Smackdown – Newcastle Metroradio Arena, 6th November 2016

Now as I write for a wrestling magazine (the UK’s largest independently published magazine go be exact) you may think I am up-to-date with all things wrestling but sadly this isn’t the case. You see there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to watch everything I would like to and because of this some things don’t make the cut. Things have to be prioritised and given the amount of WWE content produced on a weekly basis and the amount of weeks we seemed to constantly be behind, the decision was made to write off WWE’s five hours of Raw and Smackdown (even if we’d usually get through them in less than two). Unfortunately for me, like many, neither Raw or Smackdown are currently must see TV so the decision was made to remove them from our schedule and unclutter our planner.

Of course removing all WWE programming from my planner didn’t actually free up any of my time as other wrestling and non-wrestling shows (on TV and the Internet) continued to take up an obscene amount of my time so other than losing track of WWE storylines not much has changed. I still catch the odd match when I am at a friends but other than seeing stuff about Chris Jericho and some sort of list I really knew nothing about present day WWE. Nonetheless when I was offerred tickets by our generous editor, Rich, I was more than happy to tag along, after all it’s be rude not to.

I attend a lot of live wrestling shows, from family oriented in social clubs and town halls to shows aimed at adults in nightclubs I probably attend a live show on average of once a fortnight. Despite this the child in me was quite excited to attend a WWE as despite me being a huge advocate of “indie wrestling” there is no denying that the WWE is the biggest company in the world and some of the very best wrestlers ply their trade for the Connecticut based giants. Plus the Metroradio Arena serves piping hot fresh donuts and that is enough to get me to go pretty anywhere.

The day of the show started completely differently to what we had planned. Originally I had offered to make a Sunday lunch for Richie and his girlfriend but when I woke up my wife informed me that they had changed their mind and would just meet us there. Given that I had slept until around 3pm instead if 11am this was probably a good thing. I pulled myself together and decided what shirt to wear. Given that my wardrobe consists primarily of wrestling shirts and I have at least 20 different pro wrestling tees this was not an easy choice. In the end my Calling Spots shirt won out (as it often does) and I sat down with nothing to do other than wait for our Uber.

Ever noticed that most of the best wrestling shirts are black? (also, forgive my lack of ironing)

Ever noticed that most of the best wrestling shirts are black? (also, forgive my lack of ironing)

The winning shirt!

The winning shirt!

Arrived at the venue at 5pm and just had to wait to Rich who had the tickets. Waiting outside the arena was the familiar figure of WhatCulture Pro Wrestling’s General Manager Adam Pacitti who we shot the breeze (mainly mocking his ridiculous jumper) and then once Richard showed up it was time for my least favourite part of any wrestling show, the queue to get in but this one had the added bonus of a disinterested pat down by a security guard who is clearly over the moon that it is pouring down. Now, on a sidenote, I’m completely understand why the WWE are tight on security, it must be genuinely terrifying that they were alledgedly on the list of potential ISIS targets but do they really think that the woman behind us in the queue with the leopard print coat and matching bag is trying to smuggle in anything other than Maltesers? Plus surely once her bag has been searched she should be able to take her bag inside the venue rather than leave it in a portacabin with a raffle ticket somehow attached to it so she can hopefully come back and get it in what is is pretty much the world’s saddest tombolla.

Once inside the venue we split and I go for my donuts while my wife (Louisa), Richard and his girlfriend go for “real food” ie hotdogs. To my surprise the donut stall has been upgraded and instead of simple sugared donuts there are now maple syrup and Nutella options. This throws a spanner in the works so I have to text Lou to find out what she wants, I’d bet my life that she wants Nutella but would my life be worth living if I were to get it wrong. Much to my surprise she opted for sugar but it’s too late, I have been served and opted for Nutella for me and to went for a double order of sugar and Nutella for Louisa. Obviously I would be a gentleman and “help” her out with the extra ones if needs be (I’m sure my mother would be so proud). Unfortunately I now have three trays of donuts, a large Fanta slush (because I am a child) and candy floss meaning carrying all this will be rather precarious. So I slower wander back to my group and am greeted by three full grown, albeit tiny, adults shaking their heads at me, a fully grown, obese man carrying 12 donuts, candy floss and a plastic cup filled with partially frozen syrup that tastes fucking amazing. Thankfully either the delicious smell of the fried treats hits them or they take sympathy on me as they help me carry my sweet swag to our seats via a quick visit to the merchandise stall where I genuinely contemplate buying one of those light up New Day horns as although I own numerous wrestling shirts by wrestling headwear is limited to only one or two caps, none of which make quite the impression that a bright, colourful faux unicorn horn. Common sense gets the better of me and I decide I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who wears a unicorn horn everywhere I go despite how much I feel it would benefit my ability to read in the dark.

We find our seats and low-and-behold we are situated two rows ahead of Pacitti, Jack the Jobber, video editor Sam and other WCPW staffers. This could be interesting.

The show starts off with Dolph Ziggler versus The Miz who is accompanied by his wife, Maryse. The match itself is fairly by the numbers but I can’t help appreciate how fantastic Ziggler can look in the ring, I’m not sure if he even broke a sweat as he is one if the best I have ever seen live. His movement and the way he connects with the audience is a step above 90% of the performers I have watched in person.

Sadly much of the rest of the card is far beneath the standard of the opener as we are meeted with random tag teams (since when did Orton and Wyatt become best pals?) and pointless singles matches. It was an odd experience sitting amongst an audience watching a wrestler make their way to the ring and not knowing if we are supposed to cheer or boo someone until we see who they are paired with or competing against. I thought at first it was just me since I haven’t watched Smackdown in at least 18 months but I seemed to be part of the majority of people who didn’t know whether a large part of the roster is a face or a heel. Now the indie fan of me thinks that the simple solution would be to give each superstar a microphone so they can work the crowd for a minute or two and make it clear whether they should be supported or not (this was excellently demonstrated the night before at North Wrestling NCL) but someone at WWE clearly knows better as only two performers were given a microphone. One was AJ Styles before the main event and the other was… wait for it… Curt Hawkins and he was given it for about 60 seconds before he was squashed by Baron Corbin. Given that I still don’t particularly care about Hawkins or Corbin I find the choice to give the former Edgehead a microphone somewhat puzzling.

The main event of the night was, the aforementioned, AJ Styles versus Dean Ambrose. This was, as you’d expect, match of the night although it was pushed close by one that took place outside of the ring. You see people in the same side as us were treated to the a battle between a member of arena staff. For some reason children were allowed to rush to the front during entrances and at the end of a match put between the opening bell and the moment the ref counted three the staff had the arduous task of getting children to back up and return to their seat. This meant by the main event she had spent spent most of the night politely asking children to do something they didnt want to do and she appeared to be at her wits end. This would have been funny enough but at one point she was sitting with her back to the ring while Styles and Ambrose were battling on the outside if the ring. Now one of the keener eyed ones of her group pointed out that as Styles dropped to the ground he tapped her on the shoulder and appeared to said something to her. Regardless of what was or what said the staff did not heed his warning and ended up being clobbered by both Styles and Ambrose when they went over the ring apron. Despite her being clocked by a flaying foot she seemed to be completely unfazed which led to Richard and Pacitti to both exclaim “she’s no sold him” simultaneously, if you don’t believe me check Jack’s Twitter feed. She even seemed to refuse to move until a member of WWE security tapped her on the shoulder. She wasn’t displaced long as she was soon back on her chair as the pair of superstars were soon back in the ring and shortly afterwards Ambrose was looking at the lights as the referee counted to three.

Where people should have been...

Where people should have been…

Where people were hovering during the match...

Where people were hovering during the match…

Where people ended up as soon as the referee counted to three.

Where people ended up as soon as the referee counted to three.

Overall we all thoroughly enjoyed our night at WWE despite not understanding a lot of what was going on or why it was happening. Our enjoyment has even meant that both Raw and Smackdown have now been added back to our planner (in the Rogers’ Household anyway) so we can now keep up with the storylines and are now parts of the WWE Universe, as much as saying that makes me sicker than when I ate six of those donuts in a ridiculously short time. Unfortunately having watched the houseshow I have had an sense of deja vue when I have watched some of the episodes that have been broadcast since. For instance the beginning of the tag team gauntlet match (specifically The Hype Bros versus The Ascension) on 22nd November was almost exactly the same as the show we attended except there was no Adam Pacitti cheers on Mojo Rawley for literally no reason.

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Given the price of tickets I can’t say for certain that I will be returning next time the WWE return to Newcastle but it’s definitely something I will consider.

By Neil Rogers

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