It’s beginning to feel like pro wrestling is returning to the way we all love it.
That was the big takeaway from AEW’s third Double or Nothing, as a full house at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville helped elevate the show in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible over the past 14 months. In a vacuum, it was a card that would likely have been considered entertaining but not amazing, and even a little bit of a bummer as heels prevailed in all four of the night’s title bouts. But because of the energy from the live crowd, everything felt bigger and better.
Even for the second ever Stadium Stampede match that closed out the night, that turned out to be true. The latest chapter in the ongoing feud between Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle and MJF’s Pinnacle had extra high stakes, with a stipulation that the Inner Circle would be no more if it suffered defeat.
MJF started his trash talking early after leaving his group’s limo, but the Inner Circle quickly one-upped him by rappelling from the top of the video board at TIAA Bank Field to make their entrance. The rest of the Pinnacle isn’t in the limo anyway, joining the fray after riding in by truck.
Sammy Guevara and Shawn Spears are the first two to enter the ring, a funny sight since it’s falls count anywhere. Jericho and MJF start trading hands outside the limo, with MJF getting the upper hand after a blast from a fire extinguisher. It was short lived because even after he headed inside the stadium, the Demo God was in hot pursuit, and both men found a variety of foreign objects to use as weapons.
The battle spills into Urban Meyer’s office, where he and Charlie Strong lent Jericho a hand before MJF got launched over a railing through a table. That earned a “holy shit” from Meyer as the fight continued through one of the Jaguars’ meeting rooms.
Elsewhere, Wardlow and Jake Hager went head to head by a loading dock, with Hager escaping from a walk-in freezer before battling right back into it. Wardlow got the upper hand by bouncing Hager repeatedly off a metal cabinet, then drove him through a temporary wall into a kitchen area.
Spears found a room to his liking as it was full of hundreds of folding chairs. Guevara’s agility was too much for him for a few moments, but not after he got thrown headfirst into a metal rolling door. Spears looked over a variety of weapons before settling for some electrical cords, only to have Guevara beat him to the same idea. Spears chucked a ladder into Sammy’s face, then handcuffed his foe to a large storage rack. Guevara’s eyes lit up, though, as he saw some bolt cutters in close range.
Why were there random people in the stadium’s bar? We may never know, but FTR quickly disposed of some of them before having a toast with Santana and Ortiz. Drinks turned to punches as the DJ was revealed to be WCW legend Konnan. He prevented Tully Blanchard from joining the fray, and one member from each team ended up leaving the area in an elevator.
Hager and Wardlow hadn’t settled things yet, battling near a beer cage. That brawl ended badly for Wardlow, as he was thrown down through several wooden shelves.
The focus turned back to MJF and Jericho, who got a shot in with a life-size standup of Jaguars owner Shad Khan. The real pain was yet to come, however, as Jericho stapled a paper sign to MJF’s forehead and pulled it out. MJF responded with a piledriver on a conference room table, with Aubrey Edwards making a two count. Thinking quickly, Jericho used a garbage can and Floyd to prevent MJF by hitting his injured arm with a hammer. Calling his longtime enemy an “asshole,” Jericho tossed him through a window.
A quick cut showed Spears hiding out from three motorcycles right before Jericho and MJF brawled back to the upper level of Daily’s Place. Blood streamed from MJF’s face as he was dropped crotch first on a railing. He responded by tearing off Jericho’s arm brace only to be hit with a large spotlight and a powerbomb on a metal box.
Getting the sweetest revenge from the first Stadium Stampede, Guevara ran down and hit Spears with a golf cart. Their confrontation led them back inside the Daily’s Place ring, where a chair shot earned Spears a near fall. A second one followed, making Sammy dig down deep to keep his faction’s fate in his own hands. The fans chanted for the Inner Circle, inspiring Guevara to connect on a GTH and smash Spears’ face into a chair set up in one corner. A 630 senton followed, with Sammy getting the pinfall and ensuring the Inner Circle lives on.
Was it as amazing as the first Stadium Stampede? Probably not, but it was still a great way to end the first AEW pay-per-view in front of live fans in far, far too long, and the appreciation in the air in Jacksonville was palpable even watching on TV.
The next AEW pay-per-view is All Out on Sept. 5, 2021.
