Coming from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, AEW presented Double or Nothing for 2022. This was going to be one of their biggest PPVs ever, with a huge crowd of rabid fans and an extremely big card. It was not without controversy even before it started as MJF was reported to have ditched his fan fest obligations where he was discovered to be in the casino by the slots and almost booked a flight back to NJ. No one knows for certain whether it was a work or not but despite everything he still showed up to do the match. I will not be going over the YouTube match because I do not care for Danhausen nor Mark Sterling.
MJF vs. Wardlow
This “match” was barely a match. It mostly was MJF acting like a chickenshit heel then getting his comeuppance from Wardlow with 10 subsequent power bombs for Wardlow’s victory. Pretty much this was MJF making Wardlow look like a million bucks and the crowd reacted appropriately. Some people might’ve even berated MJF for no-showing the fan event. Supposedly, after the match MJF went off social media and decided to go home right afterwards to “think things over.” Again, the way all this went down makes me suspicious on whether it was a work or not and MJF is one of those rare people who has that Andy Kaufman quality where you can’t really tell if he’s working you or not. Either way, Wardlow looked like a million dollars here and it’s obvious he’s going to be great here unless AEW figures out how to fuck him up.
The Hardys vs. The Young Bucks
Maybe 10 years ago, this could’ve been considered a dream match. However, the Bucks are just jokes to me at this stage and the Hardy’s aren’t even close to where they were. Jeff looked terrible, sluggish and often times worrisome considering he’s doing more dangerous spots that is impossible to tell whether he’s in awful condition or he’s a better seller than we can know. But this wasn’t a dream match in execution. It just was sad to me. The right team won but if they get a title run will it really matter? At this point, they’re going to expose themselves and only are a nostalgia act as best. Matt can do okay for himself but Jeff needs to lose the stunt man act. I don’t think he can though so it’s not going to be a pretty outing.
Jade Cargill vs. Anna Jay
This was a wretched match and the person who was awful might shock people: Anna Jay. Nothing but botches left and right. All I could think of when I watched her was that she did not belong on PPV. She’s better off getting reps in on a dark show where the audience is limited and her matches last 3 minutes tops. Jade actually looked very good here. There were a few awkward moments like that contrived finish but she didn’t look as awkward as she did before. I liked her top rope double axe handle smash. I don’t mind Jade going to the top rope but she shouldn’t be doing fancy stuff. That was a good move for her.
Afterwards, there was an after birth with Kris Statlander, some guy named Stokely Hathaway (Malcom Bivens formerly in the WWE) and Athena (formerly Ember Moon) showing up to confront Jade with the “Baddies” of Red Velvet and Keira Hogan by Jade’s side (and somehow Mark Sterling showed up too looking like an idiot). Athena got a nice pop for showing up but I only guessed that Hathaway was Bivens because I had never seen the guy personally. This whole thing was just a mess and I only watched it to see Jade since she’s been working with Bryan Danielson. But man they need to get rid of Anna Jay. She’s at the bottom of the barrel along with Julia Hart as their worst women’s wrestlers. And I’m respecting Jade more and more even though she’s still pretty green to me.
House of Black vs. Death Triangle
This was another mess. I barely was paying attention because by this point the show already felt like it went on too long. I have zero interest in seeing Death Triangle. I can’t stand Rey Fenix because he’s horribly sloppy and has zero ring psychology. Pac showed up for his once a month appearance while Julia Hart sprayed mist into Pac’s face. I honestly didn’t care.
Samoa Joe vs. Adam Cole for the Men’s Owen Hart Cup Finals
This was one of the matches I wanted to see, mostly because of Samoa Joe. He’s great. I personally think Joe should’ve won but I guess he’s on the “employee probationary period” where a wrestler has to job his first few months in AEW unless they’re CM Punk. Match wasn’t bad but I disliked how Cole cheated with Bobby Fish interfering. I guess that was better than Jay Lethal and that oversized goof coming in as well.
Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. vs. Ruby Soho for the Women’s Owen Hart Cup Finals
This match started off hot because of Rancid but it just meandered. They gave way too much time to these two and I’ve noted that Britt Baker can’t go passed 8-10 minutes max because she just gets lost. And the crowd seemed really divided between the two. Ruby lost and at this point I’ve written her off because her matches just haven’t been inspiring nor have her promos. She seems heartfelt in her promos but she’s missing something. Booking-wise, I would have liked Ruby to have gone over but I think she’s going to be upper midcard in the women’s division at this point since others have been brought in. Also, Britt is just overexposed. I would’ve preferred Toni Storm beating Britt since they need to freshen up the women’s scene. There was a begrudging handshake between the two afterwards.
