The SmarK Rant for AEW Double or Nothing – 05.28.23
Live from Las Vegas, NV, which ended up as nearly a sellout after all the hand-wringing and fake “free tickets with burger” nonsense.
Your hosts are Excalibur, Taz & Jim Ross, at a ringside table for this one.
AEW International title, Blackjack Battle Royale:
Rather than staggered entry, this is just a 21 man battle royale. Sabian tries to throw Orange out of the ring at the bell and can’t get him out, and Bullet Club double-teams Ricky Starks on the apron but can’t get him out. Kommander does the first insane spot of the night with a ropewalk onto a dive on Moriarty & Bill before officially entering the match. So all the luchadors protect Bandido while he does a delayed suplex on Tony Nese, so delayed they should call it “ticket sales for tonight’s show”, and then Nese gets thrown out at 3:23. Penta takes Daivari to the apron for a Fear Factor attempt out there, but Daivari blocks it, so Fenix walks the ropes with a kick to put him out at 4:04 instead. Brian Cage finally enters the match from the floor and throws some luchadors around with a double german suplex on the Lucha Bros, but Bandido teases a press slam on him and Cage escapes it. He slams both Kommander and Bandido at the same time, but the Lucha Bros double-team him to slow him down.
The luchadors all go after Juice in the corner, but Kommander walks the ropes again and Jay White pushes him out at 6:44. You never go to the top in a battle royale, so I have no sympathy for him there. Best Friends team up to get rid of Sabian at 7:37 and stop to hug, but Big Bill lays them out while Taz explains the complex origins of the Big Bill name. Bill tosses out Chucky at 8:09 and Keith Lee throws out the Blade at 8:41. Cage slug it out with Keith Lee, but Swerve finally enters the match and goes after Keith. Butcher gets double-teamed out by the Lucha Bros at 10:00, and Trent sacrifices himself to save Orange, going out at 12:00. Bandido gets thrown out somewhere in there off screen as well. Cage saves Swerve from Keith Lee and tosses out Keith at 12:23. Dustin tries to avenge his partner, but Swerve saves Cage. Bullet Club fight with the Lucha Bros on the apron, and Penta accidentally puts his brother out at 13:23. And Starks puts Juice out at 13:47. Jay White tries to throw out Penta, but Starks spears White and tosses him out at 14:22, at which point Bullet Club pulls out Starks and goes right back to beating him up again. Well they did warn him. But Ricky is still in the match, so Bill tosses him to the apron and Starks fights his way back in again. But then a big boot puts Starks out at 15:51. Dustin hits Cage with a destroyer on the apron to put him out at 16:10, but Swerve boots Dustin out at 16:13.
Final Four: Swerve, Orange Cassidy, Big Bill & Penta
Everyone trades big moves and Penta hits Orange with the backstabber, but Bill clotheslines Penta out at 17:35. Black Hole Slam on Orange and Swerve wants to throw him out, but Bill wants the honors instead, so Swerve backs off. So Bill presses Orange to the apron, but Swerve turns on Bill and puts him out at 18:41. Orange and Swerve trade elimination teases but both hang on, and Orange hits the stunner, only for Swerve to hit the low dropkick on the rebound as both are down. Nana trips up Orange and Swerve goes up with the flying stomp and that seems to be the end of it, but he sticks Orange’s hands in his pockets to rub it in. And of course that charges Orange up and he makes the comeback with the tornado DDT and Orange Punch to put Swerve on the apron. Another punch is blocked and Swerve tries the JML driver on the apron, but Orange hangs on. So Swerve goes up for another stomp onto the apron, but he lands on Orange’s feet and Orange casually kicks his hands off to win and retain at 22:19. Mostly a normal battle royale but the finish was tremendous and perfectly suited to Orange. Orange losing the title in a battle royale after this run would have been a travesty, and losing it to Jay White in a battle royale probably would have given me heart failure. So this is the best result all around.
