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AEW Double or Nothing
May 23, 2020

by Samoa Rowe

AEW Double or Nothing 2020

As this godforsaken year comes to an end, I'm going to take a look back at one of the more critically acclaimed shows of 2020 that I missed at the time. I'm writing this in December, and May feels like it was 18 months ago. At the time, I thought AEW was insane for presenting an empty arena PPV, but I was totally wrong, as the audience was starving for a distraction and this event did record numbers for AEW. This was coming off a week of all around misery, as the COVID-19 pandemic was surging, Shad Gaspard had just lost his life while saving his young son from drowning in a riptide, 411mania's Larry Csonka had suddenly passed away, and Hana Kimura had just taken her own life after suffering extensive harassment on social media. With the national mood in such a low place, was AEW able to step in and offer some lightness? Let's find out.

From Daily's Place with about 40 wrestlers standing in for fans. Our hosts are Jim Ross, Tony Shiavone, and Excalibur.

The Casino Ladder Match participants talk to the camera to make their cases for victory. Joey Janela is pumped to replace Rey Fenix. Kip Sabian says ladders are in his blood. He's flanked by Jimmy Havoc in a slick blood-spattered suit and Penelope Ford, who are going to enjoy watching Sabian hurt someone. Christopher Daniels says his SCU brothers have all the ingredients to win the ladder match and become champion. Orange Cassidy isn't so sure about the match, I mean, what's even hanging above the ring. The Best Friends offer encouragement, but OC doesn't even know how he's supposed to win.

Casino Ladder Match:

Unlike most multi-man ladder matches, 2 men start, and new entrants enter every 2 minutes. Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky start the match and wrestle a normal feeling out process. They butt heads in a nasty collision just in time for Kip Sabian (with Penelope Ford) to arrive. Jimmy Havoc knocks SCU down from behind with a ladder. Havoc and Sabian plant Sky with a tandem Michinoku Driver. Kazarian counters Havoc and suplexes him through a bridged ladder. Meanwhile, Sabian looks to dive onto Sky on the steps, but is forced to return to stop Kazarian from winning. Darby Allin joins the match with a dive onto Sabian and Havoc. Allin hits Kazarian with a stunner and bridges a ladder on the barricade. Darby throws his skateboard into Kazarian's face, and then attempts a skateboard assisted double stomp through the ladder but misses! Darby's knee looks totally wrecked. Orange Cassidy is out next and saunters to commentary to have the rules explained to him again. Excalibur: "Orange Cassidy is so lazy he doesn't want to climb a ladder."" I'm dying. Cassidy has the ring to himself but just nonchalantly tries to reach up for the chip. He seems to have no idea how to open a ladder when Colt Cabana enters. Colt is no fool and pushes OC out and tries to make a quick climb, but SCU return to tip him over. Cassidy returns with hands in pockets and dropkicks SCU to ringside for a tope suicida. OC is amused with himself, but Joey Janela charges in to dive onto him and SCU off the stage. Janela missiles dropkicks Cabana in the ring, but Kazarian stops his climb. Kazarian stops Joey from winning, and Sky helps with chair shots. Sabian clears the ring, but Luchasaurus enters to prevent his victory and run wild. Darby returns to cut off Luchasaurus and seems poised to win, but the Wildcard competitor is revealed to be Brian Cage (with Taz). Cage spins Allin on his shoulders for an F10. Cage powerbombs Sabian and nails Sky with a release German. Cage suplexes Janela off the bottom rope and murders Kazarian with a TKO. Cage climbs with Cassidy on his back, but the others gather around to pull them down. Everyone works together to bury Cage under barricades and a novelty prop chip. Cabana slips away to steal the match, but Sabian stops him and dropkicks the ladder into his head. Sabian and OC brawl at the tippy top until Sabian takes a bump into a corner ladder. Penelope Ford runs up and OC lets her fall onto Sabian. Havoc ambushes OC, but Best Friends remove him. Marko Stunt runs in to help Luchasaurus chokeslam OC off a tiny ladder. Stunt takes out Best Friends with a dive. Kazarian botches a flying rana on Luchasaurus. Janela rams the small ladder into OC's skull and DVD's him onto the Cage pile! Luchasaurus clears SCU and Cage emerges from his den to slug it out with the dinosaur. Cage powerbombs Luchasaurus into a corner ladder. Allin stumbles in for Cage to clothesline him in half and hits a Drillclaw. Taz orders Cage to press slam Darby on a ladder through some standing ladders on the floor! Cage easily climbs to retrieve the chip and wins at 28:30! This was certainly an interesting and eventful ladder match, with the format allowing the guys to break out of the normal formula, ****.
Winner: Brian Cage

