Quick Takes on AEW Double or Nothing, What's Next for WWE's Kevin Owens and More
After such a heartbreaking week in wrestling, All Elite Wrestling's Double or Nothing pay-per-view event Saturday provided the perfect distraction for fans and acted as the ultimate escape from reality, if only briefly.
The event hosted a slew of memorable matches and moments, including a wild Stadium Stampede main event between The Elite and Inner Circle. Like other cinematic matches seen recently in wrestling, it was a spectacle from start to finish and left fans eagerly anticipating a sequel.
Double or Nothing also saw Jon Moxley successfully defend his AEW World Championship against Brodie Lee in an all-out war and Brian Cage debut and win the Casino ladder match. It has already been announced that Moxley and Cage will collide for the title at Fyter Fest, which should be nothing short of incredible.
Meanwhile, AJ Styles is once again a member of the SmackDown roster, as announced Friday night, and the blue brand is better off for it. The Phenomenal One will do well wherever he's positioned, but SmackDown needed the extra star power.
In addition to discussing Styles' return to Friday nights, this week's installment of Quick Takes will analyze the fallout from Double or Nothing, attempt to predict what the future holds for Kevin Owens on Raw, pay tribute to the late, great Shad Gaspard and much more.
Stadium Stampede Continues Trend of Cinematic Masterpieces in Wrestling
WWE set a strong precedent with its back-to-back cinematic matches at WrestleMania 36, with both being critically acclaimed by fans. The company repeated that same formula with the Money in the Bank main events earlier in May and had similar success.
AEW, however, took it to a new level with the Stadium Stampede on Saturday night.
Going into Double or Nothing, no one had any idea what to expect from the heavily touted matchup pitting The Elite against Inner Circle. The only thing known was that it would take place on the gridiron, but there were no guarantees this would work.
Sure enough, the teams went above and beyond in delivering a spectacle. There were enough exciting spots to make the match worthwhile, and the comedy was also well done.
Fans of more traditional wrestling may not have been as fond of the Stadium Stampede, but there was something for everyone to enjoy. It oozed creativity and showcased all of the tremendous talent involved.
As has been noted before, these cinematic matches are only special when done sparingly, and most of them have been exceptionally executed. Stadium Stampede was another example of how, even on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year, going down a different road can result in the best bout of the night.
What's Next for Kevin Owens?
Kevin Owens had a ton of momentum coming out of WrestleMania 36 thanks to his hard-fought win over Seth Rollins, but all of that went away once he randomly disappeared from WWE TV.
Owens later revealed that he suffered an injury during his match with Rollins and that he would be out for the foreseeable future, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him resurface on Monday's Raw. He welcomed Zelina Vega's stable on to The Kevin Owens Show before teaming up with Apollo Crews to defeat the duo of Angel Garza and Austin Theory.
Crews pinning Garza was intended to be the focus of that match, so it was never made clear where Owens will go from here. That said, there are plenty of options for WWE to explore with him, including inserting him into the WWE Championship picture after Backlash on June 14.
During a taped promo he cut on the post-WrestleMania Raw, Owens teased becoming The Prizefighter again and targeting title gold. He and WWE champion Drew McIntyre haven't had many matches together, so it could be a fun feud that would help to re-establish Owens as a main event player.
In the meantime, Owens should continue to remain relevant on Raw by wrestling notable names and bringing back The Kevin Owens Show if need be. He got over big time as a babyface while feuding with Rollins earlier this year, so it would be a crime for him to get lost in the shuffle and not be used in a meaningful manner.
Remembering Shad Gaspard
The wrestling world was hit hard with the news that Shad Gaspard had died at the age of 39. The former WWE Superstar went missing while swimming with his son and instructed lifeguards to save his son's life instead of his own.
During the four years he spent on WWE's main roster from 2006 and 2010, Shad was best known for his Cryme Tyme tag team with JTG. The duo was wildly entertaining and captivated crowds regardless of what they were involved in.
Although they never captured the tag titles together while with WWE, Cryme Tyme reached the peak of their popularity alongside John Cena in the summer of 2008. The trio was the highlight of Raw during that period and worked many matches with the likes of JBL, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase.
They also had a fun feud with Chris Jericho and Big Show over the tag titles heading into SummerSlam 2009. Shad was released from the company before he had a chance to accomplish anything on his own, but he continued to do great work outside of wrestling when it came to writing screenplays, acting in movies and being a father and husband.
More importantly, Shad was a hero. The touching tributes shared this past week should tell you everything you need to know about just how incredible of a human being he was and the amazing legacy he leaves behind.
AJ Styles Being Traded to SmackDown Is What's Best for the Blue Brand
There was plenty of speculation regarding AJ Styles' immediate future in WWE once it was announced that he would be partaking in the Intercontinental Championship tournament on SmackDown despite being a Raw Superstar. One week later, WWE clarified that Styles had been traded to the blue brand.
Styles' run on Raw lasted a little more than one year but featured its fair share of monumental moments. While a member of the Monday night roster, he held the United States Championship for a time, reunited with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and contested a Match of the Year contender with Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank.
After he failed to win the men's Money in the Bank ladder match, it was clear that he wasn't going anywhere fast on Raw. Granted, WWE having the Superstars switch shows at random and not providing an explanation hurts the legitimacy of the brand split, but this was the right call to make.
The Phenomenal One called SmackDown home for nearly three years and was constantly positioned as a top talent there. His return to the blue brand couldn't be coming at a better time with the roster's depth weakened during the coronavirus pandemic because of factors such as Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn choosing to stay home.
It's fairly obvious that he will be going to the final of this Intercontinental title tourney and potentially win it all. He's never held that prestigious prize before, and in his possession, it could finally mean something again.
A feud with Braun Strowman over the Universal Championship (another piece of gold that has alluded him up to this point) shouldn't be ruled out, either. Wherever he ends up on the card, SmackDown will greatly benefit from having him back on board.
Brian Cage Is Perfect Next Opponent for AEW World Champion Jon Moxley
Brian Cage has officially arrived in AEW, and he has his sights set on becoming AEW world champion sooner rather than later.
It was rumored at the onset of the year that Cage had signed with AEW once his contract with Impact Wrestling expired. The report was never confirmed, and with Cage suffering an injury at the time, he was going to have to spend some time on the shelf no matter where he decided to take his talents.
Thus, it made perfect sense for him to be revealed as the mystery ninth entrant in the Casino ladder match at Double or Nothing. His victory earned him the opportunity to compete for the AEW World Championship at a later date, and as we found out soon after the show wrapped up, his date with destiny will come at Fyter Fest in June.
Jon Moxley's first three months as champ haven't been anything out of the ordinary because of the pandemic and not having a crop of strong contenders to work with. Cage can help with that, as he's both credible and an intimidating force.
Before they wage war, AEW should attempt to build up the bout as much as possible and not rush into it the same way it did Moxley vs. Brodie Lee. This feud can be must-see if handled the right way and given the chance to organically play out.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.