Tuesday, February 1, 2011
My Experience at the Royal Rumble
From the ages of 6 to 16 I was a die hard wrestling fan. On Monday nights I was glued to the tube flipping back and forth between WWF's Monday Night RAW and WCW's Monday Nitro. I loved it all. The gimmicks, the fights, the characters, the soap opera aspect, didn't matter. I found out it was fake, fine, I was still hooked. But like most of us the middle of high school comes and you have different priorities and you move on. Thanks wrestling.
Well last Sunday I attended the Royal Rumble at the TD Garden in Boston. Always my favorite event of the year back in the day, there was no chance I was passing up the opportunity even though I would know roughly 5-6 of the 40 (that's right 40) wrestlers taking part in this year's Rumble.
My buddy DA (from the DA Show, weeknights 6-11pm on 98.5 The Sports and on twitter @theDAshow) was offered two tickets to the event, and he asked if I wanted in. I'll tell you, the fact I haven't followed wrestling in a decade did not even cross my mind. "The Royal Rumble?" I said. I'm there.
So on Sunday I witnessed my first live wrestling event since 1997 while DA was finally able to scratch something off his extended bucket list.
We grabbed our tickets from will call and made our way to our seats, which happened to be Row 3 in the Loge. (I sat 3 rows from the ceiling back in '97). I was overwhelmed by the crowd. This was a true sellout. No fudging the numbers here, every seat was occupied, or in most cases had a fan standing in front of it.
Side note: I was at UFC 118 at the Garden back in August, which they also billed as a sellout, and the crowds looked nothing alike.
As I understand the now WWE (its been forever but I still hesitate wanting to call it the WWF) is broken up into two shows and two rosters, Raw and Smackdown. I arrived at this conclusion a few years back when my buddy Shark and I were playing the video game for 360, wisely titled Raw vs. Smackdown where you battle the opposing brand for top ratings. One catch is the big Pay-Per-View events use guys from both. I knew this going in, and for the purpose of the Rumble what do I care if Edge is in Raw or Smackdown.
Speaking of Edge, he hit lead off on the night putting his World Heavyweight Title belt on the line against Dolph Ziggler. (At this point I am 1 for 2 as far as knowing dudes is concerned. One difference however is when I knew Edge he essentially was a Vampire and part of the stable "The Brood." Now he is the Rated R Superstar. Whatever. Good for him.) He won what was actually a very entertaining match against Dolph. Some really ugly chick was backing Dolph and must have some kind of power as she told Edge he couldn't use his spear or he would have lost the title. But both that bitch and the ref got knocked out, so guess what happened? Edge speared the crap out of Ziggler and got the 1-2-3. Sick match. Great start.
The second match was for the WWE Championship. Confused? Me too. World Heavyweight Title and WWE Championship? Gotta be the brands. Moving on. The Miz (from MTV's Real World, Season 10: Return to New York) is the champ. Pretty incredible. Who had that 5 years ago? He squared off against Randy Orton. (I am a surprising 3 out of 4 knowing guys, or course 1 out of 4 I met while he lived in a house with 6 strangers.)
This match was entertaining, well the parts I saw. DA and I made an amateur mistake and hit up the concourse for some food right after the Edge win. I ended up talking to a friend from college who was there and missed half the Miz fight. Shame on me, I know. And the real kicker is the final match before the Royal Rumble was a Divas Match. At least I didn't have to wait in line for my hot dog and nachos.
Gotta love this; first bout was a singles match, went just over 20 minutes, second bout also a singles match went just under 20 minutes. The Divas busted out a Fatal Four Way Match for the strap (3 title fights!) and lasted 5 minutes. The WWE hasn't lasted this long by making bad decisions. DA and I are the ones with the bad decision to eat during a good match then come back for all of the Divas, but it didn't matter we were still genuinely jacked up for the Rumble to start.
After two rival gangs err stables rushed the ring to start the Rumble, order was restored with the two true combatants. CM Punk (sort of heard of) drew the #1 spot while Daniel Bryan (no clue) took #2. (They ran some vignette with this guy Bryan and an Asian chick and two twin chicks they all ended up in a brawl.) Both of these gentlemen were prepared for a battle as Bryan lasted over 20 minutes and as DA pointed out on several occasions had a "big heart."
Punk is the leader of one of the aforementioned stables called the New Nexus. It got to a point where he was and 3 other members of this crew were the only ones in the ring, and they just waited for the next entrant. 7 dudes must have come and gone at the hands of this 4-on-1 assault. DA and I were ready to crown these guys the champs... who could possibly stop them?
Many tried, but it was Massachusetts own John Cena who put an end to the New Nexus. When he tossed Punk and a couple of his lackeys over the ropes DA and I literally high-fived and yelled with excitement. We were hooked. That was the highlight of the night, but definitely not the only memorable moment.
The WWE will trot out older wrestlers in the Rumble, something I remember from watching years ago. And Sunday was no different. Booker T returned to the ring and he did so behind thunderous applause. Now I have been to Bruins games, I have been to Celtics regular season and playoff games, and as I said I was at the first ever UFC event in Boston, but I have never heard the New Garden as loud as when Booker T's music hit the speakers. I thought the roof was going to come off. The excitement was short lived however as Booker managed to last just over 1 minute and half of that was spent break dancing in the middle of the ring. You can't have everything.
The other old timer to come back? None other than the 1995 Wrestler of the Year, Diesel. I was legit pumped to see him as he walked out to his old school music and jumbo screen montage. Just great stuff all around. He did not last long either, but had a very cool moment as when he was walking off The Big Show was entering. The two squared off in a classic stare down. Lot of bad blood there going back to WCW when it was the Giant vs. Kevin Nash. Rematch? I don't want to get ahead of myself.
It looked like it was going to be a predictable finish as only four fighters remained (well really 5 cause we later find out 1 asshole was hiding under the ring the whole time) but it was John Cena, Randy Orton, and a couple of dudes I never heard of. The Miz, who wasn't a participant, comes in and eliminates Cena (you guessed it the ref wasn't looking). Next thing you know Orton is out too and friggin Alberto Del Rio (who drove to the ring earlier in sick car) wins the 2011 Royal Rumble. Fans left the Garden irate and looking for answers. Why? Does Del Rio deserve to main event Wrestlemania? Who am I to question the WWE after decades of success?
Like me, fans come and go for the WWE, but they just keep banging out an entertaining product. I went in with no expectations, just hoping for a few laughes and some "holy crap" moments (which definitely took place, most of which from Rey Mysterio who is still getting it done.) I left the night saying, maybe I'll turn on Raw tomorrow for a few minutes, see what's going on.
I thought wrestling was no longer popular, mainly because my friends and I had stopped watching it. Maybe there aren't as many characters who interest me (I do like this John Morrison guy and CM Punk seems to be a great heel), but I'll be damned if its not still an entertaining product. People are still watching this stuff. I feel that the WWE's biggest problem now is that they have really eliminated all of the competition, therefore they have to rely strictly on themselves to improve. Now I don't think this is better than the late 90's, but it doesn't suck and its not going away.
Rick Rude, Owen Hart, The Junkyard Dog, Brian Pillman, Big John Studd, Kerry Von Erich, Andre the Giant, Fatu, Test, Crush, Chris Benoit, Bam Bam Bigelow, Luna Vachon, Earthquake, Mike Awesome, Eddie Guerrero, Big Bossman, British Bulldog, Hercules, Crash Holly, Road Warrior Hawk, Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Perfect, The Sheik, and Yokozuna may all be dead, but wrestling is still alive and well. (Jesus that's a lot of dead wrestlers, and there are many more.)