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AEW Double or Nothing 2023 recap & reactions: Anarchy surprise

AEW Double or Nothing (May 28, 2023) emanated from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The PPV featured the Blackpool Combat Club receiving a surprise hand to help against the Elite, MJF outsmarting the other Four Pillars, Kris Statlander shocking the world, and much more.

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

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

Anarchy in the Arena: Blackpool Combat Club defeated The Elite. The live band played Wild Thing as a brawl broke out to start the match. They were eventually silenced with a superkick party. Anarchy in the Arena was super chaotic all over the place with a split-screen at times to catch the action. At one point. Jon Moxley suplexed Kenny Omega onto barbed wire by the stage, while Claudio Castagnoli was taking Matt Jackson for a ride on the giant swing in the concession area.

Moxley promised violence in Anarchy in the Arena, and violence there was. Of course, Moxley was early to bleed. The torture ranged from typical deathmatch fare to silliness, such as Matt landing an inexplicably exploding superkick.

In the end, Don Callis reared his ugly scarred head. Wheeler Yuta was in trouble in the One Winged Angel, so Callis entered the ring. Omega’s Spidey-sense tingled, and he dropped Yuta to confront the Invisible Hand. Boom! A mystery man blitzed Omega with a running knee strike. It was revealed to be Konosuke Takeshita. Callis passed a screwdriver to Yuta, and young Wheeler finished the job to stab Omega on the head. Yuta secured a seat belt pin for victory. Afterward, Callis choked Omega with his belt as the winners stood tall.

Oh man, Anarchy in the Arena is a tough match to digest. I’m not referring to the violence. That was a take it or leave it depending on personal preferences, although, I think most will agree that the exploding superkick was ridiculous in a bad way. It didn’t make any sense. I wasn’t feeling the flow for the most part. Everyone was too scattered around that it was tough to soak it all in.

Where the match shined was in the actual wrestling. Omega and Hangman Page were magic together. They had the emotion of being back to back fighting against the odds. Their teamwork sequences were so fluid. It made me yearn for one more run in the tag team division.

And then the finish was a questionable booking decision. In the larger scheme, Takeshita blindsiding Omega is an exciting twist. That should lead to excellent matches and high drama. Where it falls apart for me is examining the immediate picture. This is an epic fight in the main event of the PPV, and it feels unimportant due to the surprise finish. AEW is trying to tell two stories at once instead of paying off one story on a PPV show. The result feels cheap, since the BCC had no hand in plotting the interference. Basically we are back to square one in the war between BCC and the Elite with Anarchy in the Arena solving nothing.

Giving Yuta the winning pin was an interesting call. That was actually the most surprising thing on the entire PPV. I’ll have to reserve judgement on how effective it could be for him. It wasn’t the kind of win to take him more seriously as a top guy. It was more like ammunition for a shit-heel to gloat.

AEW World Championship: MJF retained against Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara. Jungle Boy received the jobber entrance in comparison. Sammy did his cue card gimmick to announce that Tay Melo is pregnant. Allin had a vignette beating up a fake MJF inside an Elvis chapel. MJF was lowered from above sitting upon a golden throne.

The match had a hectic pace full of highlight reel moves. In the middle, MJF revisited the story of bribing Sammy by requesting he lay down. Sammy has a kid on the way and should take the money. Sammy agreed, but it was a trick trying to score a roll-up on MJF. The champ kicked out.

One critique heading into this match was the obvious feeling that MJF was not going to lose. It took a long time to make me believe a new champ could be crowned, and the moment came from Allin. MJF low blowed Sammy, then he pulled out the Dynamite Diamond Ring. Allin struck MJF from behind with his skateboard. Allin landed the Coffin Drop. He seriously could have won right there, except ego got the better of Allin. Instead of a pin, he went for a side headlock takeover to rub it in MJF’s face. That transition wasted precious seconds and allowed Jungle Boy time to break the headlock pin. Allin was livid at JB for costing him the win, and furious slaps were exchanged.

