The following are my takeaways from a high-octane, downright riveting pay-per-view that took place this past week, in AEW’s Double or Nothing. Live from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida, which featured a packed crowd of over 5,000 fans in attendance, Double or Nothing saw all of the AEW (and even one NWA) championships on the line on a card that was, from top to bottom, full of matches that provided something special. Pro wrestling fans will undoubtedly look back on this event years from now with many fond memories, as I would call this one a classic.
Takeaway #1: It’s great to have fans back!
The first takeaway I have is easily the most obvious–but, how great is it to have the energy of a live wrestling crowd back in America?! Yes, it’s been done recently on the independent stage and on the grandest stage of them all, at WrestleMania 37, but something just felt so much more wildly energetic and intensely different on Sunday, May 30th. Honestly, I attribute this to how passionate and insane the AEW faithful are each week, for better or worse. We (yes, I’m including myself) have this certain type of energy that is rarely found in professional sports and it elevated proceedings just a little bit more in a way that had been sorely, sorely missing for the past year.
From the opening bell to the final one that officially ended the main event, every single move and moment mattered–each were given that extra spark thanks to the fired-up, packed house in Jacksonville! Once the show moves on to other live venues, when it’s time to come back home to Daily’s Place each year, I seriously doubt that Tony Khan will forget the way AEW’s hometown held them down over this last year (plus).
When Daily’s Place in Jacksonville shows up on the schedule, from now on? Expect an absolutely stellar card and pay-per-view quality performances from the All Elite Wrestling squad.
Takeaway #2: The Stinger still has venom.
One of the biggest matches of this stacked show was Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky versus Darby Allin & Sting, in Sting’s first live in-ring action in SIX years–at 62 years old, by the way! I have made it no secret that I would much prefer AEW focus on younger talent, BUT Sting still moved extremely well in this match.
In fact, he bumped and sold like the Sting character hadn’t done for YEARS–and that’s talking years PRIOR to his once-believed swan song, in 2015.
So, if we are to go by that match alone as a gauge, it really feels like he could make a high-level contribution to the roster on an extremely-limited basis, if he so wished. However, one must consider all of the outliers that existed for this match. Like, six years of angst about how he last ended his career. The monstrous amount of acclaim his cinematic venture with Darby and Team Taz received, as well as the unbelievable amount of extra sheer adrenaline that kind of critical lauding must have generated. Six years of basically total rest for an insanely athletic man.
A lot went in to Sting’s performance two Sundays ago.
Obviously, the end goal should remain getting Darby more popular and credible to the casual fans–but a couple of tag matches a year? That would be an easy way to accomplish such a feat, while giving Sting the ending to his storied career that he deserves!
TAKEAWAY #3: The Women’s division is succeeding!
My last takeaway is about AEW’s complicated, yet suddenly highly-credible women’s division. You know, the division that has a new champion at the helm?! Over the past couple of years, the AEW women’s division has had numerous ups and downs–from both an in-ring perspective as well as a booking/promoting one.
Thankfully, it looks like it’s finally starting to find its footing. That’s no coincidence, though, as if you’ve followed along with the division’s progress since Britt Baker was anointed as one of its leaders–she was the actual face of the division long before she was ever its champion–you’d know that the division, as a whole, was following her progress as a true, top star, step by step. The advancement–and vast in-ring improvement–we’ve seen from young women like Tay Conti, Red Velvet, Jade Cargill, Thunder Rosa, Anna Jay (prior to her injury), Nyla Rose, Allie, Kris Statlander, Penelope Ford, Big Swole, a dozen stand-outs on Dark and Elevation–and let’s not forget the ever-so-recently dethroned Hikaru Shida– has concurrently occurred while Baker has molded herself into a marquee superstar (of any/every division) within the company.
These women have quietly filled out an extremely watchable, extremely venerable division behind Baker. With a packed house and AEW’s first taste of public opinion making itself heard immediately upon presentation of the product, Britt Baker emerged from the heel-tunnel to a magnificent pop and constant, continuous chants of “D-M-D”. The AEW women’s division isn’t just alright or doing kinda okay–it’s absolutely killing it.
Namely, because of its face, and now, champion: Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.
Baker doesn’t deserve the only credit for this immense turn-around in the status of the AEW women’s division, but that being said, “The Doctor” is on a different level than almost anyone–certainly in her own division, but in some ways–in the company, at large. Her arrogance-soaked, yet double-tough anomaly of a persona is somewhat revolutionary for a women’s competitor–at least, in the realm of major, top promotions. She is entirely self-absorbed and silver-tongued, making her totally unafraid to bust anyone in the company’s balls–but she also gets in the ring and allows a primal, violence-obsessed, blood-lusting, pain-loving animal loose upon her opponents.
The combination of these two dissimilar sides makes for one insanely unique, top-level star, who leaves anyone with whom she squares off in a much better place than she found them. She elevates everyone around her already–that’s something only the best in the business can say they do (and I mean the real best in the business, not just the people that hold top championship belts).
It feels like the women’s division is finally getting somewhat equal billing with the men’s and tag-team divisions. That is a great thing to see and I’m incredibly intrigued to see what’s next for Britt’s championship run, and the impressive division as a whole, over the course of 2021 and the years beyond!
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