Entertainment

CM Punk is champ, hits and misses

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CM Punk put himself back on back on top and MJF showed up during a long, but mostly fulfilling Double or Nothing.

All Elite Wrestling has its fifth world champion after Punk defeated “Hangman” Adam Page in the main event at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday night. Maxwell Jacob Friedman, after no-showing an AEW meet-and-great and doubts over whether his match would go on as scheduled, took his beating from Wardlow in the opener and finished making him a star in the process.

AEW president Tony Khan refused to comment during the post-show media scrum on what happened to MJF this weekend, but did say the five-hour, 13-match show was formatted that way to give AEW as a chance to get some late pay-per -view buys after Heat-Celtics Game 7 ended. The show did the most buys ever for this particular pay-per-view, according to Khan so something worked despite the show dragging a bit for the TV audience.

Here are six takeaways from a jam-packed Double or Nothing that provided excellent in-ring action with a few questionable booking decisions:

CM Punk wins the AEW world championship.
AEW

Summer of Punk III

Let the third Summer of Punk begin – thanks to a conflicted former champion. , Who truly has one of the most incredible overall wrestling storylines, had a chance to put Punk away by hitting him with the AEW championship belt after the ref had been accidentally knocked out. He chose otherwise – and it cost him. Instead he tried to hit Punk with a Buckshot Lariat but his “injured” knee buckled and it opened the door for the challenger to connect on the decisive GTS. The match clearly put Punk more in the babyface slot taking most of the damage and pulling off two really dramatic near falls. Punk, who became Ring of Honor and WWE champ heading into summers, got really emotional holding his first world championship since 2013 and AEW is officially his company to drive now.

‘S story should not come secondary here. He gave up his on-screen friendship with The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega to reach the mountain top and then – at least for now – refused to go the extra mile to ensure that he stayed there. Does that decision send him back to drinking and open up a heel turn down the road or will the Bucks and Omega bring him back into the fold when it’s time for the Undisputed Elite to split up and they need him to fight by their side again? And Punk told an excellent story that sets both up going forward.

Heel or Real?

MJF was the talk of the wrestling world after no-showing his meet-and-greet at AEW’s fan fest on Saturday and there was concern he would not show up to Double of Nothing or be punished. The Long Island native was there, kicking off the show to plenty of loud boos and did everything he needed to do to put Wardlow over in a big way in basically a squash match.

AEW
Wardlow pins MJF
AEW

MJF took 10 power bombs to delight the crowd. He was then taken off on a stretcher – including an awkwardly placed oxygen mask. That at least makes you think he will be off TV until he and the company can figure out whatever’s going on behind the scenes and his current contract situation. MJF told Fightful he “showed up shortly before his match, left right after, and has a lot to think about.” We will probably have to wait to find out what really happened in Vegas

With that said, MJF did his job and leaves AEW with its new potential babyface star in Wardlow with the story they told and then giving the fans the payoff they craved. Becoming TNT champion seems like logical next step for Wardlow.

Wasted Potential

AEW could have done so much more with Paige VanZant and potentially wasted her debut if the late pay-per-view buys don’t justify her addition to the show. Instead of putting the former UFC fighter and social media star in a more featured spot with plenty of promotion or waiting until her wrestling training would allow it, they made her an add-on to one of their most confusing feuds between heels. VanZant was laying on the apron outside the ring as Scorpio Sky pinned Sammy Guevara to ensure he and Frankie Kazarian can never challenge for this TNT championship again. Guevara’s cockiness and concern for Conti caused the team to splinter apart

That’s not to say VanZant, who is still green after a few months of training, didn’t show she could hold her own in the ring and hit the basics outside one awkward Michinoku Driver. Tay Conti is still in the earlier stages of her career, too, and far from an experienced veteran. AEW did let VanZant get physical with the guys as she and Guevara got into it at one point. Still these are the moments and celebrity opportunities WWE continuously nails both in the story of the match, TV time and getting that moment of video that main stream media outlets will pick up, None of that happened with VanZant and you only get one first impression and AEW missed a chance at a bigger one.

King and Queen of Hearts

Like it or not, the real life couple of Adam Cole and Britt Baker were the inaugural winners of the men’s and women’s Owen Hart Foundation tournament. The decision made for a great photo op, with Cole and Baker both decked out in pink accepting gorgeous pink and black titles (based off the old Stampede Wrestling championships) from Owen’s widow, Dr. Martha Hart. They will also have their names engraved on the Owen Cup that will circulate each year. Seeing Martha Hart being embraced by wrestling fans and seeing Owen honored in such a special way was a very moving moment.

