This Sunday, WWE’s first brand only pay per view of the New Era took place in Richmond, VA, right in my backyard. Just a hop, skip, and hour long drive away from my home in Charlottesville, VA. Although I consider myself a casual wrestling fan who typically tunes in 3 times a year (The Royal Rumble, Wrestlmania, and Summerslam) it has always been on my bucket list to attend a pay per view in person. Thanks to some good luck/fortune, I was able to attend.
Let me tell you, I was unprepared for the side of society that showed up. It was truly electric. Fans decked out head to toe in Vince McMahon money making costumers, tshirts, belts, they were even selling Money in the Bank briefcases at the door. It was bananas. I met a Sting impersonator, Macho Man (pretty sure it wasn’t the real one but I have my doubts), and a bazillion little John Cena’s running around. The guy pushes merch like no other.
Also, Richmond is 1,000% Ric Flair country. I was sitting next to some ride or die Ric Flair guys, and the Woooooos were constant. Anytime a wrestler did a chest slap, the guys beside me would start a Woooo chant and slap each other silly. Just some good ol’ boys living the God damn dream.
The show started off with a low card/newcomers match in Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin. This match was unannounced and to the delight of the fans got a pretty good pop. One of my favorite things about wrestling in general are the entrances. I dream of a day where every time I enter a room the music drops and my highlight tape plays on a giant monitor above me. Corbin’s all red entrance was spectacular. The match was pretty decent, and the crowd boo’d as the heel Corbin won.
Then a countdown clock appeared on the big screen with 2 minute on it signifying the beginning of the main card. The WWE promo took over, the place went dead black, and then fireworks fucking everywhere. You always see them on TV, but you can’t really appreciate how loud they are unless you attend in person. The place went crazy. The beers were flowing as hard as they could for $12.00 bucks, and then a childhood dream of mine came true.
I was hesitant about how much fun I was going to allow myself to have. Sure, I was going to enjoy myself, but I’m an adult now, which isn’t the best time to dip your toe in the Wrestling world. Shane McMahons music hit and I threw all of my responsibilities, cares, and reservations into the wind. Daniel Bryan came out after, and I got to participate in a Yes! chant with the man who invented it.
As far as the actual matches went, they were pretty unbelievable. I know it’s all fake/staged/scripted, I know it is, but that shit looked painful in person. Here are the highlights of the night.
6 Women Elimination Match for the New WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
This match started off strong. Bodies flying everywhere, corpses on the ground recovering from epic beatdowns…the crowd was begging for Becky Lynch the Irish Lasskicker to win, and when she got the final tap out and won I don’t think I’ve ever heard a place erupt that loudly (aside from my trip to the Eastern Conference Finals). She thanked the fans, my section started a “You Deserve This” chant, it was a pretty awesome experience. And let me tell you, those girls are in shape. All you Instagram fitness models need to jump on the Divas workout plan.
Heath Slater and Rhyno Win the New WWE Tag Team Titles, Heath Slater wins a Smackdown Contract
For those of you unfamiliar with Heath Slaters work, he’s essentially Vince McMahon’s court jester. He literally plays the trailer trash redhead with a bazillion kids that thinks he’s a rockstar. The WWE crowd likes to stick it to Vince’s face whenever they can, which is why stars like Daniel Bryan who work there ass off but don’t get pushed always end up being fan favorites, while the other stars that are pushed *cough Roman Reign* get boo’d until they leave the ring. Heath Slater has won over the fans by being the “Free Agent” who was left out of this year’s brand split draft. The only way Shane would sign him to a contract is if he found a tag team partner and won the Smackdown Tag Team Tournament for the new belts. Well, Rhyno (who’s currently running for political office IRL) stepped up, and the two defeated the Usos in a very entertaining match. Heath Slater was interviewed afterwords and he screamed out “We’re getting a double wide babaaaay.” Compelling, and rich.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Title
As a guy who grew up watching/idolizing both wrestling and the Real World, I have never been more star struck in my life than when the Miz came strutting down ringside with his smoking hot wife. Miz has been in a feud with general manager Daniel Bryan, more on that here. The Miz took out his frustrations on Ziggler, and hit him with a bunch of Daniel Bryan’s moves (much to the dismay of the crowd.) He ended up winning because his wife used mace against Ziggler when the ref wasn’t looking, setting up a rematch I’m sure, but it was a very enjoyable high flying affair.
Bray Wyatt vs.
Randy Orton DEMON KANE!
One of the biggest let downs was the fact that the WWE promoted Randy Orton for a month to take on Bray Wyatt, knowing full well he wasn’t medically cleared after Brock Lesnar literally ripped his face off at Summerslam. They had Bray Wyatt come out, the bell rang to 10 and Wyatt got the “win” against Orton. As Wyatt was about to leave the stage, the announcer hit him with a “not so fast my friend” and said that there would be a surprise no holds barred match against a random opponent. One of the most exciting things to see in person is a surprise appearance. It’s pretty much the butter that makes the WWE toast so delicious. Welp, enter KANE! And yes, Kane is an old old wrestler who doesn’t exactly get the needle moving for the hardcore fans of Raw and Smackdown, but for a casual fan like me, seeing the Big Red Machine in full Demon mode was probably the best thing I could have asked for. Also got to see him go through a table which was pretty neat. Then, a limping andy Orton came out and did what he does, AN RKO OUTTA NOWHERE
AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE Title
The Main event was AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose. To my surprise, Richmond VA is a very pro-AJ Styles venue. In fact, there were more boos for Ambrose than cheers. The guy I was sitting next to (who was decked out in AJ styles gear) swore to everyone he was Styles’s illegitimate son. Needles to say watching him watch the match was just as entertaining, the man was so crazy he thought he was rooting for his dad. They put on a modern wrestling clinic. Springboards into the ring post, fighting in the ring side crowd, finisher after finisher, springboard 540 frog splashes, front flips, super kicks, clotheslines from hell…truly breathtaking stuff. To the surprise of the fans, Styles won and the place went crazy! Hell of a time. I highly encourage everyone to attend a WWE event if you can in person. It’s a game changer for sure.