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Double or Nothing 2024 Review

Strong/Ospreay

Us wrestling fans don’t enjoy the best reputations for cranial capacity.  But presumably even the least of us recall Ospreay’s clash with Bryan Danielson a month ago.  To decide the best wrestler of all time.  Credit Excalibur did not extend our way before this got going – Ospreay’s ‘toughest test yet.’

And when it did, the company’s biggest star literally damn near broke his neck to give the Kingdom some shine.  The immediate interference and dumb refereeing a portentous start to the show.

Luckily the fans were incredibly into Will.  Though not really the match itself.  Hard to blame them as the heels again took the ref and Wardlow apparated inside the ring.  And was spotted, though not immediately thrown out.  That only happened minutes later when he and the Kingdom again disrupted an Oscutter.

The stage clear to actually wrestle, a brilliant sequence led to Will hitting the cutter.  And eventually winning via Stormbreaker after teasing a Callis-demanded tiger driver.  In a good match not nearly got enough to compensate for the Brit’s drop down the card.

The big positive is Ospreay comes off as such a star in front of these bigger ppv audiences: during the entrance, match and aftermath as he basked with his belt.  The crowd doing more to get him over than the booking here.

And Don Callis is a treasure: ‘We won! We won!’

Cole/MJF

Cool as surprises are, we don’t always need two.  So it would’ve been nice if they’d built up Adam Cole having something to say here.

‘You all suck!’ Cole’s first words after being cheered during his entrance.  Which was very amusing, a refreshing change from teasing being a good guy or winding the way to a dig at a local sports team.

He didn’t get many more out before a video began to play.  Taking us along the hallway of a large house before dipping into one of the rooms.  Where a Burberry scarf lay on display.  Along with a suit resting on a mannequin.

And my god what a pop when the ‘new’ MJF came out.  Clad like HHH: denim cutoff over a leather jacket, tanned, buff.  He quickly dispatched Cole (who still isn’t cleared), so easily it seemed to symbolize moving on from that feud.

Then cut a hell of a promo, promising ‘no more ha-ha… no more bullshit!’  He got an F-bomb out too while saying without saying that the angle and booking at the end of 2023 sucked.  Then revealing an ‘AEW’ tattoo on his calf.  Surrounded by the words ‘bet on yourself.’

I hadn’t missed the previous MJF.  This one though…

BBG/Death Triangle

Something else I missed was that this trio actually go by ‘Bang Bang Gang’ and it’s not just a catchphrase.  Well worked, nice heel/face dynamic highlighted by Jay White’ s opportunism.  Crowd not all that into the action excepting the Bros’ rapid high spots.

Capped when Juice returned (actually really well done, the referee believably distracted across the ring), allowing White to pin Pac.  And presumably continuing the Geordie’s mental decline while setting up a Kiwi grudge.

Nice stuff.

Mox/Takeshita

What seemed an obvious Moxley win changed toward the end of last week.  First when he easily left the Japanese laying on Dynamite; second when Moxley’s left arm was rendered null on Collision.

Because, boy, if Take loses now…

And of course he dominated a match which was a shadow of its potential due to that arm injury.  But wow did the finish kill him even more dead.  When he followed Callis’ instructions to grab a bunch of chairs.  In full view of the ref too.  Backfiring when Mox stomped him onto one then hit a Death Rider to win.

An issue on this show was wrestlers not losing cleanly.  As noted in the past, booking like this doesn’t help.  Star X would be well within their rights to point to Kenny Omega losing not once, but twice, to this dude and wondering what it was all for.

Copeland/Malakai

AEW won’t feature a mid-carder from 1998 here right?  I thought, banishing the idea of mentioning Gangrel in the preview.  Whoops.

Skipped to the end of this, just in time to see the other House of Black members inside the cage.  Where yet another swerve (MJF also pretended briefly to reconcile with Cole) saw them pretend to side with Copeland.  Before Dave Heath popped up from under the ring just in time – presumably after a text: ‘Those bastards swerved me dude!’ – to help Copeland win.

