All Elite Wrestling's third anniversary is this week with their big pay-per-view Double or Nothing this coming Sunday, May 29th, as the centerpiece. It's a loaded show full of title matches, personal grudges, and intense action, and your main man Classic Rock Carter is going to give you a run-down of the card and my predictions for the outcomes! Take these bets to Vegas, baby (ironically where the event is being held), because we have a stacked 11-match card to get through, starting with...
The Buy-In Pre-Show
Hook & Danhausen vs Tony Nese & "Smart" Mark Sterling
Before the show can properly begin, the Buy-In pre-show will livestream for free on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Most of the Buy-In will be pre-match coverage of the main show, but there will be one match on it: Hook and Danhausen (collectively dubbed "Hookhausen") against Tony Nese and his manager/lawyer "Smart" Mark Sterling.
Hookhausen are a team brought together by their shared issues with Nese and Sterling. Nese sees his opponents as spotlight-hogging losers that are taking up time he could be on TV, and he looks to get rid of the Internet's favorite duo. Meanwhile, Hook is still undefeated, a stoic badass kid immune to the curses of his would-be partner, the ever-eccentric Danhausen, whose only match in an AEW ring was a loss to Nese not long ago.
Expect this to be a comedy match when Danhausen and Sterling are in the ring and a technical showcase when Hook and Nese are the legal men. I'm not expecting the world of these four, but it should be a good opener to get the crowd invested right off the bat. I can't see Hook and Danhausen losing here. Sterling will likely take the pin to save Nese from looking too terrible.
Winners: Hook and Danhausen
The Main Card
The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs The Hardys (Jeff & Matt Hardy)
The Young Bucks have been a ship without a sail since their friend and fellow EVP Kenny Omega had to sit out with an injury back in December. They've gone back and forth on joining up with Adam Cole and ReDragon, before finally settling on forming the Undisputed Elite faction with them a few weeks ago. They lost a shot at the AEW Tag Team Titles back at Revolution, then lost a shot at the ROH and AAA Tag Team Titles on Dynamite not long after.
Meanwhile, Matt Hardy was evicted from his own stable, the Hardy Family Office, in a business takeover from within by Andrade. Luckily, his brother Jeff had just signed with the company and made the save, reuniting one of the most popular tag teams ever in the Hardy Boyz... well, they're not boys anymore, but the point stands. They've stood alongside Sting and Darby Allin in taking on members of the new Andrade Family Office, until Jeff entered the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament and defeated Bobby Fish, drawing the ire of the Undisputed Elite. Adam Cole eliminated Jeff from the tournament, and a Young Bucks attack soon followed.
There's been a lot of setup for this match mostly on weekly YouTube vlog/skit show, Being The Elite, but a match of this magnitude feels weird to announce only two weeks before the PPV. There's always been talk of The Young Bucks essentially being Hardy Boyz knockoffs, but I always saw them as a modern interpretation of Matt and Jeff rather than a cheap imitation. These two teams have wrestled before in Ring of Honor a few years ago, but this encounter feels like just a reason to get both teams on the card, not a special attraction. I think The Young Bucks will win to get them back on track. Matt and Jeff are elder statesmen of pro wrestling at this point, and no amount of wins or losses will truly hurt them.
Winners: The Young Bucks
TBS Championship Match: Jade Cargill (C) vs Anna Jay
Hoo boy, where do I begin here? There's honestly not much build here, at least as far as this viewer of Dynamite and Rampage can tell. Anna Jay saved Ruby Soho from an attack by Jade and her Baddies (Kiera Hogan and Red Velvet), and suddenly she's got a PPV title shot. I don't watch Dark or Dark Elevation, but I'm guessing Anna has been racking up wins on those shows in what amount to tune-up matches, and she's shot up the rankings as a result. Great, but she has already lost to Jade a few months ago, and not much has changed for either woman since.
I'm expecting another dominant win for Cargill here. No one has been treated as a legitimate threat to her yet, and this women's division desperately needs a shot in the arm creatively. The women don't feel important, and while they have good matches and some can cut decent promos, the company doesn't seem intent on giving them the tools to piece together a compelling narrative. I hope that changes soon, but I won't hold my breath.