Brian Cage vs. “Hangman” Adam Page
I’m so used to wrestling shows happening without fans or with limited crowds that a full audience feels strange. Good, but strange. It’s been an interesting build up to get to this point between these two wrestlers, with Cage initially teasing a face turn, then remaining loyal to Team Taz, and more recently showing he at least wants to beat Page without any outside assistance. He might not need any help after he suplexes Hangman onto the stage, but he’s having a hard time sealing the deal. Cage also unsuccessfully goes for a Buckshot Lariat, setting off a really nice sequence of counters and reversals. Ricky Starks comes down to slide the FTW belt to Cage, who rejects it, infuriating Taz and his men. It also costs Cage the match after he eats a Buckshot. Cage has a brief scuffle with Starks and Hook after the bell.
Winner: Adam Page by pinfall
A video package takes us through the rivalry between the Young Bucks and Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston, offering the first ever mention of StockX on AEW programming (to my knowledge, anyway). Hilariously, Mox and Kingston carry the Jordan 1 Retro High Diors they stole from the feet of the champs to the ring with them.
Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston (challengers) vs. Young Bucks (champions) – AEW World Tag Team Championship Match
The challengers don’t wait for the champs’ streamers to even hit the ground before launching an attack, as Tony Schiavone openly rooting them on. Don Callis is with the announcers too, so there’s some balance. All of them note that since Kingston arrived in AEW during the pandemic, this is the first time he’s really performed in front of a full crowd in this promotion, which I hadn’t really considered. Brandon Cutler gets a beating for daring to assist the Bucks, and when the Good Brothers try to get involved a few minutes later, self-appointed Elite hunter Frankie Kazarian neutralizes them. After a dose of cold spray to the eyes, Mox is bloodied by a microphone shot and eats an Indy Taker on the stage. His face is a bloody mess now, with the announcers calling for the ref to think about stopping this. Mox eventually spoils a bit where the Bucks are mocking The Shield and makes a very hot tag to Kingston, who has the fans firmly behind him. Several near falls later, the Jacksons end up diving to save each other from being pinned, and Moxley shows he may be superkick-proof. He may not be able to shake off four BTE Triggers in a row, and indeed, it turns out he cannot.
Winners … and still AEW World Tag Team Champions: Young Bucks by pinfall
Casino Battle Royale
A special deck determines which group of wrestlers enters this match in which order, meaning everyone gets into the ring a lot faster than, say, a Royal Rumble. Paul Wight joins the commentary table, and sees the Hardy Family Office clean out everyone except Christian and Jungle Boy. There’s also the matter of the Joker, the only surprise entrant, who turns out to be former Bobby Lashley mouthpiece Lio Rush. His time in the match is brief, though the fans are less underwhelmed than I expected. Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen end up getting thrown out, leaving their boss in against Cage and Jungle Boy. Matt tries to play up his past with Christian, but to no avail. An argument could be made for either Christian or Jungle Boy to prevail, though Christian seems like a safer bet. After teasing a few eliminations on the apron both ways, Jungle Boy surprisingly chucks Christian out to the floor, meaning he’ll receive a world title shot.
Winner: Jungle Boy
Anthony Ogogo vs. Cody Rhodes
This is a big spot for someone like Ogogo, who has barely even been on live TV to this point. He does have QT Marshall in his corner, but Arn Anderson is on hand to cancel him out. Ogogo ends up on the top turnbuckle where he lands a punch, then follows with a frog splash that is impressive considering his lack of experience. What isn’t as great is the lack of reaction from the live crowd, suggesting this was just too much, too soon for Ogogo. And Rhodes goes over anyway, making one wonder what the point of this was.
Winner: Cody Rhodes by pinfall
Apparently, Miro laid out Jake Roberts backstage during the women’s championship weigh-in. Is nothing sacred?
Lance Archer (challenger) vs. Miro (champion) – AEW TNT Championship Match
Already wound pretty tightly, Archer comes firing out of the gate, and is only slowed a little when he gets suplexed into the fans in the front row. Or plants, obviously. Roberts recovers from his earlier run-in, heading down to the ring with his bag, but Miro commits some televised animal cruelty by hurling the sack halfway up the tunnel. Guess there was no snake in that bag after all. A few minutes later, Miro ends up submitting Archer.
