The last time I went to a pro wrestling live event was, oh, I don’t know, many years ago. I think the Albany arena that hosted it was called the Pepsi Arena back then. I think it was a Monday Night Raw taping, back when Raw was only an hour long and they taped four episodes between pay-per-views – the first one was the live broadcast, and the next three hours would air on successive weeks.
Wow. That’s a flashback.
Yesterday, I attended my first-ever All Elite Wrestling (AEW) live event, a four-hour card that included two hours of AEW Dynamite (their flagship TBS Wednesday night broadcast), along with a one-hour taping of AEW Rampage (their Friday night show on TNT) and an hour of AEW Dark Elevation (their Monday evening YouTube show). Tickets weren’t too expensive, and I was planning on a lot of fun.
And boy did I get that, and in spades.
First off, AEW offered some of their wrestlers as a special “meet-and-greet” add-on ticket bonus. Your options for selectable wrestlers varied depending on the venue, but for Albany the fans’ choices were technical wrestler and former NWA women’s champion Serena Deeb, former FTW champion “Absolute” Ricky Starks, and the soon-to-be AEW tag team champions, The Acclaimed.
Guess who Chuck chose.
Yep. Chuck scissored with “Platinum” Max Caster and Anthony Bowens.
In case you’re confused as to who is who … I’m in the center.
Then the fans entered the MVP Arena, and holy cow you can see the ring and the entranceway. It looks larger and more expansive on television, but in real life it’s quite intimate.
My seats were along the entrance ramp – wrestlers enter the ring through those two tunnels and walk down the rampway. Wrestlers exiting the left tunnel are “heels,” or bad guys, while the “faces” – the good guys – walk through the right tunnel.
You want to see how close I was to the action?
Any closer and I could have tagged into a match.
And although I wasn’t allowed to bring in any of my top-tier camera equipment – no, I couldn’t smuggle in the Nikon Df or the Rollei or any of my other photographic arsenal – I did put my Google Pixel 6 Pro camera to as much use as possible.
Because I was able to snag some nice entrance shots from the various wrestlers. I’ll try to explain as much as possible for those who don’t follow the squared circle roster at AEW.
Dark Elevation tapes first, and runs for about an hour. These are lower-to-midcard wrestlers, who often compete against “enhancement talent” – sometimes derisively known as “jobbers” – to essentially earn some wins. The enhancement talent included a few names from local Albany-based wrestling organizations, who got a few bucks to eat a turnbuckle face-first and look up at the lights while the ref counts to 3.
The woman with the red scarf is Nyla Rose. Former AEW women’s champion. The woman in the green pants and bougie hat is Marina Shafir, she’s wrestled a few times. Nyla pretty much destroyed her opponent. I said former AEW women’s champion. She’ll win that title back some day.
This is the tag team of Isaiah Kassidy and Marq Quen, also known as Private Party. They won their match with a lot of gymnastics and acrobatics, and i think they’re still picking up pieces of their opponents off the mat.
Skye Blue is an up-and-coming wrestler who achieved a miracle in her career. She was brought in as “enhancement talent” in a match against another established AEW star, Red Velvet. But Skye Blue performed so well in her match against Red Velvet, that the AEW higher-ups kept her around, and she now wins matches on a regular basis on Dark Elevation – including winning tonight.
That’s Frankie Kazerian. Guy’s been wrestling for nearly 20 years now. He was involved in the first Ring of Honor match 20 years ago. And he can still move with the best of them.
AEW has several luchadores (masked wrestlers, mostly from Mexico) on the roster. This is a new signee, Mascara Dorado. He was once known as Lince Dorado in the Lucha House Party faction in WWE. In fact, several people in the stands started “Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!” when he entered the ring. He defeated another masked luchadore, Serpentico – who may become the first AEW wrestler to earn 100 losses. Ha.
These two are straight-up bad-asses from Buffalo. The Butcher (in front) actually plays guitar in a hard rock band on nights when he’s not wrestling; his tag partner in the back is called The Blade. They usually have a third member of their team, a woman in a fetish bunny rabbit costume (also known as The Bunny), but she wasn’t there tonight. No matter.
Okay. Now it’s time for Dynamite. And we’re live from Albany, beaming out to millions of homes with the TBS cable channel. And starting off, we got a match between super-brawler and former AEW champion Jon Moxley …
He walks through the crowd, he doesn’t take the ramp.
His opponent was Sammy Guevara, a cocksure youngster with million-dollar ability and a screw-you attitude.
It was a great match to start off Dynamite, and you can tell the crowd was solidly into it. When you start hearing chants of “This Is Awesome (clap clap clap-clap-clap)” over and over again, you’re winning.
Unfortunately, after the match we had to sit through the blatherings of AEW’s hottest heel and best microphone man, Maxwell Jacob Friedman (“MJF”). For those unfamiliar with MJF, he will tear his opponent apart in an interview, pulling out every single wart and limit on his opponent and working them like a can opener against a tin of tunafish.
The next match was a one-on-one battle between AEW star Jungle Boy – that’s Jack Perry, whose father was 90210 heartthrob Luke Perry. Yes, now that I mention that, you can definitely see it in this young man’s face.
Jungle Boy went up against Jay Lethal, who has plenty of moves of his own. At one point in time, he would actually imitate the moveset of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Ric “Nature Boy” Flair, but today he simply wrestles with a bodyguard named Satnam Singh – yes, that’s former NBL Canada centre for the St. John’s Edge Satnam Singh. Yes, Chuck knows this. It’s NBL Canada related. I can’t help it.
I’m telling you, I pulled some incredible entrance photos. Then I decided, what if I used the slow-motion feature on my camera for a wrestler’s entrance? Hmm. Here comes Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. – and yes, she does dental work in her Florida practice on Mondays, then wrestles for AEW on Wednesdays. Currently checking to see if she takes Aspen Dental insurance. 😀
As the night progressed, I kept capturing great photos and entrances and whatnot. As Dynamite ended and the taping for Rampage began, some of us moved closer to the entrance ramp rail. This allowed me some better photos – as well as a few connected high-fives from wrestler Penelope Ford (a blonde bombshell with her head-in-a-cardboard-box husband Kip Sabian along with her).
I also snagged a high-five from wrestler Danhausen (he dresses up like the most cuddly demon out there, and the fans love him to death).
By the time the show finally ended – at about 11:30 – fans were totally wiped. We saw 4 1/2 hours of top-notch wrestling, the card was packed from beginning to end, and we all wanted more. Heck, I took over 300 photos with my phone, and I probably could find two or three images that might be an outside shot for Competition Season 2023.
But yeah, this was a lot of fun. I hope AEW comes back to Albany for another show.
I would be so there. 😀