AEW All Out 2022 took place Sunday, September 4, 2022 at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Almost everyone who follows the sport of professional wrestling is aware of what transpired after the pay per view was over, but only a selected few media people were in the building as it happened. Jon Alba from AdFreeShows.com was one such man, and he spoke with Cageside Seats about being there and how “surreal” the whole thing was. To start the conversation Alba gave us some context on his journey into wrestling podcasts.
“Around 2015 I was a sports director up in Bangor, Maine for an ABC/FOX affiliate, and I was covering a one man show that Billy Gunn was doing. I was interviewing him afterwards and he told me that I had a very punchable face. I wasn’t really sure how to respond, but he said ‘Nah that’s a good thing. You’ll be able to make money off of it.’ So here we are eight years later almost, and I’m trying to make some money off having a punchable face, doing podcasts and working with pro wrestlers that I grew up watching, and it’s a pretty cool journey.”
What led to The Extreme Life of Matt Hardy?
“Once I signed on with Conrad’s network full time I wanted to try to make a splash. I had in the back of my head for several years that I thought Matt Hardy would just be a fantastic podcast. I knew how knowledgeable he was, I knew how ahead of the curve he always was with business trends and industry trends, and he was one of my favorites growing up. He had followed me on Twitter maybe about a year prior (to the show) and I had this pitch in my head. I reached out to him, I said ‘Hey man I’ve got an idea, just give me five minutes of your time, that’s all I need.’ About three weeks later at like midnight, 1 AM, I got a call from Matt Hardy and he was like ‘Alright. I’ve got five minutes. Whatcha got?’ And the rest as they say is history.”
How do you go from being a fan of someone to doing a show with that same person?
“I think he and I are cut from the same cloth, which certainly helps. We have similar outlooks on pro wrestling, we share a lot of commonalities on how we view the industry and how we digest pro wrestling, and I think that lends itself to having a great show. I firmly believe that our podcast is one of the most informative and insightful pro wrestling podcasts you’re going to find out there.”
What was Alba’s reaction as CM Punk opened the press conference targeting specific reporters in the room?
“I’ve been in so many press conferences where athletes have gone after the press, so truthfully it really didn’t phase me very much. I hadn’t directly reported on any of these things, so I didn’t personally feel vilified or attacked in that regard. I think he was in defense mode, and I think when you’re in defense mode, that you tend to throw things out into the abyss and see what lands and what sticks. I know it’s easy to target media. There were a couple of times he personally came after a couple of people, but I don’t think he was necessarily overtly aggressive in that sense. I’ve certainly been in situations where people were more aggressive than he was.”
“I think one thing that stands out to me is that pro wrestling is somewhat in a bubble. You don’t really get a whole lot of press availabilities like this in pro wrestling. So when you do have an anomaly situation like this, I think it resonates a lot more with people. As far as other pro sports go or news conferences go, I don’t want to say this would be standard because it certainly wouldn’t be, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen an athlete extremely upset with someone or members of the press.”
Do “Hangman” Adam Page and CM Punk bear any responsibility for shooting on each other on live television?
“You would hope that in a functioning society you go and you approach it in person, behind the scenes, in front of nobody between the two of you and you iron it out. Evidently that didn’t seem to be the case. I also think it’s worth noting that Punk was gone for a few months, so mediation may have been a little more difficult in that regard too. I don’t want to be accusatory here because it’s easy to put on our Monday morning quarterbacking hat but at the same time there are circumstances here that people are not necessarily aware of.”
Did Alba sense things were escalating as Punk was talking about “EVPs” and alluding to Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks?
“For me him going on these tangents in the press conference, while it was certainly aggressive and weird, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve seen something like this happen. I know for a lot of people who may only know the wrestling bubble that that’s what it feels like, and that’s totally understandable. For me that wasn’t this jaw dropping shocking thing. It was unprofessional to a degree I think many would argue, but I don’t think it was this jaw dropping, ‘Oh my goodness. I can’t believe that an athlete would go after somebody else.’ For me the more shocking stuff and what was so surreal is that there were real time physical altercations as the rest of the press conference was going on, and you had the owner of the company right there on stage as this was all happening. That was truly surreal.”
Was it evident something was wrong when a security guard ran out of the room?
“I can’t speak for anybody else (but) I know that maybe about ten minutes after that happened, I got my first message that there had been a... that punches had been thrown. If the report that there’s going to be an independent investigator brought onto this is accurate, that sounds like probably the proper avenue to go about trying to figure out what exactly went down.”
Did anybody leave to see if they could find the melee?
“Everybody stayed. It was clear something that had happened, I think it was after Toni Storm left, there was a brief pause. From what I had been led to believe we were supposed to get the Young Bucks, but they pivoted to Chris Jericho for obvious reasons now. And there was a little bit of a pause and we were waiting for Jericho, and there were texts being sent, so there was a little bit of an awkward hold up there. I think that’s where people really started to realize that something had gone down.”
Was Tony Khan aware of the situation?
“Watching it back, Chris Jericho said something to him. It looks apparent that Chris Jericho said something along the lines of ‘Some shit went down’ (to him). I don’t directly recall a PR official or anybody else of that nature informing him, but I don’t want to speculate on that front. I was a little surprised that (neither) a PR official nor Tony shut things down as this stuff was happening. Just historically speaking at press conferences I’ve been in where stuff has happened, that’s exactly what would happen. The PR official or whoever would say ‘Alright guys, wrap it up.’ That’s what I expected to happen, but it didn’t.”
What if anything should be done in the aftermath?
“Based on the reports it sounds like there are some suspensions that coming about so that seems to be the course of action at the very least. As of the time of this recording we don’t know the full extent of the punishments, but it certainly seems like there are some degrees of suspensions going on, which I think would be expected in a situation like this.”
Did Alba realize how big the story would become afterward?
“Yeah, I mean, I think I tweeted it even. I said ‘I think tonight is going to be one of the biggest nights in wrestling history.’ I feel like I recognized it in the aftermath and I do believe that there’s a very real chance that when all is said and done it will have been.”
Is there any chance that this is a work?
“I unequivocally can not say enough that this was not planned or anything of that nature. This is not a work. This is all real life that happened. I can’t say that clear enough and if people don’t want to believe that then they don’t have to. It’s reality. Does that mean it can’t turn into a quote work? Sure. It can if cooler heads prevail and everyone comes to their realization that they can make a lot of money on this, sure, it can become a work. But as things stand as we record this, all of this is very real life.”