Scene: NBA Eastern Conference Finals on the TV and AEW Double Or Nothing on the Computer. I had the best of both worlds as I saw the Toronto Raptors defeat the Milwaukee Bucks while watching a brand new Pro Wrestling startup, All Elite Wrestling, do what they could to provide an alternative to WWE. As I watched Grammy Award Winning Rapper Drake celebrate with his home town Toronto Raptors, I couldn’t help but think of a lyric of his from the song “Tuscan Leather”:
“ All of the talkin’, got one reply for all of your comments
Fuck what you think, I’m too busy, that’s why you leave a message
Born a perfectionist, guess that makes me a bit obsessive
That shit I heard from you lately really relieved some pressure
Like aye, B I got your CD, you get an E for effort”
AEW gets an E for effort for their Double Or Nothing Pay Per View event, but if that’s what’s supposed to compete with WWE they sure have a long way to go. Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho being your biggest featured stars frankly isn’t enough considering they are all WWE throwaways; something AEW Executives vowed to not focus on. Let’s take a look at The Good, The Bad & The Ugly plus a few honorable mentions.
Aja Kong, Yaka Sakazaki & Emi Sakura vs Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe & Ryo Mizunami was easily the match of the night. This match did what most modern wrestling matches today refuse to do; use meaningful high spots to help tell a story. This wasn’t the usual flippy mania crap that you see everywhere but instead 6 Women who went out to show despite American Women’s Wrestling being barely taken seriously, In Japan they are far and wide ahead of everyone else. The most amazing aspect of the entire match was how well the Legend Aja Kong, 30 years of wrestling experience, didn’t miss a beat competing with and against those young enough to be her grand children. Every match before this one made no sense because they were just high spot flippy mania fests with no direction. Yet THIS MATCH proved what can happen when commitment to great pro wrestling means more than another neck breaking stunt done in hopes of the latest “this is awesome chant.
Honorable Mention: The Lucha Brothers vs Young Bucks match also was a high flying affair yet everything actually meant something and helped tell an easy to follow story. Kudos to all four of those guys for putting on a highly entertaining match that was much better than the main event.
Dustin Rhodes bled like a stuck pig during his match with his brother Cody and it frankly was one of the most unnecessary stunts I’ve seen in a long time. In a match that had it’s fair share of solid wrestling moments, Dustin spilling literal pools of blood did nothing but glaringly show the difference between WWE and AEW. Ref Earl Hebner at no time put gloves on to protect himself from all of the blood, just swam in it like the competitors did. At one point Dustin draped Cody on the top rope and took what seemed like eternity to actually pull off whatever move he was setting up. This is likely because the blood loss was starting to get to him which further cemented how unnecessary this blood business was. Did it enhance the match in any way? No! Why did they do it? Damned if I know but I’ll say this much; as an avid MMA and Boxing consumer that was more blood than I saw in both sports combined over the past two years. Let that sink in. It was disgusting and shameful.
Honorable Mention: Trying to shove Hangman Page down everyone’s throats when he’s clearly not a big star is an unfortunate misstep. MJF, on the other hand, is the future of Pro Wrestling. He’s so good even Bret Hitman Hart couldn’t help but smile every time MJF ripped on him.
The amount of people getting hit in the head with weapons during the Casino Royale Battle Royal was easily the ugliest aspect of the entire Double Or Nothing event. Considering shots to the head are illegal in most major pro wrestling promotions today, it was disturbing to see it here. Mind you, the family that owns AEW, The Khan Family, also own the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars. Considering all of the talk of concussions and CTE over the past 5 years, it was a shock to see headshots done so frequently during Double Or Nothing. It was irresponsible, dangerous and flat out distasteful.
Honorable Mention: AEW advertised the Double Or Nothing preshow would be on their Youtube Channel.. 30min in, it was not.. Where was it? On the TNT Sports Youtube Channel. For so many who were still contemplating whether or not they should sell out over $50 to watch the PPV, making the preshow difficult for these potential fans to see did you no favors. It literally drove a significant amount of business to the potentially illegal streaming sites instead.
It is very possible and likely AEW will recover from all of this, but they sure have a tall mountain to climb. AEW’s biggest enemy other than themselves are the fans. Why? Because so many are tripping over themselves to claim this was a “GREAT” PPV and that “WWE Is In Trouble” it’s a joke. AEW needs legitimate constructive criticism and consumer data in order to build a business that is sustainable over the long haul. Ignoring their glaring issues because you want an Alternative to WWE, as if ROH/NJPW/Impact don’t already exist, is a kiss of death. Don’t fret folks; I’ll be here to remind you of those every step of the way!
*Check out more from The Duke on the Duke Loves Rasslin Podcast on Soundcloud, Itunes, Youtube and other leading podcast apps. *