It’s become widely accepted by the majority of AEW’s fanbase recently that the product is currently a mixed bag in terms of quality. Recent Dynamite episodes have featured matches reaching the highest levels of entertainment while also being littered with garbage promos from performers who sometimes feel way out of their depth.
The resulting card for DoN (Double or Nothing) is probably a fair reflection of the product’s current up and down nature. There were matches that felt huge and worthy of being on PPV, but there were also matches that left people scratching their heads as to how they made it to one of the company’s biggest shows of the year. How did it all play out in the end though? Get ready for it.. this show was, you guessed it, a mixed bag. Let’s dive into it.
International Championship 21-Man Battle Royale
Battle Royales, especially on PPVs, usually carry a bit of a stink to them. Fans see through them for exactly what they are, a cheap way to get everybody on the show with the resulting match being a skippable snoozefest. This one however proved to be the exception to the rule. Orange Cassidy’s current character arc is arguably the best part of recent Dynamites. Cassidy in the role of a lazy millennial who is also the best defending champion in all of wrestling, who then takes on all challengers with a shrug of the shoulder has been perfect.
Cassidy’s selling of a beaten down champion has been unmatched. So to see him have to take on 20 opponents at one time was a great beat to this gripping story. What made it even better was how well other talents were highlighted in this match. Big Bill looked monstrous while also having tons of fun playing the spoiler, The Luca Bros looked great as always, Jay White performed well with an unfair amount of limited time, and Swerve Strickland had everybody in the building convinced they were seeing a title change. The final battle between Cassidy and Swerve was up there with any final two in Royal Rumble history, let alone boring old battle royales. Huge overachievement.
Chris Jericho vs. Adam Cole
This match acted as the perfect example of AEW’s current uneven nature. Following the amazing battle royale, we had two stars who’s feud on television has been good for the most part, going head-to-head in a no DQ match. With a crazy start that saw Sabu (still weird) take out part of the JAS with a hilarious table dive to the outside, this felt like it couldn’t fail. Sadly it did, massively.
As the match came down to just Cole and Jericho, it became quickly apparent that the chemistry here just wasn’t clicking. There were botches, weird looking moves, times where both men looked completely lost, and just a general slow pace to the whole affair. It didn’t take long for this pair to completely lose the crowd, and once they did, they decided to carry on with the planned drawn out finish rather than trying to take it home quickly. It resulted in a terrible match with an even worse end that left the Vegas crowd in silence.
Tag Team Titles: FTR vs. Jarrett & Lethal
Who would have thought in 2023 we’d have been relying on Jeff Jarrett to rescue a dead crowd from a Jericho v Cole match? Weird times.
There’s not too much to say on this one other than it finished in the exact way it started. It was silly, fun, and never outstayed it’s welcome. This entire story has been good filler. It’s had laughs, good wrestling, and never once felt boring. Jarrett and his team of cartoonish dastardly villains are genuinely hilarious, as proven by Karen Jarrett smacking Aubrey Edwards with a guitar shot that popped every wrestling fan watching. This was enjoyable and probably better than most people expected. Jarrett and co should definitely stay together and continue to do what they’re doing. FTR on the other hand should hopefully be moving onto bigger and better things now.
TNT Championship Ladder Match: Wardlow vs. Christian Cage
Another good but not great match here, a bit like the story leading up to it actually. There’s still a weird feeling around Wardlow that he might not be THE GUY after all. This match didn’t exactly do much to erase that weird atmosphere, nor did it do a lot to raise a Vegas crowd who were still yet to wake up from the Cole v Jericho slumber show. They did start to come alive with a few impressive ladder spots but the general feeling was that nobody really believes in Wardlow or sees him as a hero they want to back.
The Arn Anderson biting Luchasaurus angle was weird and fell flat. Luckily Wardlow saved the day by performing a crazy Jeff Hardy-esque swanton bomb off the ladder onto Luchasaurus. It did feel weird that Christian didn’t then take the opportunity to steal the title, instead just lying around waiting for Wardlow to get back to his feet. The powerbomb finish looked very cool though. Overall there were lots of great moments in a match nobody really cared for.
Women’s World Championship Match: Jamie Hayter vs. Toni Storm
This was what it was. Hayter is clearly injured so a semi-squash with pre-match interference was needed to get the title off her and onto Storm as conveniently as possible. It was executed well enough but as soon as it became clear what was happening, you could feel the air being sucked out of the building.
