The hype was warranted and pro wrestling may never be the same.
All Elite Wrestling delivered on the boasts it would be a viable alternative to WWE. Cody Rhodes even took a symbolic shot at the company and the night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas ended with the trump card of Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose) attacking Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega after the main event. WWE is on notice.
“Double or Nothing” was a show with no throwaway matches, pyro, blood, middle fingers, great action, legit surprises and compelling stories. You even got to see wrestling legends Billy Gunn, Diamond Dallas Page and Bret Hart. And oh yeah, Moxley ending the show with a DDT to Omega on the set’s poker chips before throwing him off.
There are edges to smooth out, but AEW got off to a smashing start and created a buzz that leaves fans wanting more.
Here are five takeaways from AEW’s maiden voyage:
The Goat, The Terminator and The Mox
We didn’t get a “wrestling” match but another brutal war between Jericho and Omega, who broke his nose during the action. This didn’t top their match at the Tokyo Dome two years ago, but felt like an extension of it.
There were tables, blood and plenty of brawling that ending with Jercho hitting his new-spinning-back-elbow finisher (The Judas Effect) to get the win and even his series with Omega at 1-1. Jericho also earned a chance to face Battle Royale winner Hangman Page to become the first AEW Heavyweight champion.
When the match was over, Jericho started a promo taking credit for AEW’s success when Moxley marched through the crowd. He attacked both Jericho and Omega in a move that will send shockwaves through the wrestling word and possibly set up Omega-Moxley at “Fight for the Fallen” in July. In April, WWE was giving him a heartfelt goodbye, but now Ambrose and now he’s on the other side of the battle lines. And they say this isn’t a war.
No one fights (and makes up) like family
This was the Cody Rhodes-Dustin Rhodes match we deserved, and it’s not the last time we will see them. Cody started by getting a sledgehammer from under the ring and using it to destroy a Triple H-themed throne.
The incredibly emotional match, which got a standing ovation during it, turned when Dustin ran into an unprotected turnbuckle and referee Earl Hebner threw Brandi Rhodes out.
Dustin, blood waterfalling down his face, eventually recovered to pull down Cody’s trunks and spank him with his own weight belt.The mono-e-mono strikes then started with both men covered in blood after Cody kicked from a second Cross Rhodes. Eventually Cody — instead of not letting Dustin be unable to stand for the 10 count — hit him with another second Cross Rhodes for the win.
Cody wouldn’t let Dustin, who showed he still can go, retire in the ring. Instead he told him he “needs his older brother” for a tag match against The Young Bucks at “Fight for the Fallen.” They hugged and left to chants of “Dusty!”
AEW delivered everything WWE lacks in tag team wrestling in its four (two six-person tags) matched on the main card. All of them were unique and The constant action, while sometimes too spot heavy — made good use of the multi-person format.
The Lucha Bros versus The Young Bucks was the one that put it all together with pace, high-risk moves (Fenix made amazing use of the ropes for spots), and it had the story of Matt and Nick Jackson overcoming ring rust to retain the AAA tag titles.
Heeling so good
Maxwell Jacob Friedman put on a heel clinic starting in the pre-show and ending in a promo segment with Hangman Page (who eliminated him to win the battle royal) and Bret “Hitman” Hart. MJF was flipping people off during the battle royal and then lit into Page and Hart, who eventually unveiled the company’s big gold heavyweight title. He talked about killing the “horse” that is Page and at one point told Hart a fan was coming for him, in reference to him being attacked during the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. The fans reacted a– h–le chant and he was confronted by Jungle Boy and Jimmy Havoc. AEW solidified another top heel.
New face is an old face
AEW’s women’s division took a step up even before the match started. Brandi, who is playing a fun heel puppet master, appeared like she was going to put herself in the triple-threat match before announcing it would be surprise entrant Awesome Kong. Brandi rooting on Kong immediately sets up some stories for the division
Kong got to play the monster — taking a little bit away from Nyla Rose’s role. Britt Baker and Kylie Rae were left to do much of the technical wrestling and they delivered late with some physical action. Baker (who kicked the bow off Rae’s head) eventually hit a neckbreaker on her to the win. The match held up well with what the women are doing with WWE.
The broadcast, sets, light pyro and camera work had a professional feel to it, but its not WWE level yet. There was also a nice attention to details with many of the visuals being branding to the pay-per-view. Jericho received a cool entrance going through the stages of his career.
The announce team of Jim Ross, Alex Marvez and Excalibur got off to a rocky start with all three seemingly wanting to do play-by-play at times. Ross was high energy and added to the matches, but will need to get to know the talent more. He shined when Marvez was leading. Excalibur showed off his product knowledge all night, which will really help new fans. Ross did own the big moment by yelling, “How do you like AEW now?” as Moxley laid waste to Omega.
Hangman Page win the Casino Battle Royal
Page was the wild-card and final entry in the 21-person battle royal. AEW appeared to go for the overused WWE battle royal ending when Page thought he won, but MJF was still left. MJF wasn’t able to throw Page out and Hangman rebounded with a big clothesline to set up his win.
Other talent had their moments. Dustin Thomas eliminating Shawn Spears, Michael Nakazawa got his baby oil bit, Orange Cassidy slow kicked Tommy Dreamer and Sonny Kiss got in a butt shake. AEW even sold the Nakazawa and two Librarian angles with backstage segments.
Kip Sabian over Sammy Guevara
The super cocky Sammy Guevara makes it really clear what he’s all about and it refreshing. He spent much of the match gloating, but backed it up with shooting star press off the apron to the outside. Sabian is super skilled technically.
Hikaru Shida, Riho and Ryo Mizunam over Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki and Emi Sakura
The crowd’s appreciation for this match grew and there were plenty of “this is wrestling chants!” Amidst the very good wrestling, Shida and Kong even had a little waste basket verse kendo stick battle. An incorrect bell ring on a pin caused some confusion before Shida earned the pin.
SoCal Uncensored over CIMA, T-Hawk & El Lindaman
The team from Oriental Wrestling Entertainment, CIMA, T-Hawk & El Lindaman, really delivered on what was promised, fast action with no wasted motion. Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky played up to the quicker pace as the match went on and the crowd loved it. The work-rate was tremendous in a great open to the main show.
Best Friends over Angelico & Jack Evans
Both teams were dressed in neon green and black, which was pretty distracting and not a good look for people who don’t know them. The match itself was an athletic, spot-filled frenzy. The crowd enjoyed it, but with a lack of story you have to appreciate that style to truly love it.
When the lights went out after the match and the longtime indy team Super Smash Bros arrived, AEW went for the mystery angle and didn’t have the announcers tell you who they were. “Being the Elite” hits tomorrow, but the angle would have been better with a television show to explain it.
Biggest Winner: Tag team wrestling
Biggest Loser: Nyla Rose
Match of the night: Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes
AEW announced “All Out” will be at the Sears Centre, the site of “All In” last year, on August 31.
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