Two weeks ago, a young fan celebrating his birthday at the All Elite Wrestling Dynamite show in Charlotte, North Carolina, was pulled from the crowd after the broadcast concluded and ushered into the ring with the Young Bucks – brothers and tag team partners Matt and Nick Jackson – and several other wrestlers.
The fan pinned wrestler Brandon Cutler on the mat for a “win,” the crowd went wild and a lifetime memory was made.
“To give the audience something that they’ll remember forever is something special to us,” Nick said in an interview this week. “We feel like if we give these moments to them, they’ll come back more and more.”
AEW’s commitment to its fanbase, both in the personal interactions the wrestlers have with fans and the quality of the product on display in the ring, is just one of the reasons the promotion is the hottest thing going in professional wrestling.
And on Wednesday, Nov. 20, Hoosiers can see it for themselves when All Elite Wrestling Dynamite comes to Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
All Elite Wrestling Dynamite debuted on TNT on Oct. 2, just over a year after the Young Bucks and friend/fellow wrestler Cody Rhodes packed a Chicago arena for the self-promoted All In pay-per-view. In that year, All Elite Wrestling was born, with the help of CEO and president Tony Khan, and Matt and Nick have evolved from in-ring performers to wrestlers who are also executive vice presidents.
“It still feels like a dream to me,” Nick said. “Everything is so crazy, it’s hard to explain.”
For Matt, the dawning moments of the Bucks’ new reality have come in bursts. First at AEW’s first official pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, then during the “upfronts,” when TNT made its pitch to advertisers for the weekly Dynamite show. It was shocking for Matt to hear the network’s top people talk about the tag team and AEW.
“That’s when I think it really got real for me,” Matt said. “It was like, ‘OK, here we go. This isn’t just a couple of friends doing a group of shows. This is the real deal, and we’re going to be on television every week.’”
Matt had the same feeling when AEW taped its first live episode in Washington, D.C. He realized that instead of going home to plan for the next big show, he’d be going back on the road again in six days for another TV appearance. Despite the speed with which his professional life is moving, Matt said he’s trying to appreciate every moment.
“I think I’m going to look back at this time fondly and go, ‘Wow, that was probably one of the best times in my professional career,’” Matt said. “And I just want to try to appreciate it because what we’re doing is really special.”
Even with the hectic nature of these first few months, the Jackson brothers, who grew up in southern California with a professional wrestling ring in their backyard, have found they’re able to balance wrestling life with family life. While AEW is taping a weekly show, not every wrestler is on the weekly schedule. And AEW will host just four pay-per-views a year, giving the wrestlers windows to take time off.
“For instance, PAC, he just did the eight, nine days in a row tour, but he’s going to have this week off,” Nick said. “He’ll have seven to 10 days off actually. And that’s unheard of in wrestling. To even get a week off is unheard of in wrestling.”
Nick and Matt, purveyors of the Super Kick Party and More Bang for Your Buck, are heavily involved in recruiting talent to AEW and approach new acquisitions as wrestling fans as well as EVPs. Their careers on the independent circuit took them all over the world, and they’ve faced many of the wrestlers they’re looking to recruit in the ring. Their firsthand experience, and a little bit of research online, has led to a number of signings, from fellow tag team Private Party to Hangman Adam Page and Luchasaurus, who found fans appearing on the Bucks’ “Being the ELITE” YouTube show.
“A lot of these guys, we thought to ourselves, they’re so good but nobody knows about them, so let’s give them the platform where they can get the exposure that they need,” Matt said.
Private Party, in particular, found a home in AEW because they caught the Bucks’ eye online.
“I watched a 60-second YouTube clip and I said, ‘Yep, we’re signing them,’” Matt said. “It’s fun to see that the television product is working because nobody knew these guys a couple months ago. And now Private Party, a graphic of them can appear on the big screen, and the entire arena goes nuts. So it’s proof in the pudding, it’s proof it’s working and we just have to keep going.”
The Bucks lean on others to help fill out portions of the roster. Nick says Joey Janela may have the best eye for it, while Kenny Omega has led the scouting for the women’s division. But Matt says their best tool is simply having their finger on the pulse of wrestling.
“Going on Twitter and seeing who’s blowing up, you know, who’s making waves, whose gifs are circulating,” Matt said. “It’s the easiest time ever to have something go viral so like we keep our eyes on everything. That’s how a lot of these stars are being made these days is through social media.”
One of the tenets of AEW is to allow wrestlers to have more say about what happens in the ring. Matt said the core team has big picture ideas about where certain storylines need to get to, but much of how the stories get there develops week to week. Some wrestlers “get over” quicker or out of nowhere, and AEW has to contend with those “happy surprises.”
“You can’t ignore that stuff in wrestling, you have to go with it,” Matt said. “We want to be different than other wrestling companies. We want to listen to our audience and give them what they actually want.”
Winning the Wednesday night wrestling ratings wars against industry leader WWE’s NXT show and the off-the-charts merchandise sales tell you all you need to know about AEW’s success thus far. But it’s the messages sent to the Bucks daily that tell them they’re doing something right. Matt said he’s gotten several messages from fans who say AEW has helped them with their mental health. Some have even contemplated suicide but found solace and refuge in AEW’s form of entertainment.
“That means more to me than any rating could ever mean to me,” Matt said. “That’s the real reason I got into the business, is to change the world and make the place a better place, to give people hope. And I think if my story and my brother’s story helps with that, then God, all this was worth it.”