Previously on AEW Double Or Nothing: AEW officially became AEW as Jon Moxley debuted, MJF declared himself “no horse professor,” Cody and Dustin Rhodes had a bloody match of the year, and Bret Hart presented an AEW World Championship belt that would spend the rest of the weekend at a Longhorn Steakhouse.
If you’d like to keep up with this column and its thinly veiled Best and Worst format, you can keep tabs on the Ins and Outs of AEW Dynamite tag page. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
And now, here’s the Ins and Outs of All Elite Wrestling Double Or Nothing 2: Quadruple Or Nothing, originally aired on May 23, 2020.
All In: The Best Thing To Ever Happen At The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Stadium
I’d be doing myself and you a great disservice if I didn’t start off this column with the match everyone wants to talk about: Stadium Stampede. I expected this to be a fun diversion. I did not expect this to be one of the most hilarious, ridiculous, surprising, and unforgettable match I’ve watched all year. And that’s in a year with both Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches.
The quick version is that AEW took advantage of the fact that their owners have unfettered use of an 80,000-seat NFL stadium — I bet that’ll never come up again once the pandemic’s over, fans are back, and AEW needs to run their biggest show ever — to tell a crazy mash-up of a 5-on-5 hardcore match, an empty arena match a la Halftime Heat, a “cinematic” match, and a Matt Hardy backyward wrestling film festival. Before the match even started I could’ve typed, “the teams got NFL entrances and the Inner Circle wore custom football helmets and jerseys while fire exploded and the Jaguars cheerleaders danced in face masks.”
If you didn’t watch this for some reason, find it and give it a shot. The short version is that it’s the most fun I’ve had watching wrestling (at least in terms of something resembling an actual wrestling match) since what, the main event of Worlds Collide? It was like the office building version of Money in the Bank made by people who like wrestling and have a decent sense of humor. Major highlights included:
Hangman Page Has A Horse, And The Horse Gets Chants
Remember when Hangman Page confirmed his interest in Cowboy Shit was legit when he entered on a horse at All Out? He does that again here, only now he’s in a football stadium and the horse is in a full gallop to chase Sammy Guevara off the field. Later, he’d tell the horse to “stay” in the middle of a stadium concourse so he could go sit by himself in a lobby bar and drink alone in the middle of a 10-person pay-per-view wrestling brawl. My only complaint is that they didn’t put a protective face mask on the horse.
Sammy G And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
In addition to being r-u-n-n-o-f-t by a horse, here’s Sammy Guevara’s worst nightmare coming true as he’s once again hunted by Kenny Omega and Broken Matt Hardy on a golf cart. I’m not very far into writing about this match and already I’ve shown him being chased by multiple vehicles — a horse counts as a vehicle, doesn’t it? — and having a bunch of cheerleaders cheer for him specifically only for him to completely whiff a shooting star press. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that at one point he takes 100 yards of rolling Northern Lights suplexes, or the finish, in which he gets attacked by Matt Hardy’s new drone, NEO 1, and is then One-Wingedly Angel’d off a goddamn balcony.
I think Sammy Guevara died for the sins of the entire Inner Circle last night, and they should build a statue in his honor.
The Swimming Pool At TIAA Bank Field Is Filled With Water From The Lake Of Reincarnation, Apparently
Either that, or Matt Hardy operates under Gremlins rules. If you get him wet, you’re gonna have a bad time.
During the match, Santana and Ortiz attempt to win a novelty wrestling match by drowning their opponent to death. What they don’t consider is that Matt Hardy (or someone) went into the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium beforehand and replaced the water in one of the building’s two swimming pools with water from the Hardy Compound’s Lake of Reincarnation.
For the uninitiated, an important piece of Hardy lore is that the lake behind Matt Hardy’s house makes you change wrestling gimmicks if you get dunked in it. It’s turned Jeff Hardy into the dreaded Brother Nero, reverted Gregory Helms back to his Three Count days, transformed The Godfather into Papa Shango, and helped flush a demon out of Bray Wyatt. Now, here in the middle of this empty football arena grudge match, a swimming pool full of its waters is turning Matt Hardy into classic Hardy Boyz Matt Hardy, and then into Matt Hardy Version One, complete with “Matt Facts” that Santana and Ortiz apparently can see and read along with us. It just creates a big natural themed frame around the world, I guess.
Someone needs to check on Santana and Ortiz after this, by the way. Santana might still be freezing to death in an ice chest, and I think Hardy physically destroyed Ortiz’s nervous system by figuratively ringing his bell by literally ringing a bell. It was like Spider-Man defeating Venom. He also duct-taped him to a wheelchair and left him in the stadium concourse, where I assume he’s being grazed upon by a lost horse.
