Millions of fans watch pro wrestling from the comfort of their homes every week, but when WWE rolls through their town, thousands of people buy tickets to see their favorite performers in person.
For many years, WWE was the only U.S.-based promotion that could fill big arenas such as Madison Square Garden in New York and the United Center in Chicago.
However, that all changed when Cody Rhodes took a challenge from Dave Meltzer to fill a 10,000-seat arena without the WWE roster.
The American Nightmare recruited some of the best non-WWE talents from around the world to compete at All In on September 1, 2018. Tickets were sold out in minutes, and for the first time in quite a while, fans were excited about pro wrestling again.
The success of this event led to Rhodes, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks teaming up with Tony Khan to form All Elite Wrestling.
The first four events, Double or Nothing, Fyter Fest, Fight For the Fallen and All Out, aired prior to the October 2 launch of the company's weekly show, AEW Dynamite.
What some casual fans may not realize is every promotion's shows feel different when you are in the crowd. Let's take a look at what it's like to attend an AEW event.
The Fans Are Mostly Adults
AEW was designed to appeal to everyone, but it focuses a lot on catering to people who don't like WWE. The company wants everyone from lapsed viewers who loved watching NWA and WCW back in the day to disgruntled WWE supporters to hardcore fans who miss ECW to tune in every week.
The content is more mature than what is presented by WWE. There is more blood, more cursing and dangerous spots that would cause most people to gasp in horror and excitement at the same time.
Due to this approach, AEW has attracted a more adult fanbase. When you are sitting in the crowd at Dynamite, most of the people around you can legally buy a beer whereas, at a WWE show, a large number of attendees are below the legal voting age.
I was in attendance for Wednesday's episode of Dynamite and could only see one kid in my entire section. He tried to get several chants going throughout the show and the people around him would attempt to help it catch on. It worked a few times, especially during Hikaru Shida's match.
With the crowd being more adults than kids, it gives the show a different vibe. It feels like the people in the arena know they are part of something special and want to take it all in.
It also means you end up hearing a lot more cursing than you would at a Raw or SmackDown show. This applies to both the conversations around you and the chants throughout the night.
The WWE Universe will occasionally chant "Holy s--t" when something wild happens but when a referee made a mistake during Dynamite, the crowd chanted "You f--ked up." This is exacerbated by the fact some of the Superstars can be heard swearing during their matches and in promos.
Of course, this is part of the experience. WWE crowds are more akin to a studio audience while AEW fans feel like they are part of the show, too. And the Superstars of All Elite Wrestling do a great job trying to incorporate the crowd without pandering too much.
Take Chris Jericho's promo at the top of Wednesday's episode. He not only reacted to the crowd but he also interacted with individual fans a few times, giving each of them a memory they will never forget.
At this point, being personally insulted by Jericho is something a fan wears like a badge of honor.
The Energy is Off the Charts
Sitting in the crowd and interacting with fans on the concourse, I couldn't help but notice how everyone was more excited than I expected.
This was just a normal episode of Dynamite but people were treating it like a pay-per-view. Just about every Superstar received a big reaction, but one of the loudest pops of the night might surprise some readers.
During one of the commercial breaks, the ring announcer introduced Aubrey Edwards as she made her way out to officiate the main event title match between Jericho and Scorpio Sky.
The crowd went wild for the young referee. She acknowledged the respect she was being shown without showboating or looking like she was trying to take attention away from the contest she was about to oversee.
Even Matt Knicks, the jobber who lost to Cody Rhodes, was getting love from the Chicago fans. Everyone was thrilled to be there and showed their enthusiasm from start to finish.
What Needs Work
Things Sound Different on Television
Anyone who has seen the same wrestling show on TV and in person will tell you the crowd sounds completely different in the arena.
WWE does a good job putting microphones in the building to catch all of the noise so it sounds like everyone is having a great time. This is an art AEW has yet to master.
After seeing Wednesday's show in person and watching it on television when I got home, I noticed several instances where it did not sound like the Superstars were getting the same reaction I know they received that night.
Shida had one of the most noticeable differences. She was over with the people of Illinois, but they sounded a lot less enthusiastic on TV.
Once AEW grows a bit more and increases its production value, issues like this should go away quickly.
Introducing New Superstars
AEW has a handful of former WWE Superstars such as Rhodes, Jericho, Jake Hager, Shawn Spears and Jon Moxley, but for every performer the casual fan might recognize, the company has four or five wrestlers most people know little to nothing about.
This is one of the growing pains that comes with being a new company and having a roster filled with indie stars who have barely been exposed to the national audience.
Establishing new talents is going to be what separates AEW from WWE, but the newer promotion has to be careful how it introduces Superstars moving forward.
When The Dark Order debuted at Double or Nothing in May, nobody knew what was going on, including the announcers. Jim Ross asked who they were but Excalibur and Alex Marvez could not provide an answer.
Instead of hearing the announcers talk about who Evil Uno and Stu Grayson were and why the tag team division should be scared, all we heard was three confused men try their best to talk about what was happening without knowing who was doing it.
The Dark Order has been a team for more than a decade on the indie scene but they have never been a fixture on television before. Ross and his fellow commentators should have been briefed before the event so they were able to give Uno and Grayson's debut the proper amount of attention.
Unfortunately, the same thing happened on Wednesday night. The Blade, formerly known as Braxton Sutter in Impact Wrestling, attacked Rhodes alongside his partner, The Butcher. They were accompanied by The Blade's wife, Allie, who now goes by the name of The Bunny.
Once again, Ross had no idea who was in the ring and even questioned whether we had seen them in AEW before. Excalibur knew their names but did not give us any other information about them. Even the fans in attendance were at a loss.
When a rookie debuts, it can be a surprise because nobody is supposed to know who they are. When two guys who have already been working for a few years come in, AEW should either hype them ahead of time so we can get to know them or make sure the announcers are equipped to talk about them.
For those of us who were in the arena, The Butcher and The Blade's debut was even more confusing. These weren't big stars poached from WWE so seeing them attack Rhodes did not create the moment management was probably hoping for.
It's Worth The Price of Admission
Going to a live event can be expensive. You have to buy the ticket, pay for transportation and/or parking, and if you plan to buy food and drinks, you had better bring an extra $50 or more. I paid $8 for a bottle of Coke that wasn't even chilled properly.
Because it can be so costly, people are picky about what they choose to do on a night out. If you were wondering whether AEW, was worth it, the answer is yes.
Not only are you guaranteed to get some exciting action from a roster filled with knowledgeable veterans and innovative newcomers, but you are also going to feel like part of a community.
Being a follower of wrestling is different than other sports because the industry is often the subject of mockery from non-fans and athletes who don't understand what it takes to perform in the ring. We are the outcasts who don't quite fit in with fans of pro sports or general entertainment.
While a small number of people can be toxic, the majority of us are supportive people who want nothing more than to see a fun match. Being at an AEW show puts you right in the middle of one of the most dedicated groups of fans in the world.
WWE shows attract a lot of families and casual fans, which is great, but if you want to find people who are passionate and love professional wrestling just as much as you do, go to an AEW show and spark up a conversation with anyone in your immediate vicinity.