I hadn’t been to a WWE show since the Attitude Era. I attended a Monday Night Raw when Austin first gave a Stone Cold Stunner to Sgt. Slaughter in Columbus at the Schottenstein Center and I saw the NWO live at US Ban Arena around that time, as well. But I thought it would be a good time to see some live WWE house show action when they were in town on the Holiday tour.
So I bought a ticket. For about $75. This better be good!
The night started out with me doing my ironic hipster best by wearing a New Japan Pro Wrestling t-shirt. I don’t own a Bullet Club shirt or a Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson shirt. (Because El Cheapo Anderson won’t give me one. He says they don’t make them in my size! What a jerk.) If I did I’d have worn that instead.
I drove downtown with the intention of getting something to eat. All the garages near the US Bank Arena were charging $20 to park. $20!? To park!? What is going on in this country!? So I ended up parking in my usual spot at The Banks across from the Reds Hall of Fame. (It was $9, which is still way too much.)
I rode the elevator up to 2nd and Walnut and took off in search of some dinner. I often eat the Holy Grail but wanted something different. I considered Tin Roof and Toby Keith’s but saw what looked like a Johnny Rockets. It was raining, I love me a good hamburger, and it looked practically empty so I went on in.
I would have been better off elsewhere.
The place is cool, but there wasn’t a single Johnny Rockets logo, trademark, or identification anywhere. And after reading the Yelp reviews I could see why they’d want their name off of the place. There were very few other patrons there and yet service was slow and lackadaisical.
Here’s an excerpt from my own Yelp review:
I walked in, two or three servers looked at me. I said, “Do I seat myself?” A guy said, “Yeah, you can.” I did. Then someone came over and asked if I needed a menu… “Yes, please…” Then another guy came and offered me a drink. I asked “Coke or Pepsi.” He said, “It’s my first day, I don’t know.” I asked him to find out and then said, “You know what, if its Coke, good and if its Pepsi, Mt. Dew.” HE got about 2 feet and said, “It’s Coke.” He came back, I ordered, all was well. Then…. the most foul rap song came on the jukebox and a woman actually screamed because it was so offensive. A man with a young daughter walked in, then walked back out saying he couldn’t “deal with it” and the manager was pretty rude and said, “Well, I can turn that off.” WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU ALLOW THAT TO PLAY IN THE FIRST PLACE!? I looked up and my food was sitting on the counter waiting to go out. Servers walked back and forth. The two cooks chatted. My server had a big table – and it was his first day – so where was the help? Why didn’t someone run the food to me? Ordinarily these would be small quibbles but given the other reviews on here… I just don’t understand. It’s not that difficult to get customer service right, is it? In good news, the food was hot, tasted good, and only cost me what I expected it to. So . . . maybe its improved a little? I’d go back if the jukebox was turned off.
After I paid my tab, it was raining harder. It was that cold, dreary, extra wet kind of rain, too, so I put my sweatshirt over my head and tried to stay as dry as possible. I walked the length of Great American Ball Park and saw that they weren’t letting people into the arena just yet. I picked up my ticket at Will Call and found a covered spot out of the rain. Finally, they opened the doors and I was able to go inside.
I did have pretty amazing seats . . . and again for $75 I should have! I was in Section 110, Row H, seat 112. To my left was a very quiet, stocky man who like me took up more airspace than we’d paid for. On my right was a little kid who wouldn’t stop shifting in his seat all night. It wasn’t super comfortable.
The show started with Eden coming to the ring to kick things off. She was a great host for the event; in fact all of the production elements were exceptional.
First up was Sin Cara vs. Justin Gabriel. Gabriel got himself over as a heel by teasing throwing his jacket into the crowd and then not doing so. Sin Cara threw it anyway, which got a good reaction. Security then retrieved it from the fan and traded them a couple t-shirts. After a lot of sloppy moves and unnecessary false finishes for an opening match, Sin Cara won with some painful looking top-rope move.
Bray Wyatt (who I saw them sneak down to the ring before the show) came out from under the ring and attacked both wrestlers and then cut a promo talking about how he was going to end Dean Ambrose in front of his hometown crowd.
Next was Tyler Breeze, who does a cool selfie thing that was projected on the entrance screen (I’m a tech geek, what can I say?) teamed with Titus O’Neil and one of the true highlights of the show, Hornswoggle to take on El Matadore and Torito. Hornswoggle was working the crowd as good as anyone on the show and this was a fun little match. Titus threw Torito around generating genuine sympathy from me for the guy. The babyface won pinning O’Neil.
Up next was a quick promo from Bad News Barrett, who teased having his “first match back” in Cincinnati. He then said, “No way,” and left. Um, they put a guy on a road to do this? Adam Rose lost to R-Truth. I have never enjoyed R-Truth’s work and this match was full of boring rest holds and stalling. And it went way too long, which was a constant theme of the night.
I do like the Connor the Crusher video package as it moves me to tears every time. Its nice to see WWE doing charity work AND taking some credit for doing so as opposed to their years of keeping it quiet and not reaping the PR benefits that come along for free.
Next up was Hulk Hogan (with Jimmy Hart) who got the best reaction of the night. Is that a problem anyone is concerned about? Not to take anything away from Hogan or his legacy – I was excited to see him live – but if he’s your most over act what are you doing to create new stars? He teased having one more match when Rusev came out with Lana and they teased going at it. Roman Reigns music then hit and he entered from the crowd. I knew he was coming as the family in front of me had gone to get popcorn or nachos or something and saw him getting into position and were VERY excited about it. He did get a nice reaction. Hogan walked away and that was the end of Hulkamania for the night.
After about 7 hours and 12 minutes, Rusev got himself disqualified by using the belt to Reigns with. I would have rather have seen Hogan work with the guy. It would have been far shorter, at least.
After intermission, we still had three more matches to go.
There was a six-woman tag team match featuring Natayla, Charlotte, and Naomi vs. Sasha Banks, Summer Rae, and Cameron. This was fine. Charlotte does some interesting things and her “Whoooooos” kept the crowd involved. Natayla looked like she was having a lot of fun and she won with a sharpshooter.
Goldust and Stardust came out; Cody Rhodes is incredible in this gimmick. They had a three way tag with Cesaro/Tyson Kidd and New Day. This was the best match of the night, but even it went way too long. There was a great spot where Cesaro swung Kofi into Tyson’s dropkick. Brutal looking. New Day finally won and I liked seeing the kid across the ring from my section dancing along with Kofi and Big E while Xavier Woods admired the kids charisma.
Finally we got to the main event – a Cincinnati Street Fight featuring Bray Wyatt vs Dean Ambrose. They used chairs, kendo sticks, and two tables. And Ambrose won with a double arm DDT. I’m overstating it for effect but come on, really? All those weapons don’t work but a regular wrestling move is what beats someone? Eh, maybe I’m too bitter.
So, after three hours of being crammed into my seat, still soggy from the rain, hot, tired, and irritated about spending so much money I left the show a little frustrated. But it was nice to see Jon Moxley on a big stage and I’m not sorry I went.
I still think NWF Seasons Beatings from top to bottom was a more engaging, better booked, and better wrestled live event. I’m not saying that the NWF is better than the WWE; that’d be foolish. But I do wonder what we could do if we had the same resources.
Kirk Sheppard is a professional wrestling personality in the Greater Cincinnati area. He currently manages Brody Cormick and Big League as well as Samson in the Northern Wrestling Federation as well as being an integral part of of the fiber of the NWF. You can see him perform this Thursday at NWF Slam In the New Year at 3 PM at BoneKrushers National Pro Wrestling Training Center.