Winner: Jade Cargill
Trios Match: Death Triangle (PAC, Penta Oscuro, & Rey Fenix) vs The House of Black (Malakai Black, Brody King, and Buddy Matthews)
It's the feud that never ends! This match has been a long time coming, delayed for months by injuries and other angles popping up in the meantime. Characters have been reinvented (Penta El Cero Miedo has become the dark Penta Oscuro after being assaulted by The House of Black, while Rey Fenix has adopted a more angelic white attire in the wake of returning from a severely dislocated elbow), substitutions have been made (Erick Redbeard took Fenix's place in a Trios match exactly like this back at the Revolution Buy-In), and we finally can blow off this rivalry... hopefully.
The House of Black have to win this. There's too much upside to them winning and ascending higher up the card. Malakai Black seems primed to go into the main event scene and pursue a championship with his flunkies following his every command. Penta and Fenix need to get back into the tag division, as it's sorely lacking credible teams lately, as I'll highlight when covering the tag title match. PAC could stand to be pushing again as well, as he's nowhere near the heights he was three years ago giving Kenny Omega a run for his money. This feud has been holding all six of these men back from bigger and better things, and it needs to wrap up here. Oh, and Julia Hart needs to join The House of Black already too.
Winners: The House of Black
The Owen Hart Foundation Men's Tournament Final: Samoa Joe vs Adam Cole
The Owen Hart Foundation's two tournaments, one for men and one for women, have been great showcases of the talent in AEW. I will admit that AEW haven't done much with Owen Hart's name so far, aside from airing a few video packages of Owen footage from New Japan and his widow being in the crowd one night, but I suppose that's hard when WWE owns most of the footage of Owen's career.
Samoa Joe crashed onto the scene at ROH's Supercard of Honor (Tony Khan owns ROH now, by the way), quickly winning the ROH TV Title from Minoru Suzuki on Dynamite and establishing a rivalry with former protege Jay Lethal. Lethal had recruited former wrestler Sonjay Dutt and blue chip giant Satnam Singh to combat Joe, but Joe has been preoccupied with this tournament, qualifying by defeating Max Caster before defeating the debuting Johnny Elite and Kyle O'Reilly to get to the finals.
Meanwhile, Adam Cole suffered his first loss on record to "Hangman" Adam Page at Revolution, losing his shot at the AEW World Title. A Texas Death match with the belt on the line again also proved unsuccessful for Cole, so he then entered this tournament. He qualified by defeating Tomohiro Ishii, then beat Dax Harwood and Jeff Hardy to get here.
I can't see Adam Cole losing here. In between Joe's injured arm, AEW likely wanting a dating couple to win both tournaments, and potential interference from Lethal, Dutt, Singh, O'Reilly, Fish, the Young Bucks, and a partridge in a pear tree, story time with Adam Cole (baybay) next Wednesday will likely be about how they had to make room for two big trophies in their house.
Winner: Adam Cole (Baybay!)
The Owen Hart Foundation Women's Tournament Final: Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. vs Ruby Soho or Kris Statlander
As of writing, this match's second competitor is still up in the air, with a match between Soho and Statlander on Rampage this Friday determining who faces Baker at Double or Nothing. Statlander is a substitution for Hikaru Shida, who was announced "injured and unable to compete" by AEW when she actually had flown to Japan to wrestle and couldn't make it back in time for the prerequisite health screening. Nonetheless, Statlander was not meant to be in this tournament, so I believe Ruby Soho will win on Rampage and face Baker here, so I will be continuing as if that's the case.
Dr. Baker is coming off a long, dominant title run as AEW Women's Champion, losing the title to Thunder Rosa on the St. Patrick's Day Slam edition of Dynamite. She didn't appear again until AEW made their way to her home town of Pittsburgh, qualifying for this tournament by beating Danielle Kamela, then defeating Maki Itoh and Toni Storm (via cheating) to make it here.
Ruby Soho has been pretty quiet since losing the TBS Championship tournament finals to Jade Cargill, mostly working on Dark and Dark Elevation. She qualified for this tournament by besting Robyn Renegade, and then beat Riho to get to her semifinal match with Kris Statlander tomorrow.
