It only took 18 long years but the day is finally here.
In 2018, they were just five men who proved to the industry and fans alike that you could become some of the biggest names, one of the biggest brands in pro wrestling without signing a contract in Stamford, Connecticut.
Today with Tony and Shadid Khan behind them, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Nick and Matt Jackson and Adam “Hangman” Page are the faces of the wrestling revolution some fans have been waiting for since March 26, 2001, when Monday Nitro went off the air and WWE bought WCW.
Despite some rough edges which were to be expected, Saturday nights’s Double or Nothing broadcast, the first pay-per-view in the company’s history, proved without a doubt that AEW is THE competition, THE alternative, THE very change the wrestling industry and wrestling fans have been waiting for.
If AEW’s intentions weren’t clear to some, Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes spelled it out as he arrived to wage war with his own brother Dustin Rhodes, formerly Goldust. Next to the rampway was a throne complete with skulls and an iron cross, obvious references to Triple H, the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE.
Cody uses a sledgehammer on a throne.
With a sledgehammer in hand, Cody broke the throne to pieces in a puff of smoke before putting on one of the greatest and emotional wrestling matches fans have ever seen.
If that wasn’t enough, some legends made appearances. Bret Hart unveiled the new AEW World Championship belt to the world. Diamond Dallas Page helped escort Brandi Rhodes from the ringside area for interfering in her husband’s match. Tommy Dreamer and Glacier were in the battle royale. Awesome Kong joined the three-way women’s match. Former WWE superstar Dean Ambrose under his former name Jon Moxley, joined the company in spectacular fashion too ambushing Kenny Omega. All of this supported at the foundation by good old Jim Ross calling the action as only he can.
While the marque matches were stellar, the show wasn’t without some flaws. Although Excalibur, retired pro wrestler Marc Letzmann, was fantastic on the microphone, Alex Marvez was the weak link on the announce team. Some of the wrestlers in the 21-man Casino Battle Royale were not quite ready for prime-time and there were a few production miscues but other than that, Double or Nothing was as good if not better than any of the recent pay-per-views or productions by the established wrestling promotions.
And let’s not forget that even though many of the fans in attendance didn’t know who they were, tag team Super Smash Bros (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) increasing AEW’s already incredible Canadian content just by debuting at Double or Nothing.
If the matches and the tone at Double or Nothing are any indication of what their television show or pay-per-views will be like, AEW will not shy away from blood, the kind of sign language that Steve Austin would approve of or the bare butt of Cody Rhodes. It was definitely a more mature product, the kind of product that I grew up with, that kids could enjoy as long as they have some sort of supervision or guidance from their parents.
The AEW world title scene came into clear focus at the show with Chris Jericho defeating Kenny Omega in their grudge/qualifying match and Adam “Hangman” Page winning the 21-man Casino Battle Royale. Since his match with Pac (formerly Neville in WWE) was cancelled, Page became the last entrant in the battle royale. Jericho and Page will now face each other for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship.
The best match of the night at the MGM Grand Arena, though, by far goes to Cody Rhodes versus Dustin Rhodes which was not only one of the bloodiest matches I have ever seen but it was also one of the most poignant. Such emotion, sentimentality and utter viciousness will be very hard to beat when it comes to a Match of the Year candidate.
When does that AEW weekly television show start? Not soon enough.
A wide angle shot of the MGM Grand during the battle royale.
21-man Casino Battle Royale
Sorry, folks. It is hard to script an elimination list when the announcers forget to call many of them and get some of the names wrong. What can you do? It doesn’t help that I don’t know some of the talent involved either so it is hard to keep track of them without the announcers to lean on.
Michael Nakazawa pours baby oil all over his body to slicken himself up in the middle of the match. Apparently, that is his thing. Incredible bilateral amputee Dustin Thomas is an inspiration in the ring pulling off some amazing moves while I cannot even run two laps around my condo.
Shawn Spears (formerly Tye Dillinger) and MJF get into it immediately. They both flip each other off, start brawling. Spears has a new mohawk-like haircut which looks far better than his old one did. MJF, who is destined to become a major star, seems to be calling out all the veterans. He challenges Glacier when he joins the fray as well as Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer throws a trash can into the ring and starts blasting people left and right with the lid.
The crowd gets behind Dreamer. Adam Page is the final entrant. Page attempted to lift the enormous girth that is Ace Romero. His taped, injured knee gives out. Dustin Thomas crushes Joey Janela with a 6:19 and a slingshot splash from the apron. Thomas eliminates Spears. MJF uses sneaky style to take out Thomas. The crowd jeers the heel.
