Familiar Faces and Murderer's Row Lineup Help AEW's 'Double or Nothing' Live up to Hype

So many variables and obstacles remain for AEW if they intend to compete against the worldwide leader in WWE, but Double or Nothing stands as a phenomenal opening show for wrestling’s newest promotion.
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Dean Ambrose is ready for his second act.

No longer part of The Shield, Ambrose is ready to change the world of wrestling as the newest addition to All Elite Wrestling.

The former WWE star, now known as Jon Moxley, capped off AEW’s inaugural Double or Nothing pay per view with his surprise appearance.

Taking place from a packed MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Chris Jericho defeated Kenny Omega in the main event. The show delivered an extremely fluid pace, featured a couple of surprises and offered clean finishes in every match.

Called by the familiar tenor of Jim Ross, the show was covered with standout matches, particularly Cody Rhodes-Dustin Rhodes, the Young Bucks-Lucha Bros. and Jericho-Omega.

There were legends (Bret Hart unveiled the world title), surprises (Diamond Dallas Page, Awesome Kong) and explanations as AEW unveiled its own rule system. There will be a merit system in place that rewards victories, and unlike the customary five-count in tag team wrestling following a tag, AEW will enforce a 10-count. There were also the obligatory pokes at the WWE, including their penchant for enhancing their attendance records and Cody Rhodes using a sledgehammer to destroy a faux Triple H throne, but the primary focus was centered on the action in the ring.

So many variables and obstacles remain for AEW if they intend to compete against the worldwide leader in WWE, but Double or Nothing stands as a phenomenal opening show for wrestling’s newest promotion.

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• “Hangman” Adam Page won the Casino Battle Royale on the pre-show for a future AEW world title shot

• Kip Sabian defeated Sammy Guevara on the pre-show

• SoCal Uncensored’s Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky defeated Cima, T-Hawk and El Lindaman

• Dr. Britt Baker defeated Awesome Kong, Kylie Rae and Nyla Rose in a four-way in AEW’s first-ever women’s match

• Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor defeated Jack Evans and Angelico

• Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe and Ryo Mizunami defeated Yuka Sakazaki, Aja Kong, and Emi Sakura in a six-women tag team match

• Cody Rhodes defeated Dustin Rhodes

• The Young Bucks defeated Pentagon and Fenix to retain the AAA world tag titles

• Chris Jericho defeated Kenny Omega to earn the right for a title shot at the AEW world championship

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Here are my takeaways and some first-person insight from a night that will live on in pro wrestling history.

Double or Nothing concluded with a murderer’s row, as the final three matches were Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes, the Young Bucks vs. Pentagon and Fenix, and the main event of Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho.

The crowd, which was electric the entire night, loved the sight of Cody Rhodes wrecking a mock Triple H throne with a sledgehammer. But Cody’s match against Dustin Rhodes was especially interesting because the crowd was also so heavily invested in the 50-year-old Dustin, who has been prominently involved in the business as Goldust since 1995.

Legendary referee Earl Hebner worked the emotionally charged match, which saw Cody’s mean streak on full display. The old wrestling theory that “red equals green” was also an integral part of the psychology, as Dustin was busted up early in the match and his face was covered in crimson by the end. Rhodes’ blood, fittingly, covered the entire AEW canvass.

Cody won with a Cross Rhodes, leaving a bloodied Dustin in the center of the ring before returning to ask him to team with him in July against the Young Bucks at AEW’s Fight for the Fallen show. The two brothers embraced, adding a perfect ellipsis to their ongoing story.

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Dr. Britt Baker pinned Kylie Rae to win a four-way match that also included Nyla Rose and a surprise opponent in Awesome Kong.

“The women of AEW caught the attention of women all over the world,” said Baker, who spoke with Sports Illustrated following her victory. “We painted a picture for a very bright future, so to infinity and beyond for women’s wrestling and All Elite Wrestling.

“This company—Cody, Brandi, the Bucks, Tony Khan, Kenny—values the women just as much as the men. The women are larger-than-life stars, and because they portray it that way, the fans are equally as excited. The fans went insane for our match, and I still have goosebumps thinking about it. It was a very special night and a very special moment.”

WWE’s Sasha Banks even sent out a complimentary tweet during the match, which Baker appreciated.

“We value them, they value us,” said Baker. “It’s great to have friendly competition.”

The next goal for Baker is clear: become AEW’s first-ever women’s champion.

“You can bet you’re a-- I will be gunning for that,” said Baker. “I want to be the best, I want to be great and I want to be the champion on top of this company.”

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“Hangman” Adam Page won the Casino Battle Royale, and he will now challenge Chris Jericho for the right to become the first-ever AEW world champion.

