AEW Double or Nothing Pre Show: Part 2

AEW Double or Nothing Pre Show: Part 2

Backstage

A girl who presents like Bayley on meth is backstage saying things. Apparently, she was like this first, which is a bit of a bummer as, first or not, the work is on her to demonstrate difference from her more famous comparison. I have yet to see “Girl who is happy” be a character with much depth if she is always happy. Bayley would frequently get serious, mad, etcetera, and this was much needed variety. But Smiley Kiley Ray gets all of a few seconds so I won’t hold anything against her yet.

She’s interrupted by two librarians who shush a bunch. This is obnoxiously bad for two reasons: 1, wrestlers who are jobs; and 2, the most it could be is funny and it isn’t that. Wrestlers who are other jobs is not a personality or character, prior roles can inform those, but otherwise there is no narrative reason for you to be here. Things like this can work when you’re creating or twisting within an established story world, otherwise it’s a comedian getting on stage and telling you about this hilarious thing his friend said before telling you that you probably had to be there. Like a lot of the show, this feels like an in-joke, which is stupid in a context where you are trying to create a new In.

We go to a video recap of Cody/Dustin which is great but I’ll talk about that when I get to the match, otherwise we’re onto their first singles match.

Kip Sabian vs Sammy Guevara

Expectations:

I have neither heard of nor seen anything from these two so that creates a kind of starting bias. Without any prior narrative to draw on, the pair are given a single point around which to make their impact, so I’m keeping this in mind. Aside from this, they both look lean and light, but not explicitly lucha, so I’m expecting some decent spots. That said, this is the pilot for a series, so spots alone won’t carry the match.

The Match

Out of the gate, the commentators do their jobs which is already addressing my problem of not having any narrative. They tell me about Sammy, about how he’s an irritatingly egotistical self-promoter. They don’t explain the panda motif, but since they’ve done some other work, that can be a point to be revealed as opposed to a frustrating piece of meaningless festoonery designed to distract from a lack of personality. He expresses his character in the ring the moment he gets in, lazing on the turnbuckle and bothering the ref when Sabian is entering, so he is already exceeding expectation. A competent match will be enough and anything good will impress.

Kip Sabian (Sabin?, the announcer pronounced it like that), enters and the commentary actually explain why this match exists, why each wants to win it, and how to buy the PPV. COMPETANCE! He’s basically the same archetype as Sammy, which is what led to the match, and I like that. This town ain’t big enough sorta thing between two very similar wrestlers creates a natural conflict point and a goal besides just “win”. NJPW does this a bit, where it’s less about winning as much as it’s about how you win, and this secondary goal point creates an internal logic for spots that would otherwise be fucking stupid.

You let a guy elbow you in the face 6 times to prove that you aren’t just lucky, you’re stronger and better. Kip and Sammy are already expressing this with a mirrored headscissor takedown to kick-up routine. This tells me that they both think they are so much better than the other that they can afford to be showy, and this creates a narrative reason for a lot of the fancier stuff I am expecting. This is a great example of meshing character and narrative to create a logical platform for the in-ring expression. I am pleased.

Excalibur is doing a reasonable job of explaining why the wrestlers do things and Sammy does a backflip over an Irish whip before basking in the audience attention. Some great character moments follow, Sammy avoiding the obvious attack only to be read by Kip and punished. I have now learned, through the medium of wrestling, that while both are egotistical, Kip is smarter and more serious. Excellent work.

The ref is active in a good way, looks like she actually remembers rules exist. Excalibur explains why Kip is going for Sammy’s legs, take out the high flying, and is emphasising that he lacks experience when Kip does things too close to the ropes. Again, more examples of how commentary supplements character and helps define the narrative.

Over the top to the floor suplex was a little sloppy looking. I’ve not seen it before, so I am assuming the point is to carry the momentum through. Going to the effort of generating momentum only to stop it may work for The People’s Elbow, but it is an otherwise poor idea as it breaks the internal logic of wrestling. Momentum equals more move damage, killing it kills the move.