Unsanctioned match: Adam Cole v. Chris Jericho
Cole attacks before Sabu can even make it to the ring as enforcer, but the JAS beats him down and takes him to the floor. At this point something happens at the announce table and JR freaks out on air about it, but it’s never clarified. Meanwhile Sabu and Jericho trade chairshots, and then Sabu suddenly finds 2.0 on a table and splashes them through it. Strong fights with Hager on the floor and we’re left with Cole and Jericho so that Adam can finally do his catchphrase, and they fight to the floor while the various corner people get sent to the back. Well I’m sure Sabu was working cheap anyway. But seriously, what the hell was the point of using him if that’s what we got? Cole works the leg and tries a Panama Sunrise on the apron, but Jericho catches him and suplexes him onto the floor instead. Jericho tries a powerbomb but Cole escapes, so Jericho runs him into the stairs instead. Back in the ring, Jericho beats on him with a chair and wedges it in the corner, but he goes for the Lionsault and Cole blocks it with a superkick. Cole goes up for the Sunrise and lands in the Walls.
Cole gets to the ropes, but there’s no rope breaks, so he grabs a fire extinguisher instead and uses that to escape. Jericho had to do a convoluted turn of his body to get into position for taking the spray. Cole hits him with the extinguisher for two. Jericho catches him with a codebreaker for two and then uses the extinguisher to cool Cole off like his name is ”AEW Collision ticket sales” before finding a kendo stick under the ring next. But then Dr. Britt runs in and beats on Chris with her own stick, until Saraya saves and Britt runs her off as well. Cole tries to go up after making a comeback, but Jericho hits him with a chair and he bumps through a table on the floor. Maybe someone sprayed the crowd with a fire extinguisher and cooled them off as well because they’ve been stone dead for the whole match. Next up, Jericho finds handcuffs under the ring, but Cole DDTs him for two. So Cole chains himself to Jericho and goes up with the Panama Sunrise, which Jericho has to awkwardly take while chained to Cole, and that gets two. Cole goes for the Boom and Jericho rolls him up for two and then whips him with the chain before choking him out. Cole fights out of that and hits the Boom, and then wraps the chain around his knee and hits another one and then beats on Jericho until the ref stops the match at 18;52. Crowd boos that shitty finish out of the building. This was a complete disaster on every level. Shitty, plodding match with a bad finish, and it was supposed to turn Cole into a main eventer and failed completely. Plus they had the whole Sabu thing that amounted to nothing. They should have done the Strong match from Dynamite here instead. *1/2
AEW World tag team title: FTR v. Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal
I’m just gonna say it: I’m OK with Jeff Jarrett’s crew winning the tag team titles if it happens. In fact there’s even an argument to made for it. Taz notes that Jarrett has had “north of 25 different tag team title reigns in his career”, although to be fair 24 of them came in a two week period with Jerry Lawler in Memphis against the Moondogs. Dax trades takedowns with Lethal to start and Mark Briscoe proves to be a bit slow as referee. Lethal beats on Dax with chops in the corner, but Dax fires back until Jay puts him on the floor with a back elbow. FTR with double-teaming on the challengers and they even do the do-see-do that we were assured they don’t do, but they try stereo Sharpshooters and the heels bail. Back in the ring, Cash works the arm on Lethal, but Jay tries to switch out with JJ and gets caught by Briscoe. So FTR continues working on Lethal with a double backdrop and dumps him onto Jarrett on the floor. But then Jarrett pulls Cash on the floor and teases a chairshot, before getting caught by Mark again. This is turning into harassment.
