The First Casino Battle Royale

The First Casino Battle Royale

Two weeks ago, RD emailed me with a special assignment: WrestleCrap’s first-ever induction from AEW.

Apparently, a lot of people out there think we’re somehow biased in favor of All Elite Wrestling. While that’s plainly false, it was up to me to put such rumors to rest. But what from AEW was bad enough to warrant an induction on this site?

Tony Khan spoiling his viewers with one blockbuster announcement after another?

Dynamite being only two hours long?

Matt Hardy almost dying in a match?

I honestly had no idea. And so I set out to watch each and every AEW match from the beginning until I found something worthy of being called “the worst of pro wrestling”.

It didn’t take long. It turns out, AEW was bound for WrestleCrap from its very first match.

Opening AEW’s first official event, Double or Nothing 2019, the Casino Battle Royale aired live on the “Buy-In” pre-show and served two purposes:

#1 – To persuade fence-sitters to lay down 50 bucks and buy the PPV.

#2 – To determine who would wrestle Chris Jericho or Kenny Omega to crown the first-ever AEW World champion

There was also a third purpose that became obvious once the match began, which was:

#3 – To cram as much goofy crap into one match as possible.

As it turned out, #3 really undermined the first two.

It’s eerie how much criticism of the original Bond spoof Casino Royale could apply to the Casino (Battle) Royale.

For those unfamiliar with the match type, it’s essentially a Royal Rumble where the entrants come out five at a time. Like the Royal Rumble, the staggered entrances allow the match to breathe and tell a story, but unlike the Royal Rumble, it has a slight rule change to combat accusations of plagiarism.

“The rules may seem convoluted, Alex,” said Excalibur, “but really it’s a traditional over-the-top rope battle royal.” Refreshing honesty compared to TNA’s “really quite simple” gimmick matches that require two screens’ worth of text to explain.

The first five men presented to AEW viewers included two future jobbers of AEW, two guys with no Wikipedia pages, and MJF, who was not yet one of the biggest stars in AEW (or not in AEW, as the case may be when you read this).

The aforementioned jobbers were pre-face mask Brandon Cutler…

…and Michael Nakazawa, AEW’s answer to Big Dick Johnson, who poured baby oil all over himself. This garnered a big pop from everyone who watched Being The Elite (and no one else).

There was some guy named Sunny Daze, the only wrestler named for sex with Tammy Sytch…

(unless there was a Sunny Sy Dupp)

…and Dustin Thomas, a double amputee whose incredible journey to this grand stage was given a single sentence on commentary.

Now, some might say Dustin Thomas should have been barred from battle royals altogether. After all, as both feet have to hit the floor to be eliminated, he technically could never be beaten. And once wrestlers realize they can gain an unfair advantage simply by amputating a foot (or, heaven forbid, a shoulder), they’ll all do it, causing the downfall of this great sport.

[I just want to clarify here that that is nonsense, and that it is good that promotions accommodate wrestlers with disabilities]

As soon as the bell rang, MJF went straight for Thomas, whom he booted to the mat for some cheap heat. He then did the same to Brandon Cutler, whom he not unfairly called a “nobody”.

Sunny Daze, who debuted in 1990’s Super Mario Brothers 3, set his sights on Nakazawa…

…who oiled up some more and slipped out of Angry Sun Man’s waist lock.

“Two inspirational stories here,” said Excalibur. “Sunny Daze and Brandon Cutler.” Bear in mind that a man with no legs was still in this match.

The only man who hadn’t forgotten about Dustin Thomas was MJF. But why was he trying to kick him under the bottom rope? And why was he failing at that?

Isiah Kassidy of Private Party led the next round round of entrants representing the future of AEW. Or a future, anyhow: Brian Pillman, Jr., Joey Janela, Jimmy Havoc, and special featured entrant…

…Shawn Spears, who entered tenth and immediately launched into his old “Perfect Ten” shtick. Remember when NXT fans would shout “TEN” over the referee’s count? Bad times.

It was the Shawn Spears show for the next few minutes until the next round of entrants, featuring a 55-year-old nostalgia act.

Billy Gunn? No, the guy behind him.

