Hello! This piece aims to explain why wrestling fans are excited and hyped for AEW All In 2023 at Wembley Stadium on August 27th. Sections include:
- A brief history lesson on British Wrestling and AEW’s TV deal.
- My opinions on ticket prices, the product, underexposure, star power, and the effect of continental Europeans migrating.
- A conclusion sharing my overall feelings about the impact of the event on the industry.
#1. History & Networks
AEW All In is the first wrestling show in Wembley since WWF SummerSlam ’92, and the first to be produced in the rebuilt stadium. Also, it will be AEW’s first show in the UK. From the 1960s to 1980s, the UK enjoyed regular weekly programming airing from London, via the World Of Sport show. It featured stars like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki, Mick McManus, Billy Robinson, and more.
The original WOS had ratings numbers of up to 10 million. Queen Elizabeth once confirmed she was a fan of the entertainment. The Big Daddy vs. Giant Haystacks feud drew massive numbers. Excessive numbers that would not be seen until a few years later, when the WWF expanded and hosted its first WrestleMania. It remains the record for the biggest draw in the history of wrestling hosted in the UK.
In 2018, World Of Sport was revived as a weekly show on ITV, featuring stars like Davey Boy Smith Jr, Will Ospreay, Doug Williams, Piper Niven, Kay Lee Ray (Alba Fyre), Joe & Mark Coffey, Kip Sabian, Zack Gibson, Dave Mastiff, Joe Hendry, Grado, Bea Priestley (Blair Davenport), and Stu Bennett (Wade Barrett) on commentary.
It paid tribute to the original WOS by airing at a similar time on the weekend, along with catering to families. The pilot episode drew over 2 million viewers, and the first official episode had 1.25 million. The ratings declined as the series continued, but many were hopeful it would be renewed for a second series.
WOS lost several talents to WWE’s NXT UK brand as it had no work for them. After a while, it looked as if it would not be renewed. When it was revealed that ITV had got the rights to air All Elite Wrestling, it pretty much confirmed that WOS would not get another shot. After all, airing on ITV was everything. The channel is free for every household. ITV has always been one of the UK’s primary channels. Again, it seemed American Wrestling had killed any potential for British Wrestling to be produced in the British style.
However, the great thing for AEW and older British wrestling fans is that the show is fairly similar to traditional British Wrestling. It focuses less on the “sports entertainment” aspect and instead showcases athletic contests without the fluff. Disqualifications are exceedingly rare. The show isn’t dumbed-down to where it feels insulting to the viewer’s intelligence. British people are less inclined to watch if something is mundane or illogical. Most are blunt and won’t waste their time if the effort isn’t there to make the product click.
Many gravitated to AEW because it was fresh and focused on the wrestling. And that’s not a dig at other promotions. WWE had been forever spinning its wheels under Vince McMahon’s creative. It was also stuck behind a paywall (although not as bad since leaving Sky Sports for BT Sport) for years. Being on ITV gives AEW huge exposure, not just to older fans, but also younger people who may have never watched wrestling at all. I bet there is a new generation of fan who only watches AEW because it is on ITV, and they may have heard of WWE, but they won’t be looking for it.
Viewership has declined lately, but those numbers won’t show those catching up on the ITVx app, or those watching streams online. Dynamite does not air live on ITV, so the most loyal fans will either stay up to 1am to see it live via stream, or catch up the next day. Therefore, even though the ratings may say only 200k people saw it, that is only a percentage of folks who actually saw it.
In the UK, AEW is a definite rival to WWE in terms of popularity. That can be attested to them being on ITV for a few years, versus WWE being on a pay channel for decades. Combine that with WWE rarely hosting shows in the UK outside of live event tours, and you can see why fans naturally lean toward AEW. The history of British Wrestling tells me that All Elite Wrestling is a good fit.
#2. Prices & Product
I was really looking forward to seeing WWE Money In The Bank this year. However, when I went to buy a ticket, they would only sell combination tickets of SmackDown and the MITB show, and the prices for the tickets alone were excessive. Then you have to get a hotel, so when I saw how much I’d have to fork out for all that, I saved my money. It was at that disappointing moment where I began hoping for AEW to host a major show here. When Tony Khan announced All In at Wembley Stadium, my initial reaction was “I’m probably going to this”.
Not just because of the historical value, but because I knew AEW going to Wembley meant they would keep ticket prices reasonable. After all, selling 65k+ tickets at a lower price would give the company a serious reputation boost. It would not be as effective to roll in with high prices and only sell 25-30k. I knew their aim would be to pack Wembley Stadium as much as they could, because doing so would likely bring them repeat custom in the future. I wanted to get tickets on the pitch, but the prices were out of my range. Still, I was stoked to get the third best tickets without burning a serious hole in my pocket.
This is my first live wrestling show, but I wasn’t breaking the bank over it. I’m not someone who regularly goes to things. I spend very little on myself. If the prices were too high, I wouldn’t have gone… or at least, I would have bought a 6th or 7th tier seat. I wouldn’t say I’m Teddy Long tight, but I really like saving money, so for me to get these seats was a relief. It means I can spend money in London on little things without feeling bad. I can get back home and feel like I got my money’s worth.
