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Why I’m Not Going to ALL IN

Not everyone is excited for the biggest independent wrestling show in forever.

I wanted to be ALL IN, as the show’s graphics say.

Financially, it always felt like a stretch, but I’ve had no problem this year when it come to being silly with money to attend wrestling. I flew to Michigan to see Keith Lee’s last Evolve show, and took trains up and down the north-east, to see his final indies. I’m flying to England to see Progress’ Wembley show, Fight Club Pro’s Project Mayhem and a Pro Wrestling: EVE show.

But when it came time for everything to start, it all seemed a bit off. And so I write this, wishing I wasn’t so frustrated with the show, and expecting a backlash to this article that I hope will be constructive and not destructive. It’s not fun to be the asshole on the outside of things, I swear, I’d much rather be enjoying the moment with everyone else.

A roster without matches was a red flag

The slow burn that Cody and The Bucks spent revealing the ALL IN card, selling tickets without a single match announced, was the first stinky fish in the koi pond. And then, they sell out the 10,000-seat Sears Center in an instant. In a business that is practically monopolized by WWE, I’ll quote Portal, and note that “this was a triumph, huge success.”

A success driven by incredibly strong fan support, which has been built up by these wrestlers being good guys and the anti-WWE story, which the 7.25-star crowd laps up with a ladle.

Yes, other promotions sell tickets without announced matches all the time. But, given the card, which was filled with people I love and loathe, I couldn’t commit to buying a ticket without knowing a single match.

Let’s start off on a polite foot

Before I get to the specific issues, and all my negativity -- which I honestly wish weren’t the case -- I’ll start off with what I love about this card. The matches that have convinced me that I should spend the $40 for the PPV, even in an age where WWE’s $9.99 Network has made fans blanch at the thought of paying the former standard.

That 6-man tag -- Bandido, Rey Fenix and Rey Mysterio vs. Kota Ibushi and The Young Bucks -- has me frothing, and shaking. That match alone, is why I’m ordering this PPV.

Next up, the “15-Man Over Budget Battle Royal” is some clever booking, features some fantastic talent Brian Cage, Ethan Page, Jordynne Grace, Marko Stunt and Rocky Romero, that I’d pay to see any day of the week. Even more clever? They’ve left 5 slots open, so people can fantasy book their asses off, to figure out who fights Jay Lethal.

Also? Joey Janela vs Hangman Page? I can’t wait to see the nonsense they cook up.

Update: A friend pointed out to me that I left Kenny/Pentagon off the article, and while I’m not the hugest Pentagon fan right now, this has huge potential.

I remember Magnus

The first announced match, the show’s semi-main event, is a battle of ... two guys who are working to become The Guy. In one corner, you’ve got the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title on the shoulder of Nick Aldis who TNA viewers may remember as Magnus, who ... never really had *it,* and this match will likely be his biggest career moment in a while, defending against Cody.

This match, it appears, is some backwards setup for a payoff to the ongoing feud between Flip Gordon and Cody, which is built from the Being The Elite YouTube series. I know that because I’ve watched the series and chuckled at all of its plot points, with Flip being Charlie Brown, Cody being Lucy, and getting booked on ALL IN being the football.

Yes, that’s right, the champion defending his title in the semi-main is barely a part of the match, overshadowed by the ten pounds of gold on his shoulder.

Justice For Okada

Not enough digital ink has been spilled over the wastefulness of Okada vs Scurll. Marty is, to put it politely, a C+ player, and a comedy wrestler that’s tiers below the actual greats. The guy’s never found his second gear, and has been phoning it in for years. He’s now trying to find that inner villain, in the latest BTE, but we shall see.

To put him with Okada, is mind boggling, especially when you look at the rest of the roster. Sure, this match may be fun for those who have followed their story on Being The Elite, but I wonder how it will translate to the ring.

Though, to be honest, after the strenuous years Okada’s had defending that title, a soft match against Marty’s probably exactly what he needs. As the fans say, *you de serve it.*

The Fallen Angel vs The Green Arrow ... really?

You’ve got Christopher Daniels, a veteran who was dressing like a facist long before Walter made it cool, and you put him against ... that actor from the CW? Really?