Glacier! Remember him?

And just when you thought AEW couldn’t further expose how thin its roster was, they brought out this Ace Romero fellow.

(Ironic, huh?)

MJF taunted Glacier with Eric Bischoff’s signature Ralph Macchio pose, but paid for it with a Kombo from WCW’s own Sub-Zero. Glacier’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived, though, as he’d get blindsided by his natural nemesis, Sunny Daze.

At this point, the match (for a world title shot, mind you), contained a failed Mortal Kombat gimmick, an ass man, an extremely fat man, an angry Mr. Sun, a double-amputee who’d been incapacitated since literally five seconds into the match, a jobber friend of The Young Bucks, and a baby oil man. The Elite, Tony Khan, or whoever put together this match decided that now would be the time to get serious.

So out went the baby oil man.

Joey Janela took a moment to celebrate with a cigarette, the second-dumbest thing he’ll ever light up in a wrestling match.

Glacier blew cold mist on Sunny Daze, freezing him in place. One punch later, and the only wrestler named for a My Little Pony character was gone. MJF would seize the moment to dump Glacier over…

…but Billy Gunn was not amused. Before MJF could turn around and take his inevitable Mr. Ass-beating…

…Joey Janela freaked out. It seems that, off-camera, Jimmy Havoc had stapled the cigarette to Janela’s forehead somehow. But due to timing issues, we never got to see Deathmatch Gary Numan’s hardcore antics on camera.

The last bunch of five included novelty acts like Marko Stunt, Luchasaurus, and Orange Cassidy. Normally, these guys would be the comic relief — but relief from what, exactly?

Tommy Dreamer was in the battle royal, too, deciding that this garbage match needed was, well, garbage cans.

He would later run afoul of Sonny Kiss’s devastating Butt-Butts.

(Personally, I’d have called them Ass-Butts)

It was now time for the “Joker”, the very last entrant (and arguably the very first entrant with a shot of winning and challenging for the title), Adam Page. But that didn’t mean it would be clear sailing for the Hangman, as there were still sixteen other contenders still in it. (Pillman, Jr. had gotten thrown out right as the last “suit” of five wrestlers was announced, so no one noticed)

Though the action and the eliminations picked up significantly after the last entrant, getting there felt like an eternity. And what was the point of staggering the entrances if the only good parts came after everyone had already entered?

Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt did their part by taking on the massive Ace Romero. Excalibur pointed out that these were “the two smallest men in the match”, forgetting, like everyone else, about the guy who literally did not have legs below the knees.

Alex Marvez pointed out that the show was airing live in the UK — imagine watching this match at 12:30 AM and thinking, Yes, I’d like to stay up for four more hours of this.

That’s also how long Dustin Thomas had been lying on the ring apron, though Youtube says it was only seventeen minutes. When he finally entered the action, he delivered an impressive 619 to Joey Janela. Here’s how it aired:

It came down to Page, Luchasaurus, Havoc, and MJF, the latter of whom pulled the old “go under the bottom rope and hide until the end” trick.

Sure enough, the announcers briefly forgot about MJF after it appeared to come down to Luchasaurus and Hangman. “Two men,” said Excalibur. “Actually, my mistake, three men remain. MJF still on the floor like a snake in the grass!”

“Yeah!” said Marvez. “Let’s not forget about him.”

Not thirty seconds later, Excalibur forgot about him, declaring Page the winner after low-bridging the big dinosaur.

Nnoooo….?” said Marvez. “He has not won.” Shut up, Alex. No one likes a know-it-all.

So Adam Page thought he had won, allowing MJF to sneak up behind him and dump him over the top rope. But, though Friedman would turn right around and celebrate, all he’d really managed to do was snatch away the idiot ball from Hangman…

…who hung on, hit the Buckshot Lariat, and eliminated the Long Islander to win the match for real.

This match wouldn’t be the last baffling decision would make that year; AEW’s next pay-per-view would feature a match sponsored by Cracker Barrel, the restaurant chain, featuring barrels used as weapons.

But in retrospect, AEW should have had the Casino Battle Royale be sponsored by Cracker Barrel, as they were clearly scraping the bottom of it.

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