This Saturday one of the most important pro wrestling events in recent history—ALL IN—takes place inside the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, IL.

That’s not hyperbole.

ALL IN is the first non-WWE or World Championship Wrestling (WCW) promoted event to sell 10,000 tickets since 1993.

That’s 25 years and numerous companies that are unable to do what Cody, The Young Bucks and the many independent wrestlers up and down the card will accomplish on Saturday.

Created from one innocuous Dave Meltzer tweet, ALL IN represents a new world for North American pro wrestling. A world where—for the time being at least—a non-WWE pro wrestling event can gain enough steam and generate enough buzz to sell 10,000 tickets in minutes.

What Cody and The Young Bucks have accomplished with ALL IN should not be understated. This is their baby. It’s their money. Their reputations and their livelihoods on the line. Sure, there’s some help coming from Ring of Honor. There is talent from Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, AAA and the National Wrestling Alliance on the show but at the end of the day, it’s Cody and The Young Bucks who are the public faces of ALL IN. It’s Cody and The Young Bucks who would have to take the calls if they had a half-empty building.

Thankfully, barring any sort of catastrophe, it’ll be Cody and The Young Bucks standing tall after Saturday. The event sold out in seconds, the adjacent Starrcast Convention appears to be a tremendous success. ALL IN will air on FITE.TV, traditional pay-per-view and their pre-show ALL IN ZERO HOUR will air nationally on WGN America.

ALL IN has been a tremendous success no matter how you slice it. From its day one conception to Saturday has been a labor of love for independent wrestlers showing that they can indeed do it. Showing that it is possible in this landscape where it once appeared impossible. Even if the show doesn’t deliver in the ring (we’ll get to that in a moment), ALL IN will still represent something larger to the pro wrestling world.

No, it’s not hyperbole to call ALL IN one of the most important shows in North American pro wrestling history, it’s the truth.

September 1, 2018
Sears Centre
Hoffman Estates, IL

Watch: PPV / FITE.TV / HonorClub

The aforementioned ALL IN ZERO HOUR will air live nationally on WGN America. You probably have WGN America, you’ve just never watched it because there’s never been a reason to watch it. Now there is. Go find it on your cable provider now.

The ZERO HOUR will feature two matches: The Briscoe Brothers vs. SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) and The Over Budget Battle Royale.

The tag match is your standard fare with a famous team to independent wrestling fans (The Briscoe Brothers) and solid, good hand workers in SoCal Uncensored. This won’t be one of the best matches on the show but it will be well worked and the crowd is sure to be hot for everything these two do. The Briscoes are one of the greatest tag teams of the modern independent era so its quite fitting that they will be the first act heavily featured on ALL IN.

The Over Budget Battle Royale is not your standard “get everyone on the card” battle royal. Well, kind of. It absolutely is intended to get as many people as possible on the card but it carries an extra weight to it as the winner will receive a Ring of Honor Championship shot on the ALL IN main show. Announced names as the time of this writing are:

  • Jordynne Grace
  • Moose
  • Rocky Romero
  • Colt Cabana
  • Ethan Page
  • Brian Cage
  • Billy Gunn
  • Jimmy Jacobs
  • Marko Stunt
  • Brandon Cutler
  • Punishment Martinez

If I had to give a prediction, the eventual winner has not been announced yet and likely won’t be announced at all. The easy prediction is Flip Gordon who has been running a campaign to get onto the show and is hosting an ALL OUT pre-show BBQ in the parking lot. Gordon will find his way onto the show one way or another as he’s been with Cody and The Young Bucks throughout ALL IN’s creation. He’s going to be on the show in some form or fashion and this appears to be his easiest path.

There’s also an intriguing new name added to the mix as Neville officially parted ways with WWE earlier this week.

Madison Rayne vs. Britt Baker vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard

The lone women’s match on ALL IN features very little in the way of backstory or reason, it’s just a match featuring women from different corners of the independent wrestling scene. I’d bet the house on Tessa Blanchard winning as she’s been involved in some of the publicity for the show and is currently the most pushed commodity among these four.

Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell

I’m not much of an Arrow fan so Amell’s mere presence on the show isn’t what has me looking forward to the match.

My anticipation level for this match is all based on how well Daniels can carry Amell in this match. That’s not to say Amell is going to be a total zero, he’s taking this very seriously and is very athletic. Still, he’s as green as his character on TV. Daniels was a specific pick for this match against the green rookie as he’s as professional a professional wrestler as you’ll ever see. A veteran of 20-plus years, Daniels could lead a literal broomstick to a three-star match. Amell is better than a broomstick so this should be fun.

