AEW’s maiden voyage, Double or Nothing, eclipsed all reasonable expectations on Saturday night. We are going to have to see how they handle and sustain weekly television before making any broad proclamations that they are knocking on WWE’s doorstep as far as material competition is concerned, but there are already elements of it that should cause WWE to adapt.
One I want to focus on right now is the way the end of the show was paced. The final three matches of the evening — Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes, the Young Bucks vs. the Lucha Bros., and Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega — were all supremely executed. What made them even better was that they went in a sequential order where you didn’t possibly think what happened before it could be matched, and then it was.
Cody vs. Dustin had blood, gore, and family drama. Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros. had wrestling choreography that you look at and can’t believe humans are capable of doing that. Jericho vs. Omega had the surprise (to me at least) of Jericho winning clean followed by Jon Moxley laying waste to both of them to the delight of the raucous crowd. The last 90 or so minutes were a roller coaster straight downhill that never slowed down.
This contrasts with WWE shows. On a WWE PPV, my presumption is that Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros. would’ve gone on first, Cody vs. Dustin would’ve been third to last, and there would’ve been a lumbering snooze of a match between it and the main event. The logic from WWE’s perspective is that the crowd cannot sustain three straight insane matches at the end, but my opinion is that their format zaps fans’ attention spans before the main event in a way that is difficult to restore. To WWE’s credit, their NXT shows do not have the lull-points, so one would think this is a structure they’d potentially be amenable to.
AEW vs. WWE is a war that is going to take years at the very least to shake out, but in the meantime the hope amongst wrestling fans is that WWE is pushed to adapt to elements that can make their shows better.