Hey, Gatecrashers! My name is Barrett and I’ll be reviewing the early years of TNA and compare/contrasting them with AEW. Please go check out my review of the 1st TNA weekly PPV, especially if you like some jerk dunking on 20 year old wrestling tropes.
It’s time for the Good/Bad/Mid of AEW Double or Nothing, May 25, 2019.
“In May 2017, professional wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer made a comment that the American professional wrestling promotion Ring of Honor could not sell 10,000 tickets for a wrestling event. The comment was responded to by professional wrestlers Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks… They promoted and held an independent professional wrestling event called All In in September 2018, featuring wrestlers from ROH as well as other promotions. The event sold out in 30 minutes and had the largest audience in attendance for a professional wrestling show in the United States held and organized by promoters not affiliated with WWE or World Championship Wrestling (WCW) since 1993. The event was acclaimed, and it led to much online speculation that Cody and The Young Bucks would expand their ambitions and create their own professional wrestling promotion or do a second All In event. People in the television industry were also very impressed with the show.”Wikipedia – All In (Professional Wrestling Event
All In kicked ass. Great card with no stinker matches. I’ll cover it down the line.
All In made such an impact that Tony Khan, son of billionaire Shahid Khan (part owner of The Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C.), got together with Cody, Omega and The Bucks to start a brand new wrestling company: All Elite Wrestling. The four Elite members were signed as wrestlers and executives in the organization.
There were a couple of press conferences announcing signees such as SoCal Uncensored , “Hangman” Adam Page, Britt Baker, Joey Janela, Pac, The Lucha Brothers, The Best Friends and the biggest catch of them all, Chris Jericho.
The second press conference announced the date of the first official AEW PPV, aptly titled Double or Nothing. All In was a huge gamble and it paid off, but now it was time to push the chips back in and bet on this new venture.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING REVIEW STARTS NOW!
BAD: Alex Marvezzzzzzzzzz
Alex Marvez is incredibly frustrating on this show. He’s nowhere near as offensive as PrEDator Ferrara, mind you. Marvez is just not ready for this. Whoever put him behind the desk as a color commentator made a huge mistake. His first moments on camera you can see him mouthing along with Excalibur like a kid in an elementary production of “Cinderella”. His color commentary is a lot of insight-less stuttering and dead air.
He seems like a sweet fella.
MID: The Rules to the Casino (Battle) Royale
I have seen a bunch of Casino (Battle) Royales since this show and I still don’t understand how it works. The Gauntlet for the Gold rules are so much simpler than this. There are suits and groups and… buh. Also, we’re supposed to believe that the person who draws the Joker is always some huge surprise? Bleh.
Good: The Match I Just Trashed
The first “Clubs” of wrestlers is:
- Dustin Thomas, a bilateral amputee
- Malcom Jacob Freidman
- Sunny Daze, indie wrestler and DDPY video editor
- Brandon Cutler, wrestler, cameraman and huge nerd
- Michael Naka-Naka-NAKAZAWA!
There are 3 good IRL stories here. Cutler was a good friend of The Bucks and came up with them in the indies. He quit wrestling ostensibly to take care of his family, but it really seems like he didn’t think he was good enough. The Bucks hired him for backstage work and then surprised him with an AEW contract on BTE. Very touching.
Sunny Daze, who I guess is an egg that turned into a man and then went mad with self-realization, was another invite. He had an in with being an employee of Diamond Dallas Page, but seeing how his hometown crowd reacted to his invite was very touching. They chanted “You deserve it” and they really meant it.
Dustin Thomas became a wrestler because he dedicated his life to it and he earned this spot. He’s still working in the indies.
When the bell rings, OF COURSE MJF immediately stomps on Dustin, yelling “SORRY ABOUT THAT LIEUTENANT DAN!” When people say that MJF has finally gone too far, remember this moment. He lives his life on the wrong side of the line.
MJF and Cutler were having a mini-feud on Twitter prior to the PPV. “YOU’RE JUST A FAVOR FOR THE YOUNG BUCKS! YOU’RE NOBODY!” MJF hollers, not knowing how over Young Boy Cutler would be in 2021.
