Tuesday, May 28, 2024

AEW Double or Nothing 2024 Review: MJF Returns!

AEW's first 6th Annual show was quite a marathon of a PPV, with 10 matches, a major return, and lots of big moments.  A 4-1/2 hours for the main card alone, it was overlong, often overindulgent, and a whole lotta fun.

Double or Nothing opened, surprisingly, with Roderick Strong vs. Will Ospreay for the International Title.  And once again Mr. Ospreay proved why he's a nigh-impossible act to follow.  This was a lean 17 minutes but they packed a ton into it, and Strong made sure to show everyone he's no pushover.  The Undisputed Kingdom tried to get involved multiple times but Ospreay mostly beat them to the punch, except for one terrifying moment where Taven and Bennett gave him a Doomsday Device-type move on the outside and Ospreay appeared to land right on his forehead.  Amazingly though, Will was fine and this spot was planned so he could sell the head injury the rest of the match.  Wardlow tried to interfere midway through but was once again caught by the referee and Strong's whole stable was ejected.  Late in the match, Don Callis on commentary instructed Will to revive the Tiger Driver '91, but Will hesitated and got caught.  After loads of counters, nearfalls and signature offense, Will evaded End of Heartache and hit a Hidden Blade and Stormbreaker to win the title.  Excellent opener and from a pure wrestling standpoint the best thing on the show.  ****1/2

Suddenly Adam Cole came out and cut a promo saying how much Vegas sucked and how he should be checking on his friend Roddy but instead he's stuck here.  He produced the Devil mask from his back pocket and made an ominous comment about how he'll unleash the Devil once he's 100% again, and then it happened.  The giant screen showed a POV video representing MJF's recent past, and then MJF emerged on the ramp, dressed like 2002 Triple H, and confronted Cole mid-ring.  Cole begged off and went for a hug, and Max obliged but promptly kicked Cole square in the nuts, followed by a brainbuster.  MJF then cut a scathing promo, saying he gave Cole the one thing he'd never given anyone, trust, but that was the last time he'd ever do that.  He said he's now driven by hate.  He said the days of him doing kangaroo kicks and bromances are finished and the Devil mask can go to Hell (he then Ric Flair elbow dropped it).  Max then revealed that he signed a new AEW contract and pulled up his pant leg to show an AEW logo tattooed on his calf, and paraphrased The Wolf of Wall Street, saying he's "never fucking leaving."  The crowd went apeshit for this and it was a great segment (though I'd have maybe put it later in the show).  MJF should now have a few months of feuding with Undisputed Kingdom on his way to a rematch with Adam Cole.

In the unenviable position of following a fantastic opener and super-hot promo segment was the Bang Bang Gang defending their Trios Titles against Death Triangle, but they got the crowd back by the end.  This was action-packed and showed off Pac's incredible abilities.  After a crazy sequence where everyone hit each other with big moves, Pac climbed to the top and prepared to hit Black Arrow, but out of nowhere came another returning star, Juice Robinson, who pushed Pac off the top rope into Jay White's waiting arms.  White nailed Pac with the Blade Runner to retain.  Another excellent match, and I hope this leads to White vs. Pac one-on-one.  ****

The Women's Title match was next and while Toni Storm and Serena Deeb struggled initially to engage the crowd, they built to a pretty great final five minutes.  Deeb outwrestled Toni for the first act, and at one point while Deeb had Toni in a submission move, Mariah May on the outside teased throwing in the towel, but Luther stopped her.  But when Toni rolled to the outside it was Luther holding the towel and thus Toni accused him of betraying her.  After some nearfalls both women ended up on the turnbuckles, where Toni hit a Storm Zero from the middle rope, followed by a regular one for the three.  Deeb was presented as the babyface here but with the betrayal tease it sure feels like Toni will finally turn babyface when Mariah finally turns on her.  Anyway, very good match that won an uphill battle with the crowd.  ***3/4

