What can ten professional wrestlers create in an empty 80,000 seat arena? Well, we now have the answer to that question: absolute entertainment.
On 23 rd May 2020, All Elite Wrestling held their annual Double or Nothing pay-per-view event—headlined by the first ever 5 vs 5 Stadium Stampede match. This match would see a ring placed in the middle of a gridiron football field, yet allows the entire stadium to be the battleground for what ultimately amounts to wrestling’s answer to Marvel’s Civil War.
The idea of this match ultimately sounds silly: wrestlers brawling across a massive football stadium. What can they really do that couldn’t be done in a standard wrestling environment? Well, the answer was beyond this writer’s imagination. It was simply the most insane spectacle in professional wrestling history.
The match has been brewing since the inception of AEW’s weekly program, AEW Dynamite, when The Inner Circle first formed and laid The Elite to waste in the main event of the first episode—in chaotic fashion. Over the course of the past eight months, we have seen the Inner Circle and The Elite come to blows to varying degrees; but, in recent times, after the backstage assault of Nick Jackson and the murder of Broken Matt Hardy’s best friend and drone, Vanguard 1, this rivalry has reached its absolute boiling point.
Chris Jericho—the leader of The Inner Circle—challenged The Elite to settle their feud once and for all in the first ever Stadium Stampede; citing that, for a rivalry so big, the battlefield should be equally as grand in scale.
After a night of classic matches, it was time for these bitter rivals to come to blows once and for all—and boy oh boy was it glorious. The match began in epic fashion with both teams entering the field in football style from each locker room, through an entrance way of smoke and blazing fire. Both teams lined up on their side of the field and stared each other down, before charging at one another and coming to blows in a scene reminiscent of Captain America: Civil War‘s famous airport battle scene.
The match went all over the stadium, and had just about everything you could want—and more. There was Hangman Page charging across the field on horseback, Matt Jackson hitting a moonsault off the football goal posts, Chris Jericho taking a football to the groin, Jake Hager sliding Hangman across the bar like a brawler from an old Western, Matt Hardy transforming into previous versions of himself after being dumped into a pool, and even Chris Jericho hitting the Judas Effect on the Jacksonville Jaguars mascot.
The match was funny in the right moments and serious in equal measure. It was insane in its level of spectacle, and what was accomplished in this all-or-nothing final war between these heated rival factions was simply unlike anything ever seen in professional wrestling.
Ultimately the match reached its climax high atop the multi level stadium, with Sammy Guevara trying to outrun Matt Hardy and Kenny Omega. Just when it seemed Sammy had escaped them, a familiar buzzing sound was heard. It wasn’t Vanguard 1 though: instead it was Neo 1, the Natural Electronic Organism, the new vessel that houses the spirit of Vanguard. Neo 1 distracted Sammy—who looked like he had just seen a ghost—which allowed Omega to catch up to him and ultimately deliver an insane One Winged Angel off the stadium platform, crashing through the stage below. At this point Omega laid his arm over Sammy’s unconscious body and referee Aubrey Edwards counted to three.
It was all over. This eight month war of attrition was at long last laid to rest. The Elite stood united after months of in-fighting and turmoil. When it mattered most they were able to come together and overcome the Inner Circle.
The match was, put simply, an instant classic; unlike anything ever seen in wrestling history up until this point. This match may very well be a moment in time that we will look back on years from now as the match that changed everything, the match that redefined wrestling for the modern era and the level of spectacle that wrestling is capable of.
If you have not yet witnessed the brilliance that is the Stadium Stampede match. Do yourself a favour and check it out now. The Elite set out on a mission to change the wrestling world and, slowly but surely, they are taking leaps and bounds in doing so. With the Stadium Stampede it was one giant leap forward for professional wrestling.