MONDAY NIGHT RAW: THE LIVE EXPERIENCE

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“Let’s Go Cena – Cena Sucks!!! New, Day Rocks.  New, Day Rocks.  Woooo!!!!”… We hear these chants every week on TV.  Sometimes taking them for granted, expecting to hear them when watching from the comfort of our homes.  But going to see a wrestling show live is a very unique experience indeed.  It is now up to you to carry on the passionate jeers and cheers.  A live taping of Monday Night Raw over in the UK is like Christmas: it only comes round once a year.  We Brits love to get involved and are widely regarded by many celebrities coming overseas as a second home to them.  From going to many concerts and the recent Raw show at the O2, it’s no surprise why they’ve made this statement.  In regards to the squared circle, we show our appreciation for our heroes who steps foot in the ring, and we make sure to let the villains know exactly what we think of them.  This particular blog is here to partly remind me of my time at my first show, and to also encourage first timers to attend the next Raw when it comes back to London.  Mentioning the highs and a couple of lows of what was a phenomenal show.

As you settle into your seats, you can already hear the small echoes of chants rippling around the dome.  Almost like warming up your vocals, ready for showtime.  Dipping your toe in the water as it were.  From then on, the buzz you feel as you gaze upon the stage and the ring, anticipating for the fireworks to explode and the show to begin.

But before the live taping, we are treated to a little pre-show called WWE Superstars, a short program that is broadcast on the WWE Network.  A couple of fun little matches including Big Show v Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, and Kalisto v Tyler Breeze.  This definitely warms the crowd up and gets them prepared.  One aspect of a live show is the noise of the ring when sweaty superstars and sent crashing down on it.  You don’t seem to notice the noise as much on television, but with the acoustics (check me out), it sounds thunderous.  Pretty cool.  Another thing that is made very apparent when watching the matches live: no commentary. After many years of watching WWE on TV, commentary and wrestling go hand in hand.  Unlike watching other sports (yes it is a sport… of sorts), the commentary in WWE helps tell the story of the match and keeps things flowing nicely, letting you know what’s at stake, or building momentum up at the right time to really invest in what’s going on.  I’m talking, of course, about good commentators like the legendary Jim Ross and the newly appointed Smackdown commentator Mauro Ranallo.  So for tonight, it was nice not to have Michael Cole’s annoying voice droning on in my ear.

Speaking of Michael Cole, it is hilarious to hear him get booed as he walks down the ramp.  He is then followed by John Bradshaw Layfield, or JBL for short, who joins both Cole and Byron Saxton at the announce table.  Huge pop for JBL, as you would expect being an Attitude Era legend.  I cannot move on without mentioning Lillian Garcia.  Ah, Lillian.  The woman has been announcing wrestlers’ entrances for many years all over the world.  Not even Eden Stiles or the very petite JoJo Offerman can step up to the enormous plate that Lillian is on.  Garcia welcomes everyone to Monday Night Raw and performs the English National Anthem (bit much).  We are then told that “we are 60 seconds away from being live, so make as much noise as you can, and let the world know that we are in London, England!!”.. that certainly gets the crowd going.  Speaking of which, I think it would be awesome if, instead of Michael Cole, every week Lillian Garcia says “Welcome everybody to Monday Night Raw.”  The world would be a much better place…. Any who, the opening Raw credits are shown on the big screen, fireworks erupt, the spotlights swim around the crowd and… Finally… we are live!!!

We kick things off with a motorbike revving, a loud cheer and everyone on their feet, as the lunatic fringe Dean Ambrose struts his way to the ring.  A superstar that just oozes charisma, even 2 year olds in the arena can not help but smile when they see this man.  Even James Corden’s parents love him!!  Not to mention he gets the most British chant I’ve ever heard in wrestling: Dean-o!! Dean-o!! Dean-o!!… I hope that chant sticks cause it’s pretty awesome.  We are then given one treat after another in the form of Shane McMahon, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho.  All having a funny skit in the middle of the ring, like kids fighting in the playground.  All the while, being careful of the plant that Ambrose has provided for the set of his chat show, The Ambrose Asylum.  Let’s backtrack a little to Sami Zayn’s entrance: an absolute delight!! His music is a very happy  and feel good track, you can’t help but just get up and dance. With Shane-O-Mac once again in charge, he sets up matches for tonight, starting with Zayn v Y2J, then Ambrose v Owens later on for the main event.  A good way to kick off Raw, and to get a few crowd pleasing wrestlers in early to set the tone of the show.