Naka covers himself in oil, giving Sunny Daze an even cooking surface so he doesn’t stick to the pan.
The Diamond Mine.. er, the Diamonds enter next.
- Brian Pillman Jr, looking like a time travelling Freebird.
- Isaiah Cassidy, the second most over Cassidy in AEW.
- Jimmy Havoc, who was released after his ex-girlfriend exposed him as an emotional abuser with alcohol addiction issues. AEW made sure he got some mental help before letting him go.
- The BAAAD BOYYYY, Joey Janella with The BAAAD GIRRRL Penelope Ford. He’s so over here but his career lost steam after he became an AEW regular.
- Shawn Spears, who is ALSO wicked over, gets the “10” chants and a huge pop when he takes off his head towel scarf thingy. Crazy to think how fast the shine came off that bloom.
- Silly” Billy Gunn!
- “The World’s Coldest Math Teacher” Glacier!
- “Jim Ross Will Call Him ‘Jungle Jack Perry’” Jungle Boy!
- “Marqy Marq” Marquen!
- “The ACEY of Hearts” Acey Romero!
Spades. I’m out of bits.
- Marko Stunt
- Sonny Kiss
- Tommy Dreamer
So… it’s a battle royale. I like battle royales a lot, but there’s only so much you can say about them. There are some fun moments. MJF taunts pretty much everyone that gets in the ring, and then eats their signature moves. Rise, repeat. Great stuff. Janella smokes a ciggy, then Havok staples it to Joey’s forehead. Glacier freeze mists Sunny Daze, causing his blood to run cold. Brian Pillman Jr. with a nice looking springboard clothesline. ACEY ROMERO WITH A FUCKING TOPE SUICIDA.
JOKER IS ADAM PAGE AND HE GETS A BIG POP WHAT GOES AROUND COMES ARROUUUUUNNNDDD!!!!
Page wrecks shop when he gets through the ropes. There are still a bunch of people in the ring. Janella and Page have a history from All In so they trade blows in the center of the ring. Acey POUUUUUNCEes Marko over the top rope onto Private Party.
Dustin Thomas hits a 619 on Janella and then this crazy 450 pull up… just look at the gif.
Janella takes a scary chokeslam from the ring to the floor through a table. Sonny Kiss shows the Hardcore Legend the Butt Butt. Orange Cassidy wanders into the ring, hits Sweet Shin Music on Tommy Dreamer and then gets eliminated from a match he wasn’t even in.
Page appears to have won after “low bridging” Luchasaurus but MJF, who snuck under the bottom rope like a sneaky sneak, sneaks back in the ring and sneakily throws Page over the top. Page skins the cat, buckshot lariat, MJF over the top. PAGE WINS THE CASINO (Battle) ROYALE TO FACE OFF AGAINST SOMEONE FOR THE AEW CHAMPIONSHIP AND HE DEFINITELY WILL WIN BECAUSE HE’S IN THE ELITE AND THEY ARE ALL GOING TO GET THE TITLES RIGHT AWAAAAYYYYYY!!!!
Alex Marvez calls the whole thing like a golf match. “Wow. That was quite the move from Page.”
Kylie Rae gets an interview segment with Alcia Atout and, god, she’s just so fucking bubbly. Then “The Librarian” Peter Avalon sssshhhhhhes the women to be quiet. Leva Bates “The Librarian” shusshes Peter and then they shush each other while Kylie struggles to keep a smile on her face.
I don’t think I can Bad a segment with Kylie in it. The Librarians will continue to shush people for a long time. Leva hasn’t officially dropped the gimmick. The bit was that AEW is making fun of bad gimmicks but if it’s a bad gimmick then don’t saddle someone with it for 2 years.
Kylie ended up leaving AEW due to mental health issues. I know what it’s like to appear happy and smile when I’m around people or performing, but then to fall into depression as soon as I am alone. Kylie retired in 2019 but she has recently returned to wrestling. I hope she’s happy!
