Tuesday Dec. 8 was a landmark day for professional wrestling as All Elite Wrestling held their introductory rally in Jacksonville, Florida. The reveal of the AEW roster as well as a partnership with Oriental Wrestling Entertainment were announced at their Double Or Nothing launch rally outside of TIAA Bank Field.
The location of that rally was less than one mile away from Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena which was hosting SmackDown on Tuesday night. Many fans attended the AEW rally and then made the five minute walk to the arena to attend SmackDown. However, there were reports that many fans with AEW gear or posters were turned away from SmackDown. Cody and Brandi Rhodes responded to those reports via interview with Nick Hausman.
? WrestlingINC.com (@WrestlingInc) January 9, 2019
“I mean, we like blew up the whole sky right across the street from their building,” Cody said about the fireworks that went off after the AEW rally? “But you can’t throw people [out]. If people part with their money to get tickets, you can’t turn them away.”
“I’m happy if they got back in,” stated Brandi. “I know a procedure a lot of times is if there’s something that you can’t show [on your shirt], they turn it inside out or you put it down. As long as they comply, I hope they stay in and enjoy the show.”
Cody then said that WWE has never had a stranglehold on the Jacksonville market so it would be a mistake for them to turn away fans who wanted to attend SmackDown.
“I bet it’s isolated,” said Cody. “I can’t see them going full-court press: no AEW merch inside and if they did that’s a mistake because Jacksonville, for WWE and the shows I’ve been, it’s been a soft market. It’s not a market that they’ve regularly sold out, so if you’ve got fans parting with their money, you’re an idiot to turn them away.”
WWE apparently reversed their decision on not allowing anyone with AEW merchandise into the building as some fans reported on social media. But before that, some fans posted that they were either kicked out of the show or turned away at the door because of their AEW merch.
The fact that WWE did initially turn away fans may have backfired for them as that simply generated more discussion and more headlines about AEW. WWE has always made it a point to avoid even mentioning their competitors, so turning away AEW fans shows that they see the fledgling promotion as exactly that: a competitor.