And let me tell you now… for most of last year, I was wickedly criticizing AEW’s product. I was more a fan of WWE’s product and still was up to WrestleMania. But since then, it seems both shows have slipped into average-to-good territory. Neither are cooking on all cylinders… but that’s fine. I don’t care too much about the quality of the products right now, so long as they aren’t terrible. When Tony Khan announced All In, I knew that the magnitude meant they have no choice but to deliver. If they don’t, it will be a massive business failure.
Because major shows are so few here, it is understandable that whenever WWE or AEW make it over the pond, there will be a far higher demand. The United States has shows all the time. It is almost routine for many fans there to enjoy big events. Yes, it is still special, but it’s not a once in a lifetime experience. I assume many going to All In will feel like I do. That it’s a once in a lifetime experience. We’ve had so few events that it feels like it could be our only one.
Even if WWE or AEW return to Wembley, there is no guarantee we’ll make the trip each time. And the historical value means that any shows after it won’t feel as special. I can only compare to what WWE did in Puerto Rico for SmackDown & Backlash. Those crowds were hot! And for good reason. It was their once in a lifetime experience. Every entrance, every move, every word spoken, and every finish fully absorbed them. Nobody was standing around staring at their phone. They enjoyed every second, and that’s what happens to starved wrestling fans.
To those who have sat at home watching it for years… maybe decades, but have never had the live experience. They will make the most of it because there is no guarantee it will happen again. Underexposure to live wrestling is very real for anyone not living in the mainland of the United States. It gives another level of hype by default. To the overexposed, they won’t be able to comprehend how much it means.
While AEW has many young stars who are far from being over, it has some big names who UK fans are familiar with. Chris Jericho. Sting. The Hardys. Christian Cage. Billy Gunn. Arn Anderson. Jon Moxley. Pac. Saraya. Samoa Joe. And that’s just to name a few. There may be several casual fans attending who aren’t smartened up to the next generation of talent, but they will still appreciate those I mentioned.
That’s how wrestling has always worked, though. Any profitable promotion sports a few big names who draw, and then the younger talents make their impressions on new fans. Some may not know who Jamie Hayter is. However, I bet that when she walks out with the Women’s Championship, and is announced as being from Southampton, England. Those who haven’t already popped will do so.
I feel like UK fans aren’t too hung up on needing the biggest names imaginable to go to an event. Of course, it helps to have some draws. I’d say that if a) the show is solid, and b) there’s nothing dumb, we’ll enjoy it, anyway. If a match stinks, then the audience will probably entertain itself with some chants. We’re not afraid to let ‘em know if something isn’t working in our own colourful way. Yet, there should be enough star power and ability to keep us entertained.
The last point that many will overlook is that of continental Europeans. They have an even worse case of underexposure than the UK. Think about all those countries that have never hosted a major wrestling event. I’d say… all of them? So, you can imagine them wanting to make the most of that.
As the central hub connecting the UK to the rest of Europe, getting to London isn’t difficult. While we’re living on an island, there are several ways to migrate. Some may hope to see stars from their own country, like Claudio Castagnoli (Switzerland), Malakai Black (Netherlands), and Miro (Bulgaria). But for me, it feels like they’d want the same as UK fans. To see a show with a mix of historical value and star power.
The timing of the show is excellent. It’s at the back end of the Summer Holidays, so children won’t be in school. To those living in the UK, it serves as a nice getaway before the new school year begins. It gives Europeans a reason to come to London early, so they can experience the city before All In. The mix of fans will provide a unique atmosphere that I hope translates well on TV.
With those points made, I’d like to stress that this is not a post bashing WWE for not doing this. I really wish they would have, but apparently they were paid more to do Clash At The Castle in Cardiff, and a business is always going to do whatever nets them more money. I understand that. In no way am I going to AEW All In with the thoughts of sticking it to WWE or its most loyal fans.
The only thing I want is a good time, and turning this into something hateful does nothing but ruin that. Seeing All Elite Wrestling have the balls to do this, and actually succeed, is a win for everybody. They could have tanked and sold hardly any tickets. No matter what promotions you follow, the wrestling industry benefits from hosting events like this. Most of the talents will perform in front of the biggest crowd they have ever seen.
This is positive! It is a big deal, but not in a “sticking up a middle finger to the enemy” way. It doesn’t have to be cynical. There’s no harm in this being a celebration for wrestling. If you hate AEW for whatever reason, that is totally fine. I probably understand why. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but at least respect that this could persuade promotions to host events in other overlooked countries.
Wrestling should be something the entire world can enjoy. From America, to the UK, to Japan. To Australia, to Africa, and all the way to South America. There’s no harm in trying, so why the hell not? All In 2023 shows the world what is possible. And in closing, this is my first editorial piece since December, so I hope my effort has been worth your time. Thanks for reading!
Also Read: Current Capacity Setup For AEW All In 2023
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