Thursday, August 5, 2021

AEW Double or Nothing put spotlight on Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara

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All Elite Wrestling has officially moved out the pandemic era with a “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view that featured long-awaited moments, some fantastic storytelling and matches that set up the company’s future with its raucous crowd back.

Jungle Boy, with the fans at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville singing his “Tarzan Boy” theme song, won the Casino Battle Royale on Sunday and earned an AEW championship match against Kenny Omega on this Friday’s “AEW Dynamite.” His long-awaited push to the top of the card could not have been scripted better being in the final three with legends Matt Hardy and Christian Cage. After tossing Cage out for the win, the former WWE star provided the seal of approval with a hug of appreciation with Jungle Boy.

The investment in the younger talent didn’t stop there.

Sammy Guevara continues to benefit most from being in the Inner Circle — who rappelled down the Jaguars’ scoreboard to open the match — and may have had his biggest moment so far in the company. It was he that ended the Stadium Stampede match against the Pinnacle and insured the faction did not have to break up by pinning Shawn Spears in the middle of the ring. Remember, it was Guevara that originally had tension with MJF and left the group at one point. But now, he was being lifted on Jake Hager’s shoulders in celebration for the feel-good moment to close the show in the main event.

The match itself, which had cool cameos from Konnan and Jaguars coaches Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong and a cutout of team owner Shahid Khan, wasn’t as good as the original. This version felt more like a solid action movie that dragged a bit compared to the skit comedy we got last year. It did hit the right note at the end and will likely lead to MJF against Chris Jericho at “All Out” in Chicago on Sept. 5.

Unlike Jungle Boy and Guevara, Britt Baker is already a main-event-level player in her division. Her résumé is finally complete now that Baker, who is over enough to get a mixed crowd reaction as a heel, finally became AEW women’s champion. It took some shenanigans, a curb stomp on the title belt and finally the Lockjaw submission, but the doctor is finally golden. The match itself was filled with the nastiness and physicality you would expect between her and rival Hikaru Shida and was one of the best on the show. Best friend Tony Schiavone leaving the commentary table to give Baker a hug was a really nice touch.

Speaking about main-event players, Orange Cassidy solidified his spot there in a high drama AEW world championship match between he, Omega and PAC filled with some questionable tactics late. Those give Cassidy a legitimate gripe for a singles match against Omega, who reversed him into a crucifix for the win. While legal in a triple threat match, Omega’s manager Don Callis pulled Orange off the champion before what looked like a sure three count. Omega also knocked out the ref on purpose with Cassidy nearly tapping to PAC’s Brutalizer. The crowd was clearly behind Cassidy, who moved to uber-babyface status and should stay in the title hunt for a little bit. Beating him only adds to Omega’s heel heat.      

There are a few others things to keep an eye on as far as wrestlers potentially ready for pushes. Adam “Hangman” Page won his match over Brian Cage, avenging his only loss of 2021. He may be getting ready for a run at Omega at some point this year. Brian Cage’s days with Team Taz also appear to be nearing their end. He was already on shaky ground with group but not accepting their help to win the match and keeping his promise to Hangman could see him break away. Cage, who has made tossing around grown men an art form, needs a fresh start and some meaningful wins.

One of the up and comers AEW handed the short straw to was Anthony Ogogo. Building up the former English boxer as a devastating force, with a kidney punch that means the end, had been the saving grace to this whole Nightmare Family feud. Then Cody made it a match about America vs. England (One of our closest allies, remember the “special relationship.”) Granted, a match about American pride certainly works on Memorial Day weekend, but this story didn’t need it.

So Cody comes out in an outfit that’s part Revolutionary War soldier, part Homelander from “The Boys” and beats Ogogo in the middle of the ring on the newcomer’s first pay-per-view match. Ogogo, whose in-ring performance proved he has a high celling, can certainly be rebuilt, but there was no need to have him lose this quickly. This all would have worked better as their second match, not their first.

While “Double or Nothing” was certainly about shining a bright light on new stars, it was also a big night for one of wrestling’s biggest legends. Sting, 62, made his official return to the ring after six years and used a counter into a Scorpion Death Drop to earn him and Darby Allin the win over Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky. Sting even took off the t-shirt and wrestled in his traditional gear while proving he still has some miles on the tires if AEW continues to use him correctly.

Allin handled most of the action in the match, but the short spurts Sting was used in were effective and the bumps he took were limited. He did get suplexed on the ramp and dove off the poker-chips prop onto Sky and Ethan Page before the bell even rang. He still had energy, played the hits well and even did a Red Dragon roll in the corner. For now, it appears he and Allin will be sticking together. Allin’s disregard for his body (getting tossed from the ring into his brothers sitting in the front row) and need to protect Sting’s seem like a perfect match.

Notes

One of the other bouts that popped was the tag team championship match between The Young Bucks and Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston. It felt like a late ’80s tag team match with heavy-on-character moments early based on The Bucks’ cockiness and ending with the edge of the more modern era. All four guys’ charisma shined through. Hope this isn’t the last we of this pairing.

Miro’s as-advertised hoss fight with Lance Archer was short and explosive but didn’t stand out on the loaded card. The former WWE star maintained his monster status by making Archer pass out for the win. AEW needs to give Miro a program with a true babyface next to get fans more emotionally invested.

Serena Deeb beat Riho to retain the NWA women’s championship on the pre-show in a beautiful pro wrestling match. Deeb, the heel, worked Riho’s knee the whole way. Lots of false finishes before Deeb made Riho tap out to the Serenity submission on her injured knee.

Mark Henry was revealed to be joining AEW as an analyst for its new show “AEW Rampage” coming to TNT in August. He will also be a coach backstage. (Henry is also technically the fourth former WWE star – Matt Hardy, Christian, Paul Wight – Randy Orton sent to AEW.)

Former WWE, MLW and NJPW standout Lio Rush was the surprise Joker in the Casino Battle Royale. Rush has talent and there are plenty of people he can have good matches with even if it’s for a short run.

Biggest winner: Jungle Boy

Biggest loser: Anthony Ogogo

Best match: Orange Cassidy vs. Kenny Omega vs. PAC

Grade: A-

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