I have been to four wrestling events in my life. Once shortly after high school to support a friend. From what I remember, it was pretty calm. The second was in a small, local town and that was weird. The third was a larger event with some seriously memorable moments. The most recent event was in Chicago for AEW Revolution . But before I get into that, I need to back up a little bit because this tale starts with a walk and ends with an epic journey.
Richard, Ashlee, and I had spent the day and C2E2 at McCormick Place in Chicago. That’s how all this started really. I am not a wrestling fan. I don’t know anything about it other than I like Netflix’s series Glow. However, we drove all the way to Chicago for this major convention and a big pay-per-view for All Elite Wrestling was taking place within walking distance. Of course it would be crazy for Richard not to go. While I’m not a fan, I don’t mind going. I can appreciate wrestling for what it is. Even though I think most of it’s an over-the-top, silly telenovela with slapping and some occasional real injuries that does not mean that the wrestlers do not love what they do or are not skilled, successful people. I can get behind that even if it’s not MY thing.
So our evening started at McCormick Place. It is a cold day but I didn’t wear my coat because I didn’t want to have to carry it through the convention all day. There is shuttle that will pick us up after the show and take us to the car but we would have to walk to Wintrust Arena. Granted, it’s not far but it was literally snowing that morning. I decide to buy a cheesy tourist hoodie from a souvenir shop inside McCormick Place. In my haste to leave the gift shop, I run into a closed glass door like a confused bird much to my companions amusement. I really thought that door was open. I swear that it was only the toes of my Converse shoes that slam into the door but Ashlee later assured me that it was full face-to-door contact.
Wrapped in my new heather black “Chicago, The Windy City” hoodie, the three of us trudge the short distance to the venue. We line up with a father and two sons behind us. They speak loudly in excitement about the AEW events that they had already been to this year. We eavesdrop without turning around. The two boys break out into a disagreement, the youngest ultimately retorting, “Ok, boomer!” Their father quickly steps in to point out that the eldest brother is only twelve years old so that is hardly an accurate comeback. Ashlee and I giggle. This could be one of the best things that we’ve heard all day – It’s at least a close second to the weird galaxy rose gift from Symbiote Spider-Man at C2E2 earlier that day (see Sharon Meets C2E2).
The line starts moving quickly and we were in Wintrust Arena before we know it. Ashlee leans over and tells me that one of the best part of these events is the women’s restrooms – There’s no lines! We are so use to standing in bathroom lines but it’s in and out while the men’s line extends outside the multiple bathrooms. We locate our seats and we find LED bracelets to put on. Richard is super excited. I don’t blame him. We are maybe four or five rows from the floor and right beside the curtain. (Note From Richard: I squeed. A lot. That is all) We can literally see wrestlers walking behind small gaps in the curtains. I’m not particularly invested in any of this so I just take it all in. Ashlee warns me that there will be pyrotechnics and lots of fire used and I tell her this is fine. I have been to at least half a dozen Avenged Sevenfold concerts and countless other concerts were you can feel the heat in the middle of the crowd. I check with Richard and he tells me the show will be starting in about ten minutes so I decide to get something to drink.
I find the nearest concession line and wait forever. So long that I notice my LED bracelet is flashing and the show has started. I watch the first match on a mounted TV without paying attention as I contemplate my purchase. I know Richard wants a Mountain Dew. Ashlee said she didn’t want anything but I planned to get her bottle of water. I really wanted a soft pretzel. When I first got in line, I planned on getting a beer but almost 30 minutes has passed. I was now thinking that I should just get a water for myself as well and be done with it. How would I carry it all back? Ahhhh! I had the hoodie! When I finally reach the front of the line, I order everything. I stuff two bottles of water in the pocket of the hoodie. Carefully tuck the pretzel under my arm and walk back with the Mountain Dew and cup of Blue Moon. I silently pray I don’t trip and fall.
I make it back and pass out the goods. Richard is surprised that I bought beer. He totally misses out on the amazing feat that I have accomplished thanks to the tourist hoodie. We stand for the national anthem. (Why was there an opening match before the national anthem?) The women singing did an amazing job. I have zero idea who she was. The pyrotechnics that Ashlee warned me about turned out to be more akin to large firework explosions. I sit down afterwards because I am perfectly content watching the screen, drinking my beer, and enjoying my pretzel. I don’t have a horse in any of these races anyway. Suddenly, a commotion in the aisle to our right distracts us. An alarmingly drunk guy has tumbled down at least six steps, fallen over a handrail, landed on top of several people in the row below us, and lost his shoe. I’m not alone in watching this spectacle. This hot mess has my full attention. He is sitting on the bottom step apologizing to the security guard and crying. He is not injured but can obviously not stand. Medics bring him a wheelchair and try to coax him into it. He cries harder. Finally, an intimidating guard gets him into the chair and they wheel him back stage. He’s so smashed that he probably won’t even notice the wrestlers back there. What a shame! I’m left with so many questions…. The show just started. How much did he drink before he got here? Does his friends know where he went because they are not going to let him back in… Did someone help him put his shoe back on? No one was physically injured from the guy’s shenanigans so Ashlee and I add this to our mental list of the best things that have happened (galaxy rose, “ok, boomer” kid, drunk guy).
