From the moment All In was announced, it felt like professional wrestling was set to change – Cody and The Young Bucks believed they could build something from the ground up that featured the best wrestlers in the best matches without doing so in Vince McMahon’s shadow. When the tickets went on sale, all 10,000 sold out within 30 minutes, proving that a revolution was on its way, being led by three of the finest talents outside of World Wrestling Entertainment.
There was a pureness in its essence, from the way each match was slowly announced to the positivity coursing through the veins of The Bullet Club on Matt and Nick’s YouTube show “Being the Elite.” The fans were excited and optimistic, feeling that there was something else outside the monotony and uninspired kingdom of sports entertainment and it felt good.
It was something new, developed in a way we’d never seen before, and built on a platform that wasn’t crafted with the building bricks of the McMahon family, but a love and passion for the sport without sponsorship or outside influence; All In was a landmark in professional wrestling, and a week after it aired I still can’t stop thinking about the spectacle at the Sears Centre in Chicago.
Every match told a story that had either been built up for months or conceived on the night. There were some major surprises, excellent performances, and countless “this is awesome” moments I keep reliving in my head. The opening of the main show saw Matt Cross take on MJF. Son of Havoc is a major player in Lucha Underground, and the veteran entertained from the off. The way he can still perform like he does after 20 years in the industry is beyond me, and getting the win against the arrogant MJF seemed like a given. Maxwell Jacob Friedman embodies the old school theatrics of guys like Ric Flair and Jerry Lawler in the ring, and I’m sure after this we’ll see much more of him.
Stephen Amell is an actor. He hasn’t been training week in, week out for years like his opponent (25 years to be precise), and even though at times he got a bit lost within the flow of the match, he gave it everything. His homage to Rob Van Damn as he flew from one turnbuckle to the otherside of the ring to dropkick Christopher Daniels was sublime, and diving through a table to the outside of the ring took a lot of guts. The Fallen Angel guided Amell through every move, every play, showing just how much he wanted the fight to exceed expectations.
In the third match of the night, the Four Corner Survival match took my breath away. Women’s wrestling is of such a high standard in 2018, and to see four of the best in one of the finest matches of the night was an honour to witness. Britt Baker, Tessa Blanchard, Madison Rayne, and Chelsea Green concocted a battle that took you to every corner of the ring and the outside, flying high, hitting technical move after technical move in spectacular fashion. There’s something special about Blanchard, which is why she’s the current Impact Knockout Champion, but there’s a bright future for her. She’s the modern day Chyna, combining strength and skill like none of her peers.
The bizarre yet engaging in-ring personality of Chelsea Green is infectious, and I could watch her wrestle forever. Madison Rayne is a legend, and watching the relatively new Dr. Britt Baker get a chance to showcase her abilities made it great. Throughout the whole match, Tenille Dashwood and Mandy Leon from Ring of Honor joined commentary; touches like this added to the special nature of the night, bringing people together no matter what promotion they wrestle for.
Anyone that says they didn’t get emotional as Cody made his way to ringside is telling lies, and if you didn’t cry at the end you’re a monster. Bringing out his wife Brandi Rhodes, his dog pharaoh, DDP, and Tommy Dreamer gave me chills. You could see just how much it was affecting Cody on an emotional level and it made it feel all the more real. This was a match filled with passion and depth, with storytelling at its finest. When Nick Aldis caught Cody with the elbow as he dived on him from the outside, it almost spelled the end for The American Nightmare. Blood poured from his face, and it took a while for him to get back into the match.
Aldis was dominant for a long time, but it was never going to end in his favour; when Cody lifted the NWA World Title at the end, he couldn’t hold the tears back. It was beautiful; the crowd cheered, the American Nightmare Family cheered, and I cheered for my favourite wrestler, the gifted revolutionary Cody. Cementing his own legacy as well as his family’s, Cody earned the best moment of the night. Dusty would’ve been proud.