Page is quickly developing into one of wrestling’s breakout stars, and the creative team at AEW is wise to feature the talented 27-year-old. Page was originally intended to wrestle PAC, but was moved into the battle royal after PAC backed out of the show due to creative differences. Page overcame a storyline leg injury to win, eliminating Maxwell J. Friedman for the victory.

“His victory was a complete fluke,” MJF told Sports Illustrated. “Page is a joke. Everyone knows I’m the future face of AEW.”

MJF was absolutely tremendous on the microphone during his world title promo during the pay per view, and there is an argument to be made that he is one of the best talkers in the business.

Page is unlikely to defeat Jericho for the AEW world title, and MJF may be a reason why. Nevertheless, Page plays the underdog role extremely well, and there will be a groundswell of support for him to become the company’s first-ever world champ.

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SoCal Uncensored set the tone for the show with the opening match of the pay per view, which was an offensively focused affair against Oriental Wrestling Entertainment’s Cima, T-Hawk and El Lindaman.

Scorpio Sky is a big part of AEW’s future plans, and he has two aces in the hole considering he works with Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. SoCal Uncensored is destined for an AEW tag team title once those titles are unveiled, but Sky is the one in the group who will be positioned as a future world champ.

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The broadcast team of Jim Ross, Alex Marvez, and Excalibur added a tremendous amount of value to Double or Nothing.

Ross’ voice was necessary during the emotional Cody Rhodes-Dustin Rhodes match, and Excalibur is a wrestling encyclopedia. Marvez also played an important role, but the presence of Ross cannot be understated. In addition to his role helping AEW land a major network deal with WarnerMedia, Ross is the voice of pro wrestling and instantly adds credibility to the new promotion.

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On the subject of credibility, the decision to have “The Hitman” Bret Hart come to the ring to introduce the AEW world title segment was brilliant.

Hart appearing on the show will not do him any favors with the powers-that-be in WWE. But having Hart, a legendary world champ, introduce the new belt is a moment that will forever stand as a stamp of approval on the importance of the AEW world title.

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The Young Bucks defeated the Lucha Bros. in a match where all four wrestlers were bona fide stars.

Representing Lucha Libre AAA, Pentagon and Fenix added a worldwide flair to Double or Nothing. The caliber of maneuvers was breathtaking, but there was psychology included in the work. The story of the match saw the Bucks, who showed no ring rust after very little in-ring work over the past five months, use their entire repertoire and expansive double-team work to defeat Pentagon and Fenix.

The match was a tribute to tag team wrestling, yet added in new elements of high-flying and double-team work. There is no ceiling to AEW’s tag team division, which is an area the WWE has spent a considerable amount of time ignoring over the past decade.

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The Chris Jericho-Kenny Omega match opened with a well-done homage to Jericho’s different characters, ultimately spotlighting the role he is currently playing.

Omega also did not disappoint in his introduction, and enhanced by Jim Ross on the call, the match opened with the anticipation befitting a main event.

The match itself was a brawl similar to their no-disqualification encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January 2018. Jericho’s backdrop that sent Omega outside the ring into a table looked excruciating, but reflected the manner in which the two stars looked to deliver an unforgettable main event.

The main event is the most important match of the night, but it was no easy task to follow the rest of this card. Omega did an incredible job selling for the 48-year-old Jericho, helping cement his argument for best wrestler in the world.

Jericho blocked Omega’s V-trigger, until ultimately succumbing to the move, but Jericho would not allow Omega to hit his signature One-Winged Angel. Only one person has ever successfully kicked out after Omega hit his signature One-Winged Angel finisher, and the story of the match saw Jericho avoid the maneuver.

Jericho then won the match with his new Judas Effect elbow, and he will return to Japan to wrestle IWGP Kazuchika Okada in two weeks as the undisputed face of AEW.

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Immediately following the main event, Jericho cut a great heel promo insulting the crowd and putting himself over as the driving force behind AEW.

CM Punk, who was broadcasting Cage Fury’s CFFC 75 mixed martial arts event yet was still considered a possible surprise arrival, did not make an appearance to interrupt Jericho. But Dean Ambrose did.

Ambrose, who is now known as Jon Moxley, hit Dirty Deeds on Jericho, the referee, and then brawled throughout the crowd with Omega. Moxley then dropped Omega with another Dirty Deeds atop the oversized Double or Nothing casino chips, then finished him off by dropping him from the top of the stand.

Moxley’s addition to the company not only gives AEW another star, but also adds tremendous depth. The top two feuds in the company are now Chris Jericho-Hangman Page and Kenny Omega-Jon Moxley.

AEW has arrived.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.