All Elite Wrestling: Double or Nothing – Preview

Such is the nature of professional wrestling as a live entertainment show that often real-life can get in the way and dictate what stories can be told. This goes for all of pro wrestling regardless of company. I’ll go into detail shortly but the main story is the previously scheduled PAC vs Adam Page match is OFF, apparently due to “creative differences”… whatever on earth that means… well… I say it’s OFF, it isn’t happening at Double or Nothing… because the match has in fact already taken place (stick with me here)… Let me paint the scene:

So PAC was going to beat Page at Double or Nothing, this was going to lead to a future match with Kenny Omega, which Omega was going to win. But PAC is currently the World Champion for Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling in Japan as holder of the beautifully named ‘Open the Dream Gate Championship’. PAC is old school in that he takes his status as a world champion very seriously (the old school mentality was booking the champion strong so they feel and come across as deserving of being a champion and when they lose it means so much more, I know right how unusual in American Pro wrestling in 2019…). As a result PAC hasn’t been put down for 3 or tapped out since winning the title, in fact he hasn’t been pinned or submitted once since becoming a free agent.

So AEW decided they didn’t want Adam Page (who they rightfully so see as a big star) getting beat for no reason, because there’s every chance that when it came to the time for PAC v Omega that PAC could still be Dragon Gate Champion and therefore not want to lose, and then AEW are left in a tricky spot. So they’ve decided to change course now rather than stick to the plan and be left scrambling last minute wondering what to do booking wise. Imagine a world where American wrestling companies booked long term and are therefore able to book well ahead of time and make any necessary changes to keep their storylines making sense should outside factors dictate them to.

Watching the Being The Elite YouTube series (subscribe IMMEDIATELY if you plan on following AEW) it’s clear that Adam Page is seen as a big star. And his current ‘full gear challenge’ storyline that was culminating in the PAC match has got him even more over as a top guy, so it would’ve been gutting for Page’s creative if the match didn’t happen at all. So instead of just replacing PAC and forgetting all the long build up they’ve done something I actually really admire. Despite not being able to do the match maybe how they wanted, or on their big PPV, they instead decided to have the match happen anyway, and put it up on YouTube for people to see so they still showed and got the pay off for their billed match, even if it wasn’t at Double or Nothing.

So during a Wrestle Gate Pro (an English independent promotion) show in Nottingham last weekend PAC was in their ring and cut a promo saying that his scheduled opponents for the night had vanished (in reality one was injured and the other had travel issues… apparently…) and so he put out an open challenge… and out came “Hangman” Adam Page… and the people went absolutely NUTS!!! And suddenly the match was ON! The first match in the history of AEW took place in a Nottingham Sports Hall in front of maybe a few hundred people… Amazing…

“Hangman” Adam Page defeated PAC by Disqualification 

The ring announcer appears to be about to tell everyone that the scheduled next match is off, but she is interrupted by the music of PAC. PAC cuts a great promo trashing Jody Fleisch and Robbie X (who he was supposed to be facing in a triple threat), and saying how much of a BASTARD (which is his actual nickname now honest) he is. He made an open challenge essentially saying nobody on the roster or in this country could touch him… and then Hangman’s music hit, and at the moment everyone realized who it was they went absolutely BAT-SHIT CRAZY! I should also mention the lead commentator for the match was Dave Bradshaw (formerly of WhatCulture Pro Wrestling). The usual custom of independent wrestling of the crowd showing their appreciation for a performer by showering them with streamers kept up here as Page entered the ring, as PAC looked on in utter shock. I said before I thought there were a few hundred in the crowd… but seeing it now this building they were in was TINY and I’m not even sure there were more than a hundred in the building seeing what is actually a very historic match. There were very loud “A-E-DUB” chants before the bell rang as PAC looked very hesitant to begin with, the pair then went head to head as the match got underway.

Page unloaded strikes on PAC as the crowd continued to show their adoration. Hangman dominated the early part of the match and even when PAC went to the outside to take a breather Page came flying through the air with an amazing Tope, as the crowd gave ‘The Elite…’ chants. PAC soon got the advantage by dodging Page who then hit himself on the apron on the way to the floor. PAC then did an exquisite over the top rope dive followed by a 450 splash back in the ring for a 2 count. PAC stomped on Page’s head in the corner, Page came back with some chops before PAC kicked him and launched Page into the corner followed by a missile dropkick off the top for another nearfall. PAC had Page in a submission hold before Hangman fought back and they exchanged strikes, eventually leading to Page hitting a huge lariat that took PAC down.

