How Good Was Double or Nothing? | AEW Roundtable #12
Welcome to the AEW Dynamite Roundtable, where Pro Wrestling Musings' contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points arising from AEW Dynamite. This week is doubling up as a Double or Nothing preview. Please note writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
-Jacob Burns: @SaltyAyyycob [JB]
-Joe Cabana: @JoeProWrestling [JC]
-Tim Morehouse: @TimmayMan [TM]
-Dan: @WrestlingRhymes [DH]
1) Serena Deeb beats Riho to retain the NWA World Women’s Championship
[TM] Great opener with a clear narrative. Serena worked Riho’s knee to set up her (knee-focused) finisher. I just want to say that I loved being able to see the natural light on the stage and performers. It really added something unique to the opening few bouts.
[DH] A complete performance by Serena Deeb who added some wonderful character work to her always superb in-ring technical skill. Riho played the perfect babyface and the in-ring storytelling matched that dynamic perfectly. And Christ the finish was brutal! More of Deeb on Dynamite please.
[JC] Don’t have much to add other than to say that Riho was an amazing choice as the first babyface to wrestle in front of a packed house and that Serena Deeb should be on Dynamite much more frequently than before her injury. Great match, where Deeb had a gameplan and executed it with no remorse.
2) ‘Hangman’ Adam Page defeats Brian Cage.
[TM] It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the crowd loves Hangman. This match was the hoss-fight that I was hoping Miro/Archer was going to be. Heavily implied face turn seems to be on the horizon for Cage who, based on the crowd’s reaction, should do fine as a face. One little bit I liked was post-match when Ricky Starks was confronting Cage, Ricky kept pointing to his neck to get out of beating. Get well soon Ricky, hope to have you back in the ring.
[DH] An electric opener to the main show that further convinced me that Brian Cage is a much, much better wrestler than I give him credit for. The story was all about Hangman and his bond with the crowd, but Cage in both the match and post-match shenanigans more than played his part. Next stop Hangman v Kenny? Now we have fans back, I think it’s something we need to see.
[JC] No, it should not surprise anyone that the crowd would still love Hangman, but I have to say it felt really good to see it again. I actually was a little worried he’d have, if not gone cold, at least gone colder during the pandemic, but all those worries are now gone. The match was so much fun, Brian Cage will have some seriously good bouts with Will Hobbs in the near future I expect, and Hangman could possibly be looking at All Out to be his crowning moment in AEW.
[JB] I think it gets lost just how good Brian Cage is at telling a story in the ring. People see a big muscle guy lacking charisma and assume he’s a one note performer, but this match definitively proved otherwise. The story of this match was entirely about Cage. Between Taz on commentary getting progressively more frustrated with Cage refusing to work full heel, to Cage “botching” a Buckshot Lariat nearly costing himself the match. Hangman got the win, but The Machine got the character progression.
3) The Young Bucks retain the AEW Tag Team Championships against Eddie Kingston & Jon Moxley.
[TM] *sigh* The Bucks really are the greatest, aren’t they? I really don’t want them with the belts but they do make fantastic heels. This was the match of the night for me and the crowd was red-hot, Mox and Kingston were way over, and the Bucks were just complete bell ends.
[DH] Probably my favourite match of the night. The Wild Things entrance was a sight to behold and the pure hatred the Bucks have begun generating is absolutely priceless. The little nuggets sewn throughout this match such as the aping of the Shield, the shoe-based violence and MOX’s fairly significant blood-loss all built to a superb and surprisingly definitive finish. And they even had time to further Kaz’s story as well. Brilliant stuff from soup to nuts.
[JC] The Young Bucks are the greatest tag team of all time and Jon & Eddie are the most likeable tag team I’ve seen in a while, so yeah, I also liked this match a lot. Great taunting, great moments, great stories, great action, great wrestling, just a great time.
4) Casino Battle Royale won by Jungle Boy.
[TM] Kind of a mess but still fun. The crowd hated seeing Max Caster get eliminated. I really thought Christian Cage was going to win but was pleasantly surprised when Jungle Boy took it. The crowd chanting along to “Tarzan Boy” was them willing their boy to the win.
[DH] As Tim says, a decidedly shonky affair but when you get a finish like that it’s hard to care too much. I didn’t even think about Jungle Boy winning it but it was absolutely the right decision and it is worrying to think of what cruelty he will have inflicted upon him by the Elite in the next couple of weeks. Quick shout out to Lio Rush as well as it was great to see him back. Definitely offers something unique and I hope he continues to be used in AEW.
[JC] The booking of the match itself felt weird to me as well, Caster was not the only elimination that felt like it took the air out of the crowd, the timing for some of them were simply odd, they didn’t create heat for anyone either, just bummed the crowd more and more. So that, and some technical issues with the screen and the music brought it down a notch, but I still had a good time, Lio Rush was a cool surprise and they definitively went with the right guy to win it.
5) Cody Rhodes defeats Anthony Ogogo.
