The Beast In The East: Jealousy and Other Stuff
Fresh off of WWE’s Beast In The East live event from Tokyo, I have a whole host of feelings swirling around in my wrestling infatuated mind. Comparable to a pubescent teenager, I’m struggling to deal with them all. From the goose-pimpled glee of Finn Balor’s streamer laden entrance to my outright green-eyed jealousy of the Land of the Rising Sun for being chosen to host such a unique event, the only way to confront these emotions is to write them down for you to read. Like an emo poet.
It’s no new discovery that the WWE Network is a phenomenal tool for those of us who need a constant fix of grappled entertainment. Wrestling is a legalised and far less damaging crack to us, and the Network is a happy dealer willing to oblige our addiction for a ludicrously low price. Not only do we have access to almost every single match ever put on camera in the history of the company, we can also tune in to all current PPVs, exclusive content, original series, and as with The Beast In The East, even one-off live events from the other side of the globe. It’s essentially Netflix, but more niche and a billion times better. The Network has opened up limitless opportunity for the WWE juggernaut, with the potential to produce more of these glorified house shows from around the world. My envy of Japan would be curtailed with a televised trip to my capital of London, and how amazing would it be to have other shows lined up in India, or mainland Europe, or South Africa? That’s a rhetorical question. It would be amazing.
The Beast In The East was a fascinating spectacle for a variety of reasons. It was effectively like watching a PPV without being tied down by storyline. When the prospect arrives for a hardcore fan to attend an upcoming tour, house shows are often more appealing than a Raw or Smackdown for this very reason. The match ups are more diverse, the crowd connection is more intimate, and the duration of the wrestling itself is often longer. By and large, the Sumo Hall extravaganza held true to these components, as well as positively showcasing the huge cultural differences of the Japanese. The crowd were quieter and more respectful of the in ring action, with very few individual heckles, and it was wonderful to see streamers fill the ring for returning favourite Finn Balor. This tradition is one that eludes WWE, as crepe paper projectiles would likely be viewed by American security as some sort of terrorist threat. The added reverence of flower giving before a championship bout continued the adherence to cultural distinctions, and Owens launching said flowers from the ring made me spit out my morning coffee in frenzied delight. Though slightly odd there was no presentation for the Diva’s Title, presumably out of spiteful revenge for the inclusion of Tamina in the match, seeing these genuine customs is humbling and honest, especially when compared to the contrived and quite ridiculous telephone boxes and black cabs on the stage for the British tapings. There’s a fine line between cultural acclivity and racial insensitivity – a line which WWE has a tendency to feed merrily through a cross cut shredder. The matches themselves were solid. Owens put on yet another classic encounter, this time with Finn Balor, and if KO doesn’t win some sort of award for his performances this year then whoever decides these things needs to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Lesnar demolishing New Day was short and sweet, and seeing Jericho take on Neville was an entrée worthy of a main course. It showcased a rising star against a future Hall Of Famer. No heels. No scripted storyline. Just two great wrestlers putting on a show.
It was a shame that the dark matches didn’t air. If Cesaro v Diego popped up on Raw, that’d be one short fight. In Japan however, it went for 25 minutes. That bears repeating. Twenty. Five. Minutes. Has anyone seen Diego in a 25 minute match before? I bet it was great, and I’m sure the Lucha Dragons v New Day contest, which also ran over 20 minutes, was just as fun.
I can understand the attraction of setting this event up in Japan. Granted, having it air on the Network seems to have come about by Brock Lesnar’s purported request to be on the tour to visit ailing legend Masa Saito, but WWE seized the opportunity to make it special by highlighting a superb Balor / Owens programme to which their remarkable production team added a sense of grandeur and homecoming. Despite this, I’m jealous. Fans in the UK have been clamouring for a special event on this side of the pond for years. Although we do get Raws and Smackdowns and there have been a couple of smaller PPVs, London’s Summerslam 92 still stands as the only major PPV to be held outside of North America, and it has been hailed as the greatest Summerslam ever. It holds the third highest attendance of any WWE event, contained a match of the year and Brett Hart’s favourite ever fight, and all of this, let’s face it, because it was held in Queen Elizabeth II’s mighty realm of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There’s a small chance that’s taking it a smidgen too far, but my point is that our little nation can sustain one of WWE’s biggest PPV’s, let alone singular events in the mould of The Beast In The East. And I’m sure the UK isn’t the only one.
The WWE is truly a global brand. No wrestling company has ever reached as far, and no other ever will. As Michael Cole likes to repeat, the Network reaches over 140 countries and there are multiple tours throughout the year to a solid portion of those. With the even greater expansion that the Network seemingly affords, generating more unique content from more diverse locations on our fair Earth would be a marvellous addition to the mighty behemoth, and would no doubt spawn attention from American and foreign fans alike. Not just existing wrestling enthusiasts, but those with the potential to become them. Which is surely the whole point.
I’m not asking for a Wrestlemania. (Although that would be nice.) I’m not even necessarily asking for a Summerslam or Survivor Series. (Although actually I am.) But I think it would be of great benefit to the WWE Universe and the WWE itself to produce more of these Beast In The East-esque shows from outside of the company’s homeland.
Tags: Beast in the East, Break The Walls Down