October was insane.
Not only were there two WWE Pay-Per-Views (one of which I attended), but I also attended a WWE house show, a SmackDown Live show, and a Ring of Honor show, all five of which deserved full articles of their own…but when you add in two full Quarter End-style mailings at work, a massive amount of schedule-juggling to accommodate them, the burnout that came with that, AND the normal amount of work involved in THiRD SHiFT and IG2G, my planned To The Matt updates fell by the wayside. But that all changes today, as I break down the Hits & Misses of each event in #WrestlingMonth!
WWE Hell in a Cell (10/8/17)
Hell in a Cell kicked off #WrestlingMonth, both literally and figuratively. In August I was checking for events near me using the WWE app when I saw Hell in a Cell coming to the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. WWE doesn’t come through Michigan all that often (at least it seems that way), and I can’t remember the last time we had a Pay-Per-View, so I was going no matter what.
1] The Seats
If this was going to be the only time in years that I’d be able to attend a WWE Pay-Per-View, I damn sure wasn’t going to go and sit in the upper deck. You have to #TreatYoSelf every now and then, and that’s just what I did here. Ticketmaster’s “Best Available” seats at the time of purchase were Row 3, right behind the announce desks, and they were glorious. Walking down the stairs to the floor of the arena, directly past the pre-show set (you can see me walk behind David Otunga every now and then), and down to my seat, with the cell hanging overhead and the set in the background, was such a thrill. They also had a VIP area set up for those of us sitting on the floor, where you could walk through a curtain and into the depths of the arena to find restrooms and a full bar.
Sipping a Jack & Coke in Row 3, watching the Pre-Show panel do their thing, seeing the announcers filing in and getting set up, all in a collectible chair, damn sure made me feel like a VIP. Oh yeah, did I mention the chair?
WWE has a “Ringsider Package” at their shows that guarantees you (among other things, more on this later) a collectible chair that you can take home. The Ringsider Packages for Hell in a Cell were much more expensive than I was willing to spend at the time, so imagine my surprise when I was shown to my seat and found a custom Hell in a Cell chair that I got to keep! Awesome! It’s also really comfortable, which is important when you’re a big dude and the Pay-Per-View runs longer than its usual 3-hour time frame.
2] The Seats (Part 2!)
Until Hell in a Cell, I’d never sat so close to the ring for a wrestling show, and I can’t state enough what a difference it makes. You can tell that guys are tall, or fast, or ripped, or whatever, when you’re watching them on TV, but you don’t get a real sense of it until you see them live, up close, with your own eyes. At least that’s how it was for me.
Everyone knows Baron Corbin is tall, but you don’t really know what it means until you see him live. Everyone knows Randy Orton is ripped, but it’s when you can actually see his muscles moving under his skin with your own eyes that your brain processes that holy sh*t, HE REALLY IS. Everyone knows Shane McMahon jumping off the top of the Cell is nuts, but when you’re actually looking up at him 20 feet in the air and see him dive down onto a table at ground level, it’s REALLY F*CKING NUTS.
3] The Show Itself
Maybe I’d be more critical if I was just watching at home, because I’d have missed out on all of the spectacle and the personal connection with everything, but I really enjoyed Hell in a Cell. I didn’t like some of the finishes (more on that later), but I thought the action overall and the show as a whole were great. And hell yeah, I finally got to sing Nakamura’s theme with an arena full of people.
1] The Titantron
Little Caesars Arena is where the Red Wings play, and as such it has a giant, four-sided video screen hanging down from the center of the ceiling to serve as the hockey scoreboard. It’s big and new and shiny and gorgeous, but the problem is that they showed the live feed of the match in progress on the scoreboard, not on the Titantron. So, from my seat, if the ring itself blocked any of the action (as it did quite a few times in the Cell matches), I’d have to crane my neck and look almost straight up to see the video feed, while the huge Titantron facing me showed the Hell in a Cell logo. This wasn’t a big deal or anything, but it would have been nice for those of us on the floor if they had put the live feed in both locations.
2] The Crowd
This is something that’s going to become a trend in this article, but there were points during this show where the crowd drove me nuts.
