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About the Author
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I first subscribed to Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer newsletter in the 1980s, after I began writing for WWF Magazine, before the lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund that forced the World Wrestling Federation to become WWE. Although the Wrestling Observer has a significant online presence, I still look forward to the paper edition each week, an exhaustive collection of wrestling history, match results, business analysis and gossip in single-spaced seven-point type. Meltzer, who has lectured at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, also popularized a star rating system for major matches, one that even the performers who claim to hate him take extremely seriously. While working on this book, Meltzer and I were guests on a public access show in which he was asked about his taste in movies and bands. He paused and fumbled for words. A movie? But when it comes to professional wrestling, not to mention MMA and old-school Roller Derby, nobody knows more – or ever will.
In May, 2017, Meltzer was asked on Twitter about whether Ring of Honor, the primary, American indie league during that period, could draw more than 10,000 fans. “Not any time soon,” he responded. Cody – the youngest son of the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, and an indie prince since he parted ways with WWE the year before– then Tweeted, “I'll take that bet, Dave.”
For the next 16 months, Cody and the Young Bucks, brothers Nick and Matt Jackson, began working to both prove that Dave Meltzer could be wrong, as well as create All-In.
The effort became “a worldwide movement for professional wrestling (and) everyone that wants an alternative,” Kenny Omega, who went into All-In wearing the vaunted IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the New Japan Pro-Wrestling promotion, told the group's website. “Especially in America because in America, you're kind of forced to believe that WWE is the best.” All-In, he continued, became “a rally to show support for people who have a different vision.”
Initially, the group rejected outside efforts to fund the experiment, and relied on their families and friends. Cody's sister, Teil, created the name “All-In,” the Bucks' father, Matt Massie, Sr., the musical score. Alabama mortgage broker Conrad Thompson, a wrestling podcaster who married the legendary Ric Flair's oldest daughter, Megan, coordinated Starcast, the fan convention surrounding the event. Both Cody's wife, Brandi – a WWE-trained wrestler herself – and Matt Jackson's spouse, Dana, were deeply involved in organizational decisions.
Like Cody, WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett had grown up in the wrestling business, learning promotion from his father, Jerry Jarrett, and step-grandfather, Eddie Marlin, in the old Memphis wrestling territory. “I love to see guys take risks,” he observed. “Sometimes, that gets you into big trouble. Sometimes, it pays off. Reward is always measured by your level of risk. But when I saw All-In lining up, I felt they had a pretty good chance. The concept was good. The independent wrestling revolution started quite a few years ago. Now, we were on the cusp of a wrestling boom.”