AEW: All In London 2023 in review.
How can I possibly review this event without coming across as a contrarian hot take machine, in light of the apparent universal praise that has been heaped upon it? Can I possibly compare and contrast it to the EVE x ChocoPro show the night before without sounding like the worst kind of hipster who only likes bands you’ve never heard of?
Not really, so I’ll just give a general overview of the show from my perspective. I haven’t watched it back yet, I may not, just to preserve my own memories, good or bad. For anyone who did watch it live on PPV (or otherwise) I would love to read your thoughts. Anyway, here’s a photograph taken at the EVE show of one of my favourite wrestlers, Miyu Yamashita, who is very friendly in person but renowned for kicking the heads right off her opponents.
The Pink Striker
And so onto All In: London, along with 81,034 other fans.
Jack Perry versus HOOK
Whilst my seat had a pretty excellent view of the ring itself, the entrance itself not being elevated meant I couldn’t view anyone until they were actually in the ring. I didn’t know Perry had arrived in a limousine until he and Hook were pictured fighting on it. People enjoyed chanting “Jungle Wanker” during the match.
CM Punk versus Samoa Joe
Everyone wanted to sing along to “Cult of Personality” of course, but it felt once the match started, most of the crowd were firmly behind Joe. And why not? He’s still great, and is a beloved performer here thanks to his many visits to the UK in the past, both with Impact and NXT. This was an enjoyable fight and Joe was clearly having a tremendous time – and the “wanker” gesture he made to Punk makes even more sense in hindsight* – but the Pepsi Plunge looked absolutely terrible from my vantage point.
*At the time of writing, Punk is not gone from the company. He may very well be gone by the time this gets posted. He will be sooner or later. Goodbye and good riddance.
The Golden Elite versus Bullet Club Gold
This match particularly suffered from having too many people and not enough time given to let all of them shine. The crowd lifted when Omega and Page were in the ring, and they booed Don Callis whenever he appeared on the screens, but they were rather cool on the Bang Bang Gang. Is Jay White just not as well known by the majority of the AEW audience yet? I loved seeing him out there in his Whiteblade gear. It was sad to see how much of a step Ibushi has lost, but it was still great to see him in the ring with White. Hopefully the commentary brought up the fact these two were the men who last contested for the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships. That’s a rich history right there.
FTR versus The Young Bucks
This match felt surprisingly cold and didn’t really connect with me. I don’t know if it came across as the same quality as their previous matches on television, but Matt having to pull Wheeler up when Harwood wasn’t there to break up the pin was painfully obvious. There were many attempts to start songs centred around Wheeler’s arrest for threatening someone with a handgun, which just felt unseemly.
The Young Bucks make their entrance
Stadium Stampede Match
This match was stymied again by the poor sight-lines and honestly most people in my section seemed to check out for most of this match, beyond the entrance of the BCC when dozens of people left their seats to swarm around them as they made their entrance. Perhaps that was more my own personal view though, as trash matches like this aren’t my thing at all.
Eddie Kingston should have played more of a part in the ring, because he was the person the crowd seemed to want to see most of, but wherever he was brawling, it was barely shown on the screens. Orange Cassidy winning with the broken glass-aided Orange Punch was great through.
Hikaru Shida versus Saraya versus Toni Storm versus Dr. Britt Baker
For the people who didn’t use the last match as their pee break, this was their moment to visit the toilets. I couldn’t care less about Saraya winning and it didn’t seem to me that the crowd was hugely into her victory either. I was glad to see the back of her and her carnie-ass family hotdogging and showboating in the ring.
Mercedes Mone appeared during the pre-show on the screens, leading people to speculate if she was there to confront the winner of the single women’s match, so it was strange to us when she didn’t appear. She was shown again during the Trios title match but no explanation was communicated to the fans in the stadium.
Chris Jericho versus Will Ospreay
“Judas” got a hearty sing-along, obviously, but the audience was firmly on Ospreay’s side once the match started. Because of his talent or simply because he’s the home town boy? Or both? Anyway, he obviously outshone Jericho and left me wishing he was in the ring with a better opponent.
House of Black versus The Acclaimed
Last week was an awful week for wrestler deaths. Terry Funk’s passing was sad but not wholly surprising considering he was 79, but losing Windham Rotunda at the age of only 36 was pretty devastating. There was no formal mention in the stadium about either of them, but the crowd took the House of Black’s entrance to pay tribute with the Fireflies. It’s been reported that AEW had been attempting to get the usage rights for Billy Gunn’s “Ass Man” theme, which is why he entered under his old moniker. This was fun if a little disjointed.
The Fireflies emerge to remember Bray Wyatt
MJF versus Adam Cole
The main event was the best match of the night. I will admit that when it became clear months ago that Cole would be MJF’s challenger at this event, I was filled with ambivalence. The main problem is I have never seen Cole as a main eventer or World Championship holder. I saw him at a WCPW event in a gymnasium six years ago and he’s not really evolved beyond his entrance music and his catchphrase. What made this match was the story leading up to it (including their winning the ROH belts on the pre-show) and MJF simply being superb at everything he does. The crowd ate him up and quickly forgot about the dumb “double count-out” gimmick when he announced they would go for as long as it takes.
The overhead screens did spoil the news that All In will be back in London next year, but when the show ended MJF gave a pure babyface promo and allowed Cole to announce their return in 2024.
Overall, I was just whelmed by the show itself. The matches were pretty much as I expected them to be – with the Tag Team Championship fight being something of a let-down – and not much really standing out (The coffin match was just there… I couldn’t really think of much to note which is why it’s absent from the matches above). The experience itself was worth making the effort for, being part of the largest wrestling crowd ever, it being the first ever AEW show in the UK, etc., etc., but I didn’t leave the stadium buzzing with excitement the way I did after the first Royal Quest show back in 2019.
Will I go again next year? Maybe. Tony Khan will have to put in a lot more effort into the card itself because I won’t be purchasing simply on the strength of the name again. There were too many tickets being sold for buttons or even given away for nothing on the day of the event to be worried about purchasing one on the day they go on sale anyway.
- This was not a child-heavy audience, the fanbase of AEW at least in Britain is almost entirely adult and none too young either.
- The enjoyment of seated shows such as this depends greatly on who ends up next to you. I was lucky; on my left was another person on their own and in front of me was a couple, one of whom was walking with a cane and didn’t stand up too often, so I wasn’t forced to either. Much love to the two Irish lads to my right who were lovably rowdy and managed to get through eight pints of lager and a stout during the show alone. They were struggling by the end and one disappeared entirely. I’m not sure how much of the event either will be remembering.
- If there’s one thing wrestling fans love more than wrestling, it’s wrestling merch. I arrived around eleven in the morning and still had to wait about half an hour in a queue at one of the stands. Fortunately (for my wallet) I thought the shirts were all horrible so I only bought the commemorative football scarf (a steal at only $38). The amount of money spent on clothing alone must have been insane.
Wembley Way around half past eleven. The people on the right facing away are in queue for one of the ten exterior merchandise stands.
- Lesson learned: never buy tickets to pre-show “events” or “parties”. There was one on Saturday that priced $75 and another on Sunday for $25, both of which had to be bought blind when the tickets first went on sale. The first did apparently have some Q&A sessions, but they were just really places for people to spend money on food and drink and to wait in slightly shorter queues for merchandise.
- There weren’t too many signs visible to me, but the highlight was definitely “FOUR NAAN?” A reference to a nineteen year old episode of Peep Show was hilariously obscure. I have no idea how many people would have understood it, but I loved it. A can of Coke for that lad.