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AEW Double or Nothing preview: The Dr. will see you now

Image: AEW

Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and reflects that of the writer. 

We (well, me) are used to the beats of WWE where it’s pay-per-view rematch, rematch, rematch, and then a rushed build to the next pay-per-view. But since AEW only runs four major shows a year (special episodes of Dynamite notwithstanding), they have a longer time to build to the events like this Sunday's Double or Nothing which, for whatever reason, they don’t always like to do.

Some matches get announced far in advance, and some, like Miro vs. Lance Archer, get announced a couple weeks before they happen. Even the triple threat for the big belt came about quickly. And you know what? I don’t care. If this process continues to produce an incredibly high quality weekly TV show and stacked cards like this, I really can’t complain.

It’s almost like there’s a switch they can flip that makes their talent the best versions of themselves. Miro was an afterthought for months, but look at him now. He became a captivating monster in like three weeks. They know the levers to pull and when to pull them. For us, as fans, waiting has always been the hardest part. We need and demand satisfaction right away.

What AEW has proven is that they have plans for everyone. Even if we aren’t getting what we want right away, we can reasonably assume that it’s coming. It feels nice to be able to trust the stories a wrestling promotion is telling.

This card? It’s good, my pals. Nine matches with every major title defended and intrigue up and down the card. Is this the end of The Inner Circle? Is this the coronation of Britt Baker, DMD? Is Cody writing a love letter to Cody? Does Orange Cassidy shock the world? In order: No, yes, yes, no. The rest of the predictions? Just keep scrolling.

Hangman Page vs. Brian Cage

This is a man with a unique connection to the fans vs. a man with the charisma of lawn clippings. Much like green grapes are a blight on all of fruit, Cage is a blight on Team Taz. He’s not the biggest (Powerhouse Hobbs), not the most charismatic (Ricky Starks), not the best talker (Taz), and not Hook (Hook). He’s just...there, chock full of muscles and with a tremendous "has a vanity plate" vibe. It’s strange when the top-billed member of a faction is, by far, its least compelling member but hey, here we are. Cage is a perfect example of how someone can have just about everything, yet have nothing of substance to offer.

Meanwhile, Hangman has it all: the ring work, the mic skills, the charisma, and the connection to the crowd. He’s got it all and whenever AEW decides to pull the trigger on his title run, they will have a babyface champion for as long as they want. Let me be more declarative: they will have THE babyface champion for as long as they want. Over the past few months, he’s been heated up and cooled down to fit whatever role is necessary. The lack of fans has hurt his ascent up the card more than anyone. He thrives off their reactions and they love nothing more than reacting to him. Now that fans are coming back, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboy-boy is main eventing All Out.

It’s Hangman’s time. Cage won earlier this year, but Page gets his win back here.

Casino Battle Royale for a future AEW World title match

A funny thing: at one point, the Wikipedia page for this show listed CM Punk as being in the match. I will be the living embodiment of the coffin emoji if that actually happens (it won’t). As is often the case with these kinds of matches, there are very few people who can actually win it. In this particular one, there are even less. The only realistic possibilities are Christian Cage, Jungle Boy, and possibly Penta El Zero Miedo. Considering Christian is the latest big signing and has talked about wanting a title shot, this is the easiest way to get him to the top of the card.

Jungle Boy has been close a few times and Penta is kind of living in the same world as Hangman Page where he can get moved up and down the card depending on where he’s needed. Neither of these guys are really needed at the top, but Christian sure is. With Jon Moxley otherwise busy in a tag team, he’s the biggest name with mainstream reach that AEW has. He wins this gimmick.

Sting and Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky

Sting, please don’t die, my guy. You don’t need to kill yourself trying to elevate a midcard feud. It was uncomfortable watching him in the cinematic match from the last PPV and I fully plan on watching this with my eyes half covered. Every bump could seriously reduce the man to ashes and it’s worrisome. I’m going to try really hard not to write about Sting like this every time he has a match, but it's hard not to. I do love him wrestling in a long sleeve t-shirt with his face on it, just like all wrestling legends are legally required to do.

I’m all in on All Ego. I like just about everything he’s ever done and he’s one of the more creative guys in wrestling. And folks, we appreciate creativity in this column. We really do. What we do not like is seeing Page and Sky wrestle almost exclusively on the Dark series of shows. I know those do decent-ish numbers, but it seems like AEW wildly overestimates how much the audience cares about those matches. Does wrestling 30 minutes spread over seven episodes of Dark/Dark: Elevation really matter?

The larger wrestling world is probably not nearly as aware of Page and Sky compared to their more diehard fans. The same thing happened with the Varsity Blonds. They never wrestled on Dynamite and all of sudden, they were getting a tag team title match. Put at least one of these lead-up matches on the big show and make us care about these guys. Tell some of the story on Dynamite and let Dark fill in the gaps.

