I’ve long joked that this site is a quasi-metal site posing as a metal blog, and there’s a lot of truth to that. We’ve done a few full wrestling stories before, often involving members of the metal community, and those have been fun. I also drop a ton of wrestling references into my stories. I guess that’s caught on because someone in a band we’ve covered a few times asked me if I was writing up AEW’s debut show Double or Nothing. I guess I am, friend.
This past Saturday, the new promotion All Elite Wrestling presented their first show, a pay-per-view event called Double or Nothing that was nearly five hours of wrestling action so good, it made me want to pinch myself. I had high hopes for this promotion funded and owned by Tony Khan (his family owns the Jacksonville Jaguars) and helmed from a management standpoint by wrestlers Cody and Brandi Rhodes, Nick and Matt Jackson of the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and “Hangman” Adam Page, all stars in varying degrees in places all over the world from WWE to Ring of Honor to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Their goal was to create a wrestling company that returns the basics to the game, promises no-bullshit finishes, doesn’t sway from blood and violence, and embraces diversity, but in a way that feels genuine and not like some marketing ploy. Saturday was their first chance to put their money where their mouths are, and holy shit, did they knock it out of the park with a fucking rainbow shot into the river.
First, the production was top notch, reminding me of WCW’s glory days when they were the working company where you know you’d get strong matches and a minimum of garbage. Well, AEW delivered zero garbage. At all. Second, the matches were thoughtful, well worked, and told compelling stories that WWE has been missing for at least the past two decades. Guys, can we all admit WWE has been in a creative freefall since, oh I don’t know, 2001? AEW promised to deliver the goods to you, and they did it all night long, from the free hour-long pre-show to the nearly four-hour main card that never, ever provided that bathroom break fodder. You didn’t want to leave your TV for fear you’d miss something, which was tough for me since I was trying to grill and pour beers while things were going on. Tough problem to have, right?
Let’s start with the brother vs brother confrontation pitting “American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes vs older brother “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes in a match they should have had at Wrestlemania in 2015 but the wise people at WWE thought it better relegated to Fastlane that year. Brother vs brother matches never seem to take, but holy shit did this one ever succeed. After Cody symbolically took a sledgehammer to a mock of Triple H’s throne, he and his brother decimated each other in a bloodbath people will talk about for ages. Dustin bled like a faucet as he and Cody had an emotional battle where they hit each other with everything they had, Cody pulled dirty tricks, and Dustin survived all the odds, only to fall to a second Cross Rhodes to take the loss. As massive as that was, afterward Cody confronted his brother and refused to let him retire. For he had signed for a match against the Young Bucks at Fight for the Fallen in July, and he didn’t need a partner or a friend. “I need my older brother,” Cody said, voice quivering with emotion. The two brothers tearfully hugged and I definitely didn’t cry in my living room. What a moment. Cody and Dustin proved the world wrong, and they turned in a classic. Big Dust would have been proud of both of his boys.
Then we had the main event pitting Chris Jericho, ever the chameleon, against the “Best Bout Machine” Kenny Omega in a match where the winner would face Adam Page for the first AEW World Heavyweight championship at a time to be determined. Like a minute in, Jericho accidentally busted Omega’s nose, and that led to another bloody battle, this time by accident. Not to be deterred, Omega dug down deep and turned in another great performance, and Jericho again defied time and showed that age is only a state of mind as the two pushed each other to the physical limit, with Jericho taking the surprising win with his new Judas Effect back first finisher. The idea makes sense to have Jericho in the first title match as he brings a bigger name than anyone on the roster, at least as it pertains to the general public. Plus, you can have Omega in the role of babyface pursuing Jericho’s belt (I’m assuming he’s going to beat Page). But the biggest shock was yet to come. As Jericho celebrated, out of the crowd came the debuting Jon Moxley (you may know him better as former WWE star Dean Ambrose) who made his way through the crowd, gave the Dirty Deeds to the ref and Jericho, then pulled Omega up onto the decorative poker chips to deliver another underarm DDT there and toss him to the ground. The crowd went apeshit, and I imagine Vince McMahon was launching curse words all over the place, which amuses me to no end. Moxley signed a multi-year deal, so he’s here for the long haul. Great move by AEW getting this deal done.
There was so much more, and I could be here all day, but let me hit the rest of the highlights with tidy bullet points.
- In another massive surprise Bret “Hitman” Hart presented the new AEW world title, though he was interrupted by the goddamn great MJF, who already might be the best heel promo in the business. He mocked Hart, Page, other wrestlers (at one point he insisted, “I’m no horse professor,” which made me spit my beer), only to be fought off by Jungle Boy (Luke Perry’s son!) and Jimmy Havoc. Fun segment, though the belt did get lost in the shuffle.
- The Young Bucks came out dressed like Elvis (they were in Las Vegas, after all) for a goddamn car crash match with the Lucha Brothers (Pentagon Jr. and Fenix) that more than lived up to expectations. The Bucks retained their AAA tag titles, but not without taking heavy punishment This one is far, far from over.
- There were two really strong matches featuring AEW’s women’s division. The first featured Pittsburgh native Dr. Britt Baker DDS defeating Kylie Ray, Nyla Rose (she was game but a little out of her element …give her time) and a surprise addition Awesome Kong, who had a hell of a showing. The other had the team of Hikaru Shida, Riho, and Ryo Mizunami defeat Yuka Sakazaki (best ring entrance music in the game, by the way), Emi Sakura (dressed like Freddie Mercury!), and the legendary and fearsome Aja Kong when Shida pinned Sakura.
- Jim Ross returned. I just missed his voice. I know people were on him about some shit, but look, it’s Jim Ross. He’ll make mistakes. But he will care a million percent, and that’s something. Also, nice first shot for Alex Marvez, and Excalibur did a great job.
- Strong opener with SCU facing Strong Hearts (the iconic Cima with T-Hawk and El Lindaman) and winning. The OWE contingent is going to be a big factor, and they could revolutionize wrestling like the cruiserweights did in WCW.
- The pre-show battle royal was insanely fun, a great new concept, and can we talk about how cool Sonny Kiss is? He ( I hope I’m using his pronouns correctly) was so great and gave Tommy Dreamer a series of butt butts. Also, Luchasauras ruled, and Orange Cassidy is an idiot, but I love him.
Anyway, I’m excited for American wrestling. I hope AEW explodes and pushes change in WWE. We deserve better. AEW delivered better. We may be on the cusp of an amazing time for pro wrestling and its fans.