12/22 AEW ON-SITE REPORT: Cody tells crowd to stop booing him because cameras aren’t on, Hook is mega-popular, Rampage and Dark Elevation taping results, more in-person notes

Full analysis on the hits and misses from this week's AEW Rampage
Hook (photo credit David Bryant ©PWTorch)

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AEW ON-SITE REPORT
DECEMBER 22, 2021
GREENSBORO, N.C. AT THE COLISEUM
REPORT BY DAVID BRYANT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

I attended AEW Dynamite this week. The following are notes and observations along with Rampage and Dark taping results.


DEMOGRAPHICS– There were more women than I expected. They made up around 30-35 percent of the crowd. Women sat next to me and my friend who attended with me, Aaron. They were really into Hook, Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara, and Darby Allin. One women who was seated behind us liked Cody Rhodes and was, like, the only person trying to cheer for him. I felt so bad for her.

– The majority of the crowd was under 35. I was surprised. The crowd in Charlotte skewed a little older (maybe under 45 there?). I was surprised because I always assumed AEW skewed older due to disenchanted Attitude Era fans returning. An interesting note. The teenagers besides Aaron and the teens/early twenty-somethings in front of us were apparently huge Sting fans. They kept chanting “We want Sting!” while C.M. Punk was wrestling. My heart was warmed that they weren’t ageist and that Sting’s body of work is truly cross-generational.

– There were more masks than I expected. At least 25 percent of all attendees had masks, probably more. There weren’t nearly that many masks at their show in Charlotte, N.C. (about 90 minutes from Greensboro) back in July. So, people are taking the virus more seriously here, finally, which is nice.

– There was a looong line to get in. Holy crap. It stretched from the door, down the rampway that entered the coliseum, all the way down to the bottom floor, and then turned a corner and continued going down a sidewalk. (This was before the doors officially opened.) The length of the line was at least two football fields long waiting to get in.


ATTENDANCE

– Of the tickets made available, I’d estimate they sold around 90 percent. They have to be happy with selling that much. The Greensboro Coliseum has the largest seating capacity of any indoor arena in the United States. (True fact!)  Attendance was around 90 percent.

– The Greensboro Coliseum has three levels. The third upper deck was tarped off on the hard camera side and the side facing the stage. It was not tarped off on the side facing the hard camera. I took pictures of the tarp and which areas were not tarped. They should be with the pictures I sent. They used a black cyclorama tarp, similar to what is used in the NBA. Very early on, I’d seen them using fitted tarps over seats or something like that. This was a much better way of doing things, and I think it’s how WWE does it.

– It was 80-85 percent full by 7:20 p.m. for the Dark Elevation taping.

– It was around 75-80 percent full for Rampage. I was surprised how many people left. Why would you pay that kind of money and miss the second show featuring a title match?

– By 8 p.m. that 90 percent I mentioned had already arrived. There were only a handful of stragglers coming in after Dynamite started. (Again, why would you pay that kind of money to not watch ALL of Dynamite?)

AEW DARK ELEVATION TAPING

Commentators:

Eddie Kingston (Yay!), Mark Henry (Yay!), Tony Schiavone.

Ring Announcer:

Justin Roberts

Dark Elevation Matches:

(1) Dark Order won a squash.

(2) Thunder Rosa won a squash. Jade Cargill joined the commentary team as a guest commentator. Afterward, she walked halfway down the ramp and made a vulgar gesture toward Thunder Rosa. Rosa was over. Her pop was at least twice as loud as Dark Order’s had been, and we got multiple “Thunder Rosa” chants.

(3) Anthony Ogogo  won a squash. There was a “Let’s go jobber!” chant. It was funny. I laughed.

(4) Santana & Ortiz won a quash.

(5) “The Chairman” Shawn Spears” beat Lee Moriarty.

(6) The Gunn Club beat Dark Order (different members than the first match). There were a surprising number of cheers for Billy Gunn. Not saying Gunn doesn’t deserve them, I was just surprised because the crowd skewed younger. Again, it’s nice to know people have gone back and watched old footage.

(7) Tay Conti & Anna Jay beat Diamante  & Emi Sakura (yay!). This was better than it had any right to be. I was pleasantly surprised that after the match, Emi Sakura got some applause as she walked backstage. I guess I’m not her only fan. She’s really good. Getting to see her in person was a thrill. Her facial expressions read just as well live as they do on TV. What an artist!

