It’s the day of All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing 2021 pay-per-view, and I’m rocking up fashionably late with an iced coffee to give my opinions and predictions on the event. I’ve enlisted the help of my fellow writer and comrade, the talented Sam Roberts for this one, as we eagerly wait for the first bell to be rung.
Casino Battle Royale
AEW’s Casino Battle Royale is a staple for their Double or Nothing PPV, and although 20 of the 21 participants are announced prior to the show, it is always buckets of fun. Without going into too much of the entrants, to leave some sort of element of surprise, this year has a healthy mix of tag teams, factions, and a handful of singles wrestlers. The 21st entrant is known as the wild card, or the Joker, and has previously been the likes of Hangman Adam Page in 2019 and Brian Cage in 2020. The Casino Battle Royale has your standard battle royale rules, and last man standing gets a shot at the AEW World Championship.
Tahnee: Looking at the participants for this event, I think that the safe and most likely bet to win is Christian or the Mystery Entrant/The Joker. Historically the wild card has won the match- see Hangman and Brian Cage- but for me, I think this indicates that this year someone else will be the triumphant man. Christian has been put on ice since he arrived to AEW at Revolution, mainly feuding with Team Taz and putting on a stellar match against Frankie Kazarian. He wants to go after the championship, but has taken a step back so far. I think Christian taking the victory here and going on to challenge Omega is the most likely outcome. It establishes Christian working his way up to the title, instead of having the opportunity handed to him, and it makes sense that he’d have an “Edge” (yeah, I couldn’t resist) in this match- Christian has competed in numerous Royal Rumbles throughout his career.
There will definitely be some excellent moments and spots throughout- I think we will have a spot between Christian and Matt Hardy, for sure, considering their history. Jungleboy will most likely hold on until the very end, as well as either Brian Pillman Jr or Max Caster, considering the buzz surrounding both of them. As for the potential wild card- my money is on Paul Wight, who is always a difference maker during battle royales. Outcome: Christian.
Sam: This may seem like an obvious choice. Christian Cage debuted at the last AEW PPV, Revolution 2021 back in March, and soon after seemed to make his intent known. He wordlessly laid claim to the AEW World Title, attempting to hit newly Heel Kenny Omega with the Killswitch.
At first, the fear from fans surrounding Christian’s positioning at the top of the card indicated a failing of the sports framework and win/loss rankings core to the structure of AEW’s title picture. At the same time, it wreaked of “what’s BLANK doing in the IMPACT ZONE!?” The cry that since the mid-2000’s has come to define a proven commodity in another territory, being positioned above the hardworking, homegrown talent. Cage put this to bed. Every time he was seen on screen, it was draped in his “Out Work Everybody” T-shirt – Christian wants the AEW title, and he wants to prove his worth by going through everyone else on the roster.
Depending on the story told throughout the course of this match, Cristian winning a battle royal may either help or hinder this narrative framework. Entering early and outlasting the majority of the roster is the definition of outworking everybody. On the other hand, winning by the skin of his teeth, avoiding conflict and getting the last elimination presents Christian more like his brother Edge, “The Ultimate Opportunist”.
Ultimately my decision here comes down to timing and how to make best use of your talent. Whether as a comedy centric Heel, or as the sniveling NWA Champion of TNA from 2005 to 2007, the consensus appears to be that Cage is better as the bad guy. Upon his debut, it was impossible to see Christian as anything but a conquering hero, returning to full time competition since 2014. Currently a Heel Kenny Omega is the world champion, and while AEW aren’t opposed to Heel vs Heel or Face vs Face dynamics, the easier story to tell is grizzled statesman Christian Cage, working his hardest to fall at the last hurdle.
