Two weeks ago, I was able to experience my first AEW (All Elite Wrestling) live event, and it did not disappoint. Back in middle school and throughout my early years of high school I was a huge fan of the WWE (formerly WWF) during the years of The Rock, Y2J, Stone Cold Steve Austin, DX and all of the Attitude Era.
Since falling off in high school, I took about a twenty year hiatus before rediscovering WWE two years ago. I ended up scoring some tickets to Friday Night Smackdown. So, I decided to catch up on some recent WWE events before attending my first live event in years.
Thank the maker for Peacock! I was able to catch up on the past couple of months.
By the time Smackdown came to town in March, I was already familiar with all of the Superstars and their current storylines. I was once again hooked on wrestling, and it hasn’t slowed down since. In fact, right before attending WWE Smackdown I also started paying attention to the other big wrestling brand, All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
I tuned in at the perfect time. MJF (Maxwell Jacob Friedman) was in the middle of a heated feud with his childhood hero, CM Punk (who is the new Bruno at AEW, because we don’t talk about that guy anymore). I didn’t watch their Pay Per View match, but the lead-up to it was one of the best moments I’ve seen in wrestling.
*This is that story from that very first episode I randomly chose to watch from AEW:
Over these past two years, I’ve learned that it’s possible to enjoy both WWE and AEW, as long as you have time to watch about 8-12 hours of wrestling each week.
Both companies are so different. It’s not like following multiple soccer teams in separate leagues, because no matter the league every soccer game is basically the same. These two companies (AEW & WWE) are run in different ways, both behind the scenes and in how they are presented each week.
I watch WWE for the Superstars, their big entrances, and the drawn out storylines. In AEW the storylines run a bit shorter, but their matches are insane. The professional wrestlers (and sports entertainers) at AEW execute wild moves that you won’t see in a WWE match. Both companies have their mix of the silly and more serious characters, which any wrestling company needs.
So how was my first AEW Live experience, and how did it compare to WWE Live?
THINGS LEARNED FROM AEW LIVE
 So Much Wrestling
While WWE tapes Smackdown and Raw live, in two different towns each week. AEW does it all at once, for the most part. I’ve heard there are times where they’ve broken it up into two tapings, or tried the Friday show live.
When I attended Smackdown Live, we got to see the entire live, two-hour show, plus a pre- and post-show match. That was a total of something like two and a half hours of wrestling. If I had attended a Live Monday Night RAW taping it would have been around three and a half hours, I’m guessing.
AEW gave us three hours of wrestling for television, plus two more hours of Ring of Honor matches. It all began at 7pm and ended at midnight, or close to midnight. From what I saw, the typical AEW Wednesday goes like this: First, you get about one hour of Ring of Honor (or AEW Dark, but I think that’s over). Next, they go straight into the Wednesday night live show, AEW Dynamite, which last two hours. Those Ring of Honor matches ended about five minutes before 8pm, when AEW Dynamite starts, and they still had to change the ring aprons out. I was panicking when I checked my watch, but the AEW crew has it down.
Once Dynamite is over they switch it up quickly for the Friday night show, AEW Rampage. This threw me off a bit, like attending my first WWE Live event back in the day. I remember being at a Monday Night RAW taping, but it was actually a Tuesday or some other day of the week. However, the Superstars continued to speak as if it were Monday. I know that wrestling matches are scripted to some degree, and they already know who’s supposed to win going into the match, but that fake day stuff was the first time I thought, Hey, this isn’t real. That feeling only lasted for a few minutes before I was sucked back into the action.
I had a moment like this when someone came out and mentioned something that happened two days ago, when in reality it had really only been about two hours. The cool part is you get to know what’s going to happen before the rest of the world.
When Rampage ended, we had already witnessed almost four hours of wrestling. That’s when AEW president and CEO, Tony Khan came out and said “You guys want more wrestling?” He actually came out like three times to acknowledge the crowd. I would have thought he’d left the arena after Dynamite and Rampage, but he stuck around to the very end, just like we did.