MJF (with The Wardlow) vs. Jungle Boy

Both guys are being groomed by AEW as future top stars, so this could be an important chapter in a much longer story. Jungle Boy shows off his agility while MJF showcases his bad attitude. They lock knuckles and take some time to show off more technical wrestling chops than we usually get to see from these men. They trade strikes in head stand positions and Jungle Boy takes over to unload punches. MJF fakes a knee injury to gain the upper hand. Jungle Boy stays alive with a reverse rana, but MJF cuts him off with a strong backbreaker. MJF arm drags Jungle Boy into the buckles and then goes to work on the freshly injured arm. JB still manages a lariat with his good arm. MJF thinks he's retaken control with a slap but leaves himself open to a trifecta of dives. Springboard DDT by JB, but MJF saves himself with a rope break. MJF double stomps the bad arm, but Jungle Boy is game for a slapfest. Jungle Boy fires off a Canadian Destroyer, but MJF lands on his feet for a superkick, but JB then rolls into a crossface. JB cannot hold on, so hits a package piledriver for a great nearfall. JB answers with a reverse rana onto the ring frame! MJF survives by pushing Aubrey Edwards into the ropes to trip JB on the top rope, but JB counters into an avalanche powerbomb! JB's arm is too hurt for a proper cover and suplex. MJF's back goes out on a double underhook attempt, and JB hits an overhead suplex for 2, but MJF counters with elbow strikes. They trade pinning predicaments and MJF catches JB for the pin at 17:25! Really tight, focused match, with a great gameplan revolving around selling injuries, was only missing a Salt of the Earth finish, ****.
Winner: MJF

Mike Tyson arrives with an unfinished TNT Championship. He will present it to the winner of the tournament finals, assuming he can stay awake until the end.

TNT Championship:
Lance Archer (with Jake Roberts) vs. Cody (with Arn Anderson)

Archer beating up some random jabroni on his way to the ring has quietly become one of my favorite entrances ever. Bell rings and Archer immediately hits the Blackout, forcing Cody to roll to ringside. Archer hauls him back in for the clow, but Cody desperately counters into an armbar. Cody's blows have little effect but he grabs Archer's hair to hit his uppercut, but Archer blocks the springboard cutter with a sick shoulder block! Archer tries to remove some ringside padding and Cody surprises with a dive. They brawl into the stands where Archer hits a chokeslam off the rails. Archer controls the action with a standing moonsault from a tightrope position. Cody answers with a delayed power slam. Cody finds luck by targeting the ribcage, but Archer uses a military press to throw him over the post to ringside. Archer totally dominates for several minutes and seems to be enjoying himself. For all the crap Cody takes for being a “three star specialist” his selling here is tremendous. Cody desperately counters into a crossface, but Roberts objects. DDT by Cody sends Jake a clear message. Archer answers with a spinebuster to send a rebuttal to Anderson. Cody surprises with a top rope springboard cutter for a 1 count. Cody hits two Cross Rhodes, but Archer kicks out. Stinger Splash by Cody, but Archer answers with a chokeslam for 2. Archer applies the Everybody Dies claw but is too weak to follow through. Archer walks the ropes but Anderson trips him, allowing Cody to hit an avalanche reverse suplex! Roberts tattles on Arn, and they both get ejected. Archer desperately hits a belly to back suplex. Jake returns with his snake bag, but Mike Tyson stops him in his tracks. Cody then reverses Blackout into a pair of Cross Rhodes for the win at 21:10! This just overdelivered with both guys playing their roles to perfection and putting on a physical, bruising classic, ****.
Winner and new TNT Champion: Cody

Tyson presents the TNT title to Cody, and the American Nightmare enjoys a signature moment.

So far, all three matches have hit my four star threshold, but for very different reasons. This is why #ImWithAEW.

Alex Marvez interviews Doc Sampson about Britt Baker's recent injury. He reports a significant tendon tear and can't speculate on a timetable for her return, since she's a role model and all.

