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Double or Nothing 2024 preview and predictions part two

Part One if you missed it.

Kazuchika Okada, Jack Perry & the Young Bucks (The Elite)

vs

Bryan Danielson, Darby Allin & FTR (Team AEW)

(Anarchy in the Arena)

Star quality: 7

This should’ve been pushed as Perry’s first match since August.  But wasn’t.  He and Okada have become background players.  Despite all four heels being entertaining in their roles.  Okada’s a fantastic arrogant prick and Perry’s cut strong promos.

The faces feel more thrown together than a paper plane race.  None has done anything of note between big shows.

Match quality: 8

If these are your bag they’re generally entertaining.  Feels more like a match for a stip than a stip for a match.  Nothing like the 2020 edition.

In a post-show promo after his return, Darby Allin noted he’s still limping.  That was ten days ago.  Feels kinda negligent.  His coming out with a flamethrower Wednesday so as not to do anything physical isn’t a great sign.

Though adding Darby does at least give ‘Team AEW’ an actual day-one dude.  And one who has talked passionately about his love for the company.

Danielson too is banged up.  On which more below.

Build: 2 Past It

The build to Okada/Omega was the best thing AEW did all month.  Unfortunately Kenny’s not wrestling here.  Let’s take it from the top:

Jack Perry was reinstated via hug, so there are presumably a number of people with AEW contracts who don’t even realize it.  Bryan Danielson talked about protecting the company without really saying what from.

Christopher Daniels’ firing was immediately overshadowed by Jack Perry pouring a drink on Schiavone.  Then never followed-up.

Then the Elite put a bounty on the babyfaces.  On Collision.  Without a promo or any fanfare.  And who did they send to collect?  The Murderhawk Monster Feat. the Finger Clickers MJF beat by himself.

Then they called Jeff Jarrett.  Which does make sense.  After all, if you want to destroy something, who else would you ask?  All capped by ‘Team AEW’ being unable to beat these bottom-rung heels cleanly.

The story isn’t tight.  It’s not well thought out.  Bits don’t make sense.  Like why Tony Khan can from suburban Florida do all manner of things except fix the intro or punish the guys hijacking his show.  Or why a team initially comprised of zero ‘originals’ is called ‘Team AEW’ while facing three of them.

It’s an invasion without invaders.

Overall Score: 17

Who benefits most from winning?  Jack Perry.  Allowing the heels to get their comeuppance later.

With not long till Blood and Guts amid a Forbidden Door that needs greasing, this is the quickest, easiest route to that match.  All you need is one more guy on either side.  And the Bucks have had themselves an issue with the world champion.  As did Adam Page.  Who was only suspended from the Elite.  So could play a role here.

While Bryan Danielson is nursing a genuine neck injury for which he will eventually need surgery.  Which could play into the finish as he disappears for a bit.  Though it seems he wants to ride it out until October.

WINNER: The Elite

Jon Moxley vs Konosuke Takeshita (IWGP Title Eliminator)

Star quality: 7

A week ago, Jon Moxley said Takeshita’s been a ‘hell of a blue chipper for quite some time.’

In American Football a blue chipper is a young prospect.  You’re not supposed to be one for ‘some time.’  While in business or poker, blue chip means exceedingly valuable.  Yet in wrestling, one of the most damaging things you can do to an ‘asset’ is teach fans they’re not worth investing in.

Which is exactly what AEW have done with Takeshita.  Beats Omega.  Disappears.  Feuds with Kenny and Jericho.  Disappears.  Wrestles Darby and Sting.  Disappears.  Wrestles Ospreay.  Disappears.  Comes on stage to challenge Moxley.  Disappears.

Before Wednesday, he’d had two Dynamite matches since January 10th.  It’s no wonder the guy recently called his AEW stint ‘the most mentally exhausting period in all 12 years of my wrestling career.’

All that said, the Japanese is less of a drag than Strong, Trent or Jarrett et al.  Since he doesn’t get dropped off for matches in a minivan or make his friends mow his lawn on one leg.

And he’s so damn good.

Match quality: 9

Could be an awful lot of fun.  It’s hard to recall Takeshita tussling with someone like the IWGP champ.  Most of his big outings have come across from wrestlers rather than brawlers.  The closest thing his exchanges with Ishii during last year’s Forbidden Door.  Which were a highlight of that match.

Build: 1 Polar

There are limits to the wonders of social media (ear muffs Tony!).  Like announcing a match there.  It makes it seem less than, not worth the tv time.  And the booking here felt last minute, despite it being teased within days of Dynasty.