This is a weird one. Is Sting really going to lose to these guys? Then again, what purpose does winning serve? I’ll say Page and Sky get the win with Allin taking the pin.

Cody Rhodes vs. Anthony Agogo

A heterosexual, cis-gendered white male like me has no business weighing in on the actual content in Rhodes' "focus group approved" promo from a few weeks ago. All I can say is that at best, it was a meandering, self indulgent mess. At worst, it was something significantly worse. What I will touch on is the end: the American Dream.

Most of us are, in some way, consumed by our fathers. We want to make them proud. We hate them. We love them. We wonder where they are. We want to be them. We want to be nothing like them and everything in between. But we are not our fathers and never will be. For all his faults (of which there are many), Cody Rhodes is a talented performer. He has made his own legacy (not this one). By constantly invoking the memory of his father, we are constantly thinking of Dusty Rhodes and we are constantly reminded of everything Cody is not. Comparison, as always, is the thief of joy. He will never be his dad, nor should he try to be. He’s his own successful individual. Just be happy with that.

I have no idea what the point of The Factory is other than a vehicle for this feud. No one was clamoring for more QT Marshall’s bowling shirts on TV. We didn’t care about him when he was tagging with Dustin Rhodes and we certainly don’t care now, no matter how big of a steel steps guy he becomes.

The silver lining to this otherwise kind-of-embarrassing cloud is Agogo who comes off like a serious star. If he can wrestle even a little bit, there’s really something here. Hopefully his rib injury doesn’t limit him too much because all the potential in the world exists with him. If everything that has happened serves as a way to establish him as an actual player in AEW, then I’m with it. Ultimately, no one will remember the lameness and the eye rolls that brought us here if we wind up with another star. But if all of this was so Cody could whip someone with his weight belt and have his hand raised, that’s a tremendous yikes from me. Agogo gets the win here, hopefully.

Stadium Stampede II: The Pinnacle (MJF, Wardlow, FTR, Shawn Spears) vs. The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz) with the Inner Circle disbanding if they lose

The Blood and Guts match blew away expectations with the obvious exception of the finish. I’m firmly on the (correct) side of history that says a subpar ending does not ruin a half hour of incredible work. What an ending like that does do, however, is put a whole bunch of pressure for AEW to deliver from start to finish the next time they do a big match with a violent lean.

Between that and the impossibly bad ending to the exploding barbed wire deathmatch from Revolution, they really need to stick the landing. Yes of course, no one expected anyone to actually explode and yes, no one wanted 50-year-old Chris Jericho to take a full bump from the top of the cage, but both of those things needed to land better: pun very much intended. No one is better at pivoting from a mistake than AEW, but their two landmark moments of 2020 are significantly tarnished. Say what you want about WWE, but the moments they want to be big and memorable are just that. The next stipulation match AEW runs live needs to be a tremendous success.

Luckily, they don’t need to worry about that during this match. Gone is the pressure of getting it right live and a world of creativity is open to them. The first Stadium Stampede was fantastic and this one could be even better. The Inner Circle and The Elite was a nice program, but this is a full-on blood feud. 

The Inner Circle is a proven commodity, so it’s The Pinnacle I’m excited to see here the most. MJF’s willingness to show ass is matched only by Jericho. FTR continues to be the best tag team in the world. Wardlow is going to be a singles star sooner rather than later. That leaves Shawn Spears. I’ll say something nice this time: this is the best version ol’ Double S there ever has been.

All that said, everything in this feud feels two months early. Blood and Guts happened very quickly and having a match with this stipulation feels even more rushed. Maybe this is my WWE-poisoned brain that’s been conditioned to expect things to be stretched out more, but this could have marinated a bit longer. I think The Inner Circle wins and this gets a proper, epic, blowoff down the road.

TNT Champion Miro vs. Lance Archer

It was funny when people thought Miro was anything but an absolute star. Even in a previous life when he was saddled with storylines that daytime soap opera writers would laugh at, he was a star. Sure, it was lame he was in a video game based storyline with Kip Sabian, but ‘it’ never went away. It just wasn’t time, yet. But now, it’s time. Now the chains are off and Miro looks and talks like a total star. The promos he’s been cutting are not quite Eddie Kingston quality, but have Kingston intensity. It’s all there and always has been. This is him fully realized and the TNT title might not be big enough for him.

