Last night, I had the wonderful blessing of attending Monday Night Raw for the third time in a year.
It might be expensive, but fortunately for me I don't have much else to spend my money on, and the opportunity to see the Undertaker and Hulk Hogan was just too good to pass up. I went with my younger brother and, clad in an nWo t-shirt, took the train to the Barclays Center. We got there shortly after the doors opened at 6:30 and walked around the arena, passing Mr. Bob Backlund taking pictures with fans. I could see just from walking by him that Mr. Backlund still had his charisma and his strength from his days as a wrestler, even if age had taken its toll.
We made our way to our seats, in the upper deck on the camera side at about the middle of the arena, just after seven. We sat around for a bit as the rest of the crowd filed in, with "Let's go Cena/Cena sucks," "CM Punk," and a shockingly strong "Yes!" chants filling the arena. I got a couple of comments on my nWo shirt, and had a little discussion with one guy on how Hogan actually called it the "New World Organization" and Austin initially said, "Don't trust nobody" and other wrestling minutiae. There was one guy in front of us in a Cesaro t-shirt who wouldn't stop standing up, and one guy behind us doing his best JBL impersonation shilling the Authority and how Bryan was a B+ player and not best for business(-ah).
Superstars started at 7:30, and (Superstars spoilers ahoy! (for the three people who watch Superstars!)) Emma defeated Summer Rae and R-Truth & Xavier Woods defeated Jinder Mahal & Drew McIntyre. I unfortunately didn't see the matches, but you can probably imagine what they were like just from the participants. Emma had a couple people doing her dance (myself included), and my brother found her unique skin-the-cat amusing. JBL and King both got big reactions when they came in, and even Cole didn't get savaged with boos.
Raw started with Stephanie McMahon coming out to some very solid heat, which only increased as she spoke. The crowd chanted for Daniel Bryan every chance we got, and there were times that it was tough to hear her over the boos. When Orton came out, he received mostly boos but a few cheers (which increased as the segment went on), and when Batista made his grand arrival, he got the reaction he so richly deserved. We booed his every word, except his line about Stephanie and the drooling, which got some laughter, but Stephanie's slapping him got an even better reaction. We thought Orton's laughter was quite amusing, and it even showed him laughing on the outside of the ring (I don't know if this was shown on TV).
Big E came out to a relatively disappointing reaction during the break and sat down ringside. Christian got some actual cheers, and Del Rio also got some actual boos. A lot of the crowd was booing Sheamus, but there were also some people cheering him (myself included). Ziggler got the biggest reaction out of anyone, and the crowd was crazy for him throughout the entire match, which was excellent. The action was fast-paced and hard-hitting, and all four guys seemed to have a legitimate chance of winning. One thing that was somewhat amusing was watching different guys lie around on the outside for minutes at a time, which would normally be obscured by camera angles and commercial breaks. The crowd enthusiastically chanted for Sheamus's clubbing blows (go figure) and there were some people yelling "You fucked up!" at Del Rio after his enzuigiri, but Ziggler was the star. Every nearfall had me on the edge of my seat, and we were all disappointed when Christian stole the win (but in a good way, I think).
The Wyatt promo was great stuff. Damien Sandow got a pretty decent reaction, but Sin Cara got none. I think Sandow hit like three punches in the whole match. Moving on. Neither Rybaxel nor Los Matadores got much of a reaction, but it was clear that THE BIG GUY had more charisma than the Medium Guy.
The crowd went crazy when they saw The Shield, but I confess that I was rooting for Ryback to get his revenge from all that time ago. Some things never change. All the same, it was cool to see Roman Reigns chuck Curtis Axel into the barricade, for obvious reasons.
HHH got a decent reaction, but the boos increased as the segment went on. They didn't do all that much to advance the story, but he went on quite the tear, and the references to the "Reality Era" were delicious. It would probably have been better had the wonderful and marvelous Daniel Bryan been there, but you can't always get what you want.
Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes was another nothing match, but there were a decent amount of people Fandangoing (gotta love smark cities!) and Goldie's antics were hilarious.
This brings us to the glorious Hogan segment. I was worried I'd be one of the only ones cheering on the Hulkster, but I was relieved to be wrong. We were all going crazy for him, and Arnie and Joe Magananganello (both Arnold and Hogan flubbed his name) were cool too. We all let the Miz have it, and, even though the offense was weak, seeing him get his ass kicked was rewarding. I texted my friend to ask if it was awful on TV, as these things tend to be, but he said it was actually pretty funny there too. You can't beat the Hulkster, brother.
Big Show vs. Titus O'Neill (who was also fairly charismatic) was yet another nothing match, and seeing Show's straps down was a little disturbing. I'd like to take this time to state that whenever there was a "CM Punk" chant, I tried to lead a counter-chant for Mr. Still Employed himself, JTG, but it was just me. Oh, well.
The Shield segment was backstage was brief, but fine. Cena vs. Harper was an awesome match, and the dueling chants were great. Both guys gave it their all, and the crowd ate it up. I was personally chanting for Cena and against Harper, but I was only chanting "Harper sucks" because I loved the idea of bizzarro world-style dueling chants against Cena's opponent. Another cool thing was watching Wyatt and Rowan sprint into the ring the second the lights went out. The ending visual of Cena in the lamb mask was incredible.
AJ vs. Naomi started off well, but AJ getting counted out was disappointing. The crowd popped big for Vickie calling AJ a bitch, but was mostly quiet otherwise. We were all very happy to see Razor get inducted, and there were chants for him, as he well deserves. Him and Jake the Snake going into the Hall (see what I did there?) on the same night will be one of the most heartwarming moments in wrestling history. Thank you, DDP, and thank you Jake and Razor.
Shield vs. Real Americans was awesome to start off (and they were surprisingly over), but I confess that there were a few slow moments while the RA were in control. Suppose you can chalk that up to commercial breaks, because the rest was great. Seth Rollins is amazing, and Dean Ambrose is a lunatic in the best possible way. The crowd completely botched the Giant Swing count (except for me and my brother!) but it was great all the same. Dean is amazing. The royal asskicking the Real Americans got after the match was great, too. The crowd did Reigns' warcry along with him, and there was a relatively weak "Holy shit!" chants after the powerbomb through the announce table. It was cool actually seeing somebody go through the table. Kane's promo was fine.
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar got a big reaction, and I found Bork's new shirt absolutely hilarious. I spent the whole segment going "The Undertaker is going to be here!" to myself, because it was that exciting to see him in person. Their promo was very good and, while I admit I wanted to hear the gong go off and everyone lose their minds, the Gregorian chant and the druids and the casket was a reasonable substitute. You could actually see one druid that was significantly larger than the others, who disappeared after they formed up around the casket. Lesnar stomping on it was great, as was his obviously-terrified-and-lying-through-his-teeth-about-it shouting. Undertaker was actually a little smaller than I would have expected in person, but that might be a side effect of being around Brock. His flurry of strikes (to the gut no less) as only Undertaker can do was great. I do hope the "Happy birthday!" chants didn't make the air, but I participated after the show had clearly ended. Undertaker did the pose at the top of the ramp and we all did it with him, along with a big pop.
The dark match was Shield vs. Wyatts, which we left in the middle of in order to make our train. We didn't have to, apparently, because the match ended in a DQ and The Shield stood tall (of course) and Seth Rollins cut a promo saying how awesome we were. Thanks, Seth!
They also announced that Raw would return to the Barclays Center in October, and they told the pre-sale code. Now, I would never do something so heinous as to violate the trust WWE puts in us by telling us this secret code to Raw, but it's not particularly hard to guess.
Anyway, we left the arena (Mr. Backlund was still there, talking with some kids) and took the train home. Despite the lack of Daniel Bryan (it was legitimately saddening when the tweet saying he wouldn't be there was shown), it was a great show and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the greatest stars of all time.
Which probably means I'll do it all again next year.