WWE Smackdown Live Event Experience April 18 2012.
The first WWE show I ever attended was called ‘Mayhem in Manchester’ in 1998. I was 14 at the time. This was just after WrestleMania 14. I got to see Stone Cold Steve Austin defend the WWE Championship (against Triple H, who had replaced the injured Shawn Michaels). I got to see a WrestleMania rematch between The Undertaker and Kane. This match didn’t last too long. I always wondered why The Undertaker didn’t get a proper entrance – the story was that Kane and Paul Bearer had some other wrestlers try to take The Deadman out before the match, and ‘Taker appeared in the aisle brawling with a few heels. It was pretty strange. The match only went about 5 or 6 minutes.
The following year, WWE came to Sheffield. This was just after WrestleMania, too. This was a better show, Undertaker vs Ken Shamrock, Kane vs Triple H (who came out to DX music despite turning heel a few days earlier at WM15), and WWE Champ Steve Austin defended the gold against The Rock.
I didn’t go to a live WWE event again until 2003, once again in Sheffield. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, except that this time I wasn’t sat right on the back row. I remember seeing Brock Lesnar defend the WWE Title (against John Cena, as it happens). After doing a Google search on this show, I found the results, and I still can’t recall any strong memories, other than seeing Lesnar, and how massive the Big Show was, and that Matt Hardy got a decent pop from the crowd.
In the past few years, I’ve tried to get to a live event every time the WWE tours the UK. It really is a great night. My friend and I went to a Raw taping in Sheffield in November 2009. The thing I will remember most about this night is the fact that these guys sat in front of us took their kids home as soon as the Raw main event finished. Following this, John Cena introduced his mystery tag partner for the following week, and out strolled The Undertaker! Crowd went nuts. I went nuts. I thought he was somewhere else doing a Smackdown show, so I felt very lucky. Then the dark match main event came on. Those guys and their kids missed the best bits.
Fast forward to 2012, and here we are at a Smackdown show in Sheffield. In the weeks leading up to the show, my expectations went up and down quite a lot, from day to day. With quite a few blue-brand Superstars injured, and star power not exactly at a all time high, I was still looking forward to seeing the likes of Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry, and Kane. I kept up to date with some other Smackdown house show results just before the Sheffield show, in order to manage my expectations.
We were treated to some really good matches and some very nice surprises, on this night. I’m not going to do a play by play commentary on the matches, because that’s not what this is about.
For the first time ever, we had seats right at the front. The show kicked off with Lillian Garcia singing the English national anthem. She asked everyone to sing along, and some did. Many didn’t. Many don’t even know the words.
The first match was The Great Khali vs Jinder Mahal. Say what you want about Khali but the guy got a great reaction in Sheffield. He’s an attraction because he’s so big and strong. He seemed to enjoy getting such a great pop and such great support from the fans. Being so close to the ring really hammers home how big these guys are -even Jinder Mahal, who looks small (in comparison to the others) on TV, is huge in person. Khali won with his two-handed chokeslam finisher.
Next up, a 6-man tag team match. The Usos teamed with Percy Watson to defeat Tyler Reks, Curt Hawkins, and Drew McIntyre. This was a nice surprise. None of these guys had been mentioned in any of the Smackdown House Show results I had read while leading up to this one. I shouted ‘You suck, Hawkins’ as Curt Hawkins stood on the apron waiting for a tag. He reacted by turning to me and giving me a sarcastic smirk. That was nice. I don’t really think that, I was just having fun. I tried to get a Percy Watson chant going, but only 2 or 3 kids joined in. Never mind. I tried, Percy.
We are then introduced to Ricardo Rodriguez, who brings out Alberto Del Rio. Fantastic. He got on the turnbuckle just in front of us. A guy in a Bret Hart t-shirt gestured to Del Rio, and Alberto and Ricardo laughed at him and pointed at him. It’s nice to see these connections being made with the fans. Then out comes his opponent, the staggeringly large Mason Ryan. He was introduced as being ‘from the UK’. Del Rio won with the armbreaker in about 2 minutes.
