DETROIT, Mich. — My name is Josh Olsen and I have a somewhat embarrassing confession to make. I’m a 44 year-old, nearly lifelong wrestling fan, and I’ve never attended a pay-per-view. Sure, I’ve attended televised wrestling events, like Raw, Smackdown, and Dynamite. I’m old enough to have been in attendance for WWF Wrestling Challenge and WCW Thunder. I’ve been present for recorded shows at Ring of Honor, EVOLVE, and GCW. But I’ve never been to a traditional pay-per-view — or now “premium live event.”.

Part of this is due to where I grew up. La Crosse, Wisconsin, wasn’t exactly a professional wrestling hotbed. I previously wrote about this in another article, but while WWF and eventually WCW and even occasional ECW shows were a pretty regular occurrence at the La Crosse Center, I was hours from the nearest pay-per-view venue. And sure, lots of people travel for these types of things. People travel across the world to attend WrestleMania, but I was not raised in one of those kinds of families. We weren’t allowed to order pay-per-views, let alone travel for them. I was in a VHS family.

By the time I was old enough to travel and pay for my own pay-per-view attendance, it wasn’t a priority. My daughter was born when I was 20 years old, my son was born when I was 25, so I could never rationalize spending what little disposable income I had traveling to an event that pretty much no one else in my family or friend group wanted to attend with me. So, for years, I was satisfied attending local events where I grew up in Wisconsin, and when I eventually moved in August 2005, to Metro Detroit.

Now, if you’re reading this, and you’re a wrestling fan, you might be saying to yourself, but WrestleMania 23 took place in Detroit in 2007, and to that, I will say, you are correct, I was living and working in (or near) a city that hosted WrestleMania, and I did not go. But like I said in the last paragraph, it wasn’t a priority for me then. I wasn’t watching at the time, so I barely even knew it was taking place in Detroit, until the weekend of, and even then, I was intrigued by the opportunity, but I ultimately wasn’t motivated to go. And for that, I’ll go to my deathbed regretting that I missed attending the iconic Battle of the Billionaires. [Here’s the SlamWrestling recap of that show that I didn’t go to!]

There were other Detroit wrestling PPVs that I either missed or chose not to attend, but I won’t say that I regret missing them, because it was during a time when I barely paid attention to professional wrestling, of any sort. Once I did rekindle my professional wrestling fandom, WWE wasn’t exactly at the top of my list, so I didn’t mind taking a pass on Over the Limit 2010 or Hell in a Cell 2017. But when WWE announced that SummerSlam would “emanate” from Ford Field on August 5, 2023, I knew that it was finally time to attend my very first PPV.

As I’ve written about in the past, I typically go to wrestling shows by myself, or I occasionally go with my partner and/or son. My son isn’t exactly a wrestling fan, but he enjoys attending live wrestling events, the bigger (and bloodier) the better, so when I asked if he’d go to SummerSlam with me, he immediately accepted, and thanks to where and when I purchased my tickets, I had to buy a package of three, so I told him he could bring a friend.

A screen shot of the announced attendance for WWE SummerSlam at Ford Field in Detroit.

A screen shot of the announced attendance for WWE SummerSlam at Ford Field in Detroit.

The day of SummerSlam, I was admittedly pretty tired from my SummerSlam Eve festivities, which included WrestleCon and two independent wrestling events (Flop House Wrestling and GCW), but I was still eager to go to SummerSlam. My son and I picked up his friend, then we drove to Nemo’s. For those not in the know, Nemo’s is a Detroit institution, and they’re one of several bars in the historic Corktown neighborhood that offer a shuttle service to various Detroit venues, including Ford Field, the location for the night’s activities. Up until we arrived at Nemo’s, I was looking forward to SummerSlam, but I hadn’t really gotten into the full SummerSlam spirit, then I saw how many people in Corktown were wearing wrestling merchandise, and like a switch had been slipped, it suddenly felt like SummerSlam season. That feeling only intensified as we waited for the Nemo’s shuttle (a yellow school bus), and more and more wrestling fans began to gather at Nemo’s. One man in an American Nightmare T-shirt ran past the shuttle line while playing Cody Rhodes’ theme song, “Kingdom,” on his phone loud enough for all to hear, and I wondered if he had enough adrenaline in his soul to run all the way to Ford Field.

