As of this writing I’ve finished the first half of my WWE weekend. The house show is in the books, and it was a fun way to spend a Sunday night with my son. A lot has changed since the last time I went to a house show, which was in 1991. House shows used to be the main product for wrestling companies, whereas in 2015 it’s all about the pay per views (soon to be WWE Network events) and merchandise while house shows are more like secondary income. But at the same time the company puts more into the production values of them. The WWE entrance ramp there, and the screens in the building had all the graphics and highlight videos. If you think that’s not big deal build a time machine and go back to the good old days when you might not even have everyone’s entrance music played over the sound system when they came to the ring. And the wrestlers are much more crowd friendly now, as the good guys all spent extra time post match shaking hands with people in the front row and letting people take pictures. The crowd itself was different, too. The people there cheered and booed the faces and heels according to the roles they played. The dueling Cena chants did happen but unlike the RAW and pay per view crowds people weren’t booing when he hit his moves or after he won. More on that later. As far as the matches, here’s what we got:
Cesaro vs The Miz
This was another new thing for 2015 – opening the show with guys higher up on the roster as opposed to jobber level guys. Very good match; both guys hit their signature stuff with a few teases before each one. Cesaro has gotten so much better at working the crowd and I really hope it pays off for him soon. Miz does great heel work that goes unappreciated by a lot of the Internet Wrestling Community. He did a good job in the ring, too, and was able to keep up with Cesaro pretty well. They got more time to work than they would have on a RAW or pay per view, and it helped. The house show crowd is much less ADD than the others and it makes a difference in matches like this one as Miz got more of a chance to do his heel act and get his moves in. The match ended when Cesaro hit the giant swing and turned it into a Sharpshooter for the submission.
Adam Rose vs Fandango
Rose has changed up his gimmick; he came out minus all the crew he used to come with and just walked out with a mic and glasses and ran down the crowd for being unappreciative of his previous act. He accused the fans of taking a poop on his career which led to a ‘Party Pooper’ chant. He worked heel, and that’s probably what he’s going to do going forward. The party animal thing just didn’t catch on when he got to the main roster after working pretty well down in NXT. The match was ok. Neither guy really has any signature stuff to pop the crowd. Fandango won by pinfall.
Tag Team Title Match: New Day vs The Lucha Dragons
New Day was represented by Kofi and Big E; no Xavier Woods to play the trombone and they didn’t do their usual mic work when hitting the ring. But other than that, they didn’t tone their act with the dancing and mocking the crowd. The Lucha Dragons worked really well with them, and had more time to get in more of their high flying stuff than they get on TV. Big E is huge, and Sin Cara is taller than he looks on TV. Good back and forth match, and the Dragons got some got laughs from the crowd when they mocked New Day’s dancing moves. New Day won by pinfall when Big E hit the Big Ending on one of the Dragons (I forget which one).
Dolph Ziggler vs Rusev
Rusev came out with Summer Rae but no Lana for Ziggler (probably playing up where the angle went this past Monday). This went pretty much like their televised matches have gone. Rusev is at times very agile for a man his size but can be a lumberer at others. Ziggler pretty much led the way though the match. Rusev hit a few sick looking superkicks, one which appeared to knock something out of Ziggler’s mouth. Real surprise here as Ziggler won clean with the zigzag. Dolph slapped five with almost the entire front row on the way out and even danced with a ring attendant.
Sasha Banks and Tamina Sunka vs Becky Lynch and Charlotte
Nice to see the Divas match not being used for bathroom breaks and concession stand runs. Team BAD (Banks and Sunka) came out to Banks’ entrance music instead of Snuka’s, which is a good switch I hope they stick with. The crowd loves Sasha and Charlotte. Sasha didn’t get as much ring time as people wanted and Tamina did most of the work. The match was shorter than I’d hoped for but was still ok. Charlotte got the win for her team after hitting the spear on Tamina. It’s clear that the company is behind Charlotte in a big way, and that they don’t know how to treat Banks. They know enough to not have her losing matches but they seem to not want to give her the full push just yet.
Sheamus vs Jack Swagger
This was the only forgone conclusion match of the night other than the main event. Sheamus played the coward heel act well. Swagger did his part in the ring and they had a good match. The finish came when both men were scrambling to get their hands on Sheamus’ Money in the Bank briefcase. Swagger got it, but got nailed with a Brogue Kick from Sheamus who promptly pinned him.
Main Event: John Cena vs Kevin Owens (streetfight)
Considering that Cena had gotten hurt the night before in this same kind of match with Owens, kudos for coming back out there and doing it again. Not a lot of wrestling here, and Cena did way more selling for Owens than getting in his own offense. What happened the night before, and having to be in the RAW main event the night after may have had something to do with that. Lots of spots with extra stuff here. Some chair spots (including an Owens cannonball with a chair), a few slams into the ring steps, and some table spots (including the one that got Cena hurt the day before). Cena hit the AA through a table and got the win.
All in all, a good show. After watching this and RAW in person the night after, I could notice a few things. One, at a house show things get to the point a lot more directly. The wrestlers don’t have to play to a camera with facial expressions, dramatic pauses,etc. so they can just do the work and play to the crowd in the building. The show moved along a lot faster, too, without commercial breaks, backstage vignettes, and what not. The guys did use the mic to work the crowd in some of the matches. The crowd was different, too. Definitely a higher percentage of kids with parents than at RAW, and a crowd that was more content to cheer and boo the wrestlers as intended and not try to be contrarian just because (yes that’s mainly in reference to John Cena but it goes for other guys like New Day and the Lucha Dragons, too). There were a few guys who were trying to get themselves over, but nowhere near like you have in some cities when RAW is on. All that being said, a good time was had by all. They’ll be in Baltimore on December 30 and I’ll probably be there for that one.