PITTSBURGH – All Elite Wrestling Dynamite made a historic showing at Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The AEW show (the fourth since its TNT debut) was the first professional wrestling event in the venue’s 17-year history and fans were — to borrow a term — “All In.”
Most modern wrestling fans, and most of Pittsburgh actually, don’t realize that professional wrestling also often took place in the Oakland neighborhood in a long-razed building called “The Gardens” that was in walking distance of the newly-renovated 12,508-seat all-purpose arena. The Petersen Events center is less than two miles away from the PPG Paints Arena, where its center-stage concert capacity is 19,758. “The Pete” looks much more intimate than PPG Paints.
About a quarter of the seating capacity was either eliminated for staging or canvassed. The crowd was extremely late in arriving for the live television program. Some blamed a noon-time visit by President Donald Trump in the city’s Golden Triangle for the tardiness, but the crowd simply arrived late. Word circulated Tuesday that AEW was actively looking for seat-fillers. At 8:00 p.m., the arena was about 85-percent full with visible gaps in large areas. By 8:45, the lower bowl was 95-percent or more to capacity. One entire row of overdue fans explained that they were transplanted from the upper tier by ushers. Estimates had the crowd at about 8,500 fans.
Fans with replica titles used to swarm WWE events in Pittsburgh, while only a few were noticed in this crowd. The vast majority of fans were white males less than 40 years of age; approximately one fan out of every row was a woman, and there were only a small handful of kids (only one young girl was spotted). There were only a few hand-made (or otherwise) signs. Most of those were shown when Britt Baker wrestled.
Ring announcer Justin Roberts was the first to arrive on the scene. He introduced television commentators Excalibur, the popular Jim Ross and NWA/WCW veteran Tony Schiavone. Fans waived Terrible Towels of Pittsburgh Steelers fame.
The AEW Dark match featured QT Marshall and Peter Avalon (with “Librarian” Leva Bates) against Sonny Kiss and “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes. Arguably the biggest pop of the night was for 50-year-old Rhodes. Perhaps it was because fans were ready to cheer, they recognized the former Golddust’s career of work, or both. The AEW microphone isn’t as loud as the WWE’s at PPG; however, one could barely hear the introduction for Dustin over the crowd. The crowd appreciated Sonny Kiss with cheers and chants, and booed Marshall and Avalon (it was one of the only true “heel” reactions of the evening).
Roberts informed the crowd moments before showtime that we were going to “get right into the action.” At 7:59 p.m. he started the introductions for Private Party and the Lucha Brothers. The crowd cheered widely for both teams. “A-E-Dub” chants rang out. The crowd was into this match, the second-straight tag team bout of the evening.
After that match, a buzz was felt for the video package touting Wardlow, a heavily-muscled wrestler, who like Britt Baker, was groomed in a Western Pennsylvania independent federation 20-miles south of the city near the Westmoreland County border.
The tag team match between SCU and the Dark Order dropped the energy level tremendously. It was revived, and ultimately overshadowed by AEW Champion Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz who walked through the crowd, up a flight of stairs and to a suite area. All of the attention went to the “Inner Circle.” When the crowd got back into the match a few moments later, the first “This is Awesome” chant happened during that contest.
The first singles contest of the event was Joey Janella versus Kenny Omega. The fans exploded for Omega, but still not as much as for Dustin Rhodes earlier. One fan explained “People love Kenny Omega.” At one juncture in the match, the fans alternated “Let’s go Kenny/Let’s go Joey” chants. Largely, the crowd resembled a Japanese gathering, quiet and respectful. Then there was a break after a spot and the crowd clapped in appreciation. At 8:51 another “This is Awesome” chant filled the air. After Omega won, the crowd cheered.
When the lights went out and “The American Nightmare” Cody was lifted up from underneath the stage, the fans went crazy. He was supposed to make an announcement about his career with Tony Schiavone, but a commercial break derailed that momentum. During that timeout, Cody told the crowd that they were not live on the air. And when he heard a fan ask about his former mascot “Bernard the Business Bear,” Rhodes told the crowd that that was a story for another day. Once back live, his announcement never came because Jericho was still in the suite and someone handed him a live microphone. The two jostled about their upcoming championship match. Jericho verbally challenged Cody and when “The American Nightmare” was going to break television wrestling’s “fourth wall” and walk up the stairs, Jericho reminded him that he was outnumbered. Dustin Rhodes, Maxwell Jacob Friedman and the surprising Diamond Dallas Page appeared, the energy grew by the addition. A “holy sh$t” chant greeted DDP, Dustin and MJF. When that melee broke out, fans in the arena couldn’t hear anything but they laughed at all of Jericho’s comedic spots.
The Best Friends Trent and Chuck (with Orange Cassidy) took on the Young Bucks. The Young Bucks work often as heels, but still get cheers. Trent and Chuck also were favorites and fans popped hard when Orange Cassidy dove from the turnbuckle onto Matt and Nick Jackson. When the Young Bucks mockingly hugged ala the Best Friends, the crowd booed. When Trent and Chuck embraced, the fans robustly cheered. Post-Mmatch, the Young Bucks announced that they accepted the match challenged by Santana and Ortiz last week for the November 9th pay-per-view.
A package aired for Punxsutawney-born Britt Baker. The wrestler and real-life dentist studied in Pittsburgh and trained in the suburbs. She excelled in regional promotions before being squashed in a WWE RAW match. She had some showings in Ring of Honor and other promotions around the country before being inked by AEW. Jamie Hayter hit the ring and Baker was accompanied to the ring by Pittsburgh Steelers mascot “Steely McBeam” who ring announcer Roberts introduced only as “Steely.” The mascot is sometimes maligned as unnecessary, the same way the Steelers are one of the only NFL teams without cheerleaders. But here he received a dandy ovation along with Baker. This crowd was the largest hometown gathering Baker has ever performed in front of and they were happy to see her. “Let’s Go Britt,” “Brittsburgh” and “Here were go Baker” chants were very loud. When Hayter gave Baker a “wet Willie” the crowd reacted with a funny vulgarity. When Baker won, the applause was boisterous.
The main event between Jon Moxley and PAC featured all of the expected reactions, but when the match ended in a time limit draw, they were booed with the enthusiasm of an old WCW screw job.