There is still ample opportunity for a Christian Heel run. But not before he wins this match. And not before he loses his challenge to Kenneth Omegeth. Outcome: Christian Cage
Hangman Page vs Brian Cage w/Taz
Hangman Adam Page has had one hell of a year. Constantly being on top, then getting knocked off, only to crawl his way back up. He was on a winning streak, number one contender, struggling with the notion of facing his former best friends, when Brian Cage decided to show up and destroy the troubled cowboy in an shocking upset on Dynamite. Hangman was not happy about it, and challenged Cage to a rematch at Double or Nothing.
Tahnee: This match feels strange to me, because I think it was meant to be something else involving Team Taz that was derailed by Ricky Starks being injured- so it has a feeling of a last-minute throw-together. Nonetheless, Hangman Page is one of the best all-rounded wrestlers on the roster, and Brian Cage is a hugely powerful and surprisingly fast athlete, so this match when both men are at their best is going to be a lot of fun. Hangman needs this win. I feel like he has been iced too long by AEW, and they are now on a shaky ground where they need to strap the rocket to him and get him red-hot again, if we are to believe he’s going to be our next champion. The man is an absolute star, and he is AEW’s not-so-secret weapon. His confidence needs to be re-established, if we are ever going to see him go for the big platinum and have the guts to challenge Kenny. I also think Brian might pull away from Team Taz after this, and a loss will set this into motion. The era of the cowboy is edging ever closer. Outcome: Hangman Page wins.
Sam: “Hangman” Page is in the midst of one of the grandest Kayfabe redemption stories this industry has ever told. He is however, at the point where his steam train could potentially derail.
While his time with the Dark Order was not only hilarious, but also an important touch point for a more focused attitude in Page, he has come out of it without any clearly defined direction. He had not made his intent known to the audience, but the constant reminders from commentary as week after week Adam Page would defeat opponents with relative ease that he was skyrocketing up the rankings meant there was only one destination for him. With this weekends PPV on the horizon, and “Hangman”’s win/loss record the best in the Men’s Division, he seemed a clear headlining opponent for Kenny Omega.
Then came the pain. Then came Team Taz, and their behemoth FTW Champion “The Machine” Brian Cage. One of the most impressive squash matches in recent history immediately shuffled the deck. “Hangman” was reminded he hadn’t scaled that last mountain yet, Brian Cage reminded the audience that he was a killer in the wings, and as a bonus PAC and Orange Cassidy jumped Page in the rankings – setting up the main event of the show.
Taking the scalp of Adam Page is far more impressive in 2021 than it would have been during his doldrums of late 2019/early 2020. Brian Cage, at the time in danger of losing his status as one of the best big men in the business, is rejuvenated in the eyes of the audience. But his presentation should not come at the detriment of this impressively woven tale of the hero. “Hangman” Adam Page needs to win. Through grit, determination, and other stereotypical adverbs, Page needs this victory to be yet another starting point for a crawl to dethroning Kenny Omega later this year. Cage can take the loss – beating “Hangman” in the first place already gave him so much. Outcome: Hangman Page.
Cody Rhodes w/Arn Anderson vs Anthony Ogogo w/QT Marshall
After QT Marshall’s betrayal of the Nightmare Family and its leader, Cody Rhodes, the villainous stable known as The Factory has been a thorn in the side of the American Nightmare and his faction. Involved in this feud is AEW’s homegrown talent Anthony Ogogo, an talented boxer turned pro-wrestler. He has already made minced meat of several members of the Nightmare Family, and attacked Cody multiple times. Their feud, centering around a heavy USA vs UK theme, has reached a peak and will be decided at the Double or Nothing PPV.
Tahnee: Oh boy. This match. Listen- this match did not need to be anywhere near as controversial or divided as it is. I’m not going to say anything more then what everyone else has already said- which is that both the underlying nationalism concept has been viewed as rather tone-deaf. I don’t necessarily think it’s overtly malicious- it’s a clear homage to the old-school WWF era feuds between countries such as the USA and Canada, except with the UK as the big bad. It just does not land as well in the contemporary climate, especially when there are a great deal of international fans who are, let’s face it, not huge supporters of either country. I’m an Australian, so take it from me- neither the USA or the UK are underdogs, not in life and not in wrestling.
