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AEW Double or Nothing 2020
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AEW Double or Nothing 2020 review

AEW’s first PPV of the Empty Arena Era has come and gone. How did they handle it?

This year’s Double or Nothing seemed a bit more thrown together as compared to the past two AEW PPVs, which had the benefit of normal, fan-attended Dynamites to narratively support them. Despite that, I was still looking forward to this one. Even without the crowds, I was expecting the whole show to be astounding. And for the most part the show met my high expectations, but there were one or two stumbles for me in this year’s Double or Nothing.

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Private Party vs. Best Friends: I expected a bit more of a fight with these two teams. A Dynamite match between the two have been more intense. It was a preshow match, yes, but I have to admit I was still disappointed.

I did notice that both teams had some botches. Nothing dangerous, but still painfully obvious. It felt like all four of them were in their heads and one messy execution led to another. Perhaps Private Party was just a bit rusty, because we’ve all seen them put on excellent matches. It was a bit of a disappointing start to Double or Nothing.

Casino Ladder Match: Nine people might be too many for a ladder match for me. WWE seems to have found the sweet spot with six. But with nine people plus the others running in as well, it was just a little bit too busy. It meant that no one person felt like they were actually a part of the match but instead were just having their individual spots. It didn’t feel like a cohesive match whatsoever and was honestly a bit disappointing.

However, if you look at the match as mostly a comedy match, it worked well. From Orange Cassidy to Marko Stunt, the match was extremely entertaining. Joey Janela is always great at being silly and bringing a comedic element to matches as well. The surprise addition of Brian Cage was wonderful, and I will never not laugh at the “everyone burying the big guy under a pile of stuff” gag.

But it still fell a bit flat to me. I was expecting something a little more substantial and not just a comedy match. I suppose this is my fault and just a matter of expecting a MITB style match when they leaned more heavily on the royal style in terms of narrative. It was more a collection of spots from tons of people than a grueling ladder match.

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 review
Fun fact, Cage is from the same part of California I grew up in!

MJF vs. Jungle Boy: Based on the last match these two had, I was extremely excited about this match and I was absolutely not disappointed. Having a feud with these two is a great choice — they’re both guys AEW can point to as their own big stars. They’re as babyface and as heel as you can get and both are incredibly skilled. The two just go together so well. 

The sequences between the two were hilarious and incredibly skilled. The two of them can go from fast paced flips to big, hard and heavy hits. They were played as equally matched last time and they were played as such this time. Normally I hate too many false finishes (like anyone else I suppose) but the false finishes in this match just worked. They played into the equally matched narrative so well. I absolutely loved it.

Lance Archer vs. Cody (AEW TNT Championship): First off, I have to say when they presented the belt I was a bit surprised by it, but thought there was a certain simplicity to it that I liked. I honestly would not mind it if they left it the way it was. I understand, though, that am absolutely in the minority here and that it is a small minority.

The match’s start was intense. Those bumps Cody was taking were just brutal and had me terrified. They had me invested immediately. Cody receiving a complete beatdown lasted for perhaps a bit too long. There was a moment for me when the effects of Cody getting destroyed went from 100% to about a 25%.It started to slow down a bit too much to the point where the match never got me back up to the level I was at the start of it. 

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 review
Like… it’s not that bad of a belt, right? Anyone?

Perhaps my frustration with Tyson being there in the first place is making it hard to look at the actual plot point of him interfering on Cody’s behalf objectively. But it just seemed extremely out of place. I would have rather had it be someone with actual plot and not just a random person.

Penelope Ford vs. Kris Statlander: This was a filler match, a match to let people regroup after the previous match. However, Statlander is great and can make things extremely fun. She is amazingly agile and has a great mix of hard hits and cool flips. Penelope too was solid. Her character work and simply the way she holds herself really makes her character. 

The match itself was short and had no real plot or narrative running through it. Again, not all matches can, so I’m not necessarily holding that against it, but AEW could have done something at the last minute, like having Penelope and Statlander get in a quick tussle in the crowd during another match. Literally anything would have helped. As a side note, Kipp was excellent. I absolutely loved him ring side.

Shawn Spears v Dustin Rhodes: This was clearly just going to be a gimmick match. It was fine. I like Shawn being goofy. It had some fun jokes and served mostly to reintroduce Dustin and have some downtime on the card. That’s it. That’s all I really have to say. It was fine.

Hikaru Shida vs. Nyla Rose (AEW Women’s World Championship): I did love the focus around the kendo stick. It felt like a game of hot potato and introduced an interesting dynamic to a no DQ match. It was able to create a lot of tension around a single object, but they could have built the kendo stick a bit more in the weeks leading up to this match. The lack of women’s division in AEW really stole the ability to do this and robbed what was a good match of something that would have made it amazing. 

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 review
Shida right as the bell is about to ring.

It was a bit surprising to me that Shida won, but it wasn’t a total shock. Nyla has been established as a threat and her character is a very prevalent force in AEW. Shida has not — if Shida had lost, I wouldn’t have known what they would have done with her. However, once again, that may very well be because AEW has given very little focus to any of their women’s division.

Mr. Brodie Lee vs. Jon Moxley (AEW World Championship): I am not sure what they do with the Dark Order here on out. People didn’t like them when it was just a tag team. The gimmick was able to regain momentum when Brodie came in, but I’m not sure where the story goes. I do see some options, though — the most obvious one would be that like all cults, this is the moment where you would think the members would turn on the leader but they only double down. A real phenomenon in cults, but it may be hard to portray in this sort of medium.

The match itself was solid but a bit slow to start. After the Nyla match I just needed a quick Twitter break; I think the Spears bit would have been good between these two matches instead for this reason. It did nothing wrong per se, but for the first five to ten minutes I could just not get into it. However, once the brawl moved outside the ring I was paying attention again. But it wasn’t until the last five minutes or so that I was sitting on the edge of my seat.

Being slammed through the ramp and then Brodie kicking out of the Paradigm Shift at one is the reason why you protect finishers, for moments like this. That kickout at one is the reason the reason this match didn’t bury Brodie and while I don’t think it made him stronger, it definitely kept him at the same level of intimidation he has had.

Stadium Stampede: This is what the Money in the Bank match should have been. MITB was purely joke after joke after joke with little to no actual fighting. It was fun but I felt like those who won hadn’t really earned a victory because there was just so little fighting. This match was just such a good mix of both — while the tone of the match was light, it still felt like there had been something achieved by the end. 

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 review
Run, Sammy!

My one complaint would be that it needed to be a bit more decisive with the ending. Kenny seemed to just hit Sammy with a One Winged Angel and that was it. Were the other members of the Inner Circle just as badly beaten? Was Kenny just able to get that pin just in the nick of time? There was no narrative climax to the match. 

But as I said, that was my one complaint because everything else about this match was gold. And let us all appreciate the national treasure that is Sammy Guevara. We do not deserve him. I could go on talking about why I loved it but it would end up just being me giving a play by play of the match. Now excuse me, I’m going to go watch it again. 

Overall, this was a great show. The ladder match did really fall flat for me — I loved the jokes which all landed well, but it would have been better with a smaller group. From there on out, though, Double or Nothing was strong, with some weaker points, but never ones that weren’t at least average. I feel as if the Stadium Stampede match may have done a lot of the heavy lifting — without it, this year’s Double or Nothing would have still been decent, but not much more.

AEW Double or Nothing 2020
AEW Double or Nothing 2020 review
AEW Double or Nothing 2020
The Stadium Stampede match was by far the best thing here and elevated Double or Nothing from a 7 or so to an 8.5, easily. I can only imagine what it would have been like with an actual crowd.
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