SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
When The Young Bucks tweeted about waking up on Saturday felt like Christmas morning, they weren’t wrong. I couldn’t sleep for most of the night because I knew that I was finally going to All In. There had been months and months to this day. I had flashbacks of checking Twitter everyday waiting to see what the next big announcement was going to be. I could remember the excitement I felt when they announced that Kazuchika Okada would be wrestling. Everything had finally all come together for an epic wrestling show.
My phone was buzzing from several incoming emails from Starrcast. I received a notification that the Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi meet and greet had been moved up from Sunday to Saturday morning. The message said that those with tickets needed to be in line before 9:30 to make sure that you get to meet them today. If your schedule does not allow you to meet them today, then Kenny would be doing a solo meet and greet Sunday morning. I heard it was due to Kota having some travel issues including losing his wallet. The email also disclosed that Kota was supposed to be on a plane back to Japan early Sunday.
This meant a change of plans for us because we were hoping we might have a shot at meeting Okada at Flip Gordon’s party. We’d written that off as a possibility, knowing that the meet and greet lines would be moving slowly. Back at Starrcast, there was a continuing buzz in the air. We got a decent place in line for the Omega/Ibushi meet and greet. It seemed to me that most were not upset about the change in plans. In fact, most people I talked to in-line were happy to meet them a day earlier.
While we stood in-line, there were several wrestlers walking by including Lisa Marie Varon/Victoria. Her table was across from room of the Omega/Ibushi signing and at the far end of podcast row. She chatted with fans and playfully gloated about her delicious plate of bacon she picked up from the hotel breakfast buffet. MJF made his way down podcast row which ran parallel to the meet and greet line. MJF made sure to insult anyone who made eye contact with him. He even went as far as walking down the line and throwing out insults such as “you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re bald” etc. As he walked down the line rapidly firing zingers, he told one woman in line that she was disgusting. The woman almost had a meltdown because she didn’t know who MJF was. The people around her had to calm her down explaining that was his gimmick and he is always in character. She understood, but expressed her displeasure towards his nonchalant insults.
SCU also made their way down the line to get to their room for their meet and greet. One of the more unique things about these rooms was there really wasn’t a back area to bring in the wrestlers. They usually had to walk by all of the fans to get where they needed to be. Of course SCU’s presence brings on a chorus of “SCU” chants. I feel like, at least for independent wrestling fans, saying SCU has becoming the new “wooo” where all it takes is one person to do it then several others will soon join in. SCU kept walking past their signing room prompting several Starrcast staff to yell to get their attention. SCU is probably used to ignoring people shouting to get their attention, especially when they are surrounded by wrestling fans.
A few minutes after 10:00, I walked down the line to peak in the room to see if anything was going on. On my way back, I stopped at a vendor table right next to Lisa Marie Varon that had all sorts of autographs. The two most notable were a Hiroshi Tanahashi 8×10 for only $25 and The Rock 8×10 for $100. As I begin walking back to my spot in line, the crowd erupted in cheers. I looked down the hall and saw Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi make their way down to their signing room rolling their luggage behind them. What was more impressive than having The Golden Lovers walk right past me for their meet and greet, was seeing the reaction on people’s faces as they walked by. People were starstruck like I had never seen before. When I met Hulk Hogan, there were a few people who got wide-eyed and geeked out for his presence, but I had never seen such a large group of people so excited to see wrestlers.
The line was moving along slowly and, one by one, we would see people come out with huge smiles on their faces. We saw a few girls aged maybe 14-16 who came out crying because they were so happy to meet them. If you’ve seen footage of The Beatles playing Shea Stadium in 1965, that is what these girls looked like. Although this line took a long time, it seemed to me that the Starrcast staff was getting better at organizing the meet and greets.
