Around the Loop: Place Your Bets for AEW’s ‘Double or Nothing’

All Elite Wrestling brings their yearly Double or Nothing event back to Las Vegas on May 28, and we are mildly curious, if not indifferent, to the proceedings. Oh, wait. That was totally untrue. We are totally amped for the prospect of seeing our favorite wrestlers go for each other’s necks, throats, and naughty bits. Oh, and we have been promised that blood will be shed. It all seems like a pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening. Biff Bam Pop!‘s resident faction of wrestling nerds (Jeffery X Martin, Sachin Hingoo, Andy Burns, and Josh Wallen) have gathered together to present their predictions for the evening’s festivities!

The Buy-In: Ethan Page & The Gunns vs. Hook & The Hardys

JXM: While we weren’t looking, Ethan Page turned into one of the best heels in AEW. He’s a handsome dude and he knows it, but he still can’t get the Hardys to do what he wants. His promos are fire, and his aggressive pseudo-friendliness is close to triggering. Replacing the injured Brother Zay, Hook makes a perfect complement to the Hardys. He’s a brawler who has a submission finisher. The Gunns exist. Let’s give this one to Hook and the Hardys because you’ve got to give the people what they want. Keep your eye on Ethan Page, though. That guy is fantastic. 

SH: Out of seemingly nowhere, a storyline that felt like a retread or continuation of prior ‘Matt Hardy engages in contract-related shenanigans’ stories (let’s all agree to forget about the Hardy Family Office) has provided some of my favourite AEW moments over the last few months, including a return to the cinematic era of matches with The Firm Deletion from the Hardy Compound. I’m also enjoying the subtle beats of the powerful and aggressive Ethan Page being whittled down to desperation and a kind of defeated melancholy at having lost his leverage over Hardy. Who knows what other beats this story will hit if Ethan and his contract end up under Hardy’s thumb? Going with Hook and the Hardys to win, just because that’s the most interesting option here.

AB: There’s lots of talent in this match, but there’s no way Jeff Hardy isn’t going over on his return to pay-per-view after his lost year. I expect this one to be lots of fun and a solid way to kick off the show.

JW: This feud feels like it will never end. The Firm was Finally Deleted, but here we are again with Ethan Page and The Hardy’s. Collision can’t get here soon enough. There’s way too much talent in holding patterns and Collision should help mix up the roster a bit. Everyone in this feud deserves better, but there’s nowhere else to go at the moment. I’ll take Hook and the Hardys and pray that Ethan Page and The Gunns continue to get opportunities to shine.

AEW Trios Championship: House of Black (Malakai Black, Buddy Matthews & Brody King) (c) defend in an open challenge (probably against The Acclaimed – Max Castor and Anthony Bowens and Billy “Daddy Ass” Gunn)

JXM: It doesn’t matter who goes against the House of Black. The House always wins. All glory to the House.

SH: As of this writing, it hasn’t actually been confirmed that The Acclaimed will be in this match, but come on – you can’t leave one of AEW’s most popular acts off the show. The House has been on a roll lately, racking up wins and coming up with a brand new match type that involves their opponents naming the stipulations. This adds a new level of intrigue to these encounters when it’s played right, so even though I’m pretty sure House of Black picks up the win, how they get there should be a fun surprise.

AEW International Championship Blackjack Battle Royale: Orange Cassidy (c) vs.The Butcher and the Blade, Bandido, Komander, Lee Moriarty, Big Bill, Ari Daivari, Tony Nese, Dalton Castle, Trent Beretta, Kip Sabian, Rey Fenix, Dustin Rhodes, Keith Lee, Juice Robinson, Jay White, Ricky Starks, Brian Cage, Swerve Strickland, and Penta El Zero Miedo 

JXM: This ridiculous concept is perfect for the King of Sloth Style and perpetual curtain-jerker, Orange Cassidy. Why not send 20 guys against a wrestler known to fall asleep in the ring? The amount of talent in this match is insane, and we’ll see some tangential storylines advance. Look for Lee and Strickland to tee off on each other. White and Robinson, Bullet Club Gold, should attack every single human in that ring, especially Ricky Starks. My inner fantasy booker wants to know why Dalton Castle can’t win everything. I love that guy. But why should I get what I want? Look for a silly, messy match where Orange Cassidy retains. 