Luchasaurus (former Big Brother USA houseguest Austin Matelson) throws Joey Janela out over the top rope through a table. After banging his butt into Tommy Dreamer’s face, Sonny Kiss is heaved over the top rope by the Innovator of Violence.
Jimmy Havoc uses a staple gun on Dreamer’s crotch to send him back to the locker room. Jungle Boy is clutching onto the top rope. Havoc bites Boy’s fingers forcing him to let go.
The last four men are Luchasaurus, MJF, Jimmy Havoc and Adam Page. MJF is sneaking around on the floor though. A big boot from Luchasaurus knocks out Havoc. Page pulls the ropes down on a charging Luchsaurus so he become extinct. MJF almost steals a win, however, Page refuses to lose dumping MJF with two clotheslines. Page will face the winner of Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega for the AEW World Heavyweight Title.
Winner: ‘Hangman’ Adam Page at 23:35.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Sammy Guevara drives into Kip Sabian.
Kip Sabian versus Sammy Guevara
The official for this match is Aubrey Edwards. Sammy Guevara comes out wearing a…panda hoodie? Apparently he sells cute panda crap or something. Considering how big their egos are it is surprising Sabian and Guevara can fit in the ring. The two escape each other’s moves and gloat about it often. Sabian springboards off the middle rope onto Guevara on the floor. A springboard drop kick off the ropes gives Guevara some unneeded and unwanted dental work. Sabian cannot seem to put Guevara away no matter what he does. Guevara and Sabian suplex each other over the ropes, off the apron and onto the floor. Crazy stuff. Guevara puts Sabian over the ringside barrier. He hits an impressive shooting star press off the ring onto Sabian. Sabrian blocks the 630 splash with his knees pinning Guevara with his finisher.
Winner: Kip Sabian at 9:37.
Match Rating: 7.5 / 10
A victorious SoCal Uncensored.
SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky) versus Strong Hearts (Cima, T-Hawk, and El Lindaman)
SoCal Uncensored gets a boisterous welcome from the Las Vegas crowd. Daniels calls Las Vegas SCU’s “favourite bad town”. Announcer Excalibur makes it known that in AEW tag team matches wrestlers will have a 10 count to get out of the ring not a 5 count after they tag in. Jim Ross says he spoke with Strong Hearts and they seem to have a lot of respect for the business.
Daniels and Cima end up seated on the mat as they both try to hip toss each other. Scorpio Sky drop kicks T-Hawk. T-Hawk comes up with his mouth bleeding. SCU isolates the most inexperienced member of Strong Hearts: El Lindaman. T-Hawk comes to Lindaman’s rescue hitting each member of SCU harder than a sledgehammer. The crowd surprisingly starts cheering for both teams. T-Hawk puts Daniels in a crossface while both Chima and El Lindaman drops kick him in the head. Daniels hot tags Scorpio Sky who burns through Strong Hearts. They triple team Sky almost pinning him. Daniels and Kazarian put El Lindaman away with the Best Meltzer Ever.
Winners: SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky) at 13:46.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
Awesome Kong has Britt Baker right where she wants her.
Britt Baker versus Nyla Rose versus Kylie Rae
If this is an indication of what the women’s wrestling will be in AEW, the bar is about to raised very high indeed. Allie joins the announce team to call the first ever AEW women’s match. Brandi Rhodes comes out in her wrestling gear. She doesn’t want just a “great match”. She wants an “awesome match”. Awesome Kong’s music hits. The crowd loses it. The match is now a fatal four-way bout.
Kong comes down to the ring ready for war. The other three women eye Awesome Kong as she stares them down in the centre of the ring. As Kong and Rose share some words, Rae and Baker attack. They are shrugged off. Kong knocks Rose out of the ring and batters Rae and Baker. Brandi stays out on the floor while the other women fight on. She never enters the match itself. Baker’s diving crossbody is caught by Kong. Rae leaps onto both women taking them out on the floor. Baker and Rae hook Rose in the corner. Kong arrives slamming them all to the mat. It takes all three women, including a spear from Rose into the steel ring stairs to stun Kong. Brandi encourages a dazed Kong to get back into the match. It isn’t enough though as Baker pins Rae after a super kick and an Adam Cole Special.
Winner: Britt Baker at 11:10.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
Jack Evans in mid-air.
Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta) versus Angélico and Jack Evans
Evans cannot even budge Beretta bouncing off of him like a rubber ball. The Best Friends go for their trademark hug. Angélico and Evans drop kick them angering the crowd who wanted that moment. A tandum 450 splash forces Trent to kick out at two. Taylor dodges Angélico. Angélico crashes into the corner. Evans runs in, Taylor throws Angélico into Evans. A Sliced Bread and a two foot stomp takes Angélico out of the match for a while. Best Friends work over Evans in the ring with drops kicks, elbows and knees.
Angélico leaps back into the ring. The Best Friends take him out and finally get their hug. Crucifix Bomb from Angélico and a 630 Splash from Evans has Taylor running in and making the save just in time. Best Friends get the three count on Angélico and Jack Evans. Both teams shake hands and hug it out…then the lights in the arena go out.
Jim Ross explains that these things happen on your first show.
The lights come back on revealing the Canadian tag team Super Smash Brothers (Stu Grayson and Evil Uno) and they have brought a horde of masked wrestlers with them. Smash Brothers and their minions attack the other two teams, decimating them. The heathen fans chant: Who are you? Who are you?
Winners: The Best Friends at 12:41.
Match Rating: 7.5 / 10
The Super Smash Brothers upped the Canadian content in AEW.
Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki and Emi Sakura versus Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe and Ryo Mizunami
The Japanese women tell a very amusing and colourful story with their match. There are a lot of comedy bits and a lot of personality. Kong has brought a metal box down to the ring. Kong and Riho Abe’s showdowns with Aja Kong are amusing. The fans cheer as Mizunami spears Kong out of the ring. Kong has a showdown with Shida. Shida has a kendo stick and Kong her metal box. Shida gets brained. Shida wins the match for her team with the Shining Wizard.
Winners: Hikaru Shida, Riho Abe and Ryo Mizunami at 13:10.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
A bloody Dustin Rhodes struggles in Cody’s leglock.
Cody versus Dustin Rhodes
A throne decorated with skulls and an iron cross, much like something Triple H would sit on, rests opposite the entrance way. Cody and Brandi examine it with a few sneers. At ringside, Brandi reaches under the ring and hands Cody a sledgehammer. Cody slams the sledgehammer into the throne. A puff of smoke appears as the throne breaks into bits. Dustin comes out wearing a new red and black body suit. He is introduced as “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes. The match is termed as “The Throne Breaker” versus “The Natural”. Cody’s weight belt reads: “Attitude Breaker”.
The arena chants…Dusty! Dusty!. Dustin points to the sky and nods his head. Cody trips up Dustin. He cartwheels to celebrate. Cody dives into Dustin driving him into the arena floor. Cody asks the fans to move as he fakes throwing Dustin into the crowd. Dustin shocks them with a rolling senton off the apron onto Cody which is followed by a You still got it! Chant.
Punch after punch in the face has Cody taking a hike into the crowd. He stops and has a drink while Dustin waits inside.
Cody ducks down to punch Dustin. “Not today!” says Dustin as he slides down punching Cody in the jaw. Cody tears off a turnbuckle. Dustin charges in and Cody rams his head into the unprotected buckle. Dustin stumbles around ringside. He is bleeding a lot from the forehead. Like, Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13, a lot.
Brandi spears Dustin. The crowd roars as referee Earl Hebner gives her the boot. When she is reluctant to follow the official’s instructions, Diamond Dallas Page comes out to assist Brandi to the back.
Cody bites, punches Dustin’s forehead splitting it open even more than it already is. Cody licks his brother’s blood off his hand. Ewww.
Dustin takes a wild swing at Cody. He trips and falls. Punches from Cody has Dustin collapsed in the corner. Cody curb stomps and drops a double sledgehammer from the top rope. A powerslam out of nowhere gets Dustin a two count. The crowd comes alive for Dustin.
The Wooooos echo as Cody locks Dustin in the figure four. A blood-soaked Dustin reverses the figure four into a death lock. Both men roll into the ropes for the break.
Cody takes off his weight belt but before he can use it, Hebner takes it away. Dustin pulls Cody’s pants down and proceeds to spanking his bare butt with the belt. The arena breaks into a standing ovation and AEW chants.
Cross Rhodes by both men doesn’t earn them a three count. Cody’s head butt on Dustin leaves his own head and hair so very bloody. By the time the match is over both men are covered in it.
The crowd demands they fight forever. Cody stops the official from counting to ten, giving him the KO victory. Cody ends things with a final Cross Rhodes.
Looking back at his bloody brother, Cody heads back into the ring.
“You don’t get to retire here. You don’t get that,” says Cody to Dustin over the microphone as the fans chant…Thank you, Dustin.
