SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
In the latest All Elite Assessment I’m taking a break from the usual format to delve into a big picture AEW topic. Normal service will resume next week with two more wrestler profiles.
Full disclosure: I am due to attend the All In at Wembley Stadium on Aug. 27, but will attempt to maintain my columnist integrity when assessing the decision to run All In and then All Out on consecutive weekends. Here goes…
When AEW confirmed that they would indeed be running PPVs on back-to-back Sundays eyebrows were raised. All In is set to be AEW’s largest show by every metric and running another big PPV event so soon after is a risky strategy. Whilst several key questions remain, wrestling history has taught us that there are several options at Tony Khan’s disposal.
•This Tuesday in Texas
Over 30 years ago Vince McMahon faced a similar booking conundrum. That year’s Survivors Series PPV aired Nov. 27, 1991 and was closely followed by another PPV special, This Tuesday in Texas, six days later.
McMahon decided to book both PPVs in a narrative linear form. The Survivors Series event would be the hook and then fans would pay again to see the resolution a few days later at the one-off special.
That year’s Survivors Series main event was built around a title match between the heroic Hulk Hogan and otherworldly Undertaker. The Undertaker would win the championship in controversial circumstances leading to a title rematch at the following show. Could this method be applied to AEW? For instance MJF defends his title at All In opposite Adam Cole, retaining it via nefarious means, and then is forced into a rematch at All Out. The drawback to this approach is rematches equal repetition. Would the All Out buyrate suffer as a result?
*The Modern WrestleMania
The COVID pandemic shook professional wrestling from its decades-long slumber and forced presentation changes to maintain an audience. One such change was the move from a one night WrestleMania spectacular to a two night event, a decision which has stuck ever since.
The two night showcase allowed WWE to split its previously bloated card across consecutive nights. AEW could take a similar approach with All In and All Out featuring two distinct cards. Perhaps a Dynamite-centric All In predominantly featuring the Elite and BCC as headline acts. All Out could then be considered a Collision-focused endeavor. This makes even more sense when you consider All Out is to emanate from the C.M. Punk-sympathetic Chicago. Hypothetically, Kenny Omega vs. Will Osprey 3 could headline All In while MJF vs. Punk could follow a week later. The downside to this approach is that the fans in attendance would lose out on seeing several keys stars as the AEW roster is split across the Atlantic Ocean.
Could All In be a series of dream matches akin to the recent Forbidden Door, separate to the ongoing AEW narrative?
With this method, AEW could still headline the Wembley show with an Omega vs. Osprey rubber match and then feature other UK / European-originated talent such as Saraya, a returning PAC, Claudio Castagnoli, and Malakai Black. AEW could then return to its regularly scheduled programming with a narrative-heavy All Out back Stateside.
The fans watching live at Wembley would still receive good value with big matches featuring a purely hypothetical card of Pac vs. Bryan Danielson, Black vs. Punk, Castagnoli vs. Adam Cole, and Saraya vs. an injury-free Jamie Hayter. The following Dynamite could then feature a final push for storyline finales to take place in Chicago.
A fourth option (though unpopular with this writer) would be to book the Wembley centrepiece as an un-televised house show for the live crowd only. With no broadcast partner announced (up to press ), AEW could produce All In as an island unto itself. Whilst the positive to this approach would be little to no disruption to the overarching AEW narrative, the negative would be tremendous.
All In is AEW’s biggest show (by a wide margin) in its short history. This is AEW’s opportunity to visually set a marker as an international property. Shots of 65,000 plus passionate international fans inside an atmospheric Wembley Stadium could be used by Tony Khan in sales meetings for years to come.
WWE WrestleMania is a brand, courted by major sponsors due to its spectacle and gravitas. This is AEW’s opportunity to establish its own signature event. A glorified house show card would be a huge missed opportunity.
Tony Khan has a multitude of booking options available for AEW’s biggest ever show, but has caused a calendar conundrum by arranging consecutive events. All In has the opportunity to be a historic home run for the fledgling competitor brand but Khan must book wisely to satisfy both voracious live fans and a television audience following AEW narrative threads.
ALSO CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Powell’s AEW Dynamite Hit List: Sting and Darby Allin vs. “Painmaker” Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara in a tornado tag, Jon Moxley vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Hangman Page and The Young Bucks vs. Dark Order