Tink Holloway's Wrestling Digest

THWD: UK – The WWE's nice little earner

Ever since I was very young and watched my first WWE (F as it was at the time) pay-per-view, Royal Rumble 1994, I had always wanted to see it live. The way Vince McMahon would assure everybody that the arena had gone cold when The Undertaker came out and the fan reaction to Bret Hart’s entrance into the Royal Rumble were unforgettable, I couldn’t possibly imagine what it would be like to be at such a show. As I grew up I grew ever more cynical but that initial desire to see the WWE in the flesh always stuck with me.
This week I managed to crawl from underneath my rock and attend a live WWE card for the first time. On Monday, myself and a group of friends travelled across the bridge to Cardiff with our comp tickets to see Smackdown at the CIA. Now admittedly the ticket was free so I had no real reason to complain about prices but I still couldn’t help wonder how much the tickets cost the other people. Those ‘other people’ comprised pretty much of kids that could have been no older than 12 and their not exactly keen parents. We took a look around and the buzz of excitement was with me, okay so this was Smackdown, and merely a house show on which nothing of any real substance was actually going to happen, but it was my first show and I was eager to see what the feel of the WWE was like in the flesh. As I got to the merchandise stand I realised where the company makes the vast majority of it’s money, t-shirts were priced at a whopping £25.00 ($50), I had been eager to get myself an MVP or Hardy Boyz tee but the prices were so extortionate that I couldn’t justify the expense. I decided instead to purchase one of those lovely slick looking programmes, after all they couldn’t be too much money. I asked the lady what it would set me back and was aghast.
‘Hoooowww Muuuuuuccchhh!?!?!?’ I asked, betraying my cool exterior immediately.
’15 quid’ ($30) she repeated without a hint of irony in her voice..
I walked away empty handed, there was no way your dear scribe was parting with that much of his hard earned cash on a glorified magazine. I returned to my seat with my enthusiasm slightly dented, then comforted myself in the knowledge that the very seat I was sitting on I hadn’t actually paid for. I wondered how the WWE managed to keep luring people back to it’s shows when it milked so much money from those it professed to be all about- the fans. Then realised that the prices couldn’t possibly be the same in the good ol’ US of A. It made sense that the prices on these shores were much higher as the demand was much higher, the WWE only makes it here twice a year and puts on only a few shows each time. On top of this, if the WWE only made what it made for any normal American house show it would never bother to come over here to it’s stiff upper lipped cash-cow.
And then it begun.
The moment I had been waiting for arrived as out stepped Justin Roberts to commence proceedings on this my first ever card. He introduced Teddy Long who announced the card we had before us. Though I have to admit to not really caring what the main event might be, I was a trifle disappointed when I finally found out. Mark Henry, The Great Khali and Edge (poor guy) would take on The Big Show, Batista and The Undertaker. I suppose beggars can’t be choosers but would it have killed them to give us a rematch between Edge and Undertaker from Wrestlemania? My disappointment again abated when out popped Shelton Benjamin for the opener against Kane for the ECW Championship. Benjamin has to be about the most wasted talent on the whole WWE roster and it was refreshing to see him get a good 10-minute match against the ‘Big Red Machine’ when a Wrestlemania style Chavo-Squashing seemed on the cards.
Next up Kenny Dykstra proceeded to put forth an uninterested performance against Kofi Kingston who has some potential himself. I found myself transfixed by the way all the kids run up to the ring and the end of matches in an effort to get themselves touched by the superstars, and get themselves on TV (hey, kids learn early these days that celebrities are better than us). It was also good to see John Morrison and The Miz against Jimmy Wang Yang and Shannon Moore. In my view this was match of the night as all 4 men played well to the crowd and gave the fans a good account of themselves even if Morrison and Miz’s victory didn’t go down well with the kids.