Best of all, Daniels can easily take the fall and lose nothing giving Amell and ALL IN their Hollywood headline.

Joey Janela vs. Hangman Page

Look for this to be the sleeper match on the show. On paper, it’s a guy who likes to talk about his dick and somehow the other guy is Joey Janela. But, that ignores the tremendous work both men have put forward this year. Janela has really expanded his horizons in WWN/EVOLVE and has shown he can do more than stunts and deathmatches.

As far as Page, he’s been tremendously improved in the last year having great matches not only in America but also abroad with NJPW. He’s become one of my favorites in the last year and only seems to have improved during trips to Japan and a solid run in this year’s G1 Climax. I get the apprehension, I do, but I’m confident this overdelivers.

As far as a winner, it’s ALL IN, man, who the hell knows? Other than obvious booking decisions like Amell over Daniels, anything goes. Anyone can win any match as ALL IN is (for now) a one-off, special attraction show that has little bearing on any stories in any other companies. There are your protected guys of course but between Janela/Page and many other matches moving forward, the winner is 100% up in the air.

ROH World Title
Jay Lethal (c) vs. Over Budget Battle Royale winner

As mentioned in my preview for the Battle Royale, I think the most likely candidate to win the rumble and maybe even the ROH Title is Flip Gordon. If I were a betting man I’d have Gordon as the Battle Royale winner who gets close but just can’t beat Lethal on the main show. I think that’s probably the best story for all involved.

Otherwise, it’s hard to preview this match as I don’t know the opponent. I’m confident though that Lethal retains the title regardless as I don’t think it would be in ROH’s best interests to have Lethal lose the ROH Title so quickly, against someone who won a battle royale earlier in the night, on a non-ROH show.

One intriguing aspect of this match came up on this week’s Being the Elite which saw Lethal open up his gear bag and see (in what we were led to believe was an illusion) his Black Machismo gear. Later, Lethal saw Machismo in the bathroom mirror. For those who unaware, Black Machismo was Lethal’s Randy Savage cosplay. It was arguably the pinnacle of his TNA/Impact Wrestling run and would get a ridiculous pop if he used it at ALL IN.

I’ve been enjoying Lethal a lot this year and would love to see him in a straight one-on-one match against someone great but this is ALL IN. ALL IN is as much a wrestling show as it is a party. If Pomp & Circumstance blares over the Sears Centre speakers and Black Machismo makes his way down the ramp, maybe we don’t get a solid, well-worked Lethal mat classic but I won’t care and neither should you.

Rey Mysterio, Fénix, and Bandido vs. The Golden Elite (Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, and Kota Ibushi)

Are you kidding me? Anybody who says ALL IN isn’t a good card on paper must be skipping over this match. Look at the names. Read it back to yourself. Mysterio, Fenix and Bandido on one side. The Bucks and freaking Kota Ibushi on the other.

This is going to be madness. Absolutely crazy. The Bucks always give maximum effort and they are sure to go all-out in this match as their name is literally on the marquee. This is one of the biggest Bucks matches of their careers only because they are spearheading and funding ALL IN. They are going to want to tear the house down and they absolutely have the right combination of guys to do it.

Speaking of effort, there’s Ibushi who treats every match with equal importance. Will he reel things in a bit here? Maybe but I’m not taking that bet. Even at half-speed, Ibushi dazzles.

On the other side you have one of my favorite live wrestlers of all-time in Fenix, the up and coming Bandido and oh yeah, Rey Mysterio Jr.

Mysterio is finishing up independent dates before he goes to WWE so there’s a chance we see less effort from him on this night but that’s understandable. The other five guys in the match are more than capable of shouldering the load.

This has Match of the Night written all over it.

NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship
Nick Aldis (c) vs. Cody

Undoubtedly the best built match of ALL IN thanks to the NWA’s ongoing Ten Pounds of Gold series, Cody vs. Aldis has me genuinely interested in a match between two guys who don’t always deliver in-ring classics.

The promo battle between the two on the most recent NWA upload is Pro Wrestling 101. Cody created ALL IN and is one of the biggest stars on the planet, Aldis, showing humility, says he doesn’t want to go home to his child as anything but the NWA Champion. Like much of what the NWA has done under Billy Corgan’s watch, it was so simple, so effective and the exact reason the NWA has been resurrected from punchline to one of the most important and intriguing companies in wrestling today.