Matt Jackson Did A Moonsault Off The Crossbar
They keep moving the goal posts with these matches, don’t they?
My two favorite moments in the mach actually both belong to Chris Jericho. In the first, he “challenges the play” when referee Aubrey Edwards doesn’t count to three fast enough, and follows her into a review tent to check out the instant replay. When it doesn’t go his way, he calls her a “shitty referee.” At some point Aubrey’s going to bump Jericho, and it’s going to set the world on fire.
In the second, Jacksonville Jaguars mascot and Forgotten Son Jaxson de Ville (get it, like “Jacksonville”) takes offense to Jericho using a giant inflatable jaguar skull as a weapon, shakes his belly at Le Champion in disgust, and catches a fucking Judas Effect for his troubles. I never thought I’d say wrestling peaked with Chris Jericho elbow striking a mascot in an empty football stadium while Matt Jackson hits 300 consecutive feet of suplexes, but here we are. All I’ll say is that if there is a God, the Jericho vs. Jaxson de Ville feud will continue until one or both of them has retired. Jericho vs. de Ville is the new Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa.
And Somehow That’s Not All
For example, Kenny Omega and Hangman Page took out Jake Hager with a ropeless Buckshot Lariat, and then Omega did a shot of presumably expired, pre-pandemic stadium fridge milk to celebrate. Of course Kenny Omega’s bar drink of choice is “milk neat.” That’s also a great way to describe Kenny himself.
It’s just wonderful. That’s all I have to say. It’s not really a wrestling match, because if we’re being honest nothing’s “really a wrestling match” right now, but it’s the kind of things wrestling fans will be talking to each other about with smiles on their faces for as long as I can imagine. Pro wrestling can be super stupid and super unrealistic and still work and be compelling as long as the characters are consistent and the work is passionate and creative. Five stars. If they’d had an empty arena 10-man tag featuring mascot assault, magical underwater gimmick changes, horse threats, and drone attacks in the Tokyo Dome, I would’ve given it seven.
The Rest Of The Show Is Not As Good As The Stadium Stampede
Just gonna throw that out at the beginning. But there’s still good and bad to be found throughout, so let’s break it all down.
He’s Not A Slot Man, He’s A Slot MACHINE
One of the biggest stories of the night is that the surprise entrant for the “Casino Ladder Match” was former Impact Wrestling World and, more importantly, Lucha Underground Gift of the Gods Champion Brian Cage. He’s not a man, he’s a machine. And since having wrestling legends coach you is the hot new thing in All Elite Wrestling, he’s being managed by Taz. He’s not a human suplex MAN, he’s a human suplex MACHINE.
Casino Ladder Matches are sort of the bastard love child of a Royal Rumble and a Money in the Bank ladder match, wherein there’s a staggered entry and the goal is to climb a ladder and pull down a symbolic object announcing you number one contender. Cage smartly enters at the very end, which is the spot you should always be aiming for, assuming your job operates under pro wrestling logic and nobody will be able to pull down the chip and win until everyone’s entered. That makes Cage the latest Monster of the Week for AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, and continues AEW’s tendency of repeatedly saying that wins and losses matter and having a stringent ranking system but still having the new arrivals from other companies saunter their way into title shots. Jake Hager hadn’t done anything but stand around and choke out cans when he got a 30-minute title match, Brodie Lee got one by hiding in the front office of a multi-level marketing scheme and physically stealing the title belt, and now Cage has one by showing up at the end of a ladder match and gorilla pressing ladders with folks on them to pull down a novelty poker chip. I’m not saying that’s an awful way to run the top of the card, but it’d be pretty cool to, I don’t know, see characters we’re long familiar with get big opportunities.
Speaking of that, here’s Darby Allin’s crazy ass trying to kill Frankie Kazarian (of all people) with an ollie off the top of a ladder, onto ANOTHER ladder. DARBY HONEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
This was fun, but ultimately hurt a lot by the fact that the Stadium Stampede was so much crazier, and both of the singles title matches got “hardcore” and integrated a bunch of garbage and weapon spots. AEW pay-per-views can really go off the rails in that way. It’s like when Lucha Underground would stay in the ring for 40 episodes and then when Ultima Lucha would come around, everyone would be on fire and covered in glass.
p.s. AEW’s roster now includes Pentagon Jr., Fenix, Jack Evans, Angelico, Sonny Kiss, Sammy Guevara, Final Lucha Underground Champion ‘The Savage’ Jake Strong, and Brian Cage. Jeff Cobb was around for a hot minute, too. How many times do we need to beg you to bring in Luis Fernandez-Gil as your on-screen authority figure*, AEW? Unless you can somehow pull 1997 Vince McMahon, he’s your best imaginable option.