Back in the ring, Lethal with a snap suplex and Jarrett hits Cash with a legsweep and chokes him out on the ropes. I should note that another weird thing is that they brought in Karen Jarrett without really explaining who she is or giving any backstory, just kind of expecting that AEW fans were watching TNA from a decade ago and inherently understood. Jarrett puts the boots to Cash and stops to strut, drawing bigger heat for that than any of the moves in the match thus far. Cash fights back with a back suplex but Dax is previously occupied, perhaps playing a review copy of Fight Forever, and so Jarrett gets the figure-four on Cash. Dax breaks it up with a diving headbutt, and gets the hot tag. Dax runs wild with a corner clothesline on Lethal and follows with a lariat and german suplexes, and a brainbuster for two. Lethal comes back with the Lethal Combination, but he goes up for the elbow and Dax slugs him down. Jarrett runs Cash into the post to get rid of him and Lethal chops Dax down from the top in a nasty spot. But he takes too long with the elbow and Dax brings him down with a superplex, setting up a Doomsday Device that gets two.
Sonjay makes the save and Briscoe finally kicks him out. But Jarrett grabs a guitar and accidentally kabongs Briscoe, which probably won’t end well for him. Shatter Machine on Lethal with no ref, but Sonjay Dutt won’t let Aubrey into the ring, and then Karen nails Aubrey with a guitar for the MONSTER heel heat. Everyone is out in the ring and Jeff gets the belts, but Lethal can’t get the job done and Dax piledrives him. Jarrett hits Dax with the belt and follows with the Stroke, giving the best celebration of any heel in wrestling history, but that only gets two as Briscoe finally wakes up. Jarrett’s meltdown here is 10 out of 10. So he goes after Briscoe and slaps him around, and that ends badly for him with a Shatter Machine and the pin at 20:00. Took a while to get going but everything after Sonjay’s ejection was premium level Memphis tomfoolery and shenanigans that completely redeemed the match. And after all his heat, Jarrett is the one who gets pinned again because he’s a pro. ***1/4.
Meanwhile, Ricky Starks continues his war with Bullet Club, who continue attacking him as promised, until FTR makes the save this time.
Meanwhile, Saraya is getting escorted out of the building by an intern, but Chris Jericho throws fire at him because HE’S A WIZARD. So apparently this sets up a mixed tag for Dynamite.
TNT title, ladder match: Wardlow v. Christian Cage
Wardlow overpowers him to start and beats on him in the corner. They head to the floor and Wardlow grabs a ladder, but Christian dives, so Wardlow smashes him with the ladder and finds a bunch of tables under the ring. Wardlow teases a splash from the top, but Christian runs away from that and runs him into the railing to take over. He sets up a ladder bridge and Wardlow teases a powerbomb onto that, but Christian escapes that as well and crotches him on the ladder. Into the ring, the crowd chants for the turtleneck and Christian runs Wardlow into a ladder in the corner. Christian makes the first climb, but Wardlow pushes him off to save and then climbs himself. Christian sneaks up behind Wardlow’s back, so Wardlow has to pull him off again. Wardlow with a spinning press slam onto the ladder while the announcers continue discussing Wardlow’s yam bag issues. “Might want to think about wearing a cup,” advises JR. Wardlow makes the climb, but Luchasaurus helps Christian back in to make the save. Wardlow slams him on the ladder, but he goes up and misses the swanton, hitting the ladder on the landing. So this brings AA out to provide motivation, and Wardlow dives onto the ladder to knock Christian off, breaking the ladder in the process. But then Luchasaurus comes in and chokeslams Wardlow a few times, until Arn has to save. So Arn apparently bites a piece of his thumb off in a bizarre spot as this goes completely off the rails, and then falls into a canyon and explodes for good measure. So Wardlow puts Luchasaurus onto the tables outside and does the Jeff Hardy swan dive off the ladder. This all allows Christian to make the climb, but Arn returns and pushes him over, landing in a Wardlow powerbomb, and he climbs up and retains the title at 17:06. I don’t even know what to do with this trainwreck. I guess it wasn’t boring so ***?
