WrestleWatch- AEW Double Or Nothing 2022
By Mick Robson
AEW PPVs always feel more special than WWE ones. That's not just me being a blind AEW shill, because I've loved WWE since 1998, but the fact remains that the quality of them is always high, holding them quarterly gives more time for anticipation, and we generally get a lot more time for matches to be built up and for long-term stories to breathe.
That said, this was a heavily loaded card, with a couple of late additions bringing the final line-up to 13 matches. Apparently it had something to do with an NBA game, but as someone who gives zero Fs about sports- besides MMA- I think it's way too much for a wrestling show. To me, the limit should be 10, and at that, 2 matches on the pre-show, 8 on the main card.
Double Or Nothing had an extra bit of intrigue added late as well. MJF, who is one of the featured matches for this event against Wardlow, no-showed his meet and greet in Las Vegas on Saturday. He couldn't be contacted by phone, and Sean Ross Sapp reported that a flight was booked for MJF back to New Jersey. Details have been unclear, but it's believed to revolve around Max's contract situation. He believes he should be getting paid more- but his contract isn't up until 2024. He signed on the dotted line... but this drama has thrown one of DoN's biggest matches into jeopardy.
Elsewhere on the card, we have the finals of the Owen Hart Tournament, as Adam Cole takes on Samoa Joe, and Ruby Soho battles Dr Britt Baker DMD. In the main event, CM Punk looks to complete a storybook comeback, challenging "Hangman" Adam Page for the AEW Championship. And we also have an "Anarchy In The Arena" match... whatever that is.
Time for some anarchy of our own on The Arena Media! Let's do this!
Buy-In Pre Show- Hook & Danhausen def. Tony Nese & Smart Mark Sterling (at 5:20)
Thoughts: The odd couple of Hookhausen were a riot. Right from the start, Danhausen joins Hook for his corner pose with a big cheesy smile, and the Red Hook badass tries his hardest not to break character. Hook does his thing with his judoka-centric background, with great throws and sweeps, and Danhausen even gets a couple of shots in, unlike his AEW squash debut by Nese. Danhausen busts out a hurricanrana and a Hook-esque overhead throw at one point, but in the end, Hook destroys both Nese and Sterling, then allows Danhausen to get the pinfall to a great crowd response. Simple, but very nice. Very evil. (**)
Match 1: Wardlow def. MJF (at 7:30)
Thoughts: Well, I'll be damned! After all the weekend drama, MJF actually showed up! He did seem a bit subdued, and Wardlow absolutely destroyed him in an elongated squash. MJF tries to use the Dynamite Diamond Ring, but to no avail. Wardlow delivers something like 10 powerbombs, and Maxwell is stretchered out post-match. I feel like the match would have looked something like this no matter what, but would it have been THAT one-sided if it wasn't for the shit on Saturday? I'm past the point of thinking it's a work, but I do hope MJF and Tony Khan can resolve their differences. TK refused to comment on the matter in the post-show media scrum, which definitely adds legitimacy, but MJF is too great a wrestler for AEW to lose. In fact, on a Tweet that asked "what AEW wrestlers would you sign to lifetime contracts?", Max was one of my picks. (*1/2)
Match 2: The Hardys def. The Young Bucks (at 19:15)
Thoughts: This exceeded my expectations. It's not the same Hardys as 20 years ago, and both of them are clearly struggling these days, but a combo of them rising to the occasion and the Bucks being brilliant made this a really fun watch, worthy of the "dream match" billing. The obvious story was told of the Bucks being a step ahead due to being younger, more athletic and active etc, but they genuinely had to slow down at points for the veteran team. That said, it really picked up down the stretch, with Jeff hitting the mad Swanton on the stairs that he attempted against Darby Allin the other week, before the Twist of Fate/Swanton combo in the ring for the victory. (***1/2)
Match 3: AEW TBS Championship- Jade Cargill (c) def. Anna Jay (at 7:25)
Thoughts: Both ladies looked great in their entrances- I particularly liked Anna's nod to her original "Star of the Show" character- but the match wasn't too much to write home about. Nothing was terribly botched or anything, just didn't flow like their Rampage match did a few months ago. Anna did get a nice near fall rolling through on a Jaded attempt, and Smart Mark Sterling got taken out at ringside in a fun moment. The match ultimately ends with a top rope Jaded after a distraction by Stokely Hathaway! (fka Malcolm BIvens) (**1/2)
Post-match, the Baddies square off with Anna, Kris Statlander... and a debuting Athena (fka Ember Moon)! Stokely advises Jade and the Baddies out of the ring, but getting two AEW debuts in one segment is cool. Both Stokely and Athena especially should be great assets to the All Elite roster.