It’s probably easier to tell this via the video feed than being there live, but we started off really hot and stayed that way for a good portion of the show. Everyone was into the pre-show match, the opener, Orton/Rusev, and the US Title match…but then Corbin won the US Title and the air went out of the crowd a bit. Then Natalya/Charlotte had a lot of long submissions, and the air went out a little more. Then there was the DQ finish. They spiked again for Nakamura, but seeing him lose brought them back down. And in the death spot was Roode/Ziggler, which was built on Ziggler’s annoying month-long entrance gimmick, and apart from Roode’s entrance, the crowd wasn’t into it at all. They even started up a “Little Caesars” chant at one point.
I was just thrilled to be there and was having fun no matter the outcome, so it was disappointing to hear the hecklers and snarky comments/chants start to crop up. Maybe if they’d put Rusev/Orton between some of the downer finishes it would have helped, because everyone popped huge for Orton and the RKO.
The other reason the crowd drove me crazy was that during the entrances, people with seats further back on the floor would rush the aisles and try to cram in tight to the barricade to get pictures of whoever was coming out…and since I was sitting on the end of my row, this meant that during every entrance there was some jabroni trying to elbow and push and squeeze around my general location because he just HAD to get a video of someone’s entrance. Every single time. It got even worse during the main event, as people rushed the front rows to try and get pictures of Shane lying on the ground, pushing in front of people or standing on their chairs. And security just sat back and let them do whatever.
I should have done the Misses first, because before I started writing about them, I didn’t really think about the teenagers trying to muscle past me during the main event, or the really annoying guy a row behind me randomly yelling out smarky comments and trying to get about four different chants going for Rusev, one immediately after the other, during the entire length of the match. But overall I had a blast at Hell in a Cell. The matches were great, the seats were amazing, and I finally got to see a ton of my favorite wrestlers live. Good times.
WWE Live (10/9/17)
The very next day, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing (just a stone’s throw from my house), they had a house show featuring the SmackDown roster, fresh off the Pay-Per-View! If memory serves, the Breslin Center was the location of the first wrestling show I’d ever been to, when I saw a house show in the early 2000s, and this was the WWE’s first time back to the Breslin Center in four years.
This show was so much fun! I think if it wasn’t for the spectacle of Hell in a Cell or the ringside seats I got for SmackDown Live, I could say without a doubt that this was my favorite show of #WrestlingMonth. Since it wasn’t a televised event, the tickets were a lot cheaper, so there were a lot of families with kids in attendance. And since the WWE hadn’t been to East Lansing in four years, the crowd was super hot for everyone, and super appreciative of the effort everyone put forth. It was just a really positive, fun atmosphere, and since it was a house show, it felt like the wrestlers could just relax and have fun too (with each other or the crowd) instead of worrying about scripting or time limits for TV.
Card Rundown (winners in bold):
The New Day vs Breezango vs Benjamin & Gable vs The Usos (c) – WWE Tag Team Championship
Bobby Roode vs Dolph Ziggler
Aiden English & The Ascension vs Tye Dillinger & The Hype Bros
Rusev vs Randy Orton
Naomi, Becky Lynch, & Charlotte vs Lana, Tamina, Carmella (w/James Ellsworth), & Natalya
Sami Zayn vs Mike Kanellis
Jinder Mahal (w/the Singh Brothers) & Baron Corbin vs AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura
During Aiden English’s intro, he sang that he wouldn’t “luck my way into a fluke win like the Spartans did on Saturday” – classic house show heel heat!
During the women’s match, Lana got one of her hair extensions pulled out and pitched a fit, and the heel corner was extra cartoony, covering their ears and stamping their feet when the crowd would cheer the babyfaces.
Kevin Owens (bandaged and limping) came out with a microphone during the Zayn/Kanellis match to congratulate Mike on Maria being pregnant! Sami used the distraction to hit the Helluva Kick for the pin, and Owens ran down the crowd. I loved that I got to see Owens and Zayn the day after their shenanigans at Hell in a Cell, and congrats to Mike and Maria!
During the main event, the crowd kept chanting “3MB” at Jinder, so he had one of the Singh Brothers grab his belt so he could play air guitar on it.
This show was a blast! Like I said before, the crowd was hot, the wrestlers were having fun, and that translated into a great show! If you’ve got a house show coming to your town and are thinking of skipping it just because it’s not a TV taping, you should definitely go!
WWE SmackDown Live (10/10/17)
The final show of #WrestlingWeek was SmackDown Live in Grand Rapids. Since it was the last show for a while, it was time to go all out and buy a Ringsider Package! Was it worth it?! Uh, hell yes it was!
