PITTSBURGH – On Wednesday night at AEW Dynamite, construction around the 12,508-seat Petersen Event Center forced each and every patron to enter through two doors on the concourse area. Half of the line consisted on young men in black t-shirts. A yellow-shirted security staff member constantly yelled for the throng to keep walking through the designated area.
“One at a time!” Is the mantra from the professional that will bore into minds indefinitely. (She smiled broadly when told she earned a ficticious badge for her yeoman’s work.)
It had been a year since AEW trucks lined the streets leading to where Britt Baker studied dentistry and she was promised to be in a tag match tonight.
Besides the omnipresent black tee-shirts, it’s fun to spot the replica belts that come in. It was about a half hour before an AEW Heavyweight belt was spotted in the clutches of a boy about 10 years of age. Right behind him was an adult with a strap on his shoulder.
It was 30 minutes in, and the boy with the belt was ready to go in that the metal detector momentarily shorted. Meanwhile, the snaking line never shortened.
There aren’t many women in Pittsburgh’s AEW crowd (a few donned Baker shirts) and even fewer children. Later in the show, Jack Perry would reference kids in the audience. That was the most scripted moment of the program.
One day after the fifth anniversary of Bruno Sammartino’s death, someone shouts out The Champ’s name in line.
In the past, local wrestling talent could be seen in line. One of the last times Tony Khan’s group was in the Oakland neighborhood, wrestler Dani Mo bounced around the concourse. Some time later, the Betel Park native would wrestle on AEW cards.
This time, a Pittsburgh-area valet named Julia Lynn got her ticket at Will Call.
At 6:45, the line outside was virtually identical than when doors opened.
Even before 7:00, Ring of Honor matches were going on. It was interesting to note that AEW had only one merchandise stand on the main floor and the line was massive. A friend who goes to all of the arena shows decided to bail.
The ROH squash matches were good. This is probably the largest crowd ROH worked in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s Lee Moriarity was enhancement talent the last time he wrestled in this building and received a bigger pop than his opponent. AEW took notice and signed the talented athlete. And like Baker before him, Moriarty isn’t booed in Brittsburgh, even though he’s a member of the crafty Firm.
Dasha Gonzalez fills in for Justin Roberts’ and introduces a fist-pumping, screaming Tony Khan to a wild response. He calls Pittsburgh one of AEW’s best cities and terrible towels twirl at 8 pm.
Jungle Boy Jack Perry’s music hits and no one can clearly hear Gonzalez. That’s a theme that would permeate the night.
Pittsburgh is clearly ready for fun as the standing crowd sings Jungle Boy’s theme song.
Perry, Sammy Guevara and Darby Allen would go on a WWE-esque 10-minute ramble.
MJF comes out (it’s interesting to note that the babyface and heel entrances have switched in recent outings) to an extraordinary response and he immediately rips the crowd for supporting Britt Baker. Unsurprisingly, the crowd isn’t a fan of that. He saves a segment that was stalling in a hurry.
Britt Baker, DMD, is teased for after the commercial break.
Hint: Gonzalez is hardly heard on the microphone as she attempts to woo with the crowd.
The Outcasts go straight for Baker’s parents, who are actually from Punxsutawney – and not the city – at ringside. The ovation for Baker is loud, but not as ruckus as in the past when the crowd wasn’t supposed to be rabid.
The match itself was boilerplate with Baker working as the superhero. Jamie Hayter got dinged up. That would play a role later.
Another wrestler who cut his teeth alongside Baker is Wardlow. He receives a great response in a promo with the returning Arn Anderson. Pittsburgh has always been an underappreciated Horseman town.
.@QTMarshall in deep waters as @TheArnShow ENFORCES!
Watch #AEWDynamite LIVE on TBS! pic.twitter.com/xs5uvcYzT9
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) April 20, 2023
Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks come out to Kansas’ “Carry on Wayward Son.” How can that not rile up a crowd?
The crowd here doesn’t entirely embrace Omega and the Young Bucks in promo mode and they don’t want to hate the Blackpool Combat Club. When Kansas plays again, the volume spikes and lulls.
During an ad break, Gonzalez tries to help pass the time but she is barely heard 100 feet from the ring. Her introductions aren’t much louder. Contrast that to the WWE where ever word blasts off the walls of the decidedly larger PPG Paints Arena.
There’s a loud chant for Wardlow. Justin Plummer, a Pittsburgh-area wrestling promoter who has been correctly credited for nurturing the talents of Baker and Wardlow on the independent circuit, is in the front row with his young son, pumping his fist in approval.
Fans here are familiar with Powerhouse Hobbs. In addition to wrestling, he is booked frequently at nearby Toy Shows in Ohio and signing appearances. He is unanimously considered to be a delight.
All it takes for the crowd to jump is for Arn Anderson to step between the ropes. When he dispatches of QT Marshall, it’s 1986 all over again in NWA land.
When Jay White makes his way to the ring, the best sign of the night – “Hugh Jackman Never Looked Like Wolverine” – is spotted. And 100% correct.
For much of the contest, the Kommander and Jay White match is surprisingly quiet. The AEW brethren is famously pro-Japan, but something is amiss.
An aside: during this match, there are five women in front of me. Two are on their phones, one inspects an empty sandwich bag, one guzzled a bottled of water and one reads a newspaper.
Backstage promos have bad audio, so fans in the arena can only guess what’s said on TV.
The biggest star of the night is next when Chris Jericho arrives. It is puzzling as to why his theme song doesn’t change, whether he is a fan favorite or a villain. However, the Fozzy front man, who performed north of Pittsburgh with his band about 10 days ago, knows how to play the crowd.
Jericho gives a perfect, comic expression when Adam Cole calls him a “jagoff,” Pittsburgh’s ultimate insult. And when he retorts that he isn’t a “jagoff” he hits the right tone.
What does it say when Cole’s only friend is Britt Baker? When a save attempt is made, she’s attacked by the Outcasts. One has to remember that Jamie Hayter was injured earlier in the evening and no one else in the locker room cares that the real-life couple is bashed about.
It takes a commercial break and the first appearance of referee Aubrey Edwards (fans chant her name) to eventually clear the ring.
The Steel City loves The Acclaimed and want to see “Daddy Ass” Billy Gunn. The nearly 60 year old gets the tag and cleans house, all to thunderous adulation.
Wisely, Gunn’s action is quick and effective.
Sammy Guevara versus Jungle Boy is the main event. Guevara and wife Tay Conti show up first. The last time they were in Pittsburgh, WWF mainstay Virgil waited in a line of fans to say hello to the couple, who were babyfaces. Now, Conti is an afterthought.
One last observation. At WWE shows, fans are up and down all night, grabbing snacks, using the facilities, and more. AEW fans largely sit through the entire event.
TOP PHOTO: Warlow after winning at the TBS title at AEW in Pittsburgh on April 19, 2023. AEW photo