(8) Matt Hardy beat Jay Lethal. People cheered Hardy and booed Lethal. At one point, Lethal went to the fans in the front row, thinking they’d be supportive and, when he approached, they booed him. Hardy got loud cheers. It was probably the fifth-best pop of the night. I was shocked. I like Hardy. He is a hometown wrestling hero in a way (He doesn’t live that far from there.) It’s nice to see people get their flowers while they’re alive. Hardy fully embraced the fans support, even posing for them. I would, too, if I were getting that kind of reception. There were even “Hardy” and “Let’s go Hardy!” chants. This was just a one-off anomaly due to being in Greensboro, but it was kind of cool.

RAMPAGE

(1) Jungle Boy beat Isaih Kassidy. Jungle Boy is over, but nothing compared to Hook. Hook is getting over to the point it may prove a problem for Team Taz given they’re a heel faction.

(2) Hook beat Bear Bronson. They took a long time messing with the ring and getting things together before this match. During this time, fans chanted “We Want Hook” multiple times. Loudly. There was also a “Red Rum” chant during this down time. There was a “Red Rum” chant during downtime during Dark Elevation as well. The funny thing is, they hadn’t announced Hook’s match was up next unless I missed it. People were just chanting for him because they either assumed he’d be up next or really, really wanted him then. Hook is one of the most over people in the company.

During the match there were at least half a dozen Hook chants of various variations. “Hook,” “Let’s Go Hook,” and “Red Rum.” The chant of “Hook, Hook, Hook” was very loud during his entrance and the whole way down the ramp. When Hook turned around and put his head on the turnbuckle before the match started the crowd popped. Like, that was all it took, and they popped like he’d just done a shooting Star Press to the floor.

Bronson was loudly and aggressively booed during the match. People were on their feet booing him and cheering Hook. It really isn’t Bronson’s fault, he just happened to be Hook’s opponent and was getting heat anytime he had the audacity to so much as punch Hook. Like, I don’t know if these people know how wrestling matches work, but you can’t hate someone for not lying down in the middle of the ring and allowing the other guy to pin you.

When Hook won, the crowd went up. They chanted for Hook the whole way up the stage and he stopped at the top of the ramp, turned around, and nodded to the crowd in acknowledgement. He stared out at everyone chanting his name for several seconds. Although he never broke character, I think he seemed a little awed and moved by it. I can’t even begin to imagine how Taz felt.

(3) A women’s match took place, which I missed.

(4) Cody Rhodes beat Sammy Guevara to capture the TNT Title.  If you ignore the ending, this was a good match. It got a “This is awesome” chant, and Sammy took some insane risks. There were plenty of chants for Sammy, but Cody was almost universally booed. Nothing that night – not even Bronson punching Hook, not even Dan Lambert – compared to the unfettered animosity thrust upon Cody during this match. Several times he tried to get the crowd to cheer him by turning and waving his arms in a “get louder” motion, and they did get louder; they booed more.

Sammy was very over and very liked among the crowd, but the boos for Cody were so loud they were actually stomping on Sammy’s cheers and chants. The fans seemed almost dumbstruck by Cody’s win. It sucked the energy out of the building and many people walked out then and there. They were down to about 50 percent capacity by the time Brandi Rhodes made it to the ring to celebrate. Sammy sold the loss as devastating with his head in his hands.

There was a “Cody needs to turn Tarheel” sign right behind me. Referee Aubrey Edwards pointed in that direction and shouted “tear that up before the match starts” and then again “tear that up” and made a tearing motion with her hands. We couldn’t figure out if she meant the Tarheel sign or if someone had something way more offensive behind us that was immediately hidden when she started shouting at them.

After the match, the entire Rhodes clan was in the ring and, for some reason, Cody thought it would be a good idea to speak to us on the mic. He started by praising the city of Greenboro, which got the kind of reaction you’d expect if the ring were being bombarded with trash. He then stopped and said something along the lines of, “The camera’s aren’t rolling anymore, you guys don’t have to boo for the cameras.” And the booing exploded even louder. People were apoplectic. The night started as “It’s fun to boo Cody” heat and ended with “I’m going to key Cody’s car heat.” Cody then stopped and said “Let’s try this a second time.” He went on to explain why we should cheer him and said something nice about Sammy which did not go over well either. We “tried it” a second time and now it was more “I hope you fall down a hole so deep you have to look up just to see hell” kind of heat. Seriously, I’m glad Cody made it out of the building okay (or at least, I assume he did).