GREAT: SAMMY PANDA HEAD
Sammy Guevara faces “Superbad” Kip Sabian. They have similar looks, similar wrestling styles and similar asshole cocky heel behavior. Sammy morphs into the heel; he does more taunts, and is generally more of a dick. What really makes the match work is that it’s “really good wrestling”. The audience doesn’t know these two. They get the crowd into the match by, shocker, wrestling. They play their roles, they hit their moves, they tell a story, and they do a bunch of super impressive high flying. It’s two equals proving who is better through pure wrestling.
Scary indie wrestling moment of the match:
Match ends with Sabian getting the knees up on Guevara’s unreal 630 splash then hitting the Deathly Hallows for the pin.
Good: “This is the worst column I have ever been in!”
It’s hard to go wrong with SCU (Christopher Danlies, Kazarian, Scorpio Sky) vs. OWE’s Stronghearts (CIMA, El Lindaman, T-Hawk), two veteran teams who know how to work and work a crowd. They set the pace instead of trying to steal the show. This match isn’t Do Fixer vs. Blood Generation good, but CIMA has barely lost a step in the intervening 13 years. It’d be nearly impossible for these six competitors to have a bad match. They have to TRY and fuck up, and even then it’d still be better than any Dupps match.
The last two minutes are shnertz and impossible to sum up. The finish is Kaz and Daniels hitting the BEST MELTZER EVER, which is a twisting moonsault to assist into a piledriver. Great opener to the main card.
Please give me John Silver vs. El Lindaman! Squat meaty men slapping squat meat!
BAD: Marvelous Marvez Moment
Alex Marvez: Excalibur, a NINE HOUR time difference between here and China. I was talking to–
JR: More than that.
Marvez: (sputtering) Well, I mean–
Excalibur: (Talks over Marvez to get him to shut up)
Later Marvez says that Kaz, Daniels and Scorpio are finding their way as a team RIGHT AFTER EXCALIBUR SAID HOW DANIELS AND KAZ WERE IN THE ADDICTION FOR YEARS.
Good: AAAAAWWEEESOMMMMEEEE KONG.
Kylie Rae vs. Nyla Rose vs. Britt Baker are scheduled for the first women’s match in AEW history. Before the match starts, Brandi Rhodes interrupts from the ramp. She’s in her FULL GEAR, teasing that she’s inserting herself into the contest. BUT IT’S A FUCKING FAKEOUT HERE COMES AWESOME KOOOOOOONGGGG!!!!!!!!!!! The crowd goes unglued for the first big surprise of the show.
After everyone in the ring stops praying to God for mercy, the match starts.
Kylie is the best overall wrestler in the match. She works crisp and sells strong. On top of that she has a great, identifiable character. If you liked NXT Baley, then you’d love Kylie.
Kong works super stiff and bumps throughout the match. This is even more impressive since she hadn’t worked in a while and had a serious back injury. The moments when Nyla and Kong match up are pretty special. You don’t get a “hoss fight” on the women’s side very often.
Baker looks good in this match, but it’d be a while before she really came together in the ring and as a character.
There’s very little of the “two people out of the ring, two people in the ring” until the end. Nyla speared Kong into the stairs, brains herself and neither of them make it back inside the ropes. At the end of the match Kylie gets 2 countering an O’connor Roll into a DEADLIFT EVEREST GERMAN, but takes her eye off the ball for a moment, allowing Britt to Superkick and Ushigoroshi for the pin.
It’s a shame that Kylie Rae wasn’t able to stay with AEW. A lot of the complaints about how shallow the women’s division was would have been squashed with her around. I would have loved to see her vs Thunder Rosa in an AEW ring.
GOOD: A Hidden Gem
Best Friends vs. The Hybrid2 in an EXTREMELY good, fun match. I’m running out of hyperbole for this PPV. To be honest, the Best Friends look outclassed in this match. They’re still great, don’t get me wrong, but Angelico and Evans are just so slick, making their complicated high flying look easy. Evans is still using the same offense he did in 2004 but crisper and safer.
