This past weekend, the much anticipated debut of All Elite Wrestling, the Double or Nothing pay-per-view, took place at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
It’s well-documented that the Khan family has the funding to provide the foundation for the first true alternative in professional wrestling since the shut down of WCW in 2001. Perhaps just as important is the television deal that the company signed to air on TNT in October later this year. Such a contract is rather unprecedented for an upstart group, but most of what the All Elite company accomplished so far is unprecedented as well. The main stream distribution of TNT will get the product exposure to the general public and the opportunity to draw the casual fans. If that happens remains to be seen, but Double or Nothing was certainly a solid start for a company that looks to become an alternative in the sports entertainment genre.
The pay-per-view card opened with So Cal Uncensored vs. the OWE trio and it was an action-packed contest to set the tone for the card. While I don’t think any particular member of SCU will jump to superstardom from the increased exposure later this year, the three competitors work very well as a utility group, which is absolutely an asset to any company. The 49-year-old Christopher Daniels can still go and it’s a tremendous statement to his ability as an athlete that he can keep pace at this point in his career. It’s also nice to see him get a big time contract because he definitely deserves it. In some ways, it’s disappointing that Daniels almost didn’t get the credit or the chance he deserved for most of his career. He was one of the most graceful athletes of his era, but often times played second fiddle to AJ Styles, simply because AJ was much more charismatic.
Don’t get me wrong, AJ is incredible and will be known in the history books as an all-time great, but Daniels went step for step with him during their classic matches in the TNA era. The OWE team gives All Elite a unique aspect to promote and it will be interesting to see if Chinese athletes become a regular part of events. While this OWE team was represented by Japanese athletes, Cima made a wise decision when he took the role as president of Oriental Wrestling Entertainment in Shanghai after it was founded in 2017. In recent years, there were discussions about the ability to capitalize on the Chinese market because of the major population of the country, but most outside ventures, such as WWE’s occasional trips were mostly on an annual basis and didn’t actually establish the sport in the country. The difference with OWE is that it’s a pro wrestling league based in Shanghai so there’s the ability to run events on a regular basis and build an audience.
The women’s four-way bout was decent, even if it was a little unorganized, but that can sometimes happen with multiple-person matches under tornado rules. Kylie Rae and Brit Baker showed a lot of potential and considering their characters, both could be used as a good choice as the baby face the crowd can rally for after heels are established in the division. The only minor mistake was that both didn’t directly work the hard cam so a few shots were missed during the match.
More than anything, it’s just a matter of time before they get the experience of working a TV environment so they will probably develop those skills as events progress in the future. It was very interesting to see Amazing Kong return to a major stage, especially considering that she was mostly away from the sport for the past several years. It’s not known if this was a one-off or if Kong signed for additional appearances, but assuming that she still wants to compete, it might be a worthwhile addition to the women’s division, as Kong was one of the major reasons the knockout division was popular during her TNA run.
The Best Friends shined in their tag team contest against Jack Evans and Angelico. Particularly, Chuck Taylor is an athlete that can do it all in terms of in-ring and mic work, but until the past year or two was mostly under-appreciated for the ability he brings to the table. This is one of the reasons that the potential success of AEW is such an important part of the paradigm of the industry because it allows for athletes with the talent to be national stars to get a chance to maximize their ability to get over with the biggest audience possible. Jack Evans has been known throughout the years for his extremely risky aerial style, but he hasn’t really ever cemented himself in any particular promotion. While his in-ring style is spectacular, it can often be one dimensional and somewhat sloppy. His most extensive run was the few years that he was a tag team champion in Mexico, but the argument could be made that Triple A was in a slump during that time.
Angelico might have some potential, but at this point, he’s just a high spot wrestler, which AEW has many of on the roster already. Don’t get me wrong, Evans and Angelico are talented, but if they are going to get over on a main stream level in the United States, there has to be more than just the high spots. For example, the Best Friends work an entertaining, fast-paced style, but they are as over as they are because they have characters to compliment it.
