ARIZONA NEWS

All Elite Wrestling returns to downtown Phoenix’s Footprint Center on Wednesday

Feb 6, 2024, 5:00 PM

PHOENIX — All Elite Wrestling returns to the Phoenix area on Wednesday with a three-hour show at Footprint Center that includes the live two-hour television event for AEW Dynamite and television taping for AEW Rampage.

For the uninitiated on the wrestling side, as AEW founder and CEO Tony Khan told KTAR News in 2023 when AEW made its Phoenix debut, the show is a perfect blend of sports and entertainment. It’s a great night out and the Valley received a great break with the lineup for the program on Wednesday.

The rundown of matches is PPV quality, a card built around a few show-stealers that wouldn’t normally be just for television. Swerve Strickland takes on Adam “Hangman” Page in the latest chapter of their terrific rivalry, wrestling icon Sting teams with Darby Allin for a shot at the AEW World Tag Team Championships, AEW Women’s World Champion Toni Storm is in action and the legendary Chris Jericho takes on the uber-talented Konosuke Takeshita.

The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at AEWTix.com.

These are not only high-caliber performers you can see live in person but athletes as well. It’s a travel schedule that can rival professional sports and the physical punishment wrestlers put themselves through can obviously bring on the wear-and-tear issues pro athletes deal with too.

Saraya, a former AEW Women’s World Champion that was formerly known as Paige in WWE, spoke with KTAR News and did so after just arriving at the airport, the type of go-go-go day that featured her makeup artist helping her get ready during the flight for a day of media obligations to promote AEW.

It takes them all over North America and the world. AEW had just done TV tapings in Louisiana the week prior and wrestlers will often bounce around throughout the calendar year, finding those little pockets of a week when they can spend a few days (or maybe even just less than 24 hours) at home before getting back on the road.

That’s part of what should be appreciated about these performers and what they sacrifice for pursing their wrestling dreams.

“It’s a busy schedule but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Saraya said. “I love it.”

She knows that better than most. Saraya had a serious neck injury that forced her to retire at only the age of 25 in 2018 before conversations about potentially joining AEW as a non-in-ring performer four years later brought on suggestions from Khan to get a few extra medical opinions for a progress report. It was good enough that she’s back in the ring where she belongs, on a less-rigorous schedule to help her maintain going forward.

Performers like Saraya and Storm are part of AEW’s promising women’s division, one that features loads of international talent. Saraya is from from England, like another former champ Jamie Hayter, while Storm hails out of New Zealand. There’s also former champions Riho and Hikaru Shida with roots to Japan.

Saraya was a part of the “women’s revolution” in WWE, a social media buzz that led to female wrestlers being taken far more seriously and being treated like, well, wrestlers! While on the come-up, she remembers a time when one small promotion told her they don’t even take women’s wrestlers.

“I was like, ‘You’ll regret that,'” Saraya said. “It egged me on even more to want to be successful as a female wrestler. It’s tough in the streets to try to make it as a female. It was very selective who they wanted, it was very selective in which company would even accept female wrestling.”

Saraya pointed out how it took a while for the key decision-makers to catch on to how prominent women can be in wrestling, that there was plenty of money to be paid given how some women were more popular and generated more merchandise sales than other men.

“It took a while and we scratched and clawed our way and it still has a while to go but I feel like we’re in such a good spot,” she said.

Part of that international blend and the progress coming together was at AEW’s All In show at London’s Wembley Stadium last year that drew over 80,000 fans. It featured an AEW Women’s World Championship match won by Saraya, a terrific moment the crowd was elated for, to see the hometown girl win the big one in front of her friends and family.

It was one of the signature moments for women’s wrestling in the last decade, a rise that continues with events like Wednesday’s in Phoenix continuing to push those women more to the forefront.

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All Elite Wrestling returns to downtown Phoenix’s Footprint Center on Wednesday