In only three and a half years, All Elte Wrestling has grown from an upstart organization into the second largest wrestling promotion in the U.S. Producing two TV shows a week, which bring AEW’s talented roster to most major areas in America, the company’s become renowned for its homegrown stars, like Darby Allin and TBS Champion Jade Cargill, and its infusion of iconic ex-WWE players like CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, and more.
Wrestling’s had its own fervent fandom forever so it only makes sense that some of AEW’s biggest names hit this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. After all, they are quite a bit like real-life superheroes (or supervillains in some cases). That’s why AEW World Champion CM Punk, TBS Champ Cargill, former AEW Women’s Champion Britt Baker, Darby Allin, and Orange Cassidy were at the big return of SDCC this year, all in the name of preaching AEW to the masses. And Fandom was there to listen to the message.
Geeks of the World Unite
“I was so excited when I found out I got to come [to SDCC],” Britt Baker shared, “because I’ve been doing conventions pretty regularly and I love getting to meet all the fans and just walking the floor and seeing all the cool, somewhat weird stuff, depending on what you’re into. And this is the biggest and the best so I’m really excited to be here.”
“Uh, ditto,” echoed the amusingly terse Orange Cassidy.
Darby Allin also chimed in: “It feels good, whenever we get more eyes on AEW and spread the word of AEW and this, San Diego [Comic-Con], is the biggest”
It didn’t take much for CM Punk – an avid comic book, horror, and toy fan – to make himself at home in an oasis of geekdom. “I already hit up the Super7 Cobra headquarters,” he said. “I got way too much stuff. That was the one thing where I was like I have to go there because it’s offsite, it’s not actually here. Here [at the convention], I’m going to focus on going and messing with people about comic books. Overpriced, graded books and, you know, really try to lowball them to either insult them or to get myself a really good deal.”
Whether you’re into what the Con scene has to offer or not, there’s no denying the power of being around fans who are as excited as those at SDCC. “It’s real fun being around a bunch of people that are so hyped about whatever they’re fans of,” Allin added, “whether it’s comic books, music, whatever it is. It’s cool when you get a group of people and the energy, you can feel it. I’ve never been to this, but you can just feel everyone excited. I love being a part of something that people have a lot of passion for.”
“I mean, it just feels good to be in a place that everyone wants to be in the same place together,” Cassidy said. “We all want the same thing and that’s just exist together and have a good time.”
ABOUT PUNK’S INJURY…
Very recently, however, AEW Champion Punk found himself not having a good time, forced to take an extended break from the ring just after winning AEW’s top prize. The culprit? A broken foot. “I feel terrible,” Punk said, giving an update. “It feels like my foot is on fire 24 hours a day. I don’t know if it’s supposed to feel like that.”
Not knowing exactly when he’ll return to the ring, Punk offered, “I just know I work really, really hard every day and I probably do too much. I’m hoping to one day wake up and be like, ‘Oh, it feels better!’”
When told plenty of fans were crossing their fingers for him though, Punk grinned and responded with, “There’s a lot of people NOT crossing their fingers for me!”
THE WRESTLING/COMICS CONNECTION
As that quote was a testament to, Punk knows another thing that unites comic book and wrestling fans is how fickle some of them often can be, especially in an era where so much is offered to them. “Now the meek have inherited the earth,” he explained. “And now everything’s everywhere. And now we hate everything! Nobody hates comic books or wrestling more than comic book or wrestling fans. Am I wrong? Seldom am I wrong. It’s just like, ‘Oh, we get all these Marvel movies and all this stuff… and it all sucks!'”
Punk elaborated that he was bemused by the online mentality of, “‘We’re all sick of it, we can all do it better!’ But nobody writes scripts and nobody tries to do it better. I feel like I am the same way with wrestling except I’m actually boots on the ground, trying to make it into what I believe my vision of pro wrestling is.”
Jade Cargill, the undefeated TBS Champion, has a particular Marvel hero in mind when she steps between the ropes. “My entire character is almost like a markup of Storm,” she said. “She’s a strong African woman… She’s killing it. She’s one of a kind. She controls her nature. And I feel like that’s what I do in the ring. I control the crowd. That’s what I’m there for. I’m supposed to get you to cheer, or boo in my case. So I control the weather in my match. And that’s my crossover when it comes to comic books and wrestling.”
Britt Baker might not come to the ring with superheroes in mind but her second real life profession is definitely part of the package. That of dentistry. “I made the horrible decision of starting both at the same time,” Dr. Baker said with a laugh. “It taught me a very valuable lesson of time management. I’m still mastering it, but I’m pretty good at it. I’m able to carry it to both worlds.”
Added Baker, “I love that Wednesday night on Dynamite, I get to go out and be this superhero or villain, but then Thursday morning is very humbling when my elderly patients are yelling at me that their dentures don’t fit and it brings me right back down.”
Replied Punk, “Sorry, I’ll stop.”
A Song to Remember
One thing superheroes and villains don’t get to have, rarified occasions excluded, is an entrance theme. Orange Cassidy spent the last year with The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” as his music, only to switch it recently to Jefferson Starship’s “Jane,” which he previously used on the independent scene. “I just love it,” Cassidy said of using “Jane, adding, “It’s a good song. And there’s a little movie called Wet Hot American Summer. It’s at the beginning of that. It feels nice. And I decided that I wanted that. So now I have it.”
Whereas many wrestlers have songs written for them, Cassidy noted, “I’ve had two songs that are actual songs, that existed in the world before I existed. So it feels really, really good to have that option, especially at AEW, to have this ability to have, ‘Oh, hey, you know, I want to come out to this. I’ve listened to this song my entire life. Let me walk out to the ring to that.’ And it’s like, ‘Okay, you can!’ That’s a luxury I don’t think many other people in wrestling have and I am very, very grateful.”
The other AEW stars all agreed that hearing their specific theme gets them pumped up for their matches. “When I hear the song come on, it’s like that’s the reality check,” Baker remarked. “Like, ‘Okay, here we go.’ Up until then, I’m hyping myself up and doing everything I can to try to calm my nerves. But then once you hear the song, it’s like, ‘Okay, it’s time. You can’t turn around now.’
Notably, Allin actually co-wrote his entrance theme, “I Fell,” with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. “To have a song that I helped create, it means a lot,” he said. “When we got the freedom to do whatever, when it came to AEW and the music, I was like, ‘I don’t want no corny ass s**t wrestling song.’ I don’t want people to go, ‘Oh, that’s a wrestling song’ or ‘That’s a wrestling t-shirt.’ I want something that my friends or like skaters or whatever would actually jam out to. And, you know, I feel like we did a good job with that.”
Cargill uses her track to get into character. “Literally, as I turn around, I’m like, ‘You’re that bitch, Jade. You’re that bitch.’ As I’m coming out, I’m hyping myself up, and the fact that I literally picked out everything when it came to my song, it just meant so much to me. I embody my character when I hear my song.”
“I do the same thing,” Punk responded.
“What do you say?” asked Cargill.
Replied Punk, “I say ‘I’m that bitch.’”
Additional reporting by Eric Goldman.