[TM] There seemed to be a lot of online blow-back to this match, I thought it was fine. Ogogo was fine, Cody was fine, it was just fine. Hope to see Ogogo develop into something more down the line. The introductions got the biggest laugh out of me due to Cody’s ridiculous outfit.
[DH] First the plus-side...I thought Ogogo looked great. A very impressive range of moves for such a rookie and all delivered with a sense of theatre that you simply cannot teach. For me though the match went far too long, and it was clear the crowd hadn’t bought into the flag-shagging match build. Personally, I’m fine with Cody winning as I wonder whether they will need to turn Ogogo face immediately based on the reactions he’s been getting, but I understand why some can see it as a big roadblock in his development. The next step for him is crucial.
[JC] It seems lost on a lot of people that this was Anthony Ogogo’s first actual wrestling match, his fourth overall match but the first one he was expected to show us he’s more than just a one hit wonder. I think Ogogo did very well, he showed me there’s enough there for a potentially great career. I also didn’t mind Cody winning, I sincerely doubted he would, especially on Memorial Day weekend, Ogogo will live to fight another day, I don’t understand the doom and gloom from certain corners of the Internet. Weakest match of the night on a night of very good action.
[JB] As expected, Ogogo already looks like a competent wrestler. Also as expected, this match was good. It was an objectively good match that I hated. The work-rate was good. The story was... there. I just don’t like this match. And it’s not even that I hate Cody. I still like Cody. I just thought this match was hastily built with one of the most basic storylines, unaltered. And then the match was just a match. I almost wish they would have gone all the way and had done a flag match. At least that would have justified “The American Dream” Cody Rhodes. The match they had didn’t reflect the build at all. It was just so... budget.
6) Miro successfully defends the TNT Championship against Lance Archer.
[TM] While it didn’t set the world on fire, I still enjoyed this. Miro really looks unstoppable and you have to wonder who will be a credible option to de-throne him (face Brian Cage perhaps). The bit with the “snake” was gross but you could do worse for cheap heel heat.
[DH] Never really felt like this got going, perhaps partly as it didn’t have any real build and the rushed Jake the Snake angle didn’t cover that up. Again, personally I was fine with the snake-yeeting as it’s a bad guy doing it and we all know it was probably just a bag of socks, and Miro does seem to be set up for a long reign now. But for me, a bit of a disappointment overall.
[JB] This was the kind of match you put on when you know that the two competitors are going to have more matches against each other in the future. I don’t think this feud is over. They didn’t really have much of a story going in other than being to psychopaths who wanted to hurt each other. But now that they have an act one to build off of, future matches will have that extra kick that this match needed.
7) Britt Baker becomes the new AEW Women’s Champion after overcoming Hikaru Shida.
[TM] In my Dark: Elevation recap I commented how Baker was going to rely on reversals and submissions and if those failed, she had fouls via Rebel to fall back on. Well Rebel dropped the ball on her half so it was up to the Doctor to win on her own. Great stuff. Shida looked good in defeat and her championship reign may not be eclipsed anytime soon.
[DH] This match was very rough around the edges, but I think that gave it more of the feel of a fight which I enjoyed a lot. The ending in particular was incredibly exciting and ultimately, we got the winner that I think we all wanted (sorry Shida). Britt Baker is a star and this underlined that fact.
[JB] This was a great match that could have been an amazing match if it had a few more minutes of back and forth. Like the Archer/Miro, these two left a lot in the tank. Also, like Archer/Miro these two didn’t have much of a tangible storyline heading into this match. But now that Baker has taken the belt away from Shida, they both have a history that can be built on in future matches.
8) Darby Allin & Sting defeat Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page.
[TM] I was so nervous for Sting. The Icon pulled it off though. He hit all the classics and looked to be in top shape for a man of his age. Things are clearly not over between those involved and I look forward to the Allin/Page feud.
[DH] Genuinely wasn’t looking forward to this very much but it was one of the matches of the night in the end. Ethan Page looked brilliant as a maniacal heel, particularly when he hurled Darby Allin across Jacksonville, but obviously the man of the moment was Sting. How a man of 62 can look so up-to-speed with his younger competitors is beyond me but he absolutely nailed it. Sting for the AEW Championship? No... this isn’t WWE. But what a way to reassert his status as a legend.
[JB] The ways they managed to incorporate Sting into this match was insane. It was Ted Talk on maximized minutes. All in all, Sting maybe did 4 or 5 things, but they all added to the match significantly. And the way Darby tells stories is something else. When Sting was trying to lift his dead carcass into the ring to avoid being counted out, only for Darby to throw himself under the bottom rope under on instinct. That’s just one of those little things that separate a good worker from a mega star.
9) Kenny Omega beats Orange Cassidy and to retain the AEW World Championship.
[TM] Sure the ending got a little too cute and WWE-like with the interference and belt shots but the story in the ring was tremendous. When Cassidy capitalized on PAC’s Avalanche Falcon Arrow the crowd reaction was priceless. I also loved Don Callis in this both as commentary and his involvement in the end. The look on Cassidy’s face at the end spoke volumes and I hope that this isn’t leading to a more “serious” Orange.