The finish is a Doomsday Sexy Chuckie Knee followed by an assisted Stump Tag Team Crusher from The Best Friends.
The crowd was HOT for the last half of this match, giving it the ol’ “This is awesome!” chant. Put these teams in a best of 7 series for 2022!
Bonus GOOD for this match: Trent’s Bill Murray kneepad.
BAD: “WHO ARE YOU?”
An excerpt from my first Gatecrashers Article “History of the Dark Order”
“The Best Friends were facing off against The Hybrid2 at the inaugural AEW PPV, Double or Nothing. The Best Friends picked up the win after 25 minutes of intense action. The two teams met in the center of the ring in a moment of respect. Jack Evans and Angelico were happy to shake hands and move on, but the Kings of Hug Style weren’t leaving until hugs were had by all. Just as the teams embraced, the lights went out.
The announcers were confused. They guessed the blackout was due to the lack of experience by a fresh tech crew.
The lights came back, revealing a bald warrior and a hulking masked man standing in between The Hybrid2 and The Best Friends. The lights went to full black again.
When the lights came on this time, the ring was surrounded by men in black and green masks. The grunts yanked Chuck and Angelico to the floor, allowing the bald man and his masked associate to beat down Trent? and Jack Evans. A beat down ensued, the Hybrid2 and The Best Friends eating finisher after finisher.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the crowd started to turn, chanting “WHO ARE YOU? WHO ARE YOU?” while Trent? ate a tag team finishing move. Only a smattering of boos were heard as the hulking man sat on a throne formed by his henchmen’s own bodies.
Despite Stu and Uno’s best efforts, the Dark Order was born into confusion and apathy.”
So it didn’t go well is what I’m saying.
GOOD (but just barely): AAAAAWWEEESOMMMMEEEE. KONG.
6 Woman Tag! Team 1 is Riho, Ryo Mizunami and Shida. Riho comes out with all the personality of a stick of margarine. Mizunami makes up for the charisma sink that is Riho by doing EVERYTHING; dyed red hair, wild gear, sunglasses indoors, yelling and posing. Shida can’t hold a candle to Ryo’s energy but she looks like CM Punk next to Riho.
Team 2 is Yuka Sakizaki, Emi Sakura and Aja Kong. A MAGICAL GIRL, a genderbent Freddy Mercury, and a gum-chewing Kaiju with a trash bin. This team makes no sense.
The big problem with this match is it feels like an exhibition. It’s not to say the women in this match aren’t good, they are, but nothing feels like it means anything. There’s no heels or faces. It’s pretty much a soccer “friendly” if the match had Jack Lambert working midfield. Aja Kong is Lambert for this metaphor. Jack Lambert was a linebacker with no teeth who hated quarterbacks.
Aja gets good pops, but they are, like, respect pops. It’s obvious her knees are shot. A lot of the match consists of folks jumping at her so she can drop them on their heads or punch their teeth out. She’s literally 3 times heavier than Riho. Kong treats her like a labrador with a rubber ball. It’s entertaining in it’s own way.
Emi Sakura is the only one working a heel style, but she’s dressed as Freddy Mercury, who is as pure an IRL face as you could ever have. She gets the crowd to stomp and clap the rhythm to “We Will Rock You”, which causes the hard came to literally shake.
BUT THEN THE END GETS BOTCHED! Emi hits a moonsault on Shida, gets two but the bell rings and then Shida’s music plays WHOOPS YOU FUCKED UP.
The actual finish is Kong accidentally backfisting Emi in the face, causing her brain to fly out of her ear. Shida clips Emi with the Ōhōri no Tamashii for the three count.
A good popcorn match in that it feels like eating popcorn. Good but not memorable.
GOOD/BAD: TNT WE KNOW DRAMA
This is so fucking great but also so fucking corny but also so great but also so… fucking… Cody. The crowd EATS IT UP.
GREAT: Brothers don’t shake hands. Brothers gotta hug!
