If you’ve watched All Elite Wrestling over the last couple weeks, you heard “Winnipeg” come up several times during broadcasts, and with good cause.
Wednesday’s airing of Dynamite, along with tapings for Friday’s episode of Rampage, emanated from the Canada Life Centre in downtown Winnipeg.
Being the Slurpee capital of the world and home to Neil Young isn’t the brag point that was emphasized at the show, however. Instead, it was being able to celebrate two hometown heroes — Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega — who were founding pillars of AEW.
Both competitors received a rousing welcome from the Winnipeg faithful. “I’m not sure who was more over – Omega or Jericho,” said SlamWrestling.net contributor Jamie Hemmings. “Where I was sitting we were all excited for both. Pretty even I’d say.”
Jayce Naccarato from the Arcadian Vanguard collection of podcasts, saw a different reaction level from his spot in the arena. “When it came to certain points of the match, I’d have to say that Omega got much louder feedback from the fans than Jericho did,” he commented. “Omega had a deafening pop during his entrance – Jericho’s wasn’t as loud but everyone was singing along with ‘Judas.’ During the match, the crowd really popped big for Jericho for the Walls of Jericho move specifically, but Kenny got a stronger reaction from his overall role in the match.”
The day was extra special for Jericho. Before bell time, Jericho (Chris Irvine) was recognized by both the City of Winnipeg and Government of Manitoba. First, in a presentation from Mayor Scott Gillingham, Wordsworth Way was given a second naming: Honourary Chris Jericho Way. Later in the day, Jericho met with Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, who presented the former AEW champion with the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medal.
Jericho, Omega, and Don Callis, also a native Winnipegger, were also presented with special edition Winnipeg Jets jerseys by the NHL club.
The broadcast also gave opportunity for Winnipeg’s wrestling names to assemble. Spotted at the show was legendary local promoter Tony Condello. Sarah Stock, another native Winnipegger, was also announced as joining the AEW staff as a coach. Tony Khan, owner of AEW, made the announcement before the Rampage taping began, bringing Stock out in front of her hometown crowd.
Another Winnipeg wrestling name, “Beautiful” Bobby Jay was in attendance for the show. He remarked that the event drew an impressive crowd, whose major wrestling appetite clearly was not satiated by a recent WWE broadcast. “Lower bowl sold out, some sitting in upper bowl… probably around 8,000 people and ticket prices were higher than Smackdown which was here a few months ago,” Jay said on his personal Facebook profile.
The Dynamite broadcast went off without a hitch, with the re-Bar Mitzvah for MJF being an unbridled highlight, but it wasn’t the only Judaic ritual that some fans thought should be performed. “During the Bar Mitzvah, there were some jokes about re-circumcising MJF,” Hemmings said. “It was made more amusing to me by two fans near where I was sitting, holding up two giant scissors they had made!”
Another highlight for locals was the introduction of Taya Valkyrie as the night’s opponent for Jade Cargill. Valkyrie, born in Victoria, B.C., was later announced as the newest member of the AEW roster.
These highlighted talents weren’t the only ones who got major reactions. “Stu Grayson was getting some very, very strong pops during the Dark Order’s entrance and during their match,” Naccarato said. “During the Rampage tapings, Matt Menard was getting cheered quite a bit and had lots of ‘Daddy Magic’ chants.”
The overall presentation was appealing for Naccarato, who came prepared for deafening noise. “I will say to anyone who does experience AEW – the pyro wasn’t as loud or jarring as I thought compared to what the WWE presents on television,” he said. “I had brought earplugs just in case but was pleasantly surprised at the decibel level.”
While Winnipeg was not one of the cities listed in the recent AEW Canadian future dates announcement, a return engagement seems inevitable.
TOP PHOTO: Don Callis stops by to snap a photo with Jayce Naccarato’s Bulldog Bob Brown Fan Club sign. Photo courtesy Jayce Naccarato