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World Wrestling Entertainment returns to the UK for their annual European tour. I was going to go to the TV tapings but with me going to WrestleMania next year I had to cut corners. It doesn’t keep me awake at night not being there, I actually prefer live events because matches last longer, promos are kept to a minimum and there’s more interaction with the fans.
My original plan was to meet them all at the hotel for photos and autographs but I had something to do in the morning so my time at the hotel was brief. The only people I got to meet were Cody Rhodes and Konnor (from the Ascension). Others appeared (Del Rio, Barrett and Ryback, just to name a few) but only stopped for a few people. I’ve met Cody Rhodes countless times and he has yet to deliver a negative experience. He’s so cool with the fans. I asked him if he’s looking to get revenge on Stephen Amell to which he replied “I’d love to but he’s too scared to face me again”. Konnor was a real gentleman. Took his time with everyone and really engaged in conversation with us all. I asked him about his time on NXT which he said that he looks back on with fond memories. He also joked that NXT is a safer place now that the Ascension aren’t there anymore. Kayfabe is strong with these guys.
The rain was starting to come down heavily so it was unlikely that anyone else will stop. Although we didn’t get any more photos/autographs, we saw Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman and, surprisingly, Jamie Noble!
I would say that the arena was around 85-90% full with the crowd being mainly made up of families. I also noticed that the number of kids wearing John Cena shirts was staggering. This isn’t uncommon but with Roman Reigns being touted as the next face of the WWE I thought he’d get an increase in the merchandise stakes, in fact, I don’t think I saw one kid wearing a Reigns shirt. That just proves that WWE will have a tough time replacing John Cena.
Before the show began there was a twitter vote where the crowd can choose between three Survivor Series matches involving Undertaker to be played on the titan tron. The choices were Undertaker v Yokozuna (1994), Undertaker v Mankind (1996) and Undertaker v Batista (2007). The Mankind match received 59% of the votes and declared the winner.
Neville def. Stardust via pinfall
The crowd went mental for the hometown boy when he made his entrance. It was difficult to hear his entrance music, that’s how loud the pop was for him. This was the perfect opener with both guys getting the chance to control at times. Stardust was provoking Neville’s mam who was sitting at ringside by doing some crazy dancing in front of her and talking the usual trash talk. My friend mentioned that Cody is a completely different person when he puts the makeup on and I completely agree. He nails the gimmick and it’s not going to end anytime soon, no matter how much people campaign for the gimmick to be scrapped. Neville was able to get back into the match and even his mam got the chance to give Stardust a slap! If you think the Red Arrow is impressive on the telly, seeing it live is a different animal altogether! It truly is a thing of beauty. Neville hugged his mother and high fived a few fans after the match.
Rating: *** ½
Fandango & Damien Sandow def. Adam Rose & Heath Slater via pinfall
It’s a crying shame that Damien Sandow can’t even get on television because he’s so entertaining. I would put him in a tag team because he knows how to rally up a crowd and his antics on the ring apron were hilarious. Never been a fan of Adam Rose but I do like his new “Party Pooper” gimmick, I just hope that he gets given a chance to make it work because it could be a great heat magnet. Slater was doing his usual routine with the mock air guitar playing and Rose sternly told him to knock it off. What a party pooper (see what I did there, kids?)! Honestly, this wasn’t a good match. If it wasn’t for Sandow’s involvement I would of lost interest in this. The booking was weird because it looked as if they were setting up Sandow to get the hot tag and clear house, but that didn’t happen. Fandango got a roll up pin on Slater which drew a mild reaction from the crowd. Sandow went from winning the MITB briefcase to wiggling his arse in tune to Fandango’s entrance theme.
The ring announcer, Eden, announced that The Authority have changed the main event (Reigns vs Wyatt) to a No Holds Barred match. This was confusing because it came across as if the audience should be thankful to the The Authority. Aren’t they supposed to be the bad guys? This is an example where continuity in WWE gets quickly forgotten about and thus making the story harder to follow because it’s full of holes.
WWE United States Championship: Alberto Del Rio © def. King Barrett & Jack Swagger
Barrett threatened to knock us all out after he was on the receiving end of the “Rooney” chants during his entrance. He also made a joke that Newcastle must have been chanting Rooney because they are all closet Manchester United fans. It was odd seeing Barrett in the heel role because he always works as a face whenever he appears on the UK tours, it was equally odd making Jack Swagger the face here. He hasn’t been on TV for some time and that was evident during his lukewarm entrance. Del Rio (minus Zeb) and Barrett double teamed Swagger but it didn’t last long as the heels began fighting between themselves. Swagger made his comeback and got a decent reception when he applied the ankle lock to Del Rio, but it wasn’t as loud as the reactions he got when he faced Rusev last summer. Some parts felt dragged out and most of the crowd lost interest towards the end which saw Del Rio lock in the armbar on King Barrett.