I return to my pretzel and discover I’m not that hungry. I offer the remaining two-thirds the Ashlee but she declines. I wrap it up and tuck it into the pocket of my hoodie. My eyes are burning from the firework pyrotechnics. I start paying closer attention to the matches. I mentally pick favorites. Darby Allin fights against Sammy Guevara. I know nothing about any of these guys. Darby Allin is painted as a skull on one side of his face and I can get behind that. It sits well with my dark, goth heart. Sammy Guevara is not an unattractive guy but he seems annoying. He keeps sticking out his tongue. He’s wearing what are essentially bikini bottoms and knee high hooker boots. I decide to cheer for Darby and he wins!
Tag team brothers, Young Bucks enter to fight Kenny Omega and Adam Page. I tell Richard that their brightly colored, tasseled pants look like bell bottoms and I would wear them. That’s until I realize they say Young Bucks in stylized print on the hips. No thanks. There is a lot of dramatic talking. Some whining. A lot of slapping. Some pretend hitting. Some real hitting. More pretend hitting. Ultimately, Young Bucks fail to overcome their competitors. Oh, well…. girls know better than to fight with their long, flowing locks down. Maybe the Young Bucks brothers should consider pulling their hair back next time.
I offer my pocket pretzel to Ashlee again but she’s still not interested. It’s now time for the Women’s Championship. Nyla Rose is pitted against Kris Statlander, who is apparently an alien. I ask Richard if she is suppose to be an actual alien or more like an Indigo child. He shrugs. Her makeup looks good and she is buff! Ultimately, I have to go with Nyla Rose and am happy when she retains her title.
Next match features Cody Rhodes and MJF. Cody looks like a mix between Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and a Malibu Ken doll. His wife was by his side. I am sure she is very talented. In fact, I looked her up and she has pretty impressive resume. However, she made a perfect NASCAR Barbie to offset his Ken doll persona. MJF, again, not an unattractive guy. I’m just not sure what character he is striving for. Bikini bottom wearing, scarf accessorizing thug is the aesthetic that he achieves. This fight got bloody and Cody lost to the bikini thug. He was left dazed while his wife melodramatically assured him that “it was ok”.
In my favorite match, Orange Cassidy was paired against Pac, the Bastard. I’m not sure how a person can be “freshly squeezed” but that is Orange Cassidy. A ridiculously fun character that fights with his hands in his pockets and promises to try to win. Meanwhile, Pac is a greasy, wild man. This fight includes Orange Cassidy gentle kicking at Pac’s knees in a taunt and so much rolling around. Orange Cassidy just rolls away from Pac and out of the ring multiple times. Finally getting trapped halfway, he looks up at his opponent and smiles. Due to some tricks and dirty fighting, Pac wins and I am sad. The match feels like it ends abruptly. Either way, I legitimately have a favorite wrestler which is not something I expected.
Last match of the night is between Chris Jericho, who I am actually vaguely familiar with, and Jon Moxley. There’s a really ridiculous backstory for these two men that has been building up to this night and apparently it’s about to go down. I cannot help but laugh at a lot of this. “Ohhhh, his bad eye wasn’t stabbed out by a spike….. I would have never have guessed.” Yet the gasps were audible as Moxley slowly pulled off his eye patch (which had been pushed to the side at one point). There was so much interference from outside wrestlers and dirty fighting going on. However, I have to say, this fight legitimately got bloody pretty quickly. In the end, Moxley got his revenge by triumphing over Jericho. Moxley waxes and wanes in a victory speech. He pauses. The music starts playing. He curses and starts talking again. The music is cut. He talks for a few more minutes and the show is over.
I walk up the steps and head for the restroom. A large man starts yelling at me to move and “Don’t touch him!” I just stop in confusion. As I stand there, Jon Moxley walks in front of me and into a stairwell. “I was just going to pee. I didn’t want to touch him.” I mumble to myself. I throw away my pocket pretzel.
