May 25, 2019, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and Double or Nothing. A day that has been anticipated by wrestling fans since it was announced January 8, 2019. That is the day that All Elite Wrestling makes its long-awaited debut.
The Young Bucks and the Road to AEW
The levels of excitement that have been generated in such a small amount of time is unheard of, especially when the promotion has yet to have its first official event. There are many individuals who deserve credit for making this once insane idea, that for the longest time seemed like a what-if scenario that we would never see, become a reality. But for AEW’s story to be told, we need to look back. Waayy back. To two wrestling siblings and some key moments that shaped the real-life brothers’ path, until they meet their future co-executive vice presidents. Where better to start than from the beginning.
The Rancho Cucamonga, California natives started out in 2001 like many pro wrestlers, practicing in their backyard. They also had the luxury of a legitimate professional wrestling ring (not just a trampoline with ring ropes made out of whatever dad had laying around the yard like the rest of us). Eldest brother Matt Jackson deciding he wanted to give the pro wrestling business a real shot went and enrolled at the Revolution Pro Wrestling School (also called Rudos Dojo). Younger brother Nick Jackson would soon join him and the brothers would start with gimmicks that thankfully did not stick; Matt competed as Fluffy the Dog, and Nick as a mask-wearing high flying referee.
Showing the entrepreneurial instincts that have come to define the brothers, Matt decided that he wanted to dip his toes in running his own promotion. With brothers Nick and the lesser known Malachi Jackson by his side, he launched High Risk Wrestling. Aside from Matt & Nick, some other notable names to have a run in the promotion include Karl Anderson, fellow so-cal native Joey Ryan, and WWE Legend Marty Jannetty.
There is so much overlapping monumental moments that occur in this time period. In the summer of 2007, the brothers would begin working for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG); while they mad their debut in June of that year, it was the first night of the 2007 Battle of Los Angeles in August that caught the eye of Dragon Gate‘s own CIMA and Satoshi Oji. Both were impressed by the performance of The Young Bucks, and invited the (at the time) unproven team to come on a tour with Dragon Gate the following summer. It cannot be understated how valuable this experience was as, the brothers themselves stated in Being The Elite Ep. 147; this was not only their first big break, but they also credit it as the time that had the most influence on their style of wrestling.
We do have to include at least a brief note: THE YOUNG BUCKS DID COMPETE IN WWE….as jobbers. Okay, so Matt was really the only one who competed in two matches both on SmackDown; first losing to Chuck Palumbo in February of 2008, before losing to Big Show in a Last Man Standing match in October of that same year, and a little over a week later appearing with brother Nick on an episode of the WWE version ECW, where they dressed up as D-Generation X before getting beaten up by The Miz and John Morrison.
In between the brief WWE appearances, the duo continued to establish themselves on the indies; winning the PWG Tag Team Championship for the first time, defeating The Age of the Fall members Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black (better known to the masses as Seth Rollins) to capture said titles. Like most places where the brothers would compete, the title would become almost synonymous with The Young Bucks, in their first reign alone they would successfully defend it 15 times over 616 days. They would go on to hold the PWG Tag Team Championship four times; holding the record for longest reign, most successful defenses, most reigns (as a team), and most combined days as champions.
Between their work for Dragon Gate, PWG, Ring of Honor, and a few other promotions, the Bucks caught the eye of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. After impressing backstage officials with a dark match against The Motor City Machine Guns, the young tandem would be offered a contract with, at the time, the second largest professional wrestling promotion. The brothers debuted as Max & Jeremy Buck, collectively known as Generation Me, defeating The Motor City Machine Guns, and introduced themselves to a new audience (including this writer). Throw in that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had recently made their debuts for the promotion, and it seemed like the brothers were in a prime position to gain mainstream attention. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
With the Bischoff-Hogan regime seemingly dead set on making the same mistakes as they did that sunk WCW, the brothers time there was less than stellar. Between a lack of commitment from the creative team and monetary issues, the brothers requested their release from TNA in July of 2011. Matt himself has stated his time in TNA was so bad, he was ready to quit professional wrestling for good. Thankfully for whatever reason, they decided against that and were shown exactly what not to do when running an organization.
Almost a month to the day later, Matt & Nick were given a tryout for WWE producers before a RAW taping. Following the tryout the brothers were largely perceived as arrogant for keeping to themselves, and not introducing themselves to anyone; not even Booker T, even when Nick was leaning on his jacket. While the brothers have since made it clear they were just shy and didn’t want to offend anyone, they completely ran with these reports, completely embracing the perception that they saw themselves as “big leaguers”.
With their continued success on the independents, and an old friend from TNA by the name of Kazuchika Okada, they were invited to compete for New Japan Pro Wrestling – even more important than that they were invited to join wrestling’s soon to be most popular faction, the Prince Devitt (now known as Finn Balor) led Bullet Club. The Young Bucks quickly established themselves as pillars not just for the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team division, but the promotion in general by main eventing for several small shows with fellow stablemate Karl Anderson, winning the 2013 Super Junior Tag Tournament, and defeating Suzuki-gun members Taichi and Taka Michinoku for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship beginning what would be a seven month long reign.
