So, a week after a pretty good WWE show capped off by a real turd in the punchbowl of a main event finish, let’s strap in and prepare for what should be a real make or break event for AEW.
As Chris Jericho said on his podcast preview of the show, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and whilst AEW’s forthcoming TV show in the autumn will be the first impression they make on more casual fans, for the hardcore crowd Double Or Nothing will be that first impression – and it’s the buzz from that fanbase which has made AEW so hot to begin with. If the show sucks and the buzz cools off, it’s hard to see how that doesn’t add up to a major stumble on the part of AEW.
I wrote this post while watching the day-before-the-show press conference and weigh-in Friday evening. The idea of having a press conference associated with big events like this as a vehicle for storytelling is something AEW’s borrowing from NJPW, but the idea of including a weigh-in really helps with the “oh yeah, this is meant to be a quasi-sport isn’t it?” thing that AEW wants to have going on. I’ll add thoughts on the weigh-in as they come to me under the relevant matches.
As before, I’ll be on Discord (see the Fake Geek Fun Pit link to the right) if anyone else who’s watching live wants to join me.
Sonny Kiss vs. Brandon Cutler vs. Ace Romero vs. Glacier vs. Brian Pillman Jr. vs. Sunny Daze vs. MJF vs. Joey Janela vs. Dustin Thomas vs. Billy Gunn vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Michael Nakazawa vs. Jungle Boy vs. Isiah Kassidy vs. Marq Queen vs. Luchasaurus vs. Shawn Spears vs. TBA vs. TBA vs. TBA vs. TBA (Preshow, Casino Battle Royale – Winner Fights Winner of Omega vs. Jericho For AEW World Championship)
So the idea of a Casino Battle Royale seems to be a concept for a sort of condensed Royal Rumble – you have 21 competitors, the first 20 enter in blocks of 5 at a time, then lucky number 21 comes in at the end.
There’s a lot of speculation circling around about that number 21 spot, and with good reason – it’s nicely designed to put a big fat spotlight on whoever that is, if there’s a surprise signing like CM Punk or John Moxley that’d be a good place to put them for a big pop and maybe drive some last-minute PPV sales.
In terms of who’s on this card, there’s a slate of folk I recognise from GCW (Jungle Boy, Joey Janela), people I recognise from MLW (Ace Romero, MJF, Brian Pillman Jr. who’s basically working an eerily spot-on take on his dad’s old gimmick with Teddy Hart and Davey Boy Smith Jr. on MLW as a new Hart Foundation), so I guess we have some insight into which indies AEW are paying particular attention to.
Indeed, my understanding is that Pillman and MJF actually have contracts with MLW and are being allowed to appear on AEW’s show with permission from the MLW powers that be. That sounds like a good match to me – I could see far worse fates for MLW than becoming an official or unofficial developmental territory for AEW, and perhaps with the talent-sharing we’ll see Jim Cornette obliged to call a Young Bucks or Kenny Omega match for maximum lols.
Other names on here I am less familiar with, but I’m interested to learn about. By the way, that Shawn Spears? You may recall him working WWE under another name – it’s Ty Dillinger, still a perfect 10, so probably entering at the tail end of the second batch.
In terms of predictions: I predict massive surprises in those unannounced competitors, I expect at least one of them will be a big deal, I suspect that big deal will end up being the opponent for Kenny or Chris when the time comes to crown the first AEW World Champ.
Kip Sabian vs. Sammy Guevara (Preshow)
Sammy Guevara I’ve never had the pleasure of watching, but Kip Sabian had a pretty significant role in the recent World of Sport revival as one of their tag team champions. Though I recall the name, I really don’t have any strong impressions of his work from then, which I guess is a sign of some of the faults of World of Sport.
They gave this match a bit of build on the weigh-in show, having Guevara and Kip Sabian being the first two wrestlers who actually confronted their designated opponents face-to-face (and indeed Kip was the first to actually get weighed in, the “weigh-in” aspect of the evening having been treated as a bit optional with some guests getting weighed in and some not – those segments tending more towards the “press conference” end of the spectrum than the “weigh-in”). Kip weighed in at 180 pounds, Sammy at 185, so they’re quite well matched and we’re probably looking at a cruiserweight-style match.
Now, as well as being home of World of Sport, ITV is AEW’s UK broadcast partner, and the preshow will be air on ITV4 before the main show is aired on ITV Box Office, so I wonder what Kip’s role here says about the future (if any) of World of Sport and the relationship between AEW, ITV, and WOS. Indeed, Sammy claimed that Kip was only present because of the TV deal in a promo he cut on him. (Note to Sammy: if you tell someone in the crowd their dad sucks a cock, you can’t then turn around and say that it’s OK because it’s 2019, because if you truly believed it was OK, why’d you go for the insult in the first place?) Looks like Sammy’s working heel and Kip’s working pissed-off face looking to avenge a sneaky kick to the balls Sammy inflicted on him at the weigh-in for this one; I think Kip goes over to please ITV.