AEW Women’s title: Jamie Hayter v. Toni Storm
Jamie, who is apparently healthy enough to work tonight, gets attacked by the Outcasts on the floor and Toni dropkicks her arm into the stairs (“Do it again”) but Hayter wants to start the match. So Toni gets two and beats on the shoulder while Saraya pulls off the turnbuckle. Ruby takes the ref and Britt runs in and saves, while Hayter gets sprayed in the face for two, but Shida comes out and saves and Hayterade gets two. Storm sends her into the exposed steel and pins her at 3:00 to win the title, however. Well kudos to Hayter for even doing a match there but there was just nothing to this one and it was completely smoke and mirrors. 1/2*.
AEW World Trios title: The House of Black v. The Acclaimed & Daddy Ass
Max Caster wins the internet with “Buddy getting cucked by a guy named Dominick”. You can shut down Twitter right now. I feel like this match probably should have been advertised in advance as well, even though it’s been heavily implied for weeks. There is no Dealer’s Choice for this one because the Acclaimed are confident in their abilities as a trio. Black and Bowens trade sit-downs and the Acclaimed double-team Buddy, as Max suplexes him on the apron for two. Black comes in and the Acclaimed work him over in the corner, but Malakai counters Scissors Me Timbers into a kneebar. This allows the House to attack and beat on the faces outside. Bowens fights out and slugs back on Black, but hits a neckbreaker onto his own injured knee and he’s got no partners to tag. So Black gets another kneebar and Buddy hits him with a flying knee off the top for good measure. Black stays on the knee, but Bowens fights up and comes back with a superkick, only for Black to cut him off before the tag. Buddy goes back to the knee and Brody just wallops Bowens with chops in the corner. Cannonball gets two. Bowens fights them off, but Buddy trips him up, so Bowens has to shove each one out of the ring in turn and finally makes the corner, only for Brody to take out Billy Gunn. So Bowens hits one more superkick on Buddy and it’s hot tag Daddy Ass. He runs wild with the One and Only on Black and fameasser on Brody, and then another one for Buddy. But Black hits him with the kick from behind and pins him to retain at 15:23. Solid match, but I don’t know what happened to Max Caster. Hopefully he’s not hurt again. **1/2.
TBS title: Jade Cargill v. Taya Valkyrie
Taya goes for the Road immediately and Jade escapes, and they slug it out before Taya hits the sliding lariat and Jade bails to the floor. Wait, so THIS match is the one with crowd heat? Taya tries a dive and hits Smart Mark Sterling instead, allowing Jade to take out Taya on the floor and take over. Back in the ring, Taya manages a sliding german suplex in the ropes in a neat spot, but Leila provides distraction and Jade gets a suplex on the floor. Back in, Jade with a spinebuster for two. They fight to the floor again and Jade drops her onto the railing, and then back in for a surfboard. Taya fights out of that, but Jade puts her down with clotheslines and follows with a sleeper. Taya escapes with a lungblower and wraps up Jade with an STF, and then curb stomps her for two. Jade rolls her up for two, but Taya gets Road to Valhalla for two. Jade then gets a kick and finishes with Jaded at 8:52. Well it only took three years to finally get a decent false finish on Jade. This was one of the better Jade matches, but a weak ending, though. **1/2. And once again Sterling declares that no one is left to challenge, and this finally brings out Kris Statlander to answer the open challenge.
TBS title: Jade Cargill v. Kris Statlander
Statlander beats on her with elbows in the corner and the running boot, and tries a delayed suplex, but Jade hits her with the pump kick and goes for Jaded. But Kris escapes that, hits the Big Bang Theory, and THANK GOD someone has finally beaten Jade at 0:48 to win that fucking title. You can complain that Statlander won with no build but Jade isn’t Honky Tonk Man and no one buys tickets to see her. She made one too many open challenges and it finally bit her and now she can finally move on. I’ve been told that top stars need to face adversity before they finish the story. Anyway this was the first thing tonight to really feel like a big deal and it was sorely needed.
