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AEW 'Double or Nothing' 2021 was pure magic

Pro Wrestling

AEW ‘Double or Nothing’ 2021 was pure magic

This third annual AEW spectacular dares to ask, ‘What did four belts say to the face?’

Tony Khan has mentioned in the past that he’s been trying to recapture the magic that was Double or Nothing 2019. Well, after a year without a real AEW crowd, Double or Nothing 2021 might just be the show to finally tap into that bliss.

The crowd was hot all night, and any match that was blessed to be in the first half of the card got the best of it. In return for bringing such a raucous energy, the crowd was treated to technical masterpieces, nail-biting near-falls, and an iconic Stadium Stampede match to cap it all off.

Grab your favorite steel chair — or even a room full of them — and join me as we dive into this year’s edition of AEW Double or Nothing!

AEW Double or Nothing - Riho vs. Serena Deeb

Serena Deeb def. Riho to retain the NWA World Women’s Championship

I was a fool when I last described Serena Deeb as an aggressive babyface. She is now undoubtedly a cocky, opportunistic monster, and I am here for it either way.

The Buy-In saw Deeb and Riho follow up on their previous grappling masterclass from the Eliminator Tournament, only now Deeb has the same fire to her character that she showcased when facing Red Velvet two weeks ago. What we got here was a lot of legwork as Deeb hit dragon screws, reverse dragon screws, DOUBLE dragon screws, and multiple Serenity Locks to try and weaken Riho’s mobility.

Riho tried to put Deeb away with double stomps (none of which she could capitalize on because of her bum legs) and even got an amazing 2.999 count with a prawn hold cover, but Deeb recovered from the false finish, repeatedly drove Riho’s knee into the mat, and finally put her down with a final Serenity Lock. A captivating appetizer for the crowd both in the arena and at home.

AEW Double or Nothing - Hangman Page vs. Brian Cage

Hangman Page def. Brian Cage

The show kicked off with Cage dressed like a T-800 (get it? because he’s a machine), while Hangman came out as himself and got one of the loudest entrance pops of the night.

Page and Cage just went for it, brawling from second 0 and hitting lariats and knees, respectively, wherever possible. As the match progressed, the power of Cage became an issue for Hangman, and instead of being on the attack or actively defending, Hangman had to keep kicking out of Cage’s powerbombs and other heavy assaults.

In a show of arrogance, Cage went for the Buckshot Lariat, only to stumble and get hit with an F5 from Hangman. Team Taz came out to help Cage get the better of Hangman, but Cage refused their help and the sneaky FTW title attack. For his valiance, Cage ate a Buckshot and a pinfall loss.

The match itself was just “good” — “really good,” even — but with the crowd going so wild, I legit thought it was one of my favorite matches of the year, at least in the moment.

AEW Double or Nothing - Young Bucks vs. Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston

The Young Bucks def. Moxley & Kingston to retain the AEW Tag Team Championships

This was the first of many matches to start with a pre-match brawl, as Mox and Kingston went straight to work taking out both Young Bucks before hitting Cutler with their tag finisher, Violent Crown.

Once the bell rang, it slowly turned into a series of handicap matches, as the Young Bucks would separate Mox from his corner for long stretches of time before doing the same to Kingston. A lot of the focus here was on Moxley, though, and by mid-match, the Death Rider was a bloody mess. He was also still very capable of hitting Paradigm Shifts, which the Jacksons had to keep helping each other out of (with help from Anderson and Gallows).

Though the rowdier team seemed to make a strong comeback when Kingston brought out the Bucks’ Diors to hit a Diors-Day Device with Moxley, the Young Bucks recovered with their promised Superkick Party — which ended Kingston but got a strong 1-count out of Mox — before hitting Moxley with four consecutive BTE Triggers and getting the victory.

Another really good match that the crowd was gaga for, and if you watched live as the Young Bucks attempted a Shield powerbomb only to end up eating an Ambrose rebound lariat, you were probably going gaga at home, too.

AEW Double or Nothing - Casino Battle Royale

Jungle Boy wins the Casino Battle Royale

This match weirdly made the older wrestlers look really strong, as the focus stayed pretty consistently on Christian Cage and Matt Hardy while Dustin Rhodes eliminated the other big men in the match.

Some highlights for this one include Max Caster’s pre-match rap (in which he implied that Christian was cooler with Edge and expertly avoided going after Will Hobbs), Hardy and Isiah Kassidy trying to jump 10 but failing, the crowd being VERY into Colt Cabana and Evil Uno, and the debuting joker: Lio Rush.

