So I finally watched a live wrestling show last night, which marks only the second time I was able to do so. The first was nine years ago, in November 2000 WCW in Oberhausen, a few months before the end of the company. That one featured gems like Oktoberfest Hardcore matches and the always stupid “hometown pop title change”, which we were spared yesterday of course. The arena in Frankfurt was almost sold out, I guess 8000-9000 people. Biggest difference to US crowds: hardly any signs (nice one: “Mickie, be my Mouse”....found it really cute, and Mickie actually responded to it). Starting at 8 p.m.
Opening match: Cryme Tyme vs. Hart Dynasty Winner: Cryme Tyme (approx. 10 minutes, 4 of it stalling, **1/2)
Fun opener to get the crowd going. They pulled out all the usual tag team stuff, and there were even a few “JTG” chants, believe it or not. After the pin (in all of the matches) all the kiddies in the front rows stormed towards the ring, which I found kinda amusing, since I never saw that before.
Zack Ryder vs. Yoshi Tatsu Winner: Yoshi Tatsu (kick to the head ==> pin, approx. 6 minutes, **)
Not the kind of match people were looking forward to. Yoshi came up with some nice kicks though (of course he does, he’s from JAPAN). Finish came out of nowhere. Crowd was pretty dead for this one. Ryder sold the kick like a champ afterwards, and went out of the ring...really...slowly...holding his neck in pain.
Diva Battle Royale, Winner gets a title shot for the Women’s Championship against Michelle McCool later in the show. Participants: Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Natalya Neidhart, Maria, Katie Lea and a sixth one I didn’t get Winner: Mickie James (5 minutes, *3/4)
This was totally watchable, but I always like Battle Royales, so I am biased. Mickie was the only one over, and it was obvious right away that she would come out on top. Only negative point is that it was not an over-the-top Battle Royale, but it was not clarified. So when Beth was eliminated second-to-last between the lower and middle rope, we all thought she was still in, until Mickie threw Katie Lea out between the middle and top rope and was announced the winner. Anyway, Mickie and crowd were happy.
Goldust vs. Ezekiel Jackson Winner: Ezekiel Jackson (Powerslam ==> pin, approx. 6 minutes, *)
This was just there, and the crowd was dead for everything. Even Goldust’s entrance wasn’t really cheered. I didn’t even know he was still with WWE. Ezekiel didn’t really impress either. The match sounds to me like a last minute replacement for some bigger stars. Maybe the match wasn’t all bad, but without any crowd reaction, it is hard to get into it.
ECW Championship Match: Christian vs. William Regal Winner: Christian (Unprettier ==> pin, approx. 18 minutes, 8 of it stalling, ***)
Finally the crowd came to life, and how. Regal and Christian both had tremendous fun playing with the crowd, when Christian pointed to Regal, and everyone booed, then pointing to himself, everyone cheered, then back to Regal, to himself and so on faster and faster, so the crowd changed between cheering and booing within split seconds. I was hoping for Regal to insult Germany, but all he did was the lame “I can’t suck, I’m not German” after the usual “Regal sucks” chants. The match took quite some time to get going, but then it was fun to watch, as they had it all: comedy bits, high flying action and pure fight. Funniest moment of the night came when Christian hit a second rope missile dropkick and then a top rope missile dropkick, which the crowd TOTALLY bought as finish, and everyone stormed to the ring too early:-) They hardly believed Regal kicked out. After the real pin Christian celebrated with the crowd again. He really seemed to enjoy it, and took most time to pose and make the fans happy.
Fatal Fourway match for the Intercontinental Championship John Morrision vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio Winner: John Morrison (Starship Pain ==> pin Ziggler, approx. 10 minutes, ***1/2)
Match of the night of course, not only quality-wise, but also crowd-heat-wise. Interesting that it was 1 heel vs. 3 faces. Ziggler came out first, followed by Morrison. He already got a nice pop, but then the place EXPLODED when Matt Hardy came out. An amazing ovation for him, and the same again when Rey walked out. The match was your standard fatal fourway match, which means first you got 1-on-1 matches with two wrestlers on the outside, and later the finishers sequence. Morrison and Ziggler did most of the work here, but Matt and Rey were massively cheered whatever they did. Rey just went through his routine, obviously not very interested. And he looked TINY from where I sat. He never touched the upper rope either on irish whips. Are the ropes higher in Germany than elsewhere? Anyway, massive crowd heat during the entire match, good work from everybody, and quite fun to watch.
Drew McIntyre vs. Finlay Winner: McIntyre (feet on the ropes ==> pin, approx. 10 minutes, 5 of it stalling, DUD)
McIntyre (finally) started with the cheap heat by insulting the crowd, speaking german himself (“Deutschland ist eine scheisse Land” and so on). Finlay then came out with the german flag. McIntyre stalled forever, almost getting counted out, coming back into the ring at 9 and leaving again right away. Damn annoying, and a horrible match followed. I counted ONE move the entire match, which was a sloppy neckbreaker. Anything else was punch, kicks, more punchs, and more kicks. They even threw each other off the ropes instead of suplexing. A few Finlay chants around, but nothing could help this match. Glad when it was finally over!
Women’s Championship match, Michelle McCool vs. Mickie James Winner: Michelle McCool (powerbomb + hands in the ropes ==> pin, approx. 8 minutes, **1/2)
McCool looked smoking hot, but didn’t have much crowd support. I was pleasantly surprised by this match. She went after the leg, neutralizing all of Mickie’s offense. Say what you want about psychology, but the standard wrestling fan doesn’t care. They want to see action, and this was not the match to deliver. Anyway, I liked it. Finish saw Michelle powerbomb Mickie right in the corner and holding onto the ropes, which the ref looked right at, but ignored it, resulting in the finish looking stupid. Crowd was DEAD for the finish!
Main Event: Casked Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker vs. CM Punk Winner: The Undertaker (approx. 15 minutes, 6 of it stalling, ***)
Punk’s entrance ruled so hard. Hearing his music live with the lights brings it to a new level. Taker’s of course was the highlight of the night for the fans, and took 5 minutes alone. Too much stalling again and the usual “afraid-of-casket” routine. After that however, Punk put up quite a fight. At one point Taker was on the top rope, and Punk tried the superplex. I was like “Taker will never do that at some small house show in Germany”, but on his second try, Punk actually nailed it. Later he used a chair on Taker and even the Go To Sleep, with the “three-count-that does-not-count-because-it-is-a-casket-match” spot, which was quite nice to see, as it made Punk look strong. Taker then got the Tombstone and rolled Punk into the casket. He then sold the beating from Punk like hell, which even made me admit that Taker did a pretty good job.
Overall, a really fun show. Only thing I didn’t like was the lack of Jericho, who I really wanted to see, and/or Kane/Batista/Show, but I can live with what we got. Sure, it was completely free of surprises, but a solid show and a good way to spend the evening.
If you want to see more live wrestling in Germany can I suggest that you checkout wXw http://www.wxw-wrestling.com in Essen? (Looks from their site like Felix is starting to run in other cities as well as Essen.)
They bring in a mix of guys from the American (and Canadian) indies, ROH, the occasional Japanese guy and other guys from the continent and mix them with the local talent.
It's tilted a bit towards hardcore stuff, but like most good indy promotions it features a mix of styles.
The promoter Felix is a good guy - and wXw would be a completely different kind of experience for you.
(full disclosure I have helped Felix get in touch with guys in North America that he wanted to book.)
Once again, this year I've compiled the stats for the Rumble proper. I do it for a personal pool, but I figure some of you might be interested. Rumble Stats 2002-3 (Excel) (Do you find this useful, or a waste of time?)