I recently spoke with CEO Gaming founder Alex Jebailey, who competed at All Elite Wrestling’s Fyter Fest event in Daytona Beach, Florida. Jebailey, who also organizes the annual CEO (Community Effort Orlando) Gaming convention in Florida, competed against Michael Nakazawa on the ‘Buy In’ portion of the show in a hardcore match. He spoke about why gaming and wrestling meshes so well, saying it’s about finding out who is the best in each field, and also praised Kenny Omega’s abilities as a very good video game player.
“It’s a competitive spirit thing when you see two wrestlers perform. It’s about finding out who’s the better man and the same thing holds true in the video game world, especially with CEO’s focus on fighting games. There’s many genres like shooters and MOBG’s [Massively Online Battle Games], and the fact that in fighting games—Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Super Smash Brothers—it’s one versus one. Some games will have a team aspect to it, but having two people trying to find out who the best is at that particular match or game is why it carries over.
In hanging out with Kenny, he has such a competitive spirit in terms of, not so much that you have to win everything, but you continue to learn and evolve. With my wrestling in my second match and learning so much, we’re going over match stuff behind the scenes and some of the producers were like ‘this is only your second match? How much ring practice is that?’ and I’m thinking maybe only 20-30 hours over the last two years, and it’s like you retain a lot. I think anyone that’s passionate in what they do it carries over, and then with Kenny, he came out as a friend to enjoy the event as a guest and really got to mingle with the fighting game community—back then he had a grueling schedule in Japan and to have that time off—he got to have fun on our streams playing, and he’s genuinely a good video game player. I don’t blow smoke up anyone’s ass—he’s always learning and improving and he understands the fundamentals. With my convention, it was never about bringing in celebrities like ‘here’s a big name, come to CEO‘ and it will attract people; Kenny was a genuine human being that loved fighting games and after us playing and practicing together I knew that if he wasn’t a professional wrestler, he’d probably be dabbling in tournament play for fighting games. Obviously it worked out for him and his track record in the wrestling world, so that competition proves true between both worlds. The production value that we like to have and the personalities of the players shows through, whether it’s their performance in a match or the results in general—it’s just like wrestling where they are one and the same.”
Jebailey says the ‘Fyter Fest’ theme was a success from a marketing standpoint (as a parody of Fyre Fest), but he’d be open to talking to AEW’s Tony Khan about running a future event. He says it ultimately comes down to scheduling, but knows there’s a market for a larger scale event like this in Florida again. Jebailey also said that not only does it provide a great outlet for a wrestling event, but he’s seen first-hand how wrestling can capture the interest of the gaming community by having this kind of crossover event.
“The market for wrestling shows in Florida has not really been that good since the ‘90s in the ‘Bash At The Beach’ days. Royal Rumble had been in Orlando a few years ago and I went to that when AJ Styles debuted, and it was sold out. The smaller shows, since there’s so many consistent NXT shows, it’s really tough to draw those 2,000-3,000 person crowds. We went from about 2,300 to 4,800 seats at Fyter Fest so in terms of an attendee aspect it was a huge success and I would love to do it again. Now that we’ve worked together and understand both sides of it, I think it would be so much easier on the backend of it to put it all together, it just comes down to schedule.
Definitely when something’s great and you want to improve on it, and something you want to just keep doing—the crossover worked. At the end of the day, when me and Kenny sit down and read social media, when we see people go ‘that was my first live wrestling show, I’m going to subscribe’ or watch more, and I’ve had developers like from Nintendo last year at the New Japan event actually subscribe to New Japan World. Obviously with AEW being a new product, gaining interest and they have to flesh out their storylines as they move towards TV, but it was a success in terms of a wrestling fan came and saw the gaming side and said ‘wow, I have respect for the competitive gaming side’ and vice versa from gaming to wrestling.
The numbers were there; the viewership online I heard was great, so it’s definitely something I want to do again so it comes down to the timing and the scheduling. I think it’s something we’ll pull off again in the future.”
Check out the full interview below: