Double or Nothing was All Elite Wrestling’s return to full capacity for the first time since the pandemic hit in March 2020. With nine matches on the main card, there was a variety of match types to pick from. What was the night’s best match and which one could have used some improvement?
This was a great match to start the main card of Double or Nothing. Hangman Adam Page is a big crowd favorite, and you could tell. As soon as he stepped through the entrance, the crowd erupted. It only took about a minute for fans to start chanting for “Cowboy s**t.”
Despite this being a rematch from just over a month ago, there was no assault on Page before the bell. Team Tazz was also relegated to the back under the order of Brian Cage from Friday’s stare down. This contest was built as a chance for Page to redeem himself and correct the only blemish on his 13 – 1 record in 2021.
Hangman’s quickness and agility were on full display, and Brian Cage was a perfect base for it. Cage, with his incredible size and strength, kept the fight coming. Whether it was in the ring or out, the pair were always after each other.
The story for this match was that Adam Page would have to pull out all the stops to take Cage down. Although, overcoming the height, strength and weight disparity would prove to be no easy task. Hangman, by pairing high-risk offense with quick counters, Page was able to get an edge over Cage. Seeing this, other members of Team Tazz came down to the ring to help but ultimately cost Cage the match.
Overall, it set the tone for Double or Nothing perfectly and jump started an already electric atmosphere for the rest of the night. Page got his win back and is back on the quest to claim the AEW Championship.
In the subsequent match, the AEW Tag Team Champions faced off against friends turned rivals turned friends again in Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley. The contest started with a bang as Moxley and Kingston jumped the Bucks. As streamers rained down, the challengers jumped Matt and Nick in the ring, catching their opponents off guard.
These two teams and their styles contrasted beautifully. Kingston and Moxley are more tempered to bar fights, brawls and hard hitting affairs. On the other hand, the Young Bucks are never ones to shy away from their aerial offense.
Coming into the match, Moxley and Kingston made themselves out to be two of the most likable men you could meet. They were standing up to the rich elitist snobs who run the company as Executive Vice Presidents. The challengers could not appear to be more different as hard working men who came from nothing. This allowed the crowd to get further into the match and get lost in the performance.
The Young Bucks, once again, made themselves detestable to the crowd in Daily’s Place. They executed their role perfectly, mocking the fans, their opponents and wrestling cliches. They were the perfect foil for the lovable duo of Moxley and Kingston. Despite the Young Bucks winning the match, Moxley and Kingston still looked strong. Kingston, who had his leg assaulted weeks before, was not fully fit and had a nagging injury. Additionally, it took a pair of stereo superkicks and four BTE Triggers from the champions to take out Moxley.
Where the Bucks will go next is anyone’s guess. But I do not think that fans would mind sitting through a rematch or four between these teams.
Casino Battle Royale: 3.75
After two thrilling matches, the Double or Nothing Casino Battle Royale was next. Logically, it makes sense to put the match here on the card. It allowed fans to take a bit of a breather during the 23 minute contest. While critics have their qualms with the format of the royale (understandable), the match itself was not terrible.
Whenever anyone does a battle royale, the key moments happen during entrances and eliminations. With so many eliminations, 20 to be exact, some get lost in the shuffle. Regardless, there were a few exciting parts and story beats that surfaced. The Hardy Family Office’s Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy tried to preserve Matt Hardy’s stint as long as possible. Dustin Rhodes of the Nightmare Family and The Factory’s Nick Comoroto faced off. Even Christian Cage, who wants to outwork everyone, started the match and made it to the end.
It was the ending that made the match enjoyable. Jungle Boy came out with the final group of wrestlers to the tune of “Tarzan Boy,” much to the crowd’s pleasure. Starting with the Casino Battle Royale in 2019 at Double or Nothing, Jungle Boy came up short and landed in fifth place. A few months later, he was eliminated in the final three in the Dynamite Dozen Battle Royale. At Revolution in 2021, he made it to the final pair in the Casino Tag Team Royale before falling to Rey Fenix.
