The SmarK Rant for WWE Saskatoon House Show (10.13.17)
Amazingly, after only 6 months or so away from the city (the last show was in February, a so-so Smackdown branded one), WWE returned tonight with a RAW brand show that was much heavier on star power.
The arena was set up for a smaller crowd, with the top of the bowl tarped off, but the entire lower bowl and floor appeared to be sold out, so the crowd would have been about 5000, a successful showing.
One thing I really noticed was the amount of hardcore wrestling nerd street cred at the arena, with lots of Bullet Club, Elite and Young Bucks shirts scattered around. Some guy even had a Kenny Omega hoodie, so good on him. Some guy and his girlfriend went the extra mile and dressed up as the Young Bucks, which probably went over a lot of heads.
Highlight of the night: A gourmet grilled cheese vendor, where I had a jalapeno popper themed sandwich.
The merch lines were crazy long again, although there wasn’t really anything there that caught my eye, especially for $35 each. Lord knows there was nothing cooler available than the Macho Man ’85 shirt that I was already wearing.
To the show!
As usual, they started at EXACTLY 7:30 and ended at 10:00, which was nice because there was tons of kids in the audience and I had a very tired 7 year old by the end myself. JoJo did all the ring announcing and it was mostly Black Referee working the matches.
1. Kalisto pinned Enzo Amore to retain the Cruiserweight title.
Good opener, with Enzo drawing massive heat. He was cheered coming out and then did a whole bit running down the entire nation of Canada and easily got over as a heel. Rosalie was a big fan of Kalisto, mostly because she could do the “Lucha, lucha” thing and fit in with everyone else. Kalisto did the big suicide dive and worked from underneath while Enzo did his chinlocks and stuff, and there was lots of acrobatics for the younger set. Enzo blocked a tornado DDT by holding the ropes, but Kalisto finished him with Salidas del Sol to retain in about 10:00. **1/2
2. Goldust & Darren Young beat Curtis Axel & Curt Hawkins
This was a bizarre assortment of random jobbers, although Axel noted that regular partner Bo Dallas wasn’t there and so he picked Hawkins instead because “he was due for a win”. Goldust was HUGELY over as a babyface, which is weird because I thought he turned heel a couple of weeks back? I literally didn’t even know Young was still working shows, although no one cared about him in particular. Dull match, just a standard cookie-cutter tag team match with the heels cheating and Goldust knowing exactly how to time his comebacks because he’s still great even at his age. Axel got tossed out and Goldust finished super-geek Hawkins with his suplex/neckbreaker thing to a big reaction. Goldust really seemed to be appreciative of the love, too. *1/4
Elias sang us a song
They did a neat thing where the arena went dark for a bit and then the goddamned Drifter snuck into the ring with his stupid guitar, and sang a pretty decent rendition of “Wonderwall” all things considered, although he changed one of the lines to “I hate you all and want to punch you in the face”, which actually got him over as a babyface a bit because it was such a funny line.
3. Elias pinned R-Truth
No, really, Ron Killings is still employed, go figure. Truth did some impressive dancing and dabbing to psych out Elias, but this was mostly stalling and Truth doing the splits. It was OK and mostly inoffensive, and Elias cut off his comeback and won with the neckbreaker. The song was great, the match not so much. *
4. Ambrose & Rollins beat Cesaro & Sheamus and Rhyno & Slater to keep the RAW tag titles
This was advertised on TV as the Shield defending against the Bar, but they added the third team here and they easily had the second-best match of the night. Cesaro & Sheamus got an amazing star reaction for their entrance and Jodi was excited because she likes Sheamus. Plus we had just been talking about how he has a Pickle Rick patch on his jacket, and that’s pretty cool. Everyone was over as babyfaces here, although Cesaro & Sheamus quickly went heel so that everyone could have a good time with “He’s got kids” and “EC-Dub” chants while Rollins & Ambrose mostly waited on the apron and had a good time watching. The Bar pulled out some sweet double-teams while I tried to explain to Jodi about why there’s three people in the ring when there’s only supposed to be two people in the ring at one time. They’re cheating, you see. Great finish, with Slater building up to a dramatic hot tag to Rhyno before Ambrose tagged himself in and they did the big reversal sequences. The champs hit Cesaro with the rainmaker knee into Dirty Deeds and got the pin in about 15:00. All action start to finish. ***1/2
Next up, we got the “intercom” as Rosalie put it, so that everyone could go buy another $450 belt replica. Mini-donuts were requested, and who am I to say no?
5. Dana Brooke & Sasha Banks beat Alicia Fox & Alexa Bliss with special referee Emma’s tiny shorts
Wait, when did Dana Brooke turn babyface? I told Jodi about Sasha’s relation to Snoop Dogg, so her suggestion was that she change her name to “Snoopy Banks” to cash in on it. This was a complete nothing of a match because I don’t think people really knew who they were supposed to be cheering for, and it was pretty sloppy, although Banks did a couple of nice moves like the headscissors. Bliss is excellent at doing the mean girl act. Emma did some mild teasing of being a biased referee, but still called for the bell when Banks put Fox in the Bank Statement for the submission. Just the usual match you see on TV. *1/2
6. The Miz beat Jason Jordan to retain the IC title
Miz was just CRAZY over here, like the entire arena booing him out of the building, and he proceeded to milk it for everything it was worth, stalling forever and even doing the whole Rick Rude routine where he waited for “all you fat lazy Saskatoon sweathogs to keep the noise down” and just drew a bigger and bigger reaction as he went along. Unfortunately, Jordan got a completely flat reaction as this push is just not working at all, even with an easy audience like this one. If they had stuck Goldust or Matt Hardy in this spot instead, the match would have had amazing heat, but as it is Jordan couldn’t hang on Miz’s level of overness. Mostly a good match, with Jordan doing some good comebacks with his suplexes (like the rolling northern lights, which is pretty great) to not a lot of reaction. A bunch of his near-falls were rollups, with the biggest coming from escaping the Miz Kicks, but of course he went after Curtis Axel and got pinned with the Skull Crushing Finale like a geek. Match was fine. **1/4
7. Roman Reigns beat Braun Strowman in a Last Man Standing match
This was GREAT. Roman did in fact get a huge heel reaction, but he got himself over by the end with hard work. Started slow with stalling, but they started trading power moves and the crowd really loved counting along with the referee for every fall attempt. They fought out of the ring and it got awesome, with Reigns pulling out a table (and Braun shoving it back under the ring for huge heel heat) and then the guys bumping on the floor and into the stairs for a few near-falls. The table got involved in the ring for some great drama, with Roman putting Braun through it with a samoan drop for an 8 count, then Braun starting beating on Roman with the stairs for some close calls, before Roman set up a table in the corner, hit Braun with the stairs after two superman punches, and then finished him off with a spear through the table. The crowd was doing the “This is awesome” chant by the end and both guys milked the drama for everything it was worth and still had a totally safe and fun match out of it. Braun Strowman is so much better than he was even a year ago and now he totally gets it, although why they keep fighting the babyface turn is beyond me. ***1/2
Overall, this was a much more entertaining show than the Smackdown one in February, especially with stuff like the Drifter singing his song and Miz’s extended tirade against the city. And hell, $30 for second row off the floor? What a great deal. Lots of fun, very family friendly, and they know exactly how to structure and time out the shows now.
Tags: Braun Strowman, house show, Roman Reigns, SmarK Rants