Next up was a match that probably could've been saved for Dynamite, Orange Cassidy vs. Trent Beretta.  This was very good but probably the least memorable bout on the show.  I was very happy to hear "Where Is My Mind" as Cassidy's theme again though, as that song fits him so much better than "Jane."  Beretta's goal here was to outwrestle Cassidy but it ultimately backfired, as Orange countered a gogoplata into a flash pin.  Post-match Beretta looked stunned and he dejectedly walked to the back, snubbing Renee Paquette and pushing Rocky Romero out of the way.  Solid match but it got lost in the shuffle here.  ***1/4

Probably the weakest match on the show was Chris Jericho vs. Hook vs. Katsuyori Shibata, but this FTW Rules match was also dumb fun.  The two babyfaces ganged up on Jericho early, but Jericho grabbed a bag from under the ring and dumped it out to reveal dice.  The three then took countless bumps on these painful objects.  There was an awkward table spot where Hook did a DVD on Shibata, through Jericho, through a table, but it took a long time to set up and Jericho just had to lay there with his arms ready to catch them.  Hook had the match won with Redrum but Big Bill ran down to break it up.  Hook then T-boned Bill through a ringside table and Bill avoided being impaled by the table legs, by like two inches.  Shibata and Hook then each put Jericho in a submission hold but before he could tap a masked man ran down and sentoned Shibata through a trash can.  Jericho hit Hook with Judas Effect and pinned Shibata to win.  The maked man revealed himself to be Bryan Keith, who is apparently the newest Learning Tree member.  This was silly but certainly not forgettable.  ***

Jon Moxley vs. Konosuke Takeshita was next and played out very differently than I expected.  Mox's left arm was wrapped heavily from an attack the night before, and Takeshita worked the arm over for much of the bout.  This gave the crowd reason to believe Takeshita might win but perhaps hurt the overall match quality.  Still this was really good.  Mox wrestled from behind the whole match and got very creative in doing moves with one arm.  Takeshita nearly won by hitting Mox with his own Death Rider, and Don Callis slid a couple chairs into the ring.  But as the ref was removing one of them, Mox curb stomped Takeshita on the other one and hit a Death Rider to win.  Don Callis continues to do his family members dirty.  ****

The Adam Copeland-Malakai Black barbwire cage match was next and it was a bloodbath as predicted.  Cope cut Black with some barbwire very early, and only a few minutes later got cut himself.  Black put Cope through a table and tried to hit his spin kick but Cope countered with a spear.  Cope then tied Black to a table, using barbwire, and went to the top of the cage, diving off with an elbow drop and unwisely landing on his feet, which apparently caused an as-yet-undisclosed injury.  Cope was able to finish the match however.  Black knocked Cope through the cage door and they fought outside, when suddenly Brody King and Buddy Matthews appeared, teased turning on Black, and instead beat up Cope.  They dragged Cope back inside the ring when suddenly the lights went out and Gangrel of all people popped up from under the ring, spraying red mist in everyone's faces and hitting an Impaler DDT on Matthews.  Black spin-kicked him but ran into a Copeland spear, followed by a barbwire-assisted crossface for the pass-out win.  Pretty insane match and another example of Copeland following Sting's recent example of working way harder than he by all rights needs to at his age.  ****

It was now time for the triple main event, the first part of which was Willow Nightingale vs. Mercedes Moné.  As expected Moné delivered a very strong performance but perhaps wasn't quite 100% in terms of confidence.  There were a few moments of improvised submission holds that didn't quite land, but overall this was a really strong big woman-little woman match.  Going into this Willow seemed the babyface but they more or less stuck to a babyface vs. babyface dynamic for the match.  Late in the match Kris Statlander and Stokely Hathaway started arguing with referee Aubrey Edwards, causing her to miss a visual pin after Willow hit Moné with a Doctor Bomb.  Moné got a near-win with her crossface and followed it with her Money Maker DDT for the win (This move is fairly awkward and was very much so here due to the size difference).  Post-match Stokely berated Willow for losing, and Kris ran to her defense, shoving Stokely to the floor.  But then Kris leveled Willow by throwing her down.  So Willow moves on to a feud with Kris, while Moné is still a babyface for now.  Very good match and debut for Mercedes.  ****