Page charged at PAC but the Bastard had lowered the ropes so Page fell out of the ring. PAC then went for a moonsault off the top but Page dodged it before going to the top rope and hitting a moonsault to the outside of his own, this was incredible to watch. It should be noted the ref in this promotion was counting to 20 and not 10 so I think they got back in the ring both of them for about a 12 count. Page got two nearfalls not long after; via a dropkick in the corner followed by a running shooting star and then from a big boot after PAC came off the top rope and Page caught him in the air. Adam Page then had PAC in a form of a modified crossface but PAC got to the ropes. The crowd then chanted “FULL GEAR READY” which I can confirm Adam Page indeed was! There was then a really fun exchange where they swapped superkicks, then PAC caught him with a release snap German Suplex, followed by a deadlift German with a bridge that got a 2 count.

PAC later hit a massive Superplex that got him a nearfall. He looked almost in disbelief and very concerned that he couldn’t put Page away. He dragged him to the corner as a possible set up for a Red Arrow, only for Page to get up but then PAC with a running enziguri put him down again. PAC did indeed then go for the Red Arrow but Page rolled out the way. Hangman then hit a discuss Lariat, followed by a variation of a Tombstone  (it’s a cradle Tombstone that when I last checked was called a ‘cracker barrel’) which looked great. Everyone seemed to think this would be the finish but PAC kicked out at 2! Page then went to the outside of the apron and removed his elbow pad, but before he could hit his move PAC inside the ring had got hold of the referee and gave him a low blow punt! Page though continued and hit his big Lariat move before getting a visual pinfall over PAC, but as a result of the Bastard’s earlier misdemeanors the ref called for the bell and Adam Page was declared the winner, but by Disqualification.

The crowd gave Page a standing ovation. He was though not happy and made his feelings clear to the official that he wanted to win by pinfall. As Page was arguing with the ref PAC came from behind and attacked him with a steel chair by smashing him with the edge of it onto the back of his head. PAC then beat down Page and smashed his ankle with the chair. The commentary team were selling Page’s beatdown so maybe an injury angle is to come. PAC kept up his beatdown and then Pilmanized Page’s leg and hit that with another chair. PAC then got the mic and got in Page’s face, he then said the only reason he was going to Vegas was to hurt Page and it looked like his work was done. PAC continued telling Page ‘you can tell all your little Elite buddies I’m not coming to Vegas and I’m not coming to Double or Nothing and I’m not coming to AEW’. An image appeared on the screen of the promo picture for the match with a giant CANCELLED logo across the middle. Commentary sold this really well as a shock.

I loved all of this. Of course I’m gutted it wasn’t on the PPV (although I expect Page to be on the show in some form) but for what it was it was great. Page is an awesome babyface and PAC is… well… a BASTARD!

****1/4 

NOW THEN… with that out the way we are now just around the corner (on May 25th) from the first ever PPV put on by All Elite Wrestling. For a number of reasons this will be one of the most important and significant shows in the history of Professional Wrestling. It being a success could be a springboard for AEW to very quickly become one of the top organisations in the business, way more than just a “T-Shirt company” anyway… So here is my full preview ahead of All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing!

BUY IN (PRE SHOW): Kip Sabian V Sammy Guevara 

This is a great opportunity for these two to be able to showcase themselves in a big spot. Giving two talents who on a worldwide scale are relatively unknown but as I said it is still a big opportunity for both to impress the masses. Kip Sabian is originally from Norfolk and was trained by the parents of Paige (he even had a cameo in Fighting With My Family), having also competed for the likes of RevPro, Progress and OTT in Ireland as one of the brighest up and coming talents in the British Independent Wrestling scene. Sammy Guevara’s reach so far is even bigger having up until mid February been the Cruserweight Champion for the AAA Lucha Libre promotion in Mexico. He has also been featured heavily on the Being The Elite YouTube series where the storyline being told is that he is viewed as a dick but when people meet him he convinces them that he’s an OK guy, despite it being obvious that he may not be being as genuine as he tries to convince people he is. Given name value and his BTE role I’d have to lean more towards Guevara getting the big win, but could see a win for Sabian too serving multiple purposes. Expect a fun match here. Should be noted also at the ALL IN show there was a similar singles match between two stars at the time that weren’t too well known between MJF and Matt Cross in which Cross won, yet it was MJF that has since been signed by AEW and pushed as a big star.