There’s a lot of meta setup in this match. IRL brothers Cody and Dustin were teased to face off multiple times in the WWE but it never worked out. They finally had a match at Fastlane in 2015. By this point Stardust (Cody) had become a shitty version of the 1966 Riddler in a Rockstar Energy Drink costume. Golddust (Dustin) was wrestling his brother to… get him to stop being Stardust? I guess? They got about 9 minutes and then Goldust won with a crucifix pin. The ref screwed up the count so the finish didn’t even look right. BOO BAD MATCH.
As far as the AEW build goes… it’s MUCH better! Brother vs. Brother! Nightmare vs. Natural! Generation vs. Generation! The video packages are stellar. Dustin sheds himself of Golddust creating a new face paint of red and black to merge The Bizarre One with The Natural. Cody, on the other hand, is looking to take Dustin out of the game for his own good. Cody is the hero and the villain, the young gunslinger looking to retire the old broken down old sheriff.
ADDITIONALLY, these are both second generation wrestlers, the sons of the great Dusty Rhodes. Dusty passed away about 4 years before Double or Nothing. His legacy weighs heavily on the ring.
So there’s all that. And they. Use. All. Of. It.
Dustin is on fire in this match. He pulls off moves we haven’t seen him do before. He does a rolling senton off the apron! He also gets in his hits; powerslam, uppercut from the mat, rackin’ someone in the jewels.
Cody entered as the most over face in AEW, but he tweens and heels as the match goes on. He taunts, he powders, he drop toe holds Dustin into the exposed turnbuckle busting Dustin open, he WIPES HIS BROTHER’S BLOOD ON HIS CHEST.
Once Dustin starts bleeding things get… uncomfortable. He ends up with a full face of red, half from his paint, half from the blood. The audience goes quiet as his blood stains the mat. Cody looks at the splotches of blood on the canvas. You can see a moment of doubt on his face. “What am I doing?”
Excalibur calls it a “WATERFALL OF BLOOD” which sounds like a song from Metalocalypse.
Cody kicks the shit out of bloody brother until the eventual comeback which involves this moment I blocked out.
Dustin gets his revenge, hitting a superplex and a CROSS RHODES but only gets two. The crowd is on their feet. I can’t describe how good and engaging this match is. Cody hits the DISASTER KICK into CROSS RHODES for two! Cody is COVERED his Dustin’s blood.
Dustin hits ANOTHER CROSS RHODES for two! People in the audience are making prayer hands. They clubber and throw each other around. Cody hits a VERTEBREAKER followed by CROSS RHODES for the finish.
Dustin starts unlacing his boots in the center of the ring. This goes by pretty quick, but if you’re a wrestling fan you know that when someone leaves their boots in the ring, they’re leaving the business. Cody re-enters and Dustin backs into the corner. Dustin is visibly crying. Cody takes the mic.
“You don’t get to retire here. You don’t get that. Cuz I gotta ask you a favor. In front of God and the whole world. Before AEW was a thing, before we filled this place up, it was me, it was Kenny, it was Matt, it was Nick, it was Tony. And I put my name on a piece of paper for our show next month in Jacksonville for “Fight for the Fallen”. And you know what the match I put my name down on? It was myself and a partner of my choosing against what I think is the best tag team in the world, the Young Bucks. But Dustin, I don’t need a partner. I don’t need a friend. I need my older brother.”
They cry. They hug.They bleed.
I also cry! FUCK MAN.
EVERYBODY thought this was Dustin’s last match. Dustin gave a blood sacrifice to wrestling that day, the same blood sacrifice his father gave over and over. Instead of this being his final ritual, it signaled another re-birth for the Rhodes that everyone had given up on, the Rhodes that had given up on himself. And now, two years later, he’s still in the ring and running his own school for the next generation who grew up watching Cody and Dustin and Dusty.
Good: A Big Belt, a bigger asshole.
The audience DEFINITELY needed a break after Cody/Dustin. What better way to switch things up then to give them A BIG BELT and A BIG BRET HART. Bret introduces the AEW World Title, which I think is a fucking rad looking belt. It’s a mix between WCW’s Big Gold and the IWGP Heavyweight Belt before New Japan made it look like a gaudy X-Wing.
