The days of AEW running out “perfect” pay-per-views, where everything hits and the length is manageable, are probably over. The roster has grown to the point where a lot has to go into them, and not all of them are going to be collecting star-ratings like a hoarder. No company has amazing booking throughout. Some things are just going to miss. And sometimes a president like Tony Khan can get weirdly distracted by events going on at the same time (back to this in a bit). It’s a nearly impossible needle to keep threading flawlessly.
So was Sunday night’s “Double Or Nothing” a bit of a mess? Sure. It was almost certainly too long, and had a few matches that were better placed on TV. And yet, almost all of it was good. And what wasn’t good still had good nuggets in it. A lot of it was great. And it’s only one of two tent poles of AEW’s PPV slate, along with Labor Day Weekend’s All Out. So of course they’re going to pack everything they can into it and show all the things they do. This is wrestling. Subtlety isn’t really the game in the big picture, and if the complaint is there was too much stuff that had to be watched…what’s really the complaint?
The whole show was in danger of being overshadowed before it even started, thanks to MJF lighting up social media and wrestling news websites by no-showing a fan meet-and-greet on Saturday and at least threatening, or threatening to threaten, that he was going to take off before the show on Sunday. There is perhaps no wrestler in the world who has blurred the lines between reality and character than Maxwell Jaxwell, and one need look no further than his previous PPV feud with CM Punk to see. Still, it’s a given in the wrestling world that the truly plugged-in press don’t get “worked,” i.e. to be made part of the storyline unwittingly, and certainly the rest of the roster and booker don’t either. But if any one person was going to do that, it would be MJF. And we still don’t really know.
What we do know is that MJF has been bitching about his contract status for months, openly making goo-goo eyes at WWE, and using both to forward his heel persona on TV. He could be doing anything.
But he did show up, did take his beating from Wardlow, and provided the catharsis of a two-year long story that finally unshackled Wardlow from him. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, and yet there isn’t a fan out there that can’t wait to find out.
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The other factor that was thought to be the biggest talking point before and then became so after was the length of the show. Over four and a half hours, 12 matches, and all for the purpose of putting the biggest stuff after Game 7 of the Celtics-Heat had ended. Which seems such a strange fear. Are there that many people who would fork over $50 for the show and then not watch most of it? If there are fans who wanted to watch Game 7 first, would they not just watch the whole PPV on delay? There just couldn’t have been that big of a group that would only tune into a PPV for the last third.
But that was Khan’s fear, he talked about it, and so he stuffed the middle of the show to push the sharp end after the final horn in Miami. And certainly not all of it was ppv-worthy. The Young Bucks-Hardy Boyz couldn’t possibly live up to their previous work years ago in different companies, or what many had in their head given the age and condition of Jeff and Matt Hardy these days. But it still had some crazy spots and a feel-good Hardy win.
Jade Cargill and Anna Jay is another that probably should have headlined a Rampage, and yet it was a third women’s match on a PPV. That fact alone makes it a gift horse whose mouth needs no inspection. It wasn’t long, a decent showing from Jay, and then still included the beginning of a Cargill-Kris Statlander feud that’s going to whip a horse’s ass with a belt and the introduction of Athena to the company. Whatever the match was, when it ended you couldn’t help but be excited.
Sure, the two Owen Hart Memorial Tournament finals fell a little flat, because having Adam Cole and Britt Baker win their respective finals felt easy, predictable, and lame (especially on Baker’s side, with yet another roll-up finish). But watching Martha Hart’s heartfelt and emotional thank you to AEW and everyone in the arena for providing her with a celebration of Owen that he never really got before, and Cole’s and Baker’s deference to her, left one unable to complain.
The trios match between House of Black and Death Triangle was aces, and somehow topped Penta Oscuro’s kid joining him on the entrance dressed as a mini-Penta, maybe the cutest moment in wrestling history. It had Julia Hart’s final turn to join the House of Black, which ruled. Darby Allin and Kyle O’Reilly is definitely a TV match, but it was far from bad because these two aren’t capable of having any match that is less than riveting. .
The only beer fart for me was the six-person mixed tag around the TNT title, which still had the in-ring debut of Paige Van Zant. Sometimes PPVs have filler, remember that Paul Wight was on the All Out card.
And the show’s closing kick was still a level only AEW can reach. Serena Deeb-Thunder Rosa lived up to expectations, which were pretty damn high to begin with, and showcased technicality not really seen in the women’s division before. To try and encapsulate the “Anarchy In The Arena” match in less than 7,000 words would be folly, so just know that this picture of Eddie Kingston from it exists and pretty much encapsulates it perfectly. Somehow, the three-way tag match for the Tag Team Championship was able to follow that and not feel flat. The big complaint from it was that Jurassic Express retained over two teams that fans love, but it certainly wasn’t the work getting there.
And then CM Punk and Hangman Page was an utter classic, with both wrestlers playing off the build that teased and made everyone certain it would be decided on which one would go heel first. Neither did, and now we have the potential of an epic, multi-match feud over a year or two between these two because people just want to see more of it.
I know, you have kids and can’t stay up until midnight. That’s a YOU problem. The next day was a holiday, so tell that story walkin’. Yeah it could drag for a bit, but those sections were always followed up by something great. Are we really going to complain that a show you have to pay for has too much good stuff in it? That sounds kind of garbage to me, because I haven’t run across an AEW fan that isn’t jonesing for Wednesday’s Dynamite to see the fallout. So how bad could it have been? AEW has its issues, but always bails itself out by just putting on great matches to cover them up. There doesn’t seem to be anything they can’t escape from by doing so, such is the degree of quality they keep putting on offer.
But then I’ve always been a too-much-ain’t-enough guy. There will come a day when we all miss this depleted feeling.