Match 4: The House of Black (Malakai Black, Brody King & Buddy Matthews) def. Death Triangle (Penta Oscuro, Rey Fenix & Pac) (at 15:35)
Thoughts: This was welcomed spotfest nuttiness, especially after the previous match didn't deliver all that much bell-to-bell. Everyone in this match was hitting their biggest strikes and high spots- save for one worrying bit where big Brody King didn't get the height he needed on a flip dive to the outside, smashing himself on the apron on the way down. This one came to a close when Pac was setting up for the Black Arrow and the lights went out. When they came back, a black-clad Juila Hart sprayed mist into Pac's eyes. The Black Mass follows and it's over. Glad we FINALLY got the Julia heel turn after months of dragging it out. (***3/4)
Match 5: Men's Owen Hart Tournament Finals- Adam Cole def. Samoa Joe (at 12:30)
Thoughts: Wild to see a feud that kicked off a year ago in NXT be featured on Double or Nothing. Joe was GM William Regal's enforcer, while Cole was the former NXT Champion and still a top dog on the black and yellow brand. Cole targeted the arm and shoulder of Joe to try and combat the significant size difference. Some Bobby Fish interference gave Cole the tainted victory in the end, which I've seen some say feels cheap due to the tournament honouring Owen Hart... but I've seen Owen work as a dickhead heel many times, he would have gotten a kick out of it. (***)
Match 6: Women's Owen Hart Tournament FInals- Dr Britt Baker DMD def. Ruby Soho (at 13:20)
Thoughts: This had a great sense of occasion, with Fozzy guitarist Rich Ward playing Baker to the ring, only for Ruby to one-up her by having Rancid there to do a live rendition of her theme song. It kicked ass. The match was pretty good, if not spectacular, as Ruby was able to fight off the Lockjaw and score some big offense with her No Future kick. Ultimately the finish was a reversed victory roll- which I'm fairly sure was a homage to Bret vs. Owen at WrestleMania X. Good stuff. (***1/4)
Post-match, Martha Hart comes out to a Mikey Rukus Owen Hart theme, with Tony Khan at her side, to present Baker and Cole with the Owen Cup and their own championship belts. The fans give her a very warm welcome, which she seemed touched by, and she talks a bit about her late husband's career before formally congratulating the winners. Britt and Adam were in full gracious babyface mode for this, which I wouldn't be a fan of normally, but given the occasion, it was fine.
Match 7: Mixed Trios Match- American Top Team (Scorpio Sky, Ethan Page & Paige Vanzant) def. Sammy Guevera, Tay Conti & Frankie Kazarian (at 12:30)
Thoughts: Boy, oh boy. So who were the babyfaces here? Sammy and Tay are clearly heels, coming out through the Codyvator in Maleficient inspired outfits and using a ridiculous amount of tongue to make out. Which kinda makes ATT defacto faces... but they never did anything to turn face apart from being opposite the obnoxious lovebirds. And Kaz is with Sammy and Tay, but seems annoyed by it all. The action was decent for the most part, with Sammy, Scorpio, Ethan and Kaz being their usual great selves between the ropes. This was Vanzant's pro wrestling debut, and her moves looked rough, simple clotheslines and a back suplex. A handspring elbow looked okay-ish. Bonus points for the TNT Champ Scorpio being the one to get the pin following a TKO. As a result of ATT's victory, Sammy and Kaz cannot challenge for the TNT Championship as long as Scorpio Sky is champ. A decent enough match marred by Vanzant's green-ness and the silliness of Sammy & Tay, who carry on like lovesick teenagers who have never had a relationship before. (***1/4)
Match 8: Kyle O'Reilly def. Darby Allin (at 9:50)
Thoughts: Bit of a pointless bonus match, but I'll never complain too much over a Darby PPV match. A scary moment early on as he appeared to clip his feet going for a suicide dive, tumbling into O'Reilly in an awkward way. A second dive moments later was caught with a guillotine choke. Later, a Coffin Drop was caught into a rear naked choke. The finish saw a couple of penalty kicks, followed by the King Kong knee drop, giving Cool Kyle the win in something of an upset. I don't quite buy Kyle as a singles guy, think he's far better suited to tag teams, but I can't deny the action was well done here. (***1/4)
Match 9: AEW Women's Championship- Thunder Rosa (c) def. Serena Deeb (at 16:55)