Maxwell Jacob Friedman, the heel who goes by MJF (aka MJEFF, aka EC2), is so good at being hated, but I have to give him a nod here, as the guy who should be facing Daniels. I mean, MJF is already booked for ALL IN, so I hope they’ll have something even better for him. His youthful snobbery would play so well off of Daniels, the established veteran who’s also a prick in Being The Elite.

Yes, you got good promos out of both Daniels and Arrow on YouTube, and I bet Arrow’s been working his tail off to get ready, but this just doesn’t work for me at all. If you wanted fantastic promo video work, did you see MJF’s trailer for Joey Janela’s Spring Break? How does that guy not have a match on the card yet? Just gonna throw him in that Battle Royale, I guess? He’s not the big name that Arrow is?

I hate hypothesizing, but I’d hazard a guess that MJF isn’t on a pre-announced match because he’s not exactly a BTE regular, or in ROH. And that might matter for some, but at this moment in time for wrestling, I think it’s an incorrect assumption.

This women’s match could be great, but feels token as f***

Question for all you hot shots. If ALL IN is a show filled with matches based on stories created on Being The Elite, where’s the god damn story for Chelsea Green vs Britt Baker vs Madison Rayne vs Tessa Blanchard?

Oh right, they’re not on the show, which has been a boy’s club from the jump (with Brandi Rhodes being the exception that makes the rule).

Oh, look, I found a segment about this match, or at least a video with a spotlight on Chelsea Green. Why was it so hard to find? It’s hidden on the ancillary ALL US series, which is over on Cody’s YouTube channel.

Sure, there’s a ton of talent between the four of these wrestlers, but the lack of any build for this makes it feel like an afterthought.

The Briscoes are a no-go for me

I’m sorry, but Mark and Jay Briscoe are repellent. Not only is this duo so past their prime it’s sad, but the chicken farmers proved their ignorance by ripped away a Pride flag from fans at Fight Club Pro in England this past March. To those who bend over backwards to excuse this behavior as “getting heat”: I hope I never meet you in real life.

Yes, AJ Styles and Ronda Rousey have both said some terrible things in their time, but they’re not showing their colors at live shows, for crying out loud.

What would I have done instead? Chuck Taylor and Trent Barreta are on the card for ALL IN, and I’d say their oddball chemistry would have made a lot more sense going up against SoCal Uncensored than Dem Boyz (whose appearance feels like a contractual requirement for working with ROH).

Starrcast? LOL

OK, this isn’t about the card, but wow this Starrcast thing is the turd on top of the sundae.

I’m sorry, a podcast festival filled with fans of the former writers and bookers and aging personalities that take up too much of the conversation online is the antithesis of Interesting. So when I found out ALL IN would be buttressed with a podcast festival starring the likes of Eric Bischoff, Bruce Pritchard and Tony Schiavone? My enthusiasm dampened again. And to hear that Big Dave and his 7.25 stars would be there? Doing some kind of live podcast? I needed that chuckle, thanks Starrcast.

Pro wrestling’s so obsessed with its past, with these shows where aging relics re-litigate the past, that I can’t help but walk in the opposite direction.

Also, Starrcast has some of the worst names on the planet when it comes to poorly aging dudes who spend their days sadly, being creeps (Disco Inferno) and vanity searching and replying, looking for attention (Bully Ray).

In conclusion, you couldn’t pay me to walk into the Starrcast facilities, and I’ve covered the mess that is CES for crying out loud.

But, yes, I’m still gonna watch

Even with all of those grievances, and even though I wouldn’t want to spend the money to travel from New York and be there, I’m gonna be coughing up the $40 for the PPV. They’ve got my money, because I want to see what surprises they’ve got up their sleeves, and I respect the hustle, even if I disagree with some of the decisions.

There’s a ton of talent up and down the card, but the build feels haphazard. Isn’t this supposed to be some giant antithesis to WWE, not a reminder of its flaws? At the end of the day, I hope this show is more than just the result of a bet won between a wrestler and a guy whose newsletter gets way too much attention.

Henry T. Casey writes for Cageside Seats on occasion.

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