THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: Greensboro Coliseum sold out for AEW Revolution on Sunday, which featured legendary pro wrestler Sting’s final match before retirement. (Courtesy venue)

Event celebrates history of pro wrestling in Greensboro

Greensboro Coliseum stood as the center of the universe in pro wrestling last Sunday as AEW Revolution showcased Sting’s final match before a sold-out crowd of 16,118, generating more than $1 million in gross ticket sales.

The average ticket price was $55 for the March 3 event at the North Carolina arena, which was shown on pay-per-view, said Scott Johnson, the coliseum’s deputy director.

The event commemorated Sting’s swan song before retirement, tied to his first championship belt captured at Greensboro Coliseum in March 1988 when Sting defeated Ric Flair under the National Wrestling Alliance banner. At the time, Charlotte-based promoter Jim Crockett owned NWA, and this year’s event extended to recognizing Crockett as well, who ranks among pioneers of the regional pro wrestling model. Crockett died in 2021.

Sting, whose real name is Steve Borden, competed for NWA for several years before it morphed into Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling in late 1988, where he became one of WCW’s signature characters. Sting plans to remain with AEW in some story telling capacity, Johnson said.

Tony Kahn, owner of AEW and the son of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn, was unavailable for comment.

Sunday’s event was well orchestrated by AEW in conjunction with coliseum staff, Johnson said. It ran five hours in duration, encompassing 15 matches, culminating with the finale, when Sting and tag team partner Darby Allin defeated the Young Bucks.

OVG Hospitality’s food and drink per cap was $19, excluding suites, producing $306,242 in concessions receipts.

For merchandise, run by Oui Vend, the average spend was $21.64, driven by the novelty of Sting’s final match, producing about $349,000 in gross sales. Most everything on the retail end sold out. For the arena, the numbers are on the high end for a family show and more in line with a concert, Johnson said.

BAT DAY: Greensboro Coliseum produced commemorative bats for AEW’s crew. The bat was¬†wrestling star Sting’s “weapon” of choice. From left, Jim Ross, Sting, Tony Schiavone, the coliseum’s Scott Johnson, Ric Flair, Darby Allin and city official Chris Wilson. (Courtesy venue)

“Not one soul left the arena until at least 30 minutes after his match, because he did a speech at the end,” he said. “Everybody sat through it, chanting ‘thank you Sting.’ It was quite a moment.”

The event materialized after AEW officials contacted the coliseum with the idea of booking Sting’s last hurrah in Greensboro, considering the arena’s significance in his career. Khan and his crew felt it would be fitting to circle back to that pivotal moment, with the assistance of Flair, who was part of this year’s event, along with Ricky Steamboat, another NWA wrestling legend.

Sting’s two sons, Steve and Garrett, also participated in the production, dressed as early versions of their father’s character. In addition, former wrestling stars Lex Luger, Magnum TA and Diamond Dallas Page were in attendance to pay tribute to Sting’s career. AEW also brought back longtime announcers Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone to call Sting’s match, returning to the same venue where they filled the same role in 1988.

Looking back, Greensboro Coliseum has played a key role in the annals of pro wrestling, providing lucrative paydays for those events over its 60 years of existence.

In the 1980s, Jim Crockett Productions promoted Starrcade, an annual Thanksgiving Night event at the arena that served as a precursor to WrestleMania. Starrcade ran for close to 20 years under various wrestling organizations, and one of the ’80s events stood as record attendance of 19,000 for many years, which extended to broadcasting Starrcade for 2,000 patrons at the auditorium connected to the coliseum, Johnson said.

These days, the coliseum typically books four pro wrestling events annually, shared equally between AEW and WWE.¬†“They both do tremendously well; they’re big sellers and getting bigger, he said.

In Greensboro, last weekend was filled with events across the complex and the performing arts center. All told, more than 51,000 were in attendance for seven events: AEW Revolution, Dan & Shay, Peter Frampton and Katt Williams concerts, a Donald Trump rally at the special event center, a G League Greensboro Swarm game at Novant Health Fieldhouse and a swim meet at the aquatic center.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.