But ignoring what is sure to be a parade of overt nationalism and patriotism from both sides of the ring, I think overall the match is going to be excellent. Anthony Ogogo is an absolute powerhouse who is already becoming a fan-favourite, and Cody Rhodes is, despite his detractors, an excellent and generous wrestler who is very good at in-ring psychology and storytelling. It will be incredibly heartwarming to hear him being announced as his father’s moniker, The American Dream, and Cody is sure to make Ogogo look like a thousand bucks. I think Anthony Ogogo needs to win this one- to establish him in AEW as an up-and-coming new talent, and also because I think Cody needs to start on a path to potential villany. Although he has been a beloved babyface, it’s time for heel Cody to rise from the ashes. Outcome: Anthony Ogogo wins.
Sam: This match is surprisingly hard to call, and I flip flopped on my final decision several times. The creation of The Factory (a villainous off-shoot of Cody Rhodes training school The Nightmare Factory, who felt consistently under the thumb of the Rhodes family) presented QT Marshall et al as petulant children, with admittedly valid critiques. While Cody Rhodes has removed himself indefinitely from the AEW World Title picture, many outside the companies four walls see the unique presentation of one of the promotions founding EVPs to be rather self aggrandizing.
An entranceway exclusively for himself, a character which seems to flip on a dime, due in part with a confliction between the standard American dream working man and a suited and booted millionaire, and segments of television clearly designed not for the benefit of the show overall, but his presentation in his families own reality television tale. Despite these potential pitfalls, Cody was still the hero of this story – he and his family had been betrayed and brutalised by a man they put infinite trust in (Marshall) as well as bright sparks of the future they saw themselves cultivating. One of which was the former Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo.
Had the story remained that way, this would be an easy call for Rhodes. Yes Ogogo is the up and comer, but a valiant loss allows for the happy ending and a future stars propulsive start to life on the DYNAMITE roster. Instead, they’ve muddied the waters somewhat.
Prior to this match, Ogogo and his punching power have been positioned as a deadly force to the rest of the AEW locker room, felling larger opponents with a single punch to the stomach, including leaving Austin Gunn with a mouthful of his own blood. A character like this suffers far more if it loses in its third match, instead of proving its dominance against a proven opponent. You’d presume the win goes to Ogogo. But Cody cut one of the most divisive promos in AEW’s short history. Discussing his pride in America, his future political aspirations, invoking the name of his late Father “The American Dream”, and talking about the lessons he will teach his as yet unborn, mixed race, American daughter.
Cody is setting up a nationalist centric matchup, where as the American on American soil, he is expected to win. To be hyperbolic, losing this match disgraces his country, his father and his daughter. The “American Hero” should win. That is, if this was several decades ago. Instead, the U.S. is a divided nation, with political strife and, as noted by this websites Lizzy Flannigan, an overwhelming loss of national idealism. Ogogo in that same week presented a series of excellent concerns about elements of how America is ran, whether that be foreign policy, health services or immigration.
In a match that should have been about basic betrayal, we are now stuck with a story of national pride, with performers presenting two nations who having very little to be proud of in 2021. Cody Rhodes is an American hero on American soil, with a country full of people who don’t want to be associated with where they live. Anthony Ogogo is being presented as a villain, but comparisons are being drawn between his words and Bret Hart’s late 90’s character – a man who is a hero to the world, an enemy only to America. While the internet favours Ogogo as the man of the hour, for all the reasons expressed earlier around Cody’s presentation, at this moment in time I do not trust the man to put aside his ideals in favour of a younger, better received talent. Outcome: Cody Rhodes wins.
Sting & Darby Allin vs Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page
The newly formed tag team of Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page have been a thorn in the side of Darby Allin and his legendary mentor, Sting. They injured Darby the week before his match against Miro, arguably costing him the TNT belt. They have attacked both Darby and Sting multiple times. They’re hungry for blood, and Darby and Sting are fed up.