AEW
Adam Cole and Britt Baker won their respective Owen Hart Foundation tournaments.
AEW

That being said, no two wrestlers needed to win a tournament less than Cole and Baker. Cole already had a failed try at the AEW world championship against Page and Baker recently lost the AEW women’s championship after a long reign. What does this elevate them to now? A loss won’t hurt Joe, already the Ring of Honor television champion, but Ruby Soho again feels like she’s in no man’s land as this is the third big-time match she’s fallen short it. If she isn’t going to win a championship-level match when Rancid performs live, when will she?

Sports Entertainers always win

Anarchy in the Area (the indoor version of Stadium Stampede) was exactly what it sounded like, 10 men spread out and fighting all over the T-Mobile Arena. There was blood, there was mustard, there was barbed wire, there was “Wild Thing” playing for almost a third of the match and nearly fire as the Jericho Appreciation Society (sport entertainers) and Blackpool Combat Club, Santana, Ortiz and Eddie Kingston (pro wrestlers) clashed.

The utter chaos will certainly be polarizing and turn off a good portion of the audience and was tough to follow at times. Ultimately, the match’s shear bonkersness was entertaining and got back to the main story arc when a blood-soaked Kingston – who was burned by a Jericho fireball in storyline – poured “gasoline” on his nemesis and tried to light him on fire only to be stopped by Bryan Danielson. The infighting ultimately cost them the match and possibly the feud unless AEW wants to push this to Blood and Guts.

New faces

The late-added TBS title match was less about what was happening in the ring between champion Jade Cargill and Ann Jay but who showed up during and after it. After Mark Sterling tried to give Cargill a crutch nearly cost her match, Stokley Hathaway (former Malcolm Bivens in NXT) debuted and will be a perfect fit with the Baddies to Cargill’s presentation. AEW needs to do better with her opponents and it appears set up to do that with Kris Statlander and a debuting Athena (formerly Ember Moon) confronting her after the match. AEW’s final new addition was former Ring of Honor champion Rush, who Andrade – in Mexico getting married to Charlotte Flair – introduced on a pre-taped video as his new business partner. Expect the two to begin tagging up whenever Andrade returns.

Other matches

Hook and Danhousen over Tony Nese and Mark Sterling (Buy In)

Danhausen finally got to show he can wrestle. Hook took care of Mark Sterling and tagged in Danhausen to stand on him to get the pin and a good moment of friendship. Exactly what this needed to be.

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Kyle O’Reilly over Darby Allin

This was the sleeper match of the night. Added late, O’Reilly got the biggest win of his short AEW career pinning Allin clean in the middle of the ring in a super hard-hitting affair. It took two diving knees to get it done.

Jurassic Express retains the AEW tag team championship

This felt like the perfect time to take the belts off Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus as Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee have gotten off to a hot start as a team. Those teams and Ricky Starks and Will Hobbs put on a match with plenty of fun false finishes late. AEW, however, chose to stay the course for now and even had Strickland take the pin. The tag team division feels very open at that moment.

The Hardy Boyz over The Young Bucks

Speaking of tag teams, it feels like it won’t be long until Hardy’s are thrust into the tag team title picture after defeating the Young Bucks, who tried to used Matt and Jeff’s moves against them to put them away. After a spot-filled start it turned in a bunch of false finishes before the Hardy’s won with Jeff’s Swanton Bomb.

AEW
Julia Hart and The House of Black
AEW

House of Black over Death Triangle

We finally got the Julia Hart poison mist payoff from all the way back in December. The former Varsity Blonde member officially joined the House of Black, showing up after the lights went out to mist PAC on the top rope. He was hit with a Black Mass kick after falling off and took the loss.

Thunder Rosa over Serena Deeb to retain the AEW women’s championship

This was a strong technical match that the crowd got into by the end, exactly what you’d expect from Rosa and Deeb. It feels like something to draw fans into the story was missing in the feud, so It will be interesting to see the direction AEW goes next with Rosa, who could use a hot heel next.

Biggest Winner: CM Punk

Biggest Loser: Ruby SoHo

Match of the Night: CM Punk Vs. “Hangman” Adam Page

Predictions: 9-4

Grade: B +

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