“Hangman” Adam Page, who, as we ALLLL know, becomes first AEW Champion, joins Bret in the ring. But then that sneaky sneak MJF does not sneak out but instead just walks to the ramp. Before he even starts talking the audience shouts “ASSHOLE”. Excalibur says “They’re giving him an anatomy lesson.”
MJF says “LOOK OUT BRET THERE’S A FAN IN THE RING”, referencing the recent WWE Hall of Fame ceremony when a fan jumped Bret and then got the shit kicked out of him by The Revival.
MJFs whole promo here is stellar. He’s just so clever and cutting. I’d hire MJF to sit in my office in the winter because he’s a HEAT MACHINE. Bret Hart can barely stop himself from smiling when he’s getting roasted. Jungle Boy, Jimmy Havoc, and Page surround MJF and beat the hell out of him. It’s great! Take that, jerk!
GREAT: Bucks vs. Lucha Bros for the AAA Tag Team Titles
Quick backstory: The Bros jumped the bros at an AEW press conference. The Bucks then beat the other bros for the AAA Tag belts. Now they fight!
The Lucha Brothers entrance gear is, of course, fire. They look like hella evil hardcore kids.
The Young Bucks pay tribute to TNA’s famous Flying Elvis Impersonators from my first review.
What a shock, The Lucha Brothers and The Young Bucks have a fantastic match. It’s masterful work. These teams mesh in a very special way. If you are a Bucks hater, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe imagine it’s a different team that you don’t have a preconception of. A team like, I don’t know… Generation Me. Maybe that’ll help you appreciate this pure gooooooold!
I’d like to pick my favorite moments from this match but it’s not a match of moments. It’s a match of flow, of non-stop storytelling, of TACTICS. So saying “This crusher was unreal” or “The counter to the Driver blew my mind” doesn’t make sense. Like a good movie, you need context for the beautiful shots and compelling plot.
ANYWAY, they kick the shit out of each other in a myriad of ways.
The Bucks win with a MELTZER DRIVER and retain the AAA titles.
Five stars. FIVE “FIVE STARS” STARS.
GOOD: Chris Jerk-io vs Kenny No-Win-a
THE MAAAAAIN EVENT! These two tore it up in New Japan about a year before. Jericho was on a world tour to prove he’s the best by attempting to Bruiser Brody his way through the top stars of NJPW. Omega, then IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, defeated Jericho in a brutal No DQ brawl. Jericho beat the crap out of Kenny and is looking to do it again.
Jericho’s entrance is SO AWESOME. He has body doubles pose as different Jericho eras. Jericheras?
Judas plays and nobody knows the words and it’s… pretty weird?
Kenny enters as NJPW Kenny Omega
This match mirrors their NJPW bout at the start. Jericho and Kenny throw each other around on the outside. Kenny leaps on the barrier for a springboard moonsault, gets caught by Jericho who pushes him into the front row. Jericho grabs a camera and starts filming Omega. You can set up a fun Disney 4D experience by spraying water in your face right when Kenny spits a drink into the camera lens.
Somewhere in all this Kenny gets popped in the nose and bleeds through the rest of the contest.
Jericho pulls a table out from under the ring, eats a baseball slide into the table, then Omega diving onto the table onto Jericho, then Omega drops the table on Jericho, then springboard double stops the table. I haven’t seen a table get abused this much since I tried to teach myself SQL.
Kenny takes over after turning Jericho into a piece of used gum. Lots of crisp Omega offense. Jericho counters his way out of disaster more than once. Jericho shows Kenny what the top of the table looks like by tossing him through it. Jericho again “Bruiser Brody”’s himself into control of the match. Jericho counters an Omega leap into a Codebreaker for a two count.