Tahnee: This match is going to be a lot of fun. Darby Allin is a phenomenal wrestler, both in athleticism and storytelling, and his feud with Sky and Page feels genuine. Darby is a perpetual underdog, and it’s always satisfying to see him go a bit feral on people who have wronged him. I also have a huge soft spot for Sting, and despite previous reservations, I’m excited to see him back in the ring. I think the bumps and any strenuous spots will be placed on the other three wrestlers, but it will still be great to see what Sting brings to the table, even if it’s mainly in presence alone. This match could go 50/50, but I think Scorpio and Ethan will edge out the win because they need it more. Darby will get pinned to protect Sting, though, probably by relative newcomer Ethan. Outcome: Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page win.
Sam: Finally! A matchup I don’t feel the need to write a novel for.
Sting hasn’t wrestled a live televised match since 2016, but did impress a lot of people in the somewhat well received cinematic street fight at this year’s Revolution. While Darby Allin may no longer be the TNT title holder, he is still one of the most successful commodities in the company. On the other side of the ring stands Scorpio Sky, a man who was more relevant as one-third of the now defunct former Tag Team Champions SCU, than he has since being launched into a middling singles “push”. His tag team partner is “All Ego” Ethan Page, who from the outset was presented as a disappointment for fans – a disappointing surprise reveal, followed up with a televised singles match overrun with basketball commentary, as though even TNT wanted you to change channels.
There is still a position for the latter two names within this company, and the match may even swing in their favour to elongate a feud centred around the history Darby Allin and Ethan Page share outside of AEW. But Sting is a legend in wrestling, Darby Allin is the future of this company. On a night where fans are brought back into an AEW arena in their droves for the first time in a year, the match will likely end in victory for Steve and his son. Outcome: Sting and Darby Allin win.
Miro vs Lance Archer w/Jake “the Snake” Roberts
It’s Miro Day! ‘The Best Man’ Miro is the new TNT champion, after almost killing poor Darby Allin, and he is ready to do the same to all challengers. Enter ‘The Murdahawk’ Lance Archer, who is out for blood and ready for that TNT belt that has eluded him for so long.
Tahnee: This match hurts me. Miro is winning it- he’s on top of the world right now, finally hitting his stride in AEW, and as much as the TNT belt is known for it’s shorter reigns, they cannot remove it from Miro just yet. But Lance. Poor Lance. He really, really, needs a big win here. He’s long overdue for a win. I’m hoping that something happens during the match involving Jake Roberts, possibly Miro remorselessly threatening him- considering their heat after the go-home show- and Lance having to give in. It protects Lance, as well as cementing him as a face, and it truly establishes Miro as an terrifying sociopathic monster. Either way, Miro is winning. Outcome: Miro retains.
Sam: Simply put, Lance Archer has yet to have the AEW career saving match that Brian Cage has had, while Miro has only just won the belt. There’s a push coming here folks, and it’s for the younger man. At least I get to cheer on my uncle Jacob the Snakob. Outcome: Miro retains.
The Young Bucks vs Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston
Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston are out for blood after the Young Bucks betrayed Mox and realigned with Kenny Omega and Don Callis back in April, coupled with the humiliation Omega rained upon Mox and Kingston in the wake of Revolution. The Bucks may have a brand new attitude, and some brand new sneakers, but Mox and Kingston are all heart, all grit, and very angry- and they are determined to put down the Bucks and take the titles.
Tahnee: This match could go either way for me. Personally, I would like to see Mox and Eddie take the titles. They are so over and so red-hot at the moment, and everyone is adoring their banter-filled and heartwarming friendship. It’s a feel-good story of two people finding each other again after being estranged for the longest time- unconditional love at it’s finest. I think seeing Mox and Eddie raise those belts would be an absolutely delightful moment. And there are so many potential matches for them to have in the tag division.
