Why We Are All In!

There has been a palpable and tangible buzz in the world of professional wrestling for the last 18 months or so. While the casual onlooker might solely attribute it to the happenings and expansion within WWE, the hardcore base of wrestling fans have been energized by the independent wrestling circuit. Let’s start with a bit of a history lesson, shall we?

Let’s go back to the days of the territories, wrestling in the United States featured of course the proverbial “Big 3” promotions…that being the NWA, the AWA, and the WWF. The NWA (or National Wrestling Alliance) had a number of territories, or regional promotions, that operated under their supervision. The AWA (American Wrestling Alliance) and the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) were each regional promotions that ultimately gained a national audience to be able to somewhat compete with the NWA. Fast forward to the 1980s where Vince McMahon Jr looked to expand the WWF from a regional to a national promotion. In the process, he purchased a number of those regional promotions, ultimately moving us to the 90s where we went from the “Big 3” to really the “Big 2”. Those organizations were WWF (now WWE) and WCW (which was the new company birthed from Ted Turner‘s purchase of Jim Crockett Promotions, the leading promotion in the NWA). Then came the Monday Night Wars which birthed the nWo, D-Generation X, The Montreal Screwjob, and of course, the Attitude Era. Sprinkled in there is a third promotion, a regional promotion which seceded from the NWA, morphing from Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme Championship Wrestling, better known as ECW.

During this time frame (circa 1995-2001), the wrestling business became an incredibly exciting place for fans and wrestlers alike, with each promotion grabbing national attention for a variety of reasons, and ultimately, landing noteworthy television deals and exposure. By 2001 however, within two months of each other, both ECW and WCW would close their doors as WWE would purchase WCW ending the Monday Night War. That purchase, along with the dissolving of ECW, created a creative chasm in the wrestling world. Without alternatives and options for the wrestler, where would they apply their craft? For the wrestling fan, where would they get a healthy diet and variety of the world’s oldest and greatest sport? Keep in mind, wrestling, at this time, was only really being widely distributed through broadcast TV deals, primarily on cable and regional channels.

In 2002, there were several attempts to begin new promotions in an attempt to offer both fans and wrestlers additional opportunities and variations of the sport. In February of that year, an upstart, independent promotion called Ring of Honor (ROH) would begin. In June, the NWA would resurface thanks to former WWE and WCW superstar Jeff Jarrett, who would create NWA TNA (Total Nonstop Action), where the NWA World Championship would resurface. Neither had TV deals but worked to find creative ways to bring wrestling to the masses.

Fast forward to 2016. The last two years in the wrestling industry have been nothing short of extraordinary. Why? There are a myriad of reasons, but the combination of the demand for more relevant presentations of pro wrestling combined with its answered demand has created a virtual perfect storm. This desire from pro wrestling fans is no different than the mid-90s when the business endured both a creative and economic slump. Simply put, the wrestling fan wants compelling story lines fused with insatiable action. In 1995, this said desire from fans helped to birth ECW and the start of the Monday Night Wars. This same desire from today’s fans has brought us to this point and the creation of All In.

What would cause the grandson of a plumber and the son of a dreamer to walk away from the proverbial “American Dream” of a secure financial future with little work to pursue an uncertain future with an uncertain income? It’s the desire to simply be BETTER and contribute more. Such is the story of Cody Rhodes, who in 2016, left a decade of tenure in the WWE to pursue career aspirations in the independent wrestling circuit. Who could have predicted that this bold move would lead in a mere two years to the single largest independent wrestling show in history? I’m not sure that even Cody envisioned THIS happening. What he DID was believe in himself and BET on himself.

How frustrating must it be to have the DNA of arguably wrestling’s most creative mind and yet sit dormant inside of a contract and character that was mid-card at best? From Cody’s moving induction Hall of Fame speech for his father back in 2006, it was evident that Cody had the mind and approach that would carry his father’s legacy to new dimensions. Yet, his former company didn’t see, believe, or cultivate the incredible gifts that laid inside of Rhodes.

So he did the only thing that a Creative in this situation would do for the sake of their sanity and the health of their gift. He went INDEPENDENT!

Since 2016, Cody used his star power to bring prominence to independent promotions across the world. From making appearances in Impact Wrestling to his work in the UK with the former What Culture Pro Wrestling (WCPW) promotion (now Defiant), winning their Internet Championship. By the end of Dec. 2016, Rhodes became a member of the red-hot Bullet Club and made his debut in New Japan Pro Wrestling. By 2017, he was working both in NJPW and ROH and by June 2017, he was the new ROH World Champion. It should be noted that he was never given the opportunity to even compete for the WWE Championship in his decade long voyage with the company.

However, it was a challenge in 2017 on Twitter from wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer that lit a fire under Rhodes, causing him to once again bet on himself. Meltzer didn’t believe that ANY independent wrestling event would ever fill up a 10,000 seat arena. However, THIS bet would prove to be the biggest gamble of his career, as he would partner with Nick and Matt Jackson (aka The Young Bucks) to fully fund and promote the event we now know as All In.

After finding a venue (The Sears Centre in Chicago), the rest was history, as the event sold out in 29 minutes, faster than many recent events in the much larger WWE.

The truth of it is this, the match results actually pale in comparison to the larger win of this event. The win is simple and yet VERY layered. Cody and The Young Bucks just proved that there IS success in the pro wrestling industry outside of one company. As Rhodes so eloquently stated in the event’s post commentary “No one company owns pro wrestling. (Pointing to the fans) WE own pro wrestling.”

Cody proved the power of betting on himself. However, he’s quick to acknowledge that this wasn’t the result of one man’s vision or execution. His partnership with The Young Bucks proved to be invaluable. However things didn’t stop there. Rhodes was able to get buy in, participation, and collaboration from nearly every independent organization he’s worked with. The event had athletes from Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, CMLL, NWA, and several other promotions. These organizations didn’t just allow their wrestlers to participate, but they willingly threw their support behind the event.

Ring of Honor offered their pay-per-view streams such as FITE TV and Honor Club to assist in broadcasting to the masses. The event was available on Cable PPV outlets and New Japan’s streaming service NJPW World offered the replay of the event to their subscribers. The levels of collaboration between organizations in this effort has been both historic and mind blowing.

This leads to a couple of salient and valuable points. For one, moments like this require great vision. It also requires great collaboration. A Herculean effort like this doesn’t happen alone. It requires a team. In addition, your idea and vision must service the needs of the people. Here’s a scenario where the voice of the people wasn’t ignored or forgotten but rather celebrated and incorporated. Anytime the needs of an audience is met, it will create significant buy in and support.

What would happen if you chose to both believe in and BET on you?! All In reminds us that many are sitting on virtual unrealized gold mines. Often the drug of comfort and stability can stifle the most creative minds, lulling us into a false sense of security. No matter how your creativity manifests, it WILL be challenged. Whether in the wrestling ring or the corporate office, the thoughts that finances and status are the ultimate signs of success will neuter the most forward thinking visionaries into mundane and super safe spaces.

Let’s allow this historic event to awaken the dreams that have gone dormant. Whether your dream thieves look like the security of a guaranteed paycheck or the insecurity of your personal proclivities, choose to no longer allow your dreams to take a back seat. Your dreams deserve your full attention and creativity. Your passion deserves the best version of you possible. Simply put, it’s time to go ALL IN!!

Thank you Cody and The Young Bucks for being another visual representation and reminder that our dreams DO matter and that there remains an audience for our creative expressions.

THIS is why WE are ALL IN!!

 

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