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AEW Double or Nothing 2021 recap & reactions: Inner Circle lives

AEW Double or Nothing (May 30, 2021) emanated from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, FL. It featured Dr. Britt Baker DMD taking a shortcut to become new women’s champ, Kenny Omega screwing his opponents en route to keeping the AEW World Championship, and the Inner Circle emerging victorious to remain a glorious unit.

Get caught up on all the Double or Nothing details with the excellent play-by-play from Claire Elizabeth.

Let’s run the card down from top to bottom.

Stadium Stampede: Inner Circle defeated the Pinnacle. The main event started with a cool moment of the Inner Circle repelling down the scoreboard to the field.

The overall vibe was more action than comedic action. Everyone brawled to begin then split off into separate feuds. Jake Hager and Wardlow threw hoss blows. Hager speared Wardlow through a wall. FTR started a disco fight with Santana & Ortiz. They all shared a drink prior to fisticuffs. Konnan was revealed as the DJ. He prevented Tully Blanchard from getting involved. Chris Jericho and MJF fought into Urban Meyer’s office then toward Daily’s Place. Jericho stood tall by smashing MJF through wood in the upper level.

The finish came down to Sammy Guevara and Shawn Spears. The Chairman did a flashdance routine before fighting with Guevara. Their path led to the center ring in front of the fans when Guevara ran over Spears with a golf cart. Between the ropes, Spears took control with his chair to unload fury on Guevara. Sammy recovered enough to score the GTH fireman’s carry knee strike. He rammed Spears’ head into a chair then took flight for a 630 senton. Guevara pinned Spears for the three count. With that win, the Inner Circle lives.

The Stadium Stampede sequel was a boatload of entertainment. There were so many little touches that brought a smile to my face. It was an interesting call to have the finish away from Jericho and MJF. I like that other members in this fight tasted the spotlight. Pinning Spears is not all that impressive, but Guevara still shined in his execution. That 630 senton is exhilarating. The Inner Circle’s win allowed the PPV to close on a high note with fans singing along to, “Judas.”

AEW World Championship: Kenny Omega retained against Orange Cassidy and PAC. The three-way flow was efficient with constant motion. Omega and PAC provided awesome moves. Cassidy received the star role with believable false finishes teasing a title change. OC had Omega and PAC both down after Superman punches. He chose to cover PAC, but Don Callis was there to pull the referee out of the ring during the three count.

The match broke down when PAC had Cassidy in the Brutalizer submission. Omega tried to stomp PAC to break the hold, but the bastard would not budge. Instead, Omega dropped an axe handle on the referee to prevent a finish. Omega blasted PAC with each of his four championship belts (AEW, Impact, TNA, AAA). Omega was on the verge of victory then OC exploded for a Superman punch to the champ. A backup referee made a two count, then Omega reversed the pin into a crucifix cover to win.

The match had great energy throughout. I don’t care for Cassidy, but I can appreciate how AEW used him to give his fans hope of a win. The finish was borderline garbage. It turned into a waste of time that a high level championship bout on PPV resolved nothing. Both Cassidy and PAC have legit cases for a rematch. For me, it gave Omega go-away heat. It is a downer to get invested in a 20+ minute match only to culminate in cheaply booked interference. Omega’s title run in Impact has been so much more enjoyable than his AEW title run.

Sting & Darby Allin defeated Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page. The action opened with brawling. Sky suplexed Sting on stage, but Stinger no-sold the pain and pushed Sky off the stage. Sting followed with a flying crossbody down to the floor.

That was awesome, but the top spot was Page launching Allin out of the ring over the ropes crashing down onto his brothers in the front row.

There was another badass moment when Sting had Page trapped in the Scorpion Deathlock and Sky had Allin trapped in a heel hook. Page and Allin looked eye to eye and started slapping and eye-gouging each other while in pain from the submissions. Sting prevailed in the end by holding the rope to counter a cutter from Sky into the Scorpion Death Drop.

That match was much more fun than it had any busy being. The creativity for the high spots was excellent. Sting looked great. This was a fantastic use of the Icon. It brought maximum excitement and left me wanting more. This is definitely a match Sting fans should seek out.

AEW Women’s World Championship: Dr. Britt Baker DMD defeated Hikaru Shida to win the title. Reba’s presence played a role during pivotal moments in the match. She accidentally clobbered Baker with her crutch. Shida hit the Falcon Arrow slam, but Baker kicked out. The referee ended up ejecting Reba, but Baker seized the moment to superkick the title belt into Shida’s face then curb stomp her onto the object. Shida amazingly kicked out on the cover. Shida connected on the Tamashii running knee, but Baker kicked out. Shida was slow to move to her next attack, and Baker capitalized with a crucifix pin then transition into the Lockjaw submission. Shida could not escape and was forced to tap out. Baker is the new face for the new era.