1] The Seats
And here I thought my seats for Hell in a Cell were good. Nothing beats sitting ringside, where you can have actual interactions with the performers. For example:
Getting high fives from all three members of The New Day and Bobby Roode after their angles/matches, and patting The Usos and James Ellsworth on the back as they passed on their way backstage.
Cheering referee Charles Robinson after the Becky Lynch/Carmella match and having him grin, shrug, and say “Hey…I actually got paid for that!” Lucky bastard.
Leaning over the barricade to tell Rusev and TJP they were still awesome after their losses.
And the best one…booing Baron Corbin during his entrance and having immediately lock eyes with me as he turned to head for the ring steps, then pausing to stare me down as he lifted his new United States Championship over his head. Well, he sure showed me. :/
2] The Ringsider Package
As I said before, the Ringsider Package comes with a collector’s chair, but it also includes a plaque to hold your ticket, a matted autographed 8×10 (I got Matt Hardy – WONDERFUL!), and a drawstring bag to hold the collectibles. And, of course, it ensures a seat directly across from the hard camera. It was pretty awesome to see friends and family texting or tweeting about seeing me on TV, and checking out the screenshots and videos afterward. There also seemed to be a bit of a bond between us Ringsiders, as we got to chatting quite a bit before the show, which is something I almost never do.
3] The Dark Matches
Before the show, we got a really fun dark match with Mike Kanellis and Tye Dillinger. Everyone was hyped to see Dillinger, and a lot of people kept asking Mike where Maria was – it was cool to be one of the few people in the crowd who knew she was out because she was pregnant. I tried to shout my congratulations to him, but I don’t think he heard me over the music.
After 205 Live, we also got a dark match between Jinder Mahal, Bobby Roode, and Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Title. Not only was this a good hook to get people to stick around through 205 Live, but it had a really fun house match feel to it, including two really goofy spots:
1] Mahal stalling on the outside until Roode grabbed a tight headlock on Ziggler, at which point Mahal jumped up on the apron and yelled “You better not give up! Don’t you do it!”, etc.
2] Mahal beating on Ziggler in the corner, and Ziggler yelling “Hey hey hey, come on, I’m a bad guy too!”
Sitting ringside, I also got to hear a bit of the in-ring chatter between the three guys. There was one spot where Mahal was working over Ziggler in the corner (again) with Roode on the outside just starting to climb back into the ring. Ziggler saw it, said “go get Roode” really softly, and Mahal answered with a “yup”, ran over to kick Roode out of the ring again, then returned to work over Ziggler some more.
I once heard Metlzer and Alvarez say that one of the problems with Mahal’s quick push to the title was that he didn’t have the time to learn how to work the proper main event style, and that was why so many of his matches under-delivered. Watching him work with two pros like Ziggler and Roode, who have both worked main events for years, made me wonder if that was the whole point of this dark match. If so, it’s a pretty smart way of doing things. And even if not, it was still a nice little bonus for the live crowd.
1] The Commercials
It’s a live show, so there’s not really anything to be done about it, but the constant breaks after each segment or match were kind of a downer. For anyone who hasn’t attended a live show, during most of the commercial breaks the house lights go down and a few WWE commercials play on the Titantron.
However, there were two other commercial breaks that we weren’t aware of in the building – one that ate up the entrances of both AJ Styles and Baron Corbin (so him staring me down didn’t make it on TV), and one that ate up the entrances of Aiden English and Rusev. The second one makes me a little irritated too, because Rusev came out looking glum (maybe because he was going to lose again for the third day in a row, and the Xth show in a row), but a large contingent of us in the crowd started a “Rusev Day” chant and he got this huge smile on his face and started pumping his fists and dancing around the ring. Then during the match he ate an RKO and rolled out onto the floor right in front of me, looking dejected and sad. I made sure to tell him he was still the man.
2] 205 Live
I love the cruiserweights. I watch 205 Live every single week. But putting it right after SmackDown Live, where you’re seeing big stars like Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and maybe even Daniel Bryan or Shane McMahon is a mistake. It’s always been a mistake. I was excited to see Enzo, and TJP and Rich Swann’s 2 out of 3 Falls match, but after SmackDown’s main event of Styles/Corbin, and the 5-8 minute delay where the ring crew swapped out the apron and re-taped the ropes, none of us had much energy left for 205 Live. It’s like SmackDown starts at a base level and builds and builds to the main event…then right afterward, you have to drop back down to a base level and try to build up to the main event of 205 Live.
