There’s a certain irony in All Elite Wrestling (AEW) making Texas the home of a major yearly show called Winter is Coming, but it’s been a welcome addition to the calendars of local fans of professional wrestling and sports entertainment regardless of its somewhat misplaced snowy theme.
The Collin-Denton Spotlighter’s resident former wrestling reporter – that would be me – attended this year’s show at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland and came away with some thoughts about the live experience at this newer, must-see tradition for DFW wrestling fans.
The Power of the AEW Live Crowd
While Winter is Coming may not have been the level of show capable of topping the grandeur of WrestleMania, it did bring some surprises that the live crowd elevated to almost feel worthy of an event of that immense caliber.
I’m talking primarily about one of the biggest wrestling upsets of the year, the unheralded Action Andretti’s win over the legendary Chris Jericho.
The live crowd at the Curtis Culwell Center gave that match the added sizzle necessary to turn it from a quirky and fun start to a new storyline for Jericho, as well as an impromptu introduction to yet another addition to AEW’s already overcrowded roster, and turned it into a true star-making, headline-grabbing performance.
The chants for Andretti were almost deafening, even with a lighter crowd than one might have expected from a show featuring a world title match.
The energy radiating from the crowd not only added some tension to the match as it stretched longer than many would have anticipated, including during a close near-fall for Jericho that even pulled a gasp out of this seasoned wrestling reporter, but also made the eventual payoff of seeing Jericho’s shoulders pinned for a clean three-count that much sweeter.
I hesitate to say there might not be a better advertisement for seeing professional wrestling live and in-person than that moment on Wednesday.
The Perils of Uneven Pacing
With such big emotional cliffhangers early in the show, not only from that match but also the fourth tag match in the Death Triangle versus The Elite trios series, it felt like the show almost stumbled to a finish from a certain perspective.
Emotional burnout is a real risk for wrestling shows, especially those that run more than a few hours. While the world title main event of Winter is Coming didn’t necessarily suffer, even if it did feel awkwardly paced given the dramatic buildup it received and the quality of the action preceding it, the taping of AEW Rampage afterwards almost certainly did.
While this report won’t delve into any spoilers for the pre-taped Friday night program, suffice it to say, there was a more sizable chunk of the crowd which headed for the exits than one might expect with such a star-studded taping left in the night.
With advertised matches from perennial favorites like Jon Moxley, Britt Baker and Wardlow still on deck, portions of the audience consistently filtered out prior to the main event of Rampage, starting immediately after Winter is Coming went off the air.
One has to wonder if that would have been true if AEW had booked, say, the popular Jamie Hayter’s first title defense for that taping to give the live audience more of a dueling main event situation or even a tag title match featuring The Acclaimed.
It’s also worth wondering if the taping for AEW Dark: Elevation prior to Winter is Coming left some people downright tired after three heavy hours of wrestling action with a fourth on deck.
Regardless of the reason or the possible fixes, it’s the kind of pacing misstep that AEW should consider a bit more closely when they presumably bring this show back next year.
Despite that uneven pacing, AEW Winter is Coming was another must-see show for wrestling fans that would have appealed even to more casual onlookers. The energy from the crowd, especially during a truly memorable underdog moment, helped carry the show and really made this an experience worth the price of admission.
You won’t want to skip out on a cool, enjoyable experience at AEW if they indeed continue to bring Winter is Coming to North Texas in the future.