Part of the issue being the IWGP champ had NJPW challengers to take care of first.

Not that this did anything to prevent Takeshita winning matches on tv.  Or Callis cutting promos on his behalf.  Neither of which AEW bothered with.

Both Moxley’s promo last Saturday and the preview package Wednesday felt hollow, because there’s not a lot to work with.  Mox cheapshotted him with a mic Wednesday before they started Collision with Takeshita presumably breaking Moxley’s arm.  Then never mentioned it again.

Overall Score: 17

Despite the politics, Takeshita as NJPW champ actually makes a lot of sense.  AEW don’t use him; New Japan certainly could.  Six months as IWGP champ could be a win/win.  But it seems more likely this Moxley run is to pass the baton to one of NJPW’s up and comers at Forbidden Door.

As of Wednesday, a Takeshita win guarantees a shot vs any IWGP champ.  He was also left laying, in stark contrast to how other weak challengers (Trent, Strong, Deeb) were portrayed.  And he’d now look really weak losing to a guy with a broken arm.

Of course, it’s possible this is all a punishment for griping to the Japanese press.  If he does win, it might be AEW’s last shot at properly getting behind him.  If he disappears again, fans might finally give up.

WINNER: Konosuke Takeshita

Malakai Black vs Adam Copeland (TNT Title, Barbed Wire Cage Match)

Star quality: 6

The silence was notable during the angle where Black took Copeland’s wedding ring.  It’d had tv time, some hype, some backstory and fans just didn’t care.  The former Edge generally gets good reactions but feels like he’s blended in toward the top of the roster rather than stand out as a star.

Match quality: 7

The first question here is, why?  The second question is also, why?  Why did this feud need a barbed wire cage?  And why on a show built around an arena-wide anything-goes brawl would you add a barbed wire cage match?

Would you like some steak with your steak?

Malakai’s theme and entrance in front of a big crowd for the first time since about 2021 should be a spectacle.  And Black reminded us Wednesday what makes him stand out – wrestling a vivid UWFI style match.

Build: 5 Premature

They were close to having something here.

After misting him at Dynasty, Malakai tried to bring out Copeland’s dark side, believing they’re more alike than Copeland wants to admit.  Clear story, could do without the mist but not a bad start.

Copeland then had to beat Buddy and Brody to get to Malakai, probably the strongest pair anyone on this card has defeated on the way here.  Heel made good guy jump through hoops.  More solid stuff.

Black then took his wedding ring.  As noted, the crowd couldn’t have cared less.  Possibly because of the same ol’ spooky gobbledygook and the lights going out; possibly because it’s the sort of cheap tactic AEW too often go with.

There was also a bloodbath.

All capped last night via a horrible promo by MC Copeland Feat. Wordz No-1 Wud P0ssibly Uze.  Highlights include ‘You took the one item that kept me tethered to my comfortable world…’ ‘born out of the shadows that I cast…’ and ‘We don’t deal in dreams, our currency is nightmares.’

Perhaps these two really are alike.

Overall Score: 18

The smoke-suggesting-fire rumor is Mr. Black isn’t keen on losing matches.

Leading to my skepticism last time re: them even doing this.  But it does feel like either guy could win here.  And they’ve teased stakes surrounding the outcome – Copeland might align with the House; equally he might steal Buddy and Brody if he makes Malakai look weak.

RKO out of nowhere: Is Black done soon?  He’s coming up on three years in the company, hard as it is to believe.

WINNER: Adam Copeland

Mercedes Mone vs Willow Nightingale (TBS Title)

Star quality: 6

Who’d have thought it’d be Mone weighing Willow down?  Not this guy.  Who declared her one of the best all-rounders in wrestling.  Which of course includes her talking.

Nice take dipshit, as Gandhi used to say.

Were those WWE-speak promos her being a bad girl blurring the lines to keep us guessing?  Or a babyface oblivious to the fact CEOs are not a beloved societal group?  Either way, they quickly alienated the audience.

A chant-imploring entrance died in the Gaahden.  And she made not a jot of difference to ratings.  Though was very much setup to fail in being cast in the role of CM Punk.

And there’s been one big beneficiary of her landing in AEW: Willow Nightingale.  Someone fans have always liked, but the company have always resisted pushing.

And Ms. Nightingale’s taken advantage, going from strength to strength in her promos and reactions. Displaying notable character development: bashful and guilty about Mone’s injury to start but developing an edge en route to finally having enough of Mercedes’ crap.

