Welcome to another trip around the loop during what was a historic week in the world of pro wrestling. We saw the first glimpse of AEW’s product at Double or Nothing, the lead into NXT TakeOver XXV, more Shane McMahon than one would have thought possible, and the explosive return of Jon Moxley to the world outside of the WWE bubble.
There is so much to talk about, so let’s ring the bell and get this thing underway!
Double or Nothing Delivers
To say that the eyes of the wrestling world were pointed straight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this weekend would be an understatement. Could AEW present a product that grabbed the attention of casual and committed wrestling fans? Could their young roster create compelling enough matches to draw in viewers that didn’t know who they were? And most of all could they, in the course of one PPV event, demonstrate that they would be an exciting and viable alternative to the WWE?
The answer to all the above is yes. Absolutely, yes.
Speaking as a wrestling fan that has become disenchanted with the WWE main roster product, but also as someone that has never gotten into New Japan, ROH, Impact, or any other alternate promotion, AEW hit me right in the wrasslin’ feels from start to finish. I honestly didn’t know how much I have been missing the feeling of excitement around a wrestling event until I was deep in the thick of Double or Nothing. From the emotional blood bath that was Cody vs. Dustin to the cosplay slugfest of the six-woman Japanese tag, the sensational high flying of The Lucha Bros and Young Bucks all the way up to Alpha vs Omega 2, nothing on this card felt like it dragged and the crowd was with it every step of the way.
Can the show be nitpicked for problems?
Yes, the commentary team has a way to go to find their groove but, good Gawd almighty, when JR is on point, he is still the best to ever do it. Masked commentator Excalibur really deserves a tonne of credit for making talents that I have only seen in bits and pieces seem familiar and accessible.
Yes, that was too much blood. Blade jobs are gross. As a parent of a young wrestling fan, I don’t really want to see them. But, it’s tough to argue with the elevated drama of a man fighting his brother while both are covered in blood.
The Battle Royale was a little clunky. A bunch of those guys look like they wouldn’t make weight to appear on 205 Live. I have a hard time believing in a legless wrestler, though all credit due to him for being able to get in there. The thing is, were all these talents being presented as top guys? No, they were there to fill out the roster. The show had an undercard and those were undercard guys. That doesn’t mean they can’t move up. It just means they have to get there.
Having spent most of the week digesting and thinking about this show, I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it here: for the first time since the WWE/WCW last Nitro simulcast, it felt like something big was happening that we all got to be a part of. It’s not the start of a war, but it is the start of something we have all needed for a long time: having a choice in wrestling again.
NXT TakeOver XXV on June 1
As a late joiner to the NXT fanbase, I am not someone that can say I have been there since the first TakeOver, but I am still excited to have been a fan long enough to know that 25 is a great number for the Black and Yellow brand to hit.
This TakeOver does not coincide with one of the big main roster shows, which is a big step for the brand. They are presenting a fantastic looking card that looks to adhere to their tested and true format of five quality matches featuring top stars.
While it is reasonable to expect that Cole vs Gargano 2 will tear the house down, I am particularly excited for the four-team championship ladder match featuring Forgotten Sons, Street Profits, Lorcan & Burch, and the Undisputed Era tandem of Fish and O’Reilly. As much as the call-up of the War Ra… Viking Exp… Viking Raiders has left a void in the tag team division, I’m not a huge fan of their gimmick and am happy to see a different tandem sporting the gold. What will be interesting to see is where the belts wind up when all the dust is settled in this one. Both the Profits and Sons have looked very good in recent weeks. Lorcan and Burch are workhorses that would benefit from the win. The Era guys are already two-time champions, as well as the top heels on the brand. Really, a case could be made for any of these teams to win, but I am rooting for Dawkins and Ford, The Street Profits, to capture the gold. I love their music. Ford, in particular, has really elevated his game. And it’s impossible not to appreciate a tag team that finishes with a sky-high/low-down combo (shout out to D-Lo Brown).
With the TakeOver bar already set so high, it will be interesting to see how much the men and women of NXT elevate their performances in response to AEW’s Double or Nothing. NXT has been the most accessible alternative to main roster WWE for some time now, with fans that reject RAW and SmackDown Live, like myself, turning to the black and yellow for our fix. Will AEW steal some of that audience? Or, maybe more interestingly, some of that talent? I’m not saying that DIY vs The Young Bucks is everyone’s dream match, but it certainly is mine.
WWE Super (House) Showdown
What is there to say about the “international pay per view event that will be equal to or greater than Wrestlemania?”
Honestly, not a whole heck of a lot.
The 50-man Battle Royale will be a cluster. Neither championship match is particularly compelling. Roman vs Shane is nobody’s money match and the Undertaker vs Goldberg is at least five years too late, maybe ten.
While the politics of this event are fairly polarizing, one thing that we can all agree on is that no event with a Baron Corbin championship match should ever be compared to WrestleMania on any level at any time.
As a WWE Network subscriber, I will have this one on my PVR, but I fully expect to fast forward through nearly all of it. Heck, that might even make the Taker vs Goldberg match appear to be worked at a normal speed.
Brock and the boom box
I mean… really?
Jon Moxley is hitting anything that moves
Much like his surprise appearance at Double or Nothing, I wanted to save the wrestler formerly known as Dean Ambrose for the end of this column because, as of this writing, the man is the biggest story in wrestling.
His run in at Double or Nothing was massive in a way that gave me shades of Attitude Era Steve Austin. Moxley entered, kicked ass, and left bodies everywhere with Jim Ross putting him over like no one else ever could. Moxley looked and moved like a man possessed, setting up angles with Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, and whoever that poor ref was that ending up eating Dirty Deeds just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However, as huge an impact as his joining AEW made on the wrestling landscape, it was his “shoot style” podcast with Chris Jericho that dropped this past Wednesday that really set the world of pro wrestling journalism on fire.
Moxley painted the picture that a lot of us have imagined or heard about in rumour and backstage leaks for some time now. His portrayal of Vince McMahon and the WWE creative process from the perspective of a recently departed employee was pointed, critical, and fascinating. The pod is a must-listen for anyone that follows the industry. I believe it will be looked at as a landmark moment in the history of the business in years to come.
The truly amazing thing about this entire situation, and what I think will have the longest lasting implications, is that Jon Moxley, without the WWE machine behind him went from being a top guy to being the most talked about performer in the industry more or less overnight. This pokes holes in the WWE star machine and also has to give hope and or inspiration to other talents struggling to stay happy while working for the McMahons. Like Hall and Nash going to WCW (except for all the ways it isn’t), Ambrose leaving the WWE for the uncharted and untested waters of AEW will, in my opinion, be looked at and dissected as a key event for years to come.
Until D-Von finally knows that Bubba wants tables when he shoves him in the chest without having to say it, I’ll see you marks around the loop.