Views From The Turnbuckle: AEW Double or nothing review; the triumphant return of the fans

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It's not a revelation that wrestling needs a live audience to thrive; it has been a common take since wrestling first went into lockdown mode and fans were not permitted (or permitted in very small numbers) to attend live shows. Still, it cannot be understated how important fans are to wrestling shows. All wrestlers are taught to work by trying to get fans invested in their match and to react. While there have been some great moments in wrestling over the past 14 months, all of them have been hindered in some way by a lack of crowd participation.

It became pretty clear early on in Double or Nothing that it would be very difficult for the show to not be good. The first show with a capacity crowd since last March, the show reintroduced everything that makes wrestling a great live spectacle; fans popping for cool moments, heels getting heat, shock and drama at key moments that elevate matches, even when some things didn't land it was almost refreshing to see a crowd naturally react en masse.

Double or Nothing will be remembered as the PPV where fans fully returned to wrestling. WrestleMania did have fans, many more than Double or Nothing, but it was in a gigantic football stadium and the energy was not the same. Hopefully, for the sake of public health as well as the pro wrestling industry, wrestling fans filling out arenas is the norm going forward.

Stadium Stampede

As has become tradition, I don't give ratings to matches that involve substantial pre-tapes. I'm not sure what to make of this match. For a show that featured a hot crowd for the first time in more than a year, it seemed weird for the main event to mostly be away from the fans and be pre-taped. Fortunately, they did end the match in front of the fans, and the show going off the air with the full crowd singing Judas was great.

The match itself was more serious than last year's match, as was expected, although it did contain a decent amount of comedy as well. Some people don't like the comedy, and some of the set-ups were hokey, but it didn't border on the absurdity that was involved in last year's match, which was a strength given the intensity of the feud coming off of Blood and Guts. I was definitely sports-entertained.

It was interesting that the final battle came down to Sammy Guevara and Shawn Spears, as opposed to MJF and Jericho. Guevara in a lot of ways is the most interesting person in this feud, at least from a character development standpoint, and it was cool that he got the win and stood in the spotlight. MJF and Jericho will probably have one final blow-off singles match, but Guevara vs MJF has the potential to be a real rivalry for the next decade, and its nice to see AEW continue to elevate younger talent.

Kenny Omega vs PAC vs Orange Cassidy: ****1/4

This was not the AEW World Championship match with the strongest build, it really felt like more of a placeholder feud for Omega. I did think the promo Omega cut a few weeks ago while talking to Orange Cassidy in the trainers room was his best promo since turning heel, but overall this wasn't a strong build or a marquee match.

That being said, the match was pretty spectacular. Orange Cassidy isn't a conventional choice to put in a world title match, but he is tremendously over with the fans and this match was built around him scoring convincing near-falls on Omega and PAC and almost winning the title. The quality of the work was incredibly high, and a dominating display of why Omega is considered one of the best workers in history. PAC was on point as well and avoided being involved in the finish, which will set up a singles match between PAC and Omega which should be special.

The Young Bucks vs Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston: ****1/4

Intense match that highlighted The Young Bucks' new heel persona. The Young Bucks originally got over on the US indies as an obnoxious heel team, and over the time as they morphed into babyfaces, they lost some of those elements. Re-established as despicable heels, they have brought a lot of that back, and nobody is better in that role. The mannerisms and arrogance are reminiscent of the NWO, but the Bucks actually take bumps.

Moxley and Kingston were an interesting styles clash since they don't work the kind of style that The Young Bucks normally do. However, this was a great match thanks to the energy and intensity brought by the babyface challengers, working against the arrogance of the Young Bucks. Moxley's entrance with Wild Thing was a homerun, the crowd was electric and it made Moxley look like the biggest star in the business.

Eddie Kingston spent 19 years grinding on the indies waiting for his shot. When he finally got signed by a major company, in a cruel twist of fate, it was during a time period where fans were not allowed or heavily restricted. Kingston did great work during that period, and got over with fans at home. I can't think of anyone who deserved to be cheered by a capacity crowd more than Kingston, and he had one of the best hot tags in recent memory.

Dr. Britt Baker vs Hikaru Shida: ***1/4

Hikaru Shida was a very good champion for AEW, and the women's division saw a lot of improvements during her reign. Shida had a difficult job, working as champion against some inexperienced opponents in a division that was hurt badly by injuries and the pandemic limiting international travel.