[DH] After the opening exchanges I was a bit worried as this took a while to get going, but when it did it was an absolute banger. I could watch Kenny and PAC go at it all day long and thought their sequences were incredible at time, but everyone was left talking about Orange Cassidy. At the start of the pandemic, I think there was an argument that he could have been made AEW Champ based on his popularity. The reaction to his near-falls suggests that if AEW ever did go down that route, they’d have a sure-fire crowd-pleaser with the belt.
[JB] Remember when Pac and Orange Cassidy had a match at Revolution 2020 and it was the second-best match of the show, only overshadowed by a legitimate all time classic? Okay, now imagine that but with Kenny “BY GOD” Omega. This match was the meeting of three different ideologies. Kenny Omega’s “Best Bout Machine’ brand of storytelling, where every spot had nuance. Facial expressions and body movements, adding intention and emotion to even basic moves. PAC’s snappy, spiteful offense, where each move is presented as a personal f*** you to whoever’s taking it. And OC’s lethargy, only coming alive for hope spots, letting the crowd know that he’s every bit as motivated as either man, even if his everyday presentation might say otherwise.
The best part of this match was how well OC was used, without sacrificing what makes him special. A lot of people were saying that he was going to have to cut back on the goofiness if he ever wanted to be seen as a main eventer. But this match proved otherwise. They worked the hands in the pockets spot perfectly to counter a top rope snap dragon. They even had him casually stumble in front of PAC who was about to charge at Omega. It was such a small thing. But it was so honest to who the character of Orange Cassidy is. If they ever decide to put the top title on him, the fans will be there for it.
10) Sammy Guevara pins Shawn Spears to win Stadium Stampede for The Inner Circle against The Pinnacle.
[TM] Not as good as last year’s. FTR/P&P didn’t really do much and just kind of disappeared. Is Cash just stuck in an elevator somewhere? The Hager/Wardlow bit was something out of a Seagal movie with Wardlow apparently willing to attempt murder via icicle. Spears/Guevera was cool, especially the bit in the chair storage room. Once things spilled over back into Daily’s Place the crowd came alive and the Inner Circle celebration at the end was worth it.
[DH] This just wasn’t the right match for the night in my humble opinion. On a PPV where the crowd noise added 50% to everything, to have a match that wasn’t in front of the crowd for the majority seemed an odd call. There were some very entertaining moments, and on its own merits I did enjoy this. Plus, the ending in the ring was absolutely the right call. But I don’t think Stadium Stampede makes for a great live PPV match-type and I’m also now very worried about what happens with the Pinnacle.
[JB] Shawn Spears had a chair lair. The Chairman was sitting in what was basically a cathedral of chairs. Like a Dark Souls boss. If operatic music had started playing, and a health bar appeared saying “The Chair-Corrupted Man”, I really don’t think anyone would have minded. Just watching Sammy Guevara do combat rolls around him for several minutes, slowly whittling away at his health bar while chairs are flying off the walls at him, until Spears reaches his second form, and the chairs finally fully corrupt the weakened man. He becomes a hideous chair demon of twisted flesh and mind.
With the music becoming more intense, and Sammy Guevara on his last estus flask, he and the “Chair-Man” transition to the second boss arena. The chair-rotted beast, now with Sammy on his last legs, sets up for his most devastating chair-based attack. But when the last drops of sweet estus hits Sammy’s tongue, giving him the final burst of energy, he needs to slay the curse-fallen Spears.
I personally think that’s what they should have done, but I understand why they didn’t. The production cost would have just been too damn high. But what they did do was fun, and I’m glad Sammy got to look great in the main event of a PPV.
11) What did you make of Double or Nothing overall?
[TM] It was one of the best PPVs I’ve seen. The last 15 months have been really difficult and having a feel-good show like Double or Nothing was uplifting in ways that the best entertainment can be. Despite the fact that heels went over in some of the title matches, the show ended on a high note and they sent the fans home happy. It also served as a precursor to AEW’s “Welcome Back” tour as they go back on the road this summer.
[DH] At one stage it really looked like it might be one of the better PPVs of all time, and I still think it will go down as one of the most remembered with the fans giving us the atmosphere that WrestleMania failed to generate. It lost its way slightly in the middle, and I don’t think Stadium Stampede 2 was the way to go, but there won’t be a PPV that gets as good a reaction as this in 2021 and AEW deserve a huge amount of credit for that.
[JB] This PPV was special. Having fans back in the building at full capacity was such a beautiful sight. And AEW could have easily put on a sub-par show, and that crowd would have elevated it to another level. But this card on its own was another level, and the crowd only raised it higher.
[JC] Pro wrestling never left, but this event still felt like the return of professional wrestling. I know there will come a day where I’ll take the wrestling crowd for granted again but I will really try my best not to, this show was legendary.