Another slick counter by Jericho; Kenny goes for the V-Trigger into the ropes. Jericho absorbs it, grabs the ankle and then turns it into a Walls of Jericho and then a legit Liontamer. There’s an awkward DDT reversal from Jericho to Kenny but they are both professional enough to know that KENNY should go for the pin based on what happened before the fuck up. They come back around to it later and nail it. Kenny sells the codebreaker like he’s got a slinky for a spine.
Jericho hits The Judas Effect for the FIRST TIME EVER and takes the win in a stellar rematch.
Another monster match here for Double or Nothing. Maybe it shouldn’t have been the main event considering how epic Cody/Dustin and Bucks/Lucha Brothers were. There’s no way to predict that kind of thing though.
GREAT: ALL FUCKING IN
Jericho does some masterful heel work after the bell. He shits on the fans, and insists that AEW exists because of him. “Chris Jericho is AEW. This is not a company for the fans. This is a company for me.” FUCK THAT’S SO GOOD. He demands a thank you AND THEN FUCKING JON FUCKING MOXLEY RUSHES IN THROUGH THE STANDS AND ROLLS INTO THE RING! THE CROWD GOES MENTAL!
Jericho berates Mox and gets a PARADIGM SHIFT!!! The ref also learns that THE PARADIGM IS NOT THE SAME AS IT WAS!!! Mox is eating this up. He looks like a new era Stone Cold here. Mox pulls up Kenny for another Paradigm Shift, but Kenny fights back. They tumble out of the ring, then fight through the crowd, up to the top of the giant stack of poker chips by the stage. DEATH RIDER OR WHATEVER ON TO THE CHIPS! MOX THROWS KENNY OFF THE STACK TO THE STAGE BELOW!!!!
FADE TO BLACK THE END WOWOWOWOWOW
Conclusion: It’s pretty much a perfect first PPV. AEW had a lot of pluses that most new companies don’t; money, a built in fan base, money, knowing what pitfalls to avoid, money, established stars, money, top tier production and money. It’s a show for wrestling fans by wrestling fans.
So let’s finally, FINALLY Compare/Contrast with TNA PPV #1!
Per the “My World” podcast Jarrett wanted to make sure there was something for everyone in TNA, so he made sure the show had a variety of acts without considering IF THEY WERE WORTH HAVING. TNA tried to appeal to everyone in some misguided belief that if you hit all those demographics they will keep coming back. The problem is it robs the product of an identity. It’s everything and it’s nothing. It’s like making a stew using one ingredient from every aisle in a supermarket, like a demented Guy’s Grocery Games.
AEW made sure that there was something for everyone, as long as that something was WRESTLING. Singles matches, battle royale, tag matches, trios matches, legends, surprises and more. Anything that wasn’t directly happening in the ring was kept pretty short or played to the drama of the next match. Highly produced video packages instead of long promos. Comedy bits that don’t wear out their welcome. No matches created only for cringe humor. Women who wrestle instead of appealing to the non existent “I only watch wrestling for the hot chicks” demographic.
The first match for TNA was a trios match between AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Jerry Lynn vs. The Flying Elvis Impersonators (Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki, Jimmy Yang). The first match of the Double or Nothing main card was a trios match between SCU and The Stronghearts.
Again, on the “My World” podcast, Jarrett wanted these unknowns to have gimmicks. So he dressed up three guys in “Halloween Spirit Overstock” Elvis costumes. Styles, Ki and Lynn were three mismatched dudes with six packs.
SCU came in with a built-in gimmick of… hating cities, I guess… but the Stronghearts didn’t have any gimmick other than “they are Japanese wrestlers who work in China”.
Here’s the thing I didn’t cover in my TNA review; everybody in that trios match got pops in their 8 minute spotfest. They got pops for THE COOL MOVES and SINGULAR CHARACTER MOMENTS. As soon as Ki booted an Elvis in the torso, everybody knew everything they needed to know about him; intense kickman hate chests, is intense. Same for when AJ hit a dive or Jerry did a suplex. The Elvis’ did flashy offense but got muted, confused responses. What does doing a standing flip leg drop have to do with dressing like The King? What are we watching?
