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CM Punk Becomes the Face of AEW at ‘Double or Nothing’

For the first time since 2013, CM Punk is a world champion.

In the newest chapter of a legendary career, Punk defeated Hangman Page in the main event of Double or Nothing to become the new AEW champion.

After Page couldn’t find the killer instinct to finish Punk by hitting him with the belt, Punk reversed a buckshot lariat into the Go To Sleep for the victory. For years, Punk championed himself as “The Best in the World.” He now has the belt to prove it.

Page has a long, successful future ahead of him, but this is Punk’s time to lead the company. After returning to wrestling last year after more than a seven-year absence, Punk has worked multiple compelling programs, especially with Eddie Kingston and MJF, to put himself in this position. He is the biggest star in the company, and now will shoulder the responsibility of elevating a three-year-old company to new heights. There are multiple exciting opportunities for Punk as champ, particularly against Bryan Danielson. He is the right choice to lead the company, beginning with the Forbidden Door pay-per-view in June with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

A new match was introduced at Double or Nothing with Anarchy in the Arena. This was a no-disqualification, no count-out affair that pitted the Jericho Appreciation Society against Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz. It went into the crowd and backstage, plus featured a busted ring, barbed wire, and a copious amount of blood. In the end, Jericho stood tall, adding a whole new layer of legitimacy for his faction.

In signature AEW fashion, there were also multiple surprises. Rush, Stokely Hathaway, and Athena—who was Ember Moon in WWE—are all now part of AEW. Rush is teaming with Andrade, a partnership with plenty of history that is now filled with potential, especially as a tag team. Hathaway is a great addition, and he will be the perfect advocate for Jade Cargill, and the acquisition of Athena further bolsters the roster for the AEW.

Here are the results from Double or Nothing:

  • Wardlow defeated MJF
  • The Hardys defeated the Young Bucks
  • TBS champion Jade Cargill defeated Anna Jay
  • House of Black defeated Death Triangle
  • Adam Cole defeated Samoa Joe to win the men’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament
  • Dr. Britt Baker defeated Ruby Soho to win the women’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament
  • American Top Team’s Scorpio Sky, Ethan Page, and Paige Van Zant defeated Sammy Guevara, Tay Conti, and Frankie Kazarian
  • Kyle O’Reilly defeated Darby Allin
  • AEW women’s champion Thunder Rosa defeated Serena Deeb
  • The Jericho Appreciation Society defeated Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Santana, Ortiz, and Eddie Kingston in an Anarchy in the Arena match
  • The Jurassic Express defeated Team Taz and Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland in a three-way to retain the tag team titles
  • CM Punk defeated Hangman Page to become the new AEW champion

The pay-per-view opened with Wardlow demolishing MJF. This was seven-and-a-half minutes of Wardlow pummeling MJF, and he used 10–yes, 10–powerbombs to win the match. It marks the biggest moment of Wardlow’s career, and per the story line, the victory makes him an official member of the AEW roster. MJF made headlines all weekend over reported contract disputes with Tony Khan. Considering he is signed through January 1, 2024, it is highly unlikely that this was MJF’s swan song with AEW. There was no doubt over who was winning, but the speculation over whether or not MJF would work the match added a great deal of interest to the match.

In a rematch from 2017, the Hardys defeated the Young Bucks. This match picked up momentum the further it went, and it was easy to see the mutual respect among the four performers. Both teams played their greatest hits, but this was not pure nostalgia. The Hardys are beginning to show their age, but they overcome Father Time as the two teams created new spots and a very compelling finish. Unlike their ROH ladder match five years ago, this one was won by the Hardys.

Jade Cargill continued her undefeated streak, defeating Anna Jay to retain the TBS title. The two never got on the same page during the match, but the key moments happened in the aftermath. Stokely Hathaway, who was Malcolm Bivens in NXT, was introduced as Cargill’s new manager, and Athena arrived to have a staredown with Cargill. That moment would have benefited from a staredown between Athena and Cargill in the ring instead of the very crowded scene that also included Kris Statlander, Jay, Red Velvet, and Keira Hogan, but Cargill-Athena should be a really strong program.

Double or Nothing had no shortage of matches, with a dozen in total. Surprises were a part of the evening—in addition to the arrivals of Rush, Hathaway and Athena, there was a twist after the lights went out in the House of Black-Death Triangle match. Julia Hart stood in the ring and cost Death Triangle the win, aligning herself with Malakai Black. That was followed by the finals of the men’s and women’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament, which saw Adam Cole defeat Samoa Joe and then Dr. Britt Baker outlast Ruby Soho.

The Baker-Soho match stood out as one of the best on the card, with some genuinely gripping near-falls and an all-around great pace. Dr. Martha Hart, Owen’s widow, gave a speech afterwards to crown the winners. While there were some touching moments, the segment ran long—which didn’t help the momentum on an already long pay-per-view. Surprisingly, Cole and Baker never had the chance to cut distinct promos following their victories, which is a missed moment for AEW.

The crowd’s dislike of Sammy Guevara and Tay Conti continued in their six-person tag with Frankie Kazarian against American Top Team’s Scorpio Sky, Ethan Page, and Paige Van Zant. This was Van Zant’s in-ring debut, and there were times when it felt like she was playing a pro wrestler instead of owning the role. After Kazarian deserted Guevara out of sheer frustration, ATT won the match. The next match saw Kyle O’Reilly defeat Darby Allin. It was very good, yet one that was unable to connect with the audience. O’Reilly was on the cusp of becoming NXT champion while Paul “Triple H” Levesque was still overseeing the brand, but he has been unable to connect in the same manner thus far in AEW.

Beginning with Thunder Rosa defending the women’s title against Serena Deeb, the final stretch of the pay-per-view helped bring Double or Nothing to a higher level. Rosa defeated Deeb in a competitive, physical bout, and then came the ensuing chaos of the Anarchy in the Arena match. The victory for Jericho is meaningful, as it creates the potential for a program against Bryan Danielson, as well as further ignites the conflict between Danielson and Kingston, who could not co-exist as teammates. With the win, Jericho also enacted a measure of revenge against Jon Moxley, who dethroned him two years ago as AEW champion.

The Jurassic Express retained the tag titles in a three-way tag that included Team Taz and the combo of Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland. The match was outstanding, as well as a reminder that Ricky Starks needs to be a singles champion. With a blend of intelligence, athleticism, and charisma, he would give the TNT title entirely more meaning than it currently has in the Scorpio Sky/Frankie Kazarian/Sammy Guevara program.

Double or Nothing ran too long, but it did have its share of standout moments. It would have benefited from a tighter, shorter card, as it felt like an eternity between the opening bout and the main event. The final stretch of matches ensured this was a memorable pay-per-view, especially the technical brilliance from Rosa-Deeb, the unforgettable gore of the Anarchy match, and the title bout to close out the night.

There was no more significant moment at Double or Nothing than Punk regaining his place atop the wrestling world. His reign as champ will help define the present and future of AEW, which hopes to have found its signature star.

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