partners, becomes the focal point of the middle of the match. This follows a nice spell of the luchadores doing lucha business. Ricky Starks has a good match, with babyface fire. He chucks Juice and Jay White out.  


FINAL FOUR: Orange Cassidy, Big Bill, Pentagon & Swerve Strickland. Cage and Starks had good spells in the match but they’re both out in spectacular fashion right before the Final Four. They pull of a hot finish with Big Bill getting turned on by Swerve, who he was teaming with. It’s a real shame we have to sit through Strickland slapping his thigh repeatedly at the conclusion. Oh, it’s a rootin’ tootin’ good time! Orange outsmarts Swerve to retain. This was an absolute clusterfuck at times. There were too many jabronies out here. When it started to clear out it got decent. They did a good job of keeping the action going and getting over multiple guys in the process. When I saw “battle royal” to start the show I was horrified but this was legitimately one of the best battle royals I’ve ever seen. ***¼ 


Unsanctioned Match 

Chris Jericho vs. Adam Cole 

Since I last watched, Jericho seems to have gained a boy band or backing singers or something.  

Cole turns up with one guy, but it is Roddy Strong. Sabu is the special enforcer, which is bizarre. I don’t really understand why AEW have appointed an official to a match they didn’t sanction but hey, wrestling! Sabu just randomly puts a couple of JAS guys through tables. This is somehow even more of a clusterfuck than the battle royal that featured 21 participants. These two are supposed to be the same height (5’11”) but Jericho is clearly bigger. Maybe he kept those lifts in.  


This is an ugly, ugly match. For a blood feud they just run through spots. Some of them are good, like Jericho attempting a Lionsault and getting kicked out of the air. The match is somewhat salvaged by Jericho’s selling but even that is inconsistent. Given the lack of rules, plunder is inevitable but also inconsistent. Also, the match starts with a bunch of interference and then it stops and randomly re-starts? It also randomly becomes a chain match. The biggest issue isn’t all this crap though, it’s Adam Cole. I thought he was mad at Jericho? Cole just sleepwalks through this, which is why he’ll never be a great wrestler. He doesn’t know when to show emotion, or even how to. Blood feud? Why, I guess I’ll just run through all my spots and slap my thigh a load. Just put him in spotfests where he belongs. From AEW’s POV their biggest issue is having the referee stop the match. It’s unsanctioned. Just let it go to a pin. So yeah, bad match, bad finish, typical Adam Cole. A complete waste of time.  


AEW Tag Team Championship 

FTR (c) vs. Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal 

It’s so weird they had an unsanctioned match refereed by an AEW referee but the next match is refereed by Mark Briscoe? Haha, what the fuck is Tony smoking?  I am pleased to see Sonjay Dutt is a big Johnny Cash fan though. 

Everyone makes the mistake of not colour coordinating and both heel and face teams come out in red and black. This is a basic blunder and shouldn’t be on PPV. Jarrett, in particular, should know better. It’s like football, with colour clashes, you should always have ‘away’ gear. The match is fine but it’s all a little cutesy for my liking. Like doing a “do-si-do” and stereo nonsense. Save that for FTR-Bucks. The match has no structure. It’s just a bunch of stuff. For FTR, a tag team that brought back the old school tag style, it’s really disappointing. They do settle into a more traditional match with FTR Beard taking heat until FTR Bald gets the hot tag. It’s much better than how the match started but it’s a bit dull. It doesn’t help that the crowd DO NOT CARE. The guitar shot is embarrassing. The Jarrett to Briscoe one. FTR Bald even turns around and gets told not to because there’s a spot coming up. Aubrey runs down to replace Briscoe but Karen nails her with a guitar in a spot that finally pops the crowd. Despite this, it’s not even close to the finish. The match just seems to go on forever. Jarrett gets all sassy with Briscoe, gets punked out and the Shatter Machine finishes. This was 20 minutes long but felt like 40. The overbooked crap didn’t help.  


Ladder Match 

TNT Championship  

Wardlow (c) vs. Christian Cage  

Christian was retired when I stopped watching. I had no idea he’d wrestled 20+ matches for AEW since signing for them in 2021. The crowd still isn’t interested, and I don’t blame them. Ladder matches can be quite bad. Wardlow being a powerhouse, shouldn’t be losing a straight up match so this does allow the creative Christian a genuine shot at beating him. Ladder matches tend to be better with multiple people involved. Otherwise, there’s a lot of setting up of spots, as there is in this match. If Wardlow just got a ladder and climbed it he’d win here easily, but instead wants to set up tables and a little ladder bridge. Wardlow constantly fails to try and win the match. At one point Christian is on the floor, Wardlow is in the ring with the ladder, and he takes FOREVER to do anything. Naturally the crowd don’t buy into the match because of how it’s put together.  

