Professional wrestling has always been a hot ticket in the Great White North since the onset of the sport in the country. From coast-to-coast, wrestling fans have always shown up for a fun night at the fights. In 1904, 12,000 fans traveled to Montreal, Québec’s Sohmer Park for a World Lightweight title bout between Eugene Tremblay and George Bothner. Thirty years later, Jim Londos vs. George Zaharias would draw 17,000 in Toronto, Ontario’s Maple Leaf Gardens for Maple Leaf Wrestling.
In the 1950s, Eddie Quinn would promote multiple shows with 20k+ attendances at Montreal’s Delorimier Stadium with stars like Édouard Carpentier, Gene Kiniski, and Yvon “The Lion” Robert. The large attendances would continue in the 60s and 70s with stars like Johnny Rougeau, The Sheik, and Jacques Rougeau on top of the card. A 1962 Buddy Rogers vs. Gene Kiniski main event put 16,000 people in Empire Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia. Meanwhile, Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling was running sold-out shows in the famous Victoria Pavilion.
The World Wrestling Federation would build on the popularity of pro wrestling in the country with a series of shows that would shatter previous attendance records in the country. Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff brought 64,000 fans to Exhibition Stadium in 1986. WrestleMania VI and WrestleMania X8 would do 64,287 and 68,237, respectively. Two late 90s episodes of Monday Night Raw drew over 25,000 in the SkyDome.
Even late last year, All Elite Wrestling basically sold out the Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto for the first Dynamite in the country. According to WrestleTix, they distributed 7,394 tickets out of 7,593. A true success! So much so that on a recent episode of Talk Is Jericho, Chris Jericho and Rafael Morffi, AEW’s Vice President of Live Events and Touring, joked that they could’ve done a lot more if they didn’t run the “smaller room.”
With over a hundred years of nationwide buzz for wrestling and a strong Toronto debut, All Elite Wrestling swung for the fences with their upcoming Canadian tour but things are not looking good so far!
A Tour Rivaling Leroy & Leroy
There’s always somewhere to go.
If you are not familiar with it, this is the planned Canadian tour:
- June 24, 2023 in Toronto: AEW Collision
- June 25, 2023 in Toronto: AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door
- June 28, 2023 in Hamilton: AEW Dynamite/Rampage
- June 29, 2023 in Hamilton: AEW Collision
- July 5, 2023 in Edmonton: AEW Dynamite/Rampage
- July 8, 2023 in Regina: AEW Collision
- July 12, 2023 in Saskatoon: AEW Dynamite (No Rampage listed on AEWTix.com)
- July 15, 2023 in Calgary: AEW Collision
Six locations, four Collisions, three Dynamites, and one pay-per-view event co-promoted with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
One of the biggest headscratchers I have regarding the tour is why they chose to run some of these locations in the order they are running them.
The two nights in Toronto is no big deal, and running a Collision before the nearly sold-out pay-per-view should allow those who couldn’t get tickets for the big show a chance to attend an AEW show that weekend. Following it up with a two-nighter in Hamilton afterward is puzzling. Hamilton is an hour’s drive from Toronto and is part of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). They are in the same market, and you’re asking the same pool of fans to buy tickets to four shows within a week.
After that, they hit two stops in Alberta and Saskatchewan each. I’m sure there are some scheduling issues at play here, but running a show in Alberta, then two in Saskatchewan, and then ending the tour back in Alberta looks a bit funny. The cities are so far apart that they don’t fall into the same market issues as the Hamilton and Toronto stops.
What is very noticeable to me is the lack of a stop in the eastern Ontario/Québec region. As mentioned earlier, Québec has always been a very supportive crowd that will watch Québecois wrestlers shine. WWE did two back-to-back sold-out nights in le Centre Bell earlier this year with a very vocal crowd cheering on Sami Zayn’s attempt to beat Roman Reigns. If they wanted to save a Québec show for the future, Ottawa would be a better choice for the two Hamilton shows. WWE did over 8,000 in the Canadian Tire Centre earlier this year, and indies such as C*4 Wrestling regularly draw 600+ to their shows. It’s a hot market that could be used instead of oversaturating the GTHA.
Another noticeable exclusion from this big tour is a Vancouver, British Columbia show. Vancouver has a deep wrestling history, with All-Star Wrestling being the biggest company in the territory from 1960 to 1989. Gene Kiniski’s run on top of the card led to the All Star Wrestling show being broadcast across the country. Vancouver has always been a destination city for Canadian wrestling fans. We know the area is a hot market as neighboring city Seattle hosted the January 4, 2023 Dynamite and AEW distributed nearly 10,000 tickets to that show.
Perhaps they are saving Vancouver for some other time?
The Price is not Right
One of the best parts about attending most AEW shows in the United States is that you can get in the building for $25-$30 to enjoy a night of professional wrestling. It’s a good deal!
