AEW Double or Nothing: Reflecting on the Smart and Questionable Booking Moves

Haris KruskicContributor IJune 12, 2019

AEW - James Musselwhite

AEW's inaugural event, Double or Nothing, was well received by wrestling fans and provided hope that there could actually be a viable alternative to WWE after decades of Vince McMahon's company monopolizing the industry's headlines. 

Blood, swearing and unscripted promos were expected, but there were still questions surrounding how AEW would book its first show. All four of the company's vice presidents were in action as well as a couple of WWE legends and a slew of indie talent unfamiliar to many fans who watched Double or Nothing.

For the most part, the decisions proved AEW is more than capable of booking an entertaining wrestling show.

Here are the smartest and most questionable booking decisions that came from AEW's inaugural event, with Fyter Fest coming up next on June 29.


Smart: Adam Page winning the Casino Battle Royale

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.@theAdamPage's athleticism helps get him an @AEWrestling title shot 😳 Order Double or Nothing on #BRLive: https://t.co/GyGPklSxGc https://t.co/M4I1xc8Gz7

AEW's first important booking decision came a week before Double or Nothing even happened, as the show's expected main event of Pac vs. Adam Page was cancelled after creative differences between the former WWE cruiserweight.

That forced the new promotion to cancel the match and rethink the card. That left Adam Page, slated to be one of the top stars in AEW, with no match.

Rather than introduce "Hangman" at a later show or give him a promo to cut, AEW decided to turn a negative into a positive by making Page the surprise final entrant in the Casino Battle Royale.

He showcased his athleticism, won the first bout in company history and earned a spot in the first-ever AEW World Championship match this August. That's a great way to introduce fans to an underrated star ready to blow up.


Questionable: What went wrong with the Casino Battle Royale format?

This is more of an outlier on the list because it's not a typical match expected to happen regularly, but it was odd nonetheless.

The Casino Battle Royale gave AEW the opportunity to showcase nearly half of its roster, but it was the design of the match that had people talking.

Five wrestlers coming in every three minutes really jumbled together an array of talent and lived up to its name of a battle royale, but it was the inconsistency of when wrestlers came out and the lack of strong introductions for each person that turned the first match in AEW history into a bit of a mess. 

There appeared to be some miscommunication backstage, as ring announcer Justin Roberts initially introduced the second batch of wrestlers minutes before they actually came out and then proceeded with the introduction of another set in much less time than three minutes.

The action itself was nonstop but tough to follow with so many people in the ring at once. It's understandable AEW didn't want to make the format too similar to the Royal Rumble, but if you want to make each wrestler stand out more, a unique entrance helps a lot.

AEW managed to utilize most of the talent as best as it could, but it handicapped itself with the format. 


Smart: Women's Fatal Four-Way Booking

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.@RealBrittBaker knocked the bow off Kylie Rae to help her get the win 😯 https://t.co/pjDZFKyOOn

All around, AEW booked the four women in this match as well as they could have. The debut of Awesome Kong at Double or Nothing was, well, awesome.

Although Jon Moxley's debut at the end of the night was still a huge moment, there were plenty of rumors he was going to show up.

However, no one saw Kong coming, and that's what made her moment stand out. With her entry into the women's match making what was supposed to be a triple-threat into a fatal four-way, no one would've been terribly mad if AEW put the former Impact Wrestling star over.

However, it was Britt Baker, the face of the company's women's division since the start, that earned the win. Pinning Kylie Rae allows her to grow into her plucky underdog persona by taking the loss, and the dominance of Nyla Rose and Kong were preserved all while pushing Baker. It was textbook booking.


Questionable: What was Brandi Rhodes' role with Awesome Kong?

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AWESOME KONG IS HERE 😱 @AEWrestling https://t.co/ayTFWCZzd5

Once Brandi Rhodes announced Awesome Kong as the fourth participant in a women's match featuring Britt Baker, Kylie Rae and Nyla Rose, most assumed that would be the end of her role. However, Rhodes stuck around to corner Kong and seemed on her side throughout the bout.

It raised the question: Why exactly did she prefer the newcomer over the other three competitors? There was little explanation as to why. It just sort of happened.

Perhaps this is the introduction of Rhodes as an authority figure, in which case Kong being her muscle would make a lot of sense. However, that's only a guess at this point.

Smart: Establishing MJF as a top heel

"In case you live under a rock, I'm the fastest rising star in professional wrestling today: Maxwell Jacob Friedman."

MJF was not shy to let the crowd at Double or Nothing know he loves to be hated. We were introduced to the 23-year-old at the immediate start of DoN, as he was one of the first five entrants in the Casino Battle Royale.

Friedman was a cunning, witty heel who quickly became a thorn in the side of most of the match's noteworthy participants, such as Shawn Spears, Billy Gunn, Glacier and Adam Page. His performance in the battle royale alone would've been enough to cement him as one to look out for in the future.

Then, MJF interrupted the AEW world title unveiling and managed to insult legend Bret Hart, Page, Jungle Boy and the Las Vegas audience all within a span of five minutes. The AEW brass gave MJF two opportunities on their inaugural show to catch more heat than any other member of the roster did, and he made the most of it.


Questionable: What is The Dark Order?

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#TheDarkOrder have their sights set on #AEW's tag team division #AEW @stu_dos @eviluno https://t.co/EgYiGkxOxB

Known as Super Smash Bros during their time with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Stupefied and Player Uno made a surprise AEW debut at Double or Nothing when they ambushed the tag teams of Best Friends and Angelico-Jack Evans at the conclusion of their match.

The lights went out for a few seconds and then turned back on to show the newly minted "Dark Order" in the middle of the ring with a gang of masked men who picked apart the other two tag teams.

The issue with this debut was no one in the crowd seemed aware of who the two men were, and no one can really blame them. PWG is not a large enough promotion to where members of their roster can step into the spotlight of a big stage and immediately be recognized.

Having the lights go out typically signifies a huge surprise, so fans at the MGM Grand Arena seemed underwhelmed by what they received. That's not to discredit The Dark Order, but it seemed like the wrong way to introduce the duo and left fans with more questions than answers. Perhaps that's how AEW likes it.


Smart: Not putting over every Vice President

It's been no secret that Cody, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega are the real-life vice presidents of AEW, and at no point have they tried to cover up that fact.

Still, a big question going into Double or Nothing was how exactly the four men would be booked having that authority. It was important for fans to know AEW wasn't just about putting over the faces that run the place and setting up authority figures right off the bat.

Logical booking prevailed that night, with Chris Jericho defeating Omega in the main event to set up a rubber match between the two down the road, and any fears of big egos were put to rest.

Questionable: How can the commentary team steer the ship?

It was their first time commentating together, but there are a few things the trio of Jim Ross, Excalibur and Alex Marvez need to work out before the next event.

The latter two seemed terribly nervous during the opening segment, stumbling over words and missing commercial break cues.

Everyone's human and both seemed to get into the groove of things as the broadcast went on, but the soft-spoken Marvez was especially overpowered at times by Ross and Excalibur.


Smart: Letting Cody be Cody

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We knew Cody vs. Dustin was going to be the most emotional match of the night, but it still managed to exceed expectations through the storytelling.

Watching Cody beat his legendary 50-year-old brother to a bloody pulp was gut-wrenching, but that's what made his post-match promo so satisfying.

The younger Rhodes asking Dustin to be his tag partner while holding back tears seemed genuine and a moment perhaps even more emotional for the brothers themselves than it was for the fans. It seemed no one, not even Dustin, knew what his brother was going to say to him.

Cody made the moment his, and the creative freedom that AEW's talent has to decide what roads their character goes down was on full display.