I meet back up with Richard and Ashlee. We leave the building and stand on the sidewalk looking for the promised shuttle. Slowly, we realize that the show ran later than anticipated and no one is coming to get us. We will walk. It is how we got there and it is how we will get back. We reach McCormick Place and the convention is over. The after party is winding down. If we try to enter, they may not let us in. If they do, we will have to go through security and try to navigate our way through the building. So we decide to walk around the building. We are just parked in the lot behind McCormick Place. Should not be a problem. The sidewalk is covered in snow. Ashlee has on thin canvas shoes and my Converse are not much better. Neither of us are wearing coats. The crowd around us dissipates. We plug the car’s location into Richard’s phone to make sure we are going the right way. Richard stops walking. Panic fills his face. We have a three mile walk from the car and apparently we are not in a super safe area of Chicago. Two local staff members had taken great care to warn Richard that we needed to be careful after dark (Thanks, guys!) and now we had no choice. We had gone too far from the convention center at this point. We just have to keep walking. I think that we all are acutely aware of how vulnerable we are. We had gone through so many security checks throughout the day. We had no weapons. Nothing to protect ourselves with. What was I going to do? Throw my phone at an attacker? Hit them with my Coach wristlet?
Hang tight while I switch tenses- Richard mentioned multiple times that we were going to die. Nah, I assured him. We might catch pneumonia but we would live. We would make through the night. I am the pessimist. I prefer to prepare for the worst and when things turn out better, it’s like a surprise or a life bonus. This time there was no point in dwelling. We had to keep moving or surrender to a life as a Chicago street urchin and I think we are all too old for that. Except maybe Ashlee. So we walked and we walked. Through patches of wet snow and uneven sidewalk. Since we had no weapons of any kind, I constantly looked behind us. I remembered back to self defense class where I was taught that people were more likely to be chosen as victims if they appeared to not be paying attention to their surroundings. Paying attention was the least I could do. At one point, Richard became nervous because we had a group of people following us. I had been watching them and deemed them non-threatening. They appeared to be a family leaving the same event that we had. As they got closer and closer, this person in our group continued to feel uneasy.
Finally, I turned around, “Did y’all just leave the wrestling match?” Without hesitating, one of them responded, “Yes! We’re walking to our car.”
“Told you!” I said to our party, “It’s a family. They have several kids. One is like six years old.”
“It could be a gang…” said the nervous member of our party. I rolled my eyes, urging them on. We had to keep going. We stopped only when Ashlee needed a break because of her asthma. The family passed us, reached their vehicle, and left us completely alone.
We checked GPS. We were halfway there. I know I’m not exactly a city girl but I still can’t figure out why this trek was so long. How is three miles the shortest way to get around a building? I regretted throwing away the pocket pretzel. I felt so stupid for leaving not only my coat but my gloves, hat, and scarf in the car. Never again, I swore. I would just carry it with me during the convention next time. We stepped over broken glass bottle. I warned Richard and Ashlee to watch out for “sticks”. Some were really sticks. Others were larger limbs or even branches hanging down from trees. When Richard missed my warning and ran into a branch, I laughed, clarifying that I meant the “hanging stick”.
We turned around a corner and once again began to see signs for McCormick Place. A sign indicated Lot B ahead- our destination. It was nearing midnight. Our Tolkien style, Hobbit length journey was promised to end. We walked along a dark parking lot filled with semi-trucks. Now I was nervous. It was an excellent place for an attacker to hide. The sidewalk came to an end and we walked in the road. We are all dressed in black. None prepared for a late night journey down dangerous Chicago streets. We sincerely hoped a car would not accidentally hit us. As soon as the chain link fence ended, we began walking in the parking lot. Finally, we saw our car. I think we could have cried. No one was dying that night. Once we were safely locked inside the car, we realized how bad we actually felt. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. I was so cold. While I walk all day at work, I don’t typically end my days with a 3 mile power walk in below freezing temperatures. My whole body hurt. We all shared this sentiment and our legs would continue to hurt for the next two days. This is why we do not run marathons.
Minus the very end, my AEW Revolution experience was a lot of fun. Overall, this may be the thing I enjoyed the most while in Chicago. Going into it, I was pretty neutral. I really enjoyed it by the end. I appreciate the crowd participation and the joy the fans get from being there. Shared love of any type of performance, music, fandom, etc is contagious and can be felt by everyone in the room. There is something to be said for that. While I cannot appreciate professional wrestling as a sport, I am amused by the costumes and even silly storylines for the most part. I don’t think this is something that I will follow or watch on TV. However, if invited to attend another event or even watch a match with friends, I would completely be up for it. Fingers crossed, Orange Cassidy wins next time.