31 years later, pro wrestling returns to Wembley Stadium with AEW’s All In

‘Epic in scale’: AEW’s ready to make history in London at Wembley Stadium.

The last time a wrestling event was held at London’s Wembley Stadium, The British Bulldog — also known as Davey Boy Smith — defeated Bret “The Hitman” Hart in the SummerSlam headliner for the Intercontinental championship.

The match was a classic, a hotly anticipated bout that featured an intriguing lead-up. At the center of it was Smith’s real-life wife, Diana, who is Hart’s sister. The storyline featured Diana torn over who she wanted to come out on top in the battle for the IC title.

Hart fondly recalls the 25-minute-plus main event as the favorite of his legendary career. Pro Wrestling Illustrated also named it Match of the Year for 1992.

“My dad would tell me later that it’s one thing to have a great match,” said Hart in his biography, “Hitman.” “But it’s another thing to have a great match in front of eighty thousand people.”

The announced attendance ended up being 80,497, which would be the largest in the British Bulldog’s career, and it was in front of his passionate British fans.

Thirty-one years later, wrestling returns to the famed outdoor football stadium with AEW’s All In on Sunday, topped by MJF’s world championship defense against tag team partner Adam Cole (1 p.m. ET). More than 80,000 fans are expected for the debut of Tony Khan’s promotion in the United Kingdom.

“The U.K. is one of the most important markets in professional wrestling, and AEW is coming in hot as the No. 1 wrestling company in the U.K. on television,” Khan said in April when All In London was announced. “We want our debut in London to be epic in scale, and there’s no better venue than Wembley Stadium to deliver what I know will be one of the greatest events in AEW’s history.”

The co-feature will pit longtime rivals from Ring of Honor, CM Punk and Samoa Joe, in a battle for what Punk calls the “real world championship.” The wrestling star was AEW champion when he tore his triceps. Between the injury and reported backstage drama, Punk was absent from AEW television for nine months before he returned this summer.

During that time, MJF firmly established himself as the company’s top star. He’s held the championship for over 275 days after defeating Jon Moxley for the title at Full Gear last November. MJF was recognized as the top wrestler under 30 years old by ESPN last month.

In a rare move, MJF and Adam Cole will both pull double duty. They’ll open — and close — All In with title matches. The All In Zero Hour preshow features the pair against Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher) for the Ring of Honor tag team championship.

“And if you think, just cause I’m your bud, I’m going to lay down on Aug. 27, you’re out of your goddamned mind,” MJF told Cole regarding their relationship on AEW Dynamite. “I love ya like a brother, but a win at Wembley will make me legendary.”

Performing at Wembley has become a milestone for many in the world of sport. The stadium has been revered by many as a world-class establishment for events. The stadium hosted some of the most iconic international sporting events, including the 1966 World Cup Final, UEFA’s European Championships, the 1948 Summer Olympics, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and of course, WWE’s SummerSlam in 1992.

Wembley has also played host to numerous heavyweight championship boxing matches. Anthony Joshua scored the biggest win of his career when he rose off the canvas to stop Wladimir Klitschko in ESPN’s 2017 Fight of the Year before 90,000. Last year, Tyson Fury retained the lineal heavyweight crown with a TKO win over Dillian Whyte in front of an announced crowd of 94,000.

On Sunday, more wrestling hardware will be on the line when FTR (Dax Hardwood and Cash Wheeler) defends the AEW tag-team championship against The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson).

A third tag-team match — a coffin match — pits 64-year-old Sting, one of the biggest stars in wrestling history, alongside Darby Allin in a coffin match against Swerve Strickland and Christian Cage, who replaced AR Fox.

“For sure, a lot of people have wondered if I will retire in Wembley, that would be very cool, but I don’t see that happening,” Sting told reporters in a media scrum following AEW’s Forbidden Door in June. “I think I’m going to continue on.”

Another highly anticipated match features Will Ospreay taking on the legendary Chris Jericho. Ospreay is coming off his instant classic against Kenny Omega at Forbidden Door.

The AEW Women’s World Championship will be up for grabs, too. Hikaru Shida, Toni Storm, Saraya and Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. will vie for the grandest women’s prize in AEW in a fatal-four-way match.

The trios match could steal the show, though. The Golden Elite (Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega and “Hangman” Adam Page) will battle Bullet Club Gold (Juice Robinson and Jay White) alongside Konosuke Takeshita.

And in a Stadium Stampede match, Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta) and Penta El Zero Miedo will meet Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta) alongside Santana and Ortiz. House of Black will also face a potentially retiring Billy Gunn and the Acclaimed.

The Khan family will be adding to their history in London. Tony’s father, Shad Khan, is the Chairman of Fulham Football Club, which earned promotion to the English Premier League with wins at Wembley in 2018 and ’20. Shad Khan also owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, who will play their ninth game at Wembley this season.

And on Sunday, AEW will announce its U.K. arrival in the grandest way possible, etching another chapter — and the promotion’s name — into the storied history of Wembley.

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