Typically, AEW only runs four PPV shows a year (a fifth is coming in the form of Forbidden Door) and while All Out is thought of as the crown jewel event, it was Double or Nothing that kicked off the company’s very existence. If the company is still around in twenty years, Double or Nothing will very likely be seen as its big anniversary show, its Homecoming event. 2022 brought us the fourth iteration, with a lot of hype and a TON of matches.
There were, as I see it, three big stories heading into the event…
There’s an answer but no one except maybe two people know exactly what it is. I’ll say this: MJF is either committing career suicide or he’s the second coming of Andy Kaufman. I can see no middle ground. I think the line between Kayfabe and Work is as blurred as it’s been since Andy Kaufman slapped Jerry Lawler AEW Double or Nothing 2022: CM Punk and that’s based solely on the fact that MJF already spent three years never getting out of character and blossoming into the most effective “pure” heel in pro wrestling. Without that, the news that MJF no-showed a fan-paid meet-and-greet and has complained openly about his contract with AEW would cause everyone to conclude, without hesitation, that he was imploding before our eyes. If it was any other wrestler that would be the story. But it’s MJF, so the story is
But this isn’t about MJF, or at least it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be about Wardlow and the slow and steady climb from “nameless goon” to one of the most popular acts in wrestling. There’s a long list of performers who were paired with big heels with the intent to get them over as a babyface, but it’s no guarantee that it works and, even if it does, there’s no guarantee that the free bird will fly well on his own. For every Batista, there’s an Alex Riley. That said, AEW has managed Wardlow’s rise perfectly and it all culminated in exactly the kind of match that had to happen: He squashed and embarrassed MJF. Say what you want and share what you believe about MJF and his current status, but you can’t deny he worked that match exactly like he was supposed to. Wardlow is now “made.” What comes next is anyone’s guess but kudos to the company for telling the first act of his career perfectly.
THE OWEN TOURNAMENT
A disagree with heels winning this (the first year of a memorial tournament) almost on principle.
Back-to-back final matches saw Adam Cole and Britt Baker win their respective tournaments. In the former, the heel won thanks to outside interference. In the latter, the heel won cleanly and then offered a hand to the challenger. These finishes gave mixed messages…and then what? We’re supposed to cheer them hoisting their respective trophies? The whole presentation seemed misguided.
What’s more, I disagree with the entire booking of this tournament, setting aside the competitors and winners entirely. The layout felt uninspired. If there wasn’t an OWEN HART banner and references in commentary there would have been no telling we were watching various competitors grinding through a tournament at all. It wasn’t a tournament, it was a pair of weekly “themed” matches.
I’d prefer wrestling tournaments be booked like the 2000-2002 King of the Ring tourneys, which were huge, sprawling events that culminated in multiple final matches at the PPV. I suppose that’s hard to do when you only have four PPVs a year. There’s not enough time to have three matches dedicated to the tournament (six if you do men’s and women’s), on a show that’s already overstuffed as it is. My solution is to do the finals in a pair of special Rampage or Dynamite episodes. Dedicate the whole show to the tournament finals, where the winner would have to win multiple matches in a single night. Do the men’s one week and the women’s the next. After that, do the formal ceremony to crown them at the PPV. That’s still not a perfect scenario, but at least it will feel like the winners actually competed in a gauntlet and not just an ordinary series of “weekly matches with a theme.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Hardys vs Young Bucks was, at first, a trainwreck thanks to Jeff’s boot coming undone. After that, it settled into being as good as it could be. Jeff does not need to be doing this every week. I get the need to capitalize on his debut but he really needed/needs six months to rehab and heal his body. Hopefully, he gets it.
Kyle O’Reilly vs Darby Allin was a good, fast-paced match with a pleasantly surprising finish. On the other hand, it should have just been a great main event of Dynamite. It didn’t need to be on an already too-long PPV show.
House of Black vs Death Triangle was a fun spotfest that went 100mph from beginning to end and had a great twist ending. I have no complaints.