However- the Bucks are arguably the best tag team in the world, and are so in-sync they can move like one entity. They have been a tag team their entire life- there are no mistakes with them, no miscommunications. Basically- it’s hard to convince people that a new tag team of two singles wrestlers could take the belts away from them. That being said- Hangman Page and Kenny Omega managed to keep the belts away from the Bucks.
The thing that’s getting me is Mox is most likely going to go on paternity leave very soon. My tentative guess, for now, is Mox and Kingston winning, and then something happening to Mox in the following Dynamites- meaning that the two will have to possibly vacate the titles. Regardless, I think it’s the best course of action for the Bucks to have them drop the belts- it makes sense for their current storyline. It will drive them deeper into Kenny and Don’s manipulation, and will eventually be a cause of splinters in the Super Elite stable. Outcome: Mox and Eddie win.
Sam: Even as I write this I’m not convinced y’know? The Young Bucks have held these titles long enough that their reign has been cemented, so a title change doesn’t seem out of the question. Moxley and Kingston as the hero of the people, stealing shoes and causing road accidents. They could certainly have an entertaining title run, performing in many tag matches we have yet to see from their time as a duo. (Off the top of my head, they have yet to face any of the big names in the AEW tag division in the likes of FTR, Proud’N’Powerful, Jurassic Express, The Dark Order, The Hollywood Blondes.) Without the titles, and outside of this Elite feud, I fail to see where these two as a tag team can go from here.
The Young Bucks new character dynamics since turning Heel presentes the possibility that they don’t need to be the title holders. Yes they are infinitely more obnoxious when they are on top, but they can still cause friction and ruffle feathers without the gold. There are directions they could go in without challenging immediately, but could always come back around to taking back their belts.
While I find this very difficult to call (while I’ve made arguments above, truth be told I have no idea what the story for either team would be coming out of this), I ultimately fall back on a title change. Moxley and Kingston have been presented as intelligent Faces throughout, and will hopefully have prepared for the various shenanigans up the bejewelled sleeves of The Young Bucks. Outcome: Mox and Eddie win.
Hikaru Shida vs Britt Baker w/Rebel
A match over a year in the making, and highly anticipated, is between women’s champion Hikaru Shida and Dr. Britt Baker. These two have been circling each other ever since Shida won the belt over a year ago, and finally Britt is stepping up to the plate. With a shiny new Women’s World Championship belt on the line, this match is sure to tear the house down.
Tahnee: Hikaru Shida has been an amazing and strong women’s champion throughout the pandemic era. She has carried the division on her back, throughout no-crowds and injuries and the division being reduced to its bare bones. She has helped build it back up, and remained an historical champion in a very tough time. However, it is now time for the next era to begin, and for the torch to be passed. That’s why, I can say with full confidence, that Britt Baker is winning this one. She is red-hot, has been cooking for awhile, and is confident, charismatic, and strong. Britt is winning this one. But the match is sure to be an absolute banger, as both of these women are phenomenal athletes. Outcome: Dr. Britt Baker wins.
Sam: I’m going to give all the love in the world to Hikaru Shida. When AEW started, I was not a fan of her matches. But since she’s become champion she has gone from strength to strength. In the hardest time to be a title holder in perhaps the history of North American professional wrestling, Shida has held the belt for over a year – establishing new and future AEW stars through hard fought/impressive matches (Anna Jay, Tay Conti, Ryo Mizunami, and even Britt Baker herself) while still carrying herself as a true champion. Through her own force of will, in a company that has so far been a let down when it comes to their presentation of women’s wrestling, Hikaru Shida has made sure we sat up and took notice.
All good things must come to an end. And all good things must have a beginning.
For the audience at large, the earliest incarnation of Britt Baker was dead on arrival. With the new swagger and attitude that her 2019 Mean Girls-esque Heel turn has afforded her, she has become the other bright spot in a division lacking representation. Britt Baker isn’t just the Heel the fans love because she is undeniably good – from the word go she has been the offices pick. The time for her to take the reins of this division is now, and in a match that will be bitter sweet, but have been biting on every nearfall. Outcome: Dr. Britt Baker wins.