For the closing sequence, Allin and Jungle Boy were both down on the mat. MJF grabbed the Triple B waiting to strike whoever rose first. JB did and blocked the blow. Sammy ran in to clothesline MJF over the ropes. The belt ended up in the hands of Jungle Boy. Allin was ripe for the picking. JB thought long and hard about winning in that manner. He took the high road and dropped the foreign object. Allin was able to secure the Last Supper pin. JB kicked out. Sammy ran in again for a GTH to Jungle Boy. Allin shoved Sammy off the turnbuckles down to the floor. Allin had his moment for a Coffin Drop onto JB, except it didn’t turn out as intended. MJF slid the title belt over Jungle Boy, and Allin crashed down onto the gold. MJF executed a side headlock takeover to beat Allin for ultimate victory.

The Four Pillars delivered a very entertaining bout, but I would stop short of calling it epic. All four executed wild moves throughout. As mentioned, they were in a tough spot trying to bring drama in making me believe MJF could lose the world title. That is more a criticism of the overall story than the match itself. Speaking of story, the interactions between MJF and Allin felt like it was planting seeds for Allin to eventually take the belt from MJF in the future. AEW can’t let Allin get clowned on a side headlock takeover again without getting retribution. There’s no better way to get payback than to take what is most precious to MJF.

TBS Championship: Jade Cargill retained against Taya Valkyrie. This was the seventh match of the PPV, and it was the first one that had a big-fight feel in my eyes. Both Jade and Taya had special entrances with dancers. This match came down to Jaded versus Road to Valhalla. Taya connected on a spear, then she hit her finisher. 1, 2, Jade barely kicked out. Taya went for a second Road to Valhalla, but Jade escaped. Jade landed a kick then hit her finisher. Taya did not kick out.

Damn, that match put a smile on my face. It was rugged with some high-flying spots, such as Taya countering Jade mid-air from a springboard leap into a sort of Codebreaker maneuver. The battle of finishers was an engaging story. Taya was fantastic in selling anticipation of victory with a smile on her face thinking Jade would not kick out.

Jade’s night wasn’t over yet, and the consequences of her arrogance put an even bigger smile on my face.

Mark Sterling boasted about Jade’s 60-0 record. Jade was ready to wrestle again, but there was nobody left. Or so they thought. Enter Kris Statlander returning from injury.

TBS Championship: Kris Statlander defeated Jade Cargill to win the title. Statlander brought the thunder in the impromptu match. After a brief tussle, Jade hit the pump kick. She loaded up Statlander for Jaded, but the alien escaped and answered with the package tombstone piledriver for victory.

What an electric moment. The wait for Statlander to dethrone Jade was well worth it. I wasn’t expecting an official title match. Once the bell rang, we all knew it was just a matter of time before Statlander triumphed. Anticipation was rising for a new champion to be crowned, and joy erupted.

AEW World Trios Championship: House of Black retained against The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn. Open challenge with Open House rules. The Acclaimed declined to use Dealer’s Choice, since they were confident that they wouldn’t need an advantage to win. House of Black isolated Anthony Bowens to work his knee. Hot tag to Daddy Ass. He no-sold a chop from Brody King then exploded for a Fameasser. Billy also hit a Fameasser on Buddy Matthews. Daddy Ass went wild with crotch chops. Malakai Black waited patiently. Billy turned around into a spinning head kick. Game over.

House of Black were strategically smarter in this contest, and that was the difference. This match could be used as a building block for the Acclaimed to regroup and improve for a rematch down the line.

AEW Women’s World Championship: Toni Storm won the title from Jamie Hayter. The Outcasts beat up Hayter on her way to the ring focusing on her injured shoulder. Dr. Britt Baker DMD ran out to fight with Saraya. Ruby Soho sprayed paint in Hayter’s eyes. Storm smashed a running hip attack. Kick out by Hayter. Hikaru Shida ran in with a kendo stick to attack Soho. Hayter sent Storm into an exposed turnbuckle, then the champ unleashed a lariat with her damaged arm. Kick out by Storm. Hayter grit through the pain charging up for another lariat, but Storm shoved Hayter into the corner steel and crushed a piledriver for victory.

