Wednesday, May 29, 2019

AEW Double Or Nothing (May 2019 PPV)

So this is it... the inaugural pay-per-view wrestling extravaganza from All Elite Wrestling, Double Or Nothing. I bought the show, but unfortunately, was unable to catch it live due to other commitments. However, I was able to watch it Sunday morning and... well, it was... a thing that happened.

But what kind of thing happened? Let's get into it.

I guess I should bring up the pre-show that I didn't see, but they had their 21-man Casino Battle Royale thing; a Rumble-type match that starts with five guys in the ring, with five more entering at regular intervals until the last man comes out. Anyway, Hangman Adam Page - who was supposed to have a match with PAC but creative differences reared its ugly head - ended up being the surprise entrant who won the thing.

In other news, Tony Schiavone makes an uncredited cameo as a ringside fan. On the hard cam shots, one can notice Noelle (she whose favorite word is nipple... h) being a constant presence... and she's really hard to miss. Also, Vinny is there... with some geek in a hat.

SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky) defeated the Strong Hearts (a Chinese team comprising T-Hawk - not THAT T-Hawk - CIMA & El Lindaman) in the opening six-man that set the tone for the rest of the show. This was a pretty good match; not all that familiar with the Chinese guys, but this served as a good showcase of those guys.

Dr. Britt Baker DMD (she's an actual dentist, you know) defeated Kylie Rae, Nyla Rose, and surprise last-minute addition AWESOME FUCKING KONG. This was advertised as a three-way, but then Brandi came out - dressed to wrestle, apparently - and wanted to make this match awesome... and so we got AWESOME FUCKING KONG added in. That was a fun match that kept the little people (Britt and Kylie) and the big people (Kong and Rose) apart. I dig Dr. Britt; she's a fine worker and a better dentist than that other wrestling dentist of questionable credentials. I dig Kylie Rae; she's that happy and bubbly personality that's similar to Bayley, but without the shit creative ruining her. Don't know much about Nyla Rose and she did little other than brawl with Awesome Kong for a bit... but she's something different, at least... and not Nia Jax.

Best Friends (Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor) defeated Not Best Friends (Jack Evans and Angelico) in a pretty good tag team match that I probably would've enjoyed more if I were remotely familiar with the talents... but even then, it was a pretty solid match that had some decent action and established the gimmicks of the teams simply enough so a newbie like me could be familiar with these guys' schtick. What a concept.

And then the lights go out and we have masked man laying waste on the friends and stuff. It's a unit (I guess, now formerly) known as the Super Smash Bros. And I'd imagine they weren't named on screen because I don't think Nintendo would be very happy.

There was a six-Joshi tag-team match with a bunch of faces I'm unfamiliar with... the only one I recognize is Aja Kong; the big woman with the painted face of death and despair. There was a bit where the timekeeper rang the bell early after a two-count and apparently, the finish was a botch or something. Despite

Cody defeated Dustin Rhodes in a bloody fine match. All I can say is that thank fuck they didn't do this match in WWE because it wouldn't have been as brutal or as intense it should've been. Dustin bleeding buckets all over the place was not a pretty picture, but there was an emotional investment in the story being told, there were Dusty chants, there was a story being told - even though there was little build with a couple short online video - and then when Cody won and made the plea to Dustin to be his partner for a tag-match later down the road and they hugged, people cried... or they had allergies... or they suffered from Flair Syndrome. There's genuine emotion, there's genuine investment, there's a genuine story being told... a bit rushed considering the short time of promotion, but still, this was a better story match than anything.

So some guy who's apparently a celebrity of some sort introduces BRET HART of all people, who walks out with the burlap sack containing the new championship title belt. Bret gives a brief speech and flubs a bit ("a new champion will be crowned next month... or several months from now... maybe next year... tomorrow even... I'm a bit rusty at this."). Sadly, he does not go into a tirade about how he was World Champion and no one really beat him for the title. He then introduces Hangman Page, who won the pre-show battle royal to be named one of the participants in AEW's first World title match. I do find it funny that, adhering to strictly PPV continuity, Hangman Adam Page went from being carried off by a bunch of walking penises while the crowd chanted REST IN PENIS to become a top contender to determine the very first World champion.

Out comes MJF, a guy in a suit and a scarf. He mocks Bret over the fan incident, berates the crowd, and comes off as annoying... but the good kind of annoying where you want to see this guy get his ass kicked and not the bad kind of annoying that makes you want to change the channel like a Miz or Baron Corbin. They tease a fight between Page and MJF, who flees but gets stopped by the JUNGLE BOY and JIMMY HAVOC. And then MJF gets his ass kicked, Bret reveals the belt, and all is right in the world because... well. This was a fine segment; it gave people a nice surprise in Bret showing up, it introduced us to a number of potential headliners in the future, and while the title felt like an afterthought after that whole brawl, having all those guys there in this segment put them in a similar league, I suppose.