Penelope Ford (with Kip Sabian) vs. Kris Statlander

Ford is subbing for the freshly injured Britt Baker, and Statlander is on the verge of going on the shelf herself. They feel each other out and Ford hits a springboard armdrag, but Statlander cartwheels in circles. Ford takes a time out and returns with a draping DDT. Statlander comes back with a dive onto Ford and Sabian. Ford blocks a flying axe handle and hits a hook kick for 2. Statlander rallies and hits a fisherman buster for 2. Ford pops up for a reverse DDT. Stunner by Ford, but Kris answers via lariat. Rana by Ford, but Statlander nearly slips but still hits a Blue Thunder Bomb. The Big Bang Theory finishes it at 8:10. This was okay, but mostly noise, **½.
Winner: Kris Statlander

Shawn Spears vs. Dustin Rhodes

Spears isn't expecting Dustin to show up and enters in his street clothes. Shawn's gloating is quickly interrupted by Dustin's music, but it's just a ruse. Spears forces Aubrey Edwards to call for the bell so he can win by countout. Dustin's music plays again, and Brandi Rhodes distracts on the stage so her brother-in-law can ambush Spears from behind. Spears fights back, but Dustin forcibly removes his shirt and jacket. Spears removes his belt for a beating, but walks into a powerslam. Dustin strips Spears down to his briefs and spanks his bare @ss. J.R.: "He thinks he's auditioning for a prison movie."" Ross was officially out of f's to give in 2019, so we're in uncharted territory now. Turns out Spears has Tully's face printed on his crotch, which is hilarious? The final reckoning ends this farce at 4:09. Almost a year after breaking a chair over Cody's face and Spears is still in the dog house, *. Winner: Dustin Rhodes

Rest in Peace, Hana Kimura. Excalibur encourages us all to be a little nicer to each other. J.R.: “It's been a tough week in wrestling.”

AEW Women's Championship (No DQ's):
Nyla Rose © vs. Hikaru Shida

Shida is all business and avoids Nyla's kendo shots. Rose regains control of the kendo stick and unloads on Shida's back. Shida answers with repeated shots to the back and face. Shida turns her back to find a weapon and Rose sends her into the guard rails. Rose hits a press slam through a poker table! Rose dominates with chairs at ringside and then hauls Shida back to the ring. Shida blocks a Best Bomb and nails a running knee to the face. Reverse suplex by Rose and a clothesline to ringside. Shida springboards off the steps to hit a crossbody press and follows with another running knee. Shida nails a hip toss onto an oversized poker chip and then launches herself off for a flying knee into another display. Shida finds her long lost kendo stick and obliterates Rose, including nasty shots to the throat and face. Shida's brainbuster onto the stick only gets 2. Desperation power slam by Rose gives them a breather. Rose drapes Shida for the flying knee to the back for another 2 count. Rose powerbombs Shida through a table in the buckles but Shida kicks out! DVD by Rose and more kendo shots. Rose perches on the top rope but Shida lawn darts the stick at her. Avalanche Falcon Arrow by Shida but ROSE KICKS OUT! Shida runs into a kendo shot, but she hits the running knee anyway for another close 2. Shida swings the kendo stick at Rose's face for a home run and a final running knee ends it at 16:35! Strong match that made good use of the stipulations due to well-timed and thought out stunts. This packed an emotional punch as well, with Shida losing her composure after the bell, in tribute to Hana Kimura, ***½.
Winner and new AEW Women's Champion: Hikaru Shida

AEW World Championship:
Jon Moxley © vs. Mr. Brodie Lee (with The Dark Order)

Bell rings and Moxley lunges, but Lee is ready for him. Moxley hits a quick dive but Lee answers with a vertical suplex on the floor. Slingshot senton by Lee and a series of suplexes. Lee's tope sends Moxley crashing through the wreckage of Shida/Rose, and they brawl in the crowd (such as it is). Lee nails a suplex into a propped rail and Moxley seems to hurt his elbow. They slug it out in the ring until Lee hits a back suplex. Hard clothesline by Moxley sets up a Gotch piledriver for 2. Moxley rearranges some ringside furniture but then runs into Lee's dropkick. Moxley recovers by backdropping Lee off the steps and through a production table. Lee comes right back with a superplex but Moxley reverses the pin attempt. Lee then suplexes Moxley into some oversized playing cards. Back to the ring, Lee hits a big boot and sitout powerbomb for 2. Moxley's facial expressions do a wonderful job conveying his desperate state and he crawls away to the stage. Moxley throws an oversized poker chip into Lee's face, but the Paradigm Shift is blocked. Moxley kicks the groin and the Paradigm Shift sends them both crashing through the wooden rampway! Moxley slowly crawls out first, soon followed by a bloody Lee. Moxley hits a second Paradigm Shift, but Lee kicks out at 1! Moxley unloads on Lee's bloodied forehead and hits a third Paradigm Shift, this time for 2. Lee succumbs to the Bulldog Choke at 15:30! This was a good brawl in its own right, but felt a bit too similar to the previous Women's title match, although the stunt bump through the stage helped differentiate it, ***½.
Winner and still AEW World Champion: Jon Moxley