There’s also a question to be asked about whether or not they should have even had Hayter working this if she’s legitimately badly hurt. There was just an uncomfortable feeling around all of this and it now feels like the AEW Originals vs. Outcasts story may be fully off the rails.
Trios Championship Match: The House of Black vs. The Acclaimed & Daddy Ass
Firstly, The House of Black’s entrance on PPV is always a huge highlight. This team carries a real presence, which makes it even more of a shame that the matches are always let down by their silly “house rules” and funky lighting.
The Acclaimed do what they do best and woke the crowd back up with an opening rap about Buddy Matthews and Dominik Mysterio that deservedly got one of the biggest pops of the night. The match itself was exactly what most expected. Billy Gunn continues to impress in well-planned small doses while House of Black look like a real unit.
It’s worth noting that The Acclaimed chose not to implement their own rule, which means the list of opponents rules thus far since the gimmick started has been ‘No spooky witches at ringside’, ‘No tags (like most trios matches)’ and ‘no special rule’. It certainly raises the question what the point is in all of this is.
TBS Championship Match: Jade Cargill vs. Taya Valkyrie
It’s a little sad that this match will probably be forgotten due to the events that followed, but it’s worth remembering that this was a great effort by both women. They’ve worked together for a while now and the chemistry between them really reflects that. Great entrances as well!
TBS Championship Match: Jade Cargill vs. Kris Statlander
An impromptu match that was set up quietly last week when Jade Cargill began accepting multiple open challenges to help bump up her streak. This was a really clever way to bring back Statlander and have her end the streak without harming Jade’s well built credibility.
It worked perfectly as the crowd went wild for both the return and the massive title change. This was quick but hugely effective. Statlander’s undeniable star power mixed with Jade’s incredible title reign made this what was essentially one of the greatest squash matches ever.
AEW World Championship: MJF vs. Darby Allin vs. Sammy Guavara vs. Jungle Boy Jack Perry
Since day one there was no doubt this match would be fine on the night given the talent involved, despite the fact the build in previous weeks has been mostly terrible. Not only was this fine on the night, it was outstanding.
All four guys went balls to the wall and gave everything to prove why they should be in this spot. Their promo ability (aside from MJF obviously) let this story down, but their in-ring work made sure it ended on the highest of highs. There’s way too much to recap in this high-octane thrill fest that was topped off with a perfect finish, so just go watch it if you haven’t.
Anarchy In the Arena: The Elite vs. The BCC
This was the real main event going into DoN and the placement on the card reflected that. The quality of this match will likely depend on your personal tolerance for both over-the-top violence and music being played during the opening of the match. If you’re into this ECW inspired match type, or you enjoyed the first Anarchy in the Arena match last year, then this was pure perfection.
For better or for worse, the camera crew struggled to keep up with the action as these guys took over the arena and the blood began to spill. The Young Bucks taking out the weird BCC house band and Danielson pairing off with Nick Jackson in a moment that was reminiscent of their scary PWG match with Roddy Strong were both early highlights. Hangman and Kenny working together for the first time since 2020 and Matt Jackson’s explosive boot were all moments that will go on to live in AEW’s video packages for years to come.
The ending with Konosuke Takeshita taking out Kenny Omega and joining up with Don Callis managed to leave the fans wanting more and the match overall left what was an uneven show on the highest note possible. Incredible stuff.
Overall, DoN was far from a perfect show. This PPV highlighted the very best and the very worst of what AEW can do. Another rollercoaster of quality that thankfully started and ended in the best way possible so maybe this show will be remembered quite fondly. That doesn’t mean the awful Cole v Jericho match followed by over an hour’s worth of average matches should be forgotten though. The middle part of this show suffered badly, there’s no getting away from it. Saying that, we arguably saw the greatest battle royale in recent history, witnessed a truly special moment with Kris Statlander and finished on two truly amazing main events.
This is a strange one. If WWE had put on four matches of this quality, it would most likely be their show of the year. AEW is held to a higher standard than that though, it just is.
Before we finish up, I just want to give a shout out to AEW Games and THQ for the recent announcement of AEW Fight Forever’s release date. (This is a gaming site after all!)
AEW’s highly anticipated video game will enter the ring on June 29th and looks more fun than your weekly Orange Cassidy classic.
Check out the latest trailer below and keep an eye right here at Respawning for more AEW Fight Forever coverage!