SH: The story here is that Orange Cassidy has been gamely defending his International Title against anyone and everyone that challenges him, no matter the odds. As he’s made his way through what has, for my money, been one of the most interesting title reigns in company history, the effects of week after week of banger matches with some of the best wrestlers in the company and in the industry is really starting to take a toll on ol’ Orange. He’s hurt, tired, and he’s had to work with fucking Katsuyori Shibata. I think Orange Cassidy wins here, but I can see him being so wrecked afterwards that a dastardly heel (my pick would be Jay White or Swerve) can seize the opportunity to swoop in on the next Dynamite and snatch the belt away.

AB: Like the trios match above, this Battle Royale is full of so much talent, I’d expect to see lots of spots that allow everyone to show off their stuff. Orange Cassidy has been having a great run as International Champion, and I suppose the story here will be how he outlasts the competition, as my colleagues have suggested in conversation.

JW: Orange Cassidy will win a car crash of a Battle Royale. There will be spots aplenty and that’s exactly what you want from a match like this. This is another match that highlights a jam packed midcard that needs to get some fresh storylines. Ricky Starks feuding with the Bullet Club is doing nothing for me and it’s starting to feel like the addition of Jay White has been squandered. Swerve and Keith Lee need to get it on or get it over with. Both men have stretched out this program far too long. They deserve better and so do the fans. I hope Collision and some fresh creative voices will start to provide direction to some of this talent that seem to be running in place.

AEW World Tag Team Championships: FTR (c) vs. Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal [Special Guest Referee: Mark Briscoe]

JXM: The battle for the soul of Mark Briscoe continues as he refs this Tag Team Championship match. Jeff Jarrett, Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt, Satnam Singh, and for some reason Karen Jarrett, have tried to convince Briscoe to “do the right thing” and swing the decision in their direction, handing Jarett and Lethal the belts. Briscoe is mad at Dax Harwood for putting him in a piledriver during one of their matches. It all hinges on Briscoe and his ability to call the match straight down the middle. If he doesn’t, he turns heel. With the agony of moral indecision on his face, he’ll think about it. And I’m betting he’ll do it. Get ready for the title change. Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal will be the new AEW World Tag Team Champions. 

SH: Anyone in the ol’ group chat will attest to my initial dislike of Jeff Jarrett, based on…well, *gestures to his entire career up to this point*. But in spite of myself, he’s grown on me as part of a group of midcard shitheels. A lot of this is due to the infectious appeal of Sonjay, Jay Lethal’s in-ring skills, and Satnam’s bigness as well, but let it not be said that Jarrett and his wife Karen don’t know how to push the right buttons. I’m not sure if it’s quite the right time for Triple J to get strapped up yet, though. It seems like FTR just started this long-awaited reign as tag champs, and one would think they’ve got more to do before then.

AB: I love this mini soap opera we’ve been getting between Mark Briscoe and his so-called friends. Unlike JXM, though, I think he’s going to call this match straight down the middle, and will certainly get pissed when Jarrett and Lethal try to take advantage of him. In the face of tragedy, Mark Briscoe has become a big star in AEW and I think there’s lots of upside for him as a hero in the company. Plus, it’s too damn soon to take the belts of FTR, especially with Collision on the way.

JW: As the resident FTR mark, this one was never in doubt. Top Guys need to get past this feud and get back to showcasing the AEW tag division that seems to have been forgotten. Jeff Jarret and Jay Lethal have been entertaining, but I don’t want them in the mix at the top of the tag division. FTR should be getting bangers out of all the top teams in the division or pivoting to Punk/FTR vs Kenny and The Bucks if that is the ultimate destination for Wembley.

AEW TNT Championship Ladder: Wardlow (c) vs. Christian Cage

JXM: This match may be the most difficult to predict. Christian Cage is acknowledged as one of the masters of the ladder match. Wardlow doesn’t have as much experience in this type of bout as Cage, but he’s big enough to knock a ladder into the hard-cam front row. There’s also the Luchasaurus Contingency to worry about. He could come roaring in from anywhere and distract Wardlow while Cage snags the belt. It’s a matter of size versus history. Cage, however, doesn’t need the title. He’s a legend in the middle of his greatest heel run. I reckon the match will end with a Powerbomb Symphony from the Wardog while Cage sells a non-existent injury. Wardlow retains until Tony Khan can figure out what else to do with that belt. 

SH: Christian remains one of the top heels in the company, running circles around just about everyone but MJF when it comes to promos. Wardlow only just regained the TNT title after a brief and kind of confusing dalliance with Will Hobbs between the last PPV, Full Gear in November, and this one. Christian and Luchasaurus assuredly have a plan to deal with the Wardog, but I can’t see them hot-potatoing the title again without giving Wardlow a bit of a longer reign. This match should be fun, with Wardlow pulling it out and moving onto his next challenger.