*I don’t want AEW to have authority figures, I just miss seeing him on wrestling shows.
Clayton Defeats Tarzan
MJF vs. Jungle Jack Perry Jungle Boy is a really good, relatively epic 17-minute match between two top young stars — one devious, one virtuous — that would’ve played TREMENDOUSLY well in front of an audience. Much like how Orange Cassidy’s gags don’t play as well without a crowd reacting to them, MJF’s whole existence as a professional wrestler is validated in live crowds’ unanimous rejection of him. It was probably my second favorite match of the night, if I’m being honest, as they mostly kept it in the ring, didn’t overbook it to smithereens, and put the bad guy over clean with SCIENCE. Brother can’t get through a complete human sentence without being cruel to somebody and he managed to win by countering a counter into a modified European clutch.
THAT is the heel you’re going to hate the most: the one who can back up what they say, and are a total asshole about it. Strong wins for villains to make them seem like a threat > every bad guy being a helpless coward. Good stuff.
The Doctor Is Out
Kris Statlander’s win over Penelope Ford was fine, but seems like it was only originally happening to position Dr. Britt Baker DMD as the next challenger to new Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida. With Britt’s injury calling an audible, you could really only sub in the remaining member of your quarantine women’s roster and have Statlander win instead. Maybe we’re going to do Shida vs. Statlander until Britt gets healed up? I’d be into it.
Spears Fears Dustin
It turns out Shawn Spears’ unfounded claims about Dustin Rhodes’ retirement after one tough loss were unfounded — imagine that — as Rhodes shows up to fight, kicks his ass, and wins the match. This might be the most ass-backwards feud build I’ve seen in a while. Think about it. Lance Archer injured Dustin to send a message to Cody Rhodes, and Spears also hates Cody, so he piled on. He announced that Dustin had retired, and then challenged him to a match, because that’s how retirements work. Spears shows up to the pay-per-view expecting Dustin to not be there, even though he wasn’t basing the Dustin retirement news on anything but his own imagination. He’s then shocked, shocked I tells ya, when Dustin shows up to punch him in the face about it. Even the pre-match stuff didn’t make any sense, with Spears saying Dustin’s not here because he’s “at home washing his tights” — if he’s retired why is he washing his tights, is he putting them on display or something — and Dustin stays in the back the first time his music plays so Spears can get through the bit?
It’s fine. Shawn Spears is a goober and got crisply powerslammed back to Dark. The right call. Welcome back, Dustin! Don’t take any matches against people with “murder” in their name this time!
Kid AEW Dynamite
I wanted to love the TNT Championship tournament finals. Aside from Mike Tyson I love everyone involved; Cody, Lance Archer, Jake Roberts, Arn Anderson, hell, even Bryce Remsburg. It’s a tournament final for what’s ostensibly a re-imagining of the NWA Television title. Plus, it’s a Cody Rhodes pay-per-view match, and those things are right up my specific alley. But … it just felt like too much, I think.
There’s so much going on here. I liked Archer doing a spinebuster in front of Arn Anderson and Cody doing a DDT in front of Jake Roberts, but I didn’t like the weird idea of having Arn cheat behind the referee’s back, getting caught, and being ejected with Jake being thrown out with him? Only then for Jake to wander back out with an attempted snaking, which is only stopped by the presence of D-Generation X Cold Stone fan Mike Tyson. Not that watching Tyson punch a snake bag wouldn’t be its own kind of entertaining. Tyson gets shirtless to send Jake away, allowing Cody to counter Archer’s finish with his own and win … [squints] an unfinished championship belt with the Choose Your Own Adventure font and Ted Turner mansion side plates. Also they did a cutaway to Tyson yawning in the middle of the match.
I dunno. This match will probably look a lot better in highlight form. It was pretty good, but also pretty lame at times. Tyson being surprised and delighted by Lance Archer randomly dragging a dude out of the back to bring to the ring and chokeslam for fun was a good moment, though:
They really missed out by not having Marko Stunt show up dressed like Little Mac and try to fight him.
All In: All Out
It's the event that started it all!
