What The All In Event Says About Pro Wrestling

Nearly two years ago, Cody Rhodes, the son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, asked for his release from the WWE. A standout amateur in high school, Cody signed a developmental deal in 2006 and spent his entire career within the WWE system. After he showed much potential, his run over a decade had its share of peaks and valleys. It appeared that despite the possibility of a successful stint in the main event scene, he never had the opportunity to be involved in the title picture. For almost two years prior to his request to be released, Cody portrayed Star Dust, a spin off of his brother’s long time persona. While the gimmick made sense for a tag team and an eventual feud between the two, it was clearly a short-term project. There was no logic behind why management kept the character on-screen for such an extended period, and it became a stale act that really halted the progress of Cody Rhodes’ career.

Cody knew he had more to offer than just a carbon copy presentation of Goldust and wanted to prove it. Cody bet on himself and won.

More than just his in-ring ability, you have to give him credit for being willing to take the risk to leave WWE to pursue better opportunities and to prove his worth. Considering Dusty’s contributions to the company before he passed, Cody easily could’ve collected a paycheck in mediocrity for the rest of his career and retired at a relatively young age more than financially stable.

Just this past weekend, Cody and The Young Bucks bet on themselves and won again.

After Dave Meltzer mentioned on Twitter last year that he didn’t think Ring Of Honor could sell out a 10,000 seat venue, Cody replied that he would bet the editor of the Wrestling Observer that he could sell out such a venue. Rhodes and the Young Bucks have worked together extensively in New Japan as members of the Bullet Club, and the trio eventually decided that they would run a show, which would be totally financed by the grapplers themselves. The buzz for “All In” built for a few months and talent announcements began to be made, leading to the on-sale date for tickets this past Sunday. In just under 30 minutes, the event that will be held at the Sears Centre Arena in Chicago in September sold out. I have to be honest, I thought the ticket sales would do well and that it might be possible for an eventual sell out after matches were announced, but I didn’t think an immediate sell out would happen.

To put that into perspective, the cost of renting a venue alone of that size is easily thousands of dollars, which is why WWE is the only sports entertainment promotion in the United States that schedules shows for those type of venues. The entire concept of an independent show without major TV exposure running such an event is really unprecedented. Again, to compare this scenario, ECW’s biggest crowd in the history of the organization was 6,000 fans for its Anarchy Rulz pay-per-view in Chicago in 1999, which was during the biggest boom period in the history of the industry. TNA’s biggest crowd was drawn for Lockdown 2013 with an estimated 7,200 in attendance, which was at a time when they were still aired weekly on Spike TV.

How is this possible when WWE dominates 95% of the market in America?

First, it proves how smart Cody and the Young Bucks are, both as athletes and for business. Most importantly, through stellar matches and a variety of marketing tools, the trio made themselves stars without the WWE machine behind them. Granted, Cody was in the system for a decade, but let’s be honest here, he’s not drawing this crowd based on two years of Star Dust that stalled his career. In many ways, Rhodes reinvented himself so WWE exposure isn’t why he’s successful now. The Young Bucks took the criticism of their over-the-top in ring performances and used it to enhance their characters. Their amazing aerial ability lends itself to the perception that are going to deliver a memorable performances every time they are in the ring. Aside from just the athletic performances, Young Bucks and Cody use their “Being The Elite” Youtube show to further develop their characters and to market themselves as stars through entertaining content outside of the ring. Plus, the use of social media allows them to promote themselves and their projects. Another major key to this is that Cody and the Bucks made themselves accessible to the fans, both through autograph signings at events and interaction on social media. There’s a sense of genuine appreciation from them, which makes it very easy for fans to rally behind them for success. As an example, I actually met Cody, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki, and a few of the other stars at an ROH show in Pittsburgh last October. The meet and greet line for the Bullet Club members stretched the length of the venue. While everyone was very polite, it was nice to see that despite a match early on the card, The Young Bucks stayed until everyone had a chance to meet them and seemed very appreciative that fans were willing to wait in line to meet them. Cody also stayed to make sure everyone had a chance to meet him, even though the actual show started while he still signed autographs.

What does this sell out prove about the state of pro wrestling in the United States?

The most important aspect is that this event proves that there is real money to be made outside of the WWE, which is beneficial to everyone in the industry, even the WWE itself. Alternatives and options are what will keep the industry fresh and the ability to avoid a stagnant pace. When Nakamura made his WWE debut, there was a hype around his arrival because of the buzz around the New Japan product. Does this mean that one particular show will cause a shift in the industry? No, but such a sell out proves that there is a legitimate demand for wrestling outside of WWE programming. However, it remains to be seen if any specific organization could get all the necessary pieces of the puzzle under contract to build upon that in the United States. It’s possible that the success of this event could be an indication that underutilized stars on the WWE roster would have better success if they left the organization to improve their value, but as mentioned earlier, it’s a somewhat risky scenario to decide to leave the safety net that a WWE contract provides the talent on the roster.

The bottom line is, Cody and The Bucks deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the success of this event. They were able to independently sell more tickets to an event in the United States than other promotions did with national television exposure. Along with the actual show, there’s also a convention scheduled with names such as Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Jerry Lawler, Tully Blanchard, and many others. Plus, scheduled for the actual event are stars that include Okada, Mysterio, Pentagon, Marty Scurll, and several others. It’s great to see that this event is already a successful venture and it’s extremely helpful to the industry.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta