Always Bet on Red: AEW Double or Nothing 2021 Recap and Review

Or: An Inquiry to Peek at DJ Konnan's Record Collection

Out of AEW’s four annual pay-per-view events, there’s still a special air surrounding Double or Nothing. After all, it’s the company’s anniversary show; the event that sets the tone for the year. In 2020, the company weathered the hard pivot known as COVID to put on a very good show, highlighted by a wild brawl between Jon Moxley and the late Brodie Lee and a highlight in the genre of cinematic wrestling in the first Stadium Stampede match. This year’s event marks a new beginning as we turn a corner from a global pandemic and AEW hosts a sold-out crowd for the first time on pay-per-view in 15 months (for better or worse). 

Sunday’s event was full of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, only letting up occasionally (and for long stretches during its main event). As to not bring the word count up any higher (we’re here to discuss a five-hour show, folks), we’re going to skip the contextualization and get right into the event.

The Buy In — NWA World Women’s Championship Match: Serena Deeb (c) def. Riho

A wildly intriguing matchup from the time it was announced, Riho vs. Deeb features a wrestler incredibly talented in eluding the offense of her opponent (the former) and a wrestler equally talented in tying her opponent into knots, now with a fresh moniker, “The Woman of a Thousand Holds” (the latter). Deeb and Riho spent the first few moments of the match dodging each other, and after extending her hand for some sportsmanship, Riho received a hard slap from Deeb (which provoked the first round of booing of the night). It was quickly returned by Riho and all pleasantries were suspended in favor of a hard fought match where Deeb showed more than a few heelish tendencies. It was certainly a good look for her, a refreshing change of pace from the respected veteran archetype she’s been playing for the past year. 

Sometimes a heel turn is exactly what someone needs to display a little more personality. Being a heel is fun because it’s easy. There are only a few ways to get a crowd on your side in a meaningful way, but hundreds of ways to piss them off. 

Deeb spent the match working on Riho’s knee, which paid off when she tweaked it mightily on a diving foot stomp. Deeb’s selling in this match was pretty fantastic; another hallmark of her heretofore unexplained heel turn. Riho missed a diving foot stomp on the apron and Deeb caught her in another dragon screw leg whip, and momentarily, another with both of Riho’s legs. Riho still stayed in the fight for most of the match, including a nice double foot stomp on the back of Deeb’s head. The final moments of the match saw a few impressive escapes and nearfalls for Riho, but after jamming her knee repeatedly into the mat and finally cinching in the Serenity Lock, Deeb eked out the win.

“Hangman” Adam Page def. Brian Cage

As Cage came out rocking some weird cyborg gear—like a gym dad who is weirdly super fucking into Halloween—Taz spoke about disagreeing with his decision to take on Page one-on-one, which he was somewhat manipulated into by the savvy Hangman, who took advantage of his tenuous relationship with Team Taz, even suggesting he might leave the group outright. Hangman entered Daily’s Place to an incredible ovation, which made me smile after watching wrestling with sparse and non-existent crowds for the past 1 ⅓ years.

The match started hot and heavy, as you’d probably imagine. Both competitors were extremely game for opening this show, with big move after big move flooding the opening minutes of the pay-per-view. Toward the midpoint, Page reversed a second-rope powerbomb into a hurricanrana and the crowd went unglued. Even against a power wrestler like Cage, Hangman remains one of the heaviest hitters in AEW, laying Cage out with a forearm. Not to be outdone in the hoss department, Cage suplexed Page from the middle rope outside onto the ramp and hit a top rope TKO. He went for an ill-advised Buckshot Lariat onto Hangman, which got reversed into a TKO from Page. 

After Hook and Ricky Starks came to Cage’s aid (the latter sliding in the FTW Championship), the Machine rejected it and Hangman managed to slip out in the distraction and hit a Buckshot Lariat for the win. As the crowd cheered wildly and Hangman toasted them upon his exit, Cage walked away from his Team Taz compatriots after pushing them in frustration. 

