5 Years Later: A Look Back At Double Or Nothing 2019, AEW’s First PPV

Time flies and as hard as it might be for long-term fans to reconcile it, the sixth AEW Double or Nothing goes down this Memorial Day weekend. Back in 2019, this was an AEW launch event, a full season ahead of AEW Dynamite debuting on TNT. Once again, the event emanates from Las Vegas, the natural home for a show called Double or Nothing, though this will mark the PPV’s first return to the MGM Grand Garden Arena. (Double or Nothing did also occur at Daily’s Place for two years due to the pandemic.)

The Double or Nothing name paid homage to All In as a precursor to AEW. For that event, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and then-unknown business partner Tony Khan—facilitated an all-time great indie event that drew 10,000 fans to the Sears Centre in Chicago. The affair was framed as a direct response to Dave Meltzer’s claim that no promotion outside WWE could draw 10,000 fans to a North American wrestling show anytime soon.

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So it is that fans can now look back at five years of AEW history when they consider the original Double or Nothing.

The Biggest Free Agent Signing In AEW History

Double or Nothing 2019 drew a very positive reception from fans and critics, but there’s little question that the most iconic part of the show happened after the final bell had run. Immediately after the main event, Jon Moxley made his surprise debut.

While Mox can be a polarizing figure among fans, his debut nonetheless made a major statement. It was possible for fans at the time to dismiss talents like Chris Jericho as over the hill, Cody Rhodes as a WWE also-ran (a take that has aged quite poorly), and talents like MJF as up and comers who hadn’t yet proven themselves. Moxley, however, was a major name who was in his prime, including having reigned as WWE Champion less than three years earlier and having main evented WWE PPVs as part of The Shield earlier in 2019.

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Moxley signing with AEW was a genuine surprise and further legitimized the company as a major player. The surprise debut is even more momentous in hindsight. Moxley would go on to be come the first and to date only three- time AEW Champion. Moreover, he has been a vital figure, sliding into the title picture whenever the company needs him, including twice picking up the torch when CM Punk got hurt.

Chris Jericho Took A Step Toward Putting The AEW Championship On The Map

At the launch of AEW, there were three men who immediately factored into the world title scene. Hangman Page won a Casino Battle Royale at the top of Double or Nothing to make him one of the two men who’d vie to become the first champion at All Out 2019. On the other end of things stood Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho.

Page was a promising, fresh talent for a lot of American fans and he would wind up champion a couple years down the road. Omega and Jericho were the favorites, though, which is why they garnered the main event nod at Double or Nothing 2019.

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Omega had cemented his place in the conversation of the best in-ring workers in the world in New Japan. Jericho was already a bona fide legend as a multi-time world champion in WWE, a WrestleMania main eventer, and certainly the biggest name in AEW going into their first PPV.

Like Page, Omega would find himself a long-reigning AEW champ. Jericho was the right call to win the first AEW PPV main event, though, en route to becoming the first AEW World Champion. It’s come into fashion to hate on Jericho nowadays, and there’s little question he has lost a step in the 2020s. Just the same, he was precisely the credible figure the company needed to immediately legitimize its top title and by extension the whole brand.

The Young Bucks And Lucha Bros. Had A Barnburner

Before AEW had established its own tag team championship, the original Double or Nothing featured an AAA World Tag Team Title match between The Young Bucks and Lucha Bros. It was an early chapter in what would become a defining rivalry for the company’s tag team and later trios division.

This match itself was well-received, but the teams would go on to even more memorable collisions that included a ladder match at All Out 2019 and an absolute classic of a steel cage match at All Out 2021. Down the road, Nick and Matt Jackson would team up with Kenny Omega as The Elite against The Lucha Bros and PAC under the Death Triangle banner to war over the Trios Championship.

The Rhodes Brothers Stole The Show

In the year 2024, Cody Rhodes reigns as WWE Champion. Indeed, his win over Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 40 seems to have all but cemented The American Nightmare’s place as the top star in the business today.

Five years ago, Rhodes was less sure footed, but was coming off a noteworthy run on the indies and in Japan to arrive as a founding father of AEW. As such, it’s telling that his match with his older brother Dustin positively stole the show at the first AEW PPV.

The Rhodes brothers tore the house down in a hard-hitting twenty-two-minute match that garnered no lesser praise than winning Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Match of the Year Award. The match was a testament to the combination of emotional storytelling and commitment to match quality many came to associate with early AEW. On top of that, it may well have been a harbinger of just how big a star Cody would wind up being.

It’s always difficult to contextualize a wrestling show as its happening. The more years pass by, the more wrestling historians will come to understand and think differently about the original Double or Nothing. Nonetheless, at five years, the show holds up as an incredible launch for the AEW brand, rife with strong in-ring performances and statements about where this company and the wrestling business on the whole were headed.