It’s all there for Archer as well minus the wins. He’s still looking for his first real signature moment since he came to AEW. When I think of the big man, I think of his entrance and throwing guys out of the tunnel. That’s cool, but that’s nowhere near enough. I also think of the husk of Jake Roberts limping out week after week and while that may confuse me a bit, I’m largely with it. Jake’s wardrobe choices are nothing if not inspired and if he keeps throwing fits like he does, he’s forever welcome on my TV.

Miro just got the belt and has serious momentum behind him. No shot he loses on Sunday.

AEW Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks vs. Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley

The Corny Christian Boys vs. Full Grown Men should be an absolute treat -- two teams that are as opposite can be making for such a great pairing. Where The Bucks come off as caricatures of wrestlers, Kingston and Mox are as real as it gets: two grumpy, grimy guys that love to throw down. 

We all know what a big stakes Young Bucks match is at this point. For whatever you think of them and for all their shortcomings, their ability to perform at an extremely high level under the brightest lights is unquestionable. And Moxley will bring those bright lights. Even without the belt, he’s the top draw in the promotion and his presence means people are watching. This will probably be the match everyone is talking about after Sunday.

Then there’s Kingston who continues to create incredible moments. The King has been doing this so well and for so long that it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s, well, great. His magnetism stems from his passion, one that borders on desperation. It’s like he thinks that if he loses focus or gets complacent for even a second, everything is gone. He doesn’t care what he looks like, what he wears, or what people think about him. All he cares about is this and right now, the brothers Buck are getting in the way of this, so they gotta go.

Styles make fights and this is going to be a good one. Mox/Kingston can provide the grounding that sometimes eludes the Bucks in their matches and the Bucks will certainly bring the athleticism and high spots. This can go either way, but I think AEW is invested in the story of Kenny and his pals having all the gold. The Bucks keep the gold, for now.

AEW Women's Champion Hikaru Shida vs. Dr. Britt Baker DMD

Britt Baker (D-M-D) just does not miss. She has fully arrived and is fully realized. She is miles and miles from the performer she was when AEW first launched and legitimately the best part of whatever show she’s on. This is what an all-caps SUPERSTAR looks like. Even though she’s so clearly the best thing on Wednesday night, she is somehow losing TV time to an overwrought Bullet Club drama that would have been bad six years ago when most of those guys were actually popular. That popularity allowed AEW to form, but it won’t take them to the next level.

People like Britt Baker (D-M-D) can, and will, take them there. Give her more TV time! She’s in a world title program! Did we really need to see The Bucks wrestle the god damn Varsity Blonds at the expense of a feud with actual heat? It’s a testament to her talent that she hasn’t really cooled off after her MOTY contender with Thunder Rosa despite a lack of screen time on Dynamite. She’s just that damn good.

Shida has been the champ, and a strong one, for over a year. She’s pulled good-to-great matches out of just about everyone she’s worked with and deserves all the praise in the world for what she’s done during the pandemic era of wrestling. She has openly spoken about her desire to defend her belt in front of a full crowd and how much that means to her. She more than deserves her time in the spotlight and I just hope this match gets all the time it needs. 

Even though Shida will finally get to defend her belt in front of a crowd, she won’t be leaving with it. The doctor’s reign starts this weekend. C-H-A-M-P. 

AEW World Champion Kenny Omega vs. PAC vs. Orange Cassidy

It speaks to the popularity of Cassidy that PAC is almost an afterthought in this match. PAC, a legitimate top five wrestler, is getting third billing in this one. If this is reading as a criticism, I assure you, it is not meant that way. It speaks to the phenomenon that Cassidy has become. His level of popularity is one of the great things about wrestling.

In a vacuum, none of this should work at the main event level but it absolutely does. He’s so different and so unique. There really isn’t anyone else like him. If you had told me that one of Beyond Wrestling's staples was going to be a massive star in AEW, Cassidy would not have been my first, second or third guess. But that’s what he is: a star of a different type. It’s great to see something that is so different resonate with so many.

The more the old Bullet Club guys get pulled back into Omega’s orbit, the less I care about all of them. Yeah, the band is back together, but do we really want them to play their hits? The Bullet Club was a phenomenon in pro wrestling when it first started, but by the time Omega became the absolute top guy, he was more a part of The Elite than anything else. He was bigger than the group. His success wasn’t because of the Bullet Club and it didn’t belong to them, it was his.

Sure, being a part of them helped, but being a transcendent, generational talent helped even more. He’s the one who people came to see, not Gallows and Anderson, and, sorry, not The Young Bucks either. Kenny is the draw, Kenny is the main event and the more people there are around him, the more it takes away from him.

As great as Cassidy and PAC are, neither of them have a prayer of winning. The story of Omega as the belt collector and the biggest prick in pro wrestling is not even close to being over. He didn’t go into all these promotions to win their titles, just to lose the top prize in his home promotion. Kenny’s reign continues.