I'm gonna be honest: I am still so tired of Britt Baker. I get it: she's the most popular woman and AEW wants to keep her strong. The problem is that they seem fixated solely on her, letting other women fall to the wayside. Toni Storm was red-hot coming off her debut and having some great matches, but she and Britt had a clunker of a match with a wet fart of an ending to get the dentist here. Toni Storm should be here, not Britt. Ruby is whatever, honestly. She feels like a rushed replacement for Shida, whose I believe was going to the finals, but odd circumstances kept her from competing further. I would prefer if Ruby won here to give her her more credibility, but I can't shake that AEW wants the real-life couple of Baker and Cole to win both tournaments, and Britt really doesn't need this win.
Winner: Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.
Anarchy in the Arena: Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Eddie Kingston, Santana, & Ortiz vs The Jericho Appreciation Society (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Daniel Garcia, Angelo Parker, and Matt Menard)
Alright, there's a lot of characters at play here, so I'm going to try to condense this backstory as much as possible.
At Revolution, Eddie Kingston cleanly submitted Chris Jericho. Santana and Ortiz, former allies of Jericho in his group The Inner Circle and friends of Kingston, were at odds with Jericho with how he was treating Kingston and them leading up to Revolution. Following Revolution, Jericho attacked Kingston and turned on Santana and Ortiz, forming the Jericho Appreciation Society with Jake Hager, Daniel Garcia, and the former team of 2point0. Jericho began preaching the virtues of "sports entertainment" over pro wrestling, claiming his group were better and more successful than those who strive to be pro wrestlers. For weeks, Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz have clashed with the JAS, even resulting in Jericho throwing a fireball in Eddie's face and making advances at his wife. Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley soon entered the picture (themselves fresh off a feud against each other, making up under the watchful eye of William Regal, and molding the young Wheeler Yuta into a purveyor of violence while forming the Blackpool Combat Club) due to Mox's friendship with Eddie and not appreciating the rhetoric against pro wrestlers. This leads us to Anarchy in the Arena, which sounds like it will be a Stadium Stampede match, just without the stadium.
If this is going to be anything like a Stadium Stampede match, expect a fun, chaotic brawl full of multiple weapons and set pieces. Jericho has been such a complete asshole in the build that I can't see him winning. A big, definitive win here by Eddie Kingston would do wonders for elevating him past the midcard, as his mic work has garnered him tons of fans during this program. Jericho is another veteran who losses won't affect much. Have Menard, Parker, Hager, and Garcia take some silly spots and big bumps, let Danielson, Moxley, Santana, and Ortiz look like badasses, and let Kingston get the final blow on Jericho, and this will be awesome.
Winners: Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz
AEW World Tag Team Championship Match: Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus (C) vs Team Taz (Powerhouse Hobbs & Ricky Starks) vs Keith Lee & Swerve Strickland
The tag team title scene in AEW has been faltering a bit lately. Not that there's a lack of teams, but many of the established teams have been used to prop up newer stars without getting important wins, making teams like The Gunn Club, The Acclaimed, Private Party, any formation of The Dark Order, and others looking bush-league. Meanwhile, Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus have already defeated teams like the Lucha Bros, FTR, the Young Bucks, and ReDragon, so viable competition has been a bit scarce for the champs. Enter these two teams of singles stars that have been feuding since Lee and Strickland's entrances into the company weeks ago. Lee and Strickland have now teamed up to face their common enemy in Team Taz, but the tag team champions got tangled up in their scuffle, leading to the second three-way tag title match on PPV in a row.
I've said it many times on Twitter (@CCCWrasslin), but pairing up Lee and Swerve was genius, keeping them from being overlooked in a very crowded singles scene. Starks is a diamond waiting for his chance to shine, and he and the young Powerhouse Hobbs could use this as an opportunity to really show the world what they can do. I think Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus will put up a damn good fight, but with little new competition left for them, I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland will win the titles here. Plus, with another big loss, Christian Cage may finally turn on Jungle Boy, setting up a feud between mentor and protege.
Winners: Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland (New Champs!)