Match quality: 8

Could be higher.  Could steal the show.  We’ll see what shape Mone’s ankle’s in.

Mone’s naturally arrogant.  But is a big bumper so tiny it looks like her body’s breaking every time she lands. Willow’s as naturally likeable as babyfaces get but is generally bigger than her opponents.  Making for interesting face/heel dynamics.

The energy should be good – whether there are a few more Mone-backing ‘casuals’ in the house or a hardcore audience rallying behind their homegrown girl (ticket sales suggest the latter).  Mercedes has a ton of presence: big entrance, big outfit, should add to the spectacle and make this feel a ‘thing.’

And AEW should make sure it is, whether it opens or is given a little breathing room by following a lesser match.  They’ve spent a ton on Mercedes, few in the promotion have the natural momentum of Nightingale, they might just get themselves a female star or two if they play this right.

Mone also needs to give herself something current to talk about.  Everything so far is what she’s done.  Not what she’s doing.

Build: 5

In a window into my overthinking, no idea how to rate this.

Polar? No, fans are into Willow defending her title.

Premature? After three months of waiting?

Peaking? Doesn’t feel like it could go much further.

Past it?  Possibly.  We’ve been waiting three months for Mercedes to wrestle; the ride hasn’t been smooth.

The answer might be that these terms need tweaking.  But of the options, it’s probably Peaked.  Because like a bad card with a good main event, it ended on a high (at least to Dynamite viewers).  With the best angle all month outside Omega’s beatdown.

How bad the rest of it was comes down to whether you believe the promotion continued to misjudge their own fans in thinking they could turn Willow.  Or whether Mercedes simply could not be talked out of believing ‘Say hello to your CEO’ a staunch babyface tactic.

The only change to her act was its portrayal by announcers – she’s stealing Willow’s spotlight – suggesting it wasn’t a turn planned all along.  The plus is she improved during last week’s aforementioned angle, much more comfortable as an apparent heel.

Overall Score: 19

Can Willow beat Mercedes when she’s – to quote the lady herself – ‘all healthy’?

Unless it’s added to a growing list of storylines AEW dropped, there’s the blacked-out attack on Mone to pay off.  Probably with Kris Statlander.  Either in a setup all along, we faked it way.  Or her having gone after Mercedes without Willow’s knowledge.

Leading to her helping her friend here, allowing Mone to continue claiming Nightingale can’t beat her straight up.  Or costing her, setting up a very effective ‘chase’ for Willow and giving her someone to get through before a rematch with Mercedes.

Intriguing.

Common sense says AEW didn’t pay Mone to come in and lose.

WINNER: Mercedes Mone

Swerve Strickland vs Christian Cage (AEW Title)

Star quality: 7

The world title is supposed to mean you’re the best.  Something fans generally buy into when the champ is presented half-decently.  But Swerve shares/will share champion status with the likes of Ospreay, Okada, Copeland, Moxley and Jericho.

Out of that group, who’s the biggest star?  Not Swerve.

Most recognizable?  Not Swerve.

Legit best wrestler?  Not Swerve.

Storyline best wrestler?  Not Swerve (AEW made that quite clear via Ospreay vs Danielson).

The promotion has done him no favors by draping half their roster in leather and gold, like a rich man’s S&M party.  So his opponent had to scream that this is THE champ.  The way Cody and Moxley did for the first ppvs of the tv era.  When AEW had their three biggest stars scrapping for the strap.

Yet outside of playing his part in Adam Copeland’s big show debut, the only time Christian Cage main evented was as a substitute.  When Hangman’s swimmers decided to have their coming out party.

And there too, he was a backdrop to the debuts of Cole and Danielson.

Strickland’s also spent most of the month occupying the middle of the card.  They have given him a countdown clock (frequently a countdown to his doom); what he needs is a clearer playing field with fewer belts.  And more top stars actually wanting what he has.

He wasn’t even the first champ to appear on the post-Dynasty Dynamite.  And the guy he beat can’t make the card here.

Match quality: 8

Cage’s act is starting to feel redundant – conducting business, shot at local sports team, shot at opponent’s child/father – but he does draw boos, and is trying to.  So the vet brings benefits not present to those facing Toni Storm or the BCC guys when they’re half-ass heel.

Those attending will be firmly behind the new champ.

And Cage knows how to have a ‘big,’ good match that’s relatively safe.  A plus when Strickland looks like he’s going to break an ankle on every apron Stomp.