AEW World Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks (c) def. Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston

It’s safe to say Kingston and Mox had the mental advantage coming into this match after stealing their Dior Air Jordan 1s and Mox nearly flinging a pair into the crowd upon their entrance. (“Look on StockX,” an irate Nick Jackson said on Countdown to Double or Nothing, “Google it, you mark!”) Extra points to Kingston for his Chico’s Bail Bonds jersey. The Bucks matched their Dior 1 stunt by rocking a pair of Jordan 1s designed by streetwear legend (and Louis Vuitton creative director) Virgil Abloh. (As most Jordan designs and colorways come with colloquial nicknames, these are known in the sneaker community as the Virgils—one of many redesigns Abloh created for the Nike brand—not to be confused with anything related to fuck money or meat sauce.)

Before they could fully get their signature pose in, Mox and Kingston attacked them and sent the fight outside of the ring, brawling with Matt and Nick outside of the ring for minutes before the match’s official start (which happened after leveling Brandon Cutler with the Violent Crown). 

Kingston and Mox started out with a very good gameplan by bringing the fight to the finesse-driven Bucks, but the Jackson Brothers manage to wrest the advantage from their challengers and dictate the pace of the match. Classic Young Bucks antics carry the next section of the match, mockingly playing up to the crowd before Mox pulled Matt out of the ring and stuffed him with a lariat. Not too much time passed before Karl Anderson hit the ramp. Mox smartly caught Doc Gallows sneaking to the ring from behind as Frankie Kazarian tackled Anderson and leveled him with punches, chasing him to the back. While all this happened, Matt sprayed the cold spray into Mox’s eyes and within a few moments, he and his younger brother spiked Mox on the ramp with an Indytaker. 

Matt and Nick stomped and pounded a bloody Mox and proceeded to isolate him from his partner. The drama leading to the tag from Mox to Kingston was indelible, with several teases bringing the crowd up and sending them back down, but finally Mox German suplexed both Bucks simultaneously before Kingston got that hot tag. He no-sold some punches from Nick while locking Matt in the Stretch Plum, but finally got superkicked after chopping Matt in the corner. 

After Mox was tagged back in, he got hit with a double superkick and locked Nick in the rear naked choke after the Bucks went for More Bang for Your Buck, which was broken up by a 450 splash. Mox and Kingston took one of the Dior 1s and used it to hit a Doomsday Device on Nick, but the count was broken up by Matt. The Bucks hit Mox with a superkick from one brother, then the other, and then a double, to which Mox kicked out at one. To finish the match, the Bucks hit a BTE Trigger, but Mox didn’t drop (in fact, he continued talking shit), so they hit him with four more consecutively and finally scored the pinfall.

Casino Battle Royale: Jungle Boy Was the Last Man Standing

Christian Cage, my personal pick to win the match, ended up drawing the first suit along with Powerhouse Hobbs, who he was brawling with backstage on Friday. Also in the first suit was Max Caster, who caught Christian with a pretty savage diss about him only being hot when he had an Edge and said he was gonna catch Matt Sydal slippin’ (a reference to last year’s Casino Battle Royale), but took too long to get Dustin Rhodes’ attention, so he loses half a mic for that one.

Max Caster Battle Rap Rating: 3 Mics

Sydal was eliminated early by Caster in less time than it took Dustin to look up at him while he was rapping, and Caster was eliminated by Christian. I was certain Cage and Hobbs would go far, and if you’ve been reading my recaps for a while, you know how much I love watching Powerhouse Hobbs bully motherfuckers. The second suit dropped and among them was Matt Hardy and Isiah Kassidy—the latter of whom was promised along with Marq Quen by Hardy that his managerial fee would drop to 15% if Private Party helped him win—Preston “10” Vance, and Nick Comorato, both of whom were eliminated early by Dustin Rhodes. An angry Comorato knocked Dustin loopy with his own bullrope and the elder Rhodes was eliminated by Hobbs. 

The Varsity Blondes, Colt Cabana, Anthony Bowens, and Penta El Cero Miedo (in a cool Joker colorway) were the next suit to enter. The good thing about this battle royal is the field was emptied efficiently and ended up being mercifully brief; the eliminations happened quickly and without much fanfare, much like I presume they would happen if such a thing wasn’t scripted. The next suit included Jungle Boy, Marq Quen, Aaron Solow (standing in for an injured QT Marshall), Evil Uno, and Lee Johnson. Evil Uno was eliminated by Penta and Penta was eliminated by Jungle Boy; both Hobbs and Christian reentered the match quickly after these eliminations. Hobbs was ultimately eliminated by Christian (booooo!) as the Hardy Family Office contingent squared up against him and Jungle Boy.

Who happened to pull the Joker this year? Well, it’s Lio Rush! A world-traveled veteran who leveled up immensely when he went to WWE (which is saying a lot, because he was money on the indies) and leveled up again in a great run with MLW and NJPW Strong after being released by the “big leagues.” Lio came in and hit some dazzling moves on Private Party before nearly being eliminated by Hardy, but catching him with ricochet Stunner off the bottom rope. After trying to break up Silly String, Lio was eliminated by Matt Hardy, but Private Party was eliminated trying to attempt Silly String again. The final three were Christian, Hardy, and Jungle Boy; Hardy tried to form an alliance with Christian but got eliminated for his trouble. Jungle Boy and Christian had a great little contest as the final two, as the veteran was nearly eliminated a few times and the two competitors struggled on the apron. Jungle Jack Perry slid around the ringpost after being pushed and he eliminated Christian for the big win. 

It was teased in his 10-minute bout against then-AEW World Champion Chris Jericho, but now we can really see what the kid is made of in a big time main event match. 

Cody Rhodes def. Anthony Ogogo

To preface this match, I was going to write a whole thing about how while Our Cool Republican Boss was out here screaming ‘MURICA and delusionally predicting an America where his biracial child will not have to encounter racism, Ogogo was on Twitter decrying the racist monument of Stone Mountain, not too far from where Cody grew up—but I think you all get it. Even from the context of AEW programming, this whole patriotic angle was very half-baked and escalated quickly. 

To make matters worse, Cody doubled down on his tone-deaf promo from a couple weeks back by coming out wearing a Revolutionary War-inspired ring jacket. 

There were a lot of factors to be embarrassed by in the buildup to this match—one of many being how QT Marshall spent several weeks being the best heel on the show only to be the appetizer for this bad angle—but a very big one being how Rhodes wrote Ogogo off by saying, “He’s not a wrestler, not yet.” Sure his strength is boxing, as augmented by an early bolo punch, but Ogogo was pretty impressive here. Marshall snuck a punch in and got chased by Arn Anderson by a chair amidst “USA” chants from the crowd and a flag being waved opposite the hard cam. Ogogo’s performance was pretty impressive; he has good ring presence, great timing, and the strength to pull off moves a lot of full-time wrestlers couldn’t pull off. In the midst of a Figure Four leglock, Ogogo tagged Cody with a punch to gain enough momentum to reverse the hold, but his inexperience was highlighted when he hit Cody with a second bolo and an uppercut, only for Paul Turner to not count a pin because Cody was under the bottom rope. Our Cool Republican Boss hit Ogogo with a Vertebreaker for the win.


Look, I’m not big on the theory that wins and losses matter all that much in wrestling. Lots of wrestlers have come out looking better with a loss than they did with a win. But what did Cody winning accomplish here? A Memorial Day PR stunt? When QT Marshall was doing the best heel work of anyone in AEW, he took a very inconsequential loss to Cody. Okay, that’s fine; QT obviously has a lot going on aside from being an onscreen talent for AEW. But to take a guy with a tremendous upside like Anthony Ogogo—he looks like an illustration from a Greek mythology textbook, he has as big a personality as anyone who’s ever drawn money in any combat sport, he medaled in the fucking Olympics—and beat him over some bullshit “hot button” issue because his character talked about America with a shitty attitude? The Cody Rhodes character didn’t need a win that badly. America didn’t need a win that badly. Are we going to spend the next 245 years still acting like America is the underdog in any scenario?

Cody says he knows it’s not cool to say he’s proud to be an American. No, Cody. It’s not cool to pretend you’re something you’re not. You’re not fighting from underneath. You’re an executive. You’ve made yourself some kind of symbol of corporate cool in a world where most reasonable people have a severe distrust for corporations. You’ve made yourself too big to fail, which make you look out-of-touch when you position yourself into some disingenuously folksy, working class framework.

AEW had a chance to make a star, but instead they fed him to Cody Rhodes, the guy who wins the game because he was born on third base. The guy who pretends he’s an underdog to get people to rally behind him although he never really faces any adversity. His character is has been assiduously crafted as the symbol of American grit, toughness, and hard work, but it doesn’t take a Dorian Gray mirror to reflect that the character is actually a symbol of American privilege and arrogance.

TNT Championship Match: Miro (c) def. Lance Archer

This would be a hoss fight to look forward to if Lance Archer’s mystique hasn’t been squandered in the year he’s been in AEW. He’s supposed to be the colossal ass-kicker but hasn’t won any match of true significance since he’s showed up. Here, he did what he usually does, dominated the opening minutes of the match to look like a monster. But he’s been here before and it hasn’t produced results, so when Miro took the advantage and glowered at the crowd, it felt like a foregone conclusion that he would win. The commentary team constantly put over the fact that Archer was a formidable threat, like his track record in AEW isn’t well-documented.

Though there were no “Miro’s gonna kill you” chants like on Friday, sections of the crowd were behind him when he set up for those chest kicks. Eventually, Jake Roberts came out with a bag (presumably with a snake in it), to which Miro knocked the hell out of Roberts and threw the bag up the ramp. Archer came in with a chokeslam and got a two-count. After narrowly escaping Archer on a couple occasions, Miro went for a thrust kick and Game Over, winning by referee stoppage. Miro is well on his way to becoming the domineering ass-kicker he was supposed to be in WWE, and I’m very pleased about that.

AEW Women’s World Championship Match: Dr. Britt Baker def. Hikaru Shida (c) 

Dr. Baker (along with Reba [Rebel]) came out to a rousing ovation; a far cry from when she was earmarked as the face of the women’s division nearly two years ago to a great deal of fan backlash. Shida held the division down during the pandemic, and the buildup to this match heavily suggested that her reward would be to pass the torch as soon as fans return. But what a fitting way for her to lose her championship, against the person whose nose she broke, kicking off a yearlong slow-burn rivalry.

The match started off with dueling chants and finisher teases followed by quick escapes, and then a solid spate of submission wrestling. Then the match started to get ugly as Shida slammed Dr. Baker’s head square against the guard rail after taking the fight to the outside. Dr. Baker’s big-time matches are always stiff to the point of blurring the line between simulated and real violence; sometimes even I forget this point until the bell rings. Dr. Baker is as tough as a competitor there is in AEW, which has been proven a few times at this point, and the best part about her matches is that they get nasty. 

Shida held the advantage for decent stretches of this match, laying in more than a few stiff-looking shots of her own and trying to pull her nose off of her scalp. The midpoint of the match featured champion and challenger trading heavy shots and Shida countering a curb stomp into a Stretch Muffler. After a two-count on the Air Raid Crash, Dr. Baker went for Lockjaw, and Shida almost managed to reach the bottom rope before Dr. Baker repositioned herself multiple times. Shida finally escaped by virtue of a fireman’s carry. As Shida locked in the Stretch Muffler again, Reba (Rebel) distracted her with the title for a nearfall. Reba (Rebel) went to hit Shida with the crutch but hit Dr. Baker instead, and managed to get a two-count. As Reba (Rebel) was getting kicked out of ringside, Dr. Baker curb stomped Shida on the championship, and still only got a two-count; then Dr. Baker kicked out of Tamashii. Finally, Dr. Baker locked in Lockjaw a second time after trying a crucifix pin and Shida had no choice but to tap out. 

As she celebrated, Tony Schiavone—her best frenemy—greeted her with a hug, as everything comes full circle.

Sting & Darby Allin def. Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page

Apropos of nothing, I love Sky and Page’s entrance graphic as Men of the Year, as it’s basically just a bootleg GQ feature spread. Darby’s arty short film featured him heading down a skate ramp and skateboarding a desert highway as Sting picked him up in a ‘60s model Chevy Impala (a damn sight better than the Toyota Tacoma from their street fight against Team Taz). 