As for the title itself? It's a rather nice looking belt that feels more akin to a boxing championship than of a title. I suppose given the rather lazy belt designs of the major organization, any title from a rival would be a step up... but no, this is a nice looking belt that people didn't shit on. It's no winged eagle or big gold... but it looks like a worthy championship.

AAA Tag Champs The Bucks Of Youth defeated The Bros Of Lucha to retain the titles in the show's only championship affair. After having their main match cut short due to time restraints at All In, the Bucks finally get to show off their stuff on their own show. And let me tell you folks something; if you like MOVES in your wrestling matches, then you got plenty of MOVES in this one. I generally don't care for MOVES all that much, but I gotta admit... this was pretty good. Not quite the emotional roller coaster of the last match, but as far as an exhibition of tag-team wrestling is concerned, this was the perfect showcase for it.

And in the main event, Chris Jericho defeated Kenny Omega with his new Judas Effect spinning back elbow thing to earn himself a spot in a future match with Adam Page to crown the first AEW World Champion. I guess I was the only person in the world who didn't think Kenny was going to win this one, considering he's one of the VPs in AEW... but let's be honest; Joe No-Name or Jane No-Clue might not know Hangman or Omega, but they do known that Jericho fellow, so it makes sense. I do recall seeing their Tokyo Dome encounter and thought it was pretty damn good... and this one, while nowhere near that same level, was still pretty good. It told a good enough story, it provided a showcase for Kenny, and it was quite a bit of fun.

Jericho then grabs a mic, demands his thank you, and instead gets the former Dean Ambrose, Jon Moxley. Moxley proceeds to DDT Jericho, DDT the ref, and gets into a scuffle with Omega which ends with Moxley DDTing Omega on a stack of poker chips on the stage before tossing him through said stage. Now I am intrigued... and then the show ends.

There have been a number of "first-time" shows that I've bore witnessed to. Whether it'd be the first PPV of the short-lived World Wrestling All-Stars promotion in Australia from the early 2000s or the inaugural NWA-TNA PPV show, one shot deals that fizzled out, or even the first shows of so-called brand-new eras. More often than not, those shows were hampered with bad booking, bad production values, or just a glutton of problems that nullified whatever positive there were.

As far as new promotions go, AEW delivered a solid first impression with Double Or Nothing. There was not one match on the main card that felt underwhelming or even considered within the realm of extended piss breaks. The "weakest" match on the card was mainly attributed to my lack of familiarity with the participants and even then, the match was still pretty damn good. The major matches that were supposed to delivered the goods did so, some more than others.

I thought the pacing was pretty good; going from one match to the next with only the major matches with stories behind them getting video packages. Even running just shy of the dreaded four hour mark, this just flew by without a hitch. Jim Ross has seemingly found his fire, sounding very much like the JR of old for the first time in a long while, which enhanced the show and complimented the color provided by masked man Excalibur, who is just AWESOME at what he does. And there were a couple surprises here and there along the way.

Is it a perfect showing? Of course not.

The commentary of Jim Ross and Excalibur was top-notch (especially towards the back end of the show where JR found his old fire) that was hampered by first-time commentator Alex Marvez, who felt like a bit of a third wheel trying to get his shit in... though to be fair, he did a far better first showing on the booth than someone like Mike Adamle. There were also some camera snafus, missed shots, editing issues, and little errors here and then that should be expected from a first-time production.

There were one too many subtle shots at WWE thrown here, perhaps a bit more than I would've liked... and while that's fine for a one-off, I wouldn't want AEW to do this on a regular basis... especially when others have done the same thing and... well, where are they now?

Also, the idea that this show was going to spur WWE to put out better product was immediately curtailed by the fact the RAW show that came afterwards was a complete shitshow that feature little wrestling, lots of shitty comedy segments, and Baron Corbin - an individual that people are tired of watching for real - getting a title match at an upcoming PPV. Even the somewhat amusing Bork Party Bork Lazer wasn't enough to save that shit show.

This Double Or Nothing show cost fifty bucks, which is quite a premium after being used to big-time wrestling cards available on monthly subscriptions for anything under the fifteen dollar range... but sometimes, when you deliver a premium product, you can charge premium prices. I got my money's worth with Double Or Nothing and I would gladly fork over some cash for the next show when it becomes available... provided they stay the course with delivering shows of this caliber and keeping the potshots and the politics to an absolute bare minimum... or just don't bother with them. That'd be even better.

So that was Double Or Nothing. Would I call it a game-changer? Not at all... but it is an encouraging first step.

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