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    Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Double or Nothing 2020

    Being a wrestling fan hasn’t been fun in 2020, has it?

    Not only did this year see WWE fire a ton of wrestlers despite having the money to keep all of them, but we also lost Shad Gaspard and Hana Kimura in the span of a week. VICE also released that heartbreaking Dark Side of the Ring episode about Owen Hart, which came out around the time Shad was presumed dead, so that didn’t help things.

    While Dynamite has had some solid shows in the COVID-19 era, they didn’t really help alleviate things. In fact, the build-up to Double or Nothing felt rushed and unnatural since the company has had to change their plans due to these circumstances.

    So, to my utter shock, Double or Nothing ended up being a fantastic show. In fact, Double or Nothing is a really good name for this particular event since the viewers gambled with a poor build and rushed storylines, but managed to get a huge payoff with an incredible wrestling show that had so much variety. That’s not even including the main event, which was so unique that it will be remembered in the annals of wrestling history.

    Brian Cage Hits the Jackpot

    Now that was a nice surprise. Former Impact star Brian Cage made an explosive AEW debut by beating Frankie Kazarian, Scorpio Sky, Kip Sabian, Orange Cassidy, Colt Cabana, Darby Allin, Luchasaurus, and Joey Janela to get a shot at the AEW World Championship. While Cage is obviously the biggest talking point, the match itself was a fine opener, though it wasn’t the best ladder match I’ve ever seen.

    I’ll admit that this Casino Ladder Match is interesting, in that it starts with two superstars and has more come out every two minutes. While it made for a fun watch, the concept is a bit flawed since fans will ask themselves what happens when a wrestler manages to climb the ladder and win right away. Does everyone else just suck their thumbs and accept the loss? I mean, there’s no DQ anyway so why should these athletes even wait for the timer to go by?

    Once you ignore that smarky part of your brain, you’ll enjoy this match for the spotfest that it is. Plenty of crazy moments happened throughout the match, from Darby almost breaking his legs when he missed that diving foot stomp from the top of a ladder to Joey Janela hitting the freshly squeezed one with a Death Valley Driver from the apron to a buried Brian Cage. All this effort and more even without a real crowd.

    There was also a fun Attitude Era element to the match since the allies of various wrestlers came to help out their partners. Marko Stunt “helped” Luchasaurus chokeslam Orange Cassidy, Jimmy Havoc and Penelope Ford tried to assist Kip Sabian, and The Best Friends assisted their lazily talented acquaintance.

    This did its job as a fun opener. Here’s hoping everyone who took a big bump—especially poor Darby—gets some well-deserved rest.

    The Future of Wrestling

    While I did expect a good match out of MJF and Jungle Boy, I was not expecting a possible Match of the Year candidate between the two.

    No joke, these two put on a wrestling clinic and proved why they are the future of this business. The in-ring chemistry these two have is insane; it felt like I was watching two veterans wrestle, not a duo of twenty-somethings who haven’t even hit their prime yet.

    Though most of us saw MJF winning, Jungle Boy put up one hell of a fight here and almost made me believe that he was going to break this arrogant bastard’s winning streak. MJF did win in the end but it was with a lucky rollup so Jungle Boy looks a teeny bit stronger because of that.

    Simply put, this was an amazing match that everyone should watch. Maybe not five stars but definitely four and a half.

    Cody Wins an Ugly Ass Belt

    You’ve got to give it to AEW for the way they paced this pay-per-view. We started with a spotfest, transitioned to a proper wrestling match, and then moved on to this bout, a big-man-small-man match. Okay, calling Cody “small” is a stretch but Archer towers over him and threw him around like a rag doll during this match.

    Lance Archer and Cody managed to give us an entertaining little match here. Archer dominated most of the match here, hitting The American Nightmare with a bunch of power moves. The Murderhawk Monster also hit that ropewalk moonsault, which I’ll always mark out for. He even insisted Cody hit him a few times, though he later paid for it the second time he asked for more.

    In the end, it took Cody three Crossrhodes’ to bring down Archer. The Murderhawk Monster kicked out of the first one and a top-rope Cody Cutter so you can’t say that they buried him here. There’s nothing wrong with a monster losing a match, as long as the follow-up is strong.

    Cody winning the TNT Championship makes a ton of sense since he can’t challenge for the AEW World Championship. It also adds some prestige to that mess of a belt since its first owner is a certified winner in AEW. The company wants this to mean more than your typical midcard belt but they’re gonna have to do the work to ensure that happens, especially given how it looks. They mentioned that it hasn’t been finished so I can’t wait for that redesign.


    Kris Statlander managed to have a fun match against Penelope Ford, who was filling in for an injured Britt Baker. Considering how the feud between Statlander and Baker didn’t have much heat behind it before the injury, my expectations didn’t exactly change when Ford was announced as a replacement.

    There were a couple of awkward moments when one wrestler was waiting for the other to make a move but they put on a quality effort here. There was a scary moment when Statlander seemed to hit her head in the railings during a suicide dive but she seemed okay for the most part.

    Our alien leader managed to pick up a win after some solid back-and-forth action. I feel like Statlander has suffered a bit from 50/50 booking in AEW so it was good to see her get the win here. She’s also improved tremendously, especially when you compare her performance here to the one against Nyla Rose back in Revolution.