American Top Team vs Sammy Guevara, Frankie Kazarian, and Tay Conti was fine, but it should have just been a great main event of Rampage. It didn’t need to be on an already too-long PPV show.
Jade Cargill vs Anna Jay was a bit of a mess, as expected, but Jade’s slow ascension continues and one day soon she will be an absolute superstar and a world champ.
Thunder Rosa vs Serena Deeb had a pretty terrible build and a pretty incredible match.
Jurassic Express vs. Team Taz vs. Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland was great but the finish felt like a letdown. Everyone seemed ready for a title change, if only to shake up the stale title scene.
Anarchy in the Arena (Jericho Appreciation Society vs. Eddie Kingston, Santana, Ortiz, and Blackpool Combat Club) was the best kind of bonkers sports entertainment match I hoped it would be. It was bloody, chaotic and fun, at one point Eddie Kingston stumbled down the aisle with a gasoline can looking like a character from a Rob Zombie movie.
Coming into this match, the talk has mostly focused on whether or not Adam Page’s world title run has been a disappointment, and—if so—whether that means he should beat his biggest challenger yet or if the company should make a change. On the one hand, the ratings are down compared to the months chronicling his ascension to the top. It could be argued that Dynamite was at its best when Hangman was the central character and, in the months since he won the title, he really hasn’t been. In fact, Dynamite hasn’t felt like it really had one, other than maybe Wardlow and his quest to vanquish MJF. Since winning the world title at Full Gear, Hangman has defended the title more than any previous champ in a six-month period. And yet he doesn’t feel like the most important performer on the roster. He’s been booked almost like an old territory champ, who only rides into town when the next number-one-contender has been crowned and it’s time to defend. It’s only in the past few weeks—as his feud with Punk has taken off—that he’s felt like a weekly presence again. Does that mean his reign has been a failure? I don’t think so, but I do think the idea behind the way he was booked was better on paper than in actuality.
As for Punk, his return was a bolt of lightning back in September of 2021. In the nine months since, the now-grizzled veteran has settled into being a regular character on Dynamite. That was a given. After getting his ring rust knocked off, he had one of the most entertaining feuds in the company’s short history with MJF, not to mention a great mini-feud with Eddie Kingston. Now he’s in the program everyone pegged for him as soon as he arrived and, for the most part, he has straddled the line between babyface and heel. Where he goes from here we’ll see. Nine months after returning to pro wrestling, he’s the world champ.
As a pure wrestler, Punk was never crisp in the ring, and age has only made him messier, but he’s a one-of-a-kind personality and absolute money on the mic. This title reign, I predict, will be relatively short compared to other AEW champs. I also predict it will be very memorable. The first Summer of Punk featured a young ROH wrestler looking to make a name for himself. The second featured a prime WWE wrestler looking to prove himself as the best. The third is upon us, featuring a grizzled, grey-bearded AEW wrestler. What’s the story? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.
As for Hangman, he had a chance to win the title the wrong way. He could have hit CM Punk with the title belt while the ref wasn’t looking. He chose to remain pure and it cost him. At the end of the day, Hangman lost against himself once again. I appreciate the commitment to this aspect of his character: He is his own worst enemy. He can beat anyone he gets in the ring with provided he has confidence in himself, but if he has doubts, he can lose to anyone, too. He’s the youngest AEW world champ and has a long future ahead of him. This is not the end of his time at the top of AEW.
* * * * *
My biggest problem with Double or Nothing 2022 is not the number of matches or the long runtime that went with them, but with the amount of filler that the first half seemingly had. Maybe they looked like big, PPV-worthy matches on paper, but the results did not bear fruit. I feel like we could have had half the matches on either the buy-in or on Dynamite/Rampage and this would have been an all-timer 3-hour PPV. Instead, it was only a very good event, where all the biggest matches delivered but the undercard dragged things down.
8/10 – This was probably AEW’s weakest PPV event since 2020, but that still keeps it in the upper echelon of pro wrestling supercards for the past few years. We’re on the cusp of a very exciting summer, and while the show that kicked it off might not have been perfect, it might also be looked back on as the show that launched us into some of AEW’s best days.