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AEW ‘Double or Nothing’ review: Return of former champ MJF highlights big night

Chris Graham
mjf double or nothing
Photo: AEW

Former AEW world champ MJF is back, and he came off heelish in a classic promo at last night’s “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view.

There was that highlight, in the first hour of a half-hour-too-long four-and-a-half-hour show.

We also got maybe the best two women’s title matches in AEW history, with Toni Storm retaining over Northern Virginia native Serena Deeb, and Mercedes Mone winning the TBS title from Willow Nightingale.

Kudos to all four for their work last night.

The opener, which saw Will Ospreay take the International title from Roddy Strong, would be a nominee for opening match of the year, if such an award were to exist.

There were some matches that didn’t need to be on the show – the trios title match between The Bang Bang Gang and Death Triangle comes to mind; we could have also done without the FTW title match, especially after the result, which just saw Chris Jericho retaining, after getting help from Bryan Keith.

Put either on a “Dynamite” or “Collision,” call them main events, and you probably shed viewers for that quarter-hour.

All in all, up until midnight ET, this was a solid show.

The final match of the night, which forced a 32-minute overrun, the Anarchy in the Arena match between The Elite (The Young Bucks, Kazuchika Okada, Jack Perry) and Team AEW (FTR, Bryan Danielson, Darby Allin), was the pro-wrestling definition of gratuitous.

It was such a trainwreck that when I sat down to write this column, I had to look up who won – as should have been expected, The Elite.

I don’t want to let the cartoon stupidity of that one (Perry ran over Allin with a van; Allin set Perry on fire with a flamethrower; The Elite bound Allin by his feet and had him suspended several feet in the air above the ring; among the long list of nonsense things that went on here) ruin an otherwise solid, B-plus or A-minus show.

But, damn.

Hits and Misses

Hit: Toni Storm retains, Serena Deeb brings out the best in the ‘Timeless’ one

I’ve loved the evolution of Toni Storm as the cranky 1940s-era Hollywood star, but to be blunt, her recent matches had been lackluster at best.

In Serena Deeb, returning after a lengthy absence due to issues with recurring seizures, Storm has her Oscar-worthy co-star.

This one was the match of the night for me, with the story being Deeb taking control by working Storm’s ankle, leading to a dramatic mid-match will she or won’t she? involving Storm’s acolyte, Mariah May, who was thisclose to throwing in the towel during a Deeb submission attempt.

Great match, and we need to see these two go at it again. And then, again.

Miss: Swerve Strickland is just not over as the world champ

Strickland won the belt from Samoa Joe at last month’s “Dynasty” pay-per-view, and spent his first few weeks as the champ getting beat down by Christian Cage and The Patriarchy.

The lack of crowd pop even for his ring intro last night tells us that Tony Khan needs to be thinking of Strickland as another interstitial champ.

Strickland is barely a mid-card guy as a worker, and he’s not all that compelling on the mic.

He’s basically a catchphrase – “Who’s house? Swerve’s house” – ripped off from 1980s hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC.

I think Khan put the belt on Strickland hoping Strickland would grow into the role.

I don’t see it happening.

Hit: MJF is back, and he’s pissed

I’m remembering the interview that Matt and Nick Jackson did a couple of years ago when they suggested that MJF, at the time AEW’s top heel, would make an even better babyface, months ahead of Khan’s disastrous decision to turn MJF face, in a not-at-all-funny comedy pairing with Adam Cole.

Cole, still recovering from an ankle injury suffered last fall, limped to the ring last night, to his original AEW entrance music, significantly, inviting the loud fan participation that followed, and Cole cut a promo that we would learn was just a setup for MJF to make his triumphant return.

The promo that MJF cut thereafter was a massive cut on the way he’d been booked last summer and last fall, as a feckless face, and signaled that the devil is back, and he’s ready to do business.

This, incidentally, is what this company has desperately needed.

Miss: Everything about that Jon Moxley-Konosuke Takeshita match

First, I lost all interest in Konosuke Takeshita after his whiny interview in which he went on and on about his time in AEW taking away his joy from being a professional wrestler.

The guy has been given every opportunity to put on banger after banger, he’s looked great in doing so, and that’s his attitude?

Second, eliminator matches need to just go away. When the champ wrestles, it’s a title match, bottom line.

Wrestling is a work; the challenger isn’t going to screwjob the champ and run off with the belt like could happen in the 1930s.

Third, I liked the story in this match, involving Takeshita working the arm injury that he’d inflicted on Jon Moxley on “Collision” a night earlier, but after a lengthy match built around that story, we got a single quasi-DDT from Moxley leading to a quick 1-2-3.

Everything about this was bad.

Quick Hits

  • Darby Allin was wearing a mask to protect his broken nose, and was obviously hobbling on that broken ankle from last month. As much as you want to admire his pluck for wanting to work, there needs to be an adult in the room to protect him from himself.
  • I get that Chris Jericho wants to make it look like he’s trying to put young guys like Hook, Big Bill and Bryan Keith over, but it’s hard not to see that he’s also using the young guys to keep himself relevant.
  • Nice tease in the Adam Copeland ring intro with “The Brood” graphic ahead of the cameo from Gangrel in the barbed-wire cage match with Malakai Black.
  • Am I the only person who thought “barbed-wire cage” meant barbed wire on the ropes serving as the cage, not a cage with a few random strands of barbed wire?
  • The story of the Mercedes Mone-Willow Nightingale match was Mone working Nightingale’s ankle. As Nightingale made her comeback, she alternatively sold and then forgot to sell the ankle.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].