Sting entered the arena to a huge ovation, as did Darby with some Sting Tribute Facepaint, and Darby didn’t take any time to get started, diving through the ropes onto Page—who, lest we forget, literally threw him down a flight of concrete steps. Sting also got all the way into the match early, diving off the poker chips onto Page and Sky outside of the ring. Sting and Darby took the early advantage, much to the crowd’s delight, but Sky and Page quickly took it back. 

For much of the match, Scorpio wore the imprint of Darby’s face paint like it was his own, and he and Page made quick, fundamental transitions to wear Allin down for a good portion of the match. (Sting was tagged in but Aubrey Edwards didn’t see it and demanded he return to his corner.) Page gorilla pressed Darby and threw him all the way out to the front row where his brothers were seated. Sting attempted to revive Darby, struggling to decide whether he should throw Darby’s dead weight back into the ring or suffer a count out loss, but Darby rolled back into the ring himself before the ten count was completed. 

Sting managed to hit a Stinger Splash and locked in the Scorpion Death Lock even though he wasn’t the legal man, which brought Scorpio Sky in to lock in a heel hook on Darby. Finally, Scorp and Sting faced off (a childhood dream for the former), trading punches. Sky eluded the Stinger Splash and went for a cutter, but Sting countered it into a Scorpion Death Drop for the win.

Three-Way AEW World Championship Match: Kenny Omega (c) def. PAC & Orange Cassidy

To start the match, PAC went right after Omega, who tangled himself in the ropes and ordered Bryce Remsburg to back him up, even though there are no disqualifications in this match. After Omega and PAC hit a double cross body, Cassidy (very lacksadsaically) tried to pin both competitors before going full-speed with dives and tornado DDTs. To complement what I said about PAC being a try-hard last week, Kenny is a try-hard as well but is wildly successful when he’s loose and improvisational before he goes in for the kill. In this match, he spent a few lengthy stretches letting PAC and Orange fight it out, then sneaking in to hit combination versions of his signature moves. Cassidy tried to get in where he could fit in, clutching a nice pinning combination for a long two-count before getting stung with a backbreaker from Omega. A series of pinning attempts and savvy counters by Omega and Orange was broken up by a brutal 450 splash from PAC. 

Omega began to spam Snapdragon suplexes, delivering a V-Trigger to Cassidy but getting countered by PAC into a German. After going for an avalanche Snapdragon, Orange successfully got his hands into his pockets, leading PAC to deliver an avalanche German. The match was an excellent deployment of each wrestler’s strengths used in creative ways, like Omega transitioning PAC into a deadlift German suplex or Orange sticking his hands into his pockets and falling out to avoid a V-Trigger. After the avalanche Falcon Arrow, Orange ran into the ring, pushed PAC out of it, and pinned Kenny for a very long two-count. PAC hit Cassidy with a low blow and then a Black Arrow, which led to Kenny breaking up the count just in time. PAC reversed the One-Winged Angel into a Brutalizer, which got broken up by an Orange Punch; Cassidy hit a Beach Break for a two-count!

After two Orange Punches, Don Callis left the announcer’s position; after a second one to PAC, Callis pulled Remsburg out of the ring to break up the count. Kenny tried to take Orange off the top rope, but got floored by some headbutts from Cassidy. PAC locked in the Brutalizer on Orange; Kenny tried to break it up and when he couldn’t, flattened Remsburg instead. Callis tossed Kenny title belts to lay out his opponents. After three belt shots to PAC, Cassidy laid out Omega with the Orange Punch and went for the pin as Aubrey Edwards came in for the count. Cassidy only got two, but transitioned into a crucifix pin to get a three-count on Orange.

Announcement: Tony offered a reminder that AEW Rampage is coming to TNT in August, but wait, there’s more! A new analyst has been hired for the announce team of the new show, as well as a coach for AEW: Mark Henry! Pretty cool news, as Henry has been a well-respected broadcaster over at Busted Open Radio, and his insight would definitely be valued in AEW.