It’s telling that the most over part of the match is Arn Anderson going after Luchasaurus. The stupidity immediately returns as Wardlow decides to Swanton Luchasaurus through a table. That should be it for Wardlow. There’s no way, in hell, he should get up and recover by the time Christian has climbed the ladder and pulled the belt down. It would only make sense of Arn stopped Christian but he doesn’t, Wardlow does and pulls his belt down. This was dumb as bricks. Hey, cool spot that means nothing though. Well done. 


That’s three really bad matches in a row.  


AEW Women’s Championship 

Jamie Hayter (c) vs. Toni Storm  

Toni moved to England when she was 20 years old so it’s weird to have this veteran who’s only 27 years old. Hayter comes in injured, so the third longest reign in AEW Women’s title history is at an end. This isn’t really a match, just a bunch of shit that happens. Mainly involving the other Outcasts. There’s a terrible spot before the finish where Hayter runs herself into the exposed turnbuckle and Strong Zero finishes. Why did she run into the buckle? This wasn’t a match, per se. They couldn’t even work in Hayter’s real injury into the finish. Bizarre behaviour. Terrible booking.  


AEW Trios Championship 

House of Black (c) vs. The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn 

This was an open challenge, answered by the challengers. Would this company even have trios belts if it wasn’t for Kenny and the Bucks? I doubt it. House of Black is Tommy End, the former Buddy Murphy and Brody King. I had no idea Buddy had left WWE. Does he still wrestle like a knock-off Kenny Omega? He had a great run of matches in 2018-2019, just doing Kenny spots but doing them without the nonsense. At the same time Tommy End had a bunch of great matches in WWE/NXT. I wasn’t watching when he left so I don’t know how that fell apart.  


It’s insane how big Billy Gunn looks now. Go back to his prime and he just looked like an average guy but wrestlers have gotten so much smaller. It’s not like he’s even crazy big, he’s 6’ 4”. It’s also mad that he’s still going at 59 years old. Most of his contemporaries look older than dirt and are in management positions. The match is mostly heat on Bowens until the hot finish, which is a decent 90 seconds or so of work and Billy eats the roundhouse off Black for the pin. This was fine. It wasn’t offensive or anything, but I was bored. The best part of the match was Billy Gunn no selling Brody, screaming “fuck you” in his face and murdering him with the Fameasser. Brilliant stuff.  


AEW TBS Championship 

Jade Cargill (c) vs. Taya Valkyrie  

Cargill has held this secondary women’s belt for 508 days. She didn’t exist when I stopped watching a few years ago. My first thoughts regarding Jade is that she’s clearly a little green and has some obvious issues (striking in particular) but she’s not a bad wrestler. I was told she was bad. Leila Grey, who tries to swipe at Taya is far worse in that one spot. The finish is a bit abrupt. Taya gets a near fall and then Jade just beats her. Jade goes 60-0.  


Post Match: Mark Sterling points out Jade will wrestle anyone, anywhere, anytime. This brings out Kris Statlander. She’s been out since August last year, when she destroyed her knee.  


AEW TBS Championship  

Jade Cargill (c) vs. Kris Statlander 

Kris just beats the piss out of Jade, hits her finish and that’s the Cargill unbeaten run over. 60-1.  Now the challenge is to rehab Jade in a way that makes her more relatable. At the moment she’s just this rookie that got overpushed. Sometimes, it’s a tough road back from that. 


AEW World Championship 

MJF (c) vs. Jack Perry vs. Sammy Guevara vs. Darby Allin 

Sammy announces he and Tay Melo are having a baby, which is cute. This had better not be a fucking work. This match will be a tough sell on me as I legitimately don’t like anyone in the match and referring to them as the “Four Pillars” is stupid and fails to understand what that term meant to AJPW. It really doesn’t help that I don’t buy any of them as main eventers. Maybe MJF because he’s such a gobshite. The match is wall to wall cutesy cooperative stuff. It’s very spotty. I have no issue with spotfests, but the spots in spotfests have to be great and the pacing has to be good. At least Darby has a decent bit of intensity. They finally hit a cool spot when Sammy catches a diving Allin with a cutter in mid-air. Everything up to that spot was weak. I didn’t have Guevara as the guy to level the match up but here we are.  


