September 1, 2018, Hoffman Estates, Illinois
“I’ll take that bet, Dave.”
– Cody Rhodes, May 2017
The groundbreaking pay-per-view event titled “All In” was precedent-setting in several ways, not the least of which is how it came into being. When Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer was asked by a Twitter follower in the Spring of 2017, “Can Ring of Honor sell ten-thousand tickets?” Meltzer simply replied, “Not any time soon.” In theory, he was right. Excluding WCW and WWE, no professional wrestling promotion had drawn over 10,000 fans in America since 1994, when the Mexican-based AAA & IWC (in cooperation with WCW) presented the legendary When Worlds Collide pay-per-view and drew over 14,000 to the L.A. Sports Arena. However, what Meltzer failed to factor into his response was that during the sixteen years since WCW went out of business and WWE became the sole power in North American wrestling, the “world leader in sports entertainment” was continually, year-by-year, driving pro wrestling fans away rather than growing the audience. There are any number of reasons as to why the ongoing exodus was taking place, but, ultimately, the fact remained that by 2017, the number of “lapsed fans” was larger in size than those who continued to watch WWE programming. For someone with the resources and know-how, a market was there just waiting to be tapped…
Cody Rhodes, a recently-departed member of the WWE roster, and Matt & Nick Jackson (aka The Young Bucks) were up for the challenge and, after pooling their creative and financial resources they set about proving Meltzer wrong. With the independent wrestling scene being at its height of popularity and influence, and fan apathy towards WWE being equally strong, they felt confident that they could make their idea a success.
Their intuition was proven to be more than accurate and, with the help of ROH, they secured a date on Memorial Day weekend at The Sears Center in suburban Chicago. In record time, the coalition of promotions they’d assembled (which included ROH, New Japan, AAA, CMLL, Impact Wrestling, MLW and the recently rejuvenated NWA) sold 11,263 tickets. Additionally, ROH used its connections to ensure that the event, now dubbed All In, would air live on traditional pay-per-view as well as online via FITE TV and Honor Club. New Japan also contributed to the cause by offering to carry the show on their well-established NJPW World streaming service.
The event itself offered up a dream-card, featuring eleven never-before-seen matches designed specifically for the inveterate, hardcore wrestling fan. The pre-show consisted of SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) defeating The Briscoe Brothers (Jay and Mark), followed by a “Over Budget Battle Royale” (which was won by Chico el Luchador) to determine the #1 contender for the ROH World Championship.
The main card then kicked off, with Matt Cross defeating MJF, followed by Christopher Daniels (w/Scorpio Sky & Frankie Kazarian) besting Stephen Amell (w/Josh Segarra). From there, it was a 4-Way Women’s Match that saw Tessa Blanchard go over Madison Rayne, Dr. Britt Baker, and Chelsea Green. NWA World Heavyweight champion Nick Aldis then put his title on the line against Cody, with the former Stardust becoming the NWA new champ. “Hangman” Adam Page defeated Joey Janela (w/Penelope Ford), followed by ROH World champion Jay Lethal beating Flip Gordon (who had wrestled on the pre-show as Chico el Luchador).
From there, in the first of three main events, Kenny Omega defeated Penta el Zero in a hard-fought match. Following the bout, in the shocker of the night, the lights briefly went out and when they returned a somehow rejuvenated Penta el Zero brutally attacked Omega before revealing himself to be none other than Chris Jericho. In the other semi-main event, Kazuchika Okada went over on Marty Skurll and then, in the main event of the evening, The Golden Elite (Kota Ibushi & The Young Bucks) defeated the team of Rey Mysterio, Bandito & Rey Fénix.
In addition to showcasing the best wrestlers that each promotion had to offer, the commentating duties for All In were shared by a wide variety of announcers. The bulk of the card was voiced by Don Callis, Excalibur, and Ian Riccaboni, while individual matches featured Tenille Dashwood & Mandy Leon (Women’s 4-Way), Brent Tarring (NWA championship match), and Dalton Castle (Over Budget Battle Royale). The interviewers for the evening were former WWF announcer Sean Mooney and MLW’s Alicia Atout.
Sixteen months after first accepting Dave Meltzer’s unintentional “challenge,” Cody & The Bucks not only proved that they could do the “impossible,” they also managed to make a tidy profit in the process.
In addition to the income generated by the 11,200 tickets (and subsequent merchandise) they sold, the event also drew over 50,000 pay-per-view buys. Most importantly, though, the improbable-yet-inevitable success of All In directly led to the creation and debut of All Elite Wrestling less than a year later.