I thought you all might be interested in reading the latest grumblings on the house show circuit:
Just got in from the most recent Dublin leg of the WWE Tour of Defiance. It was WWE’s first visit to Ireland in ten years and thus my first WWE event. Have to say it was an interesting experience.
You know, you hear a lot about house shows, but it never really registers until you get there. For instance, watching WWE interview people and how they manipulated them into answering the questions you KNOW are going to see answered on the little SmackDown packages fascinated me. Also, the matches are far from classic. They compensate for the lack of commentators or storylines by going extremely crowd orientated and reacting to every beat from the crowd. It’s an interesting test of characters for some wrestlers who all of a sudden find themselves rejected for no apparent reason (as we’ll see in the report), and to judge their reactions. The live experience also makes the extravagance and showmanship of pro-wrestling glaringly obvious, which some people (like me) will lap up and some will hate. Anyway, let’s get to the show.
The evening began with Stephanie McMahon, who seems to have lost those love handles. The crowd was hot for her, but only because she was the first out and her attempts at cheat heat were met with pretty much silence or forced pops. After a quick, ‘Erin go Breagh’ (Ireland is beautiful) and noting that her family came from Co. Clare, she was out of here and we were into the action.
Batista defeated Matt Hardy in the opener. Decent match, but nothing much to speak of. Batista gave Matt one of his hard spinebusters to get the fall, and after being lambasted with boos afterwards, followed it up with two more before leaving. Matt is well and truly a face again, as the crowd loved everything he dished out tonight, even after his lost. For reasons that would become clear later, Matt had to be assisted to the back.
Next up, The Hurricane and Rosey defeated La Resistance. This match sparked the first of many where the wrestlers would get confused by the ‘different’ Irish chants. Playing up our national pride with a rousing chant of ‘Ole, ole, ole’, Rosey and Hurricane looked a little taken aback, but still milked up the reaction by gracing the ring with a tricolour. After a few minutes of solid action, Eugene and Will Regal came down to the ring to have a little fun, with Eugene riding Rob Conway and spanking him ala Rico. Infuriated, Conway shoved Eugene out of the ring, only angering Regal who defiantly delivered a left hand to Conway, leading him into a rollup from Hurricane for the three.
Rhyno defeated Garrison Cade in the third match. ‘E-C-W’ chanted filled the arena in Rhyno’s support. This match utilised the always excellent faked injury angle, and was given the time to pull it off correctly. Fans at first saw right through it when Cade went down clutching his knee, but after about five minutes of this, with agents filling the ring and The Fink making a call to somewhere desperately, they managed to convince us that it was legit, only serving to pile on the heat for Cade when he showed his true colours. Cade was actually excellent in making the most of this newfound heat, performing jumping jacks before being hit with a resounding and popular Gore moments after.
Next came the Intercontinental Title match, where Randy Orton retained against Shelton Benjamin. This was technically sound, but nothing great. It had a big match feel to it, and the fans popped big for the announcement that the title would be up for grabs, but once we got into the meat and potatoes of the thing, it felt sort of lacklustre. It wasn’t even the fact that you felt they were holding back for Judgment Day, but they just never seemed to click and just sort of performed their trademark moves without much rhyme or reason. Anyway, Orton won when he rolled up Benjamin and used the ropes.
Stacy Keibler came out next and was met with ogles from every Irish male eye in the house. She did a little dance for us but was swiftly interrupted by Eric Bischoff and Johnny Nitro, who kicked her out, complimented each other up and down and made the Jericho/Tomko match a No DQ affair. Eugene then rejoined the fray, telling Bisch that he loved him while Eric was berating Regal for not handling his retard well enough. While this was going on, Nitro was shoving Eugene around, eventually leading to Eugene snapping and giving him an airplane spin. He then tossed him into Bischoff for a low blow before, under the orders of Regal, finishing off Nitro with a Peoples’ Elbow as his sensei looked on and smiled.
Chris Jericho beat Tyson Tomko (who was accompanied by the AMAZINGLY hot in personal, Trish Stratus). I wasn’t lying about Trish, you have to see this woman to believe she’s real. Before the match, she got on the mic and rattled off the sexiest heel promo I’ve ever seen. Then Jericho’s pyro came on and scared the crap out of everyone in attendance. The match was okay, with the highlights being just watching Jericho move in the ring. Seriously, it’s like poetry in motion up close. The No DQ stip wasn’t used much until the end spot where Jericho gave Tomko an enziguri sending him face-first onto a chair for the win. Creative.