Now it’s time for a Divas match. Alicia Fox defeated Natalya with Aksana as the guest referee. Fox won by rolling Natty up after Aksana pushed Neidhart down. Alicia’s music is terrible. If you think it’s bad on TV – I can assure you, it’s even worse when you’re hearing at such a high volume.
Onto the final match before the intermission, and this is where we really got a treat. Mark Henry comes out first for this tag match. Lots of people singing along to his theme. Maybe it was just me. I don’t know. The guy is massive. Who’s his partner? Christian! I thought he was injured. It became apparent as the match went on that he’s probably not 100%, but it was great to see him. Their opponents… First out is Brodus Clay – who got a massive reaction, until he stopped on the ramp and asked ‘What’s up, Newcastle?!’ Newcastle? He got loud boos for that. By the time he made it to the ring, though, it had all been forgiven. He came out with Hornswoggle. Who’s Clay’s partner, though? A familiar voice asking ‘Can you dig it, SUCKA?’ is heard and out comes Booker T! Booker T is here. Unbelievable. I was expecting Mark Henry, but the rest of these guys I was not expecting to see. The match included a lot of stalling by Christian, and did take a while to get going. It was great to see all of these guys in action, though. After Clay and Booker were victorious, they both did Spin-a-roonies, and so did little Hornswoggle. Lots of ‘Funkasaurus’ and ‘Booker T’ chants all the way through.
Back from the break. Big Show defends his Intercontinental Championship against Cody Rhodes. Rhodes came out first and cut a promo on how Big Show’s WrestleMania win was a fluke. He said nobody successful ever came from Sheffield. Sean Bean, anyone? Massive pop for the Big Show. This was a fun match, which Big Show won.
The next match was the best of the night. Randy Orton vs Kane in a street fight. Lots of drama and a great response from the crowd. Orton got a great ovation. Kane did, too. He’s a heel, but he has lots of fans because he’s been around for so long and is a great character and performer. I shouted ‘F*ck yeah!’ as he made his way to the ring, at which point my girlfriend reminded me that there were kids very close by. Sorry, kids. Grown-ups get excited, too. This match was lots of fun. It was great to see Orton ‘go to that place’ and hit his ‘VINTAGE’ draping DDT. Kane thought he had it won after a chokeslam, but Orton kicked out. They hit each other with Kendo sticks and steel chairs. Randy ended up winning after an RKO. Great match.
Main event time. Sheamus defends his World Heavyweight Championship against Daniel Bryan. Lots of ‘YES’ chants for Bryan, as you’d expect. He’s another heel that has legions of fans across the world, and rightfully so. Sheamus got a great reaction. Bryan cut a promo before the match about how GM John Laurinaitis had promised to fire Sheamus if the ‘Celtic Warrior’ so much as touched the referee. He also asked the crowd ‘Are you REALLY going to cheer for THIS guy?’ and of course, people started chanting ‘YES! YES! YES!’ – WWE are trying to turn it into a negative chant toward Bryan as he’s supposed to be a heel. It worked here, for about 20 seconds. People want to support Bryan by chanting ‘YES’ and that’s what they’re going to do.
This was a great match, as well. Toward the end, Sheamus was on his knees taking kick after kick after kick to the chest and shouting ‘COME ON, FELLA!!’
After Sheamus won the match with a Brogue Kick, Bryan exited and the Champ stayed at ringside for a good 15 minutes, signing autographs and posing for pictures in the ring and with fans at ringside. It was like he didn’t want to leave. That’s a Superstar, right there. He threw his wrist bands into the audience and finally walked back up the aisle, struck one last pose and said goodbye.
This show was far better than I expected it to be. The first half was full of surprises, and the second half was a lot of fun and had some really good matches. It was a great night.
Big Surprises: Christian, Brodus ‘Newcastle’ Clay, Booker T.
Biggest Pops: Big Show, Randy Orton, Sheamus.
Best Match: Randy Orton vs Kane.
WWE tends to advertise UK tours quite aggressively and they always fill these adverts with cheesy lines and they aren’t shy about telling us how great the live shows are. The thing is – they’re not lying.
Once again, I felt very lucky on April 18, 2012 – because I got so much more than I bargained for.
Thanks for reading