AEW gave us too much of a good thing with its “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view Sunday night, with a show that stretched to the five-hour mark by the time CM Punk defeated “Hangman” Adam Page to win the AEW world title.
It’s a good problem to have, in a way. Even the pre-show match, featuring the debut of HookHausen, was a must-see, and the popcorn matches – Death Triangle vs. House of Black, Darby Allin vs. Kyle O’Reilly, the 10-man tag featuring Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley – each could make a case for being matches of the night.
But, man, five hours of a good thing is … five hours of a good thing.
AEW is to a point where it can legitimately put on two-night pay-per-views.
I mean, consider that this one didn’t even have FTR, and buried Danielson and Moxley in a multi-man tag.
Let’s run down the winners and losers on the night.
Match of the Night: Blackpool Combat Club, Eddie Kingston and Santana & Ortiz vs. Jericho Appreciation Society
Going in, this looked to be a filler match, basically something to do for guys currently not in a main-event program.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that this one was going to be hard to follow.
They literally tore the ring apart. There was barbed wire, a stereo ladder dive onto tables, a bloody Kingston, looking like a survivor from a slasher flick, dousing Jericho and Bryan in gasoline.
And for some reason, Moxley’s music playing endlessly on a loop.
Somebody won; it doesn’t matter who.
Adam Page finally lived up to the moment
I’ve been critical of the “Hangman” throughout his six-month reign as AEW champ, because it never felt to me, even with his two-match series with Danielson in which he ultimately emerged victorious, that he lived up to being a world champ.
Credit due: he lived up to the moment, ironically in defeat, Sunday night.
It seemed foreordained going in that Punk was going to win the belt, but there was a nice near-swerve toward the end.
A ref bump left Page with an opportunity to retain by using the title belt as a weapon, but after a crisis of conscience, he dropped the belt, set up his Buckshot Lariat finisher, only to end up in a Punk GTS for the 1-2-3.
The next step for Page seems to be him going over to the dark side, which is something that he needs.
A run as a heel could elevate the “Hangman” in the direction of him into being a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin-like dark hero.
The women get their due
No titles changed hands, but we got a trio of solid matches from Thunder Rosa-Serena Deeb, Jade Cargill-Anna Jay and Britt Baker-Ruby Soho.
Rosa-Deeb was another Match of the Night top nominee. Deeb, in defeat, showed why she should be at the main-event level for some time to come.
Cargill-Jay did what it needed to do, and with the arrival of Stokely Hathaway as the new mouthpiece for Cargill and her baddies, thank god, the awkward pairing of Cargill and Mark Sterling is no more.
Baker-Soho in the Owen Hart Foundation final seemed destined to be an elevation for Soho. Soho, in defeat, may be headed to a run as a heel. She was at her best leading the Riott Squad in WWE, so that would be a logical next step.
What’s up with MJF?
Wardlow won the blowoff match with former mentor MJF in a squash, which, if you didn’t know about the supposed backstage drama with MJF, felt natural, because Wardlow might be the most over performer in the company right now.
The backstory, though, includes weeks of MJF supposedly being upset at his booking, his contract, god knows what else, and reports emerged Saturday that he no-showed a fanfest event.
I’d argue that MJF no-showing a fanfest event seems natural for how MJF handles himself, and that the reports of him being unhappy with his booking and contract status feels to me like great kayfabe.
Even with the squash loss, which reminds me of Brock Lesnar going over John Cena at SummerSlam a few years back, MJF is still a top AEW world title contender, who has three wins over Chris Jericho, and notably, a 1-1 record against the new champ, Punk.
There’s plenty of time between now and “All Out” to begin a build for Punk-MJF III, or a longer build toward either “Full Gear” in November or “Revolution” early next year.
One approach would be to position MJF the way WWE used Punk back in the “Pipebomb” era, as a guy who threatens to win the title and take it with him on his way out the door to WWE.
Just sayin’ here, MJF is under contract until Jan. 1, 2024, and he ain’t goin’ anywhere after that.
Young Bucks do the job
For all the criticisms of the Young Bucks, they’re doing jobs these days, putting FTR over a few weeks back in a classic on “Dynamite,” then putting over the Hardys Sunday night.
Both were logical steps – FTR, despite their absence from the show Sunday night, is the most over tag team in the company; and the Hardys are a close second, and it has to be factored in that their shelf life is limited, given their age.
A next step could be an FTR-Hardys dream match, though both teams are faces, not that Tony Khan seems to care much about booking faces vs. faces, and heels vs. heels.
Back to the Bucks: they may be due an on-air break soon. They’ve kind of done what they’ve needed to do for now after elevating FTR and the Hardys.
Their next step is likely a run with the AEW trios titles when Kenny Omega makes his inevitable return.
- Athena, the former Ember Moon, and Rush both made debuts, along with Hathaway, the former Malcolm Bivens.
- We finally got the payoff with the Julia Hart storyline with her finally joining House of Black. Feels a bit too Alexa Bliss for me, but it will be interesting to see where it goes.
- Adam Cole was the surprise winner of the men’s Owen Hart Foundation final over Samoa Joe. Boy, did he need a win, so, good booking here.
- I like what they’re doing with the Sammy Guevara-Tay Conti team. They’ve taken the real heat that AEW fans had for Cody and Brandi Rhodes to a new kayfabe level.
- Paige VanZant had the most underwhelming debut of a former UFC fighter in recent memory. There’d been talk of VanZant going through weeks of training in advance of “Double or Nothing,” but if that’s true, it might be best to pull the plug on her now. She was that bad.
- Kyle O’Reilly looked so good in his win over Darby Allin that I’m feeling bad for Bobby Fish, because O’Reilly clearly deserves a singles run.
Story by Chris Graham