Rush’s big moment was cool, but it only lasted a few moments before the Hardy Family Office eliminated him, getting a 3-on-2 advantage over Christian and Jungle Boy. The two faces dispatched of Private Party, then Christian “betrayed” Money Matt after he tried to form an alliance with him.

The final stretch was AMAZING (much like Jungle Boy and Fenix at Revolution), and it was nuts seeing Jungle Boy swing around a corner post to avoid elimination. After back body dropping Christian Cage out of the ring, Jungle Boy won the Casino Battle Royale, gained the respect of Captain Charisma, and punched his ticket to an AEW World Championship match.

AEW Double or Nothing - Anthony Ogogo vs. Cody Rhodes

Cody Rhodes def. Anthony Ogogo

I feel dumb for ever having thought there could be a different result. I just really thought AEW would let The Factory “be something.”

Ogogo got a liver punch in pretty early, but like a fool, he followed it up with an Olympic slam instead of more punches. Because he decided to actually wrestle Cody, Ogogo obviously got out-played, finding himself getting powerslammed, locked in a Figure 4, and generally abused. He hit one cool frog splash and almost got a win with a gut-punch-uppercut-to-the-chin combo, but generally speaking, Ogogo was dead the moment he hit that slam.

Cody pinned him with a VERTEBREAKER (not the Cross Rhodes or even the Bionic Elbow), and now America is safe.

The Factory looks like the worst stable in AEW, and that includes the Wingmen. The match itself was “alright.”

AEW Double or Nothing - Miro vs. Lance Archer

Miro def. Lance Archer to retain the TNT Championship

The second match with a pre-match brawl, Miro vs Lance Archer got a table spot in before the bell and just kept going from there.

In my humble opinion, the bell-to-bell match wasn’t as big of a spectacle as I thought it’d be, instead reminding me of a big-time “Rusev match” throughout the middle — as in a WWE-style deal, much like Cody had when he first joined the indies. It’s not inherently a bad thing, but it didn’t match the typical car crash style of AEW outside of the opening salvo and the ending stretch.

Jake Roberts came out with his patented Snake in a Bag™ and tried to scare Miro with it, but Miro jostled Jake around, stole his bag, shook it around, and tossed it up the ramp to a chorus of boos. This led to Archer popping back up and hitting a huge chokeslam on Miro, but it wasn’t enough. Miro fought his way back into the match, hit his pumping superkick, and attacked Archer’s back until he was too weak to defend against the Game Over anymore. With Archer no longer responding, the ref had no choice but to call it.

Again, it wasn’t my favorite match pacing-wise, and I’m also not huge on Archer taking this kind of loss right now, but I’m interested in seeing what happens next to give Archer some of his credibility back. As for Miro, the man is right back in his comfort zone, and watching him embrace the crowd while still being a terrorizing monster makes him super compelling.

AEW Double or Nothing - Hikaru Shida vs. Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.

Britt Baker def. Hikaru Shida to become the new AEW Women’s World Champion

With Britt Baker coming out in “bloody” gear (kind of like a sparkly version of the Outsiders at Halloween Havoc ’96) and Hikaru Shida coming out in bright white, you would assume that the cool heel vs white meat babyface alignments were pure here.

It got complicated.

Though commentary said the crowd was 50/50 for both women, it was really more 55/45 in Britt’s favor, and while the match was still Baker being dastardly and Shida fighting from underneath, we did get moments of Shida playing into the heel role for this match. She waylaid Baker with stiff strikes, pulled on the Doctor’s nose, and didn’t bat an eye when Rebel accidentally hit Baker with her crutch, instead going for the quick pin. All of these made sense in the context of the match, but they still earned Shida some boos.

However, Baker withstood those forearms, falcon arrows, and knees to the face, and instead of hanging her head high on those accomplishments, she didn’t pull a Brian Cage and instead accepted Rebel’s Women’s Championship toss, curb-stomping Shida into it and — after a little more pushback from Shida — sinching in that Lockjaw for the submission victory.

The crowd went wild. My heart broke for Shida. We all entered a new era.

