As many of my fellow Cagesiders know (since I gleefully mentioned it in almost every post for a month), I was privileged to attend the 1000th episode of WWE Monday Night Raw.
Having never attended a wrestling show of any kind, I was, naturally, excited. This being the 1000th show with many surprises promised, superstars announced, and storylines revisited, I was at a fever pitch by the time the weekend before the show arrived.
My wife and I loaded up on Monday morning and made the trek from central Arkansas to St. Louis in a day, arriving at our hotel at about 5 p.m. With no time to stop and eat, we immediately changed into our Raw attire. She, being a silly girl, was a John Cena fan. But I, being a man's man, refused to allow the purchase of his nasty green shirt. So I forced her to wear my CM Punk shirt.
I donned my custom Daniel Bryan tee:
Yes, I walked out of the hotel with the belt around my waist. I kept expecting to meet that pimp from Superman (1978) exclaiming "Say man, that's a bad outFIT!" I did get a subtle nod from the man at the front desk. He knew.
As loyal readers may know, I prepared a special sign to proudly display on the television:
Unfortunately, in my excitement and the rush to leave the hotel and not be late, I forgot it. Please don't hate me.
Arriving outside the Scottrade Center, we stood in a looooong line, until finally we entered the building, grabbed a ridiculously overpriced hamburger and drink, and entered the arena.
My eyes, they were like a child beholding the many presents under the Christmas morning tree. The sea of people: some redneck, some gangster, and white trash galore. I felt I was home; I felt like crying, or more.
I can't describe the feeling to be a fan of something that is, despite what Vince and co. wish, basically out of the mainstream. It's like being a fan of comic books BEFORE the comic book movie revolution started last decade. You knew there were others like you, but you didn't dare expose your fandom, lest you be mocked. Pro wrestling is like that today.
But here ...
... I could be myself. I could talk about run-ins, shmoz finishes, GTS' and X-Pac heat. And no one would look at me funny. It was like Mecca, only with tramp stamps and beer.
After what felt like an eternity (during which I wolfed down my ridiculously overpriced burger, so as not to worry with it during the jumping and shouting), we were told Superstars was about to begin. Which it did.
What a surreal experience, watching a wrestling match with no commentary. You get to just take in the hits and throws like you were at a sporting event. I loved it.
My wife liked Tyson Kidd, and his nice mixture of aerial and grounded-technical prowess. She's learning, folks.
The crowd by the way, was electric from the word "go." I'm certain there have been hotter crowds (Miami post-WreslteMania 28 for example), but I can only speak to this crowd: They were hot. They booed Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins. Actually booed them. And for the rest of the night we were into everything.
Once Raw started, I finally stopped to look around at the filled-arena, and take in the atmosphere. The new setup is a sight to behold. The screen is massive and crystal clear, the stage seems larger (but that could just be because I was there), and more enveloping without the WWE logo on the side. Overall the new setup is sleeker and more minimized. It suits the new Raw.
Now to some of the better moments for me. First, to address the elephant in the room. The lack of Stone Cold Steve Austin was a bummer. And it was a palpable bummer that murmured through the entire arena. There were several little nods to Austin throughout the night, which only built up the buzz with no payoff.
Hearing the Rock's music blare was incredible.
Hearing the GONG and seeing the "Deadman" in person was unforgettable.
Personally, hearing the guitar squeal and seeing my idol, the "Hitman" himself walk out, I have no shame in saying I fought back tears.
Not to mention seeing my two favorite active wrestlers in person. Daniel Bryan and ...
And that's just the ones I managed to take pictures of. I'm amazed I stayed so composed. I hate I didn't get a good shot of Chris Jericho or Bryan or Big Show (kidding!).
But the lack of Austin, the empty hole that could only have been filled by glass breaking -- it was a bummer.
I'll say this about the three hour length. First off, it was more like three and a half hours when you include Superstars. It worked out okay this time, because it was a very special episode. The crowd knew going in Vince McMahon was going to pull out all the stops, and he did.
He won't be able to do that every week. And even on a night loaded with stuff going, the show did drag a bit here and there. I stayed in it because my live event cherry was being popped. But there were times when a lot of the crowd was sitting when they should have been standing.
Seeing the Rock multiple times was a treat, though, as was his involvement after the show. When he and John Cena exchanged pleasantries and beat down Big Show:
On CM Punk's heel turn (if that is what they're doing), I'll say that the crowd was 60-40, maybe even 70-30 behind Punk. It seemed like the ones who booed him were the ones who cheered Cena all night. The ones who cheered him after he attacked Rock were a combination of those disenfranchised Punk fans, tired of his babyface shtick, and his loyal sheep who will follow him wherever he leads them, face or heel.
Personally, I'm excited with where they're going with him. Probably as excited as I've been since HHH sucked all of his heat out last summer.
Overall, I loved the show, as did my wife, who only watches occasionally and begrudgingly.
I would have preferred more actual wrestling, but I knew going in that this was going to be a "Sports Entertainment" show, and it was. And it delivered. It's easy to take for granted just how smooth everything was from a technical standpoint. Lighting, camera work, music; they really do know how to put on a show.
Before we left our hotel the next morning, the gentlemen of the staff assigned to make my bed noticed my belt and stated that he, too, was a fan, but couldn't make the show.
Naturally I left an appropriate tip on the bed for him.
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