Now, it was time for the WWE to plug the Connor’s Cure charity. I actually saw people tear up when the video was playing. Mind you, I got a lump in my throat during it. As fans, we always give WWE shit all the time, but they deserve credit for things like this. They truly do care about their fans.
How do we follow up a video about kids with cancer? You bring out the Wyatt Family of course!
The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman) def. The Usos & Ryback via submission
A quality tag match which had the perfect combination of high risk spots and a solid story too. Ryback spent over a minute on a standing suplex on Harper and then Rowan, but was unable to do it to Strowman as he’s just too large. Strowman was later able to do a standing suplex of his own on Ryback, but it looked very shaky and lost his balance as a result. The Wyatts need more character development other than being presented as Bray’s henchmen because they weren’t able to get loud boos. Luke Harper was spending most of the match standing around flexing his muscles which just seemed odd and out of place for a guy like him. Strowman got the win by making one of the Usos pass out with his bearhug. Afterwards, The Wyatts continued the attack on both Usos, but Ryback made the save and took Harper out with the Shellshock. The Usos and Ryback partook in a Uso/feed me more chant with the audience. I liked the booking and they did a good attempt of making Strowman look like an unstoppable monster.
Rating: *** ½
An intermission followed the match. I spent most of it standing next to the ring and catching up with a few guys I met up at the Hotel where the WWE crew were staying.
Becky Lynch & Bayley def. Team B.A.D (Sasha Banks & Naomi) /w/ Tamina via pinfall
Before the match , Team B.A.D did a promo which was awful and cringe worthy. Sasha is capable of doing decent promos, her time in NXT proves that, but Naomi just isn’t convincing. Becky got a good reaction from the crowd. She talked a bit, then introduced her tag team partner, Bayley. It wasn’t a loud reaction, but it was loud enough. I just don’t think most of the youngsters knew who Bayley was. There was a girl who looked about 12 that got very excited when her music played. The sky’s the limit for Bayley, WWE are onto a real winner here with her and she could very well be the centrepiece of the divas division in years to come. The match wasn’t too long enough to showcase the good things about Lynch, Bayley or Banks. Sasha’s mocking of Bayley was fantastic, she really rallied up sections of the crowd with her antics. Lynch & Bayley got the win after botched interference from Tamina who accidently super kicked Naomi. Remember at Takeover: Brooklyn when Bayley hit Sasha with the Bayley to Belly and the crowd went apeshit? Well, she did that here and you could hear crickets. That’s a shame, still a good match though.
The Lucha Dragons def. The Ascension and Los Matadores via pinfall
With the Lucha Dragons being the only babyface team in this match it was the perfect setting for them to showcase their aerial ability. All their spots got a tremendous response from the crowd. I mentioned that WWE is on to a winner with Bayley, they’re also onto a winner with Kalistro too. He reminds me so much of a young Rey Mysterio. I just hope that Vince has the same level of believe in him that I do. The match saw each team get a fair share of offence but there wasn’t many falls though. When it looked as if it was going Los Matadores’s way, El Torito came out, which was a surprise to everyone. He took out his former teammates which eventually lead to their elimination from the match, and then, in quick succession, The Dragons were able to eliminate the Ascension with a great high flying combination and won the match.
Rating: *** ½
No Holds Barred Match: Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt via pinfall
Excellent main event. A real back and forth contest with a lot of weapon usage plus two table spots too! I’ve never been shy about sharing my thoughts on Reigns but I’ll give him credit, he worked hard and had the full support of the crowd. There was a spot where Reigns wacked a kendo stick directly off Bray’s head which was concerning. Bray was in control of the match which was a smart move because of Reign’s limitations. I love the amount of false finished throughout the match. Reigns knocked Wyatt down with a Superman punch where Wyatt kicked out by the narrowest of margins which drew a huge groan. Roman Reigns won with a spear and the place erupted. After the match, Reigns posed in the turnbuckles and high fived the fans around ringside.
Best match: Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
Worst match: Fandango/ Damien Sandow vs. Adam Rose & Heath Slater
Highlight of the night: The two table spots in the main event. Tables always draw loud responses!
Top 5 stars
5. Damien Sandow
Overall show rating (out of 10): 6
With the amount of tag matches here you would think that Teddy Long was booking the show. It helps to have a bit of variety on the card, I would have scrapped the divas tag match and have Bayley defending her NXT Women’s championship against Sasha. Perhaps do it on the NXT UK tour? Despite the lack of starpower, I enjoyed myself.