Cody tried to lighten the mood by saying “I think I hurt my heel in that match.” It lightened nothing. In fact, I think it would’ve made things worse if they could’ve gotten worse.

Next, Tony Kahn came out. Tony was loudly cheered all night, the only time he was booed was when he tried to put over Cody. He then seemed to rephrase what he was saying to put over the TNT Title instead. He was kinda like, “Come on guys, don’t boo this. It’s an important title and a big moment” kind of way, but that didn’t work either.

Tony brought out David Crockett who gave a very nice speech and was roundly cheered except for one moment where he shook Cody’s hand (seriously, this went from “please turn heel” to “we hate you forever” tonight. Sammy’s title change was like… I don’t know… like something broke.) I like Cody. I think fans deep down think Cody is a decent and kind human being. They just want him playing a bad guy instead of a good guy – at least right now.

– Then, Tony Kahn said he had one last surprise for us, and brought out Hook. The crowd was finally not in murder-mode anymore. Hook got loud cheers. There were “Hook” chants. I mean, my god. Someone asked at the souvenir stand if they had Hook merch and was told, “No, we don’t have any.” How could they NOT have Hook merch when he was one of the top three biggest pops of the night? People were louder for him than Bryan Danielson. Like holy wow.

Hook acknowledged the fans, probably a lot more than he would have if the cameras had been rolling, but still remained in character. He had on pink pants and a white backpack, and was chomping gum. Then Cody went to shake Hooks hand. He started whispering into Hook’s ear and saying, based on body language, patronizing stuff perhaps about how he might make it someday, and Hook (in character) slapped him and the crowd exploded. We got more “Hook” chants over and over and over as Tony Kahn put his arm around Hook and they walked up the ramp together. Hook didn’t put his arm around Tony, I don’t think, because I think he wanted to stay in character and Tony was making it damn hard. Together they walked into the sunset and the crowd finally went home happy.

Yes, they sent a heel out to slap the babyface to send the fans home happy. (If that’s not the definition of broken, I don’t know what is.)

DYNAMITE NOTES

-Justin Roberts read signs during the break including a “Die Hard is a Christmas Movie” sign. He was playful and having a blast.

-When they showed J.R.’s graphic in the screen announcing he’d be at the Dynamite in Jacksonville, Fla. next week the crowd popped big for him and a “J.R.” chant broke out.

-Tony Kahn came out at the start of the show and the end of the show to speak to the crowd and thanked us in a way that really, truly sounded genuine, even if he was just saying it. It felt super real. He talked about the history of the Greensboro Coliseum, and just seemed like a real honest to God wrestling fan who was happy to be able to make other people happy. Twice during the show, Tony Khan ran back out very, very, very briefly to wave and get the crowd popping. I think this was done right before we returned from commercial breaks or something, but it was almost impossible to tell when breaks were being taken half the time. Though, obviously, he’s not gonna run out real quick while the show is on the air. He was just great. Seriously. For all his flaws, I truly believe he is a good human being. The kind of person you’d trust to watch your kids.

-Wardlow got cheered. That was surprising and nice. It looks like what they are doing with him is working. Shawn Spears got roundly booed when he used the chair, though it was nothing like the boos Bronson and Cody got. Goodnight. Are they sure they know what they’re doing with Cody? Does Cody have a food tester with him? I wouldn’t eat anything he didn’t prepare himself until he’s out of Greensboro.

-I could not hear Dan Lambert over the boos, but he did get a loud pop when dissing Cody. Yet nothing, none of it, compared to what happened right after that title match. (Why did he have to do his FULL entrance in that King Henry VIII get up. He has to know that would only make things worse?)

-A referee and Justin Roberts played rock, paper, scissors for us during the a commercial break. It was so funny. They both did a great job making us laugh.

-The crowd is not playing along with booing Aliester Black. They popped for him the entire time. I honestly don’t know why. Yes, he’s cool, but he literally tried to blind a female valet!

-The crowd oooo’d when Vickie Guerrero was kicked in the head. She held her ear the rest of the match and all the way up the ramp. I hope that was okay. My first thought was “I hope she’s not wearing earrings.”

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