Wheeler Yuta knows full well how passionate Philly sports fans are.
He’s one of them.
He’s seen first hand how a Philadelphia crowd can change the game.
“I was at the Trea Turner game when the fans gave him a standing ovation,” Yuta said.
“I was well versed by that point, but really cool to see it. We’re a crowd that gets bad reputations as Philly sports fans. ‘We are very negative. We hate everything.’ Philly fans just really want to win and they want you to try as hard as we can. Put in the right amount of work and effort.
“It’s really cool of the rest of the country to see how it manifests. We’ve had moments like that before. Alec Bohm after the ‘I effing hate it here.’ It’s similar. He didn’t hit a three-run bomb so it didn’t get the same attention. But it showed me they just want you to work hard and be accountable.”
Yuta might know how Philly sports fans are a little better than your average fan because he’s been loved and hated by them, depending on the situation. He is one of the stars for All Elite Wrestling, and on Oct. 25, he’ll get a chance to get cheered, or possibly booed, by the same fans he sits among at other sporting events.
Yuta and the rest of AEW will bring its weekly show Dynamite to the Liacouras Center at Temple University.
AEW returns to Philadelphia, including AEW world champion MJF, Adam Copeland, Christian and all of the other stars of the promotion that runs weekly shows every Wednesday on TBS, and Friday and Saturday on TNT.
Yuta is coming home and he’ll be with his friends in his faction the Blackpool Combat Club. Those partners are three of the best in the business: Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli. This group, known for putting on the best matches on the show, consists of three guys who have done it all in professional wrestling and Yuta, who is following in their footsteps of becoming one of the best.
For Yuta, teaming up with that group is an incredible opportunity, one he has taken advantage of. When they talk, he’s a sponge, and while he’s been a great technician for most of his career, his improvement got quite a boost when he joined the club.
It helps that all of his partners are incredibly giving.
“I’ve learned so much,” Yuta said. “Claudio, he’s taught me about European uppercuts. He’s also showed me how to take care of my body, my condition, and how to work out in the ring through tag team matches. Moxley, he taught me how to unlock aggression, to turn it up a notch and to win any means necessary. And Bryan is such an amazing technician. Little techniques you might not pick up on, but in the ring, they really matter. Bryan has showed me technique. And of course his Lordship, (William) Regal, has been immense in wrestling and in life.”
The AEW stars have made Yuta better. So has WWE wrestler and Northeast Philly native Drew Gulak, a Northeast High School graduate, who helped Yuta when he was training to be a wrestler in the Combat Zone Wrestling dojo in South Jersey.
And while the bulk of his AEW career has been spent beating them up, Yuta also credits the Best Friends tag team of Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta with helping him navigate the independent wrestling landscape when he first started.
“I’ve had really good mentors, like I do with the Blackpool Combat,” Yuta said. “Local wrestler Drew Gulak was always helpful, Best Friends were always helpful when I was younger. I’ve been very fortunate.
“I think especially Drew, he saw how determined I was to be the best pro wrestler. I had the drive and work ethic. The first time he took me on the road, he asked me if I wanted to go to an indie show. He was going from Philly to Chicago, Canada and Ohio then back to Philly. I said, ‘Of course.’ They see that dedication, you’re one of them. A person that wants to become a pro wrestler, put in the work and time. It started on indies and continued through Blackpool Combat Club.”
While Yuta is a South Carolina native, he broke into the business in Philly. He also became a professional wrestling fan in Fishtown, where his family has roots. He would often spend summers there.
“All of my extended family lives up here, my dad got a job out of the Navy in South Carolina, but we came here all the time and I went to Villanova,” Yuta said. “My family grew up in Fishtown. Now, my cousins live in the Northeast, but my aunt, uncle, grandmom, they all lived in Fishtown.
“It means more in Philly. It’s where I think, one, I discovered pro wrestling, my cousins showed me one year when I was up here for Christmas. And two, the tradition and atmosphere. All of the independent promotions, CZW, Chakaria, ECW, it means so much to me. My connection to the city is pro wrestling and sports.”
No doubt his family will be excited to see him Wednesday night. Sure it’s fun watching on TV, but there’s something about watching wrestling in Philly that makes events that much more exciting. And Yuta is proud to represent the promotion he loves in his city.
“This will be my fourth time. It’s really cool to me coming back to the Liacouras Center,” Yuta said. “My old apartment was a few blocks away. I would park in my old spot, it was a landmark, reevaluate where I’m at.
“The first time I was there, I was in an un-televised match. Next time I moved up, had a six-man tag match, the next time I talked on the microphone. Every time I come back I do something special. It’s always special, It’s Yuta country. It’s tough in Philly, so i feel like it’s something that has to be earned.”
It’s safe to say Yuta has earned that, and he continues to grow just like AEW.
“I think I always knew we would get to where we are right now, be able to be a major player, a success story,” Yuta said of AEW. “I saw the people I was working with. If they believed, I believed. And how hard our boss worked. I knew we would get here but crazy how fast it’s gone and it’s a credit to our fan base.
“They’re rabid. They want to take in this new product, All Elite. I think there’s some elements of Philly in there. Ring of Honor is a separate thing in the same umbrella and there’s a lot of that spirit. Either you’re with us or against us. That’s how the fans feel. They’re very much a part of the show. They mean something to the crowd. It’s a lot like Red October, Phillies going back to the World Series hopefully and how much the crowd plays into that. It’s the same.”
For tickets to the show, visit allelitewrestling.com.