So I went to the TNA show here this evening. I've never written a show report before, and I'm not a huge follower of TNA, but I watch now and then and read online anything I don't see. That said, this was the kind of show that makes loyal fans out of casual followers.
Whilst queuing to get in there were people handing out free foam fingers to the younger fans and lanyards and flyers for the upcoming TNA videogame to everyone.
Once inside, Dixie Carter was standing near ringside signing autographs, having photos taken, and chatting with everyone who approached her. Even when everyone went to their seats she went over to a couple of sections of fans for more autographs, photos and chatting.
The Brentwood Centre is a fairly small venue, maybe 1500-2000 seats, but all were filled.
Just after 5pm the show got underway. Jeremy Borash was our host. He thanked us all for coming, said how great the English audiences are, etc. He also said that during the course of the show they'll be watching us and the loudest fans would be given backstage passes. He then introduced the first match:
Sonjay Dutt & Petey Williams vs The Motor City Machine Guns Huge heel heat for Sonjay, possibly the biggest of the night (!) He played on that and threatened to walk out at one point. A couple of Canadian Destroyer teases got some cheers for Petey, but the very popular MCMGs won after about 10 minutes of, well, Non-Stop Action. A great starter.
Next up was the Knockout Title match between Awesome Kong and Gail Kim. Lots of quick offence by Kim to start but Kong's strength won out in the end, finishing with the Awesome Bomb. After the match someone came out from the back to check on the prone Kim along with referee Earl Hebner, but she got up, gestured a 'thank you' to the crowd and made her way to the back under her own strength.
Next was the TNA Tag Team Title match - LAX vs Robert Roode and James Storm. Homicide played Ricky Morton for long stretches in this match before Hernandez came in to clean house and then hit the dive over the top rope. He looked to be having the time of his life at the show, I don't think he once stopped smiling. LAX picked up the win after some heel miscommunication. After the match, Storm and Roode teased dissention, but it ended with a hug to some 'Brokeback Mountain' jeers.
JB then told us that after the next match there would be an intermission during which the people given backstage passes would get to... go backstage. He then introduced our referee for the next match - Earl Hebner, who came out to AC/DC's TNT, and lots of the usual 'You Screwed Bret' chants. JB then introduced the combatants for the triple threat match:
(England's very own) Doug Williams vs 'Black Machismo' Jay Lethal vs A.J. Styles.
Handshakes all round before this fantastic, high energy, extremely fast paced match. After 10 minutes or so the finish came when A.J. hit the Pele kick and Styles Clash on Williams after Doug had taken out Jay Lethal with a super-duper roly-poly German suplex (I believe that's the technical name for it). After the match they all shook hands again, then JB came in and told us that Doug Williams Has signed up to take part in the World X Cup.
After the break, JB hyped us up and filmed a bit about the tour to be shown on Impact! Then he introduced Dixie Carter who (again) thanked us all for coming and informed us that TNA are coming back to the UK next January with shows at the MEN arena in Manchester, the NIA in Birmingham, the Braehead Arena in Glasgow and Wembley Arena in London (tickets on sale June 27th).
After Dixie left, JB introduced the next match:
Booker T vs Rhino
Great back and forth match. Booker at one point teased a spinarooni only to give us all the finger, but we did get a Rhinorooni! Soon after, Rhino hit the Gore but Booker kicked out at 2 and then shortly hit the Ax Kick for the win. Rhino lay in the ring for a few minutes after Booker left, but eventually copied Gail Kim from earlier in the night.
JB next introduced Kurt Angle to say a few words. He may have had an even bigger smile on his face than Hernandez had. The 'What?' chants started immediatly after Kurt started speaking, to which he laughingly said, "You'd think that would have died by now. I could kill 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin." He spoke about how much love and respect for the fans everyone in TNA has, and how much love and respect the fans have shown TNA during this tour. Even though he was unable to wrestle at the moment, there was no way he was going to miss this trip, and in January he'll be back here doing what he does best for our entertainment. It reminded me a lot of a speech Bret Hart made during a WCW house show over here back in 1999 or 2000.
After Kurt left we had our main event for the TNA World Title:
Samoa Joe vs Abyss Joe was VERY popular, and looked every part a champion. Abyss played the monster part well, taking out two refs during the course of the match (the first accidentally, and the second with a Greco Roman Kick to the Nuts and a Black Hole Slam), Both Guys got 3 counts while the refs were out, but Hebner (ref #1) recovered just in time to count the pin for Joe after (I think) an enzuigiri. It was a surprisingly (and disappointingly) short match. What there was was excellent, I just hoped there would be more.
JB came back to the ring after the match to thank us all for coming (again), and announced that some of the wrestlers would be coming out for autographs & photos with VIP ticket holders and the MCMGs were out front already for autograph signing and photos with everyone else.
Dixie Carter stood near the exit as we left and personally thanked as many people as she could for coming. I cannot say enough good things about her.
As for the show itself - I've seen 3 WWE shows, a WCW house show and a couple of local indy shows and this was the best one yet. I think the intimate setting helped a lot, and the shows next January may suffer a little because of the much, much larger venues, but this was fun on a bun, and if TNA are putting on a house show near you, I urge you to check it out. I think you'll like what you see.
I went to Coventry the night before and the card was slightly shuffled:
MCMG d. Roode & Storm
Abyss d. Rhino
AJ Styles d. Doug Williams and Jay Lethal
Awesome Kong d. Gail Kim
LAX d. Petey Williams & Sonjay Dutt
Samoa Joe d. Booker T
I'm not too sure on the order of the matches though. The finish of the triple threat was literally exactly the same as how you described it the night after. That was probably my favourite match of the night.
Also the whole Angle "WHAT?" thing went down the same. Angle also brought Jeff Jarrett out to say thanks to everybody and such, and what was quite interesting is that when Booker T came to do his pre-match promo it was almost exactly the same as what JJ had said a while earlier (We'd be nothing without the fans, thanks for buying merchandise etc) except gradually turned it into a more aggressive "buy lots of merchandise so I can get a better locker room".
Sadly the Cov crowd didn't seem to be so into Sonjay, but he made an awesome heel in that match anyway, starting off by attempting to chop down Hernandez and eventually ending up flying all over the place.
It was my first live wrestling show, and after sitting 5 rows from ringside in a fairly small venue with excellent wrestling i feel like i'll just be disappointed if i ever decide to go to a big WWE event any time in the future.
I assume since they come in through the crowd they don't use the locker room in the back, and the vests are their way of keeping their wallet, keys, and phone safe. If they lose the vests, maybe HHH will give them little cubbies in his office?