AB: There’s just no way you have Wardlow lose here. It would once again be a momentum killer for a guy who’s had more stops and starts in AEW than anyone else I can recall. The fan in me would love to see Christian win and have a belt strapped around him because the guy can still go and is entertaining as hell, but the cost would be too great.

JW: Christian is arguably the second biggest heel in the company. I guess that warrants him jumping ahead of Powerhouse Hobbs seeking a rematch for the TNT title? Wardlow as the champ doesn’t do much for me. He’s always more entertaining as the hunter, not the hunted. It also doesn’t help that they don’t know what to do with him when he’s on top. This Christian feud has been lackluster and the inclusion of Arn Anderson at Wardlow’s side feels forced and looks like you don’t trust Wardlow on his own. The kid has all the tools in the world and they just can’t figure it out. I’ll take Christian with the assist from Luchasaurus. A heel with the belt could present more opportunities for all these babyfaces sitting around with nothing to do.

AEW Women’s World Championship: Jamie Hayter (c) vs. Toni Storm

JXM: For a storyline that is essentially a nWo run-back, the quarrel between The Outcasts (Toni Storm, Ruby Soho, and Saraya) and the Originals (Jamie Hayter, Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., and Hikaru Shida) has been incredibly compelling. Vicious, bloody, and sometimes catty, the women have made this angle work. It’s time to take things to the next level. How will the Originals react when the Outsiders have the title? Hayter, by all rights, should hold on to the title longer. She won’t, and that will only amp up the rivalry. Look for Toni Storm to become the non-interim Women’s World Champion. 

SH: Jamie has been a dominant champion, and has already had one of the best reigns in the short history of the AEW women’s division. After a few hiccups, her antagonists in The Outcasts finally seem to be coordinated, while Jamie and the Originals are on the same page too. With a few clearer and more consistent messaging and motivations, it finally feels like this storyline is ready to kick into a new gear. That being said, the rumour is that Jamie is working hurt, so there might be an opportunity here to swap the title to Toni Storm for the summer, precipitating a big win for Jamie at Wembley Stadium in the UK in front of 60,000 screaming Haytermaniacs.

AB: Fans love Jamie Hayter, and I’d love to see her retain her title, but to keep the juice going on the Outcasts storyline, she’s going to have to drop the title tonight to Toni Storm. It will give the Originals something to shoot for and finish their story…wait, what?

JW: The women’s division needs more stars and they need to use the title to build them. Jamie Hayter has solidified herself as the top of the division and doesn’t need the belt to get over. If Road to the Top is to be believed, there’s always been a feeling that Toni Storm deserved to hold the Women’s title and not the Interim World title. Putting the belt on her can give her a nice run at the top and with the Outcasts by her side that run could be lengthy. Giving several faces an opportunity to take a run through that group can help establish a few more stars in the division.

Anarchy in the Arena: Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, Wheeler Yuta & Bryan Danielson) vs The Elite (Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks & Hangman Page)

JXM: Jon Moxley has promised that this match will be the bloodiest bout in the short history of AEW. I don’t doubt it. Mox is probably bleeding already, just to practice. While the promise of bloodshed is a draw, the storyline here is that the Elite are finally back together. The Blackpool Combat Club has targeted the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. Mox and Hangman Adam Page have beef from way back. And what’s the deal with Konosuke Takeshita? Will he show up and, if so, whose side is he on? And where is Kota Ibushi? Will we finally get the Golden Lovers reunion we all dream about? There are so many questions that I don’t even care who wins. There aren’t any stakes to this match, no belts to contend for. It’s going to be a plunder-filled brawl, redolent with pointy objects, and it’s going to be a blast. Let’s go with the Blackpool Combat Club for the win on this one, because the internal conflicts within the Elite are far from over. 

SH: Sick freaks, mount up! Considering that this match has a hard act to follow after last year’s chaotic Anarchy In The Arena match, as well as Moxley’s promise of incredible violence which has to outdo a match on this very card that includes literal maniac Sabu, this is sure to be a wild affair. This is also my favourite story in AEW right now. The saga of Hangman’s exile and return to the Elite has been going on for literally the entire company’s four year history, with intriguing beats and bumps along the way, and a real evolution of Hangman as a character having to overcome his insecurities. In addition to the main players in the match, there’s also the question of what Don Callis has planned, where Konosuke Takeshita’s allegiances lie, and what other surprises might be in store in this match that can go anywhere in the building and involve weapons of all kinds. I think this story will continue past this point, but The Elite pick up a win over Bryan Danielson’s violence club.