Martha Hart and the Owen Hart Cup Winner Presentation
This part was done well in terms of the way it was set up but it felt weird. Her speech sounded more like a WWE Hall of Fame speech she might have prepared if the WWE hadn’t fucked her over. Also, Adam Cole and Britt Baker are heels but they cheered with Martha because they respect Owen as much as everyone out there. Both were given their own “titles” for their wins so now they have gratuitous titles. There was a physical cup that Martha held up but neither had the chance to hold it up. That part made no sense to me as well as the titles. I guess from now on both Britt and Adam will be walking out with titles for bragging rights. Honestly, Ruby and Samoa Joe would’ve made far better winners here but I guess Tony Khan needs to continue to prop up his Pillars (except poor MJF but that’s a different issue) and has to prove the critics wrong after fucking up Adam Cole’s booking in losing to Orange Cassidy.
American Top Team vs. Sammy Guevara, Frankie Kazarian, and Tay Conti
Originally, I wanted to skip this match entirely. It reeked of a horrible car wreck. But I ended up watching just because I wanted to see Paige VanZant’s debut. And boy what a car wreck this was, but actually in a good way. The match started off slow with the audience not giving a shit except when Sammy and Tay kissed on the ramp in their ridiculous costumes. No one really cared about the match when Scorpio Sky, Ethan Page and Frankie Kazarian got in because it was boring and didn’t go anywhere. However, once Tay and Paige got involved things picked up a LOT. The match itself had no real flow and Tay had to be the one to make the green Paige look good (which was a feat in itself). But the best parts were Sammy and Tay’s interactions. Sammy was GREAT here. Like he was the one thing holding the whole match together. And it’s because he wasn’t doing stupid, nonsensical high flying. But he was acting like a GREAT HEEL. His facials, the way he was fucking with the audience, him being a bozo with Tay falling into his crotch were perfect. This was so bad it turned out good for all the right reasons.
My takeaway from this is that they need to boot Dan Lambert because he adds nothing. Ethan Page just won’t get over no matter what especially as the goofy side kick. And Scorpio Sky could’ve gone babyface when he had that chance but they fucked that up and this whole thing became confusing because no one knew what role they were supposed to play. Paige probably will make a good wrestler one day but she definitely was sloppy here. But she has natural charisma and belongs out there. Sammy and Tay have very good chemistry as heels. Whatever they’re doing they need to be doing the same thing in every match because it WORKS. I think Frankie was the only guy who was out of place in all of this. He was the single person with an actual role being a babyface but this whole thing was a mess so that put him into an awkward position. Nonetheless, this match was different once the tag to Tay/Paige came into play and that’s when everything became entertaining for me.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Darby Allin
This was the “we need to put these guys on PPV” matches that was filler and lasted too long. Honestly, they should’ve put this on Dynamite instead. It just felt like filler. Not that it was horrible but it lasted long on a VERY long PPV. The right guy won in Kyle O’Reilly. There were a few botches like the suicide dive by Darby where he screwed up and clipped his foot on the rope which made him miss the first time. So they re-did the spot on the opposite side which made me roll my eyes. But whatever.
Thunder Rosa vs. Serena Deeb for the Women’s World Title
This was the best women’s match I’ve seen in AEW thus far. It was an actual wrestling match. It had a nice pace, they did the lock ups, mat wrestling, etc. early on. There were a few awkward moments but overall they kept it as a wrestling match. No goofiness and both women showed what they could do. Most importantly to me was that the moves built up. I hope there’s a re-match because they need more of this.
Jericho Appreciation Society vs. Eddie Kingston, Santana, Ortiz, and Blackpool Combat Club Anarchy in the Arena
Ugh, this was the second or third worst match on the card. Just an unfollowable mess. Too much shit going on, the music was playing, you had too many people everywhere, you couldn’t figure out who was doing what. It wasn’t as horrific as the stampede matches they’ve had but it just was a messy brawl. Danielson tried to make sense of the match towards the end and they went into story mode once Kingston came out with a can of gasoline, causing Danielson to push Kingston because he got some of the lighter fluid on him. This was a terrible waste of Danielson and was probably a Moxley/Jericho concoction given the mustard involved.
Jurassic Express vs. Team Taz vs. Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland for the Tag Team Titles
I wanted to like this match. There were a few impressive moments like Keith Lee doing the somersault flip to the outside. But why did Jurassic Express have to win again? These guys suck. I can’t say anything more about this match without getting mad.
