AEW Double or Nothing predictions, preview: Mercedes Moné says 'I'm ready to go' ahead of in-ring debut for Tony Khan's company

The CEO hasn't worked since a severe ankle injury in 2023

Mercedes Moné makes her AEW debut during an episode of
Mercedes Moné makes her AEW debut during an episode of "Dynamite," (Lee South/AEW)

The last time Mercedes Moné wrestled, things couldn't have gone much worse. Moné, who has been among the top stars in professional wrestling for the better part of a decade, suffered a severe ankle injury, was carried out of the ring in Long Beach, California and hasn’t performed in-ring at a wrestling event since.

That was last May. It was also nearly the end of her career as what was initially believed to be a broken ankle left her laid up for months and her future in doubt.

“[Being told you’re hurt that badly] is the hardest thing you have to hear in your whole life,” Moné told Yahoo Sports. “I was really shocked when the doctor told me that. I was even shocked to hear that I was even hurt like that. Wrestling is my everything, it’s my passion so I had to be back wrestling.”

There was surgery, rehabilitation and, since December, training to become acclimated again with a space she has dominated in the past.

It would be understandable if there was a bit of hesitancy on her part. But, for anyone who knows Moné — real name Mercedes Varnado — knows that there was nothing that was going to prevent her from getting back to the place she will be this Sunday at AEW’s “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view.

“It took a year to get back to the ring,” Moné said. “I have been training since December, so I feel really, really good. Really mentally ready, really physically ready and really excited to make my in-ring debut. I’m excited to show the world and the fans an all-new side of Mercedes Moné. There’s a whole new chance in my career to make things happen that I always dreamed of. I’m ready to go do it.”

That isn’t to say that even for a multi-time women's champion with 14 years of experience under her belt, that there isn’t some form of trepidation coming off an extended layoff, arduous recovery and having to deal with sky-high expectations.

“I’ve had my days where I’ve sat there and cried, saying “I can’t believe it’s finally here,” Moné said. “I’ve had my nervous moments, too, because it’s been a year and I don’t really know what to expect. I can do all the training that I want, but wrestling a match in front of a crowd is something completely different. You can’t train for that, you just have to go out there and do it. I trust my gut, my soul and my body to remind me that I was born to do this and not to be afraid.”

Moné broke into the industry via the independent scene in the early 2010s before helping spark a revolution in women’s wrestling in WWE, where she grew into one of the biggest stars in the industry as Sasha Banks. After leaving the company in 2022, rumors and speculation ran rampant about where one of the hottest free agents would sign.

It’s unclear how long — if at all — Moné’s ankle injury delayed her signing and debut with Tony Khan’s wrestling promotion, but after an appearance at “All In” last summer, it was a foregone conclusion where she would wind up in the future. Throughout AEW’s relatively short history, oftentimes newly signed talent’s first appearance with the company is presented as a surprise debut —Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley are just a few who fit this bill.

For Moné, the company built a themed episode of its flagship show, “Dynamite,” in March. Titled “Big Business” and being held at TD Garden in “Bo$$ton,” the internet’s worst-kept secret became reality as Moné debuted in front of a raucous, hometown crowd.

“Nothing can stay secret when it comes to me,” Moné said. “I thought it was the most perfect debut. It was in Boston, at TD Garden. I have so many memories there. I was the first-ever woman to main event a pay-per-view in that building. I went there when I was a kid, watching wrestling and knowing that I was going to be in that ring one day. It was one of the best moments of my career and when I think about that day, it just gives me goosebumps and makes me so excited.”

Now, more than two months later, Moné is on the cusp of her first in-ring action in a year — and her match at “Double or Nothing” is against TBS Champion Willow Nightingale, the same opponent she faced when she suffered her ankle injury at NJPW “Resurgence” in 2023. It’s a moment Nightingale reminded Moné and fans of two weeks ago on “Dynamite,” in a well-received contract signing between the two women.

Moné, the self-proclaimed “CEO,” also used her platform to remind the wrestling universe who she is, referencing — not by name of course — her signature match in WWE against Bayley at NXT TakeOver Brooklyn in 2015.