    Dustin Rhodes is a Sexual Harassment Case Waiting to Happen

    First he kisses Jake Hager’s wife in Revolution and now he takes off Shawn Spears’ pants and slaps his ass? I don’t think things are looking good for Dustin Rhodes.

    All kidding aside, AEW wanted to give us some variety with Double or Nothing but I didn’t expect a one-sided beatdown for poor Shawn Spears. You’d think they would want to treat the guy better for being part of that small crew they had during the early empty arena shows. Then again, he did appear on pay-per-view in a memorable segment, which is better than not being used at all.

    Personally, I sort of miss the semi-psychotic Shawn Spears from 2019. The guy who was managed by Tully Blanchard, hit Cody with a chair, wore Xehanort eye lenses, tried pulling out Joey Janela’s tongue, and had a sick beard. That Shawn Spears looked like a main event player.

    However, I can appreciate a good jobber heel and if Spears is fine with that role then I can at least get used to it. I’m sure Spears prefers having Tully’s face in his underwear and getting his bare ass slapped on pay-per-view over not doing anything on SmackDown Live.

    Hikaru Shida is Your New AEW Women’s World Champion!

    First, the match immediately gained points from me when I saw Hikaru Shida’s Tifa Lockhart cosplay. That’s just a wonderful sight to behold. Even without the Tifa get-up though, this was an excellent match that was worthy of the No DQ and No Count out stipulations.

    Shida and Nyla Rose made good use of the environment, getting creative with all of the gambling-related material found at ringside. Some major props to Nyla Rose since she took those kendo stick shots like a champ and those knees to her head didn’t feel any lighter. To be fair, Shida took her fair share of punishment as well, getting put through two tables and eating a bunch of power moves.

    AEW should also get some credit for making this match feel important. The video package that played before this was really good, making both women look fierce and letting us know them a bit better. They also got a lot of time, which really allowed them to shine here. They need to put this much focus on their women’s division at all times, not just for shows like this.

    I have mixed thoughts about the result. While I am a huge fan of Shida, Rose was just finding her stride as champion until COVID-19 happened, which forced her to stay at home for a few months. However, you could argue that Shida was one of the MVPs during those recorded empty arena shows, wrestling a good number of matches and always giving her all.

    This was a super match and I ended up happy with what happened, after contemplating it for a bit. Shida is a worthy champion and Rose will surely win the title again in the future.

    Moxley Doesn’t Give In to The Dark Order

    You know how I’ve complained about a lot of this match card feeling rushed? The program between Jon Moxley and Brodie Lee was the biggest culprit of that piece of lazy booking. It came out of nowhere and showed that AEW’s ranking system means nothing if you can just ask for a title shot from a game champion.

    That being said, I knew this match was going to be really good, despite the build-up, and these two proved me right.

    I’ve been a huge Brodie Lee mark since his Luke Harper days and Moxley has always given his all since popping up in AEW. This wasn’t a clean, technical match but a fast-paced brawl with a ton of big moves and stiff strikes. Things did slow down eventually, but when that downtime comes from a pump handle suplex into the railing or a backdrop through the timekeeper’s table, you know that’s not a bad thing.

    The final stretch of this match is what elevated it from great to special. When Lee kicked out of a Paradigm Shift DDT at one, Moxley zeroed in on his opponent’s bleeding head with a crazy amount of elbows, bites, forearms, and knees. This led to an elevated version of the Paradigm Shift but Lee kicked out of that at two, making him one of the few who have done that feat in AEW. Moxley had to choke him out to win, finally ending this epic brawl.

    We all knew Moxley was going to win and get his AEW World Championship back but it is surprising to see two of the company’s newly acquired giants—Brodie Lee and Lance Archer—lose their PPV debut. Obviously, neither of them are getting buried, but it is interesting to witness.

    A Wrestling Spectacle

    From the moment they had The Elite and The Inner Circle had those football-style entrances, complete with cheerleaders and a band playing, I knew this was going to be something interesting. Then I saw Hangman Page chase Sammy Guevara while riding a horse and I knew this was going to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.

    And I loved every second of it.

    If you thought that DDT-style match they had a few weeks ago is nuts, the Stadium Stampede is going to send you to an asylum. It has Matt Hardy switching through even more of his personas this time, going from Broken, to Hardy Boyz, and Version 1.0 aka the best Matt Hardy. Hangman Page and Jake Hager take a short break and have a drink together, only to keep fighting. And, of course, that insane One-Winged Angel Kenny gave poor Sammy.

    Having such a silly match as the main event will definitely be divisive since you could argue that something more serious, like the AEW World Championship bout, should have taken that spot. At the same time, so many things happen in the Stadium Stampede match that it would tire out most fans if it were placed anywhere else in the card.

    The Elite won but really, everyone who watched this won. This was good shit.

    Final Grade: Considering how low my expectations were, this show managed to get my cynical heart, drown it in a pool and bring out it’s much more positive version from 2019. A+

    Images from All Elite Wrestling

    Nico Parungo is a writer for Epicstream.com and has contributed several reviews for PWR and MWF. When he isn't frustrated about the WWE, he's playing video games at home and is bugging his friends with glorious puns. He's new to the world of Twitter drama but is quickly getting hooked.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Double or Nothing 2020 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nico Parungo
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