The drags here are possible interference.  And the very obvious outcome.

Build: 6 Peaked

AEW don’t do details.  So there a quibbles here.

Like Swerve’s minions turning on him without establishing the relationship.  Or failing to tease whose side Nana was on for a couple weeks.  So that in both cases the payoff could be richer.

We can quibble over whether Cage is the right opponent.  Over Swerve’s placement on Dynamite.  Over him being beaten down for weeks in a row.

But it was solid heels outnumber babyface stuff.  In a feud with a very clear good and bad guy.  All of which paid off with Swerve finally outsmarting his foe and whooping his ass.  I’ve been whining for months that Strickland’s not a true babyface.  That’s not the case anymore.

Also established by his standing up to the dreaded heel authority figures. AEW deserve credit for actually having concurrent, overlapping storylines for once.  Swerve and the Bucks is clearly going somewhere.  Probably somewhere surrounded by steel bars.

As with Willow and Mercedes, they saved the best angle for last and paid off what they’d laid the groundwork for.

Overall Score: 21

Perhaps these are rare in other companies too, but how frequently do AEW’s world title matches feel like either guy might win?  In a thirteen-month reign, MJF had two (Cole and Joe), Hangman one (Punk) and Omega arguably none.

A score Swerve ties here.

WINNER: Swerve Strickland

_________________________________________________________________________

The below is pretty negative, so if you just want to enjoy the show, totally understand.  Hope you do and have a great weekend.

Overall Thoughts

The Dynamite after Dynasty started with a Best Friends angle.  And largely ignored the new world champion.  Setting the tone for a card here filled with hotter acts dragged down by their opponents.

Though every Dynamite since Dynasty has been entertaining enough, they’ve also been jammed to the gills with angles:

  • the owner taken out
  • the Elite take over
  • an ex-champion and founder hospitalized
  • the head of talent relations fired
  • a day-one wrestler retired
  • a whodunnit attack with the lights off
  • teased lesbianism
  • a blood bath
  • a wrestler coughing up blood
  • talk of seizures
  • stolen wedding rings
  • stolen banners
  • flamethrowers
  • a ‘Pillmanized’ arm
  • And the world champion having a framed photo of his child smashed over his head till he literally squirted blood

When so many extravagant things happen, it’s hard for any of them to have impact.  As evidenced by there often being so much to get through they neglect the main event or feature, such as Kenny Omega returning or who he’s corralled to form a team to take on the Elite.

In a company where details just don’t matter.

Of those injury angles (and including Danielson at Dynasty), the wounded party was largely just fine the next time we saw them with little concern in between.  Making it hard for fans to care or heels to generate heat.

In a show-opening angle last night, Jon Moxley presumably had his arm broken.  It wasn’t mentioned again.

Chuck Taylor hasn’t been mentioned since.  No promos asking how his former friend could do this.  Or imploring Cassidy to take vengeance.  Or even an update on his condition.

Ditto the fired Christopher Daniels.  Nor would most fans have known his real-life job title or relationship with the Bucks.  Show not tell is a staple of storytelling for a reason.  But even tell is better than nothing.

Why was Jack Perry reinstated via hug?  Why did Will Hobbs get an IWGP title shot but Takeshita has to win an eliminator?

Few if any contenders seem justified.  Making them feel cold.  A big part of why most title matches feel unimportant.  Just ask the Celtics how people feel about challengers with easy paths.

This show is intended as a celebration of five years of AEW.  A few weeks back Bryan Danielson said Top Flight are what AEW is all about.  A sarcastic prick might ask ‘So why aren’t they on this show?  And does that mean AEW are all about guys who come and go without moving up the card?’

Even the Observer, more specifically Bryan Alvarez, has started talking about how after half a decade, so many talents are in exactly the same place.  And using the ‘good match’ thing with finger quotations.  Because outside of that, after five years, it’s harder than ever to know what AEW is about.  Especially after a show like Wednesday full of WWE-style angles.

Hate ending like this so we’ll Thanksgiving this thing and end with what I’m most thankful for here: namely Mox/Take, the six-man and Willow/Mercedes.  And Mariah May’s bod ;.

Thanks as always for reading.  Enjoy the show and rest of the weekend.

Paul Hemming
Paul Hemminghttps://h00kedon.weebly.com/
Paul Hemming got into AEW during the pandemic, lives in Liverpool, England, and is a huge Liverpool fan, Playstation player and history lover.

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