On Saturday night, All Elite Wrestling presented their first official pay-per-view, Double Or Nothing. A follow-up to All In last September, the show from the MGM Grande Garden Arena in Las Vegas truly delivered in every aspect. While you can find a ton of review sites talking about the matches, my thoughts are more to how Double or Nothing will impact the landscape of professional wrestling overall. In my opinion, this show could be seen years later as a catalyst for a change in how wrestling is perceived.
One of the biggest things you will notice in the production is the stage. While many said it was a bit of a throwback to the NWA-TNA days, it is different in allowing different sides to come out of different entrances. It’s a small thing, but it allows you to get a feel that competitors must be separated. A little sense of realism never hurts. The screens were used properly and didn’t have to be overdone. Also, a little pyro didn’t hurt their favour with the crowd.
As for the venue, with 13,000 people in attendance – or 20,000 if you ask the Young Bucks – it was a similar sized crowd to those that WCW received in their heyday. Filled to capacity with loud wrestling fans, an atmosphere was created that resonated through the TV and was very contagious.
The vignettes were produced very clearly and with purpose. The goal of the vignettes was to advance a story and was less on what the competitors could do in the ring. Where the videos were used, they were all effective.
Utilizing former WWE Ring Announcer Justin Roberts was a very classy touch. Having one of the best in the business involved provides more credibility to the promotion. Having two of the best referees in the world in their genders in Rich Knox and Aubrey Edwards was also a great move. When there was a bell-ringing error during the show, Edwards showed how much of a professional she was, not being phased at all.
The live video was produced with fans in mind. One of the most common complaints of WWE television is the constant zoom in and zoom out trying to disguise punches. You did not see this on the broadcast, with the use of switching angles – or jump cuts for a technical term – being used more often. Many people online complained about the video of the Battle Royale, but typically Battle Royales are hectic and hard to show in the first place, so it’s hard to determine what could be done to improve that camera work.
The commentary was a breath of fresh air. Jim Ross was his old self again but did start to run out of steam as the night went on. Alex Marvez did a great job, although his microphone tended to fade occasionally. However, the real star of the commentary team was Excalibur. The man from PWG came in prepared and prepped like no other and provided the perfect insight when it was called for. Most importantly their focus was on the wrestling, allowing the story to be told in the ring. It’s something that is sorely missing in this day’s wrestling commentary.
The post-show media access is a very different look. While it has been a mainstay for New Japan for years, access to the competitors following the show has been mostly a no-no in North America. Being a new reporter for the Win Column Sports Network, I personally have been starting to get involved in these media scrums. Not only do they give you a little more sense of realness to everything going on, but it also allows the media to fill in the cracks to any stories being told, rather than letting unwarranted speculation run rampant. The promotions will allow you to know as much as they want you to know, but these scrums will allow wrestlers to help promote their stories in a very unique way.
The fact that the special guests that were few and far between were not necessarily a bad thing. The biggest one was Bret Hart, who came out to present the AEW Championship to the crowd. Also, the removal of Brandi Rhodes by Diamond Dallas Page, gave the crowd a big pop to temporarily break the tension in the crowd and allowed Dustin Rhodes to blade.
It was very important that the talent that you bring in from WWE or Impact do not overshadow the current talent that is already working on the roster. The inclusion of Aja Kong in the Joshi match kept mainstream fans interested, from her past in WCW. The other two big surprises, Awesome Kong and Jon Moxley, had fans hooked on the edge of their seat without overshadowing the current talent. While the ending of the show with Moxley will sell a ton of PPV buys for All Out and Fight for the Fallen, so will the matches that occurred tonight.
While the bigger names brought in the crowd, this card allowed a ton of talents that are known on the indies to get a larger stage to perform. Guys like Angelico, Chuck Taylor and Trent deserve a larger stage and recognition compared to what they get in their smaller promotions. The women’s match, with Kylie Rae, Nyla Rose, and the former tag partner of Chelsea Green, Britt Baker D.M.D., all tore the house down in their match. (Someone tell me that the superkick Baker gave Rae that knocked off Rae’s hair-tie will not be a hell of a GIF soon). If given the opportunity, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, or MJF, will be the most hated man in wrestling in a few years.
That is a very general breakdown of the overall greatness of this card. But what does this promotion need to keep the momentum going, and become the viable alternative that the wrestling community has been clamouring for 20 years now? Here are some idea to think about:
- Focus on their product: When you are the Number One product, do you want to acknowledge Number Two? I feel it was a mistake for Triple H to take his shots at the Hall of Fame, as it acknowledges that the Big Bully sees the little kid tugging at his heels. If you want to act like a Top Product, you want to show it, not tell it. The Young Bucks started the show with a small jab at WWE inflating attendance numbers, and while the segment with Cody and the throne did get a huge pop, it may indicate a problem… Is AEW more worried about being better than WWE, or are they going to worry about being a top product? It was an issue WCW had in their time, so hopefully, AEW can remain focussed.
- The Return of the PPV: If AEW can continue to give their pay-per-views a big fight feel like Double or Nothing, the $50 cost can be justified. Fans need to realise that not every promotion has a network to show their product, in terms of PPV Quality shows. The return of PPV Parties, or bars showing the show, could return to be the norm, as it is in the UFC and Boxing. The fact that Cody mentioned in the post-show scrum (note the advantage I mentioned earlier about the scrums) that PPV’s will not be happening every month allows fans to believe that these shows are special and worth the extra cost.
- Cooperation with the outside promotions: Bringing in talent from outside promotions is always a bonus, and the AAA and OWE wrestlers did not disappoint at all. However, only the AEW wrestlers were victorious on this card. In a promotion where “Wins and losses matter”, will they allow these other company’s wrestlers to gain victories to gain traction, or will they just be cannon fodder for the AEW talent?
- Maintain growth of hometown talent: With the popularity growth of AEW, there is going to be a growing interest in dissatisfied WWE talents to jump ship. While the addition of talent can be a great thing, the need to be a product that produces their own stars needs to be paramount. If the turnstile opens up from WWE and AEW gets saturated with too much WWE talent, there may be a point where people see no difference in their product. The money will not be the issue here, as both owners have plenty in the coffers to pay their rosters. The success of AEW will be if they can provide something that WWE cannot or will not. Having slightly different programs with similar rosters didn’t work for WCW, let’s hope AEW learns from the past.
Now, this is just speculation. Time will tell if AEW continues to be successful. For the sake of all of wrestling, and all wrestling fans, let’s hope so.
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