Stadium Stampede Match: The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Santana & Ortiz, Sammy Guevara, & Jake Hager) def. The Pinnacle (MJF, Wardlow, FTR, Shawn Spears, & Tully Blanchard)

MJF hopped out of a limo to cut a little promo on Jericho, only to find the Inner Circle rappelling down from the scoreboard to enter the stadium rocking matching motorcycle vests. The Inner Circle tried to bust into the limo only for the rest of the Pinnacle to show up in FTR’s custom truck (a nice little callback, wonder how they got it back from the Butcher and the Blade). For some reason there’s a fire pit near the ring, and Wardlow and Hager tried to shove each other’s faces into the flames. As Max exited the limo, thinking all was safe, Jericho was waiting right behind him. 

For some other reason, there was a fire extinguisher in the limo’s trunk, with which Max sprayed Jericho right in the face with it before a chase to the back ensued. Megaphone and cookie sheet hijinks were had, as well as Jericho smacking Max in the head with a Wet Floor sign. In a room in the stadium, Jaguars assistant head coach Charlie Strong threw Jericho some footballs and head coach Urban Meyer handed him a computer to use on Max. “Have a great season,” Jericho said to the coaches as he kept going after MJF.

Wardlow nearly locked Hager in the freezer but wasn’t successful, so hit him in the head with empty water jugs instead. They pushed each other into the freezer, which had what looked like fake pig carcasses hanging, and brawled in there for a few seconds. Eventually, Wardlow speared Hager through some drywall—after a few crazy hard punches which Hager responded to with the finger. Playing Stadium Stampede relatively seriously is a move squarely in the bounds of how the Pinnacle needs to be perceived, but it most certainly doesn’t make for all that fun a viewing experience. Stadium Stampede 1 was a classic because of its utter fucking silliness; playing a match like this straight as tough guys really takes away the replay value from such a long match. 

Guevara found Spears in a room full of chairs (get it?), where they brawled for about 30 seconds before heading out into the concourse where Sammy flipped off a wall. He also jumped off a forklift to kick Spears, showing off his parkour bonafides. Spears gained the upper hand as he lawn-darted Sammy into a garage door. Guevara nearly choked Spears out with an extension cord and seconds later got hit in the face with a ladder. Spears then handcuffed Sammy to a shelf and went looking for the rest of his team, while Sammy conveniently found some bolt cutters.

Santana & Ortiz found FTR in one of the field’s many lounges, where they brawled with randos before facing each other down. They shared a toast before glancing over at the DJ—it’s Konnan, how’s that for a callback?—before brawling all over the bar. You know Konnan’s probably got some choice Cypress Hill white label twelve-inches in his record collection. Ortiz attempted to choke Harwood with a serving tray as Tully tried to sneak up on him with a stick and was stopped by Konnan. Ortiz and Harwood attempted to box for a second before just deciding to continue throwing each other into stuff. After Ortiz took Harwood out with a trash can, Wheeler threw beer bottles at him; he and Santana brawled into the elevator.

In the equipment area, Wardlow and Hager brawled on top of a golf cart, where Hager gave a low blow and chokeslammed Wardlow into a pallet structure. Jericho and MJF were seen brawling in the stadium offices, using a cardboard cutout of Shahid Khan in their fight. Jericho stapled a Thank You card to Max’s head and then ripped it off. Max hit a piledriver on Jericho right on the boardroom table. Max tried to hit Jericho’s injured hand with a hammer, but Jericho beat him to the punch with a trash can, finding Floyd the Bat conveniently sitting there afterward. Jericho sent Max right through the glass window of an office door. The Inner Circle’s biker friends chased down Spears and nearly ran him over.

Jericho and Max finally found themselves brawling into Daily’s Place, brawling in the upper deck. After nearly being pushed off, Jericho powerbombed Max through a fixture. Sammy, gaining a measure of misplaced revenge from last year, ran Spears over with the golf cart. In the ring, Spears and Guevara fought, and after Sammy tried to springboard off the top rope, Spears hit him almost in the throat with a chair. Spears hit him right in the face with a chair but only got a two-count. Guevara curb stomped Spears’ face right into the chair Spears set up between the bottom and second ropes, and then hit a 630 senton for the win. 

As the show closed, the Inner Circle stood victorious, middle fingers up, as the crowd sang “Judas.” Stadium Stampede 2 was kind of a slog to watch, but I’ve got to admit I wasn’t ready to see the Inner Circle break up just yet, so I’m pleased AEW went with the happy ending. The match would have been much worse had the result gone the other way.