“Hangman” Adam Page vs. CM Punk for the World Title
So far the booking on this show was awful to me. A few matches made sense like Rosa retaining, Wardlow beating MJF, etc. But most of the matches just made me hate AEW’s booking. So this was my hold out. I knew it would be good because of CM Punk but if he lost, I would’ve written off AEW permanently. There was no reason for him to lose and Adam Page had no reason to be champion any longer. So how was this match?
Next to the Bryan Danielson match, this was Adam Page’s 2nd best match I’ve seen in AEW. The Danielson match has my vote of confidence just because the psychology of the match was the best I’ve seen and mostly because of Danielson. This match was paced very well because they were going 30 minutes. Despite the length of the card, the audience amazingly were really into this match by this point in the show. But that goes to demonstrate CM Punk’s celebrity status. If this was Adam Cole like last time, the match would’ve been quiet because no one would’ve been invested in the people. People were at the arena to see Punk win the belt.
The main story was Page’s slow drifting towards frustration as Punk had really gotten into Page’s head. The lead up to this point was done poorly because they hadn’t given enough segments between these two to build up the heat nor what Page’s thought process was in leading him to “want to defend AEW against Punk.” We only heard his view from the announcers because the main promo he delivered on Dynamite went side ways and he got lost again.
Luckily, Punk was the guy leading this match because they were able to execute the main story with Page trying to desperately get into Punk’s mind but eventually fucking up because he relied on his Orihara Moonsault that screwed up his leg. Then they tried to pull the Bret Hart vs Piper angle where Piper wanted to use the time keepers bell when the ref got knocked out. Instead, Page had forgone the move which cost him the title.
Afterwards, Punk was very emotional and made the AEW title mean something because it was clear that he took the thing very personally. Clearly, this was the only outcome that logically could happen. The match worked because both guys sold and Page didn’t go off the railings, listened to the crowd more, slowed his pace and worked more like a heel. The reactions were mixed but most were behind Punk and Page’s reactions to the crowd played into the story.
Now, I’ve been blasting Page elsewhere on the title reign. Some people called this the “test title reign” of Page. And maybe one day he’ll become champion again. But he’s got a long way to go where he needs to improve his psychology and promos, to avoid getting lost and be more focused on the big picture rather than the immediate reaction. I’m hoping that by working with Punk and Danielson, Page can learn what works and what doesn’t from them, how to call the match in the ring, the importance of selling over trading spots, etc. Because when he’s in there with a veteran, he can do very well. But he needs to be lead. We don’t need to see every single spot in each match he does. But his matches shouldn’t be one dimensional.
I like the fact that Punk is doing these Bret Hart callouts too. I’ve said it time and time again, Punk is the best story teller in the business right now. Even if he uses Bret Hart’s matches as a template, it’s still a damn good template since those finishes are great. But more importantly, all of Punk’s matches are unique. I don’t get bored with them because he doesn’t show the same moves each match.
I’m very interested to see where we go with Punk as the champion. I’ve stated on numerous occasions that either Punk or Danielson should be the ones to carry the world title and eventually meet up in the middle. Punk got his mojo back as we can see and I think it’s going to pay off in dividends as he’s pretty much 100% committed to the AEW cause. So we’ll be getting the “Summer of Punk” as June starts in two days. And with him on top, he can groom a successor (or drop the belt to Danielson which works too). There’s a lot of great potential matches with Punk on top: Samoa Joe, Adam Cole, Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Miro, Kenny Omega, Keith Lee, Jay Lethal, Jeff Hardy, MJF round 3, Johnny Elite, etc. He can have that Bret Hart run and then choose a good successor (I would’ve suggested MJF prior to the “incidents” in Vegas but now I’m not so sure). But I think he can really legitimize that AEW World Title.
Of course, the other thing that’s going to start creeping up is the Forbidden Door PPV. Some people have talked about Okada vs Punk but the only one that probably will matter is Kenta vs Punk because of the G2S issue. I think we’ll be seeing that one down the line.
As for the rest of the card, it was just so hit and miss. The most frustrating match to me more than anything though was the triple threat tag team match. Keith Lee and Swerve would’ve made good champions as would Starks and Hobbs. But to keep the titles on Jungle Boy and the dinosaur was bad. Jurassic Express just doesn’t have any momentum and the constant teaser between Christian and Jungle Boy is almost like Wardlow and MJF where it’s gone on for too long. This is an instance where Tony Khan seems too intent on keeping his Pillars propped up for no good reason. And if Tony insists on home grown talent, then he should’ve put those titles on Hobbs and Starks because Starks is ready to move up and should be the next major break out star.