Add in the intrigue of Cody going for the title his father once held and you have the recipe for one of ALL IN’s most anticipated matches.

Cody vs. Aldis has has ramifications too. The NWA video series has been centered around Aldis ever since he won the title from Tim Storm last year. Whoever holds that title becomes the focal point of the series and NWA’s traveling champion. The easy prediction is Cody getting the moment of glory at his own show but it’s not that easy. Is the NWA ready for Cody to become their face? Is Cody ready for that type of commitment?

Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll

Okada and Scrull can go one of two ways. It can be one of the best matches on the show with two awesome workers one of the best in the world in Okada and a man who can deliver with the best when he wants in Scurll.

It’s also the Rainmaker vs. the Villain, a man who carries an umbrella. It’s a guy who spent most of this year’s G1 Climax playing a character that was intentionally bad vs. a guy who can flap his arms and become one of the biggest stars in wrestling.

Will this be great or will it be comedy? Will the comedy be great? I have no read whatsoever on this match. During this week’s Being the Elite, Scurll cut a very serious promo about how much this match means to him and how badly he wants to win. That has me interested. Come match time will that same intensity be felt by both men or will it become comedy.

I’d love to give you a more extensive preview of this match but I simply have no idea which direction it will go. I know 100% we’re getting Marty countering the Rainmaker with an umbrella but aside from that… insert shrug emoji.

Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon

No other match encapsulates what ALL IN is about than Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr. The IWGP Heavyweight Champion Omega vs. one of the biggest non-affiliate stars in pro wrestling today in Pentagon.

A match like this is an impossibility on most wrestling shows and is the cherry on top of ALL IN. Matches like Omega vs. Pentagon make ALL IN special. Matches like this are a big reason why 10,000 strong will make their way to the Sears Centre on Saturday night.

Omega is going to win. There’s no chance the IWGP Heavyweight Champion loses at ALL IN. Still, I think this match has every chance to be a Match of the Year candidate. Pentagon isn’t always perfect but when he’s in the ring with an opponent who busts his ass, he delivers. Omega is all effort. The self-proclaimed Best Bout Machine will want to send the people home happy. Look for spammed Canadian Destroyers and angry Jim Cornette tweets when this one is done.

ALL IN isn’t a perfect card by any means but it’s one that represents its fanbase well. The crowd is as much there to watch a great wrestling show as they are to say they attended ALL IN. The powers running ALL IN know that. They know fans will be just as happy to see the Bucks hit a superkick or Scurll flap his wings as they will to see a handful of four-star matches. Still, there is a lot of potential on the show. Omega vs. Pentagon, the six-man tag and Janela/Page all have the potential to be very good. Aldis vs. Cody will undoubtedly be over with the crowd and everything else on paper looks solid enough.

No, the card isn’t perfect but it does a great job capturing the intent, the desire and the goal ALL IN. The show will be about proving that US vs. THEM is a closer fight than we thought.

Voices of Wrestling Events

If you are coming to Chicago for ALL IN next week, here are some events we’re hosting that may interest you (you know, aside from ALL IN , AAW and Warrior Wrestling):

Friday, August 31: Our friends at /r/SquaredCircle are doing a meetup after the AAW show. The location is the Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square. If you’ve never been, the Emporium is an incredible experience. I’m HOPING to be there but no guarantees given the busy weekend ahead of me.

Saturday, September 1: Immediately following ALL IN, we (Voices of Wrestling) are doing a meetup at GameWorks in Schaumburg. Right around the corner from most people’s hotel (if you’re staying in any of the official places). GameWorks is a gigantic arcade/bar/restaurant so meet up with myself and other VOW contributors play the games, drink the drinks and eat the foods. No reservations or specials or anything like that just yet. If we suddenly get an explosion of interest we’ll look into it but it’s probably not necessary.

Sunday, September 2: Now the main event! Voices of Wrestling will be live at the Hyatt Regency Schaumburg (the official hotel of Starrcast). Chris and Brandon will be hosting a live edition of Wrestlenomics Radio at 10am and when they are done at 11:30, I’ll be doing a special edition of the VOW Flagship until 1pm. The event is free and open to the public so stop on by. This is all thanks to Podcast Movement and Westwood One.