Fink then sent us to an intermission with the promise that up next was Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels. Sweeeeeet.
The Trips/HBK match almost was a classic. The two knew EXACTLY what to do with the crowds messed up chants. Triple H was insanely over, but every time he rejected our support, we turned to Shawn Michaels. Then when Michaels accepted our support, we went back to Hunter. Out of nowhere, a ‘Na na na na, goodbye’ chant began for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, but Trips played it up and began to leave anyway, with the referee speeding up the count-out causing him to run back to the ring at top speed. From there, a Benoit mark at ringside proceeded to go nuts at Trips, who gave him the finger as if he was reeling in a fish. Sorry I can’t describe it better, I’m tired, but rest assured it was hilarious. From there, the back-and-forth fan support seemed to die down, with the majority of us getting behind HBK to shut up the oh-so-annoying ‘You screwed Bret’ crowd. The two ran through their usual match after the ten minutes it took to start, and it was a hell of an affair. Easily match of the night in my eyes. But, you’ve seen it already if you saw their December RAW affair and the Royal Rumble rematch, so I won’t bother with play-by-play. Shawn got the win with a superkick and afterwards gave the fans, and myself a lasting memory as he went around ringside, despite being visibly pissed at the still ongoing cat calls, and shook all those who wanted hands. I used my second of being beside Shawn to give him a “Thanks for everything man,” and he exchanged a knowing nod at me. It was great to know that perhaps I had made his experience JUST a little bit better despite the wannabe smart crowd’s efforts to deter it.
Edge defeated Ric Flair in the seventh match. This was probably the most fun match of the night as there was no way in hell we were booing Naitch. ‘Wooos’ surrounded the arena, although by now I was nearly too hoarse to contribute. Nonetheless, Flair seemed determined to get the crowd behind Edge and almost did so in his own particular manner. You know, we don’t appreciate Naitch enough. Watching him in the ring is entertainment personified and it’s incredible how so many of his ‘Flair-isms’ outside of those we all know and love go unnoticed. He truly is the uncrowned king of the little things. Example: mouthing off to Fink all night and, when going for the Figure-Four, telling the ref that Fink had responded, giving Edge a low blow while the ref was admonishing Howard. Although it was done a LOT more subtly than I described. One sequence in the match saw Edge and Flair exchange right hands and chops respectively, leading the crowd to chant ‘boo’ and ‘woo’ in an increasingly faster way as the time between each blow became more sparse. Great stuff. Edge won the match with a spear, and afterwards thanked Flair for the night, completely winning us over (although he by now realised he had no chance of getting us to boo our Ricky). Flair told Edge and Ireland to kiss his ass, only eliciting laughter and more woos as the segment closed.
By now my legs were tired and with the announcement of a triple-threat match for the Women’s Title, I saw the ideal opportunity to rest them. Victoria is another person who television does little to no justice. She has to be easily one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen in person in my life. Lita also isn’t as chunky as TV makes her out to be, well they say the camera adds on a few pounds. I still can’t get into Molly though. Cute face, body…meh. The match was ultra-short, with Victoria making me stand up and take notice almost as soon as my ass has made contact with the seat with her devastating looking Widow’s Peak. Seeing Lita in the ring, I figured it would be okay to sit down as chances are she’d break up the resulting pin. No such luck, as as soon as the Widow’s Peak hit, so did Kane’s pyro causing me to SPRINT up to ringside with all the speed my weary legs would afford me. Kane stepped in the ring and sniffed Lita up in the corner a little, but with Matt too hurt to make the save, it would be Chris Benoit who would be the knight in shining armour on this night. Benoit was also the recipient of a huge pop as he delivered a promo momentarily interrupted by yours truly shouting out after Benoit addressed Kane, “What’s that all aboot Kane, eh?” causing the Crippler to take a second break before restarting. Fun.