Their dominance was not exclusive to Japan, as they also captured the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship from the team of Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly (collectively known as reDragon). But it also wasn’t exclusive to the ring, as Bullet Club t-shirts became the best merchandise seller for New Japan.
Fast forward to Invasion Attack 2014, The Young Bucks successfully defend their IWGP Junior Heavyweight Titles against El Desperado and Kota Ibushi, but that is not the most noteworthy of the moments for the brothers that night. That would come later in the night when Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt and his former Apollo 55 partner Ryusuke Taguchi would face off in a Loser Leaves Town match. In spite of Devitt’s insistence, he wanted to beat Taguchi without any interference from his stablemates, but the Bucks decided to “help” their leader anyway. After many arguments ringside with Prince Devitt, the brothers turned on Prince Devitt, who was ultimately defeated by Taguchi and expelled from New Japan, thus Bullet Club as well.
This would lead to a new era in Bullet Club, where the lead would be taken by “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, who debuted at the same event. This would bring even more eyes to the group especially Stateside, and while the group, in general, flourished under the rule of Styles lead, it wasn’t until “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega assumed leadership of the group on January 5, 2016, that the road to All Elite Wrestling began. Shortly after Omega’s mutiny, the trio labeled themselves The Elite, and began a venture that would continue the upward swing of exposure that is still continuing this day.
Debuting a video of a mock press conference turned karaoke jam session, the group started the YouTube channel that would ultimately lead to their mainstream exposure, Being the Elite. The titular series would not debut for another three months on May 5, 2016. While their YouTube channel showed just how in touch with the fans the group is, (and adaptable, as early on Nick edited the entire show himself on an iPhone) it also opened the door for another business that has arguably become more synonymous with the brothers than wrestling, t-shirts. The brothers took full advantage of the Bullet Club popularity and logo to make their t-shirts not only a top online seller but a frequent sell out of retail chain Hot Topic.
With The Elite’s steady popularity rise, Bullet Club was able to secure top talents Marty Scurll, Adam “Hangman” Page, and former WWE Superstar “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes. The latter proved an absolutely instrumental addition to the group, as of May 2017 and at the time, a ridiculous dream was put into motion. That is the day Dave Meltzer responded to a fan question saying an independent show would not sell out a 10,000 seat arena “anytime soon”. Cody showing his business acumen bravely stated in a tweet, “I’ll take that bet, Dave.” While fans around the world were hopeful that such a feat could be accomplished, even the most hardcore supporter had to have their doubts.
As they have come to do though, May 13, 2018, Mat Jackson, Nick Jackson, and Cody proved any doubters wrong selling out the appropriately named All In, taking place at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois in 30 minutes. On that historical September night, The Young Bucks found themselves in the main event, teaming with Kota Ibushi to take on Rey Mysterio, Bandido, and one half of the Lucha Brothers, Fenix. While the match itself did not get to live up to the full hype (as they had to cut their time due to some matches going a little long earlier in the night), the event as a whole was a complete success.
It was that event that inspired Tony Khan, son of billionaire and Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC owner Shadid Khan, to reach out to Matt Jackson to have a little chat – a chat that’s results will come to fruition this Saturday. While the group would begin to tease signing with WWE on Being the Elite, it was ultimately announced on January 1, 2019 at 12:00 A.M. on BTE they announced All Elite Wrestling. This created a divide in the wrestling world on whether or not this would succeed or fail miserably (speaking as someone that attended the first AEW rally in Jacksonville, it felt like you were witnessing the start of something incredible). While Double or Nothing will not make or break this upstart company, it will definitely be an excellent appetizer of things to come.
Check out our other #AllEliteWeek articles for more AEW news heading into Double or Nothing this Saturday!
- Quick Guide to Everything Elite (5/20/19)
- All Inclusive: Nyla Rose Becomes First Transgender Wrestler Signed to Major Contract (2/8/19)
- Joshi Freelancer Hikaru Shida Joins AEW (4/9/19)
- Match Point: Aja Kong, Emi Sakura & Yuka Sakazaki vs. Riho, Hikaru Shida & Ryu Mizunami (5/13/2019)
- The Zebras Are Coming: AEW Announces Ref Signings (5/14/19)
- It’s Official: AEW Signs TV Deal with TNT/WarnerMedia (5/15/19)
- Casino Battle Royale & The Buy-In (5/20/19)
- AEW Debuts First Match: PAC vs Hangman Page (5/21/19)
- Shawn Spears (Tye Dillinger) Enters Casino Battle Royale (5/21/19)
- Best Friends Hit The Jackpot (5/21/19)
- The Young Bucks and the Road to AEW (5/22/19)
- Dustin Rhodes: A Golden Opportunity (5/22/19)
- AEW World Championship Plan Announced (5/22/19)
- Cody Rhodes Has Changed The Business in Three Years (5/23/19)
- Stong Hearts Invade Las Vegas (5/23/19)