With those setbacks under his belt, this year’s Double or Nothing Casino Battle Royale would be his to win. But he just had to overcome Christian Cage in the final two. Using his agility, he was able to keep himself in the match, narrowly avoiding elimination. Then, he dropped Christian Cage over the top rope onto the floor for the win. This long term arc for Jungle Boy made the result worth the previous roughly 20 minutes of filler content. The match was not “great,” but it did its job well enough.
Up next was one of the lowest points on the Double or Nothing card. The “American” fighting against the foreign “bully” trope is old and played out. The build could not even delineate the face/heel dynamic between Cody Rhodes and Anthony Ogogo. The whole match seemed like it was Cody, unnecessarily, getting a win back that he never lost. The last singles match Cody lost was to Darby Allin at Full Gear in 2020.
The one thing that was done right during this portion was Cody reverting to his original theme without Snoop Dogg. Sorry Snoop, but that had to go. They did not even get Ogogo’s monstrous body shot right. Ogogo caught Cody with it about a minute into the contest, but the match continued for nine more minutes. This “death blow” that ended fights suddenly lost a lot of its power.
Against a former Olympic boxer, you would think that Cody’s game plan would shift to more of a mat style. But that did not happen either. I get that they wanted to show off Ogogo’s prowess in the ring, but you could still do that while having Cody be in control while on the ground.
If you are going to book Cody to win, have him win due to his wrestling ability. In 2003 and 2004, Cody won the Georgia state championship at 189 pounds. At least use his genuine background in wrestling to inform the finish. The ending came after Cody delivered a Vertebreaker, so close to a backslide, which I think would have worked better.
The match missed the mark in what it was supposed to do. There have been plenty worse matches, but this one was not a good one.
Miro vs. Lance Archer: 3.25
Lance Archer and Miro put on a surprisingly uneven contest. With two big men ready to battle it out for the TNT Championship, fans would expect something a little different. Archer has the body of a giant but can move like a cruiserweight. But in this case, this match was a “hoss battle” as JR would say.
Coming into the contest, it was difficult to predict which way the result would fall. Archer has suffered a pair of defeats already in title matches and seems to falter whenever the moment matters. That can only go on for so long before fans will reject Archer. And then it would take a significant amount of work to build him back up.
For some reason, Archer’s lackey, Jake Roberts, had to come out and try to intimidate Miro with a snake. Thankfully, Miro was not bothered. This match had two big killers in Miro and Archer. But neither man came across that way until the back half. Archer only had a moment to showcase his power. He caught Miro with a chokeslam and almost a blackout. Aside from that, it seemed like he was going through the motions.
It would not surprise me if Archer was unhappy with his booking and spot in AEW at the moment. Miro won another match with his “Game Over” submission, a modified Camel Clutch. To be fair, it should put away most, if not all the roster, in a well built match. The result was fine for Miro, the match just took a few minutes too long to get there unfortunately and suffered for it.
This was the crowning moment for Dr. Britt Baker. After putting in hard work and carrying the division on her back for almost a year, Baker was undeniable. Time after time, her performances (including March’s match of the month) were top notch. You would be hard pressed to find someone who did not think Baker was at the top of her game. Although the contest, like the one before it, went a bit long, the right result occurred.
Their previous meeting from April 8, 2020, in the Nightmare Factory was a better match. The flow seemed slightly disjointed in this present iteration at Double or Nothing. But the story they told was a solid enough one. Dr. Baker looked to sink in the Lockjaw submission throughout the contest. Shida attempted to counter it each time. With every effort from the challenger, she would force a new escape route from the champion.
Even though this match was shorter than their prior contest, when Shida broke Baker’s nose, it felt longer. Whether it was the showboating by Baker or maybe the heat getting to the competitors, this match also could have benefited from a shorter clock. But things did pick up towards the end. Both stars seemed to up the level of physicality and their strikes seemed to carry more weight up to the end. This really helped the “big fight feel” that should exist around a championship match.