Cody explained that he signed a contract to fight The Young Bucks at Fight for the Fallen in july.
“I don’t need a partner. I don’t need a friend. I need my older brother,” said Cody his voice cracking as Dustin began to cry. Dustin and Cody hugged it out walking to the back together, arm in arm.
Winner: Cody at 22:16.
Match Rating: 9.5 / 10
Bret Hart shows off the AEW title.
The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) (c) versus The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M and Fénix) – Tag team match for the AAA World Tag Team Championship
It is brothers versus brothers in a match that is just too crazy to call. The Bucks come out dressed in Elvis jumpsuits. The Bucks are introduced and the pushing, shoving begins between the two teams. Matt poweslams and spears the The Lucha Brothers. Penta insults Matt’s mom. Matt slaps the taste right out of his mouth. Penta monkey flips one Buck into another. Nick bulldogs one Lucha Brother and clotheslines another. The Young Bucks puts stereo Sharp Shooters on The Lucha Brothers. A powerslam, stunner off the second rope almost has Fénix pinned. Super kicks all around puts everyone on their backs. Fenix crouches so Penta can leap off his back for the Canadian Destroyer on the ring apron. Matt gives Fénix a brainbuster on the top turnbuckle. The Meltzer Driver on Fénix and the Bucks retain.
Winners: …and still the AAA World Tag Team Champions, The Young Bucks at 24:56.
Match Rating: 9 / 10
Chris Jericho versus Kenny Omega
We see people (obviously not Jericho) dressed up in various Y2J incarnations before his current music hits. Jericho relaxes in a corner meanwhile Omega bounces back and forth. Omega and Y2J swap slaps as Jericho doesn’t break clean.
A drop kick through the ropes puts Omega into the ringside barrier. Jericho drags Omega around the ringside area. Smacking Omega’s head off the time keeper’s desk, Jericho rings the bell declaring himself the winner. Omega jumps onto a ringside barrier. Jericho pushes him right into the third row.
Y2J goofs with one of the cameras until Omega throws water at him. Jericho “cannot escape” taking a moonsault from Omega. Omega bounces off the ropes. Jericho catches him with a clothesline that turns him inside outside. Y2J flips off the audience. J.R. apologizes on behalf of AEW. Omega comes up bleeding from the nose following more punches from Jericho.
Jericho crawls under the ring. He pulls out a table. Omega drop kicks the table into Jericho’s face. The table remains unbroken as Omega dives onto it and Y2J. Omega picks up the table dropping it on a fallen Jericho. Omega springs off the top rope with a double stomp on the table and Jericho.
Blood pouring out of his nose and down his face, Omega sets the table up. The match heads back into the ring though. A bulldog stuns Jericho. With Jericho’s face in the turnbuckle Omega nails him with a V-Trigger from behind. Jericho takes another nasty shot receiving a suplex from the top rope.
Jericho lands two Lionsaults for a two count. Jericho backdrops Omega over the top rope and through the table that was set-up minutes ago on the floor.
With Omega on the apron and Y2J in the ring, the two men exchange punches until Jericho missile drops kicks Omega so hard he flips over landing on his neck. Omega leaps off the top rope. Jericho catches him in a Code Breaker for a near pinfall.
Chris Jericho controls Kenny Omega.
Jericho pulls Omega to his feet slapping him in the face. Omega answers with a Dragon Suplex. Jericho halts a V-Trigger turning it into a Walls of Jericho. Omega rolls to his back kicking Jericho. A V-Trigger knocks out Jericho. Y2J hits what J.R. calls the “ugliest DDT” he has ever seen although it does its job countering the One-Winged Angel. They run the sequence again, better this time. A Code Breaker and a Judas Effect elbow pins Kenny Omega.
Jericho addresses the audience. He demands they thank him because without him AEW wouldn’t have a pay-per-view, a television contract, anything.
Out of the audience comes Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose).
“What are YOU doing here?” asks Jericho as Moxley enters the ring.
He gives Jericho and the referee Dirty Deeds.
Despite the fact that he is still bleeding and exhausted, Kenny Omega fights back when Moxley tries to hit him with Dirty Deeds. The superstars brawl into the crowd all the way back to the entrance area where there is a pile of giant poker chips. Omega rams Moxley’s head into the chips. They fight to the top of the pile where Moxley DDTs him.
“How do you like AEW now?” asks Jim Ross.
Moxley slams Omega off the pile of coins through a stage below.
Winner: Chris Jericho at 26:34.
Match Rating: 9 / 10
Overall Event Rating: 9 / 10