So this past Monday, RAW emanated from the O2 Arena in London and I was in attendance to take in all the action on the night. Here’s a roundup of what went down complete with some strong language and obscure British references.
I think the novelty of going to WWE live events is beginning to wear thin on me. I’m growing tired of the usual pre-event rituals. The merch stands that only have T-shirts for Roman Reigns and The Usos, the overpriced food and drink, the waiting around for ages. Then when you enter the area there’s the usual flurry of "Let’s Go Cena. Cena Sucks" and "New. Day. Rocks" chants. It’s becoming a little old in my opinion.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how organised the staff at the O2 were to get the fans in to the arena really quickly. If you’ve never been to the O2, it’s an arena surrounded by restaurants, cinemas and exhibition spaces. You can also climb the side of it if you shell out enough money and are not afraid of heights!
My seat was really high up in the rafters of the arena. I had a clear view of the rooftop walkway which gave me an unwelcome reminder of Owen Hart’s death. It was an interesting place to sit considering the company I had around me. To my immediate right were two kids with their Mum, who didn’t seem to know anything about wrestling and was just there because her kids wanted to go. On my left were another two kids with their Dad. These kids were Roman Reigns fans and struggled to hold up a John Cena sign they’d brought in from home. Behind me were a couple of typical smarks. Proper Wrestling historians who were quizzing each other on what happened at Wrestlemania 22. A couple of rows in front of me were a group of people who provided an interesting sideshow throughout the night due to their reactions. But more on that later.
The Superstars taping is the first thing we have to look forward to. Up to this point I have reminded relatively quiet in the crowd. That all changes when the Social Outcasts come out and I pop really loudly. It was a bit embarrassing as nobody seem to reciprocate. I don’t know why but I think the Social Outcasts are my favourite act in the WWE right now. Anyway they’ve got a 2-on-1 match with the Big Show. Show does get an overall positive reaction which I was a little surprised about. The crowd was split about 50/50 between more casual fans and the hardcore ones. So there were less backlash to some talents than expected.
After Superstars, Lilian Garcia comes out and in the most bizarre experience I’ve ever had at a wrestling event, she sings the English National Anthem. Although she doesn’t get to the second verse about "scattering our enemies". I don’t know what the point of this was. It felt really weird to see an American sing the anthem. She’s not your Queen anymore. That’s what you had a revolution for.
Michael Cole and JBL get entrances as they come down to ringside to take their place on commentary. JBL gets a chant. But the fans seem to take pity on the fact that Byron Saxton didn’t get an entrance because he on commentary for Superstars. This causes fans to start a Byron Saxton chant before RAW is officially underway.
Or so we thought. In fact, it was just a test run to see if the fans were amped up enough for the start of the show proper. At this point, a sign is brought to ringside and the ring mat is changed. The kid next to me thinks Shane McMahon is coming out first but I know its Dean Ambrose because I can see the "Ambrose Asylum" sign.
After significantly loud pyro, shock horror, Dean Ambrose comes out. Who’ve guessed it? Ambrose does some OK stand up and introduces James Corden’s parents. They’ve got about as much celebrity status as contestants on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here. "Deano" chants erupt similar to the "Keano" chants former Manchester United midfield, Roy Keane used to get. Then out comes Shane McMahon. It’s a rare sighting for Shane this side of the transatlantic so I’m happy to see him.
Dean Ambrose seems to have a strange affection for his plants. I make a half arsed attempt to start a "Save the Plant" chant but it goes nowhere. After appearances from Owens, Zayn and Jericho we have ourselves two payback matches and two RAW matches. Kicking off with Zayn vs Jericho which might have been my favourite match of the night. Though I felt the evening was a bit heavy on the promos so maybe that’s why.
When Enzo and Cass made their way to the ring, the Mum next to me seemed completely bemused. It was as if she had just landed on another planet and couldn’t understand the cultural rituals of this new land as 16,000 people recited Enzo’s opening spiel verbatim. In their match against the Dudleys, the chants from NXT Takeover: London are back. The crowd do their versions of "Enzo Amore/Seven Nation Army" and "Big Cass/Hey Jude" and the Realest Guys in the Room pick up the big W.
