To quote Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, “If I say I am a movie buff, you will agree.”
I don’t think that’s the line verbatim, but I know it’s in that ballpark.
I wanna talk to you about something that I love almost as well as movies. WRASSLIN’. There were four things I was really into in my salad days (presented in chronological order) :
- The Little Mermaid — I had no business wearing that Ariel dress everyday, all summer, for three years. But I did.
- Video Games. Anybody else have a religious experience the first time they played Zelda?
- The Oscars. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
- Wrestling. I dare you to try to watch Dawson’s Creek on the only TV in the house that I can watch Raw on. That gets a People’s Elbow! And that got me grounded. Whatever. I bet The Rock got grounded for layin’ one of those down on a sibling once upon a time, too.
In Middle School, my best friend and I would strip the sofa in her basement of its cushions and create our own “ring” and dream up extravagant lives with the wrestlers we’d marry someday. I could never decide if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Stone Cold or Kane. I love Stone Cold, but I’m pretty relieved that it didn’t work out. Cause, you know. The… boozin’ and stuff. I also had a crush on all of D-Generation X with the exception of Chyna. I was an animal.
I’ll never forget the rivalry between Kane and his brother — HIS REAL LIFE BROTHER — The Undertaker. And THIS.
Wrestling fans of the late 90s fondly remember the Attitude Era which is widely regarded as a time in Professional Wrestling that was the best it has ever seen. What’s really remarkable is that guys who entered the ring week after week back then are still doing it now. Chris Jericho, Big Show (The Giant, as he was known then), The Rock, The Dudley Boyz, Kane, The Undertaker, and Triple H — who is now in line to own the company — to name a few.
A week ago tonight, I got to attend my first Monday Night Raw event. And I will never be the same.
Just walking into the arena was electric. The energy at these events is unparalleled by anything I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve seen Hanson SIX TIMES. I’ve given wrestling 18 good years of my life, and the very first thing they did was troll me.
Shane McMahon, son of Chairman Vincent Kennedy McMahon, recently made his return to WWE and was the first to enter the ring. He’s set to challenge The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. So, collectively, all 20,000 of us were so hoping that Taker would make an appearance.
If you’ve never seen the show and you don’t know the different wrestlers’ entrances, Taker’s is one of the best of all time. Everything goes dark and the peal of a big heavy bell reverberates in your chest. Shortly thereafter, his signature song, Rest In Peace, begins to play. The man also known as The Phenom takes him damn time coming out to the ring before a match.
So when those lights went down, I was on my feet in a fraction of a second only to have the lights come back up and Vince comes out like, “Gotcha, bitch!”
Thing is, I couldn’t even be mad at him. Asshole got me good.
Just a week before, Vince had stated that because Shane wants to take over Raw, soon he’ll no longer be his son. He’ll just be a son of a bitch. Which is a sick burn. Even sicker was when he brought out of framed photograph of the two of them and smashed it ON LIVE TELEVISION.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Vince then sent security to escort Shane from the building. Shane O fought them all off though!
And that set the tone for the rest of the show. It was lively, dynamic, and just a total thrill for a first-timer like me as well as fans who’ve been to 100 shows.
Next up, I got to see the man who betrayed Sami Zayn when they were both still in NXT. Kevin Owens and Neville: The Man That Gravity Forgot matched up for the Intercontinental Championship. Owens is the shit-talking master of the WWE universe, but it holds up. Because he’s awesome. He proves that yet again, retaining his title. Apparently that wasn’t good enough. Owens continues to attack an exhausted Neville and is going for an apron powerbomb when suddenly Sami Zayn’s music comes on!
In what was maybe the most exhilarating surprise of the night, and his official WWE debut, Zayn got to serve Owens his comeuppance!
One of the coolest things about wrestling now versus back in the 90s is how much better the Divas matches have gotten. My Lass Kicker, Becky Lynch, has already come up to the main roster, but there’s so much talent on the way from NXT. Especially my favorite little hugger, Bayley. As much as I don’t care for them, Sasha Banks and Charlotte bring a helluva lot to the table. That, and, Ric Flair accompanies his daughter, Charlotte to the ring which is always entertaining. I got to see them, too!
The match following Owens and Neville was wife of recently — unfortunately — retired underdog, Daniel Bryan. Brie Bella took on Summer Rae. In a bizarre turn of events, Lana came out and ended the match with a Bella Buster on Brie. In a denim skirt. It was weird.
A really neat part of the experience is being there when the music kicks on and you know who’s coming out and it was a bit surreal each time. My dude, Dean Ambrose, was next to make his way to the ring. That music fills the room and the place just goes wild.
So he gets in the ring and starts calling out to Triple H. And I’m thinking there’s no way I’ll get to see Triple H.
Well, after a speech about how he’s going to own the company, and how he’s the poster child for “don’t try this at home”, Ambrose gets a visit from HHH — EEEEEE! — who informs him that the Authority always wins.
At this point, my throat is scratchy and my head is achy, but I’m having basically the most fun I’ve ever had. The next match was Dolph Ziggler vs. Three of the four members of The League of Nations: Rusev, Sheamus, and King Barrett in an Elimination Tag Team match. Pretty predictably, Ziggler does not win. Even more predictably, Rusev points and laughs at him. And it’s hilarious.
After that, they showed a replay of the photograph smashing for the 26th time. In case we had forgotten.
Next was another commercial break. I’ve always wondered what happens during breaks. Like, do they even exist anymore? Turns out, they do. And people chant just the most random stuff. And go to the bathroom. And get drunker.
When they come back, I finally get to see Ric Flair live! Unfortunately, Charlotte is there too. She and her pops sat ringside for Naomi and Tamina vs. Sasha Banks and my girl Becky. The match did not go well for Becky, but Sasha pulled out the win with a Banks Statement. Charlotte then has to intervene because she’s awful so she runs in and attacks both Becky and Sasha. My poor Becky limped all the way from the ring.
In a funny little backstage bit afterwards, R-Truth is dressed as a pizza delivery man and he’s got some deep dish pizza. Because Chicago. He offers it to Goldust, who tells him that anyone who really wants to be his partner would know he’s lactose intolerant. They leave the pizza on a table and Mark Henry comes by to take care of it.
The Tag Team Championship match follows, featuring The New Day vs Y2AJ — Chris Jericho and AJ Styles. The New Day win, but throughout the match, the crowd is wildly in favor of AJ over Jericho, chanting his name the entire time. This doesn’t sit will with Jericho, because after the match ends and The New Day gyrate on stage, Jericho turns on AJ with three consecutive Codebreakers.
The most heartbreaking part of it all was that the little boy sitting in front of me was wearing a Y2AJ shirt. He looked nonplussed until that last Codebreaker, when Jericho took a Y2AJ shirt and stuffed it into AJ’s mouth. The kid reacted appropriately, flipping Y2J the bird.
A quick match between Kalisto and Tyler Breeze reinforces the idea that Breeze isn’t quite there yet and that Kalisto is elastic. Shortly after that, Ryback makes his way to the ring and I try to boo loudly enough that he hears me. His match is against The Social Outcasts feat. Curtis Axel. Ryback effortlessly manhandles everybody to a win. I boo some more.
They show us the footage of Vince smashing the photograph again. Which actually makes sense at this point because that Y2AJ thing was pretty jarring for everybody.
We’ve finally reached the main event. My guy Ambrose makes his way to the ring yet again. I’m pumped. I’m ready. And now I get to be a firefly! Because here comes Bray Wyatt.
Another exciting match and it’s looking pretty good for Ambrose. I mean, they’re both really strong athletes. That, and at one point Bray was just rubbing his beard on Dean’s face. I would tap out.
The lights drop again and when they come back up, the rest of the Wyatt family is standing around the ring on the apron. It. Was. Awesome.
So Dean wins by disqualification. Guess what though! Triple H comes down to the ring. Ambrose is down. Bray gets right in HHH’s face and strokes the World Heavyweight Championship belt on his shoulder in a creepy, weird way that only he can. Then, he and the rest of the Wyatt Family peace out.
As is customary these days, the commentary table needs to be dismantled and monitors carelessly tossed aside. I’d love to know what the budget is for buying new monitors for every show. Triple H has total disregard for those monitors.
Tie discarded and sleeves rolled up, The Game gets back into the ring and Ambrose gets him with Dirty Deeds outta nowhere! That was that for the televised portion of the show.
A dark match afterward featured the pizza from earlier and all of these people: Ambrose, the Wyatts minus Bray, Jack Swagger, The Usos, Goldust, Stardust, Mark Henry, The Dudley Boyz, R-Truth. Mark Henry offered a slice of pizza to Braun Strowman who slapped it out of his hand. Prompting an angry outcry from the audience. Perhaps the loudest objection coming from my pizza-loving boyfriend.
Then, Stardust ate the pizza, prompting everyone to chant “PIZZA! PIZZA! PIZZA!” Again, the loudest participant being my boyfriend. So everybody starts chanting for Cody and Stardust got superkicked.
This was a bucket list item for me. It was an experience I will never forget. It was so wonderful to be there and be part of it all. To feel connected to 20,000 strangers who share the love I have for this wrestling business. It was a nearly lifelong dream that I finally got to make a reality. I very nearly quit my job to follow Raw around the country, but then I remembered that I need my job. Can’t wait to go back!