Inside the room, they had a much more efficient snaking line that allowing for more people to wait inside the room. The staff was trying to get through everyone as quickly as possible because Kota and Kenny needed to be at the Sears Centre by a certain time. There was minimal time to meet the two. When it was finally my turn after about an hour of waiting since they started signing, I got to shake both Kota’s and Kenny’s hands. Kota was bright-eyed and seemed genuinely happy to be there and was gracious to every fan he met. Kenny was his laid back soft-spoken self. I told them each to have fun later tonight. Kota thanked me and Kenny said he would try. Before I left, they each signed my 24×36 All In poster which featured Cody and The Young Bucks.
The moment only lasted a couple minutes, but I like most fans I observed and talked to felt the $135 meet and greet ticket was worth the experience. Tickets for the meet and greet was one of the few benefits of having a platinum or gold bracelet. The meet and greet tickets were released to platinum bracelets holders first and sold out instantly. I upgraded from my silver bracelet to gold just so I would have a crack at the Omega/Ibushi meet and greet. When gold bracelets got their chance, tickets were gone in about two minutes. I estimate there were about 300 people in line.
Following Omega/Ibushi I got spot in line for Pentagon Jr. It was still about an hour before Pentagon was scheduled to begin so I took this time to browse the hotel while someone held my spot. I went back to down to the vendor to see if anything had changed. There were a few people getting tattoos. One was the omega symbol and the other was the words too sweet. Jerry Lawler also had a table setup with a few people lined up. As I made my way towards the exit, I saw PWTorch senior columnist Bruce Mitchell again. It was fun to see that Bruce was really enjoying being there. I asked Bruce if he had ever seen anything like this before at past wrestling conventions. He told me that this blows everything else out of the water from he’s seen. We talked about this being so unique with so many different wrestlers from different eras. I also mentioned to him how surprised I was about the height of some wrestlers and how TV makes a lot them look bigger than they actually are. My phone kept going off as I kept getting notifications that the line for Pentagon would be beginning soon. I told Bruce that I had to run and made my way back to Pentagon’s line.
Pentagon shared a line for meet and greets with his brother Fenix who stood next to him. We got to the door of the room where tickets were being scanned. After I handed my ticket to the Starrcast employee, I got bumped into by a very sweaty gentleman. I look up and it was Scott Steiner. Another Starrcast employee came rushing over and said, “Scott, this is your new helper, Jeremy.” Jeremy told Scott that he’s happy to be working with him. Scott cut him off and told him to just watch his sh–. Scott turned around intentionally bumping into people on his way out. Mr. Steiner was not happy to be there. People in line were disappointed that Pentagon was just wearing his mask and didn’t have any of his face paint. Several people noted that without Pentagon’s face paint and outfit you might think he was a fan in a mask. The majority of people just had a ticket to meet Pentagon. Several people suggested that there should have been a ticket option to meet both Pentagon and Fenix for a reduced price. Instead they each sold tickets separately for $45 each.
When we met Pentagon, he was not playing the role of his crazy sadistic character. He was very pleasant and much more soft spoken than you’d think from seeing his character. Pentagon only had a black sharpie so he did his best to find a white spot on the poster to sign that didn’t cover anything. Pentagon also gave my friend a signed 8×10 even though he had no obligation to do so. On our way out, we walked by Fenix and complimented him on his in-ring work. He was very appreciative even though we did not purchase his meet and greet.
We took a couple hour break back at our hotel before heading over to Flip’s All Out Party. We were close enough to the Sears Centre Arena where we could have walk, but chose to drive since Flip’s party only had about an hour left to go. The Sears Centre Arena parking was very easy to navigate as there were several employees helping to guide cars into the spots. It reminded me of how Disney World has staff members guide vehicles in their parking areas. Flip’s party was still alive and well by the time we arrived. It was stationed on the other side of the area away from where we parked. Flip stood on a stage by DJZ while music blared under a giant tent. We grabbed our free t-shirts that was included with the $20 ticket purchase for the party. By this point, Scurll, Hangman, and Okada had finished up their meet and greets. These meet and greets did not have pre-purchase tickets, it was a first-come, first-served. I assume there were people waiting outside the party to ensure they got in line for these high demand meet and greets.