Prediction: Sammy Guevara 

BUY IN (PRE SHOW): 21 man Casino Battle Royal Match for a future AEW World Championship Match 

OK so here’s how this one will work; the 21 participants will each draw a card (shown in various forms of media from a part of BTE to individual videos on social media) and this will determine where they come in the match. Wrestlers who draw a club, spade, diamond or heart will each be put in a group together. One of those groups will begin the match, after three minutes another of the groups will enter and the same after six minutes, and then at nine minutes, but then at the 12 minutes mark the final entrant will come in to the match. This will be whoever draws the joker card when selecting from the deck. Eliminations occur int he standard way of over the top rope. Confirmed participants so far are: Sonny Kiss, Brandon Cutler, Ace Romero, Glacier, Brian Pillman Jr, Sunny Daze, MJF, Joey Janela, Dustin Thomas, Billy Gunn, Jimmy Havoc, Michael Nakazawa, Jungle Boy, Isiah Kassidy, Marq Quen and Luchasaurus. On top of that the most recent participant to be announced is Shawn Spears (fka Tye Dillinger) so by my count that’s 17 names so expect maybe 1 or 2 surprises. This should be fun, the in-ring action should be fine as long as it is put together well. The danger always with Battle Royal’s of any form is that it can be a clusterfuck and get overbooked, so one with a gimmick and something brand new has every danger to go wrong. But looking at the talent and given how long this had been announced for I think it’ll be really fun. Result wise given what is at stake I’d expect a huge name winner, sure it could be Shawn Spears but I’ll go for MJF. He’s been a character since day one of AEW across all their various forms of media outlets, so I see him as a very safe prediction for a winner. Given the announcement this week about how they’d decide the first AEW Champion and who they’d face, I’d say they’d be wise to put over a big, big star in this match and with that said I’d say it likely too they’ll have the winner be a huge name surprise entrant.

Prediction: MJF 

Aja Kong + Yuka Sakazaki + Emi Sakura V Hikaru Shida + Riho + Ryo Mizunami

This will be something else! 6 Japanese woman in a tag match and all of them on the biggest stage worldwide they’ve maybe ever performed on. This match is the brainchild of Kenny Omega who is heavily involved in the recruitment for AEW of Japanese female performers. Given the pedigree of competition of women’s wrestling in Japan I’m excited to see what these six women will have to offer. Aja Kong has name value having competed for the WWF amongst others in the past, it appears to me that Yuka Sakazaki is the biggest star of those involved in today’s women’s wrestling scene, so this is yes a bit of the unknown but for that reason it should be a fun watch.

Prediction: Kong/Sakazaki/Sakura 

SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels + Frankie Kazarian + Scorpio Sky) V Strong Hearts (Cima + T-Hawk + El Lindaman)

SCU are off a long run as top stars in Ring of Honor so putting experience pros in with a group from CWE (the Chinese promotion) is interesting. SCU have been over there working with some of those so I’ve no doubt they’ll do a great job in the match. This match much like most on this show is tricky to predict, because you have to wonder if the people running the company or with outside of the ring roles will want to go over or not and give the rub to others. Looking ahead to future tag team championships maybe you’d go SCU for the win, but given the relationship with CWE that AEW has I’d lean towards this being a showcase match for those guys. But even then you can showcase people without putting them over, so we will see.

Prediction: Strong Hearts 

Best Friends (Chuck Taylor + Trent Beretta) V Los Gueros del Cielo (Angelico + Jack Evans)

Best Friends have worked pretty much every major promotion together winning plenty of championships along the way, so for sure they have pedigree and name value.  Angelico and Jack Evans have worked in AAA and PWG together and despite both being non-Latino (Angelico is from South Africa and Evans from the USA) wrestle a lucha-libre type style. The story with Taylor and Beretta was that they were told they were in the Battle Royal but were both underwhelmed, and eventually wound up in this tag match with plenty of hilarity along the way. Expect a spot fest, but expect a fun match.

Prediction: Best Friends 

Dr Britt Baker V Nyla Rose V Kylie Rae

The big women’s match on the show is a really great mix of different types of characters. Dr Baker is the real-life dentist who wrestles as well. She is the only woman of those who took part in the women’s 4 way at ALL IN to be on this show (the others; Tessa Blanchard (Impact), Chelsea Green (NXT) and Madison Rayne (ROH but since returned to Impact) have all signed elsewhere since). Baker has improved over the last couple of years to the point she is pretty decent in-ring now. Nyla Rose is the very first transgender wrestler to be signed to a major wrestling promotion but is much more than that. Imagine Nia Jax but better in the ring. ‘Smiley’ Kylie Rae is a star. Ultra-ultra babyface all about happiness and more notably is booked strong and as a champion in basically every indie promotion she’s worked for, and she’s good in-ring too. The story with this match as seen on the latest YouTube videos is Brandi Rhodes (who is in charge of booking the women’s division) has told each of the women individually that they are her pick to win. I’d go towards Kylie to win for a few reasons, but I could easily see someone winning here and then another woman on the AEW roster coming out after and confronting them. AEW haven’t yet announced anything about a Women’s Championship and they have so many names on their women’s side that aren’t on this show wrestling, so I’d strongly presume this match is as part of a set up between the winner here and someone else on the roster to determine a Champion.