Stadium Stampede:
The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Santana, Ortiz, and Sammy Guevara) vs. The Elite (Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson and AEW Tag Team Champions Kenny Omega and Hangman Page) and Matt Hardy

Both teams get NFL style entrances along with dancing Jaguars cheerleaders. Page is MIA at the opening whistle. There's a ring set up in the middle of the stadium, but both teams rush into battle on the turf. Hangman Page arrives on a HORSE and chases Guevara off the field. Meanwhile, the ring starts filling with guys running in to take turns hitting spots. Sammy happily returns but misses a SSP on Hardy. Sammy eats The Elite's buckle bomb/enziguri combo. Sammy has better luck with a SSP onto everyone on the grass. The competitors branch out across the stadium. Matt uses a ladder to climb onto a goal post and hits a moonsault onto Jericho and Guevara! Meanwhile, Page is still on his horse and searching for Sammy. Page orders the horse to stay and heads to the bar. Elsewhere, near the stands, Omega makes a comeback against Santana and Ortiz, tossing them onto garbage cans and rails. Omega then gets blinded and slammed onto a bridged barricade. Santana and Ortiz then stand on tippy bar tables and powerbomb Omega through the barricade! Hardy tries to save Omega, but gets thrown into a swimming pool. Santana and Ortiz try to drown Hardy, but he emerges as his Team Extreme persona. Matt gets shoved under the water again and comes back as Matt Hardy Version 1.0, complete with Matt Facts! Ortiz and Santana try to run away, but Broken Matt puts them through a table. He shoves Ortiz under an endzone bell and tries to deafen him. Matt ties Ortiz into a wheelchair and prescribes him plenty of rest. This is all funny stuff. Hardy then locks Santana into an ice box. Elsewhere, Hager finds the horse waiting obediently. Hager puts the pieces together and finds Page at the bar. They enjoy a drink before fighting, and then Hager throws Page over a pool table. Page springboards off the bar and attempts a crossbody off the pool table, only for Hager to smash him with an uranage. They get real cute as Hager uses Page's body to clear the bar. Page takes a gut wrench powerbomb through a table but kicks out at 2. Omega rescues Page and they smash several beer bottles over Hager's face. V-Trigger and Buckshot Lariat! The champs pour each other drinks (milk for Omega, whiskey for Page) and toast their success. Meanwhile, Matt and Sammy are dueling in the field. Matt hits rolling Northern Lights suplexes across the field! Jericho lawn darts Nick with the yards marker and talks some smack on the bullhorn, so Nick chucks footballs at him. Jericho throws Nick into the Jaguar's mouth and then gives the mascot the Judas Effect. Matt hasn't stopped giving Sammy Northern Lights suplexes. Nick superkicks Jericho into a net, but Jericho assaults him with Floyd and then challenges Aubrey Edwards' nearfall, demanding to see a replay. Matt finally finishes suplexing Sammy for a touchdown! Matt's endzone dance earns him a penalty so he superkicks the ref. He saves his brother and holds Jericho on a table, while Nick runs down the stairs and puts Jericho through a table! Page paints a line over Jericho's dead body. Meanwhile, Sammy crawls onto a sprinkler and gets soaked. He stumbles to his feet and is delusional enough to think he won the match. He freezes when he realizes that Omega and Hardy are hunting him on a golf cart yet again. Sammy runs into the stands for safety. Sammy fends off Hardy and chokes him, but a new drone flies in for a distraction. Omega helps with a V-Trigger on Sammy and One Winged Angel off the seats and through a gimmicked platform! Omega pins Guevara at 33:54. This gets a million kajillion stars. I could accept an argument that this was a bit too cute at times, but this was a cinematic match unlike anything we've ever seen and something that could only exist during a no-fans era. Tremendous fun, and ***** if we're being serious.
Winners: The Elite and Matt Hardy

The good guys stand tall in the field as fireworks explode.

Final Thoughts: I regretted missing this show live last spring, so it was a long time coming for me to sit down and watch it on DVD. The thing is, I was expecting to enjoy this show, as it quickly developed a great reputation over the past 7 months. With that said, I enjoyed this way more than I thought I was going to. AEW delivered a feel-good spectacle that made the very best of a tough situation. Years from now, when I think about 2020 and all the hardships, I'm also going to feel some warm feelings and nostalgia for things like Double or Nothing, that took some chances and succeeded against all odds. Highest Recommendation.

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