Anarchy in the Arena Succeeded on the Strength of All-Time Greats

If “Wild Thing” played over the whole thing, it’s probably a perfect match.

I couldn’t tell you how serious I am about that statement, but I can tell you that the Anarchy in the Arena ten-man tag between The Jericho Appreciation Society and Eddie Kingston’s cohorts absolutely rocked. It’s one of those delightful pieces of pro wrestling where maximalism and spectacle all just work and hit the exact right spot.

It’s not been an easy road getting here though.

Many online have pointed out that the build to this year’s Double or Nothing has represented a decline in overall quality for AEW’s booking. I can’t help but feel the same way. Ignoring everything else going on with the card, the build to this particular match has been spotty to say the very least.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s obviously some positives. The Jericho Appreciation Society as a unit is far more cohesive and motivated than the Inner Circle ever was. I suppose it comes down to having a unifying ethos that they can build around. Their gimmick of being sports entertainers in a pro wrestling company has been done before, but it’s at least a grounding ideology that they do good work with. I find most of their shtick quite funny and entertaining, and their ring time has been limited enough that they never have to do much more than that.

More Professional Wrestling

Even with my generally positive take on the JAS, I can’t help but feel that their opponents are wasted on this program. Eddie Kingston has been stuck in a Chris Jericho vortex since finishing his excellent but abbreviated feud with CM Punk late last year. The Blackpool Combat Club sans YUTA are consistently a highlight of weekly TV in the ring, but expending the efforts of both Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson on another Chris Jericho faction feud is a mishandling of resources. Everyone involved would be much better off working other people on the card, even Jericho and co., who could do well to help elevate some lower-tier members of the roster.

But at the end of the day, it was inevitable. With JAS positioning themselves as sports entertainment personified and the Blackpool Combat Club standing firmly on the side of professional wrestling, one could see the eventual clash happening a mile away. Would I prefer that it didn’t have to come to this? Sure. Still, I must admit that the feud at least makes sense on that level.

Anarchy

Luckily, when the bell ramg on a match that features three of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time on the same side, it’s easy to forget about an uneven build.

It’s even easier to drown out those worries and misgivings when X’s cover of “Wild Thing” soundtracks some delightful chaos. Like I said, I wish it played for the whole match New Jack-style. However, having it get cut off because Chris Jericho broke the soundboard on Mox’s head? Not a bad choice in terms of bits to get heat.

Being a no disqualification ten-man tag means that there’s almost never any time for the match to settle into a lull. The action spills far and wide across the arena with the broadcast frantically cutting from one pair of fighters to the next that one only ever gets glimpses of the action for the first 10 minutes or so. The action can never even hint at dragging because the viewer’s always being pulled into some other corner of the T-Mobile Arena to see more frenzied action.

Eddie Kingston

There’s a lot going on throughout this whole thing but there are still a lot of great moments that stand out. The MVP of the match is easily Eddie Kingston. He’s the best brawler in the match, an impressive feat considering he’s paired with Jon Moxley, and is also the key hero of this story anyway.

More than that though, Eddie finds the perfect tonal sweet spot for this match. The Anarchy in the Arena concept as a whole works as a more violent counterpoint to the more comedy-oriented Stadium Stampedes from the last two Double or Nothings. Eddie brings that violence in spades in ways big and small. He tries to burn a man alive by dousing him with gasoline, but he also throws some crazy haymakers when trading hands with Daniel Garcia.

Eddie Kingston anarchy in the arena
AEW

At the same time, Eddie’s good at finding the small moments of levity that can elevate a match like this. On commentary, Tony Schiavone namedrops the famous Tupelo concession stand brawls of Memphis lore. In a small nod to those encounters, Eddie makes sure to cover both Matt Menard and himself in mustard. “Mustard everywhere!” as the legendary Lance Russell once called.

Menard also stood out for having the best blade job in a match filled with bleeders. The dude really went for it, getting that red all the way down to the torso and all over his pristine white tights. Since I know him best from his more lighthearted work in CHIKARA, it’s great to see that he can deliver the goods in a setting like this. Just amping at the manic, hyped energy into bleeding all over himself. Well done, Daddy Magic.

The American Dragon

The other notable performance from the match was Bryan Danielson’s. While he’s most famous for his technical ability, the American Dragon has proven through the years to be an adept gimmick match worker. He doesn’t do too much in the early half of this match other than throw some great punches and open up his head. His moment to shine comes in the finishing stretch.

First, there’s the blow up with Eddie Kingston that appears to promise another rematch with those two in coming weeks (God I hope so). That’s a great way to let his intensity shine, but then Dragon also becomes the focus of the JAS’ attack in the final moments. When he’s in the ring trying to fight off both Jericho and Hager at the same time, it reminds us that although Danielson’s last few months have been characterized by bullying wrestlers beneath him, his bread and butter really is being one of the greatest underdog babyfaces of our time.

anarchy in the arena bryan danielson chris jericho jake hager
AEW

Thankfully, Dragon doesn’t give up too much in his loss here. He already came into the match with a bad leg—targeted by Hager in the closing moments—and it takes the efforts of two men to choke him out in order to get the victory. Another one of those things where I don’t care to see Chris Jericho getting falls over Bryan Danielson in 2022, but the execution of the thing at least makes it as painless as possible.

And, Maybe, a Little Bit of Jericho Appreciation

As for Jericho himself, he’s fine in this. The structure of the match leaves him no real room to do anything worth picking at. He does exactly what he needs to. He bumps for the babyfaces and has to get his ass saved in the end to eek out the victory. He even does a little fun callback by going after Moxley’s eye constantly, harkening back to their AEW World Title feud in 2020.

The same can be said for Santana & Ortiz on the babyface end of things. They do what is needed of them, and they get their final big double splash in well enough. Nothing much to write home about but they don’t do anything that detracts from the key players of the match.

It’s a match that succeeds through the sheer overwhelming talent involved. Regardless of how it reflects on the booking of AEW as a whole, it’s just too damn hard to do anything bad on pay-per-view when Eddie Kingston, Jon Moxley, and Bryan Danielson are all involved. If anything, this match stands as yet another testament to their talents. Their combined ability elevated an average build on a cluttered and crowded pay-per-view into one of the better spectacles of the year.

Unfair as it may be, some wrestlers are just too damn good to fail.

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