Unfortunately, that same deal does not apply to the shows on this Canadian tour.
Below are the cheapest ticket prices for each show as of May 23, 2023:
NOTE: Forbidden Door not included as it is a pay-per-view event.
|Show||Cheapest Ticket (CAD)||Price in USD|
(1 CAD = 0.74 USD)
|Difference in price (USD) compared to average base price ($29) in US|
|June 24, 2023 in Toronto: AEW Collision||$109.75||$81.24||+$52.24|
|June 28, 2023 in Hamilton: AEW Dynamite/Rampage||$48.80||$36.12||+$7.12|
|June 29, 2023 in Hamilton: AEW Collision||$48.80||$36.12||+$7.12|
|July 5, 2023 in Edmonton: AEW Dynamite/Rampage||$98.65||$73.03||+$44.03|
|July 8, 2023 in Regina: AEW Collision||$105.71||$78.25||+$49.25|
|July 12, 2023 in Saskatoon: AEW Dynamite||$68.98||$51.06||+$22.06|
|July 15, 2023 in Calgary: AEW Collision||$50.75||$37.57||+$8.57|
The price to get into the building for these shows is way too high. The Hamilton ticket prices have already been adjusted down by nearly ~$100 from the initial price due to the lack of ticket sales. If you’re an AEW fan in the southwestern Ontario market, you’re looking at a base price of $207.35 to attend the three TV shows, not including the Forbidden Door pay-per-view.
Asking your fans to pay an exorbitant premium of ~$40 – $55 compared to the shows in the US market is a tough sell. Asking them to pay that premium for a show that nobody knows anything about is even more perplexing. I would somewhat understand the pricing if Dynamite and Collision prices were flipped but asking over $100 to attend a net new TV show.
Inflating prices at the expense of overall attendance is a bold strategy. The current number of tickets distributed for the shows on the Canadian tour are appallingly low.
A special thank you to WrestleTix for the following numbers, up to date as of May 23, 2023:
|Show||Estimated Capacity||Tickets Available||Tickets Distributed||Percentage Distributed|
|June 24, 2023 in Toronto: AEW Collision||3,445||1,846||1,599||46%|
|June 25, 2023 in Toronto: AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door||12,972||85||12,887||99%|
|June 28, 2023 in Hamilton: AEW Dynamite/Rampage||5,278||1,939||3,339||63%|
|June 29, 2023 in Hamilton: AEW Collision||3,083||2,514||569||18%|
|July 5, 2023 in Edmonton: AEW Dynamite/Rampage||6,294||1,401||4,893||77%|
|July 8, 2023 in Regina: AEW Collision||2,290||1,005||1,285||56%|
|July 12, 2023 in Saskatoon: AEW Dynamite||3,673||1,371||2,302||62%|
|July 15, 2023 in Calgary: AEW Collision||5,330||2,222||3,108||58%|
Forbidden Door is selling incredibly well and will most likely be a total sell-out. The Collision the night before is struggling to sell a fraction of the tickets.
The Hamilton Dynamite is fine, but the Hamilton Collision show number is atrocious so far. Once again, asking a fan to attend the fourth show in the market at an inflated price is a tough ask. Kudos to the five hundred people who have bought tickets!
The Regina and Calgary ticket numbers have not moved much since they were first on sale as an undisclosed TV taping and a house show, respectively. The announcement of Collision has not been a draw so far. Maybe that will change if a major star is announced for those shows?
It will be interesting tracking these shows going forward. As Morffi mentioned on Talk Is Jericho, approximately 70-80% of sales come from the pre-sale. That does not bode well for most of these Canadian shows.
Where Can We Watch Collision, Anyway?
Another potential setback to these Collision show sales is how the show might be perceived up here. We have not heard anything about where and how we can watch Collision on Canadian television.
Dynamite is the flagship AEW show broadcasts live every Wednesday on TSN2. We know where and how to watch the show. It’s advertised throughout the day on all the other TSN channels. The network treats it as a big deal, and thus we treat it as such. The ticket sales for those shows reflect that.
Rampage, on the other hand, is not broadcast live on TV up here. It airs live on TSN+ (TSN’s streaming service), and it’s available on demand afterward for around a week. It’s not readily available and is not treated as a big deal. It’s a true B show, and the fans treat it as such.
While the Collision on TNT announcement makes it seem like it will be a big show, the general sentiment of the show is a bit muddied up here in Canada. TSN has yet to announce the show. We don’t even know if they will broadcast it on their platforms. If it’s exclusively on their streaming service, can you really blame the fans for not buying expensive tickets for a perceived B show?
Hoping For The Best
Despite this rocky start, I hope this first Canadian tour is a success for All Elite Wrestling. Canada has always been a solid market for the WWE, and I think it can become a solid touring spot for AEW as well once a few of the kinks are worked out.
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