On this day in Pro Wrestling history, the All In event was first held 5 years ago on September 1st, 2018. That’s right, the precursor to the All Elite Wrestling (AEW) that would later hatch during January 2019 happened 5 years ago to this day. Do you feel old yet? Do you remember when a bunch of independent wrestlers got together and proved the theory WRONG that only the WWE could draw up to 10,000 fans at a wrestling event? Actually, it was Dave Meltzer from the Wrestling Observer who responded to a reader question during May 2017 about Ring of Honor ever drawing 10,000 fans and Dave responded “not any time soon”.
However, it was Cody Rhodes, who during 2017 was working for various independents, Ring of Honor, TNA/Impact, and New Japan Wrestling, that responded to Dave “I’ll take that bet!”. And it was on…
Consider the context of Pro Wrestling through 2017… Impact didn’t have the best contract, Ring of Honor was micromanaged and kept on a tight budget with Sinclair, and there really wasn’t any emerging promotions to challenge the WWE. Yet, the WWE itself was struggling in the post-Cena. They tried and tried push Roman Reigns as a John Cena clone, but it just wasn’t clicking at the time. WWE seemed to be too reliant on Brock Lesnar’s part-time starpower, trying too hard to force Roman as a babyface, and struggling to assess wrestlers coming up from the NXT developmental system. WWE Monday Night RAW’s viewership went from just above 4 million during early 2015 to now pushing under 2.5 million. The Brand Split was initially successful, but just after Wrestlemania in 2017, the WWE would “shake-up” the rosters and ruin the chemistry formed from the initial split.
Fans during 2017 were thirsty for something exciting other than WWE. Then, you had someone like Cody Rhodes who had the stones to ask for his outright WWE release and bet on himself to succeed and grow as a wrestler outside of the WWE. Cody was clearly on a different level on his own versus being painted up as Stardust and was a favorite on the indy scene, TNA/Impact, Ring of Honor, and in New Japan. Furthermore, the Bullet Club was gaining popularity in New Japan and when they’d appear in Ring of Honor. Kenny Omega was having thrilling matches in New Japan in which many publications, not just Dave Meltzer, gave him “Match of the Year” honors. Young Bucks and many other indy wrestlers were drumming up interest within the PWG promotion in California which many wrestlers who’d join FCW/NXT and later WWE also had experience within as a worker.
The event soon evolved into being developed by Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks primarily, with lots of help from their friends. In addition, Cody and the Bucks had permission from Ring of Honor to not only put on the event, but to have sanctioned RoH matches on the card. For example, Jay Lethal defended his RoH title against Flip Gordon. The NWA promotion, still in development before Billy Corgan attempted to really push it as a national brand again, had their World Title defended by Nick Aldis and Cody Rhodes actually defeated him for said belt. This was not only a great match, but a huge moment for Cody because his father Dusty Rhodes proudly won the NWA title multiple times.
You had other stars on the show that would miss the AEW cut:
– Rey Mysterio Jr.
– Tessa Blanchard
– Nick Aldis (mentioned above)
– Chelsea Green
– The Briscoes as a team
– Stephen Amell (does that count?)
The show was a major success and drew over 11,000 live paying fans while scoring 50,000 buys on Pay Per View. That’s quite remarkable and proved, at the time, that there was more to pro wrestling than what the WWE was offering and maybe RoH & TNA/Impact was missing something.
The show had a major miss, too, and possibly the most cringeworthy moment ever following Adam “Hangman” Page‘s match with Joey Janela. Afterward, guys dressed up in inflatable penis costumes came out, sort of like Undertaker’s druids from the 1990s, and they would lead to the arrival of Joey Ryan. Yes, the penis suplexing Joey Ryan who has since disappeared from the pro wrestling landscape once the #MeToo movement cleaned out the pro wrestling scene with its #SpeakingOut movement. It is total cringe and stains what was a great show that would create lots of excitement for the AEW brand when it was announced during early 2019. Joey Ryan was invited by Tony Khan to join AEW, but he had to tone down his “penis” stuff and Joey reportedly refused. Big mistake in hindsight for him, as he would soon lose his entire wrestling career just a year later.
The event had a big surprise, too… Chris Jericho was at the event and revealed himself following Kenny’s match with Penta El Zero. It was completely unexpected at the time and created lots of buzz, as it kept showing that Jericho, too, could remain relevant outside of the WWE. While this appearance was to primarily push Jericho vs. Omega on the Jericho Cruise, it would help hype AEW’s existence when Chris Jericho was announced to be on the roster. Then, Jericho would add instant credibility to AEW by becoming its first AEW World Champion.
Overall, the first ever All In event during September 1st, 2018 was well received and created a buzz that would catch the attention of a younger Tony Khan who had dreams of getting into the wrestling business. What Cody and the Young Bucks needed was finances and infrastructure to take their promoting desires beyond 1 event, and Tony would prove to be it. By early 2019, AEW was announced and many participants at this event would instantly join AEW with Cody, Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega announced as Executive Vice Presidents (EVP) while Chris Jericho would join as a high profile signing with AEW.
Think about this… What if this show FAILED?
– Drew less than 10,000 fans
– Wasn’t bought much on Pay Per View
– Lacked high profile participants
– Had bad matches.
The entire wrestling landscape would be different if this September 2018 “All In” show failed. You might not have AEW, nor would you have a show in London that drew over 80,000 fans in Wembley Stadium. WWE would be further complacent without any competition… Where would Cody Rhodes be without this event being successful and catapulting him into AEW? How would he ever rejoin WWE and would it have the same momentum as leaving AEW as an EVP?
The fact is that Rey Mysterio did All In and then poof, he’s back with the WWE. This show and the creation of AEW afterward caught the WWE’s attention and in my opinion, has made it better. Wrestlers now have a valid second money option and the creation of AEW has boosted salaries in the WWE as a competitive threat.
But had Cody, Young Bucks, and many of their friends not pooled their resources and talents together to pull of this September 2018 All In show, the landscape of wrestling could be much different.
Thanks to them, WWE has something resembling competition and that has not only made the WWE better, but given more opportunities for pro wrestlers to financially succeed and have more opportunities to showcase their talents.
From the All In show in Illinois to the All In show 5 years later in London, what a strange trip it has been.
And brought to you by Dave Meltzer, who doubted that someone, other than the WWE, could host a show with 10,000 fans drawn. Thanks Dave!
5 years ago, the initial seed for AEW was planted… Do ya feel old yet?
Continued congrats to ALL participants of this September 1st, 2018 initial “All In” show. Look at what you started and look how it blossomed. Pro wrestling has improved for the last 5 years because you took on a challenge to draw 10,000 fans in an arena for a non-WWE wrestling event. See what happens when you defy the critics and try something new?
And if you dislike AEW, then fine… But think about the state of the wrestling business during 2017-2018 versus what it is now. Much, much better with plenty of options to choose from and a greatly improved WWE.
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