Last night, All Elite Wrestling fired a proverbial shot across the bow, their target being Vince McMahon’s rival wrestling company, WWE. To say there was a lot of hype surrounding the AEW inaugural PPV ‘Double Or Nothing’ would be an understatement. The build around ‘Double Or Nothing’ hit a fever pitch, as fans of pro wrestling were potentially getting the first major competitor to WWE since the now defunct WCW. In a way, the sheer existence of AEW will immediately spark memories of the great ‘Monday Night Wars’ that elevated pro wrestling to unforeseen heights in the late ’90s. Even more so than that though, AEW has shown us all something that we’ve previously thought an impossibility. AEW’s ‘Double Or Nothing’ proved that there can be life after WWE.
It would seem that perhaps AEW was in the works long before Cody and the Bucks even announced it. After all, the promotion was born from talent who have been bucking the big money siren song of WWE. The Young Bucks are real-life brothers who have been making a killing on the independent scene for years now, and along with Cody Rhodes, a former WWE standout, and Kenny Omega, a product of both the indies and New Japan Pro Wrestling are the lifeblood of AEW. Together, they are the nucleus of a new kind of “wrestling revolution”, one that could give Vince McMahon and co. their toughest challenge yet.
Cody Rhodes is perhaps the most interesting piece of the puzzle. He had been in the WWE system for years, before finally requesting and being granted his release a few short years ago. Rhodes is the son of WWE Hall Of Famer, and legendary wrestler Dusty Rhodes. Dusty was a hell of a performer, naturally skilled on the mic, and could back it up in the ring as well. Outside of his wrestling performances, Dusty was also a calculated “booker” or wrestling show-runner. He was big on story, and even bigger on theatrics, there’s even a conclusion to a match named after him. The business is in Cody’s blood, and after he left WWE he embarked on a tour of the indies, building his skill and his brand along the way. It was inevitable that he and the Bucks would cross paths someday, but they would need a few more pieces to their puzzle.
Kenny Omega had become a bit of an after thought in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Floundering in their Junior Heavyweight division, he received the opportunity of a lifetime. One that would change his career forever and in the process propel him into the stratosphere of pro wrestling royalty. Omega joined the insanely popular faction The Bullet Club, and put together a string of classic matches, elevating himself to the top of the mountain in New Japan. He would then move up to the heavyweight class, and have some of the greatest matches ever with New Japan’s best wrestler Kazuchika Okada. Together, Omega, The Bucks, and Cody were primed to do something radical within the wrestling business.
‘Double Or Nothing’ did everything right that it was supposed to do. It was quite the spectacle, with fans getting exposure to the talent they wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and a great mix of in-ring action and storytelling thrown in for good measure. The event was highlighted by the four major pieces in The Bucks, Cody, and Kenny Omega, but three more former WWE stars would end up stealing the show. The first of which came during Cody’s match against his recently released brother Dustin, who went by the name of (*insert creepy long-winded inhale and inappropriate chest rub*) Goldust in WWE. The two Rhodes brothers put on an absolute clinic, blending great in-ring action, an amazing story, and one of the bloodiest matches I’ve ever seen. The Bucks would go on to do what they do best, which is a display of unmatched tag team chemistry, along with a perfect blend of high-risk maneuvers and technical wrestling. They too would have a classic match with the Lucha Bros. AKA Rey Fenix and Penatgon Jr.
Then in the main event, Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho (yes, that Chris Jericho) would go on to have one of the hardest hitting, high impact matches I’ve seen in a very long time. Jericho is here to play the Hogan in WCW or Brock Lesnar in WWE role. He brings a ton of name value and legitimacy to the company, and unlike the other two names, he can still go in the ring. At stake in this match, was a shot at the newly announced AEW World Heavyweight championship against Hangman Adam Page at All Out in August. Omega and Jericho also have insane chemistry in the ring, and it showed in their second match against each other. The two men beat the crap out of each other, but in the end, Jericho would be the one standing tall, dropping Omega with his new finish, the “Judas Effect”.
The show would’ve ended with Jericho standing tall, lamenting the crowd and basking in his victory. But the crowd that packed into the MGM Grand were in for one more surprise, as the biggest free agent in wrestling would appear and make a huge statement to cap off the night. Jon Moxley (formerly Dean Ambrose in WWE), made his way through the crowd and caused pure unmitigated chaos. A match that I never knew I wanted was teased (Moxley V Omega), and AEW sent a huge message to the entire industry: There is life outside of WWE. If the goal of Double Or Nothing was to announce the arrival of AEW, then they succeeded. Not only are they here, but they are in prime position to truly change the wrestling world.