Allowing Malakai, despite being surrounded by almost a visual representation of a clean finish, once again to avoid one.  Poor Copeland also suffered a broken tibia here.  They need to start telling wrestlers, ‘No.’

Mercedes/Willow

Then it was time for the best thing on the show.  Beginning with heavy ‘CEO’ chants.  From the speakers.  None from the fans.  Mone booed during introductions.  Willow though, hell of a pop.

There was a clutch of crowd who did yell the three letters as what was easily the most heated match all night got going: Mercedes vengefully targeting Willow’s ankle; Willow deciding turnabout was fair play, plenty of drama, great ‘disbelief’ facials from both on near falls, good selling from Mercedes.

This too had a tainted climax.  But played into the larger story.  And unlike most losers on the night, Nightingale needed protecting here.  So had the match won, the ref distracted by Statlander and Stokely, allowing Mone to flip off the top into the Mone Maker.

And Mercedes showed here exactly why she’s so good.  Remember that Riho/Willow match Mone’s first night in?  When Nightingale was leaping into Riho suplexes?  None of that here.  Mercedes either went for the legs to ground the giant, or launched herself at her bigger foe.  Everything believable, everything playing into a heated feud and the story around Mone’s ankle.

Before yet another swerve as Statlander pretended to be pissed at Stokely then laid out Nightingale before leaving with Hathaway.  If your stories and characters are good, the betrayal should be rich enough that it doesn’t need the ‘shock’ of a swerve.

Anarchy in the Arena

Jack Perry was out last for the heels and did get the winning pinfall.  And this began well as they all brawled to the now customary music.  Darby’s theme on repeat until Matt Jackson demanded a change.  Whereupon Danielson demanded they play ‘the best theme ever’ and Final Countdown kicked in.

A Darby Coffin Drop off an entrance synching perfectly with the hook, making for a dramatic visual.  Until Matt demanded a cease because it was costing ‘like 200 grand’ each play and they were on a budget.

Okada brought out a ‘Rainmaker Drive’ sign as they continued to brawl around ringside.  And as the match reached something like the halfway stage with Darby trying to drown Perry in a cooler backstage, I began to think I’d been a bit closed-minded – everything so far fun and entertaining.

Then the second half began.  As they went eye-to-eye with OTT and fittingly took a flamethrower to it.

Starting with the Scapegoat driving a van into a pile of stuff we were told Darby Allin was inside.  Not to worry, he was just fine a few minutes later.

Dax now covered in blood, though we were never shown why.  As we moved to the stage.  Where Danielson took a TK Driver onto the stack of casino chips.  Five years ago, this was deemed a fitting culmination; here, just another spot.

Among many more to come.  Perry mimicking CM Punk’s reported actions – lurching for Tony Khan across a table and dragging him to the stage (Excalibur noted the Bucks’ iron clad contracts extend to protecting Perry: it’s better than nothing).  But forced to let his boss go when Allin set him on fire with a flamethrower.

The Bucks were right on hand with extinguishers.  Though this spot killed the crowd either out of concern for Perry or because it finally just exhausted them.  And better not be brushed off.  Jack Perry and the Elite should want them some of Darby Allin.

More happened, including winching Darby upside down for several minutes, tack-embroidered clothing, Okada becoming a shoe salesman and Perry pinning Bryan Danielson.  The only thing which generated any noise was a flurry of strikes and busaikus from the Dragon.  Almost as if the crowd wanted to see wrestling.

Incredibly creative and daring, entertaining for large parts, it became too much both for myself and seemingly the crowd in Vegas.  Who were silent for the most of the last ten minutes outside of jokingly chanting ‘Please save Darby!’  Which doesn’t suggest a crowd absorbed in the action or outcome, but people who are thinking, aware they’re taking in a spectacle rather than being taken-in by it.

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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