The AEW Title match was next, as Swerve Strickland and Christian Cage got 25 minutes and built to a pretty great crescendo.  Cage's Patriarchy tried to interfere with the title belt but Prince Nana took it away, but then got caught by the ref, and ejected.  This prompted "you suck ref" chants.  But the Patriarchy went to the well once too often and they too were caught and ejected.  Once the entourage was gone this match hit another gear.  They exchanged big moves and nearfalls, and Nick Wayne tried to run back down but was chased off by a pipe-wielding Nana.  Cage went for a Killswitch on the Spanish announce table but Swerve countered with a Swerve Stomp.  Both guys barely made it back into the ring for the finishing sequence, where Swerve countered a spear attempt into a House Call, then hit the Swerve Stomp and another House Call to retain.  Really good title match.  ****1/4

Finally it was time for Anarchy in the Arena, and this match lived up to that moniker to say the least.  Danielson and FTR jumped the heels during introductions, and then Darby's music hit.  True to AITA tradition his song played for a while while the action continued.  Matt Jackson then got a mic and ordered Darby's music stopped and the Bucks' theme played.  Bryan Danielson then got a mic and ordered the production team to play "the greatest wrestling theme ever," which led to "The Final Countdown" playing.  This got a massive reaction, and Darby Allin did a Coffin Drop from the balcony.  Matt Jackson then got the mic again and pointed out that AEW has to pay a ton of money to play "The Final Countdown," and ordered it stopped.  Darby and Jack Perry fought to the garage, where Darby tried to drown Jack in a tub of ice water, before Jack tried to run Darby over with a bus marked "Scapegoat."  Jack knocked himself out crashing into a pile of construction debris.  Allin made it back into the arena but was beaten down by the heels, before being presumably locked in the Young Bucks' entrance riser.  Jack Perry made his way back to the arena but stopped at the Gorilla position and dragged Tony Khan out with him.  Darby reappeared with the flamethrower from Wednesday night and SET JACK PERRY ON FIRE.  The Bucks ran over with fire extinguishers and put him out, and the medical staff spent several minutes checking on him while the others fought in the ring.  Matt Jackson hit Dax Harwood with an exploding chair, and the Bucks tied Darby by his feet and dangled him five feet above the mat, as Okada presented the Bucks with their new licensed Reeboks, fitted with thumbtack soles.  The Bucks took turns kicking Darby with thim but Danielson made the save and knocked both Bucks out with Yes kicks and a busaiku knee through a chair.  Okada made the save and hit Danielson with a Rainmaker, followed by the Bucks hitting the EVP Trigger, followed by Perry running down and hitting a running knee to score the pin.  Absolutely bonkers spectacle of a main event that put Perry over big.  I foresee a Danielson-Perry singles match at some point.  No Hangman Page sighting though, maybe that will follow on Dynamite.  ****1/2

So like I said, this show was definitely over-indulgent and went a half hour longer than it needed to, but it was a helluva lot of fun to watch and delivered a ton of good matches.  Nothing MOTY-worthy but also nothing bad, and a fuckton of storyline developments.  Overall another PPV triumph for AEW.

Best Match: Roderick Strong vs. Will Ospreay
Worst Match: Chris Jericho vs. Hook vs. Katsuyori Shibata
What I'd Change: They could've saved Cassidy vs. Trent for Dynamite which would've trimmed 15 minutes out of the show.  I'd also have maybe put the MJF segment in the middle of the show to break things up.  Finally I'd have cut some of the interference spots from some of the matches, as there was a ton of that stuff.
Most Disappointing Match: I wouldn't say anything disappointed.
Most Pleasant Surprise: MJF's return
Overall Rating: 9/10


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