I had a free weekend so I made the two hour drive to good old Reading, PA to check out the WWE’s post-WrestleMania tour. The company has renamed their Saturday house shows after the old Saturday Night’s Main Event TV show, thus the name of this one. This was also a do over of sorts for me because the Holiday Tour was wracked by COVID scares and thus I did not get to see the Tribal Chief in action.
Intercontinental Title Match: Ricochet (c) vs Jinder Mahal
We open up with a title match. Ricochet is in a perfect place as I-C champion, and as the guy to open up the show. Solid opener here, Jinder dominated the early going but Ricochet fought back leading to some good back and forth. After being foiled on a 630 splash attempt and a few near falls, Ricochet hit it to get the win to retain the title. I really hope Ricochet gets a good run with the title here. He’s really good in this role and seems to have found his niche. Jinder made for a good opponent here and is good in these kind of situations.
Gunther vs Mansoor
And we go from competitive to not so much. Gunther came out with Ludwig Kaiser in tow to introduce him, and he went full ‘You Americans!’ on the mic. I thought the foreign heel had gone the way of the dinosaurs but they got a ‘USA!’ chant going so maybe not. Mansoor got a little offense in but he wasn’t much of a match for the Ring General.
Sheamus vs Kofi Kingston
Sheamus came out with Ridge Holland. Good to see the managers/tag partners making the trip; there was a time when that was a 50/50 proposition. Good match here; Kofi got the ‘New Day Rocks!’ chant going a few times and was hitting his spots only to be foiled a few times by Holland. Kofi hit the SOS but only got a 2 count. Sheamus locked in the Texas Cloverleaf but Kofi didn’t submit. I was expecting Holland to get sent packing by the ref at some point but that didn’t happen. Kofi ducks the Brogue Kick and got a sunset flip to the quick pin.
Smackdown Women’s Title: Charlotte Flair (c) vs ????
Charlotte came to the ring and got on the mic to gloat about winning at WrestleMania. A ‘you tapped out!’ chant started, to her annoyance, and she admonished the crowd for being a bunch of quitters – at their jobs, their relationships, their gym memberships, and their video games.
Then she said she was there to give someone an opportunity to say I Quit, and that brought out Aliyah. Charlotte offered her the chance to quit right upfront to save herself any embarrassment, only for Aliyah to slap her in the face and knock the mic out of her hand. The match wasn’t long but they got some good back and forth in. Aliyah got to do more on offense here than she’s gotten to do on television and looked good doing it. At one point Charlotte grabbed the mic and demanded she say I Quit, but Aliyah fought back. Charlotte would eventually lock in the Figure 8 and Aliyah tapped out.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: The Usos (c) vs The Viking Raiders
This was the first match where the crowd did not play along with the face/heel dynamic as they cheered the Usos and booed the Viking Raiders. To all four men’s credit they reversed the roles with the Usos working like a babyface team and the Vikings a bit rougher – not to the point of cheating or anything, but in their mannerisms and all. Jimmy played face in a peril for a bit before making the hot tag to Jey. that led to some fast paced back and forth for a few minutes before the Usos hit the 1-D for the win to retain the titles. Another good match.
Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Sami came out and berated us on the mic for a few minutes before threatening to leave, which brought out Nakamura. Sami is great at playing an old school kind of heel on the mic, and got the crowd riled up good. The two old nemeses can have a good match together in their sleep, and this was no exception. Shinsuke got the win with the Kinshasha.
Women’s Tag Team Titles: Sasha and Naomi (c) vs Shayna Baszler and Natalya
This was set up with a promo segment on Smackdown, and the old fan in me loves to see TV and house shows on the same page. This was a fun match. You can’t go wrong with these four ladies working to re-establish the tag team division. Naomi started off hot but eventually got worked over by Shayna and Nattie before making the hot tag to Sasha. Banks came in and went to work before we got all four women going at it. Shayna broke up her first Bank Statement attempt but the second one got the job done for the win.
And now time for our…
World/Universal Title Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs Drew McIntyre
I’ve seen both of these in action several times – Drew since 2019, and Roman since 2015. In Drew’s case it was back at the 2019 Holiday Tour , around when he started on the road that would get him to winning the Royal Rumble and the WWE championship. While he was still technically a heel it was around that time when he started doing the countdown when he delivered the Claymore. It was pretty clear that night that a shift was beginning and there was something big ahead.
As for Roman it was at Payback 2015, where he was in the Main Event and was getting what had become the typical reaction from a televised crowd. Later came the 2015 Holiday Tour and the revelation that people really didn’t hate this guy like the internet would have you believe. And that night proved to not be a fluke as I saw the whole building cheer for him again at house shows in 2018 and again in 2019. It showed that there really were two Americas when it came to Roman Reigns – the people who went to Monday Night Raw and Pay Per Views, and those who didn’t. The latter always supported the man, while the former was chock full of the kind of people that irritate the hell out of me.
I’m saying all this because the narrative has persisted that the fans rejected Roman because he was shoved down our throats when in reality it was only some fans who did that. The rest of us were dismissed as non existent, then insignificant for years while the same story was told by the same people. Yes, those people did reject Roman Reigns for a bunch of stupid (you’re not gonna tell me who to cheer even if I was already doing it!) and in some cases nefarious reasons (cough, racism) but it was never the whole audience and I will not stop telling the truth on that as long as I am able.
Now I’ve seen Roman get cheered at house shows for years, but this was different. Roman is a heel but is getting cheered louder than he was before. This was like a rock concert; people cheered and booed accordingly for everyone else outside of the Smackdown tag team title match, and Roman was the headliner. Roman has an aura about him, a natural swagger. I think of the Road Warriors, and the Undertaker – guys that just ooze badass to the point that you cannot help but be drawn in. He walks out and unless you are just a hater then it’s hard to resist the temptation to cheer the guy. And it’s not likability, it’s pure alpha male magnetism, where it makes you want to follow the guy wherever he goes, and sit at the same table (which is why ‘head of the table’ works, because the guy makes want to sit at the same table even if he’s slapping you around).
Drew to his credit held his own here. The crowd did not boo him and he got cheered in some spots. Drew can stand across the ring from Roman, and you don’t feel like you’re watching Roman’s little brother. That was not true for some of his previous opponents. And he fought Roman to a standstill in what I’m calling match of the year. Roman and Drew work together better than anyone Roman has fought his whole run outside Daniel Bryan. I’m saying that because this was a straight up match without anything extra thrown in. No cages, no weapons, no run ins, not even a storyline yet to give some meaning to the first. They didn’t need any.
Those two guys went to war and had what I’m calling the best match I’ve seen this year on the men’s side. Yes they’re doing the same match all over the world but whatever. The best episode of a TV show doesn’t become mediocre just because it got rerun a bunch of times. They can run this match with a few tweaks at a pay per view and some folks will call it the best match ever, it was that good.
Great show, easily one of the best house shows I’ve ever been to and I go back to Hulk Hogan in 1986. More than made up for the Holiday Tour which was decimated by covid. It was worth the two hour drive and the overnight stay.