Hey there tatfans and other careful travellers! I must admit I am in a pretty darned good mood right now, if not a little tired. For me, the Manchester visit to see Smackdown! was a complete success. I got to see Undertaker do his entrance AND beat Heidenreich to within an inch of his life, I got to see my man Mark Jindrak, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero in action, I waved at Shane McMahon and he waved right back, I witnessed a very funny JBL promo and the knocking out of Hardcore Holly, and best of all, I met a couple of tatfans!
My seat was a pretty hot seat if I do say so myself. I was only five rows back from the ring, and the back of my head will be on camera. During Smackdown!’s televised showing, keep a watchful eye out for the silhouette of a hand at the bottom of the ring making funny little shapes – that was me, Boyo, and my contribution towards wrestling. Who wants to touch me?
Velocity kicked off to a great reception; Scotty 2 Hotty came out to a great reception as he challenged Spike Dudley for his Cruiserweight Belt. The match was a great laugh and both Scotty and Spike both made a big effort to keep us entertained. Scotty also did his much maligned Worm; now I know he gets slated week-in, week-out for for this ridiculous piece of showmanship, but believe me, the Worm is strangely excellent when you see it live. I well enjoyed it as Spike got nailed with a post-jigga hit. Spike won with a cradle with the ropes, too. A great start.
Orlando Jordan vs Funaki was next and this one wasn’t so good. Jordan got a “booed by association” boo, and Funaki got a big pop but after that the crowd sorta went dead, only a few pops here and there. It was a pretty decent match, it has to be said, but probably suffered from a case of Whocaresitis.
The Velocity Main Even was Bubba Ray vs Rico in what turned out to be a really fantastic match. It made me appreciate just how talented a worker Bubba is, and Rico for that matter. One of the highlights of the night came when Bubba shouted “can it, wench!” at a screaming lady fan. Rico got a lot of support, too – I was surprised by how popular he was, but clearly both Rico and Bubba enjoyed themselves in that ring, even when Rico’s hands started wandering…
Finally, Torrie Wilson came out in gold hotpants and not a lot else. She received a massive pop, too. She explained that WWE had visited all over Europe putting on shows but felt the wrath of the crowd when she revealed they had visited Germany. Only the mention of that country had the crowd erupt into booing and the poor girl, to her credit, ad-libbed marvellously to finish her segment.
Smackdown kicked off with Teddy Long explaining to the locker-room that John Cena has been involved in a bar room brawl, and that is why he is not here tonight. The UK crowd didn’t like that one bit. However he redeemed himself by explaining that we will be having a Battle Royal to determine the new number one contender for Cool Cool Cool’s US Title.
The first Smackdown! match was Rob Van Dam vs Rene Dupree. A strange match. Personally I thought Dupree would get massive crowd heat as he carried the French flag (we Brits hate everyone, don’t we?), but he didn’t. His tag team buddy, Kenzo Suzuki, got ejected from ringside for a complete bludgeoning of “Living in America” and after nearly collapsing Dupree’s neck with a back body drop, RVD picked up a popular win.
Backstage, Teddy Long told Paul Heyman that he and Heidereich will have to apologise for their recent actions (making young little fans cry and all that).
Next up was Billy Kidman against Charlie Haas, minus Miss Jackie. Kidman got a tremendous amount of heat from the crowd, much more than I thought he would, and then went on to pick up the win after another one of his Shooting Star Presses injured his opponent. This time, he landed on Haas’ already injured knee and it was up to Dawn-Marie to rescue Haas at ringside and offer him a shoulder to lean on and a boob to fondle.
John Bradshaw Layfield’s really funny promo was up next. I don’t remember a great deal except the immortal line: “now I’m no Proctologist, but if I had to give England an enema, I’d know where to stick the tube!”. That was good enough for me! Kudos, Mr Layfield.
The Battle Royal was up next and it was a hoot. Listen closely to the fans when you watch it on TV; if during the Battle Royal you hear a group of about 8 goons chanting “let’s go Rico!” over and over, then I am party to that group. My voice isn’t angelic but my support is true. It ended up with Rey Mysterio vs Kurt Angle in what was a very, very good duel to see who won. In the end, Mysterio did a fabulous reverse 619 to Angle who bounced off the ropes. Straight after that, Cool Cool Cool challenged Mysterio to his match that very night, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
In the first of a few truly great moments, I witnessed JBL smash Hardcore Holly over the head with a chair for the win. We all knew JBL would win, we just wanted to see Holly get knocked out. Hardcore has a reputation for being quite unsafe at times, and when he clunked Orlando Jordan with the hard bit of the dustbin we all winced. Luckily OJ was alright!
Next up, Heidenrich walks out to the most deafening booing of the night and reads out some poem about his anger and beating up the Undertaker. I couldn’t really hear it as the booing for this man was so loud. Then Heidenreich had some kind of seizure in the ring before the lights went out and the whole place just erupted! Undertaker made his way down to the ring and the deafening roar that greeted him was constant and just fantastic. Undertaker may have his critics but none of them showed up that night. It was the loudest, most ear-bashing noise that night. Better yet, Undertaker Tombstoned Heidenreich which meant everyone except Heidenreich went home very happy.
After the furore of The Undertaker, we had the strangely quiet Rey Mysterio vs Cool Cool Cool and Eddie Guerrero vs Luther Reigns. Both matches were pretty decent. The British fans wanted to see what Cool Cool Cool was like in the flesh, and we all wanted to see Eddie. Eddie got a huge reception from the crowd and one decent “Eddie” chant, other than that his match just didn’t quite do it for the crowd who struggled to get utterly motivated as they did for Undertaker and Angle. We didn’t really boo Cool Cool Cool though, as we thought he was pretty…well…cool. He hardly got a proper boo all night except for when he retained his US Title. Other than that, we genuinely liked the guy.
Some notes from the event though; firstly I think the UK fans at Smackdown! did us proud. We were constantly loud and cheering pretty much everything. Not even the heels got that much of a boo, all except Kidman and Heidenreich who were probably booed at the airport too. But it was pretty strange to witness that Rey Mysterio and Eddie didn’t get that great a reception. This is because , I think, that the UK fans treated the WWE shows very much like a pantomime. A travelling circus. Where it sometimes seems like the American fans will cheer their hometown heroes and the guys who truly represent them, as in Eddie Guerrero, the UK fans seemed to plump for the guys who dressed up and were over-elaborate. That is why guys like Scotty, Rico, Undertaker and Bubba Ray got such positive reactions over the likes of Guerrero and Mysterio, who don’t really ham it up or represent anything familiar to us Brits.
Shane McMahon was there. He sat about 20 feet behind me and when I turned around, spotted him and waved to him, he waved right back. Awwwwww.
Lastly, a special mention goes out to Steve and Jags from Leicester who I sat next to at the show. They already read W101 and are now tatfans with any luck.
Thanks for reading, and one more thing: it’s true, there’s nothing much better that WWE when it’s live. There’s nothing worse than Manchester trains at gone midnight…