And so to the match. By now the crowd was tired, but still interested, resulting in a match filled with a silent buzz. We didn’t go as crazy as we had for every armdrags and face-like manoeuvre we saw, but we made sure Benoit and Kane knew we were watching. While the match itself wasn’t spectacular, it was solid and laced with psychology. In the early going, Benoit worked Kane’s knees under the premise of hitting the Sharpshooter, and after that looked like a no-go, moved onto the arm and shoulder in search of a Crossface. Kane returned the favour by wearing out Benoit’s back. I tell you what, that move where Kane stretches the back against the turnbuckle looks DAMN painful in person. In the end, Benoit and Kane managed to get an exciting ‘will he, won’t he’ spot going with Benoit looking for the Crossface and Kane going for the Chokeslam. Benoit was successful and after a while managed to make Kane tap out to round off the show. Afterwards, Benoit began the ‘You tapped out’ chant, told us he was for real and celbrated as Fink thanked us and ended proceedings.
Very enjoyable show. An experience if nothing else, that only served to get me excited for the ultimately more incidental Bad Blood pay-per view rather than give me a feeling that many of the matches would be spoiled, so fair play to WWE for that. I would make out a list of ‘Loudest Cheers’ and ‘Most Heat’, but it wouldn’t really do anyone justice, seeing as we probably gave Stephanie McMahon a louder pop than Benoit, but appreciated Benoit much more. I’ll just leave it at the fact that WWE should consider their job in Dublin here a job very well done.
Sounds like a killer show... in some ways, even better than we get to see on Monday night television!
It's always fun to interact with the wrestlers, too. One time I was at a Nitro show, in which Scott Hall won the U.S. Title. After he won, he posed on the turnbuckle directly in front of me, where I was giving him the Wolfpac hand sign. As God is my witness, he actually looked at me, saw the gesture I was making, and kinda shrugged in his inimitable way. Man, I miss seeing him on TV.
Another time I was at an independent show, and a heel tag-team came out. Playing along, I said to one of them, “You suck!” and he turned back to me and said, “You suck!”, which made me crack the hell up. I can't remember the guy's name, unfortunately.
But enough of that jibba-jabba. Glad you enjoyed your first WWE show... hell, judging by what I've read, I wish I'd been there myself.
Suckas gots to know, though... how did Tyson Tomko do in the ring? You said the match was “OK”, but seeing as how Tomko hasn't actually wrestled on WWE television yet (to my knowledge; I've had to miss two out of the last four RAWs), I'm curious as to your opinion on his ring work.
“Finally, finally, my God finally, Chris Benoit is the Heavyweight Champion of this world!” --Jim Ross, WrestleMania XX
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Oh now that I looked back on some other recaps, I forgot some stuff:
- I didn't see much of a problem with Tomko's in-ring work. He was just sort of 'there', not hindering nor helping Jericho. The match was basically Y2J doing his thing around Tomko while Trish played to the crowd on the outside. Loads of 'who are you?' chants that, in Dublin accents, sound a lot like 'oawwya!' for Tomko that really should've both confused him and raised a tear to his eye.
- I pretty much forgot about the entire ending to the Flair match when I wrote the report. The finishing sequence started when Edge went for a sunset flip and pulled Naitch's pants down. Instead of pulling them back up however, Flair continued on as if nothing had happened, going up top for his usual spot before Edge hit the spear afterwards.
- Probably the most fun I had for the night was making people around me laugh with random chants like 'Let's Go Steroids' when Batista came out (seriously, he's lumpier than Lita's throat), 'Where's the Coach?' during the Cade match and the main event, and jumping into random 'Save the Hos' chants every now and then.
- Oh and The Fink got booed out of the building at one point. He announced right before the women's match that WWE (albeit SmackDown) would be coming back to a rapturous ovation, but then quickly followed up by saying that it would be to Belfast, not Dublin, which is over the other side of the country, and the fans shit on him from there on out.
Overall a great show and a great time, but it looks as if the SmackDown show is a no-go in October seeing as getting a road trip organised in one day (tickets go on sale tomorrow morning) is damn near impossible. Still I expect them to return sometime in the very near future after last night's (and likely tonight's) success.
Back in the early 90’s, WCW was gaining steam nationally – but still maintained some of its regional roots. In an effort to ensure fresh faces coming in and out of the company, they formed a partnership with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.