Despite running a grand total of zero shows, the pro wrestling promotion that is far and away generating the most industry buzz is AEW.
Fans flocked to Chicago this weekend, attending the 10th annual C2E2 show, to take part in a bevy of appearances by several members of The Elite (Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks). An early highlight of the weekend was the well-attended All Elite Wrestling panel, where the trio of wrestling superstars took fan questions, and teased future projects for the burgeoning company.
For Kenny Omega, a self-professed comic book and video game fanatic, it was his first comic con panel, as well as the first time ‘The Cleaner’ has visited The Windy City since the group’s historic All In event last September. Omega wasted no time in spilling the beans (as previously reported by our own Mike Killam) regarding the inevitable sequel to All In, as well as the fact that the Sears Centre will, indeed, host the event. Apparently, this news was to be saved until the END of the panel.
Matt Jackson, one-half of the Young Bucks, was quick to point out the fact that it is usually HE that spoils dramatic, breaking news reveals, and he was happy to pawn the blame on his pal, Kenny, as an “All In 2” chant subsequently erupted from the crowd.
Another point of discussion between the trio and their fans was AEW’s focus on diversity and inclusivity within in the company. Chief Brand Officer Brandi Rhodes, from day one, has touted her vision for the promotion as one where all performers will receive their opportunity to shine, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual preference. And while Rhodes is spearheading this effort, Matt Jackson made sure to state that this vision is company-wide. “This is a collaborative effort,” he stated, and added that AEW will be for “All wrestlers and all fans, with no exclusion.”
The trio couldn’t return to Chicago without waxing poetic about the first All In event. And while the show was, seemingly, flawless, Nick Jackson pointed out that most of the headaches went unnoticed by the fans: “People going over on time [on their matches]. But also the price tag of things like insurance, hotels, flights. Turns out, all these performers have to have a place to stay! I thought they just showed up, ready to work! We learned a lot about promotion [of a wrestling event].”
Another unique proposition of the young company is their willingness to work with other promotions, share talent, and give their performers the freedom to work elsewhere. Omega hammered this point home, saying, “With AEW, we wanted to extend an olive branch to ALL companies, to try to get the best wrestlers in the world.” Omega clearly doesn’t feel that a wrestling community where ALL promotions cooperate with one another is out of the question, adding, “I believe in a future where worlds can, and will, collide.”
On a related note, regarding the prospective work schedules of their talent, the Elite members assured the crowd that AEW would be a touring promotion, and not just a pay-per-view product. Nick Jackson added, “We’ll be taking Christmas off, and probably New Year’s too. We love our families, and we miss them when we’re gone. We won’t have a schedule as rigorous [as WWE], but we will definitely be a touring brand.”
One fan attending the panel questioned whether the ‘freedom’ the AEW wrestlers possessed, to work in other promotions, would fade away once the company begins a regular touring schedule. Matt Jackson assured the crowd that this would not be an issue. “We encourage our wrestlers to continue to fulfill their bookings.” Omega added, “Some of the wrestlers we’ve signed, we see a lot of potential in. But some of them are also unpolished. Currently, we just don’t have enough shows to help them grow, so these outside bookings are important.”
With the first AEW show not taking place until the Las Vegas ‘Double or Nothing’ show Memorial Day weekend, fantasy booking theories were running rampant in Hall 404. And while the initials WWE were largely avoided by both the crowd and the panelists, one fan couldn’t help but be curious about who the trio would steal from Vince McMahon’s roster, provided the opportunity.
Matt Jackson was reluctant, at first, to participate, half-joking, “I don’t want to be accused of contract-tampering,” before giving the “safe answer” of AJ Styles (safe, because of the fact that Styles recently re-upped with WWE, and won’t be a prospective free agent for several years).
Nick, meanwhile, sang the praises of former WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, before agreeing with his brother that both would love to see NXT star Candice Lerae compete in AEW someday.
Kenny Omega’s personal and professional love for former NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane made “The Pirate Princess” his dream draft pick. “She still texts me ‘Happy Birthday.’ She’s just a wonderful person. Not to mention one of the best elbow drops of all time…along with Randy Savage and Matt Jackson.”
Omega would go on to list a bevy of fantasy matchups/signings from the male superstar side, including AJ Styles (“I wanted that one badly”), John Cena and Seth Rollins (“I want to compete against Alpha Males. Guys who think, and have proven, they’re the best.”), and The New Day.
When the prospect of a television deal was raised, Nick was quick to quip, “TV deal? I thought we’re just a t-shirt company,” playing off of some of the online trolling the company has experienced over the last several months.
But it wouldn’t be the sarcasm of the younger Jackson that drew the biggest reaction and intrigue from the crowd at McCormick Place, as it pertains to a TV deal. When one fan suggested streaming platforms such as Netflix or Hulu as potential landing spots for a weekly AEW television program, the elder Jackson brother would respond, “That all sounds good……or, we already have something cooking.”
Kenny Omega would add, “Something is already put in motion that can’t be stopped,” a response that drew excited chatter among the fans in attendance.
The rest of the panel was a potpourri of interesting topics, ranging from a prospective announcing team for the company (Nick: “I think we already have who we want. We’ll make an announcement in a couple weeks.”), to fantasy matchups with 80s superstars (Matt: “For me, it’s Young Bucks vs. Rockers, or Young Bucks vs. Mega Powers.” When Omega insinuated that a Mega Powers matchup would be a ‘squash match,’ Matt quipped, “I think they could last 5 minutes with us.”), a possible AEW video game using the popular ‘WCW/NWO Revenge’ gaming engine), to announcements of future signings (Omega: “There’s so many cool ones that I can’t wait to release to the world.”).
The trio of international stars closed the festivities the same way they began it, with expressions of thanks to the fans, reciprocated by a rousing, standing ovation.
It’s abundantly clear that, for the devotees of AEW, the company’s May debut can’t get here soon enough.
For more of my pro wrestling shenanigans, check out the Ryno Wrestling Review podcast here on ProWrestling.Com, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast platform. Want an on-air shout-out, or have a question? Email the show at [email protected]!