Stadium Stampede (Inner Circle vs the Pinnacle)
The first Stadium Stampede- an Street Fight inspired, partially cinematic, match based in Daily’s Place football stadium- was held at last year’s Double or Nothing between the then-babyface Elite and the then-heel Inner Circle. This year, it’s between the now-face Inner Circle and the rising and powerful Pinnacle, in their second bout since Blood and Guts. However- if the Inner Circle loses, they will have to disband for good.
Tahnee: Blood and Guts should have been the end of this feud, if I’m being honest. Blood and Guts should be reserved for ending feuds, not Stadium Stampede. However, it is what is is, and it should be a lot of fun. There’s not a whole lot I can predict or say about this match, other than there is sure to be some callbacks to last year, and Sammy and Proud ‘n’ Powerful will hopefully have some funny spots together. I also think that Shawn Spears needs a big moment in this, because he needs his time to shine. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Pinnacle do in a mainly comedic setting. The match will be a lot of fun, and I think the Pinnacle will win. They are red hot right now, and need to be established as a huge powerful force- and what better way then by permanently crushing the Inner Circle and taking over as the number one faction in AEW. The era of MJF is now. Outcome: The Pinnacle win.
Sam: What a backwards story we’ve been told here. This feud was on the slowest burn of all time, developing the conflict within The Inner Circle because of MJF’s involvement over months. Ultimately the reveal of The Pinnacle was tremendous, but from the offset the timings for this rivalry was shot. A systematic beat down of every member of The Inner Circle on week one, resulted in them returning, fine and dandy, on week two. Admittedly, to a raucous applause in front of my TV for one of my favourite back stage brawls of all time, but nevertheless only a week after Jericho had been thrown off a stage, and Sammy Guevara’s face used to cave in a chair.
Pacing has been a major bug bare for many when it comes to The Inner Circle vs The Pinnacle. It doesn’t feel as though it should end now, but at the same time it feels exactly such. With The Pinnacle winning Blood & Guts, predictions from many is that The Inner Circle wins here to set up a third stipulation rubber match, and avoid splitting up AEW’s most established stable. In my opinion, having The Pinnacle win not one, but two bloody brawls, by hook or by crook, makes them the new industry leaders.
This feud is about crowning MJF as the next Chris Jericho. Anoint him in front of a crowd, baying for his blood. Outcome: The Pinnacle win.
Triple Threat Match (PAC vs Orange Cassidy vs Kenny Omega)
The match for the coveted AEW World Championship is between current champion Kenny Omega, ‘the Bastard’ PAC, and ‘Freshly Squeezed’ Orange Cassidy this year. Kenny and PAC have a long and storied history together, as does PAC and Orange Cassidy. Omega has been desperate to knock Orange out of the game for this match, but has ultimately failed. First man to get a pin or a submission wins the title, meaning that Kenny could lose the championship without getting pinned.
Tahnee: It’s far too early in Kenny’s reign for him to lose the title. A triple threat match is a perfect way for Kenny to pull some sneaky tricks on his opponents, which means that both PAC and Orange remain protected. I’m sure we’ll see some Good Brothers’ interference (even though I hope we don’t) and distractions on behalf of the champion. Personally, the Super Elite’s habit of relying on distractions or cheating- although in-character- is getting tired. Kenny is arguably the best active wrestler in the world- he can win without any tricks and I honestly hope he does. The potential presence of both Death Triangle and the Best Friends at ringside in PAC and Orange’s respective corners hopefully neutralizes the threat of the Good Brothers. But Kenny is winning this one, no matter what else goes down. Outcome: Kenny Omega retains.
Sam: I like what they’ve done here, but a triple threat was never going to present an air of doubt for this matchup. Omega is too good at the top of the card to be replaced, and while both of his opponents deserve their own run some day, compared to Omega they’re barely at a crawl. Omega also has to win so that my paragraphs for the first two matches make sense. Outcome: Kenny Omega retains.