With each passing week that led to All In, I grew in amazement of how it came together.
It's no secret that the money associated with pro wrestling is at a great point. WWE is making billion dollar deals, New Japan Pro Wrestling is thriving, Ring of Honor is doing well, and more wrestlers are making a full time living wrestling than maybe any time before. In the year of our Hogfather 2018, two non-WWE shows have sold 10,000+ seats -- a scenario unthinkable in recent years.
The brilliance of Young Bucks and Kenny Omega establishing the Elite name of themselves deserves a mention. Key members of New Japan's popular Bullet Club, they've taken things a step further by getting over any number of wrestlers via their web series "Being The Elite," and own the name "The Elite." With all three in a contract year, they could wrestle on the moon and still retain ownership of the popular group name, something they can't do with Bullet Club.
Sure, WWE has skated around some of the issues between the two sides. Bullet Club re-popularized NWO's "Too Sweet" hand gesture, but WWE took that back in the form of a cease and desist letter. Even the term "OGBC" has been utilized by WWE, as they have original members of the group in their company and have called them "Balor Club," and even just "The Club."Perhaps all of this contributed to All In vs. The Machine, or at least the narrative of it.
WWE are the leaders, sometimes just signing away talent they don't want to make a difference elsewhere. Faithfuls of their brand will cry differently, but it's becoming a more objective truth when you see the creative paths that several stars who were successful outside of those walls have taken. Although creatively stifling, WWE seems safe. But that wasn't enough for Cody Rhodes.
Cody debuted in WWE in 2007 as a wiry, green youngster with the last name of a legend attached to his, and high expectations. He found success in several angles, including Legacy and a "Dashing" gimmick that helped him break out from a pack of wrestlers that also had potential, but would be doomed to the middle of the card. For a period it looked like a run near the top in a dual-branded WWE company wasn't out of the question. That didn't last long, and although a few highlights came his way, the machine never fully backed Cody Rhodes, so he decided to back himself.
Cody left WWE with wife Brandi at his side, and started a babyface run on the independent circuit by creating a wish list of opponents that gained significant attention. At the conclusion, he turned heel and started to dive deep into character development, something The Young Bucks were becoming quite familiar with as a part of their growing Being The Elite series.
Cody joined Bullet Club, then the cast of Being The Elite. The trio, along with some friends, invaded WWE Raw in California as an homage (or parody) of D-Generation X doing the same to WCW 19 years prior. The situation caught the eye of the WWE, and an already growing counter-culture was expanded and later exploded. Bullet Club merchandise already flies off of the shelf, but now there was the perception that WWE wasn't just picking on the little guy -- they were hypocrites for attacking the same thing they did two decades earlier.
From a political standpoint, Cody has been neutral while still remaining outspoken about his time in WWE. He speaks highly of Triple H and Vince McMahon, but admits that he makes more money and is more satisfied doing what he does today. For the Young Bucks, they had a run in TNA that served only to get minimal exposure and draw more comparisons to the Hardy Boyz. The run over the last several years since have turned them into top draws outside of WWE.
Together, the three used their connections and put their Captain Planet rings together to promote September 1's All In -- the biggest independent wrestling supershow ever. Broadcast on PPV and WGN, there was a perception put forth that they did it all on their own, just three guys. Although they did eventually get a little help from New Japan Pro Wrestling and and ROH from distribution and media standpoints, and used Blue Chew and TGI Friday's as sponsors, the latter is commonplace in independent wrestling. They were even able to call in some favors, as longtime independent wrestling kings Pro Wrestling Guerrilla even moved their Battle of Los Angeles weekend long event to accommodate.
WWE has a loyal fan base, and they'll say WWE isn't worried, and maybe they shouldn't be -- they're still safe. Old timers -- many of the same who were quick to accept the invite to All In's Starrcast convention -- will plead for the way things used to be, and say the audience has dwindled. Maybe they're right. Ultimately, there are options now. The brilliance in viable options is one much easily pitched than explored. It takes money, confidence, and capital. Even though Cody and the Bucks claim they aren't in the show to get rich, plenty of capital and value is coming their way.
In just a couple of years, these three have positioned themselves as successful wrestlers, writers, web producers, creative minds, bookers and promoters. In the era that Cody's father, "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes worked, those were the norm for a man at the top, these days, it's more specialized. The do-it-yourself charm of the trio has led to connecting with fans, viewers and creating a relationship that many can't establish with a 73-year old man who more often than not plays out his programming to appease himself instead of the loyal viewers that defend it.
10,000-plus in minutes. ROH and NJPW sell out Madison Square Garden in days without announcing anything. I'm positive the first wasn't possible without the advanced influence wrestlers had on their own portrayal, and I'm pretty damn sure the latter wasn't either. What All In and what preceded it have done to the landscape of wrestling long-term remains to be seen. What it's done for Cody Rhodes, Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson is etched their names in wrestling lore to a level in which most in the business even find it difficult to diss -- no easy task in this line of work.
A counter culture was always there, but it needed to be nurtured. All In grew and blossomed this weekend as a result of care and respect.