The match had a engaging story with the counter strategies. Both women were prepared with tricks in their tactical bag. The moments of struggle with the Lockjaw were effective in drama. They laid it on a little thick with the super kick outs, but I did fall for it each and every time. I would have been pissed if Baker won on the title belt cheat. Instead, I’m only slightly dejected at Shida’s loss. She carried the division for so long, and this was a whack way to end her reign.

The result also highlights a deeper issue with the inefficient build of Baker. Commentary talked her up as Shida’s toughest test. My problem is that Baker never earned that status in the ring. She often lost her top matches and used Reba’s help for the notable wins. Racking up chump victories does not rehabilitate her image as a winner. AEW skipped steps in Baker’s build, and now I view her as a cheap champion. It is also a little lame that three of AEW’s titleholders are cheating tricksters.

TNT Championship: Miro retained against Lance Archer. Earlier in the day, Miro punched Jake Roberts in the junk. That played out later when Roberts came to the ring during the match with his snake in a sack. Miro ended up throwing the snake bag all the way from the ring to the entrance tunnel with force.

The match kicked off with Archer launching for a flying shoulder tackle over the ropes onto the stage. Archer also put Miro through a table on a chokeslam. The overall pace was a little on the slower side with plenty of high-impact maneuvers. The tide turned in Miro’s favor when he kicked the middle rope into Archer’s nether regions. Miro continued with a suplex and jumping thrust kick. He locked in the Game Over camel clutch, but Archer was too powerful to keep down. Miro unloaded knees to Archer’s spine then bent Archer backward with the Game Over. Archer went unconscious, so the referee called for the bell.

Satisfying hoss fight. It was a car crash from the opening bell. Miro was a beast. I like how he has an extra gear of violence. Even though Archer took the loss, he was still impressive. I think his Murderhawk aura remains intact.

Cody Rhodes defeated Anthony Ogogo. Cody entered wearing a patriotic robe with superhero pants as the American Dream. Arn Anderson and QT Marshall were ringside. Ogogo had Cody in trouble after he brutally punched Cody off the turnbuckles then followed with a frog splash. Ogogo settled for a cheap pin, so Cody easily kicked out. Cody locked in a figure-four. Ogogo escaped by landing a hard jab to the chin, so he could reverse the hold. Ogogo continued his assault with a punch to the bread basket and a huge uppercut. When Ogogo attempted his pop-up punch finisher, Cody countered into a vertebreaker for victory.

Ogogo is going to be a star. In this longer match, he did well to blend wrestling moves with his boxing skills. That frog splash was pretty. I really enjoyed Ogogo’s selling and accentuated follow-through adding oomph to his punches.

Credit to Cody for making the inexperienced wrestler look great. Cody has now done that with Shaquille O’Neal and Ogogo. The finish felt a little abrupt, but the vertebreaker looks killer and should be a match closer.

Casino Battle Royale: Jungle Boy survives. The winning prize is a future shot at the AEW World Championship. Rules were group entries every three minutes then one final man as the joker. The first group was Christian Cage, Matt Sydal, Will Hobbs, Dustin Rhodes, and Max Caster. The second group was Matt Hardy, Isiah Kassidy, 10, Nick Comoroto, and Serpentico (injury replacement for Blade). The third group was Brian Pillman Jr., Griff Garrison, Colt Cabana, Anthony Bowens, and Pentagon. The fourth group was Jungle Boy, Marq Quen, Aaron Solow (injury replacement for QT Marshall), Evil Uno, and Lee Johnson. The joker was Lio Rush. It was unclear if Rush was representing NJPW through the Forbidden Door or if he is All Elite.

The battle royale was mostly action with minimal storylines. After Comoroto was eliminated, he clocked Rhodes with a cowbell. That led to Dustin’s ouster. Hobbs and Christian spent significant time on the floor, but that didn’t turn into anything important. Lio Rush was a neat surprise and rocked with slickness and quickness before his elimination. He would be a good addition to the roster if kept long-term.

The final five came down to Matt Hardy with Private Party watching his back, Christian, and Jungle Boy. Christian and Jungle Boy teamed up to dump Private Party. Hardy tried to convince Christian to double-team JB, but Christian immediately turned on Hardy to toss him out.

The last two men dueled on the apron with high-wire theatrics. Jungle Boy had a dope move to swing around the ring post to safety. He used a back body drop to eliminate Christian en route to victory.

Solid battle royale with a quick pace. It lacked any dominant performances, amazing moments, or star-making runs. The result was a mild swerve, since Christian was the favorite to win. Jungle Boy has risen to the occasion before in these scenarios, so it is not shocking that he survived. He should provide a banger TV main event when he gets his title shot.

The order of elimination was:
1. Sydal by Caster
2. Caster by Christian
3. Serpentico by 10
4. Comoroto by Rhodes
5. 10 by Rhodes
6. Rhodes by Hobbs
7. Cabana by Kassidy
8. Bowens by Pillman
9. Garrison by Hardy
10. Pillman by Private Party
11. Solow by Johnson
12. Johnson by Hardy
13. Evil Uno by Pentagon
14. Pentagon by Jungle Boy
15. Hobbs by Christian
16. Rush by Hardy
17. Kassidy by Jungle Boy
18. Quen by Christian
19. Hardy by Christian
20. Christian by Jungle Boy
Winner: Jungle Boy

AEW World Tag Team Championship: Young Bucks retained against Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston.

Interference reared its head in this contest. Mox and King took care of Brandon Cutler early with their clothesline suplex teamwork finisher. Later, Karl Anderson came out on stage. Kingston spied Luke Gallows sneaking on the backside and attacked with a senton off the apron. Frankie Kazarian appeared out of nowhere as the Elite slayer to brawl with Anderson.

Matt Jackson took advantage of the mischief by spraying aerosol into Moxley’s eyes then bashing the canister on his head to cause bleeding. The Bucks hit a Meltzer driver on stage to Mox.

As the match progressed, close pinfalls increased the drama. Mox and King hit a Doomsday Device to Nick Jackson. Matt barely made the save. Moxley nailed a Paradigm Shift to Nick, and Matt made the save again.

Kingston had an injured knee throughout the match and effected him during the finish. Moxley ate a double superkick then heroically kicked out at 1 to the eruption of the crowd. The Bucks followed up with four straight BTE Triggers. Moxley could not kick out of that blitz. The Jackson boys kept their gold.

This is my pick for match of the night. The story stayed true to style as street brawlers versus fast break offense. There were plenty of cool little moments as callbacks to the feud, such as Moxley and Kingston using the Bucks’ own cheap tag team tactics against them. There were quality builds to a couple of hot tag moments. Jim Ross was at his wit’s end with referee incompetence in not enforcing the rules, and I appreciated JR calling it out. The action built nicely to a crescendo with the Bucks emptying their toolbox to pin Moxley.

Hangman Page defeated Brian Cage. This was a meat and potatoes fight with sizzle. Cage was rolling after a suplex onto the stage, a super F-5, and various powerbombs, but Hangman stayed alive. Cage tried to get cute by executing a buckshot lariat. The joke was on Cage though when Hangman caught him for a F-5. Despite Cage wanting to wrestle solo without Team Taz ringside, Hook and Ricky Starks tried to assist The Machine by sliding the FTW title belt into the ring. Cage refused to use the foreign object. Heated words among Team Taz allowed Hangman the window of opportunity to win via buckshot lariat.

Fun fight, however, I’m not a fan of how the finish played out. It did no favors in making anyone look stronger. With Hangman showing such strong heart to kick out after taking so any power moves, it would have been more satisfying to see Hangman complete the comeback on his own instead of Cage being distracted with Team Taz. The shenanigans should have ended with Cage declining Starks help. Cage didn’t need to take it a step further by getting in Hook’s face. That robbed Hangman of the rub from a clean win on Cage. At least Team Taz provided one of my biggest laughs of the evening when Starks pointed to his neck injury to escape Cage’s wrath.

NWA Women’s World Championship: Serena Deeb retained against Riho. The story for the pre-show match was Deeb working Riho’s knee. Whenever Riho had potential pinning moments, she often could not capitalize due to knee pain. Deeb stuck with her game plan to win by smashing Riho’s knee into the mat before applying the Serenity Lock.

Very enjoyable action, although, the match was more about working the crowd. Deeb did a great job turning cheers to boos by bending the rules. I also like how she executed her offense with conviction. On strikes, she threw her full weight into it. Credit to Riho for making me believe an upset was in the works with that creative pin counter before Deeb closed out the win. Also of note, Riho has now made the USA her permanent base of operations.

Stud of the Show: Sting!

Sting found the fountain of youth. If it turns out being his final match, then he can be proud.

Dud of the Show: AEW World Championship finish

That was extremely disappointing. I’m glad it did not close the show, because it would have been sour.

Grade: A-

Double or Nothing was an exciting show. All of the matches maintained my interest. That is no easy task for a four-hour event. This PPV should have good replay value on a second viewing. While there were cool surprises with Lio Rush and Mark Henry, the results ended up being fairly predictable. Despite that, the matches did well to create drama. Shout-out to the fans. Their enthusiasm and rowdiness elevated the vibe of the show.

Share your thoughts about Double or Nothing. How do you rate it? Who stole the show?

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