May is not usually a big month for wrestling. In its post Wrestlemania hangover the WWE and the majority of the indies that leverage Wrestlemania weekend’s crowds have usually used it more as a consolidation month, a time for wrapping up any threads and starting to manoeuvre the pieces to the right place for whatever comes next. For fans it has traditionally been a month of some fun matches but nothing that would matter too much if it was missed.
However this year things are shaping up very differently thanks to a wild card that has just been pulled from the pack.
May twenty-fifth of course marks the date of Double or Nothing, the first pay per view for All Elite Wrestling, the latest promotion to step up to the plate, ready to go toe-to-toe with Vince McMahon for the hearts and minds of wrestling fans. While they largely kept their powder dry over the Wrestlemanias season AEW went into the closing weeks of April throwing everything against the wall in the lead-up to Double or Nothing and have continued the tone in the first week of May.
The biggest announcement in the last week and a half has been the match between Cody and his brother Dustin Rhodes. The former Goldust has now left the WWE and his most famous character behind to settle a sibling rivalry that has been boiling since 2013, a rivalry the WWE completely missed the boat on. With Cody saying he doesn’t just want to take his brother out to pasture but also kill off the myth of the Attitude Era in the process, the match is incorporating inter-generational themes that will echo up and down the card and no doubt draw the ire or interest of fans.
This blood feud will act as the heart of the Double or Nothing, just as Cody’s match for the NWA Championship at All In was the emotional centre of that show. It is also a fantastic contrast to the previously announced main event between AEW’s two biggest box office names Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho.
Beyond the ring, earlier in April AEW also pulled off the coup of signing Jim Ross as an announcer and backstage consultant. The Jim Ross signing cannot be underestimated and Ross has gone on the record saying he wants to let them “bleed him dry” creatively. Along with the big name signings, under the radar AEW has built up a dynamic and varied roster of talent to flesh out the mid card, tag team and women’s divisions in very interesting ways.
Combine this with rumours of CM Punk making indy appearances and Dean Ambrose return to the indies as Jon Moxley and there may just be an outside chance this group that started as nothing more than a Youtube show could steal some eyes from the WWE.
For the WWE’s part, while you would hardly say they have hit the panic button, they are certainly giving off the vibe of a company searching rather frantically for something creative that will work. It is very notable that they have moved Money In The Bank, one of their biggest PPVs of the year, to May and put together a card with some of their biggest possible matches they could cobble together. The men’s Universal Title match of AJ Styles v Seth Rollins is a match that has been protected for years and was spoken about as a realistic Wrestlemania main event but is now being put on at just about the first opportunity the WWE has had to stage it. On the women’s side the WWE has announced Becky Lynch v Charlotte Flair, two of the three women that main evented Wresltemania just a month ago and who, in the absence of Ronda Rousey, are the divisions two biggest stars.
I do not think it is a coincidence that the same week Cody v Dustin Rhodes was announced the WWE looked to trump it with the signing of Goldberg for the next Saudi Arabia show. Even just this week on RAW Vince poked yet another hole in the brand split in an attempt to keep loading their supposed biggest names on as many cards as they can fit them on.
Backstage the WWE has also begun to exert itself, blocking the requested releases of talents such as Luke Harper, Sasha Banks and The Revival and even extending Harper’s contract despite clearly having no plans for him. Legends like The Undertaker and Kurt Angle have been blocked from attending Double or Nothing’s accompanying wrestling podcast convention Starcast even though they had already signed onto the show before inking their new WWE deals. Despite him doing so for over a year since leaving the WWE and appearing in other promotions Chris Jericho has now been told he can no longer have WWE stars on his podcast Talk is Jericho. Hell the WWE even interviewed ‘World Famous Dick Wrestler Joey Ryan’ and attempted to sign him simply to prevent him going to AEW. The idea the man who popularised the Dick Flip would fit into the PG environment of WWE is absurd but he has a bit of buzz around his name so they nonetheless put a contract in front of him.
The WWE is doing nothing wrong here, while it may seem mean spirited in a number of cases it is all completely legal and as they say in The Godfather, “it’s not personal, it’s strictly business”. The WWE has thrived as a monopoly and has been able to maintain its audience despite the many, many, creative issues they have.
If nothing else Vince McMahon is a shrewd businessman and he knows as well as anyone that his greatest advantage is that he is the established brand and has the established fanbase. AEW are backed by billionaires and have a fresh feel and cultural buzz but they need to build an audience largely from scratch. To win this war Vince doesn’t need to change any minds he just needs to keep eyes from drifting away and so he is giving the audience most likely to leave what it claims it wants.
The end result of all this of course is a big win for us, the consumers. Whether we are card carrying members of the fed defence squad or anti-establishment indy fans competition will ultimately bring out the best in all organisations. We all know the golden age that came about the last time the WWE faced true competition and hopefully we will one day be able to look back at this stacked month of wrestling and say it was when we entered another one.
That’s all from me today LOP, how have you been feeling about WWE and the impending debut of AEW? Let me know in the comments below, on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or you can even write about it yourself on the LOP Columns Forum. It is where every columnist on this site started and will make you both a better writer and a more engaged wrestling fan.
While you’re there why not check out AEW Needs a Villian Not Dean Ambrose by Benjamin Button, a look at two of the men that could be set for a surprise appearance at Double or Nothing.