I’ve been to a lot of wrestling shows. I’m fortunate enough to live in one of wrestling’s mega hubs so not only do I get to see WWE frequently, but I have been able to attend Shimmer, AAW, Chikara, Rise, Zelo Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor (ROH)...the list goes on.
So naturally, when the location for ALL IN was announced I did a happy dance and added it to the list of shows to attend. Little did I know that it would be unlike any other wrestling show I’ve ever been too.
From the moment we arrived at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates (which is not Chicago, but I’ll let it slide) I could feel the excitement in the crowd. Everywhere I looked my gaze was met with a Bullet Club shirts. Men, women, children - it was crazy! One of my friends said it looked like a crowd scene from a video game where they only generated a small number of people and then they copy and pasted until they had a horde. If you were like me, not in a Bullet Club shirt, you were in a tiny minority.
While I always try to arrive in time for the pre-show I never expect to see the arena at full capacity, but when we found our seats around 4pm, an hour before Zero Hour began, almost every seat was occupied. It seems no one wanted to miss a single moment.
I’ll be frank, of course I was excited for ALL IN, but I didn’t really have any expectations. I don’t watch ROH anymore, I only watch random matches from NJPW and I’ve never seen an episode of Being The Elite. I was at ALL IN because it was close to my house and I was curious, but when the The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes came out for the pre-show speech my passing curiosity turned into genuine excitement. How can you not pop for a pre-show speech with pyro, Road Warrior Animal, free merch and a good sense of humor? It was an excellent way to set the tone of the show! ALL IN was about having fun.
Generally, a crowd’s energy ebbs and flows. It’s natural, especially when you consider how incredibly long wrestling shows are nowadays. Even if you love something, five hours is a long time, but this crowd was hot all night. The only times I felt the energy truly drop was between the matches. Even when the crowd was silent during a match, it didn’t seem like it was because they were on their phones or checked out, but rather that they were invested and actually watching the ring!
I think that level of investment was due to a mixture of things.
First, ALL IN did an excellent job of promoting this event. They kept people excited from the moment they announced the show to the moment the show began. That energy was maintained throughout the show.
Second, the booking of the show was brilliant. It truly felt like the show was building the entire time. They continuously topped every “how are they going to top that moment” with the match/moment that followed.
Third, the wrestling talent on that show was next level good and they actually let everyone wrestle! Heck, Stephen Amell got to work a full match (and did pretty damn good for an actor).
Fourth, and most importantly, they gave the us something different. It truly felt like a show put on by people who just genuinely love pro wrestling. The booking felt very much like “I bet they’ll pop for this because I know I would!”
For those watching at home the final match ended in a flurry of flips and then the show ended, but for us in the arena we were treated with a post show celebration. The Bucks, Cody, and their families all came out to thank the crowd. These three men put on one of the best wrestling shows of the year and they thanked the crowd!
It was a heartfelt and - yeah, I’ll admit it - tear inducing moment, that was cheesy and corny, but it was one of the most genuine experiences I’ve ever had at a pro-wrestling event. The entire crowd was on their feet; listening, cheering, reveling in this history making moment. Nothing was happening in the ring, there was no post show run in or crazy flips. It was just a group of guys who made an incredible thing happen and all the fans who were grateful to them. It sounds so silly to say this, but there was so much love in that room. Love for this weird, wonderful art form.
Was it a perfect show? No, but it got pretty damn close. I have my complaints. There was only one merch table for 10,000 people, the women’s match wasn’t presented on the titantron with the other matches at the beginning of the show, there seemed to be a significant lag time between the matches, and the timing of the show felt off by the end (because it was). But when one considers the massive undertaking this was - because really it was just three guys with a dream - and the amount of buzz this show generated there is no other word to use then success.
I’m both grateful and mad l that I got to experience ALL IN live. Grateful because I got to be a part of the show and to contribute to the energy in the room, but mad because I don’t know how any other live event will live up to it!
I guess I’ll just have to wait for ALL IN 2.