The Joshi six women tag was a cluster, but it could serve a greater purpose for the AEW brand. Similar to the OWE working agreement that can bring Chinese wrestlers to America, booking Joshi athletes in AEW gives the group another unique aspect to promote. Sure, The Kabuki Warriors are featured on Smackdown, but there’s obviously a WWE spin on their style or at the vest least, the booking of the team doesn’t lend itself to the traditional style. In many respects, the pure Joshi style remains underrepresented in the American landscape, and could definitely be used to draw the female demographic that isn’t usually the target audience for pro wrestling organizations.
While the under card was solid, the top three matches were the bulk of the show and ultimately what it will be remembered for in the history books. Cody vs. Dustin was a feud that WWE could’ve capitalized on years ago, but missed the boat on what could’ve been a compelling brother vs. brother rivalry. Thankfully, Double or Nothing gave the Rhodes family a chance to properly tell this story and it became a classic match-up. The video package prior to the bout was very well done and set the stage for the two to have such a tremendous in-ring performance.
As Dustin spilled an unbelievable amount of blood, the two told an emotional story of two eras fighting it out to prove something in front of a sold out crowd. This bout proved that there’s undoubtedly still a place for blood in pro wrestling if it’s used in the proper context, and also that aerial high spots aren’t the only way to build an incredible match, something that often gets forgotten in the modern industry.
The embrace of the brothers after the match was a very emotional moment and it represented much of what usually isn’t seen under the WWE umbrella. When a product is over-scripted, over-produced, and sanitized, there’s a disconnect or a lack of emotion because the audience watches a performer follow the direction of the writing team as opposed to making a segment their own. Make no mistake about it, the WWE writing team gets a lot of flak, sometimes deservedly so, but they have a very difficult job with scenarios that hinder their chances of success. That being said, there’s not a way someone on the writing team could’ve produced the moment that Cody and Dustin had in the ring. It was a moment built on organic and spontaneous emotional, which is why the audience identified with it.
The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers was an incredible tag team classic. While it was a bout based on high spots, they sold the moves and everything made sense, which is truly the difference with these types of matches. More importantly, these four athletes are over as characters, which gives them the ability to be a draw beyond just the bell-to-bell action. Specifically, Pentagon has the gimmick and the skills to be a major star, and I still think that Impact Wrestling missed the boat on him when they had him drop the championship to Austin Aries a few years ago. It will be very interesting to see how these two teams translate to the main stream audience of TNT later this year.
The Jericho/Omega contest was great and the structure was another example of the brilliant career of Chris Jericho. On a show that was built around fast-paced high spots, this bout was based on a stiff and physical match, which made it stand out.
Originally, I thought Omega was going to get the victory since it seems like the brand will be built around him, but it actually makes sense for Jericho get the win. The contest was booked as a rematch of the stellar Tokyo Dome match last year so it makes sense to set up for the trilogy bout, which gives All Elite another major match to eventually promote on pay-per-view. Plus, the title match will give Adam Page more notoriety when he works against Jericho to determine the first All Elite Wrestling champion. It should also be noted that similar to how the physical match stood out on a card of high spots, the finish did as well because instead of the numerous kick outs on the event, Jericho got the win after he hit the Judas Effect elbow as a finisher that actually ended the match.
The Jon Moxley debut was a moment and the crowd reaction speaks volumes to how over he is as a top-tier performer. Ultimately, WWE brass completely underutilized him, and AEW has a chance to maximize his star power. Again, this is a situation where an option outside of the WWE that gives talent to make the most of their skills. Moxley has all the skills to be a major star and it seems like he has the chance to have the best run of his career in AEW. As mentioned, it remains to be see how the AEW brand translates to the general audience, but more than anything, Double or Nothing showed the potential for an alternative to be established in the business, which was rarely seen after Vince McMahon bought WCW. As I’ve written before, the sports entertainment monopoly led to a level of complacency and mediocrity for the McMahon empire so the potential success of AEW is undoubtedly helpful for the entire industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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