The first episode of Being the Elite was published May 5th, 2016. There were no murder mysteries. There were no super powers. There wasn’t even a theme song. It was just five minutes of a tired pair of brothers riding in a car, talking about how much time they spent on the road.
Over the course of two years, it evolved into a medium that covers over a dozen characters with complex, interlocking stories, while still finding time for the Young Bucks to complain about how much they travel.
ALL IN was the cumulation of months of storytelling on Being the Elite. Stories that reward you with a beginning, a middle, and an end can be hard to find in professional wrestling, but on September 1st, 2018, ten thousand people in the Sears Center were treated to several payoffs that were months in the making. Being the Elite is only twenty minutes every week, but does a more effective job building stories then shows with hours of time. Around 200,000 people see Being the Elite every week, with even the most minor of roles having the potential for stories, and equally as important, catchphrases.
Being the Elite showed off its power in the first match of the show. All afternoon in the arena, you couldn’t go ten minutes without hearing someone shout “SCU!” Every week on BTE, SoCal Uncensored gets a minute to trash whatever town they are in. That’s it. That’s the extent of the involvement of Scorpio Sky and Frankie Kazarian. And it has made them more popular than ever. During the opening match of Zero Hour against the Briscoe Brothers, Kazarian got the reaction of his career when he received the hot tag from Sky. It was an ear-ringing roar for someone who has worked all around the world. Despite his success elsewhere, Kazarian will probably be best remembered for his work on BTE, inspiring a catchphrase and what had to be one of the loudest pops of his career.
It continued like this throughout the entire show. The Over the Budget Battle Royal was filled with nostalgia acts and some of the hottest current stars in independent wrestling. But the loudest cheers weren’t for old wrestlers like The Hurricane or Tommy Dreamer. They weren’t for the guys on TV like Brian Cage or Moose. The loudest response for the battle royal came when Flip Gordon ripped the mask off his head and revealed himself as the winner, because Flip Gordon’s quest to be at ALL IN has been documented every week on Being the Elite. Flip is a relatable character, someone who wanted something so badly only to come up short time and time again, and the crowd went nuts when they realized his dream was going to come true.
If the acts in Zero Hour showed us how useful Being the Elite was being in getting wrestlers over, the opener of the show proper showed us what happens when these tools aren’t used. MJF vs. Matt Cross in an unannounced match was an odd choice to open the show. Neither man is on BTE, and the crowd responded accordingly, noticeably subdued from earlier. While cool that these guys had an opportunity to shine at the biggest show of their lives, a match with more connection to the crowd would have started this show on a higher level. The women’s match had a similar issue. These matches had almost no promotion on Being the Elite, and while they were good matches that had plenty of crowd involvement, they lacked the juice of the Zero Hour matches and the matches to come.
One match that did not lack juice, at least for the opening, was Cody vs Nick Aldis for the NWA title. The NWA has told this story through their own YouTube series, “Ten Pounds of Gold,” but it was Cody the crowd was here for. For months, viewers of Being the Elite have watched Cody try to take the leadership of the Bullet Club from Kenny Omega, either through treachery or by force. But he redeemed himself when the group came under fire. The reception Cody received when he stood in the ring dwarfed anything else on the show. It was an ear-echoing, seat-shaking ovation, all because the crowd had watched Cody’s journey. They walked with him as he left the WWE and joined the Elite, followed his story through New Japan and Ring of Honor, and felt like they knew him personally through BTE. And his story cumulated here, attempting to win the belt that was synonymous with his father, at his self-created event. And the crowd responded, bringing out goosebumps with the intensity of their cheers.
The storytelling of Being the Elite came to a climax in the mid card with Hangman Page vs Joey Janela. The most elaborate story on BTE has been the murder of Famous Dick Wrestler Joey Ryan, and the guilt eating at Hangman for doing the deed.
This was the highlight of the evening, a perfect combination of match and story. It was everything other American wrestling companies wish they could do. The storyline flowed into the match seamlessly, letting the wrestlers do their match and coming into play during important moments. And whether it was a high spot like Page nailing Janella with a Burning Hammer through a ladder, or a story spot like the reveal of the bedside phone Page used to murder Joey Ryan, the crowd ate every single thing up. Ten thousand people rose to their feet when Ryan’s penis twitched on the big screen, which might be the strangest, yet biggest, testament to what Being the Elite has accomplished.
Other matches used Being the Elite to set up their stories as well. Christopher Daniels and Marty Scurll did some excellent promo work, and most importantly, it all paid off. Daniels bragged about his experience against Stephen Amell, and he showed it when he baited Amell into trying to put him through a table. Okada mocked Scurll on BTE with a “205” hand gesture, and one of the best spots of the night happened when Okada threw up the gesture during the match, and Marty grabbed his hand for the finger break. These aren’t major story moments, but Being the Elite and ALL IN show that even minor elements, when done right, can be rewarding for the fans.
The major matches that didn’t use BTE didn’t need to. Unlike MJF vs Matt Cross, Kenny Omega vs Pentagon Jr didn’t need story to make it interesting, nor did the six man tag main event. These are dream matches that sell themselves, so Being the Elite didn’t waste precious time on them. Instead we get excellent promos and goofy vignettes that built to a satisfying conclusion. And also Matt and Nick Jackson complaining about traveling. After all, a show shouldn’t forget its roots.
I don’t know where Being the Elite will end up in the grand scheme of things. YouTube has so far proven to be an unreliable medium. Just ask Zack Ryder. But the Young Bucks made history on Saturday. They sold ten thousand seats and distributed their show on a half dozen different mediums. And they did it on the back of a humble travelogue.
ALL IN Match Ratings:
- SoCal Uncensored def The Briscoes: ***1/2
- Over Budget Battle Royal: ****
- Matt Cross def MJF: ***
- Christopher Daniels def Stephen Amell: ***
- Tessa Blanchard def Madison Rayne, Chelsea Green, & Britt Baker: ***
- NWA Title Match: Cody def Nick Aldis: **3/4
- Adam Page def Joey Janela: ****
- ROH Title Match: Jay Lethal def Flip Gordon: ***
- Kenny Omega def Pentagon Jr: ****1/4
- Kazuchika Okada def Marty Scurll: ***1/2
- The Young Bucks & Kota Ibushi def Fenix, Flamita, & Rey Mysterio: ****