I’ve said from the beginning that 205 Live needs to be filmed live-to-tape starting at 7:00 – that way you can build up to the main event of 205 Live, and you can either start SmackDown off hot with a big angle or match, or drop it down to a more manageable level with some midcarders. Then while the crowd is hot after the SmackDown main event, you can have the big dark match and send the crowd home on a big high. I dunno, it makes sense to me.
This show was a ton of fun. There were some minor annoyances here and there, like the guys who sat directly next to me, and the way the security guy got stricter toward the end of the show, but overall it was great. If you’ve got the chance to sit ringside at all, I’d say to go for it, but definitely spring for the Ringsider Package if you can afford it.
WWE TLC (10/22/17)
It’s the show that was never meant to happen! With a slew of people out with a viral infection, the billed Bray Wyatt/Finn Bálor and Shield/Everyone Else matches had some massive changes, including Kurt Angle’s return to a WWE ring!
Before I even get into the Hits and Misses section of the review, I really should address Kurt Angle’s return. Since it was announced less than a week prior to the pay-per-view, with no television time to build a storyline, a lot of us fans kept asking “how can you give this away on a B show with no build”? The only answer any of us could come up with was, “well, they need some kind of hook for the show” or “they’re panicking and need something to make people buy in”…and I agreed with that, until I listened to the next next episode of Killing the Town, in which Don Callis made the point that swapping in Kurt Angle was “Promoting 101”. He explained that any time you put a match on the bill and can’t deliver on that match, as a promoter it’s your responsibility to provide the audience with something even bigger.
Bray Wyatt out sick? Give the people AJ Styles instead. Roman Reigns out sick? Give them Kurt Angle. It makes sense, and I feel really stupid for not thinking of it before.
1] AJ Styles vs Finn Bálor
This was incredible. I think it says a lot about both guys that you can put this match on the card with literally no build and have the crowd eat it up. Yes, storylines are an important part of wrestling, but sometimes you can just take two of the best performers in the world, put them in the same ring, and let them go. Is it the match of the year? I dunno about that, because there are three full Okada/Omega matches to choose from, but this was fantastic.
Just please, please keep this match special. Don’t let these guys touch again until months down the road when you can give it a full build. Bálor/Styles II at Mania could draw huge money.
2] The Cruiserweight Tag Match
Well well well, they actually used the cruiserweights the right way – it only took, what, a year? After the pre-show match and Asuka’s debut, they sent out Swann, Alexander, Kendrick, and Gallagher to have a great match and keep the crowd pumped up…and it worked! I love the cruiserweights, as I’ve said earlier in this article, so it was really nice to see the crowd eating up the action here. A really good match, with a really hot crowd. Not much else to say.
The Main Event
What a mess.
First it was The Shield versus Miz and The Bar. Okay, that should be a fun brawl.
Then they added Braun Strowman. Fair enough, the babyfaces have to be at a disadvantage.
Then they added Kane. Um…
Then they replaced Reigns with Angle. Wait…
Then they did a “helped to the back” angle. Then Braun and Kane turned on each other. Then Miz tried to murder Braun Strowman with a garbage truck. Then Angle finally came back out for the ending sequence. And it went almost 45 minutes. This was just way too much, and went on way too long. I didn’t hate it or anything, but it seemed like there was always either too much or too little going on, and it never flowed or gelled correctly. I know they needed to go long to fill the full three hours, but (and I’ve said this before) I think an additional opening match with no build but featuring a wrestler everyone loves (Matt Hardy) would have helped pace the show a little better.
I have to say, though…no one kicks out at the last second like Kurt Angle. That got a big pop from me, even after 40 minutes.
This was a weird show. I loved Bálor/Styles, the cruiserweights, and Asuka debuting on the main roster, and I enjoyed the Women’s Title match as well. But I didn’t enjoy the main event, and neither the Cruiserweight Title match nor the Jason Jordan/Elias stuff did much for me (though I like Enzo, Jordan, and Elias). Overall – not amazing, not terrible. It was okay.
Ring of Honor – Soaring Eagle Cup Tournament (10/28/17)
And now, the final event in #WrestlingMonth, and the fourth event I attended – the Ring of Honor Soaring Eagle Cup Tournament, at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant! This was not only my first Ring of Honor live show, but the first time I’d actually seen a Ring of Honor show at all. I know a lot of their former/current talents from TNA, WWE, and NJPW, and had heard of others on podcasts or wrestling review shows, but it was my first time seeing them live. So, how was it?