Flip continued to jam on stage and occasionally do flips into the audience. He also took selfies and signed shirts for anyone who asked. There was one heavy-set gentleman who lifted up his shirt and told people they could give him a chop for $5. Most people just laughed and walked away, but one person said they would do it. The crowd immediately turned their attention to the man and made a circle around him. More people offered the man $5 and the crowd grew rapidly. After about five people chopped the man, security interfered and told him he can’t do that here. The crowd booed, then quickly dissipated.
At 4:00, the music stopped on the stage and many people headed toward the line to get into the arena. A few people including me stayed behind to meet with Flip. Flip stayed for everyone who wanted a photo or autograph and kept insisting that he was truly all out. He did give the caveat that he had until the last bell rung he could still get booked.
The crowd made their way towards the arena entrance. There wasn’t much of the typical chanting and chatter before big shows. The crowd was mostly quiet to the point where you hear the wind blowing. People could not believe that the moment they had waiting months for had finally arrived. Instead of rushing the doors, people were soaking in the moment that All In was finally here. The Sears Centre staff got people in pretty quickly considering how many people were trying to get in. Once in the arena, people were frantically looking for the merchandise stands. The Sears Centre Arena is set up like a horse shoe and had two merchandise stands with one at each end. Luckily we were among the first few hundred to get in the arena so we got a good spot at the merchandise stand.
People in line were asking each other what match they were most looking forward to. I heard most people say Cody vs. Nick Aldis with a couple people saying Kota & The Bucks vs. Rey & Fenix & Bandido. Not a lot of talk about Okada or Omega. Fans also gave their predictions as to how Flip would make his way onto the show. A person next to me suggested Flip would turn heel and interfere in Cody’s match. Someone also suggested that he would be hiding under Excalibur’s mask. The shirt that most people wanted was the Cody vs. Nick Aldis graphic tee, but they were told that shirt is only being sold at the merchandise stand so they were out of luck. The shirt I saw most people purchase had the All In poster featuring Cody and The Young Bucks. When we left the merchandise line, we got to see how big it actually was. The cluster of people went all the way down the side of the arena. I’d estimate about 1,000 people were in this line alone. The closest I’d seen to a line this big for merchandise was for a sold out Adele concert where they had several merchandise stands but there was a couple hundred people at each stand.
We got to our seats about an hour before the show. A lot of people were yelling out SCU because they knew they would be coming out first. I looked around and most people were wearing either an All In shirt or some variation of The Bullet Club. By 5:00 most of the arena was filled except for a couple of spots. A copyright warning came on the screen and the crowd erupted. Cody and The Bucks got a huge pop when they came out first and Animal got a nice reception as well.
•SCU vs. The Briscoes: A good opener to get the crowd going. I had a straight on view of the stage and on the stage were several lights facing right at section 110. Nobody around us could see the action in the ring because the lights were so bright. Once the lights were turned off, our section stood up and gave a standing ovation for the easy fix.
•Over-The-Budget Battle Royal: The crowd had mostly forgotten about El Hijo de Chico even though most people around me knew that it was clearly Flip. People were really into the idea of Jordynne Grace or Colt Cabana winning the battle royal, but when Flip removed the mask before winning the crowd was fully behind Flip chanting his name.
•MJF vs. Matt Cross: I’m not sure a lot of the audience was familiar with either of these guys. Matt Cross has been around for a long time, but hasn’t had the exposure like a lot of the other people on the show. Fans applauded the Cross win, but were ready to keep going with the show.
•Stephen Amell vs. Christopher Daniels: Fans got another chance to yell out SCU. They also really responded to Amell and the actions of Jerry Lynn. I was happy to see most people knew who Lynn was. Fans didn’t resent Amell at all. They knew he prepped hard for this match and gave it his all.
•Britt Baker vs. Chelsea Green vs. Madison Rayne vs. Tessa Blanchard: This was the first match that really got the crowd going. They had some really good action. Tessa kicking out of the Canadian Destroyer from Chelsea was up there as one of the biggest pops of the night so far. The ending was pretty clunky to the crowd because many thought the pin had been broken up, but the ref called for the bell. People around me were pretty confused, but the replay on the big screen cleared up the confusion.