AEW World title: MJF v. Jungle Jack Perry v. Sammy Guevara v. Darby Allin
Sammy and Tay announce that Tay is pregnant via Sammy’s cue card gimmick, which explains why she hasn’t been wrestling lately. However Sammy’s booking continues to be bizarre as they insist on making him a babyface while everyone in the world hates him. Also I feel bad for their poor kid already. So they’re main eventing with the Anarchy match and that’s 100% the right call. All three geeks attack Max to start and throw him out, and everyone battles to a stalemate while he’s gone. Max mockingly applauds them and gets thrown out again as a result, but he catches Perry with a clothesline and then does his mocking dive routine before finishing with a Rude hip swivel instead. But then Darby tosses him and hits a dive, and then Perry hits a series of topes onto them, and Sammy finishes with a shooting star press onto everyone.
Back in the ring, we get a wacky stacked up superplex spot in the corner, which takes out MJF as a result, and Perry hits Sammy with a poison rana for two. Darby runs wild with elbows in the corners and the stunner on MJF to set up the SIDE HEADLOCK OF DEATH for two. Back to the floor, as Sammy superkicks Perry and catches a diving Darby with a cutter, and then he goes up in the ring and frog splashes MJF for two. MJF runs wild now, hitting Sammy with the powerbomb for two and then using the side headlock on Darby for two. JML Driver on Darby gets two. MJF stops to trash talk Darby and the crowd and everyone trades strikes and they’re all down. And then everyone hits the moves of their mentors, leading up to MJF hitting Perry with a Crossroads for two, drawing “Oooooooos” from the crowd.
So MJF stops and cuts a promo, offering Sammy another chance to lay down and claim the money for his new family. So Sammy accepts, but MJF goes for the pin and Sammy cradles for two. GTH follows, but Max reverses out and Sammy gets the Walls of Jericho. And then Darby puts Perry into a Scorpion Deathlock, but everyone escapes. So we get a wacky four-way submission spot next with everyone in a circle of submissions until Max escapes that. He tries a piledriver on Darby, but that turns into a series of Canadian destroyers with Perry left standing. Then he jumps off the backs of Sammy and Darby, hits MJF with another destroyer, and that gets two. Jack with a tiger driver on Sammy for two. Darby yanks him out, however, and runs him into the railing, and then clotheslines Perry and MJF into the front row to take them both out.
Back in the ring, Sammy cuts off Darby on the top rope and hits a Spanish Fly down to the floor, taking out Perry and Max in the process, and everyone is down and out on the floor. Back in the ring, they slug it out, but Max wins with eyepokes, so they all superkick him and work together again. Cutter from Sammy, Code Red from Darby, and running elbow from Perry, but they toss MJF and trade cradles instead of going for the pin on Max. So the three challengers do a crazy three-way near-fall exchange and Sammy takes out Perry with a DDT, leaving Darby to hit a Code Red on Sammy for two. He goes up to finish, but Max crotches him and brings him down with an Awesomebomb. That gets two and everyone trades near-falls off that as we end up at a stalemate again. Sammy clears the ring and goes after MJF, but Max goes low and loads up the ring. So Darby hits him in the head with the skateboard and hits the Coffin Drop, but he has to do the headlock takeover and thus only gets two because Perry has time to save. So Darby and Jack slug it out and they’re both down, but Max brings the belt in and Perry takes him out and ends up with it. So Jack has the soul-searching moment and then decides not to use it, and Darby gets the Last Supper on him for two. Sammy storms in with the GTH on Perry, but he goes up and Darby takes him out, but then does a Coffin Drop and lands on the title by mistake thanks to fast thinking by Max, allowing MJF to pin him with the side headlock AGAIN at 27:56. What an amazing running joke that is. I know there’s some second-guessing about whether this should have closed, but they might not have been able to follow Anarchy and then the show would end on a flat note. This way they got a chance to deliver their classic match first, and we know the Anarchy match is gonna deliver, so it’s win-win. *****
ANARCHY IN THE ARENA: The Elite v. The Blackpool Combat Club
And they all go brawling into the crowd right away while a live band plays “Wild Thing”. Hangman crotches Danielson on the railing and runs him down and into a garbage can. Moxley dives of the announce table and hits Kenny (Taz: “So much for the memo.”) while Don Callis joins us on commentary and hides from Kenny. Hangman and Bryan slug it out in the ring and the ref is bleeding, and Hangman hits Bryan with a lariat and then reveals that the eye is fine. He grabs a screwdriver, but Yuta clips the knee to save and the BCC beats him down until the Bucks make the save with chairs. The Elite slug away in the corners and hit quadruple superkicks to clear the ring. This sets up quadruple topes and the damn band is STILL playing. So they all fight up the ramp and the singer mouths off the Bucks, so they superkick him to finally end the song. Back in the ring, Kenny chokes out a bloody Omega with a piece of the table and they slug it out while Matt hits Yuta with the northern lights suplexes down the ramp. Claudio saves, so Nick dives off Yuta and takes out Claudio. Moxley is left alone in the ring with the Elite and they beat on him with chops, but Mox fights them off and they go fighting into the crowd again.