AEW didn’t try to do that. Everybody in SCU is an individual and you can tell that from the moment they enter. Same themed gear, but they all talk, walk, and act differently. And The Stronghearts come in with even less continuity. So what gets them over with the audience? Great fucking wrestling. I didn’t know who El Lindaman was when I saw this show, but I did afterward. The WRESTLERS become interesting in large part due to their WRESTLING. Having a gimmick just to have a gimmick is what leads to Mantaur, Bastion Booger and Glacier.
This is true of pretty much the whole AEW show. The only dumb gimmicks were to make fun of dumb gimmicks. Nobody had to dress like a wang to “get over”. Especially since Joey Ryan wasn’t there. THANK GOD FUCK JOEY RYAN
It’s very unfair to “apples to apples” 2002 TNA and 2019 AEW. TNA had some good talent in the first show but they weren’t big names yet so they jerked the curtain or worked the mid card. TNA figured out pretty quickly that AJ Styles was their ace though.
AEW had 3 of the best wrestlers in the world as executive vice presidents and another who was very good and a great storyteller. On top of the EVPs, they had dozens of wrestlers you could build a small to large promotion around. TNA didn’t have that. They had Jeff Jarrett, Ken Shamrock and Scott Hall.
That being said… in spite of its name, TNA is a wrestling show. If you have to cut stuff for time, maybe don’t cut the wrestling? I’m not EXCITED about a Dupps match, but I’d take 8 more minutes of Bo Dupp jumping 6 feet in the air while sniffing his butthole than a set up for a women’s lingerie match that was happening NEXT WEEK.
AEW showed wrestlers wrestling. All other aspects of their personality were secondary to their desire to be the best wrestler possible. They didn’t change their gimmicks, they didn’t dunk on them, they didn’t fall into lazy racist tropes and they didn’t tell you that one gender was solely there for you to look at. They had wrestlers wrestling.
Every woman’s appearance in TNA was to be ogled or belittled. Straight wrestlers were dressed up as gay stereotypes solely to infurate the audience. Wrestlers were dressed up as dicks in hopes that it’d get some reaction. A black man was told to get “his kind” to wrestle a white man’s “my kind”.
Here’s the thing you have to keep in mind. This wasn’t edgy content or “owning the libs”. This was just good ol’ bookin’, guaranteed to get heat on folks and pops when the gay/poc/woman gets her comeuppance.
Here’s the thing; TNA wasn’t a house show. This was supposed to appeal to more than the Huntsville audience. A lot of America had moved on from this kind of lazy storytelling. Gay characters weren’t just the villian or the victim anymore, they were the best friend of the hero!
Okay, there was still a lot more work to do but it was definitely an improvement.
And this is where Jarrett’s “something for everyone” philosophy falls apart. There wasn’t something for everyone. There was something for every straight cis white male. Little People to laugh at. Gays to be afraid of. Black men to be mad at. Women to leer at. Big strong white men to be emulated.
I was wrong, it wasn’t a stew using one ingredient from every aisle in a supermarket. It’s a stew using tainted ingredients.. A stew of toxic masculinity.
And not to say that AEW is perfect, but they were and still are doing their best. Sonny Kiss was never called out as being gross when they performed the “Butt Butt” on Tommy Dreamer. Nobody said they were disgusting and should keep that stuff behind closed doors. None of the announcers told you to look at this body part of Britt Baker or slut shamed Shida.
Here’s an example of AEW doing more: they made it “sensory inclusive” so those that have issues with loud noises and bright lights could have a space to go where they could still watch the show with less intensity. They had noise-cancelling ear covers to mute the explosions. Nobody would have known if they hadn’t done it. It cut into profits but it was the right thing to do.
If wrestling should have something for everyone, then it should be for everyone.
WOW THAT WAS HEAVY
Next column, TNA PPV #2, June 26, 2002 in Huntsville, Alabama! I swear it won’t be 6000 words.
Barrett Tribe is a writer and comedian based out of Austin TX. All opinions and errors in this article are his, so don’t blame Gatecrashers. Follow Barrett on Twitter @bdottribe.