She has a chance to do that again, as the TBS Championship match Sunday will be as anticipated as any women’s match in AEW history, and has the potential to be the biggest in the history of the company’s “Double or Nothing” event, which is celebrating its five-year anniversary this weekend. Moné and Nightingale have a chance to raise their games and leave fans talking about an instant classic once again.

“I want them to walk out knowing that AEW is where the best wrestle,” Moné said. “I want them to know that women’s wrestling is going to be so exciting here in AEW because I am here and I want to make it special and different. Everyone here in AEW, especially the women’s division, wants the same, so keep on supporting us, keep on joining the mission and we’re taking off.”

Christian Cage vs. Swerve Strickland (c.) for the AEW World Championship – The deck is stacked against Swerve, who is arguably AEW’s most popular star right now. Swerve overcoming all of the odds and walking out of Double or Nothing as AEW World Champion is the right move in building him up as one of the faces of the company. Prediction: Swerve retains the AEW Championship

Mercedes Moné vs. Willow Nightingale (c.) for the TBS Championship – Moné winning here could set up the potential trilogy match between the two and allow The CEO to lean further into her heel persona. Moné doesn’t need the belt as much as she needs a win to establish a level of dominance as a relative newcomer in AEW. Prediction: Mercedes Moné wins the TBS Championship

Will Ospreay vs. Roderick Strong (c.) for the AEW International Championship – I don’t think we need to overcomplicate things or make too intense of a case for Ospreay. He’s going to be at the top of the company sooner rather than later and a championship win over Strong is just the latest step in that journey. Prediction: Will Ospreay wins the AEW International Championship

Serena Deeb vs. “Timeless” Toni Storm (c.) for the AEW Women’s World Championship – While there would be a bit of irony in Storm losing after she set this match up by throwing in the towel for Mariah May earlier this month, her “Timeless” run has been very strong and I predict her reign will continue. Deeb seemingly snapped on Wednesday’s “Dynamite,” looking strong heading into the match, but Storm is still likely to walk out of Las Vegas champion. Prediction: 'Timeless' Toni Storm retains the AEW Women's Championship

Malakai Black vs. Adam Copeland (c.) in a barbed-wire, steel-cage match for the TNT Championship – The storyline built here has been Black and the House of Black trying to coax Copeland into tapping into a more violent side, which we saw on the go-home episode of Dynamite. That’ll undoubtedly happen during this match and I can see Copeland winning, but giving House of Black exactly what they wanted and him joining forces with the faction. Prediction: Adam Copeland retains the TNT Championship

Death Triangle vs. Bang Bang Gang for the Undisputed Trios Championships – This match just came together this past Wednesday as Pac reunited with Penta and Rey Fenix to challenge Jay White and the Gunns. It’s the first match for Death Triangle in over a year and I expect all six men involved to put on an epic show. Death Triangle likely walks out on top and begins another Trios reign. Prediction: Death Triangle wins the Undisputed Trios Championships

Hook vs. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Chris Jericho (c.) for the FTW Championship – A bit of a swerve in the sense that this felt like a build toward a one-on-one match between Hook and Jericho, Shibata’s presence could allow the brewing rivalry between the two to stew a little longer. Jericho, who began this story as a mentor-like character, could tap into his decades of experience to pin Shibata while Hook is protected. Prediction: Chris Jericho retains the FTW Championship

Anarchy in the Arena – The Elite vs. Team AEW – The Elite’s hostile takeover of AEW should continue with a win in the Anarchy in the Arena match. Depending on when this match takes place on the card could indicate how it plays out, though. If this is the main event, I won’t rule out a Team AEW win with a helping hand coming from a returning MJF in the night’s biggest surprise. Prediction: The Elite wins

Jon Moxley vs. Konosuke Takeshita – The stipulation here being that if Takeshita wins he gets a shot at Moxley’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship all but assures that Moxley will lose and potentially sets up a rematch at Forbidden Door next month. Prediction: Konosuke Takeshita wins

Orange Cassidy vs. Trent Beretta – Orange Cassidy doesn’t put on bad matches, so despite there not being a championship on the line or a stipulation involved, this match should be a good one. Perhaps the most emotionally driven contest on the card, Cassidy standing tall over his former friend after a grueling battle is the outcome to expect here. Prediction: Orange Cassidy wins