I've never really done a recap of a wrestling show before, but here y' go....
Sorry for the lateness of this post - I had an issue with a rather persistent hangover.
Saturday night was the first of four dates for the 10 day Hulkamania tour of Australia, in my home town of Melbourne. As I figured this would be the last chance I had to see Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair wrestle live, I splashed out ($380) on floor seats when the tickets were released a couple of months ago. Row A ringside seats sold at $750 AUD. The scuttlebutt on the night was that as ticket sales had been very poor, Ticket master had been offering floor seats for $100AUD, free upgrades and buy 1 get 1 free deals, so I got screwed on ticket prices, but oh well. Makes me worry a bit about the rest of the tour. If they've struggled to sell tickets in Melbourne, they'll probably really struggle elsewhere. Melbournians will go and watch 2 flies crawling up a wall if someone paints numbers on their backs.
Rod Laver Arena is better known as centre court for the Australian tennis open, to give you an idea of arena size. The northern end was converted as the entrance with a large centre video screen and two smaller side screens. The high level seats at the southern end were tarped off. WWE Raw reportedly got over 15,000 in there back in November 2007. At a guess, I'd say maybe 10,000 were there Saturday night. I haven't heard any official attendance figures.
Apologies for the crappy photos. I only had my phone to take photos with and it struggles with moving targets.
Proceedings kicked off just before 8pm. For our curtain raiser match, the first wrestler out was Nick Dinsmore - introduced as such, but still playing the Eugene character. He even read us a poem.
His tag team partner was the Godfather (introduced as 'The Pimpfather"). I'm thinking that the Godfather has been the victim of some corporate downsizing as a result of the global financial crisis as he only came out with two Ho's. He regaled us of lighting fattys and pimpin' ho's and lamented that his job is harder than it might appear.
Their opponents for the night were a tag team called "Rock of Love" who I haven't heard of. Neither had wikipedia, but some web searching turned up a myspace page. They are apparently Billy Blade and Kadin Anthony - a couple of indy guys from California. Billy Blade is the pudgy blonde one with tats, who upon removing his shirt led to a crowd chant of "put your shirt on".
This was your basic comedy squash match with Eugene and Godfather picking up the win via a powerslam. The Ho train also got a run.
Next match up pitted the Spartan 3000 (M-Dogg 20 from ROH) against Shannon Moore - in what was probably going to be the only match of the night featuring anything resembling workrate.
At this point I should mention that there were no mats around the ring or no padding on the barricades which I found strange given the performers on the card. I just assumed that we'll be seeing no out of ring action tonight. I later found out that the organisation was a bit of a shitfight and they were still chasing up a ring a couple of weeks out, so whatever, maybe they forgot?
Anyway, this was a fun match with lots of reversals. Shannon Moore performed a plancha out onto the floor. The spartan was playing the heel and getting into the crowd a fair bit, leading to an old standby of a "you are a wanker" chant. Later on in the match when he had Moore in a submission hold he yells out "Who's the wanker now?" Crowd: "You are!"
The match was over when Spartan hit a very nice Shooting Star Press from the top rope.
Next match was another tag team affair, with the first guy out calling himself The Black Pearl
This was another guy I hadn't heard of. Turns out it is Reno Anoa'i. By my count that is three members of the famous Anoa'i clan on the card tonight. His tag team partner was Gangrel (introduced as Vampire Warrior) , complete with blood spitting which impressed the two guys in the front row wearing white shirts.
At this point we get our first back stage promo shown on the big screen - and their opponents are shown to be the Nasty Boys with Jimmy Hart - and they have a surprise for us - this match is now to be a "Melbourne Street Fight". I took this to mean that they were all going to get drunk and then prowl the streets bashing innocent bystanders. What it actually meant was a typical garbage match with folding chairs, alfoil garbage cans, baking trays that sounded like they were made from pressed cardboard, and my personal favourite, an empty plastic bottle from a water cooler. This match was your standard WWE style hardcore match, and the finish was Gangrel going through a sheet of 6mm fibreboard that was standing in the corner and then a double baking tray whack over the head from Knobs. Sags looked in pretty good nick here - maybe even better than his 'prime' Knobs on the other hand looked like he had just swallowed a sheep. It was good to see Jimmy Hart and the megaphone again. Funny bit after the match, Sags is on the second rope celebrating, which Knobs sees and goes to do the same, then thinks the better of it and backs away from the corner.
Our next match was Heidenreich versus Brutus 'the Barber' Beefcake - again with Jimmy Hart in his corner.
This match was about what you'd expect with Bruti winning via the sleeper hold! Heidenreich was still sporting the road warrior style mohawk (no face paint) but Brutus wants to cut some hair. The ref interferes and Heidenreich escapes. Bruti then turns on the ref who is sporting a reasonable pony tail and goes to work with a little trim. He probably left enough behind for the next three shows.
At this point we had a 15-20 minute intermission.
First up out of the break was a bikini contest featuring Lacie Von Erich, Koa Marie Turner and the Godfather's two Ho's. I'm guessing that as Lacie's signed with TNA, she isn't allowed to wrestle outside of that. Otherwise I don't really see the point of bringing her out here just for this. Naturally the Godfather is overseeing proceedings.
