Last Friday, I went to Portland to catch a WWE houseshow (a non-televised event), which was the last show before Sunday’s SummerSlam pay-per-view, one of the four original pillars of the old WWF programming from the 80s-early 90s era I grew up watching. For those of you that care, the others are, of course, Wrestlemania, The Royal Rumble, and The Survivor Series. Now, the WWE has a pay-per-view event every month. I don’t know who can afford $720/year for these shows– it seems as if the story arcs for the company, are a total crap-shoot. I remember year long campaigns for Wrestlemania main events. Now it seems like main events warrant month long lead-ups, or at most, several months through two or three pay-per-views leading up the more important pay-per-views. In any case, this house show felt a little like practice for SummerSlam, though John Cena was of course missing due to injury. The crowd was offered refunds for their tickets if they left during the first two matches. It didn’t seem like anyone left the arena– especially since the opening match was a battle royal.
I haven’t been following the WWE much in the past six months. I get the dirt on major story arcs from a couple insider blogs, but I haven’t been watching RAW or Smackdown the past several months. I was a little lost on some of recent rivalries but it didn’t matter because live wrestling coupled with the best crowd watching opportunities in the world = entertainment heaven. There was an 8 member bachelor party the row below me, and some very special people right behind us, who enjoyed whistling and screaming loudly.
Really, I was there to see three of my favorite wrasslin’ dudes: Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan. Dolph is below. What a worker! Why isn’t he champ yet? He makes watching wrestling fun.
And CM Punk… swoon. He’s like all your bad boyfriends from the mid to late 90s mashed together… in all the best ways. This match was really interesting. Punk vs “Curtis Axel” AKA Joseph Hennig, the son of Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, one of the best technical wrestlers of the 80s and early 90s, who unfortunately died due to a recreational drug overdose in 2003, and the grandson of Larry “The Axe” Hennig, who worked in various high profile regional circuits during the 60s and 70s. What a legacy.
Daniel Bryan, AKA Bryan Danielson, is originally from nearby Aberdeen, WA. It’s been fun to watch his career over the past several years in the WWE; he’s a small dude with a big beard, and for quite awhile, he was vegan (until life on the road took its toll and he wasn’t able to maintain the muscle mass and body weight needed to stay competitive). He’s quickly become such a fan favorite that even the WWE had to acknowledge his legions of devoted followers. In the span of little over a year, he went from losing a match at Wrestlemania in 3 seconds to headlining Summerslam and winning the WWE Championship against John Cena, the inscrutable “Good Guy” that all the kids love and the company’s main merchandise driver. I can attest that the amount of Daniel Bryan T-shirts in the crowd in PDX however– a rad, hand ddrawn beard graphic on the front with “Respect The Beard” on the back– greatly outnumbered the Cena gear, mostly worn by children.
Since John Cena was out for this show (he has a legitimate elbow injury and is taking time off after SummerSlam), D-Bry squared off against Albertooooooooo Del Riooooooo, wh0 has grown substantially in character and skill over the past several years in the WWE. It was a great match, but disappointed Cena fans walked out at the beginning of this final bout, either in disgust or trying to beat the traffic. Whatever. Their loss.
Once again, I had a great time. Live wrestling is SO MUCH better than they TV version, you guys! I can’t tell you how much fun it is. Really, even if you couldn’t care less about two or four or six or 16 dudes fake fighting in the middle of a ring, it’s a total blast. Escapism at its finest. I don’t like the politics WWE pushes, but everyone who works for the company creatively– the writers and wrestlers, specifically– know how to tell good, socially relevant stories in digestible, entertaining 20 – 40 minute wrestling matches.