Thoughts: This was very intense and technical, which made sense given the talent involved. Hard strikes and submissions, but it took the crowd (and myself) a while to warm up to it. The drawbacks of an overly stacked card. They slow each other down with some leg work, but it's a high impact move that does it, with Rosa connecting with the Fire Thunder Driver to retain! (***)
Match 10: Anarchy In The Arena- The Jericho Appreciation Society (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Matt Menard, Angelo Parker & Daniel Garcia) def. Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, Eddie Kingston, Santana & Ortiz (at 22:45)
Thoughts: To start this match, Justin Roberts simply said, "Ladies and gentlemen... shit is about to hit the fan!" And he couldn't have been more right. This was madness. 10 men brawled around the arena, we had weapons, blood and even music playing through the first third of the match as Mox's theme just kept playing (shoutout to New Jack). Jericho eventually broke the soundboard to shut it off. They even broke the top rope off! Kingston came in with a can of petrol, looking to set Jericho on fire, but Danielson stopped him. Moxley went through a barbed wire table, taking him out of the equation. Danielson fought bravely, but eventually was caught in a violent half crab/choke using the ropes and broken turnbuckle. Violent chaos which gave a real boost to this PPV! (****)
Andrade El Idolo is backstage talking to Jose about how the Andrade Family Office are a bunch of losers. He brings in a new ally- it's Rush from Ring of Honor. I think I've seen him once or twice, but I'll be honest, with the suit and sunglasses on, I thought it was Jeff Cobb for a minute.
Match 11: AEW Tag Team Championship- Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus (c) def. Ricky Starks & Powerhouse Hobbs, and Swerve Strickland & Keith Lee (at 17:15)
Thoughts: This was just as action-packed as the previous match, albeit in a very different way. The chemistry of the big man/little man teams worked fantastically, with some great tandem moves and athleticism. Starks busted out a damn Flair Strut while walking along the top rope. Keith Lee hit an awesome flip dive to show Brody King how it's done. But finally, the AEW originals nailed the Thoracic Express to retain the titles! Also of note, Christian Cage got involved a few times to stop Team Taz cheating, which the crowd actually booed. Might we see Christian vs. Jungle Boy soon, with the veteran sticking his nose in a little too much? (***3/4)
Match 12: AEW World Championship- CM Punk def. Hangman Adam Page (c) (at 25:40)
Thoughts: The comeback story is complete! After 7 years away, and 9 since he held the gold, CM Punk is once again a world champion! Interestingly, no bells and whistles for this main event, where others had fancy entrances or outfits. I guess the big title fight sold itself. Hangman did a great job selling some insecurities and anger, stopping to mock Punk or play to the crowd at certain times, giving the veteran openings. They each did some finisher stealing- and although Punk's Buckshot attempts were pretty rough, the rest of the match was relatively smooth and absolutely dramatic, as it felt like the result could really go either way. Ultimately, it was a "crisis of conscience" that costs Page, as he contemplated hitting Punk with the title belt after a ref bump. He opts to go for the Buckshot instead, but the hesitation gave Punk time to gather his wits and counter with the GTS! The crowd was split during the match, but get right behind Punk in the post-match celebration, as he seems to be genuinely tearing up and overcome with emotion to close the show. (****1/4)
Hard to fault the wrestlers at all on this show, they absolutely brought some stellar efforts and we had some great matches. Apparently Tony Khan has never heard of the phrase "less is more". We signed off after a 4.5 hour main card, with a 1 hour pre-show, and then because I'm a masochist, I watched the post-show media scrum which ran about 2.5 hours. I just wanted to see what Tony would say about MJF, but when finally asked, gave a "no comment". Darby vs. O'Reilly, ATT vs. Sammy, Tay & Kazarian and even Death Triange vs. House Of Black all could have been saved for Dynamite or Rampage, making this an easier to digest show. Luckily, the live crowd were still there for Hangman vs. Punk- that wasn't the case at Revolution with Hangman vs. Adam Cole. No all time classics here, no huge angles, and the MJF issue looms like a dark cloud over this one... but I can't deny how special seeing Punk win the gold was.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Until next time, take care.