This match stunk from a wrestling context, because it wasn’t really a match at all. It was short with tons of bullshit. I assume it was to cover a real injury for Hayter, and it was better than vacating the strap again. If that is the case, then applause to Hayter for gutting it out. The match was sort of entertaining from a chaos standpoint.

TNT Championship: Wardlow retained against Christian Cage in a ladder match. Business picked up when Luchasaurus chokeslammed Wardlow. Arn Anderson came in sizing up the dino for a spinebuster, but Luchasaurus goozled the Enforcer. Arn prides himself on doing whatever it takes to win, so he bit Luchasaurus’ thumb. The dino pulled out a bloody nub, and Arn had red all over his mouth dripping down his chin. This might sound hokey in writing, but it was awesome on screen. Wardlow took care of Luchasaurus with a swanton off a high ladder through tables.

Christian made his move to climb for victory. Arn shoved the ladder, Christian fell off, and Wardlow caught him for a powerbomb. Wardlow scaled the ladder to retrieve the prize.

Wardlow and Arn make a great team. That was an extremely creative way for Arn to neutralize the threat of Luchasaurus. Despite the age and physical differences, it didn’t make the dino look bad at all, because he practically lost his freaking thumb. Wardlow was a stud showing off his agility jumping on and off ladders. This match left me eager to find out what is next in Wardlow’s TNT title reign.

AEW World Tag Team Championship: FTR retained against Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal. Sonjay Dutt, Satnam Singh, and Karen Jarrett were ringside. Mark Briscoe was the special referee. The story was how well Briscoe could enforce the rules with so many cheaters looming large. He did a decent job until all hell broke loose. FTR hit a doomsday powerbomb on Lethal. 1, 2, Dutt pulled Dax Harwood off the pin out of the ring. Briscoe ejected Dutt and Singh. Jeff swung his guitar at Dax but accidentally clobbered Briscoe. FTR managed to hit the Shatter Machine, but Briscoe was out cold. Referee Aubrey Edwards sprinted down to officiate, however, Dutt blocked her path. Karen came over to smash the guitar on Edwards’ head.

Jeff hit Harwood with the title belt and the Stroke. Briscoe regained his awareness for the slow 1, 2, kick out! Jeff lost his cool and slapped Briscoe. Mark slapped back sending Jeff into the Shatter Machine for FTR to win.

Once the hijinx reached a fever pitch, this match was a glorious spectacle. Karen hitting Edwards with the guitar was absolutely hilarious. The ref bump false finishes worked as intended to increase drama. The finish was feel-good with FTR and Briscoe embracing as pals.

Unsanctioned Match: Adam Cole defeated Chris Jericho. Sabu was the special enforcer. Roderick Strong and JAS were ringside, but they didn’t last long. Sabu attacked with a chair and dove onto Daddy Magic crashing through a table.

All the extras brawled to the back early, and the focus was on Cole and Jericho for the most part. Dr. Britt Baker DMD had a moment saving Cole to attack Jericho with a kendo stick. She was wailing hard on Jericho. Much harder than anything Cole did in the match up to that point. Saraya tried to help Jericho, but she was whacked by Baker too. The women exited to the back leaving Cole and Jericho solo for the finish.

Jericho pulled out a chain to handcuff Cole. That plan backfired when Cole handcuffed Jericho on the other end. There was no escape. Cole took control to Lower the Boom. He executed his finisher a second time with the chain wrapped around his knee. That wasn’t enough. Cole mounted Jericho to rain chained punches. Referee Aubrey Edwards called off the match when Jericho couldn’t defend himself.

My initial reaction was that referee stoppage finish was stupid considering the unsanctioned stipulation. The whole point was that AEW wouldn’t be liable for injury. I guess it makes some sense in that Cole could have punched Jericho’s head all night long if not for the referee stepping in. As for the rest of the match, I like that the Sabu and Baker spots were done for a pop without really affecting the result. Both those moments were fun. On the flip side, it made the flow feel like spot to spot rather than telling a story in the ring. Cole did a good job fighting with aggression as the story warranted. He backed up his tough talk by battering Jericho to a pulp.

AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy retained in the Blackjack Battle Royale. The other 20 participants were Blade, Butcher, Bandido, Komander, Lee Moriarty, Big Bill Morrissey, Ari Daivari, Tony Nese, Chuck Taylor, Trent Beretta, Kip Sabian, Fenix, Pentagon, Swerve Strickland, Brian Cage, Ricky Starks, “Switchblade” Jay White, Juice Robinson, Keith Lee, and Dustin Rhodes.

The nitty-gritty came down to Bill, Starks, Swerve, Cassidy, Rhodes, Cage, and Pentagon. Bill booted Starks over the ropes. Rhodes hit a destroyer to Cage on the apron for an elimination. Swerve swiftly dropkicked Rhodes down to the floor, which led to the final four. Starks tried chopping down the giant, however, he was sent packing when eating a boot from Bill. The 7-footer smashed Cassidy on a Boss Man slam. Swerve tried to assist in eliminating Cassidy, but Bill wanted all the glory himself. When Bill lifted OC in a military press, Swerve dumped Bill for the disrespect.

Cassidy and Swerve dueled in an athletic back and forth. Prince Nana caused interference for OC to get stomped by Swerve. Strickland wasted time trash-talking and putting OC’s hands in his pockets. Cassidy’s energy came back to prevent an elimination. He rallied with two DDTs and a superman punch to knock Swerve onto the apron. Swerve blocked a second superman punch to drag OC onto the apron as well. Nana interfered again. Swerve leaped for his stomp, but Cassidy got his feet up. OC was ready to deliver a superman punch to win. Instead, he did a simple kick to knock the dazed Swerve down to the floor for victory.

High-energy fun to open the PPV. The match started with lots of wrestlers stalling on the outside. Personally, I like the opening battle royal visual of the cluttered ring, and we didn’t get that. The tactic turned out alright for entertainment with the luchadores hitting high-flying moves onto the wrestlers down below.

Moments that stuck out were Fenix with a slick rope-walking punt to save his brother on the apron, Cage mauling luchadores with his tremendous strength, and rowdy fisticuffs between Swerve and Lee. Enough teasing and give us that singles match already. The crowd erupted when Starks eliminated White. The final showdown between Cassidy and Swerve was hot.

Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, & Hook defeated Ethan Page, Austin Gunn, & Colten Gunn. This match was on the pre-show. The Gunns hit the 3:10 to Yuma on Matt. Both Gunns stacked on top for a double pin. Jeff made the save with a swanton onto the pile. The good guys took control. The Hardys smacked the Gunns on a pair of Twists of Fates. That left Page alone in the ring outnumbered 3-to-1. The Hardys popped signature moves, then Hook submitted Page with Redrum. Per the stipulation, Matt is now in charge of Page’s contract.

Decent opener to get in the mood. The match built drama by extinguishing hot tag fire. Matt had momentum, then Page and Austin attacked Brother Zay on the floor as a distraction. Jeff was grooving, but he twisted his ankle and slipped off the ropes. Commentary credited that to ring rust. Just when it looked like the Gunns would win, Jeff had the cool swanton save. The finish played out nicely to pop the crowd.

Notes: The Owen Hart Cup tournament opening ceremony was on the pre-show with Dr. Martha Hart. Tony Khan came out wearing a cowboy hat. Yee-haw!

Ricky Starks was beat up backstage by Bullet Club Gold. FTR chased them off.

Chris Jericho and Saraya demanded a tag match against Adam Cole and Britt Baker on Dynamite. The wizard shot a fireball at an innocent staffer.

Stud of the Show: Kris Statlander

That was a heck of a way to return. Statlander stole the show when ending Jade Cargill’s 60-win streak.

Honorable mention to Karen Jarrett and Arn Anderson.

Match of the Night: Four Pillars

MJF, Jungle Boy, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara showed why they are the Four Pillars, at least in terms of ring work. They went all out putting on a show.

Grade: B

Double or Nothing had quality wrestling matches up and down the card. Entertainment was aplenty. In my opinion, Statlander winning the TBS Championship was the only truly special moment. That’s not enough when comparing it to other AEW PPV experiences, which is a high bar.

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

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