The feeling in the arena that night was electric, and there was a sense of excitement that hadn't been felt in wrestling since the Monday Night Wars era almost 20 years ago. AEW had become the most popular wrestling promotion on the planet and seemed unstoppable.
That night, Jon Moxley, fresh out of an eight-year career that catapulted him to WWE stardom, drove the crowd wild. Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega tore down the house, while the brother-to-brother fight with Cody and Dustin Rhodes was something to be remembered for decades to come.
The future seemed so bright that it was unthinkable to ever think of them acting in front of a less capable crowd.
But a lot can happen in 12 months. The whole world can change.
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This year, AEW will attempt to blow up the roof of the arena once again for Double or Nothing. Only it won't be in Las Vegas, but in Florida. And in complete juxtaposition, the idea of a multitude of capacity is unthinkable. The idea of any crowd is, actually.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced AEW to duck and take refuge instead, as it has for the rest of the world. In this case, Daily’s Place. The Jacksonville site has become the company's main broadcast hub since the pandemic forced them to cancel their entire schedule of live events.
After recording a series of episodes, AEW has been broadcasting their weekly series AEW: dynamite Live from the spot that borders TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It is also expected to remain its base of operations for the foreseeable future.
"It is the safest decision to stay here (during) the pandemic and COVID as we move forward," said AEW Executive Vice President and Fighter Cody Rhodes.
The company has done everything possible to keep everyone involved in the operation safe during the pandemic.
Some of the measures are forcing the wrestling culture to change behind the scenes. Rhodes recognized that handshakes are no longer allowed. For many of us, a handshake is just a handshake, but in the world of wrestling it can mean everything. It is a sign of respect and gratitude. Failure to reach out to shake someone's hand can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect and has generated countless instances of friction between the list for generations.
Similarly, Rhodes is choosing not to shake hands or hug fans who gather in the parking lot to watch the live streams from afar. While venturing out to greet the fans who showed up this week, she also practiced social distancing.
Maintaining a healthy list is paramount to AEW, which will do its best to ensure that the shows can continue if a crew member or talent tests positive for the coronavirus.
According to Rhodes, the tests are conducted off-site and under quarantine, and members of the medical staff are becoming the first to be examined. If one of them tests positive, it will be eliminated and you will not be able to contact anyone who is waiting for the exam.
To further mitigate the risk of an outbreak, different medical professionals test talent and crew members at separate locations. Also, anyone who tests positive will be sent to a nasal swab to confirm initial results.
“We have it established where it would not stop production. I am absolutely not supporting a positive test. We are testing everyone who comes in our bowl, "Rhodes said." So if a positive test were presented, it would simply indicate that the test works and that action needs to be taken. "
All tests to date have been negative, according to Rhodes.
"We have been incredibly lucky," he said. "Hopefully we don't have positive evidence in the future."
As the pandemic began to unfold, all roster members and crew were told there would be no repercussions if they decided not to work while the outbreak occurred. Several fighters, including The Young Bucks, accepted AEW owner Tony Kahn's offer and only returned this week in face masks.
Chuck Carroll is a former professional wrestling broadcaster and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title in the Redskins' locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.