Sammy does a neat shooting star press to a hung up Kip. Well, I’d think it were neat but I could barely get a look at it as whatever blighted dipshit is producing this edited it like it was Liam Neeson trying to jump a fence. I can’t say this clearly enough: EDITING BREAKS IMMERSION. Hollywood has occasional excuses in the form of having to edit around the fact that your star is often not a stuntman, doing it when it’s pro-wrestling is inexcusable.

GAAAAAH!

Sammy heralds a 630 and cops Kip’s knees in the back. Kip does his finisher, The (sigh) Deathly Hallows, a kind of sit down reverse FU, and wins. Were I on commentary, I’d have emphasised that Sammy lost because he was shouting the move he was going to do to impress fans. If you want losses to have meaning, they have to occur for reasons. Sammy’s ego told Kip what was coming next, which was why he was able to reverse it.

The commentary was still a bit dry and slow, but I’ll forgive them that here and focus on the good work done in calling the match and explaining the narrative elements.

The production so far has been worryingly bad, WWE bad, and this stands out terribly when “not WWE” is one of your primary marketing gimmicks. Big spots were missed in the Battle Royal, okay, maybe a bit chaotic, but big spots missed like Sammy’s suicide dive?  Are you taking a nap? That and the camera cutting during moves have got to stop. These aren’t aesthetic choices, they are measurable mistakes when presenting dramatic violence and doubly stupid when the people you are filming are the ones doing all the cool shit.  

Overall, the match exceeded expectations. It had a nice lock-up opening that emphasised that it was a wrestling match, the clash of similar characters created a reason for the showiness, and the characters defined themselves through their wrestling. Nothing was unforgivably sloppy, and (production aside) the bits that were supposed to wow me did. Can’t ask for more from the competitors so I am excited to see more, and this is a very good start to AEW’s singles competition.

Star Rating

I’ve already written here about the stupidity of this, but I’ll say it again: homogenous rating systems for wildly variable creative works are done by lazy people to get idiots to argue. Putting them at the end of an otherwise well written piece just nudges dingbats into further illiteracy and weaker critical understanding of the thing they are supposed to love.

This match gets a 12 out of Umlaut

The Tail End

The video package for Sadie Gibbs looks good and it’s nice to be able to see something like this and be excited for it as opposed to dreading the inevitable waste. Whether AEW will succeed is still very open to debate, what isn’t is the near clockwork efficiency of WWE’s failings.

Hey, Adequate ‘ol JR, neat.

Ending on the Executive Vice Presidents arriving is a solid idea and gives a kind of character to the event. Cody continues to look like a young Geese Howard, Kenny reminds us that he is an internet goof, and the Young Bucks remind us that they are the Family Guy cutaway gags of wrestling. Cody playing straight helps counterbalance the goofy in-joke-ness of the others. I don’t want to sound like I don’t like comedy in wrestling, I love it, but like a lot of things, you have to be judicious with it as comic tone can disrupt any attempt at seriousness. This goes triple for meta, which is my primary concern with anything Young Bucks.

I wish Wrestling Arcade would make a fucking game already. Ah well, bring on the main show!

By Gabe

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3 Replies to “AEW Double or Nothing Pre Show: Part 2”

  1. How did suddenly losing momentum help the People’s Elbow? Was it just a joke? I’m sorry, I’m not very up on the ins and outs of wrestling moves’ deeper interpretations.

    1. There was never an explanation of it. My rationalization was the the People’s Elbow was used after The Rock knew he had already won, and was just meant to be a flashy show to rub it in.

      1. Yeah, it “worked” because the move wasn’t about the impact of the momentum, it was a kind of glorified taunt with an elbow to the heart. So it can work without the speed build up being important. Going to the trouble of generating a tonne of force for, say, a powerbomb, only to really gently lower your opponent down would need serious narrative work to not look pointless and dumb.

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