With every Raw show, there’s always ads.  Just like sitting through adverts at home, you have to sit through them in the arena too, but with the same wrestling ads, played over and over.  It’s a little jarring and frustrating every time there’s a lull in the show.  It is, somewhat, a little distracting.

After a pretty decent match with Jericho v Zayn (still Sami hasn’t won a match on Raw), we are shown a backstage clip of AJ Styles meeting Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson again since their departure from New Japan Wrestling, which gets a big cheer from the crowd…. But wait, the cheers are about to get louder: it’s time for the fun duo of Enzo and Cass.  Only being in the main roster for a couple of weeks, they have been an absoulte pleasure to watch and a long awaited kick up the backside for the tag team division.  Not since The New Age Outlaws have we seen a tag team resonate with the audience so well.  Simply put, you can’t teach that.  Reciting every word they say, the crowd are loving it.  It’s a joy to be a part of and shout “how you doin?”, and not in the Joey from Friends way.  They take victory against the Dudley Boyz and move on to the finals of the tag team tournament, against The Vaudevillains at Payback.

Next up is the inevitable showing of the champion, Roman Reigns.  All throughout the O2, I could see many Roman Empire shirts on devoted fans, more than what i thought i was expecting to see.  I thought to myself: could this be the night were Roman has found his home to his fan base? To find out that the room that would shower him with adulation and love was right her in London all along?  After all the trials and tribulations he has faced.  All the blood sweat and tears, was worth it just to hear the whole place go nuts for him and make him want to move to England?  Nope… I was wrong.  He got booed.  And I mean boooooooed.  It’s one thing to hear them on speakers on a flat screen, but to hear them in person: boy, it is deafening.  Not letting him speak, the crowd are furious to see him out here.  The atmosphere has turned hostile.  It’s almost like the crowd are saying “how dare you come out and ruin our fun” and “I’ve been waiting for you to come out, just so i can boo you.”  I almost start to feel sorry for him.  He looks nervous.  You can tell the hate is getting to him now, to the point where he just wants to get his promo over with and walk out with his tail between his legs.  Then he starts that whole “I’m not a bad guy” shtick, and I remember why i don’t like him, and get involved in the booing.  As he continues rambling on, the crowd sum his character up in one word: “boring, boring, boring.”  Thankfully, we are saved by the Phenomenal One: AJ Styles, coming out and stating that he will make a Phenomenal champion, when he beats Roman at Payback. Have I said Phenomenal too many times in this paragraph?… oh well, what they hell, i like him so much that I’m gonna say it again: Phenomenal!!!  Then, just as AJ begins to walk out, Anderson and Gallows sneak up on Reigns and give him a royal beat down, much to the crowd’s delight.  A segment which started off horrible, but then turned rather pleasant: Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! Yes!!

To skip a few segments, I shall cut to the moment the roof nearly came off the O2.  After interrupting Miz TV, Cesaro announces the following matchup to be Miz and The League Of Nations v Cesaro and.. The New Day!!!  I thought Enzo and Cass got a big reaction.  Clearly I underestimated the power of positivity these 3 guys can bring to the table. Nearly blowing my eardrums, London was ecstatic to hear Big E’s deep voice booming out of the speakers and clapped for their world-famous 2 time champs.  THE best moment of the night, crowd wise.

Fast forwarding straight to the end of the main event with Ambrose and Owens, the crowd is treated to a dark match.  And I don’t mean a match that takes place in pitch black.  A dark match is a match that happens after the live taping has ended and is off the air. Sort of like a little bonus for the crowd and to get more out of your live experience.  It also gives wrestlers a chance to play with the audience a little more and be a little light-hearted.  Chris Jericho is a superb example of this.  Joining in with the crowd and getting them to play along with him too, it’s a privilege to watch him break free from his heel character and to just have fun, away from the prying eyes of the cameras.  The match includes AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose v Jericho and Kevin Owens.  Over in about 5 mins, we end the show on a high, with Dean-o and the Phenomenal One (I really like that word) taking the win.

There were no surprise comebacks, no shocks to be had, no title changes.  But was just in fact, a good old-fashioned, simple wrestling show, relying heavily on the matches at hand, rather than building up complex stories.  Something that has been so refreshing since Shane McMahon has been at the helm.  If the quality stays this way, when the superstars grace London again with their presence next year, this happy punter will be there to relive the whole experience once more….  Phenomenal!!!

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