Winner … and still AEW TNT Champion: Miro by submission
Another sign that wrestling is on the road back to its pre-pandemic state: All Out is returning to Chicago in August. Get your tickets now! Just kidding, I’m pretty sure they aren’t on sale quite yet.
Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. (challenger) vs. Hikaru Shida (champion) – AEW Women’s World Championship Match
As has been the case in recent weeks, a good number of fans are supporting Baker. Since she’s so over as a heel, makes you think she could turn face after winning the belt because there would never be a better time. The dilemma is that she’s been so good as a heel in the first place, you might not want to waste that. We also might not want to get ahead of ourselves, as Shida is using some borderline tactics in the corner. Double turn, perhaps? The action remains stiff, and the fans are on their feet though not particularly loud, seemingly waiting for something dramatic to happen. Rebel’s distraction saves Baker from the Stretch Muffler, but her assistance backfires a second later and nearly costs her boss the match. While being ejected, Rebel manages to slip the belt to Baker, who hits a Stomp on top of it only to see Shida still manage to kick out. After Baker also kicks out after a running knee strike, Shida ends up in the Lockjaw, and to my surprise, she taps out. Tony Schiavone leaves the booth to hug baker by the tunnel.
Winner … and new AEW Women’s World Champion: Britt Baker by submission
Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky vs. Darby Allin and Sting
Allin launches himself into an immediate tope suicida and Sting leaps off the stack of giant casino chips before the match officially begins, which is a good way to get the crowd hyped right away. Also effective: Page hurling Allin into the crowd. Again, likely plants, but still! Sting hears the “you still got it” chants after a good sequence of offense, but Page tests his durability by slamming Allin on top of him. Sting applies the Scorpion Deathlock but isn’t the legal man, and Sky returns the favor for the other side. You figure that Sting is going to get his moment here, however, and he does indeed, pinning Sky to get the win.
Winners: Darby Allin and Sting by pinfall
I was convinced the world title match would close the card, but it’s up next. Interesting way to play it since the live crowd will be watching the main event on a screen just like the rest of us.
Pac (challenger) vs. “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy (challenger) vs. Kenny Omega (champion) – AEW World Championship Match
Omega comes to the ring with four belts, as decorated a pro wrestler as there is in the world. He gets Cassidy out of the way so he can engage in his grudge match with Pac, but Cassidy is quickly back in after both his foes hit each other with a simultaneous cross body. Each man gets a short period of supremacy, but Omega is a step ahead of both his adversaries, proving it with a tope con giro onto Pac and Cassidy. Not to be outdone, Pac quickly responds with a 450 splash that finds two targets. Cassidy’s signature move of putting his hands in his pockets saves him from a huge release superplex that only fells Omega, though the champ immediately gets a near fall in response with a Tiger Driver 98. Pac’s top rope falcon arrow nearly allows Cassidy to steal the title, but Omega kicks out just before the three count. A vengeful Pac connects on Orange with the Red Arrow, forcing Omega to make the save. The fans take it up a notch as Cassidy hits the Orange Punch on Omega and Pac, then a second on Pac. It looks like the three count is coming, but Callis hauls the ref out of the ring. Pac gets Cassidy in a submission hold, and when Omega can’t break it, Kenny knocks the ref down with a double axhandle instead. Callis slips Kenny some of his gold, and he runs roughshod over Pac. Cassidy hits Omega with an Orange Punch, for which Aubrey Edwards runs down to make the count, but Kenny kicks out at two. He then pivots into a crucifix pin and keeps Orange’s shoulders down for three, and by the skin of his teeth, Omega retains.
Winner … and still AEW World Champion: Kenny Omega by pinfall
Schiavone has an announcement about the upcoming TNT show, AEW Rampage, and the special analyst the company has signed. That man is here tonight, and it’s … wow, Mark Henry. That counts as a legit surprise in my book as he seemed like a WWE lifer.
The Pinnacle vs. Inner Circle – Stadium Stampede
Winners: Inner Circle by pinfall
AEW Double or Nothing (2021) 05/31/21
Daily's Place, Jacksonville, Florida
Talk about a show that’s hard to grade without a curve. My head says this was a slight disappointment, with a very promising card that delivered solid entertainment but didn’t quite live up to its full potential. But how could you not love the energy and enthusiasm that having fans packing Daily’s Place brought to this night? It’s going to linger in the memory for that reason alone.