That being said, Baker is the obvious person to be the face of the division and the deserving winner. Baker was originally signed as a cool human interest story with some potential, but her improvements both as a wrestler and as a personality have been incredible. She is one of the most popular performers on the entire roster and perhaps the best promo in all of women's wrestling (Bayley might be more versatile). The match was fine; a little stiff, a little sloppy but that isn't always a bad thing, and they built to the finish nicely.

Sting and Darby Allin vs Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky: ***1/2

This was a simple match that was exactly what it should have been. Darby took incredible punishment and sold a ton, to set up a Sting hot tag to win the match. Page and Sky were good in their roles as instigators; they maybe aren't the most interesting tag team but they did their job well. They even teased more tension between Darby and Page, so that could be a singles feud down the line.

I've said before that I'm not the biggest Sting fan, but what he did tonight was awesome. He took bumps, he looked athletic and he was super-over doing all his spots in fron the live audience. He totally overperformed expectations and this was probably the best Sting match in a decade or more. I think they should do a Young Bucks vs Darby/Sting match for the tag titles; it would draw on television.

Cody Rhodes vs Anthony Ogogo: **

The story with this match was that it had a strange build, where Cody leaned into an over-the-top babyface character that felt outdated by modern standards. Ogogo's character was equally cartoonish, but as the heel it was less problematic. I think fans were kind of confused about how to feel about the match, and the result was a match that had a noticeably subdued crowd.

Ogogo was very impressive in his first real match, the guy has tons of potential as a talker and has a lot of charisma, and he looks like he has a high-ceiling as a worker as well. Cody winning felt kind of flat though, especially with Cody not even hitting the Cross Rhodes. I don't know if Ogogo is ready to beat Cody and basically become a top star though, he is more of a project that is off to a good start. Still, I think this was Cody's worst program to date in AEW and a rare miss on his end.

Adam Page vs Brian Cage: ****

A terrific opening match. Page hasn't really been pushed to the moon over the past year, it's more like AEW is keeping him occupied until he inevitably challenges Omega for the title. Maybe his programs since then haven't been the hottest angles, but as his performance shows tonight, he still really over with the audience and feels like a star on the rise. This was a fast-paced match with guys focusing a lot on high-impact moves and it was very effective with the crowd. Both guys felt like big stars, and it had a finish that made sense, with Cage denying the help of Team Taz, which cost him the match. Fun match with a really hot crowd.

Casino Battle Royal: ***1/4

AEW seems to do some sort of battle royal on about half of their PPV shows, and I think at some point it will get old. That being said, the format is pretty fun and the crowd was really into the different guys coming out, even if the action in most of the match was forgettable. The key was that the crowd was really into the final showdown between Jungle Boy and Christian Cage, so it was a big success.

Lio Rush was the joker and will presumably be a member of the roster going forward. Some fans might have expected a bigger name, but Rush is a good signing as long as he is focused on wrestling. Rush is a really talented wrestler who is still very young, but he has also been in his own worst enemy at times. He's got a good pick-up by AEW because they don't need him to be a star, but he certainly has star potential.

Miro vs Lance Archer: **3/4

Two really big guys going at it. They didn't do anything huge in the match, but it had good energy and pacing and it was a heavyweight fight with both guys slugging it out. Miro has been great as a dominant, bully heel and he went strong over Archer, a semi-protected guy, and took out Jake Roberts for good measure. The match was all about continuing to establish Miro as a killer by having him beat a big guy with credibility and they did that.

Riho vs Serena Deeb: ***1/2

This wasn't a match that had a really significant build, nor did it have any incredible spots that would trend as GIFs on social media. What this match did have was a hot crowd who were being treated to the first match of the night, and both women delivered a very high quality, professional match with good back-and-forth action and exciting near-falls. Deeb is a great pro wrestler who makes few mistakes in the ring and everything she does looks great. Riho was a great person to throw out in front of a hot crowd since she is a white-meat babyface that is easy to root for. They worked a simple match that really got over with the crowd.

In the latest episode of the Gentlemen's Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@JesseCollings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) discuss Daniel Bryan. First, they go over his history in WWE and his strange last few years, then they fantasy book some future angles for him and discuss where he could go outside of WWE.