MJF vs Wardlow
Arguably the best build feud in AEW today, this match is nearly three years in the making. Wardlow, the former bodyguard of Maxwell Jacob Friedman, now faces his boss for his freedom from MJF's contract. However, if MJF wins, Wardlow will never be able to sign with AEW. Stemming from multiple instances of MJF mistreating Wardlow, the big man finally turned his back on Friedman at Revolution, costing MJF his match with CM Punk. MJF, in his usual weaselly way, dangled the carrot of freedom in front of his employee, making Wardlow's life a living hell by stacking the deck against him at every turn. However, Wardlow overcame every obstacle, from matches with giants like Lance Archer and W. Morrissey, to lashings with a leather belt, to defeating Shawn Spears in a steel cage match with MJF as the referee this past Wednesday, securing this match at the PPV.
Wardlow has "star" written all over him. MJF is making him look like a million bucks, and this match should be no different. Despite the build being almost a shot-for-shot repeat of Friedman's feud with Cody Rhodes a few years ago, Wardlow has handled MJF's hurdles in ways The American Nightmare probably wishes he had, looking like an absolute beast every step of the way. Wardlow winning here feels like an inevitability, as he'll likely trounce whatever shenanigans Maxwell has up his sleeve, and then there's no telling how high the big man will rise in AEW.
AEW World Women's Title Match: Thunder Rosa (C) vs Serena Deeb
Thunder Rosa won the AEW Women's Title from Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. back in March. Since then, she's defended it against Nyla Rose at Battle of the Belts and... talked a lot. Almost every week, she's cut a promo on stage about how she's a fighting champion, and defends it with honor, and wants to elevate the women's division, and so on and so forth.
Serena Deeb has spent the last few months beating rookies in short matches and terrorizing Hikaru Shida, winning their feud blowoff street fight. All of those wins put her at the top of the women's rankings, so she got this title shot. These two have done nothing but stand on the stage and cut promos against each other for the entire build to this match.
Okay, hot take: I do not like this feud's build, if my verbiage above didn't make that obvious. At all. Every segment between these two has either bored me or made me mad. Thunder Rosa is supposed to be a badass wrestler who'll tie you in knots and send you home on a stretcher, not some goody-two-shoes babyface who does nothing but talk with the conviction of a burned-out McDonald's employee. Serena Deeb, despite being a good wrestler, has the personality of wet cardboard. Didn't she just spent months making Hikaru Shida's life a living hell? Why does she suddenly want a good, clean fight with Rosa and to "elevate the women's division"? She's the bad guy! There's no build here outside of "They are good wrestlers" and that's not enough here. The match will probably be grand, just like their ones in NWA a few years ago, but there's no reason for me to care about this. Thunder retains. The women need new leadership, plain and simple.
Winner: Thunder Rosa
AEW World Championship Match: "Hangman" Adam Page (C) vs CM Punk
Adam Page finally achieved his 2.5 year-journey to win the AEW World Title back in December, besting arch-rival Kenny Omega at Full Gear. Since then, Hangman has fought back the challenges of Bryan Danielson, Lance Archer, Adam Cole, and others in a plethora of intense matches spanning all different sorts of styles.
CM Punk, after finally defeating MJF once and for all in a bloody Dog Collar match at Revolution, set his sights on the AEW World Title. He rose up the ranks, having great matches weekly against the likes of Dax Harwood, Penta El Cero Miedo, Dustin Rhodes, and others before being proclaimed the number one contender. Punk quickly got into Hangman's head, with Page seemingly trying to hide his anxiety under manly bravado and claiming Punk was going to kill AEW if he won the title. Both men have even used each other's finishers recently, adding to the mind games.
This is the match I am most conflicted about. Both men are favorites of mine, and I know the match is going to be awesome, but I can't decide who's going to win. On one hand, Hangman winning would be a huge feather in his cap, and a loss won't really hurt Punk in the long run, but Punk winning the title would put a lot of eyes on the product, and he's having one of the best runs of his career. I'll be happy either way, but both options make sense. Hmm... I will make a hard decision and say Hangman is retaining the title, but I won't be surprised if Punk walks away with the belt either.
Winner: "Hangman" Adam Page
And there you have it! This show is looking to be a great one, and I'll be livetweeting it over at @CCCWrasslin. Catch me there, and share your predictions for the show here in the comments or @ me with your predictions over on Twitter. I'll have an article with my thoughts on the show next week. Catch y'all then!