1] The Meet & Greet
This was a real thrill, because it’s been years since I’ve been able to meet any wrestlers and get a picture and an autograph – the last time was prior to that house show in the early 2000s, when Rhyno and Victoria came to sign autographs the day tickets went on sale. I actually didn’t realize there was going to be a meet and greet at all until Cody tweeted out the details two hours before showtime and I had to hustle to get my ticket printed and get on the freeway on time. I got to meet The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley), Jay Lethal, Adam Page (Hangman Page in NJPW), and Cody. Cody’s line was so long that they had to cut it before the show, and he came back during intermission (and the second half of the show) to make sure he got to meet everyone. The only person I didn’t get to meet was Bully Ray, who only signed at intermission, while I was already in line for Cody.
2] The Show
Again, I’ve never been to or seen a Ring of Honor show before, but I really enjoyed the small arena feel. Like I said for the WWE Live event, the wrestlers felt looser, and free to interact with the crowd a bit more (for better or for worse – more on that later). It certainly lacked the pomp and circumstance of a WWE event, but the wrestling was great and that’s all that really matters.
Card Rundown (winners in bold):
Some New Guy vs Some New Guy – Sorry, I forgot their names. The crowd started a “Let’s go jobbers” chant that really irritated me. Eventually Jay Briscoe came out and destroyed them both, then ran down the crowd and the city.
Flip Gordon vs Dalton Castle, 1st Round Tournament Match – There was a fun spot before the match where the crowd started a “Where are the boys?” chant, to which Castle screamed “I don’t know!” before getting in Gordon’s face and screaming “Do YOU know where they are?!”
Frankie Kazarian vs Jay White, 1st Round Tournament Match – It was super cool to see Frankie after watching him in TNA back in the day.
Matt Taven vs Jay Lethal, 1st Round Tournament Match – The crowd kept chanting for Black Machismo, to the point where Jay finally started doing some of his Macho Man stuff. The guys behind me were heckling Taven non-stop, to the point where he came over on the stage to run them down after the match.
Christopher Daniels vs Cody, 1st Round Tournament Match – Daniels (a long-time favorite) and Cody (a new favorite) had a great match that went to a time limit draw. Cody had a lot of his in-laws at ringside, and called his niece into the ring for a title match, then laid down while she pinned him. I caught a glimpse of Daniels watching from behind the curtain with a big grin on his face.
Silas Young vs Cheeseburger – Since neither Cody nor Daniels advanced in the tournament, Silas demanded that he get the open slot, unless anyone backstage was man enough to face him. Out came Cheeseburger, and they had a fun match.
The Motor City Machine Guns (c) vs The Dawgs vs Nick Jackson & Adam Page, ROH Tag Team Championship – This was easily the match of the night, even though I had to watch it from the back of the auditorium in Cody’s autograph line. Great action from all three teams, but especially Jackson and Page.
Silas Young vs Frankie Kazarian vs Matt Taven vs Dalton Castle, Tournament Final – Young was eliminated first (pinfall, Castle), then Kazarian (submission, Castle), then Taven (pinfall). Taven seemed to take Castle’s Bang-A-Rang finisher really awkwardly, and ripped off his knee brace and limped to the back. It looked like a legit injury, but I can’t find any info online. Castle celebrated in the ring with the cup, then went around ringside shaking hands and taking pictures.
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, given how the snarky comments and heckling that cropped up at Hell in a Cell bothered me, but the ROH crowd was absolutely ridiculous. Every match had at least three full smark chants, and the drunks in the crowd were riding the heels non-stop in every match. Matt Taven got the worst of it, as he couldn’t do a single thing from his entrance to his exit without getting an enormous helping of shit from the drunk asses behind me. During the final match, Taven was brawling through the crowd and some idiot poured his beer all over him and got kicked out. And when I was in line for Cody during and after intermission, I was right behind some guy who was drunk out of his mind, screaming and shouting about every single thing with his buddy. It was driving me f*cking insane.
And Cody and Dalton Castle praised the crowd after their matches. Ugh.
It sucks to say it, but I enjoyed everything about the show other than being there live. I had great seats, right in the second row, but having hecklers and drunks and jackasses constantly shouting behind me drove me nuts. The show itself was a lot of fun, I just wish I could have watched it on mute.
And that’s it! My #WrestlingMonth Recap is finally done. Apologies for the delays, but, well, you see what a monster it turned into. Catch you all next time!