Danielson chokes out Hangman with his wrist tape while Mox sends Kenny into the giant poker chip in a reference to the first Double or Nothing, revealing that it’s covered with barbed wire on the back. So Mox suplexes Kenny onto that, while the others fight into the concourse and back to the ring. Moxley finds a fork and goes all Abdullah on Omega while Claudio does a Giant Swing on Matt in the concourse. In the ring, Yuta beats on Hangman with a chair while Bryan bloodies up Nick Jackson on the floor. We cut to Claudio and Matt fighting outside of the arena, where Claudio tosses him into the back of a truck and then follows with a piledriver, which should probably take care of Matt for a while. Also there’s a leaf blower in the ring, so there’s that. Mox and Yuta hit Kenny with a Hart Attack onto the leaf blower, but Mox tries a piledriver on Hangman on the apron and he reverses to a Deadeye out there. Omega goes all Captain America with a trashcan lid as a shield, but Claudio just catches it and blocks it to take him out. Nick runs wild with kicks on the BCC, but Moxley catches him with a Gotch piledriver for two. Mox with a half-crab while Kenny tries to kick him in the head to save, and Mox just tells him to fuck off. So Moxley holds the crab on Nick and Yuta applies a crossface on Nick at the same time, but Matt returns from the truck and uses an EXPLODING SUPERKICK to break it up. Well then. The old pyro on the foot trick.
Hangman with a buckshot lariat on Yuta, which only gets two. So they pull off Matt’s EXPLODING BOOT and drop his bare feet onto thumbtacks, and everyone does big moves in a crazy sequence. Danielson with the bu saiku knee and elbows on Kenny, but Matt saves. So the BCC puts tacks in Matt’s mouth and Claudio hits him with a forearm and Yuta gets a german suplex for two. Hangman saves and reunites with Omega for a slugfest, but Danielson decides to fight them off alone. So Page hits the Deadeye in the tacks, and Kenny follows with the One Winged Angel for two, but Yuta makes the save. Tony: “I’ve seen a lot of shit but nothing like this.” Kenny with Yuta Can’t Escape, but Callis leaves the table and distracts Kenny, allowing Yuta to stab Hangman with the screwdriver. But Kenny goes after Callis, and Takeshita runs in and turns heel, taking out Kenny with a running knee and allowing that little shit Wheeler Yuta to pin him with the Seat Belt at 26:56 to win this thing. Good for Takeshita, now he can be a WINNER for a while. And now the Elite need a fifth man for the rematch, I guess. BUT WHO CAN KENNY OMEGA TRUST NOW? WHO I SAY? Hopefully someone beautiful to cancel out the ugliness of the BCC. Also they would have been nuts to try to follow this with anything, it was nuts and one of the all time great brawls. *****.
Someone actually emailed me yesterday asking for examples of show-saving matches, and here you go, as the Statlander win and then the two main events took this from a very middling show to an all time classic PPV. It’s been a hell of a year for wrestling PPVs so far!