After some pointless T & A, (which I can only assume is put in there for the Dad’s as it doesn’t seem to be appropriate for the kids who they mainly target these days) it was time for Tommy Dreamer. Two of my friends saw the writing on the wall here and took this opportunity to get some drinks, I meanwhile was left there doing my utmost to get an ‘ECW’ chant going for old Tommy. Unfortunately it wasn’t happening and I gave up after a minute of lone chanting. Tommy’s match with Mike Knox was a humdrum affair, devoid of interest from anyone except me and my attempts to acknowledge the defunct Philadelphia wrestling group.
This was followed by the emergence of the most over guy on the card so far- along with his story line father- I am of course referring to Hornswoggle and Finlay. The kids went mad for these two as alongside Jamie Noble they went up against Zach Ryder and Curt Hawkins. If I’m honest, though this was a slapstick comedy match with water pistols and all, I was thoroughly entertained by the contest which of course was accompanied by absolute joy throughout by the young audience. As I watched Finlay and his little friend perform their high jinks I realised I’d seen this all before- indeed they are the Doink and Dink of the 2000’s. Thankfully the interval came next as I was desperate for the toilet. When I came back (the queue was ridiculous) I was just in time for the re-emergence of Justin Roberts who quickly introduced the next match; Matt Hardy Vs MVP.
This is where me and my little throng turned up the volume and became the atmosphere in the Cardiff International Arena. Though our hearty chants of ‘MVP, MVP, MVP’ didn’t go down well with the locals, seeing as they were all about 2 feet smaller than us we figured we could take them. Having said that we found it hard to be biased as we also wanted to show our appreciation to Matt but he already had enough fans. We broke off another one of our rallies for Montel when a kid of no older than 7 behind us started going mental ‘MVP Sucks!!’ he screamed as that 2 foot advantage began to feel inconsequential, I’m sure through sheer rage at us chanting for such a mischief maker as MVP, he could have beaten the crap out of us there and then.
We were relieved when CM Punk was out for the next match which allowed us to get a little more community spirited as we chanted along, rather than against, the surrounding audience. It was a tidy enough match and lasted a decent length to be satisfying enough, leading us right up to our main event.
Out they came, one by one, first Mark ‘I fathered Mae Young’s baby that turned out to be a hand’ Henry. Then it was The Great Khali (who we tried and failed to start up a ‘you can’t wrestle chant’ about). After him was Edge, again came the dodgy looks from around us as I proclaimed myself an ‘Edgehead’. Next up was the ‘goodies’ firstly The Big Show came out and all of a sudden my good taste gland must have abandoned me as I found myself chanting in adulation. The same happened with Batista and I had to check with myself that I was feeling okay. The Big Show was one thing but Batista as well, it just didn’t make any sense.
I hate to say it but the cliche is absolutely spot on. Seeing the Undertaker’s entrance live is a whole new experience, you just can’t explain how it feels when the lights go out and the first bell tolls. It is awesome all the same and of course everyone reserved their best appreciation for the dead man. I won’t talk about the main event, it was never going to be a scientific classic by any stretch of the imagination, I dare say if this had been the main event of an episode of Smackdown I’d have switched the channel over quicker than you can say ‘bring back WCW Thunder’. Needless to say the faces got the win after a tombstone by the Undertaker on Edge. A few minutes of celebration and posing by Undertaker and the show was over and I was left to collect my thoughts on a ‘dear diary’ moment in my life.
I have to say that it was very enjoyable, and I would recommend seeing a live show to anyone. Admittedly, this card would have been incredibly dull had I watched it on television but as I was there in the flesh it seemed a decent show. Maybe however, I’d have felt differently had I had to pay for it. I was too nervous about upsetting the locals to ask them how much they’d paid for their tickets (and thus exposing my ‘comp’ status) but I’m sure it couldn’t have been less than £35. Add in a programme and a few drinks and for a family of four we’re talking about £160 at least for a night out, and that’s before expenses are taken into account. Add to that the subscription we pay per month to Sky Sports in order to be able to watch Raw and Smackdown each week (about £7 per month) and the price of the monthly pay-per-views (about £15 a time), that’s another £264 a year! I guess that if people are willing to pay these sums then that’s what the WWE will charge, but no wonder the men and women of World Wrestling Entertainment so happily return to Blightly year after year, we certainly make it worth their while.