AEW’s Double or Nothing 2023 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas promised “Anarchy in the Arena,” and as is always the case with AEW stipulation matches, it delivered.
The main event saw the Blackpool Combat Club of Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Wheeler Yuta and Claudio Castagnoli beat The Elite (The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and “Hangman” Adam Page) in a bloody, violent eight-man tag that spilled into the crowd, the mezzanine, and even out into the parking lot. It turned what had been a good-but-not-great AEW PPV into what felt like an outstanding PPV, and the crowd, which had its ups and downs throughout the night, absolutely ate it up.
What helped was a gimmick that AEW had actually done for the last “Anarchy” match, where Jon Moxley’s music, “Wild Thing,” played over and over again as the wrestlers brawled. The first time it did this, at last year’s Double or Nothing, the song played all the way through, and then when it started over again the fans exploded in cheers. But then Chris Jericho destroyed the speakers and put an end to it. This year, it let the live band play the song all the way through three full times, and every time they started up again it got an even bigger reaction. After about eight or nine minutes you started to get the sense that maybe it was going to wear out its welcome, and literally at that moment The Young Bucks superkicked the lead singer and put an end to his singing. But by that point the fans were in a frenzy, and they maintained that energy all the way through to the end, when Konosuke Takeshita turned heel and joined up with Don Callis, laying out Omega and allowing Wheeler to get the pin. Takeshita turning was not unexpected if you had been following the story lines, but it certainly was a shocker to see Yuta pin Omega in the main event of a PPV. After the show went off the air, Omega did a promo where he teased two friends from outside of AEW who might be available to even the odds, and while nothing is confirmed it is believed that he was talking about New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada, and former New Japan star turned free agent Kota Ibushi. Ibushi and Omega have been linked together in story lines through the world of wrestling for more than a decade, and Moxley and Okada are also feuding on New Japan shows. With Forbidden Door, the now annual combined AEW–New Japan show, scheduled for June, the finish seemed to set up a major league 10-man tag.
What would normally main-event an AEW PPV, the world title match, actually went on in the semi-main-event position, as MJF successfully defended the title against “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, Darby Allin and soon-to-be-new-father Sammy Guevara. While some believe the world title should always headline, the fact is there are no actual rules in the fake world of pro-wrestling and you can do whatever you think is best for business, or whatever you think will make for the better card. The four-way was an outstanding match, but it was a four-way traditional pro-wrestling match, and the reality is that it would have had a very hard time following an “Anarchy” match with blood and crowd brawling and thumbtacks and even exploding wrestling boots (I’m not making that up). It could also easily be explained in the story line that because “Anarchy in the Arena” could destroy the entire ring (and, in fact, the last time AEW did an “Anarchy” match it did destroy the ring), then in the story line, it would only make sense that a promoter would want to get everything involving a ring out of the way first. MJF retained the title via underhanded tactics, putting a belt across the chest of Jungle Boy as Darby came off the top with a coffin drop, injuring both and allowing him to pin Darby with a side headlock takeover. It’s the second time he’s beaten him with that hold, and one would presume that at some point down the road Darby is going to pin MJF, and perhaps even win the title, with a side headlock takeover.
The build for the four-way had its issues going in, largely because it involved a lot of talking segments by all four of the participants, and with the exception of MJF, all of the others’ strengths are the actual wrestling aspect; they wouldn’t be considered main-event-level promos. The idea was to elevate the other three in the build, and it didn’t happen. Darby did the best of the three with his promos, and was probably the only one that fans thought might have a chance of beating MJF (but not really, as the odds for MJF were still 50-to-1 going in). Sammy, who teased going babyface, largely went into the match at exactly the same level he’d been before, and, unfortunately, the build hurt Jungle Boy’s character a lot, to the point where there was a moment during the match where he could have used a belt to turn heel, and fans cheered, wanting it to happen, and then booed when he decided to do the right thing. But ultimately, while the build didn’t click to nearly the level desired, the match was so great that it likely did ultimately elevate everyone involved.
The other fantastic match was the PPV-opening Blackjack Battle Royale, which was one of the best battle royales in AEW history. Orange Cassidy defended his AEW international championship against 20 other men. He’s had one of the greatest title reigns in all of wrestling in 2023, racking up nearly two dozen televised wins one after another, all good to fantastic matches, and he and Swerve Strickland ended up as the final two men in the battle royale. They had an incredible sequence that ended with Orange lazily booting Swerve’s hand off the ropes to send him to the floor, all very much in character for Cassidy. The crowd absolutely ate this match up, and it was a phenomenal way to kick off the show.
The rest of the show was below the usual AEW standards, in part because the crowd in Las Vegas wasn’t into the show to the degree it has been in the past. It was kind of like a WWE crowd, where fans popped for the big stars and the entrances, sat quietly for the early part of the matches, and then got into the near-falls and twists and turns at the end.
Overall, it was a memorable show, not only for the three exceptional matches but also because of several title changes, including Toni Storm beating a legitimately injured Jamie Hayter to win the women’s title, and Kris Statlander making a triumphant return to snap Jade Cargill’s winning streak and become the 1 in 60–1 to win the TBS title. We also had a really heartwarming moment when Guevara and his wife, Taynara Melo, came out for his world title match and revealed that they were going to have a baby.
Up next on PPV is AEW x New Japan Forbidden Door, but just before that will be the much-anticipated debut of AEW Collision on Saturday nights from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. It’ll be the CM Punk show, with what is believed to be a largely exclusive roster of talent, both to give wrestlers more opportunities with something akin to WWE’s brand split, but also to keep CM Punk and The Elite on opposite shows stemming from a backstage brawl at last year’s All Out. Between the new TV show, the first video game about to drop, and a massive show at Wembley Stadium in August that has already broken the all-time U.K. professional wrestling gate record with $8 million in ticket sales, it is a monumental and pivotal summer for the company.
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