AB: This is going to be a bloody mess, and in the end I think it should be the reunited Elite standing tall over the BCC. For me, the biggest question will be what happens when Wheeler Yuta takes another pin. Is he on the way out of the BCC?

JW: The Blackpool Combat Club is everything I love about wrestling right now. While I don’t need the levels of violence that Jon Moxley seemingly does, I enjoy a bit of the hardcore. Moxley’s threat that we ain’t seen nothing yet is more than concerning. While The Elite are supposed to be the faces, the BCC are approaching Steve Austin levels of tweener status. They’re just too good to dislike. I almost don’t even care that they tried to take Hangman’s eye. I’ll take the BCC and as The Elite lay broken in the ring, Cult of Personality will hit and CM Punk will come out to sit on the entrance ramp, hearkening back to the original Pipe Bomb which was also in Las Vegas. As he takes the mic he says: “I’ve got a lot to get off my chest… and if you want to hear what I have to say, you can find me on Saturday nights.” Hit the Collision music montage, flash the date, fade to black. Sell out the United Center for another million dollar gate.

AEW TBS Championship: Jade Cargill (c) vs. Taya Valkyrie

JXM: As much as I love Taya Valkyrie, and I do, this match feels like busy work. We’re all waiting for Kris Statlander to come off the injured list and take that belt from around Cargill’s waist. That’s been the plan all along! When Statlander comes back, it doesn’t matter who she goes against. Whether it’s Valkyrie or Cargill, that belt has Stat’s name on it. I think there would be a better payoff for the fans if Stat takes it from Cargill and breaks her winning streak. Sorry, La Wera Loca, but Jade Cargill will keep that title warm until Kris Statlander returns. 

SH: I had high hopes for fellow Canadian Taya Valkyrie when she debuted to take on the seemingly-invincible Jade Cargill, but I’d be lying if I said she lived up to expectations. I still think she’ll find her groove eventually, but she’s not ready to dethrone AEW’s Undertaker just yet. Jade retains.

AB: I think it’s time for Jade to drop the title and Taya Valkyrie has been the most believable challenger she’s had at this point. Let’s see how Jade’s character deals with a loss.

JW: Taya should have won the first match. The fact we’re getting a return engagement is promising, but I still don’t think they see Taya as the one to dethrone Jade. I think the undefeated streak is doing more harm to Jade than it is serving her. Her character desperately needs to suffer defeat to continue to grow and develop. With no one in the division that screams a threat, we continue to recycle women through the title picture. It’s never intriguing because unless it’s Mercedes Mone or Kris Statlander, no one is going to believe that the name on the other side of the card from Jade poses a threat. That’s really not fair to the women in the division that are busting their ass with nowhere else to go.

Four Pillars Match for the AEW World Championship: MJF (c) vs. Sammy Guevara vs. Darby Allin vs. Jack Perry

JXM: I have enjoyed the build-up to this match! You’ve got Sam who hates Jack who likes Darbs who hates Sam who treats Jack like he’s Sam who does Jack like he’s Darbs. All of them have issues with MJF. This will be a “can they co-exist” match, with brief alliances and changing allegiances. MJF, that snake, has already tried to bribe Sammy into taking a dive. He also has his secret weapon, the Dynamite Diamond Ring, ready to use like an international object to lay his opponents out. While my heart wants Darby Allin to take the title, I can’t see that happening. As much as I dislike it, I’m going with MJF to retain. 

SH: Most four-way matches are meant to do one thing – to take the title off the champion without actually pinning them, keeping them looking strong for a rematch or their next program. In this case, there’s a lot more going on. The story here is that these four guys are foundational elements of AEW and critical to the company’s future, and each one has at least one built-in issue with each of the others. This type of match also allows for fun combinations of opponents that you don’t always see, and dynamic alliances. All of these are tools in a toolbox to accomplish some interesting storytelling, and I think each of the competitors here will leave this match changed. I’m predicting MJF to retain, but also that Jungle Jack embraces his dark side and Sammy Guevara comes back to Babyface Town, which is a place where you’re always cheered, and where ‘When Can I See You’ plays on an endless, interminable loop. Also, Darby will get real upset.

AB: I’m looking forward to this match a lot, and like Jeff, I’d love to see Darby Allin get the win here. He’s been working hard, cutting good promos and delivering solid action in the ring. Unfortunately, I think it’s still too soon for MJF to lose the belt; his reign has been unspectacular, and this is an opportunity for him to shine in the ring.