Anyway, Lacie wins, possibly because she is blonde and had the biggest boobs. I took way too many photos of this.
After this, Ric Flair came up on the big screen and cut a pretty damn good promo about the match and wrestling in Melbourne. Woooo!
Next match up was a singles affair between Sean Morley (Val Venus) and Ken Anderson (Mr. Kennedy).
Val was still wearing 'Venus' trunks and called us all inbreds - the dastardly heel.
This match was pretty much WWE main event style, but after the awesome Flair promo it fell pretty flat. Also, I got the impression that this was the first time Val had been off the couch since the WWE finished him up. So the match flow was couple of moves, rest hold, flurry of punches, rest hold, etc. up until the finishing sequence. Maybe my expectations had snuck up a little bit as these two were only recently employed with the E and IMO reasonable performers.
Kennedy was doing the same schtick, but Mr Anderson doesn't have the same ring to it. The crowd was doing a heap of helping out with his catch phrase - using Kennedy instead - forcing Anderson to say "no, no Kennedy's dead". A bit of humour when Kennedy reaches for the mike to descend, but we don't have one of those and he looked kinda disappointed when the announcer stuck the regular mike in his face.
The finish was Val going for the money shot, but no one home, allowing Ken to hit the mike check for the win. A good finish to a match that was unfortunately a bit boring.
Next up - another tag team match-up, with Too Cool pitted against Orlando Jordan and Umaga (introduced as Ed Fatu).
This match was purely the structural device for a series of arse jokes and it was a lot of fun. Orlando Jordan was in great condition and Grand Master Sexay was as entertaining as hell. He's not the svelte cruiserweight he once was, but I wish he still had a job. More entertaining than half the loads running round the E at the moment. Getting freaked out by Rikishi's arse, doing bad white man dancing, pants that kept falling down. All good slapstick stuff. Rikishi is huge. He made Umaga look small(er). Sexay and Jordan did most of the work in this match with the Samoans hot tagging for the power spots. Finish was OJ eating a stinkface (like it was going to be anything else). A fun little match.
But we're not done, because Rikishi wants to leave, but Grand Master wants to dance. Eventually Grand Master and the crowd get their way, Rikishi is back in, and the lights go down. The ref steps in to the Scotty role, even attempting the worlds worst worm.
And now it's time for the main event. The Nature Boy makes his way to the ring.
The Hulkster comes on the big screen and cuts one of his bizarre promos. Not quite Wrestlemania IV bizarre, but reasonably weird, and then heads to the ring.
There was an absolute tool sitting in one of the front row ($750) seats who had been pissing off everybody around him all night, getting more and more abusive as the night went on and getting in everybody's way. I think he was one of those special people to whom wrestling is still real. He was decked out in full Hogan regalia, complete with replica belts (2). unfortunately in Melbourne these days, event security seems to be strictly the purview of men in their 60's who are completely unable to handle any trouble when it occurs (refer to brawl at Akon concert) So this guy was just ignoring security and continuing on being a pillock until a very large (about the build of Bam Bam Bigelow) member of the crowd grabbed him and forcibly sat him down, so of course then this dude wants to fight. Security then starts to get their act together and throws the bloke out. even though there was only one of him, and he was pretty small, it still took 8 security blokes to get him out. They come back to get the big guy and he just waves them away. I'm thinking there is no way they will be able to shift him if he doesn't want to move. Flair was leaning over the top rope watching the whole thing, and then turns back to our side and rolls his eyes and shakes his head.
By now, the Hulksters on his way to the ring.
The match flow was as expected, with most of the major spots getting a mention:
Test of strength, shoulder blocks, posing,
Nutshot reversal - advantage flair
Flair working the knee, chop blocks,
Figure 4 leglock (for some reason Lacie Von Erich comes out to ringside)
Figure 4 reversal
Flair going to the top rope and getting caught
Hogan standing on the second rope for the 9 punch + bite, followed by,
The Flair flop
The awkward back body drop where Flair lands on his side,
Flair blading bigger than Hogan
Beating with the weight lifters belt
Hulking up and finger pointing,
Big Boot finish.
The only noticeable absence was the legdrop o' doom, which annoyed some people, but if Hogan's had, or needs, a hip replacement, I can understand him not doing it. So to hell with what the bogans think.
After the match, Flair is helped to the back and Hogan stays to work the crowd as you would expect, with ear cups and posing.
You know, pretty much you knew what you were going to get with this card. I mean a lot of these guys didn't have the best matches when they were in their prime.
But you know what, I had an absolutely fantastic time. I yelled myself hoarse and cheered and booed and even managed to get close enough to get a partial high five from the great man. For a few short hours I was back in a time where I didn't have a worry in the world and I loved every minute of it. I think a lot of the crowd was the same. Even the pouring rain and crowding like sardines onto trams to get back into the city didn't dampen anyones spirits, with complete strangers sharing wrestling stories with each other on the way in.
So yeah - most likely the last chance for me to see Flair and Hogan perform in the flesh. $380, for me at least, worth every cent.
The rest of my photos are here on Flickr (warning a lot of them are crappy).
I feel for you just for having to see Bruti in those tights. Oh God, that wasn't fashionable back in 1989 and it still isn't 20 years later. Otherwise, it did look fun to watch, as long as you knew what you're getting into workrate-wise.