Imp’s AEW Adventure
Double or Nothing
A quick review of AEW’s debut event: to quote Caprice Coleman, “My GaaAad!”
No understatement, this past Saturday’s Double or Nothing was goddamn massive. An active shift in the landscape of professional wrestling’s Western scene, a true alternative rising, an immediate impact made at the start of the road to AEW’s impending official arrival in October.
For those involved, this event was essentially an advertisement for the upcoming show on TNT Drama and therefore the weight of success was absolutely enormous. A miss and they would have had a mountain to climb over the Summer, but with a hit? With a success they could ride the momentum all the way to OCtober.
And bloody hell did they generate momentum, with a surprise ending that immediately has me wanting to come back for more. I can’t wait to dive into this world again. I’ll get to the former Ambrose in a bit, but his sudden and unexpected arrival left the crowd in an ecstatic state to end the show on. Leaving the fans happy, you say? What a novel concept.
The whole show was a ride of feel good moments and others full of genuine emotion, all with the main focus being on the wrestling itself. That’s one thing I greatly appreciated about the commentary, they kept the focus on what was going on in the ring. If background was given it was within an athletic context, be it training, influences of style, aspirations, etc. Not forgetting the revelation of Jim Ross and Excalibur showing signs of actual chemistry, I never saw that coming, but what a happy surprise!
Oh, and Excalibur knew the names of the moves, that made for a nice change of pace.
The matches themselves had a fantastic variety, from an indie-esque cluster royale, to the popular kick-out style, to the 6 Joshi women, to a character driven blood feud, to fast paced athletic showcases, to the 30 minute main event of solid wrestling. If you didn’t care for the style in one match, there was a likely chance there’d be something in the next bout that you did.
Like AEW had actively made the decision to emphasise the differences in style, rather than homogenise everyone into one clear way of wrestling. It’s something that fits into one of their messages really well, quickly gaining them the moniker of being the ‘woke’ alternative. Accepting of different styles, cultures, ethnicities, sexual preferences, gender; it doesn’t matter, if you’re talented AEW want to showcase you.
Something I feel both women’s matches showcased in different ways. There was the more ‘in your face’ route of the 6 women tag being unapologetically Joshi, Yuka Sakazaki’s entrance music hit like an immediate jolt of foreign culture. Then a lot more subtly with the four way match, which featured Nyla Rose, who if you didn’t know is transgender. They didn’t mention it once, she was treated the same as every other woman in that match. Two completely different variations of inclusion, both absolutely great to see.
It felt like AEW sticking to their word, these talents are there because they can damn well wrestle.
As for the production, Double or Nothing was a massive leap forward from the pretty much ROH produced All In from last September. We were treated with fancy sweeping camera shots, ringside cameramen not just set up to compliment the hard cam, but to be dependable shots of their own. Most positively of all the cameras didn’t cut every 2 seconds so it was SO MUCH EASIER to follow the action in the ring. Seriously, on my re-watch I actually counted during one of the matches and there was a single shot for 8 seconds, oh the glory!
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some mishaps, given this was their first show though it’s a great surprise there were so little. Like having two entrances made the stage set look awesome and immediately different from their competitor, but that did result in the cameraman walking to the wrong one on more than one occasion. On a re-watch those errors give you a good laugh though, just chuckling along going, “Dammit, Brian! Wrong one again!”
Overall AEW made a fantastic impression with this show, a feeling I’ve not felt watching US wrestling outside an NXT TakeOver in a long time. That feeling of having watched a damn high quality night of professional wrestling, on top of being treated to some great character moments/story beats. Which is one of the biggest things I’m personally taking away from Double or Nothing, the show closed no longer feeling like an Elite show, but as AEW.
And arguably for that, they can thank one man…
John Moxley’s Wrestling Adventure
Oh John, you cheeky git. I never saw this coming for a million miles, genuinely expected him to take some time off and recuperate his mind or something. But nope, turns out him being free to be who truly wants to, was all the refreshing he needed.
The former Dean Ambrose shocked the wrestling world Saturday night, interrupting Chris Jericho’s post-match promo and attacking everyone in sight. Past rival Chris Jericho? Referee? The man who main evented the Tokyo Dome a few months back and now looks to be an initial face of AEW? You all get DDT’d!
Such a fantastic way to get across Moxley’s manic behaviour, it may sound simple, but they just had him go out and manically attack everyone. Ending with him launching Kenny Omega off of the stack of giant stage poker chips and crashing through the stage below. What a statement, an incredible way to immediately have your viewers clamouring at the bit to see what happens next.
Double or Nothing didn’t just put on an entertaining night of wrestling, they set up for the future and in the case of John Moxley they’ve seemingly set up a ginormous angle likely to finally play out come All Out at the end of the Summer. They now have my interest long term, plus I’m assuming the interest of a lot of fans that were perhaps undecided on the fence. I’ve seen more than one person on Twitter exclaiming how AEW now has their attention for the next event, such a perfect, excitement inducing cliffhanger.
Want an example of Moxley’s potential? It took him, what, 24 hours to become one of wrestling’s biggest commodities? After how many years of the ‘Lunatic’ Ambrose character just being a couple of steps away?
However, AEW aren’t going to be Mox’s only state of visit, or even country of visit. Monday it was announced that he’ll be debuting in New Japan Pro Wrestling on June 5th at the Best of the Super Juniors final. After a video package was played every show of the BOSJ tournament, of a man etching with a knife what appeared to be a time glass in a circle at a bar. Each time targeted at Juice Robinson, played during his matches and later with cameras focusing on him whilst he was on commentary. With the video ending with the tagline message, ‘Time’s Up’.
Well turns out a sideways ‘M’ and an ‘X’ inside an ‘O’ looks like a time glass in a circle! We were expecting another British indie dickhead, but nope, it’s John freaking Moxley! And he’s debuting next Wednesday! And he’s wrestling Juice Robinson! Aaah, what’s happening?!
This is alongside a slew of other indie dates announced the day after Double or Nothing, Moxley’s hitting the town HARD this Summer. As for his AEW dates though, Tony Khan’s confirmed he’ll be working full time come October and it’s also been announced he’ll be making his in ring debut at Fyter Fest next month against an unannounced opponent.
No, it won’t be Omega, he’s already teaming with the Young Bucks against the Lucha Bros. Save that date for All Out!
What’s Next? All Out & Fight for the Fallen
We don’t have to wait long to once again visit this new world, with AEW almost immediately back with us on June 29th for Fyter Fest (yes that’s a Fyre Festival pun). Which will not only feature the former Dean Ambrose’s debut, but also that of Darby Allin. A man who I shall hype as a very interesting individual.
If it’s any indication how highly AEW are valuing him, he’s debuting in a one on one match against Cody. I’ve been looking forward to this one since the announcement!
After that Fight for the Fallen will be the soon upon us next spot in July, an event with a portion of the proceeds being donated to victims of gun violence. Main evented by The Young Bucks vs Rhodes Brothers, the match set up in the emotional aftermath of Cody vs Dustin. The only other match announced is Brandi Rhodes vs Allie, but this is a smaller show (taking place in the smaller 5,000 capacity Daily’s Place Amphitheatre) so don’t expect every single massive name to be booked.
Don’t worry, the event that’ll feature everyone will be at the end of the next month, as we head back to Chicago for All Out! Where we’ll likely see the first AEW Champion crowned between Hangman Page & Chris Jericho, on top of Kenny Omega vs John Moxley and what’s likely to be a damn strong card that’ll look to make a final strong impression ahead of their TV debut around a month later.
So no fear, we may not be at weekly TV quite yet, but AEW is going to be with you once a month. As I was saying earlier, riding that momentum through the Summer. As long as they maybe tone down on the WWE digs, I was personaly fine with Cody’s entrance as I read it more in line with the ‘killing the Attitude Era’ story of the match, but too much of that kind of thing will grain over time.
It’s an exciting time for professional wrestling, now if WWE see the quality of the competition and pick their game up, man we’ll be in for one hell of an interesting ride.
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Imp’s on LOP Radio every Thursday covering the past week of news from the wrestling world!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 2: The Ace of the Universe
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – Best of the Super Juniors: Week 1 Matches You Need To Watch
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – Wrestling Dontaku and The New Era
Imp’s WWE Adventure – Superstar Shake-Up Review: “Fox Is Coming.”