•Cody vs. Nick Aldis: Everyone except for maybe a few people were standing up and chanting Cody. The crowd was ready to go on this emotional ride and root for Cody. The only lul period of the match was when Cody was on the ground people, were getting impatient and wanted Cody to get back to the action. When Cody won, people were jumping out of their seats and throwing up their arms in celebration. I did see people running up the aisles and in circles in celebration. There was an gentleman to my left who appeared to be in his mid-60s. He either had an eyelash stuck or he was wiping away a tear.
•Hangman Page vs. Joey Janela: Fans were riding that emotional high from the Cody match and took that energy into this match. When Hangman came out, people chanted “You killed Joey!” and “Joey Killer!” When Joey Ryan made his return with the “penis druids,” some people around us thought it was funny, and some people were kind of disgusted by it. I don’t think those people had been watching Being the Elite.
•Flip Gordon vs. Jay Lethal: Flip and Jay got good receptions coming out, but I felt that this match was where they lost some people. The crowd was tired at this point and needed to take a bit of a break.
•Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon: This had a huge fight feel to it in a different way from Cody and Nick Aldis. People had some time to rest and were ready to seeing these guys take it to the limit. This match had the most people reacting to every move. Towards the ends of the match, people in my section were standing up and jumping each time Kenny hit a V-Trigger. The best thing I could compare this atmosphere to was attending a game of your favorite sports team and after each big play that helps your team, people jumping up and and yelling in celebration. When the lights went out before Jericho’s appearance, some people thought there was an actual mistake in the production. When the lights came on and the fake Pentagon beat down Kenny, people in my section immediately said that’s Y2J! Jericho got a huge pop for his appearance despite beating down one of top crowd favorites.
•Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll: I didn’t feel that the crowd was lost of dead during the beginning of this match; instead, I think most people were really just settling into a good long Okada match. I felt a lot of people knew what to expect and were waiting for this match to build, which was in stark contrast to the balls-to-the-wall match between Omega and Pentagon. The crowd was split down the middle for whom they were rooting for in this one.
•Kota Ibushi & The Young Bucks vs. Rey Mysterio & Fenix & Bandido: I knew they were streaming on pay-per-view, so I figured they had a hard cutoff at 10:00. Everyone got a huge reaction coming to the ring, but the biggest moment came when Kota Ibushi and Rey stepped in the ring together. Everyone in the crowd was standing and cheering, then it did get silent. People popped for all the big moves and were sent out on a huge adrenaline rush.
Following the show, The Youngs Bucks thanked everyone and called out their families and the rest of the Being the Elite cast to the ring. Nobody in the crowd had left at this point. People wanted more. When has there been a 5-plus hour wrestling show where people were left wanting more. Of course there were chants for an All In 2. People were ready for some announcement. I was thinking my wallet will not be able to handle that now.
People leaving the show were giving rave reviews of the show and expressed how they wanted more. There were some jams in the parking lot because of people stopping and standing to talk with others about the show. If there weren’t people free flow walking in front of the cars, it may have made for an easier exit. We had tickets for the after party back at Starrcast which was about $30. We chose not to go because it was getting to be too late. That was a good lesson in trying to fit in too much because schedules change you can easily spend way more money and not maximize its value.
All In was an incredible event that was unlike any that I had ever seen. Fans were amped up and not left disappointed by the end. Too often you go to a WWE pay-per-view and have high expectations or hope you see a big title change only to be let down by a screwy finish or interference. Fans felt that they finally got what they wanted from this show and were left wanting more. Cody and The Bucks weren’t trying to fight the fans or force them to like certain matches, they gave them exactly what they wanted.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS BLOG: DEHNEL BLOG: My All In and Starrcast Weekend Experience Day 1 – Reviewing Four-Star Summit, Roast of Bruce Prichard, Macaulay Culkin, All In Weigh-In, general atmosphere