Last Word on Pro Wrestling’s series, War of the Words, explores the art and impact of the promo by looking back through the archives. This series will examine all kinds of promos, from the most memorable or ones that have been overlooked and are underrated, showing the background of the promo, the promo itself, the aftermath of the promo, and what came from it. In this edition, we take a look at the AEW Empty Arena Promo and the match that never happened.
On March 18th, 2020, All Elite Wrestling Dynamite went on the air live from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida. The show started with Cody Rhodes in the ring addressing the COVID-19 situation. This edition of Dynamite was the first without a live audience. The empty arena promo kicked off the show and featured AEW talent Rhodes, Matt Jackson, Kenny Omega, and Adam Page.
All Elite Wrestling hosted their final full capacity show in Salt Lake City on March 11th, 2020. The following week, health authorities raised concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in large group settings. That week, many sports leagues including the NBA, NHL, and MLB suspended play in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The following week, all major wrestling promotions closed down their TV tapings to the general public or stopped taping completely. When AEW went on the air on March 18th, 2020, the seats were empty in Daily’s Place as AEW conducted their first empty arena show in the COVID-19 era.
AEW’s Empty Arena Promo
The broadcast started with AEW EVP Cody Rhodes in the ring, addressing the television audience. He started the promo by stating how important he realized wrestling is to the audience. Rhodes pointed out that many were watching the broadcast as a way to escape the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19. He hoped that everyone watching felt as alive as he did and that he did not want to live in fear as it was not a way to live. Rhodes then turned the promo to fellow Elite stablemates Matt Jackson, Adam Page, and Kenny Omega. The Elite had been scheduled to take on The Inner Circle on March 25th live in Newark in the first Blood and Guts match. He urged his stablemates to put their differences aside and go into Blood and Guts as The Elite. Matt Jackson and Kenny Omega then joined Rhodes in the ring.
Kenny Omega and Matt Jackson Enter the Empty Arena
Kenny Omega took the microphone and commented on his checkered past with Rhodes. He alluded to their feud in 2018 over control of the Bullet Club. Omega built upon the narrative that Rhodes started about the uncertainty of the future both inside and outside of AEW before passing the microphone to Matt Jackson.
With a very serious yet gloomy tone, Jackson looked at his Elite stablemates. He noted how it was just the three of them. Nick Jackson had been injured the previous week when The Inner Circle laid him out backstage and left him bloodied and trapped under a garage door. Matt turned the promo to Adam Page as the two had not been seeing eye to eye. Page had been distant from The Elite and was often seen with a drink in hand. This caused Jackson to call his allegiance to The Elite into question. As Jackson asked where Page was, Page would make his way into the empty arena.
Jackson, now speaking directly to Adam Page, admitted that things would not be fixed between the two of them for a while. He posed a simple question to Page: would he stand with The Elite that night as they took on Proud and Powerful and Jake Hager? Would he stand with them at Blood and Guts? Page stood at the entrance tunnel and thought for a second before a slight head nod and raise of his whisky glass. As Page headed back through the tunnel, Kenny Omega closed out the promo. He promised the crowd watching at home to give the best Dynamite they could as everyone needed some entertainment. The lights and pyro hit and AEW officially started their first empty arena show.
The Match That Never Happened
Much of the empty arena promo was centered around the Blood and Guts match. This was to be AEW’s answer to the WarGames match. Due to the extended COVID-19 regulations, and the absence of a crowd, the match was scrapped. During the first empty arena show, Matt Hardy made his AEW debut. He then teamed with The Elite to take on The Inner Circle in a cinematic-style match dubbed the Stadium Stampede at Double or Nothing 2020. This match featured most of The Elite teaming together with Matt Hardy taking Rhodes’ place to take on the Inner Circle.
Although the Blood and Guts match has yet to happen, the empty arena promo that started AEW Dynamite set the stage during the COVID-19 era. The passion and energy behind the promo gave the empty arena shows a strong start. When crowds return in full force, maybe we will see the first AEW Blood and Guts match.
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