In pro-wrestling, there's a blurry boundary between fact and fiction. That's why many reacted with total disbelief when the news that All Elite Wrestling's brand new heavyweight title belt had been stolen.
Rumors about the stolen belt had circulated on social media hours before a police report confirmed that the All Elite Heavyweight Championship had been pilfered shortly after the brand's pay-per-view event, titled "All Out," on Saturday night. Chris Jericho, a beloved pro-wrestling icon who has held a plethora of championships around the world, was crowned the first All Elite Heavyweight champion during the event — less than 24 hours before the belt was swiped. The circumstances of how, exactly, the thievery went down remain unclear.
According to the police report, Jericho accidentally left the title belt in a rented limousine while eating at LongHorn Steakhouse in Tallahassee.
"The victim [Chris Jericho] remained at Longhorn while the limo driver returned to the airport," reads a police report. "The victim had taken the wrong luggage from the airport and the driver took it back to the terminal. When the driver picked up the victim from the restaurant, the belt was missing."
Officers were called to the scene and immediately launched an investigation, according to the report.
AEW has offered no official comment on the situation.
Jericho, meanwhile, has taken to social media to make light of the situation and further his stature as the rising wrestling company's new champ.
"Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after I became the first AEW champion with blood streaming down my face, after one of the hardest matches I've ever had in my life, some lowlife scumbag committed grand larceny and robbed me of the AEW Championship," Jericho said while lounging in a hot tub next to a bottle of champagne in a video he posted to Twitter on Sept. 3. "Now as I sit here in my palatial estate, my beautiful mansion, getting ready to have a little bit of the bubbly, I'm just imagining what I would do to that son of a bitch if he was here right now. As a result, I am launching a worldwide investigation, using the top private investigators in the world today to find out who committed this crime. And trust me, as the AEW Champion — as your champion — I promise to regain, and restore, and find, and reclaim the AEW Championship and once again, give you another reason to finally give me the thank you that I deserve. You're welcome."
Because Jericho's pro-wrestling persona has been established as wildly aloof and because wrestling storylines often blur real-life events with fictional storytelling, many believed and continue to believe the entire story is "a work" — that is, fabricated for the purposes of furthering plot lines within pro-wrestling — despite the confirmed police reports.
"It was almost hard to believe at first because it just reads like a wrestling angle: 'Heel champion gets new world title stolen from limo' definitely sounds like an angle," Rob Pasbani, who runs the pro-wrestling website Squared Circle Pit, told Oxygen.com. "But then the police report was confirmed and you realize 'Oh wait, falsifying a police report is a felony.' Ultimately, they made the best of the situation by just turning it into an angle anyway. If people think it’s a work, make it a work. It’s a bad situation that they spin to get some good publicity out of for their show launch."
All Elite Wrestling is a new wrestling federation established by pro wrestler Cody Rhodes and investor Tony Khan in 2019. The company will debut its first TV programming on TNT in October and is being poised as the first legitimate competitor to WWE in decades.
"It's really big," said widely respected wrestling journalist and historian Dave Meltzer, who has run the Wrestling Observer Newsletter since 1983, to ESPN. "It's the biggest thing in wrestling since WCW. When WCW went out of business, to me that really changed the whole landscape of wrestling, and in a bad way. And this is the most significant thing since then. Somebody getting real prime-time TV on a top-10 station with real talent — it's big. It's huge, it really is."
The investigation remains ongoing, according to ESPN.
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