Roman Reigns comes out and half the crowd stand on their feet. This was very telling to me. It shows that people pay attention to Roman more than they do for a lot of the other talents on the roster. And when fans pay attention to you, money shortly follows. The kids next to me attempt to cheer for Roman. I’m not sure why they like him. Maybe it’s just that he looks like an Action Man/G.I. Joe toy and that’s kind of cool within itself. Their cheers are much in vain as they get drowned out by thunderous boos. The guys in front of me chant "you’re fucking shit!" at Roman. Also I have no idea what Roman said in his promo as all I could hear was "boring!" It was probably something about not being a good guy.
AJ Styles arrives on the scene and the kids next to me boo him. Then the moment of the night happens as Gallows and Anderson attack Roman Reigns. This is a pretty good angle. I just wished they didn’t need to replay it 500 times to reinforce that idea.
After some Fandangoing and a Corbin squash match, The Miz cuts an erm…interesting promo about the Royal baby George. He then says that his baby is the Intercontinental Championship and there’s a suggestion that he loves it a little too much. This prompts the guys in front to chant "are you Saville in disguise?" This is in reference to Jimmy Saville (Google him at your own risk). Miz starts reciting lines from Taken and for a minute there I thought he was going to say that he’d kill Cesaro. Instead he simply suggests he will beat him at Payback as Cesaro is forever blowing bubblegum.
The crowd goes ballistic as Cesaro reveals a New Day shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pop that loud before. There were loads of people chanting for the New Day before the show so I guess it’s no real surprise. It was nice to experience the trombone in person for the first time ever. Woods even busts out a bit of the James Bond theme at one point.
The second 8-person tag of the night soon follows. Charlotte comes out and the Mum next to me starts wooing. Though she has to ask her sons why everyone woos. There’s a misplaced "England" chant when Becky is in the ring. She’s from Ireland, you idiots! Paige gets a runout in her home country. She actually seems to be the only English person on the tour with Neville injured and Barrett MIA. I heard a lot of Norwich specific chants directed towards her during the match including "Delia Smith, you’re having a laugh" and "Ooh, Darren Huck-er-by!"
By the time The Usos vs The Vaudevillians had started I think the crowd were starting to get tired. The kids next to me were practically falling asleep. I checked my watch and was a bit despondent to find there was still an hour left to go. The match wasn’t bad. It was even a pleasantly surprisingly to see the Vaudevillians pick up the win.
A second appearance from the Social Outcasts of the night gets a tick in my book. Heath Slater has a surprisingly competitive match with Apollo Crews. Crews is interrupted on his way back to the locker room by Kevin Owens making his way down the ramp. As the show cuts to commercial, Lilian Garcia tells the audience that there are still tickets available for the Smackdown taping the next night. Owens feels the need to interrupt and say "I’ll be there!" No more reason needed to make that purchase then. The crowd sort of gets back into the main event between Owens and Ambrose. But this is a match that we’ve seen lots of times before.
The match ends and Jericho attacks Ambrose. Quite a few people leave at this point especially the kids as its way past their bedtime. Although anyone who had departed missed out on some fantastic mic work by Chris Jericho. As the show went off the air, Jericho told the crowd that he does indeed have abs. He talked about how his home "Canadia" is "the land of milk and honey". "First time I’ve heard of any milk and honey" Owens remarks slightly bemused. AJ Styles comes to the ring and AJ and Ambrose challenge Owens and Jericho to a tag match. Jericho implies that he shouldn’t wrestle because he is wearing a $700 scarf and 500 quid pants. Jericho tries his best British impression. "500 quid? Isn’t that what you say? I left 500 quid in my paunts". We call them trousers, Chris. Basically I found all of this brilliant and one of Jericho’s best promos in years. It’s a shame it wasn’t televised.
A dark match tag breaks out. It’s a short match created so the fans can see AJ Styles in action. Unfortunately you don’t see much of him apart from his main signature moves. AJ picks up the win with the Phenomenal Forearm and delivers the Styles Clash to Jericho after the match.
On the way back to North Greenwich tube station as I left the arena, the massive crowd of fans chanted for the New Day and Sami Zayn. They also directed a "what?" chant towards an announcement over a loudspeaker as you couldn’t actually make out what was being said! Does that count as appropriate use of that chant?
So that was RAW in London. Overall it reminded me that wrestling is just too damn long these days. I was in the arena for the best part of five hours and it’s tiring to watch anything for that length of time. It’s no wonder RAW has problems with its three hour format. It was an enjoyable experience but I think next time I see a live wrestling event I should broaden my horizons more. Go and watch something that’s not WWE. Maybe I will check out a Progress or ICW show instead. We’ll see.