September 5th | All Out
Are you ready? pic.twitter.com/RB6qv6nQgL
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEWrestling) May 24, 2020
I’m glad to see that AEW’s next pay-per-view doesn’t happen until September, meaning we can get an entire summer of Dynamite stories and not have to worry about another big event until (hopefully) the pandemic has subsided enough for wrestling shows to have arena crowds again. Man, I cannot WAIT to hear that first full-sized, live AEW crowd after quarantine.
The Title Matches Go To The EXTREME~
As mentioned earlier, the singles title matches were hurt for me by being structurally the same despite different stipulations, and running back to back.
The first and better of the two for me was the AEW World Women’s Championship match, in which eternal number one contender Hikaru Shida was finally able to pull the trigger and unseat Nyla Rose as champion. That’s been a long time coming. Shida’s one of the division’s most reliable performers, and she’s been a real workhorse during the pandemic. I think Rose has a valuable role in the company, but not necessarily as a dominant champion. I don’t mean this as as much of an insult as it probably sounds, but she’s more of a Jake Hager than a Chris Jericho. She could thrive as somebody’s enforcer, where she can do her thing and have these fun, violent matches without having to cut promos or anchor any moments of character development. It’d allow her to play to her strengths is all I’m saying.
It was also nice and deeply, deeply sad to see Shida win and get emotionally following the death of her friend and peer, Hana Kimura. Here they are against one another in a tag match, if you’re interested. Between Shad Gaspard dying trying to save his son and Kimura being bullied into killing herself, it’s been a really fucking tragic and awful week for pro wrestling. Nothing’s better at finding a sliver of light in complete darkness quite like professional wrestling, though.
Join Delta Alpha Romeo Kilo Oscar Romeo Delta Echo Romeo
In the other title match — the one that didn’t have no disqualification and no count-out rules attached to it, but went in that direction anyway — Jon Moxley retained the AEW World Championship against this week’s monster, The Exalted One Mr. Brodie Lee. They know each other really well and have infinitely better chemistry than Moxley and Jake Hager, and I thought they told an interested story: absolutely nothing Moxley does, not even a Paradigm Shift through the stage, is enough to put Lee away by pinfall. So he has to choke him out, and while that’s still not going to get Brodie to submit, the human brain needs air, and a choke can cause him pass out. Moxley retains not by force or domination, but by his stamina and resourcefulness.
It’s abrupt to have Brodie show up, almost immediately get a title shot, and then quickly lose, but I get it. You need to make Moxley’s championship reign look legit during a time when your roster’s depleted and everything’s real-life dangerous, and the way Lee lost protects him enough that he can move into his next goal or feud without having been nerfed or embarrassed. Brother took the World Champion’s finisher multiple times, including once through a wooden ramp, and didn’t give up. If you don’t have Jon Moxley’s championship OVR rating, you’re probably gonna lose. And it might’ve taken a Paradigm Shift off a balcony inside an empty football stadium to put him away. MIGHT’VE.
All In: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Red Dead Redemption 3 (2045)
Well, at least the Dark Order has the Snyder Cut to look forward to
Beastmode Ate My Baby
Tony Khan (on the phone): Dad? I know you’re away for the weekend, but can I have a few friends over? Yeah, I promise we’ll stay in the stadium. Right, no one in the pool…
Charlotte’s moonsault would have been wide right.
Cody and Tyson should put their unfortunate tattoos together like one of those MAD Magazine fold-in covers.
Riho: This title is too big!
Nyla: This title is too small!
Hikara: This title is just right!
Dave M J
Hey, AEW, Hikaru Shida speaks English better than Natalya; she doesn’t need subtitles.
Excalibur: “Jungle Boy”
JR: Jack Perry
This was so much fun. Just let wrestling be weird and entertaining. Yes make sense with your rules but be fun. Let us enjoy it. Let me love this thing and be entertained by it.
Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
Cody getting through a PPV match without bleeding is the most shocking event since Brutus turning on Caesar
“Shawn, we’re going to need you to show ass tonight vs. Dustin.”
“Yeah, happy to make Dustin look good.”
That about does it for this year’s Ins and Outs of Double Or Nothing. I can’t believe I liked the Stadium Stampede match probably more than I would’ve liked Blood and Guts. Although … you know, let’s still do that once the world calms down.
Thanks for reading, as always. Drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the event, give us a share on social media to help keep us in the business of GIF’ing unexpected horse attacks, and make sure you’re here this Wednesday for the Double or Nothing fallout on Dynamite. Maybe Brian Cage will rip the TNT Championship in half so they can replace it with a nicer one. Who knows? See you then!