Best Friends vs. Angélico and Jack Evans
I don’t know these people so I dunno what to expect.
SoCal Uncensored vs. Strong Hearts
I don’t know Strong Hearts and I’ve not seen Daniels and Kazarian working in conjunction with Scorpio Sky, but I like Daniels and Kazarian enough that I want them to win this one.
Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki, and Emi Sakura vs. Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe, and Ryo Mizumani
A brace of women who I understand are big names on the joshi scene, suggesting that AEW intend to cast their net in that direction. That’s going to be interesting given WWE’s tentative looks in that direction, but in this one match you already have twice the joshi numbers that WWE can muster (if you only count people signed to WWE who are currently used on television). Given that this is likely to be more of a showcase than a a storytelling exercise, I can’t make much of a prediction.
Young Bucks (C) vs. Lucha Bros. (AAA Tag Team Championship)
This is an interesting match for what it says about AEW’s willingness to showcase partner promotions’ titles in their shows – again, perhaps something influenced by the main movers’ time in NJPW, where Revolution Pro Wrestling belts were competed for at Wrestle Kingdom. It’s also continuing a story arc which the Bucks set up earlier this year when they went down south of the border and raided AAA for the belts.
There’s been talk both on here and on the Before the Bell documentary ITV put together to introduce UK viewers to a lot of the storylines about how the Bucks might have a bit of ring rust as a result of the time they’ve been taking off to set up AEW, and my hunch is that the Bucks lose here. Not only does it show humility to book yourself to lose at an important event, it also gets AAA their tag titles back (they won’t want them gone for a long stretch when the Bucks can’t exactly commit to a regular AAA schedule on top of their AEW work), puts an incredible team on the card in the form of avenging ex-champs the Lucha Bros., and of course they’ll want to get on with establishing an AEW tag championship sooner rather than later.
Britt Baker vs. Nyla Rose vs. Kylie Rae
Whoever wins this has surely got to be a contender for first AEW Women’s Champion, right? Kylie Rae seems to be the one that AEW are keen for us to get to know – they had her come out at the weigh-in (to the Pokemon theme music, no less!) and be all smiley and help a fan propose to his girlfriend, so I guess that’s our face. (One who’s quite keen on hugs and being nice to people, contentious statements by Cody about Bayley’s gimmick be damned!) Nyla Rose will also be making a bit of history here, since this is likely the most prominent pro wrestling match that an (out, transitioned) trans competitor has taken part in. My hunch is that Kylie Rae takes it.
Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes
No Goldust, no Stardust, and no Dusty to knock their heads together and get them to play nicely, this could get nasty.
“Is this where the senior citizens stand?” asked the freshly future endeavoured Dustin when he came out at the weigh-in, and generally joked about how old he was. Rumour has it that this might be a retirement match – with figures like Dean Malenko signing on with AEW in a coaching/road agent role, I can see Dustin pivoting to such a role sooner rather than later, particularly since he said at the weigh-in that as far as he’s concerned, there’s nothing more he can do in wrestling which will top fighting Cody at Double Or Nothing. Generally, the thrust of Dustin’s promo here was to sow seeds to fuel that speculation, whilst keeping the door open just a crack for Dustin to pull off an upset, fuck Cody up, and keep going just a little longer… and he popped off his shirt to reveal a T-shirt reading “Dusty’s Favorite”.
The story of the match is that Cody wants to kill the Attitude Era, and Dustin is a veteran of that and so has to be put out of his misery. That’s leaning a little into smirking at WWE for it’s own sake, a bad habit which AEW would be well-advised to avoid (especially when Billy “Mr Ass” Gunn himself is in the battle royale!). Being stuck in nostalgia for the Attitude Era is a problem that WWE has – but focusing too much on that drags you into the same trap. Nonetheless, given Dustin’s stage in his career, it’d be hard not to have an age vs. youth angle here. My sense is that Cody wins and Dustin has a dignified retirement in one last match free from the luggage of the Goldust gimmick.
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho (Winner Faces Casino Battle Royale Winner For AEW World Championship)
This is a match we already know from NJPW… but to be fair, it was a damn good match there, and the contrast between how NJPW handled this and how AEW handled it will be interesting. My hunch is that Jericho gets his win back from Omega to keep the feud going and to stop it being too one-sided – and also to allow whoever wins the battle royale to face off against the man who, ultimately, probably has the biggest name in AEW as far as people outside of the hardcore wrestling audience go.