Throughout the night, we witnessed so many great matches. Even most of the Ring of Honor matches had at least one wrestler I knew from previous AEW events. WWE has their two rosters of Superstars for RAW and Smackdown, plus they have non-televised WWE Live events happening most off nights. Using this formula they are able to visit more places throughout the year, but I really like the way AEW does their thing once a week. I’m sure that is also helpful for the talent and booking people, everyone just has to be in one place at one time.
 Different Crowds
Just as I attended both WWE and AEW events when they were in South Florida, I’m sure a large percentage of the fans that night had also been to a WWE event when in town. Wrestling fans are wrestling fans, they scream out silly phrases and love to talk trash to the wrestlers they hate. The difference in the crowd at both events is how each company presents their audience.
WWE talks about the WWE Universe (aka the fans). Each show starts with a full view of the “sold out” arena/stadium from every angle. In WWE, they fill up the house with fans. They mention the “sold out” crowd of [insert number of people] multiple times each night.
When searching for AEW tickets, I noticed that there were blacked out lower level sections on one side of the arena. This is so that the cameras can have space to set up. It also may give the photographers more freedom to get some good shots. AEW events are filmed in a different way. Instead of being able to film 360 degrees of the action, they are limited to something like 270 degrees, give or take. The cameras can only film facing certain directions to keep it looking full.
What’s funny is how any time you’re watching someone talk to the camera, they are pretty much only talking to the camera operator and the people on the floor. The majority of the crowd is actually behind them.
The end product still looks great every week on TV. I’ve tried to notice these empty sections when watching AEW on TV and they do a great job at not showing it. Another reason for this is most likely that AEW is still the new brand in town. By closing off certain sections, and filming the action in this particular way, they can make sure they will sell enough seats to make the house look packed every night.
 Squash Matches = Local Talent
A Squash Match is when a scrub is brought in to lose a quick match and put someone else over (or make them look good). We see many of these matches in AEW, especially with the big strong dudes like Wardlow. It’s basically a match where someone moving up the ladder dominates some no-name wrestler. They also help get more of the talent on TV when you only have a total of three hours each week.
I usually fast forward through these matches, but what I learned that night at AEW was that these “Scrubs” are not always future talent or undercard wrestlers. They are many times local talent from the indie wrestling circuits. There was a recent Squash Match fake out, where Chris Jericho fought Action Andretti, who seemed to be one of these scrubs. Instead, he won the match and now he’s doing great in AEW.
I recently began following our local indie wrestling company, CCW (Coastal Championship Wrestling) — I haven’t been to an event yet, but hopefully soon. The thing about the “scrubs” in these Squash matches is that they don’t get an entrance, they are just standing in the ring when we return from a commercial break. I noticed a familiar face in the ring, but I didn’t know why. Then, the local wrestling fans were chanting the name “Cha Cha” for “Cha Cha Charlie” and I wondered why that sounded familiar?
It’s because I’ve seen him in local wrestling ads online, along with some of the other “scrubs” from that night.
Going to any live wrestling show is great, and I can’t wait to attend my first local one later this year. The cool thing about AEW over WWE is that you get to see pretty much everyone on the roster. A few people were missing, but for the most part we saw everyone, since they recorded those two shows, plus some of the talent I wanted to see that didn’t perform on TV that week was still featured during the Ring of Honor matches (Willow Nightingale, Samoa Joe).
With the WWE roster being split across two shows, and only 2.5 to 3.5 hours of wrestling, plus other non-televised shows happening almost nightly, it’s hard to see too many Superstars at one event. The WWE entrances are much more impactful in person. The lights go out and it gets super quiet before the music, lights, and fireworks hit. In AEW, the entrances aren’t as big in person — except for a few (Jade Cargill, Chris Jericho, and The Acclaimed with Daddy Ass).
I had a blast at AEW and thank you to my buddy Richard for being down to do whatever. I first told him I was getting two tickets for $40 each, and he said, “Ok, sounds good.” Then I told him they only had $60 tickets left, and he said “No worries.” Finally, I got us $100 tickets, but that included all you can eat and drink plus free parking, and he said, “Awesome!” I was expecting free hot dogs, popcorn, and soda, but we had a full, fancy buffet in the lounge, a dessert table and beer and wine included.
**Thanks to AEW (All Elite Wrestling) for providing these photos from Wednesday, April 26th at the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, FL.