AEW Double or Nothing - Sting & Darby Allin vs. Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page

Sting & Darby Allin def. Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page

The third and final match with a pre-match brawl, Darby dove straight onto Page while Sting and Scorpio brawled up the ramp. Scorpio hit a suplex on Sting and turned away to taunt, but Sting popped right back up, tossed Scorpio off a stack of poker chips, and took off his shirt to reveal the classic Sting singlet (Stinglet).

Despite Sting’s fiery start, the match broke down into Page and Sky destroying Darby Allin, with Page even calling back to Evolve and throwing Darby from in the ring to the crowd outside (tossing Darby right onto his brothers and some Dark guys). This eventually led to the world’s least satisfying hot tag, as Darby finally got to Sting, only for us to learn that Ref Aubrey didn’t see Sting tag in. It’s a classic spot, but it gets the “least satisfying” mark because it was a pretty slow comeback even before Sting got kicked out.

Sting made up for it with his actual hot tag later, hitting Stinger Splashes all over the place, and when Scorpio tried to recover and hit his over-the-rope cutter, Sting caught him and dropped him with the Scorpion Death Drop for the 1-2-3. This match made Sting look really good, and the ending made me scream.

AEW Double or Nothing - PAC vs. Kenny Omega vs. Orange Cassidy

Kenny Omega def. PAC and Orange Cassidy to retain the AEW Championship

The story was simple: Omega and PAC see each other as equals, while Orange was simply an obstacle. A prop. A non-issue.

Throughout the match, Omega or PAC would attack Orange just to get him out of the way, pull him in as a distraction, or use him for a pinfall attempt. Meanwhile, Orange’s earlier advantages were played for laughs, scoring him 1-counts. When Omega had both men dead to rights with V-triggers, he was able to hit Orange with ease, only for PAC to counter it because that was the difference in skill level.

When Orange was able to avoid a top-rope dragon suplex by putting his hands in his pockets, though, something clicked for him, and he was able to start hitting a lot of his bigger moves — a Michinoku driver here, a Beach Break there, a half-cocked Orange Punch over here. PAC saw Orange’s capabilities and tried to steal Orange’s surefire pinfalls, and when that didn’t work, he kicked him in the groin, hit a Black Arrow, and got the closest nearfall of the night, only failing to become champion because Don Callis got involved. By the time PAC got a Brutalizer in, Omega could take out Ref Bryce himself.

Don passed Omega all four of his championships and watched with glee as Omega hit PAC with four separate belt shots, only for Cassidy to get in and bust out an Orange Punch on Omega for a near-fall thanks to a running-in Ref Aubrey. Omega turned Orange’s pin into a crucifix pin of his own, however, barely beating the enigmatic Orange Cassidy by the skin of his teeth. This was my match of the night.

After this, “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry made his AEW debut. He’ll be an analyst on the debut episode of AEW Rampage in July.

AEW Double or Nothing - Stadium Stampede

The Inner Circle def. The Pinnacle in Stadium Stampede

This year’s Stadium Stampede followed a similar format to last year: start in the football field and pretend like you’re actually going to use that wrestling ring on the 50-yard line, then split up into cinematic singles matches.

MJF vs Jericho was the main match, as the Stampede kicked off with an MJF promo on Jericho that ended with the Inner Circle repelling from the top of a stadium billboard and charging at the Pinnacle. The two of them brawled around the business part of the stadium, running into the Jaguars coaches and brawling into Shahid Khan’s office.

Hager and Wardlow brawled inside of a meat locker and ran each other through a wall into the kitchen, with Hager eventually getting the better of Wardlow through a slam into wood. Santana & Ortiz met FTR and Tully Blanchard in a “nightclub” populated by Dark wrestlers, and with some assistance from old friend Konnan (who was playing DJ at this club), Santana & Ortiz brawled with FTR into the elevators.

Sammy Guevara and Shawn Spears had the most extended part of the match, first fighting in Spears’ wet dream of a room full of chairs before taking their battle into the hall and into a storage room. Spears beat Guevara at first by handcuffing him to a storage rack, but after being chased out of the doldrums by the Inner Circle biker club, Spears was eventually mowed down by Guevara in a golf cart.

While Jericho pummeled a bloody MJF in the crowd, Guevara and Spears actually wrestled in the ring, with Guevara putting Spears’ head through a chair and putting him away with a 630 Senton. The crowd went home happy as the Inner Circle celebrated in the center of the ring, no longer in danger of having to break up.

Though the middle got weird, the beginning and ending stretches of this show were so strong that I feel this is easily in the upper echelon of AEW shows.

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