Prediction: Kylie Rae 

AAA World Tag Team Championship: The Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr + Rey Fenix) V The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson + Nick Jackson) (C)

So with AEW’s partnership with AAA (Mexico) this match was made for their tag titles after the match itself was first set up. It’s pretty simple in that The Young Bucks said they’re the best tag team in the world and want to prove it, and The Lucha Bros (a credible threat to that moniker) came out to argue otherwise. The Lucha Bros were in the ring in Mexico and The Bucks came out and quickly beat them for their titles, and so here we are. Both of these teams have been the most sought after in pro wrestling by pretty much every major company in the world yet have chosen to make home in AEW. I think this match is going to be incredible as these two teams aren’t just talk, they really are the two best teams in the world in my opinion. Result wise it’s really hard for me to predict, as it isn’t inconceivable given the AAA partnership that The Bucks could retain as it is equally possible that with and it not being too well known what sort of contracts Pentagon and Fenix have with AEW who knows just how often they’ll be around for. In terms of crowd support I’d  give the edge to The Bucks, I think they’ll be received like they’re gods by the crowd and I think that’s pretty obvious. But I don’t think Penta and Fenix will get any sort of negative crowd reaction so who knows. I think the Lucha Bros will win mind you, but it’ll be an excellent match.

Prediction: The Lucha Bros

Cody V Dustin Rhodes

Of any of the matches on the card this one has had by a mile the best build, and it’s all been by social media and YouTube video promos. They haven’t had a physical on-camera encounter once up to this point. It’s an easy story to tell sure with it being brother vs brother, but it’s so much deeper than that. They’ve said themselves they have done it in the past, but as Cody put it so well they got to do it at Fastlane… not WrestleMania… and Fastlane is not WrestleMania… so this time they get to tell the story exactly how they want to. It was made story from the very start of the Road to Double or Nothing YouTube series of who would Cody’s opponent be for the show? Time and time again during the series the name was either bleeped out or their image blurred out on promotional material, of course with hindsight we know now that that was because Dustin was still under contract elsewhere at the time. And so after weeks and weeks of speculation and so many names being banded about on who it should be, then the following video dropped, and we witnessed a legend give maybe his best promo in years… Please watch the following video because it’s exceptional.

Pretty much certainly in my mind this was the perfect choice. My friend Stefan (the only friend who I at length talk about wrestling outside of “the nest” with had the same feeling of this being the dream match for Cody) So the wrestling world was again set on fire, but how would Cody respond? Dustin’s promo was incredible and a great mix of storyline and you could say maybe a hint of truth in there too? How would the younger brother respond to one of the best promos of a legendary career? Well, with one of his own… Watch this too please… It’s something else…

Wow. I was absolutely speechless after the first time I saw that. Now tell me just based on those two clips alone you aren’t so pumped up to see these two kick each others ass!? It’s not going on last for a few reasons but for me personally it’s the biggest match on the show. Maybe they wont because we all expect it to happen, but for me regardless Cody has to win this match.

Prediction: Cody 

Kenny Omega V Chris Jericho – the winner will face the winner of the Casino Battle Royal at some point in the future to decide the first ever AEW World Champion 

The stakes of the match were a late announcement made only this week, but it makes total sense. These are the two biggest singles stars in the company so it’s only right that one of them has the first shot to be the world champion. This is a rematch from the Wrestle Kingdom show in 2018 (New Japan Pro Wrestling’s equivalent of WrestleMania) which was a real brawl and a classic that Omega won. They reignited their feud when Jericho attacked Omega at the ALL IN show and now here we are for the rematch. Omega is obviously one of the best on the planet and Jericho has continually evolved his persona to the point now that after this Omega match (where a win will put him in line to be the first AEW Champion), in a few weeks Jericho will return to New Japan to main event their 2nd biggest PPV against their champion Kazuchika Okada for the title. Based upon that last point and that although with no official relationship with the company, both Jericho and Omega have contracts with AEW that allows them to work for New Japan I can only really see Jericho getting his win back against Omega here. Jericho has really pushed how in shape he is and the training he has done, as well as teasing tensions and a possible future match against Cody. Then again as I’ve mentioned the original plan was Omega to face PAC in the future, maybe that was going to be for the title… maybe not…

Prediction: Chris Jericho 

This is going to be one of the most important shows and definitely most talked about pro wrestling PPVs maybe of all time. If it’s a storming success then it can only increase everything that AEW has promised to do, and if it really is the alternative they claim they can be for fans, like myself, who are disillusioned with the product put out by the industry leader right now. I hope it’s a great show and I think it will be. But I’m aware a lot of people watching this show, and me included for some, will be watching people for the first time. Maybe most will have never seen a PPV by another wrestling company. Lets hope this one lives up to the hype just as ALL IN did. If it does it could change professional wrestling forever… and right now I think the industry as a whole needs this PPV to be a success… fingers crossed…

Josh.

 

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