Sting made his return to live in-ring action for the first time since September 2015. At 62 years old, everyone knew that Sting would not be wrestling a technical classic match. But alongside Darby Allin, the two could string together a dramatic contest, especially considering the long standing rivalry between Allin and Ethan Page.
Darby kicked things off by diving between the ropes onto Page and Sky. The build and animosity that has been festering between Allin and his opponents warranted this fast start. There was another exciting moment after Sky suplexed Sting onto the entrance ramp. Immediately, Sting popped up, threw the celebrating Sky into Page and then dove onto his opponents.
This match seemed to be formatted as a feel-good pop fest for the Double or Nothing crowd while still telling a compelling story. Keeping Sting out of the match meant that Page and Sky could work over the much younger talent while they were fresh. Whereas if the roles were reversed, a tired Page and Sky would have to contend with a reckless but rested Allin.
Sting’s time in the match was kept brief due to an aggressive Darby Allin. Even after taking tremendous punishment, he wanted back in. The tension between Allin and Page kept rising throughout. It seems like AEW intentionally kept them apart in the finish to preserve a thrilling and brutal feud down the line.
The match did exactly what it was supposed to. It reheated the crowd before an exciting final co-main event. Sting was also the recipient of a warm welcome back to the ring for the first time in six years. You knew what you were getting going into the match and for me, it fully delivered.
The final live match of Double or Nothing was a three way match for the AEW World Championship. The champion, Kenny Omega, had to defend his title against both Orange Cassidy and PAC simultaneously. A three way match is difficult to execute in concept, but they executed it exceptionally here. It never felt like a wrestler was waiting on the outside for the others to finish a sequence and then join in.
Omega, who is perceived as one of the greatest of all time, and PAC share a similar hard hitting, physical in ring style. They have the knack to make their attacks look so genuine. Their history has seen them face off in singles competition three times with Omega winning two bouts. But now with Orange Cassidy in the mix, there was a twist. Any of the men could pick up the win in a moment’s notice.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) May 31, 2021
Infamous for his “lazy” attitude, there is hardly a bigger pop than when Orange Cassidy “tries.” Just a few minutes into the match, he hit his opponents with a double head-scissors before unleashing a flurry of offense.
In addition to the three men in the ring, there was also Don Callis on commentary. His role cannot be underplayed. He diligently put over each competitor throughout the contest while still sticking to his guns and praising Kenny Omega.
Orange Cassidy, PAC and Omega put on a spectacular performance at Double or Nothing. The two challengers were presented as viable contenders to take the title away. PAC’s brutal attacks and Orange Cassidy’s perfect timing nearly allowed them to come away as the new champion. It was a breathtaking contest and was no doubt the match of the night.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) May 31, 2021
The final match of the card was a rematch from Blood and Guts. The Pinnacle fought the Inner Circle in another rendition of Stadium Stampede. The match had a lot of difficulty answering the level of violence that occurred just over three weeks earlier in Blood and Guts. The cinematic style lent itself to be an awkward crutch that took some fans out of the moment as the camera cut around TIAA Bank Stadium.
With each matchup between the two teams branching out across the stadium, it felt more like the “partners” would do a spot in one area and then move to another area without much reason. The pairings between each of the teams, while great in almost any other setting, felt awkward outside a ring. FTR are a phenomenal tag team, and it does them an incredible disservice to have them compete in this environment.
One year ago, the match was a welcome sight to the wrestling community. Just a few months into the global pandemic, the excitement and entertainment provided gave fans a brief reprieve. This time around, it seemed like a backwards step from Blood and Guts. Certain moments in the match were more comedic and manufactured than intended which damaged the aura of a “gang war” between these factions.
A bright spot though was when some of the wrestlers made their way back into Daily’s Place for the finish. In front of crowds, the brutality shone through and began to rise the tide of the match. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. While not the worst match on the Double or Nothing card by any means, I doubt it will be one that I revisit more than a couple times.
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