The whole ‘look at my mentor’s spot’ thing is beating us over the head with how unsubtle it is. I don’t mind them doing it but doing it one after another is just too much. Plus, it leads right into MJF cutting a mid-match promo, once again trying to get Sammy to job.  

I do quite like Darby Allin here. The combination of speed and intensity works for me. Both he and Guevara work in some cool spots, which makes me keen to see them one on one. There are too many moving parts here and it mostly isn’t landing for me. The silly fatigue selling in particular but also when they attempt to interact as a four. It’s notable when they do the three-way near falls, it’s MJF they get rid of. They suddenly decide to stop adhering to the rules and we get skateboards and belt shots. Jungle Boy looks like an absolute dumbass in the process; having the chance to drill Darby with the belt and getting all internally conflicted about it. MJF slips the belt onto a downed Perry and Allin hits the Coffin Drop, knocking himself out in the process and MJF steals the pin.  


This was a weird match. It was too long so the frantic pace needed to make it really fun simply didn’t happen. That said, they had some very cool ideas, but these were lost in a sea of other stuff. I’m still not sold on any of them in this position and the match felt like the opening match scramble at a Mania weekend show, not a world title match. It’s weird because the first half didn’t have enough substance, and the second half didn’t have good enough spots. A real mishmash of stuff and people and none of it felt natural but more importantly, it never felt like a big time match. *** 


Anarchy in the Arena 

Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta) vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega, Adam Page & Young Bucks) 

Major ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ main event where they’d put the three best wrestlers in the company in one match. Mox is a fucking rock star. How did WWE never realise what he was? He ended up being a total goofball and I hated Dean Ambrose. The match starts with a crazy brawl all over the place while the band plays “Wild Thing”. It’s awesome. It’s completely impossible to follow and reflects the utter chaos of the story they’re telling. The Bucks superkicking the lead singer to end the music is perfect. I like how everyone seems to be doing something so when one sequence finishes, we cut away to something else and you get the feeling we’re missing stuff too.  


There’s a bit where Matt Jackson jumps off something and it’s barely caught on camera because Omega and Mox are fighting over barbed wire. Claudio doing a giant swing on the concourse, throwing Jackson at a bin, is an awesome spot. The match has a lot of blood and carnage. I’ve not seen one of these before so it’s hard for me to compare to matches I’ve not seen, but I’ve been told this is AEW’s ‘match’. Apparently, the venue nixed a few planned big spots for this match, because of what happened last time. It makes me curious as to how crazy last time was.  


Matt Jackson having pyro on his superkick is…something. I’m not sure if I think that’s stupid or cool. It’s probably both. He pays for it by Mox dropping him bare foot into thumbtacks. I love how everyone looks more and more wrecked as the match progresses.  

Just as it seems that Kenny has the match won, in comes Konosuke Takeshita and that allows Yuta to get the pin. This was a crazy brawl that I very much enjoyed but it won’t be in my MOTY consideration. **** 


The 411: 

AEW top loaded this PPV and hoped for the best. Well, that didn’t work out for them. A lot of the undercard is rough. AEW do far too many things in their matches that make no sense. I’m not saying I’m a ‘WWE guy’. I have no stake in this inter-promotional ‘war’. I just like wrestling and while AEW has a stacked roster, they don’t seem to know what to do with most of it. Imagine having the strength in depth that they have and putting a bunch of opening act guys in the title match? That makes no sense to me. I’m aware they’ve been there since day 1 but part of what made Vince McMahon the successful promoter he was, was moving talent on when he had someone better. You have to be ruthless to be successful in this business. I’m not convinced Tony Khan is ruthless enough to truly be competitive but he’s not lacking in ambition and Wembley shows that.


My original hope, with the creation of AEW, is it provided an alternative to WWE but also that it forced WWE to be better. Based on WrestleMania, Backlash and Night of Champions, there is definitely improvement on WWE’s side since AEW came into being. AEW’s ‘alternative’ nature seems based around bloodshed and swearing. Playing music during half the main event, combined with those two factors, reminded me of another alternative to WWE; ECW. If AEW was a true alternative, it should feature a mixture of wrestling styles, which is something WWE has always struggled with. Get a bunch of lucha in there, get some mat style, get some strongstyle. Find alternatives. Make it a completely different and exciting show. This PPV, and again I may have picked a bad one to start with, did not feel like that. On a plus point, I will say that commentary here is miles better than WWE. Night and day. They also have backstage people like Renee and RJ City, who are light years ahead of what WWE have in the same spot. There is an infrastructure to build on.

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