Adam Page Won the 21-Man Casino Battle Royale to Earn a Future Opportunity at the AEW World Championship (Buy-In Match)
While I found the Over Budget Battle Royal from All In to be better booked than this, this was still wisely laid out for the most part. It was cool to see guys like Glacier and Billy Gunn last for a bit, as well as some of the fresher faces like Ace Romero and Jungle Buy, but what I felt worked against this Battle Royal was that with a future world title shot on the line, there were only a handful of competitors who could have realistically won it. Once Page came out at No. 21, it was pretty obvious he was winning, but predictability wasn't necessarily a bad thing in this case. I loved that MJF shined as much as he did before ultimately losing to Page. He is an absolute star.
Kip Sabian def. Sammy Guevara (Buy-In Match)
I missed this match the first time due standing in line to get a t-shirt (one stand sold out of what I wanted and I had to stand in a whole other line so it was a whole ordeal), but after watching it back on YouTube, I enjoyed it for what it was. They didn't go all out or put on a barn burner or anything along those lines, but it was perfectly fine for a pre-show matchup. Guevara has received way more airtime than Sabian on Being the Elite lately, so the outcome was slightly surprising, but perhaps that was done by design in order to give Sabian some credibility.
SoCal Uncensored def. Strong Hearts
I've heard nothing but positive things about Strong Hearts and how talented those guys are. Well, they lived up to the hype and had a standout performance here. Meanwhile, SCU are always a treat and never cease to deliver no matter where they're placed on the card. This was perfectly positioned as the opener to the event as it successfully kicked off the night on a high note. I'd definitely be interested in seeing more of Strong Hearts in AEW after this.
Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. def. Kylie Rae, Nyla Rose and Awesome Kong in a Four-Way Match
The build for this bout has been nearly nonexistent on Being the Elite in recent weeks, so I didn't have much interest in it going in. The Brandi Rhodes tease was well done and the crowd went nuts for Awesome Kong entering the match instead. That said, Kong and Rose essentially cancelled each other because they were down and out at ringside for long, so only Baker and Rae really impressed me. Of course, it could have been better, but it was a solid debut for the ladies.
Best Friends def. Angelico and Jack Evans
I became a big fan of Angelico and Evans thorough their work in Lucha Underground and I'm all for them becoming a full-fledged team going forward. They have amazing chemistry together and meshed very well with Best Friends. It was a damn good match that drove home how awesome tag team wrestling can be. Afterward, the Super Smash Bros laid out both teams. No one knew the hell they were, but their finish looked impressive, so there was that. I'm sure their tag team name will be changed eventually if Nintendo has anything to say about it.
Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe and Ryo Mizunami def. Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki and Emi Sakura
Unsurprisingly, this was the "bathroom break" of the show because of how little almost everyone in the arena knew about these ladies, but that's not to say it was bad by any means. It started out slow, but they managed to win over the crowd by the end. It wasn't anything special in my opinion (and it probably didn't need to last as long as it did), but they did a nice job of showcasing their skills to the world and giving fans a reason to care. I'm curious if these women will be full-time members of the AEW going forward or just until they build up their women's division more in the coming months.
Cody def. Dustin Rhodes
Truth be told, I have been wanting to see this match since late 2011, and when we finally got it at Fastlane 2015, I (along with many other people) was vastly disappointed, especially knowing that they could do better. Sure enough, they knocked it out of the park with this outing. The video package preceding the matchup was brilliantly put together and set the stage for their encounter wonderfully. I wouldn't go so far as to call this a technical masterpiece, but the storytelling was what really made it special. The crowd was into everything they did and the emotion was exceptional. I never thought for a second there was a chance that Dustin was winning, but most fans didn't seem to care because they were hot for the nearfalls. Even better was Cody's post-match promo, where he revealed that he and Dustin will be teaming next month at Fyter Fest to take on The Young Bucks. This was stellar stuff. Not Match of the Year or anything, but it was a fitting way for them to come full circle after they were denied the opportunity to compete against each other at WrestleMania years ago.
Bret Hart Unveiled the AEW World Championship Belt
Hart being the one to unveil AEW's new world title was a pleasant surprise. He messed up his lines a few different times, but the crowd forgave him for it and it didn't make too much of a difference. I would haven't had this segment run as long as it did, but it did serve to set up several MJF matches for down the road with Page, Jimmy Havoc and even Jungle Boy. It was also a nice buffer after Cody vs. Dustin and before the tag title match. Plus, that belt looks beautiful. It gave me a UFC vibe and that it is not at all a bad thing.
AAA World Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks def. The Lucha Brothers
I had high expectations for this, and although there's things I can nitpick about it (such as how they kicked out of too many finishers and how Matt Jackson essentially no-sold getting his arm broken by Pentagon Jr.), it was my favorite match of the night. The action was pure excellence and you could just feel the energy in the arena. Similar to Best Friends vs. Angelico and Evans, tag team wrestling was on full display, which I appreciated immensely. This didn't feel like it was 25 minutes long at all, and in fact, they left me wanting more. If All Elite Wrestling adds more tandems to their tag team ranks at some point (I hear Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson will be free agents soon enough...), they could have the best tag division in the world.
Chris Jericho def. Kenny Omega to Earn a Future Opportunity at the AEW World Championship
The original encounter at Wrestle Kingdom 12 is widely regarded by fans as one of Jericho's greatest matches ever. It was an amazing match, so it was going to be tough for them to top it. They once again worked well together and put forth a strong effort, but it lacked that same spark their last outing had. They told a good story with Omega attempting the One Winged Angel on Jericho and never being able to hit it, and while the intensity was there, it never reached a point where the fans were on their feet giving them a round of applause (unlike the previous two matchups). Jericho winning clean genuinely surprised me, but Omega can always bounce back, and it makes more sense for the first AEW World Championship clash to have a heel vs. face dynamic. And then they ended the evening in epic fashion with Jon Moxley coming through the crowd to an outstanding reaction and laying out everyone in sight. Most people expected him to sign with AEW eventually, but having him debut on their first major show was a smart call. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table here.
While I feel all these comments I'm seeing online about how Double or Nothing was "the greatest wrestling event of all-time" and how "WWE is in major trouble" are completely overblown, this was a superb show. There is already plenty of amazing wrestling right now in other promotions, but AEW can stand out if it can provide consistent storytelling with the stars they have and give fans a real alternative to WWE and other companies. As a standalone show, this was a fantastic first step for AEW, but the key is in the followup. They don't debut on TNT until the fall, but they have a few shows before then in Fyter Fest, Fight for the Fallen, and All Out this summer. If those deliver as well, then they could be on the cusp of something huge. That isn't to diminish the quality of this pay-per-view, however; it was a hell of an experience to be there live and everything was entertaining. AEW has some work to do with its production and commentary, but on the whole, they're off to a strong start.
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