As the Nemo’s shuttle approached our final destination, the traffic increased to a near standstill. We were dropped off downtown, a few blocks away from Ford Field, and were immediately engulfed by wrestling fans. I sort of felt sorry for anyone down there who wasn’t in Detroit for SummerSlam (like the people who were there to see Smokey Robinson at the iconic Fox Theatre). The closest thing I could think to compare it to was Tigers Opening Day, an unofficial Michigan holiday, but this was a national, if not global, event. The pedestrian traffic multiplied the closer we got to Ford Field, and then I finally saw the mass of people gathering around and entering Ford Field. It was truly an impressive sight to behold. As a street musician belted out a saxophone rendition of John Cena’s “The Time is Now,” I became surprisingly emotional.

Not only had I never attended a wrestling PPV, I’d never been to an event at Ford Field. I don’t care about football, and most of the musicians I enjoy play more intimate venues. But that wasn’t simply why I became emotional. While I’d never attended an event at Ford Field, it wasn’t quite my first time inside Ford Field. My first time ever in Ford Field was in April 2021, when I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Standing outside of SummerSlam, I was reminded of all of the feelings of that day. Waiting in line for my shot, surrounded by a military presence, catching a glimpse of the empty football field, and the oddly upbeat music playing through the PA system, specifically “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. That day, and that first shot, provided a glimpse of hope that we might be able to safely gather in public again, without face coverings and social distancing, and here I was, two years later, entering Ford Field with my son and his friend and over 50,000 other wrestling fans.

Perhaps needless to say, Ford Field during SummerSlam looked and felt quite a bit different than when it was being used as a location to administer the COVID vaccine, and I was rather overwhelmed when I first caught a view of the full venue, and the 20×20 WWE ring in the middle of it all. Our seats were in the nosebleed section, but we had great visibility of the full entrance ramp and ring, and there were screens projecting the matches as they unfolded, so I rarely felt like I was missing anything, other than the commentary and in-ring, un-microphoned dialogue, but sometimes I just prefer to be without the commentary, and simply interpret what’s going on in the ring based upon the reaction of the crowd.

The results of the matches don’t really matter here (but can be read here), and if you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you watched what unfolded, but I will say this — as predictable as most of the SummerSlam 2023 results may have been, my son, his friend, and I had one hell of a good time. If you’re not accustomed to attending live wrestling events with kids or younger people, you’re missing out. Nobody will sing along to Seth “Freakin’” Rollins’ theme song louder than a five-year-old (well after everyone else has stopped singing), and while you may not get the appeal of Logan Paul, your 18-year-old son and his friend will lose their mind when he’s the first match on the card.

If your show doesn’t appeal to those young(er) fans, you’re missing out on much of the joy of professional wrestling. I obviously love a good 18 and up wrestling show, but SummerSlam was an excellent palate cleanser, after the previous night of broken glass, light tubes, and skewers. SummerSlam delivered exactly what I wanted out of my first pay-per-view experience, a grand, indulgent show full of pyro, booming music, and big spots you can see from the cheap seats.

A dejected Jey Uso after SummerSlam 2023. WWE photo

A dejected Jey Uso after SummerSlam 2023. WWE photo

I understand that a lot of people left Ford Field unsatisfied, after Roman Reigns successfully defended his title, yet again, and the night ended with “Main Event” Jey Uso lying like a heap of dirty laundry in the middle of the ring. But as we exited the venue well after midnight, after nearly four and a half hours of live professional wrestling, and we were greeted by the intoxicating Detroit summer night air, I felt almost drunk with joy.

I love professional wrestling,

I love Detroit.

I love my son, who spontaneously purchased a Smoking Skull replica championship belt from the merch stand.

SummerSlam 2023, my first ever pay-per-view, brought all of those things together, and that’s about as good as it gets for me.


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