The success of All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing on Saturday night from the MGM in Las Vegas was undeniable.
If the intent of AEW was to send a message to the wrestling universe that a new and improved brand of wrestling is now on the scene then it is fair to say: MESSAGE RECEIVED! This was the inaugural event of AEW and it was surrounded by massive hype and speculation from fans, wrestling insiders, as well as many mainstream news outlets across the globe. There are countless reviews of Saturday night’s Double or Nothing show across the internet if you want to read a review of the entire event. What I want to do is look at the big picture and discuss three things AEW got right and three things they got wrong from Double or Nothing. Let’s start with what they got right.
1. Earlier Matches Mattering
Often times in professional wrestling the early matches in the event are fluff, largely used to fill time. Sometimes the early matches are used to introduce a new character which is fine but all to often they pair the new wrestler with an unknown or a lower tier competitor for the specific purpose of having the new character get a dominating win. Think about the the Brooklyn Brawler from the early days of WWE, his role was to get beat by the “flavour of the month” being introduced to the fans.
The Casino Battle Royale featured as part of the Buy In, the free portion of Double or Nothing featured 5 wrestlers entering the ring every 3 minutes, think of it as the Royal Rumble on speed. This match was important as it introduced many of AEW’s roster to the audience but more importantly the victor was guaranteed a future title shot. This was a brilliant move to have such a high stakes match as part of the Buy In. This surely was done intentionally to persuade non paying customers to purchase the show. Rarely, if ever on other pay-per-view events do the pre-show matches have any actual intrigue or meaning. Not every early match can have the this level of interest and importance but it was refreshing to have such a high stakes match so early. This really set the tone for the rest of the show.
2. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed….
AEW has marketed itself as an alternative to the WWE. There is some danger in straying too far from what fans are used to and what they expect from the sport. Think XFL if you need a reminder of how going too far from the norm can backfire.
AEW did a masterful job in balancing innovation with history. They brought in Jim Ross, an icon in the industry and one of the most knowledgeable and recognizable faces in all of wrestling. They reached out to Bret “The Hitman” Hart to present the AEW Championship belt. These are two examples of giving a nod to the rich history and tradition of the sport which should not go unnoticed by the wrestling universe.
AEW debuted some interesting rules during Saturday night’s Double or Nothing show. In the tag team division the members of the team that are not the legal participant will have a 10 count to leave the ring before being disqualified. This is a deviation from the industry standard of a 5 count. Another rule change was that matches were given time limits. Most matches had a 30 minute time limit which were never reached in any of the matches.
I like the idea of experimenting with new rules or altering existing rules. I would have liked to have seen a violation of one of these rules to see how the referee would have handled it and what impact it would have had on the match. It is hard to say if either of these rule changes will benefit or hurt matches since neither rule was tested.
3. The Ending
The show was non stop action from start to finish. The combination of men’s and women’s matches, tag team and six person tag team matches was highly entertaining. The hype of Cody Rhodes v Dustin Rhodes, Kenny Omega v Chris Jericho, and The Young Bucks v The Lucha Bros did not disappoint. There was plenty of speculation that Jon Moxley, formerly Dean Ambrose, might make an appearance at Double or Nothing and appear he did. AEW handled the Moxley rumour beautifully, never really denying nor confirming anything. They let the hype build and at the culmination of the show he made his appearance by delivering his patented Dirty Deeds finishing move to everyone in the ring and I do mean everyone – he got the referee, Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega. This sequence of events set the crowd on fire and accomplished exactly what AEW wanted and that is to have the fans asking 2 questions: what’s next? And when will it happen?
Let’s look at what AEW got wrong last Saturday night in Las Vegas. To be fair I thought Double or Nothing was a fantastic event that has raised the expectation of fans for all events throughout the wrestling universe. Having said that, there were a few things that I think they missed out on.
These issues may seem minor but the rest of the presentation was at such a high level that these 3 things stuck out to me.
1. Dustin Rhodes Spanking Cody
This was a fantastic match between the brothers Cody and Dustin and it could not have ended any better. This was billed as the marquee match and it definitely lived up to the hype. This match had everything you could hope for in a match, violence, blood,sweat, and tears. After Cody defeated Dustin he gave a tear jerking speech and an offer to partner with him against The Young Bucks at Fallen in July.
The only black eye on the match was when Cody was on the turnbuckle and Dustin grabbed him by the pants to expose his butt and proceed to spank him with a belt. This move was not needed. This was not the time or place for comedic relief. This move seemed more like WWE than AEW. This reminded me of The Usos applying Ucey Hot in the Revival’s clothes. This was purely a clownish move not befitting of AEW’s inaugural show in its marquee match up.
2. The Unexplained Appearance of a Group Forming a Human Throne
The lights went out and there were some masked figures in the ring. The lights went out again and there were more figures surrounding the ring. There was no explanation given and this segment ended with the group in the ring forming a human throne. This may have been meant to be a creepy or eerie moment but it came across as bewildering and disjointed.
It did not appear to have any connection to anything going on inside or outside the ring. This felt like it was a rushed segment which was added to the show last minute. This portion of the show was much more of a distraction than anything else. I don’t feel that this added any value or substance to the show. This was not a major detractor as the rest of the show was phenomenal it’s just that this didn’t fit anywhere in the sequence of Double or Nothing.
3. Botched Bell Ringing
AEW has done a great job in showcasing both men’s and women’s matches specifically in the tag team division. The match that featured Shida, Riho, and Mizunami v Sakazaki, Sakura, and Kong nearly ended prematurely due to the time keeper ringing the bell early. The music began to play as the match appeared to be over. The only problem is that there was no pinfall as the referee was clearly holding up 2 fingers to signify a two count.
The match eventually ended with Shida pinning Sakura but the near botch was an embarrassment that overshadowed the match. There were some fans on twitter commenting using the hashtag #botchamania to indicate yet another embarrassing gaffe in the world of professional wrestling. This type of mistake can not occur in the signature event of a brand new company. Fortunately the rest of the show was so strong that this botch did not define the event. The only lasting negative impact was to this specific match rather than the show itself. Having said that the competitors and fans alike deserved better.
The future of professional wrestling is bright and strong. AEW offers an alternative to fans who may be looking for something new and different. I do not subscribe to the notion that fans must pick one organization over another. Rather I think that fans should follow and enjoy the performers or shows that they identify and connect with. There is nothing wrong with supporting multiple brands across the spectrum of professional wrestling that is readily available to us all through numerous formats. I am hopeful that the increased competition will lead to a higher quality experience of all of us. I, for one, am excited to see how WWE responds tonight on RAW and tomorrow night on SmackDown.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ngtriplett. Thanks for reading!