Adam Page has grown so much in the last year, both as a wrestler and as an actor. His “murdering dick wrestler Joey Ryan” has been hilarious on Being the Elite, and after a brutal match with indie darling Joey Janela, the lollipop-sucking, genitally gifted Ryan came to the ring. I certainly didn’t expect to see a gang of dudes dressed as inflatable penises, but they you go. It was magnificent, keeping the mood of the night high and giving us closure to a storyline as ridiculous as those gentlemen in penis suits. Joey Ryan vs Adam Page for All In 2? Shout out to Joey Janela and Penelope Ford who both gave us an excellent performance in the ring; Joey deserves the limelight and seeing him in an event as grand as All In was the right thing for him.
The second title match of the night saw current Ring of Honor World Champion “Macho Man” Randy Sa….no, Jay Lethal take on Flip Gordon. He was always going to be on the show, wasn’t he? It was a solid match with great performances from both men, but I was gutted Flip didn’t win. Regardless, when Bully Ray came down and interfered, it was awesome to see Chicago’s own Colt Cabana get involved. We’re surely going to see Cabana and Bully Ray go at it soon in Ring of Honor, and this segment only added more fuel to the fire.
Kenny Omega is the embodiment of what professional wrestling should be; a talent unmatched, a character unrivalled, and a heart unlike any other. Pentagon Jr. is a savage luchador – a high flyer like his brother, but with a much darker side. Both wrestlers gave us some excellent moments, but it was Kenny who took the win with a One-Armed Angel. When those lights went out I had no idea what was coming next, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to see Y2J. Since his transition to NJPW, Jericho has been a brute and a dangerous competitor. On his Talk is Jericho podcast, he’s said that Bruiser Brody is a big influence on who he is now, which is obvious, and after taking out Omega at the end and swiping at Don Callis on commentary, I’m so excited to see more from this reinvented version of Chris Jericho.
With only two matches left the energy in the arena was still at its peak. There hadn’t been a single second where the crowd had a lull or a dip, and as I watched at home I felt the same. This event had been so special that I didn’t want it to end. Thankfully, we had the joy of watching Marty Scurll take on Kazuchika Okada. Marty Scurll takes a lot of stick for his size, but he finds a way to make a joke out of it and it’s good to see he doesn’t take it seriously. He’s still a badass, and even though he couldn’t beat Okada, it was a brilliant match. Okada was always going to win, but he didn’t get the job done easily. Both guys gave it there all; it wasn’t to the same standards of Omega vs Okada at Dominion, but it was still a top bout.
The decision to book the final match with these six competitors was a smart move. Rey Mysterio Jr., Rey Fenix, and Bandido were phenomenal, as were The Young Bucks and Kota Ibushi. My mouth kept hitting the floor and my eyes were wider than Bambi’s. I lost count of all the time the commentary team made up names for the moves I witnessed, mainly because they were moves as unique as the event. From Bandido’s tornado dive to The double moonsault and Nick Jackson’s 450 splash, the main event was absolutely incredible.
Throughout the night, Ian Riccaboni and Excalibur owned the commentary. Both guys are excellent within ROH and PWG, but seeing the two together was great; add in Impact’s Don Callis and the team was on fire. The referees were excellent, the lighting was superb, and the general direction of the show was to such a high standard.
All In was living proof that wrestling can unite promotions and wrestlers from across the world without all the politics and corporate dominance we’re used to witnessing from top-flight promotions. Cody and The Young Bucks built the night from a dream, and it still hasn’t ended; All In 2 seems like a shoe-in for 2019, but it’s not about a follow-up, it’s about what the capabilities are for so many promotions to work together and give the fans so much more for the love of the sport and not the money. I haven’t stopped reminiscing about All In since it finished, and if I could be on that hype train leading up to it again I’d revisit in a heartbeat. It defined the sport of professional wrestling and made legends of its creators. Thank you, Cody, Matt, and Nick.