My view of the entrance line outside the Allstate Arena in the Chicago Suburb of Rosemont, IL for last night's (Sept. 4) Raw live event.
It was back in the late 90's when I started watching professional wrestling as a pre-teen -- thanks to a happy accident. It was Monday night, around 8:15, as I was flicking through the stations. I stopped at the precise moment when a very large man bashed the skull of another guy with a trash can.
I glanced about to make sure my parents weren't around and as I kept watching, I became enthralled by the mayhem that was taking place as kendo sticks, crutches, and stop signs were used by two men to pummel the unfortunate victims. I found out this was a "hardcore match."
The assailants? None other than Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge, Public Enemy. It was WCW Monday Nitro and I was hooked.
Fast forward a few months and I was fully entrenched in the Monday Night Wars between WCW and the then WWF. I'm sure I'm not alone when I tell you that I would flip back and forth between the two shows, trying to figure out who was doing it better. At times it seemed like WCW was winning out with the New World Order (nWo), Goldberg, and the cruiserweights. They knew how to entertain and I ate it up, especially as I learned about the historical importance of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage.
But the WWF seemed to be more entertaining to my pre-teen/early-teen self. The raunchy (D-Generation X), slapstick, absurd (a mannequin head?), hyper-sexualized (puppies!), absolute chaos that was the WWF and its premier show, Monday Night Raw. That was where it was at and I was certain of it, yet I never went to a show, save for a live event (a house show) the day after Christmas in 1998. It was decent, but we were in the nosebleeds in the corner so we couldn't see much.
I was determined from that point on to get to the real shows, see the lights, the cameras, and maybe even be on TV.
Besides the house show, I'd been to a WCW Monday Nitro and ROH show (both in Chicago), and TNA Lockdown 2011 in Cincinnati. The premier event had eluded me all these years, until last night (Sept. 4, 2012) that is, when Raw invaded the Allstate Arena in Chicago. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to be part of the crowd, hear the noise, chant, scream, yell until my voice gave out.
I went with my cousin, my best friend and long-time wrestling fan, who I introduced to the business soon after I got hooked. We arrived at 5 PM, with Superstars beginning at 6:30 PM. Doors hadn't opened yet, but the mass of humanity that greeted us was impressive and familiar. I felt a sense of belonging amongst the kids, the teens, the young adults like us, and the parents. Everyone was there to have fun, regardless of age or favorite wrestler, and there were a LOT of CM Punk shirts (myself included) to match the horde of Cena shirts.
The real highlight of the night, even before the show started, came when Cena ventured outside to the gated area and waved at fans. Some tiny 6-year-old saw his hero, his eyes bugged out and he said "OMG IT'S CENA!!! HOLY SHHHHHH............MOM!!" I will never forget that kid's reaction or his face. That's how I felt about Goldberg and Stone Cold back in the day, and I felt no shame. I hate on Cena for a lot of reasons, but seeing that kid's face, as well as hearing the reaction of the kids near me throughout the night, I can't deny anyone that joy.
Once inside, the atmosphere was amazing. "YES!" chants, yelling for CM Punk, "Cena Sucks" chants, and sharing signs were happening all around. We had pretty great seats in the lower bowl, on the edge of the aisle with the stage and ring straight ahead.
Kofi and Truth taking on Primo and Epico was the highlight of Superstars. Once Kofi's music hit, everyone was amped up. The pyrotechnics were loud, beautiful, and added to the energy. The match was decent, but my cousin and I noted that they could've done a lot more had they been given more time to work with.
Once Michael Cole hit the ring, the boos rained in. When King's music hit and he didn't show up, every kid around me was instantly worried, but then we saw Punk and King going at it. The recap video starts up and Raw begins, but we didn't get the huge starting fireworks show. I was a bit disappointed at this because I wanted the whole experience with the fireworks explosion. One of the best things about the night, though, was experiencing every wrestler's entrance. Hearing the music and seeing the lights gave me goosebumps each time, it's impressive how much of a pop everyone gets and how they work the crowd.
I'm not going to do a full recap of the show, but I will tell you that my favorite match was Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler. It went a lot longer than I thought it would and it was really entertaining. The smarks were out in full force, though, as they were clearly behind Ziggler, but the kids and their mothers loved them some RKO. I just wish that I had been sitting by some other smarks so we could've enjoyed that part of the experience.
The lulls between matches weren't bad, especially considering the fact that the crowd was so hyped up. They showed some videos and ads for DVD sets, but the down time was pretty well paced. Also, a hot crowd makes a world of difference.
The main event was decent and the end was perfect. My cousin wanted to leave because he thought the show was over, but thanks to past reports from this great site, I knew that things wouldn't just end once the cameras were turned off. Punk came back out donning a leftover CeNation headband before he talked up his hometown crowd.
Cena then stormed in to pummel him. From there it was Ziggler, Sheamus, Orton, and Cesaro who stormed in to throw down. Punk, Ziggler, and Cesaro left, then Miz decided to get in the ring and berate the remaining three men.
That led to an A.A., RKO and Brogue Kick -- all in a row for Miz.
Perfect end to a near-perfect night.
I always knew that WWE put on a great show but I only saw it on TV. After being there last night, I definitely have a few things to add to my bucket list, like getting ringside seats to Raw and WrestleMania (ha!). I love the business and I accept all of it, even the parts that piss me off, because that's what brought us to where we are today. Sure, there are things I'd change, especially if I could write for Creative (double ha!), but I will gladly support the hell out of the men and women who have and will continue to entertain me for years to come.