Quick Takes on AEW Double or Nothing, SummerSlam Main Event, WWE Raw and More
All Elite Wrestling's third installment of Double or Nothing, emanating live from a packed Daily's Place in Jacksonville, Florida, is bound to bring back any energy that has been missing from the product for the past year because of the limited number of fans in attendance.
The final edition of Dynamite ahead of the event, which also featured a capacity crowd at the same venue, was a small taste of what viewers can expect Sunday and once the promotion returns to the road.
WWE is set to follow suit from July en route to a special Saturday SummerSlam show on August 21. If Andrew Zarian from the Mat Men Podcast is to be believed (h/t Paul Davis of WrestlingNews.co), the company is expected to go all out for the event and put together a main event of epic proportions.
Before then, WWE is finally—and thankfully—taking the appropriate steps toward improving the quality of Raw. While far from a must-see show, the latest edition had much more wrestling than usual and kept the filler to a minimum.
This week's Quick Takes will look at what worked for Raw on Monday night (and what still needs to be fixed), Tom Phillips' shocking release from WWE, AEW's women's division becoming a bigger priority and more.
AEW's Return to Full Crowds Will Give Double or Nothing Its Missing Spark
Although AEW has never outright said which event is its equivalent to WWE's WrestleMania, Double or Nothing is arguably the closest thing to being its Show of Shows.
It was the premiere pay-per-view for the company in May 2019, setting the stage for Dynamite's debut on TNT that fall. Last year's installment was the first without fans because of the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, but it still managed to be an entertaining event and served as the ultimate distraction from everything going on in the world.
Thus, it's only fitting that Double or Nothing this year is the first major AEW event to feature a capacity crowd.
It was preceded by an electric edition of Dynamite on Friday that also emanated from a jam-packed Daily's Place. If the atmosphere that evening were any indication, the company's rabid fanbase has been the missing ingredient for the past year and is needed to make the shows as special as they once were.
Having a full quota of fans back in the building will make it much easier to distinguish who has momentum and who doesn't. That was abundantly clear during Dynamite when Darby Allin and Adam Page walked out to standing ovations.
The rowdy crowds were a big reason why those early AEW events were so fun and will help restore that spark to the product, beginning with Double or Nothing on Sunday.
Tom Phillips Was the Best Possible Choice to Replace Michael Cole Eventually
Anyone who has followed the WWE product for a number of years is likely aware of the company's alarming commentator problem and its inability to keep anyone not named Michael Cole in the role long term.
By and large, the commentary on Raw and SmackDown is serviceable and doesn't hinder the quality of the shows. Some are stronger than others, but there can be no doubt that it's a thankless job and that the announcers often don't get the credit they deserve.
That's what makes Tom Phillips' departure so disappointing.
Before being released by WWE this past week, Phillips had honed his craft for close to a decade. His work spanned Raw, SmackDown, NXT and virtually every other brand in between, including 205 Live and NXT UK.
While not the best commentator to come through WWE in recent years, Phillips was talented enough that his dismissal was unjustified, especially coming off of Adnan Virk less-than-remarkable run on Raw. Former UFC and Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith has already been announced as his replacement, but the problem will persist until WWE changes its approach to how its handles the announce desk.
By all accounts, Phillips was passionate and, at the very least, knowledgeable about the product. Cole will need to pass the torch at some point, and Phillips felt like as good of a choice as anyone.
Monday's Wrestling-Heavy Raw Should Signal a Change in Formula for the Show
For the first time in what felt like forever, Monday's edition of Raw featured a heavy emphasis on in-ring action and few backstage segments. It resulted in one of the better shows the red brand has produced all year and was a refreshing change of pace.
Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston, Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka and Riddle vs. Xavier Woods were all excellent and were given an ample amount of time. It's become commonplace for WWE to waste several segments of the show on recaps, repeat matches and pointless promos, but Monday's Raw did an effective job of ensuring that wasn't the case.
The renewed focus on wrestling is a solid step in the direction for Raw, but there is still more work to be done.
For example, having McIntyre vs. Kingston end in a non-finish and immediately announcing a rematch for the following week wasn't wise. Fresh matchups are always key, so as well-wrestled as Flair vs. Asuka was, that should be the last time those longtime rivals lock up for a while.
Additionally, the WWE Championship and Raw Women's Championship pictures would both benefit from an influx of new blood, so that should be considered a priority as well. The important thing is WWE finally appears to be putting in the effort to make Raw better, but whether it can commit to that for more than a few weeks remains to be seen.
Women's Division Must Become a Bigger Priority for AEW Post-Double or Nothing
One of the biggest talking points coming out of the Friday's edition of Dynamite was that Hikaru Shida was presented with an all-new AEW Women's World Championship belt—a significant upgrade over the previous design.
She will have only two days to enjoy it before she almost certainly loses it to Britt Baker at Double or Nothing on Sunday.
Their final face-off on Dynamite was excellently executed and featured one of Shida's first promos in some time. It's a shame that AEW took this long to make her more of a focal point, but the best thing the company can do at this point is ensure it keeps the momentum rolling with the women coming out of the pay-per-view.
Outside of Shida, Baker and possibly Tay Conti, there aren't many women AEW has made matter. Start-stop pushes and injuries are mostly to blame for that, but that issue can be easily fixed following Double or Nothing by featuring them prominently more often.
The Unsanctioned Lights Out match between Baker and Thunder Rosa that headlined Dynamite in mid-March indicated that women's wrestling in AEW is a draw. Kris Statlander, Penelope Ford, Leyla Hirsch and Conti are all potential breakout stars who simply need more chances to shine.
WWE Needs a Marquee Main Event for SummerSlam in Addition to Going All Out
WWE has never ceased to make SummerSlam feel like a major event every August, at least for the past decade. However, it's more important than ever for this year's installment to feel like the Biggest Party of the Summer given fans will be back in the building.
The company has yet to confirm where the event will be held, though Las Vegas has been heavily rumored, with WWE insider Twitter account WrestleVotes reporting as much. Regardless of the location, it's imperative WWE goes all out and books a star-studded card with a marquee main event.
Roman Reigns vs. a returning John Cena would make the most sense on the SmackDown side of things if Cena can clear his acting schedule for the summer. For Raw, Bobby Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar would be the ultimate attraction for the WWE Championship.
That isn't to say WWE should rely entirely on part-timers to sell fans on the show, but Lesnar and Cena would be great gets given that they haven't been around since WrestleMania 36. If a number of other compelling feuds are built up ahead of the event, it could be a stacked card from top to bottom.
Much like WrestleMania and Double or Nothing, SummerSlam should be a celebration of a return to some semblance of normalcy, and a main event for the ages—no matter who it involves—would accomplish that.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.