JW: This match probably should have taken place a couple years ago when the pillars actually meant something. At this point, you could argue that 2-3 of the pillars have been passed by talent that came in post launch. The Ricky Starks and Orange Cassidy’s of the world can make their case as being in that discussion. Jungle Boy isn’t connecting. Sammy doesn’t have a time machine to go back and take back some of the bone headed decisions that the fans seemingly hold against him. Darby can carry the title, but there’s a better story to tell coming out of this match. The feud is Max and Darby, but it doesn’t need the belt just yet. Have Darby cost Max the belt. Let Sammy or Jack be a transitional champion. Sammy and Tay with the belt could be just as effective as a heel champion as MJF, in my opinion. Maybe play hot potato with the title for a little while to test out some other guys? Max puts Darby on the shelf for an extended period of time for costing him the title. Max then proceeds to retire Sting and recapture the Triple B. When the time is right, bring back Darby and you’ve got one of the biggest stories in the company’s history.

Unsanctioned Match: Chris Jericho vs. Adam Cole [Special Enforcer: Sabu]

JXM: The idea of an unsanctioned match between Cole and the Ocho is tantalizing enough, but Sabu? Are you kidding me? That adds an unhinged factor to a match that should already be off the chain! Tables, ladders, chairs, barbed wire, probably some fire, and that’s just Sabu! Cole and Jericho will beat the living poopsticks out of each other. Also: Sabu will be there. Neither of those guys is afraid to bleed. I believe Adam Cole is going to win and avenge the savage beating of his girlfriend, Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. (who could be at ringside). But, come on, y’all. Sabu. Taz is going to freak out on commentary, and that should be worth the price of the show in itself. 

SH: Not to be outdone by Jon Moxley and his merry band of screwdriver-wielding goons, this match has every opportunity (and storyline reasons) to spill some DNA (not that kind) all over the ring. And that’s before you consider that the deranged Sabu is here to enforce…something. Cole is ready to extract some hemoglobin from Chris Jericho, and the Ocho is never one to pass up the opportunity to steal the show. Not only does Adam Cole stand tall here, but I think he’s next in line for a World title shot, against whomever comes out of the four-way with Big Plat.

AB: There’s only one smart move for a winner in this match and that’s having babyface Adam Cole kick the shit out of the weasel Chris Jericho. This will hopefully be a decisive win and send Cole onto his next challenge, who should be MJF.

JW: The build to this match was great until it wasn’t. The inclusion of Sabu is head scratching and feels like someone just wanted to give Sabu a pay day. I’m all for the pay day, but him being in this match is completely unrelated to anything in this story. It should have been Fish or O’Reilly under the table to even the odds or some other younger talent that could have used the rub. I’m sure they’ll get a decent moment out of it, but cameos like that should take place in the Battle Royale, not one of your most heated storylines. Adam Cole should get the win. Chris Jericho needs an extended Fozzy tour. Some time off would do him some good. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Surprises, Run-Ins, and Other Things We Like

JXM: If Tony Khan doesn’t bring in the Collision roster, he’s leaving money on the table. Keep an eye out for Samoa Joe, Thunder Rosa, and Powerhouse Hobbs to make appearances. I’m betting that Miro shows up during the Battle Royale. And if Kris Statlander comes down the ramp after the Cargill vs. Valkyrie match, I might do a wee in my chair. 

SH: Part of me wonders if the Sabu of it all is a smokescreen to bring back Cole’s pal Kyle O’Reilly, who’s been out with injuries for a long time. I think that by the end of the show we’ll have a clear picture of the next challengers for the world titles as well – both the men’s and women’s. I think there’s also lots of room for surprises in the Anarchy in the Arena match, including perhaps the return of a certain Golden Star. In addition, there’s not just AEW’s new TV show, Collision (and a rumoured brand split) to build towards, but next month’s Forbidden Door PPV which will feature AEW and NJPW stars in a run-back of one of last year’s best events. And overshadowing it all is the potential return of a certain muffin-loving Chicago native. There’s lots of seeds to plant before any of that happens, and anything can happen in Vegas.

AB: Ticket sales haven’t been great for Collision shows, so I wonder if having CM Punk return tonight to goose those numbers might happen.

JW: We’ll get the Punk return teasing him heading to Saturday nights. I’ll also go out on a limb and say that we’ll get the return of ReDRagon as long as Bobby Fish comes with a muzzle. I think that Mark Briscoe should be named the commissioner of Ring of Honor. No one defines ROH more than Mark. His character as an authority figure could give him more opportunities to sell the world on what Ring of Honor is all about. I’m thinking Commissioner Foley, but not so heavy on the ga-ga. It would also give him the chance to work a limited schedule but stay on TV, something that he’s gotten more comfortable with as of late.

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