Sep 6, 2021

The Best Wrestling Promotion In The World

All Out
All Elite Wrestling (September 5, 2021)
My interest in professional wrestling over the years has fluctuated pretty wildly.  I loved it when I was a kid, from around 1985 to 1994, but I started to lose interest after Wrestlemania X.  I became interested in it again when WCW turned Hulk Hogan heel and started the nWo storyline, and stuck with them and WWF/E for a few more years, but I drifted away when the Invasion storyline was botched and the overall product got to be too time consuming to keep up with.

When Ring of Honor brought Kenta Kobashi to the United States, I started to follow that promotion, and I attended almost every ROH show that took place in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York for a span of about three years.  I didn't lose interest in the company, but I returned to college in 2007, so I didn't have the time or money to keep up with it the way that I used to.

A few years after I graduated, the WWE Network launched and I subscribed to it from day one.  I mostly got it to watch it's archive of older shows, like Saturday Night's Main Event and Nitro, but I absolutely fell in love with NXT.  They were bringing in a lot of the wrestlers that I used to see in ROH and Chikara back in the day, and they were putting on incredible shows with interesting storylines that made sense and didn't talk down to the audience.  I watched the main WWE pay-per-view events too because they were free with the service, but I couldn't bring myself to watch Raw or Smackdown.  I tried to keep up with it for a little while, but if I'm being completely honest, I thought most of it was boring.  The storylines were inconsistent, the matches were mostly short and forgettable, and there was just so damn many hours of programming, it got to be overwhelming.  It eventually got to a point where even the pay-per-view events weren't worth watching, so I cancelled my subscription to the Network.  However, I knew the sirens song of professional wrestling would bring me back one day, and that song came from a brand new company.

Three years ago, a group of wrestlers led by Cody Rhodes put on an independent pay-per-view event called All In.  It was the first time I ordered a pro wrestling ppv in as long as I can remember (not counting the ones that came free with the WWE Network), and I was absolutely blown away.  I could have done without all of the Joey Ryan nonsense, but the rest of the show was incredible.  Soon afterward, this show would evolve into a new promotion called All Elite Wrestling, and they have been knocking it out of the park ever since.  They've put together an eclectic roster of wrestlers, broadcasters and personalities who deliver a show that is so far ahead of the the WWE that I don't even really bother seeing what they're doing anymore.  I don't expect WWE to disappear for the same reasons that I don't expect McDonald's to disappear.  I may eat the occasional Big Mac, and I may watch the occasional WWE match, but it's never something I would choose over a clearly superior alternative.

From their first day in business and in the years since the formation of AEW, they have added a lot of talent from the glory days of WWF/E, WCW, ECW and ROH to their roster, including Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, MiroStingPaul Wight, Mark Henry, Chavo Guerrero, Matt Hardy, Christian CageAndrade El Idolo, Pac, Matt Sydal, Jack EvansChristopher Daniels, Eddie KingstonFTR, The Good BrothersChuck Taylor, Colt Cabana, Tay Conti, Serena DeebJake Hager, Malakai Black, Shawn SpearsBilly Gunn, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page, TazDon Callis, Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone, with many others working in backstage roles.

This impressive list of performers, combined with their incredible home grown talent and wrestlers who until very recently worked in Japan, Mexico and in the American indy scene, is one of the deepest talent rosters I've ever seen in my 35 years as a fan.  However, they have recently landed the key punch to the competition that takes a pro wrestling company to the next level.  I saw it in 1996 when Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Syxx signed with WCW, and I saw it again in 2000 when Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn came to the WWF.

The first domino fell on August 20th when CM Punk appeared on AEW Rampage.  It was one of the worst kept secrets in wrestling history, but that didn't matter.  Punk's hometown Chicago crowd went ballistic for the former ROH and WWE Champion, who was making his return to professional wrestling after seven years.

The next three made their AEW debut last night on the third annual All Out ppv.  Once again, the surprise had been spoiled on the internet for several weeks, and just as before, it didn't matter.  Ruby Soho (formerly Ruby Riott) made her entrance as the 21st entrant in the Casino Battle Royale.  She came to the ring with the Rancid song that inspired her new ring name playing, and she went on to defeat Thunder Rosa to win the match and become the #1 contender to the title.  Normally, I wouldn't be on board for a storyline that puts a newcomer to the top of the card, but this company has more than earned my trust that they're going to tell an entertaining story that makes sense.

Adam Cole was the next to make his debut.  The former ROH and NXT Champion came to the ring after Kenny Omega successfully defended his title against Christian CageOmega was remarking that no one, past or present, could take the title from him.  Cole hit the ring to a massive ovation and an awesome new entrance theme and looked as if he was going to confront Omega, but he swerved the crowd and embraced The Elite.  Although it was a shock to the fans in attendance, it is 100% on brand for his character and for his previous storylines with Omega, The Young Bucks and The Good Brothers.

Finally, as The Elite (now with Adam Cole Bay Bay!) continued their beatdown on Christian Cage and Jurassic Express, the opening of Ride Of The Valkyries played and out came one of my favorite professional wrestlers of all time: "The American Dragon" Bryan Danielson.  He came down to the ring and cleaned house while the crowd went absolutely bananas.

I cannot begin to explain how massive this is in the world of professional wrestling.  Punk and Danielson are arguably the two biggest stars the WWE has had this century, and if you've only ever seen their work in the WWE, you've only seen a small fraction of what they're capable of.  It's comparable to watching a movie like Scarface on network television, with all of the cuts and edits that would be required for it to be allowed for broadcast.  They are unquestionably two of the most talented performers of their generation and it is impossible to understate how huge this is for AEW.  I compared it to the debut of The Outsiders in WCW or The Radicalz in WWF, but I think that it's going to end up being even more impactful on the business than that.

Incidentally, the rest of All Out was amazing and reminded me of all of the reasons why I love professional wrestling.  It's without question one of the best wrestling shows I've ever watched.  I can't remember a time when I had more fun watching wrestling than I've had since AEW came onto the scene, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds from here.