The Rise and Fall of an Underdog #10
April 23, 2009
By: AJ Pearce of
Greetings all. After attending the RAW taping in London this week I felt inspired to write a piece on the experience. So I?ve given Jake the night off but he will return in The Rise and Fall of an Underdog next week. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. I always love hearing from you. Thanks for reading and enjoy.
The last time I went to a RAW taping was May 28, 2001 in Calgary. How times have changed since then. Barack Obama is president, the world is in the midst of a financial crisis, and Chris Jericho has short hair and wrestles in trunks. What a different world we live in! So as I approached the O2 arena in London this past Monday, I wondered how much a live WWE taping had changed. Would it be the same as I remembered it? I hadn?t even been to a house show in almost a decade! It was time to brush off the cobwebs and get my fix of live sports entertainment.
Once in the arena I quickly realized that I was conservatively dressed. Sure I was sporting a pretty cool Lucha Libre t-shirt but there were guys that had gone all out. I saw t-shirts for every wrestler under the sun; old and new. And grown men decked out in full character costume. I was jealous, but not. I own a replica of the classic Intercontinental title belt but hadn?t even considered wearing it. My friends all laugh at how much I paid for such a lavish piece of memorabilia but I proudly wear it around the house when I watch wrestling. But there were guys in attendance this night with one around their waist and one over their shoulder! I did feel a bit bad for the guys wearing kids foam belts. Next to a replica, how emasculating.
I scoured the crowd for children but didn?t see many. I simply overheard countless conversations about matches and who’s getting over and who messed up where and when. The dissection of the entertainment was incredible. No football or hockey commentator could hold a candle to a wrestling fan. And evidently neither could I.
Once I purchased a horrifically over priced beer and hot dog, I made my way to my seat and marveled at the RAW set. High definition has added a whole new element to the sport. The colours have to be so vibrant to truly utilize HD that just looking at them in person still burns your retinas a little. The show began and I nearly dropped my overpriced hotdog when the pyro hit! Once my eardrums stopped ringing, I realized how much the crowd was into it and I was transported back to an age where a wrestler’s entrance music could make me want to jump in the air and the sound of a ref’s hand hitting the mat a third time could make me want to scream with joy. This was good.
I was taken by surprise at the conclusion of a match between Kane and CM Punk. When Punk botched the finish, I cringed a little and thought to myself that that was not going to look good on TV. But the next thing I knew Punk ran into the ring for what I thought was going to be a sneak attack on Kane. To my surprise though they simply went through the last three or four moves of the match and Punk managed the finish and left the ring. I was shocked! I had never come across this before in all the years I had been attending wrestling shows. The crowd didn?t seem too fazed by it and the show went on. This simple altercation showed me how the business has changed and how the shine of the product is more important than the mystique of the combat.
The other moment that stuck with me was John Cena’s entrance. As soon as his music began to play a deafening chorus of boos filled the arena and it was seriously loud; louder than any pop for any of the other wrestlers on the card. I could see by Cena’s reaction on the Titantron that he was taking it all in stride; this obviously wasn?t the first time this had happened. It made me think of back in the day when it was so unprecedented that people cheered for a badass like Stone Cold Steve Austin or a Playgirl centrefold like Shawn Michaels. I remembered Bret Hart’s impassioned speeches about ‘shades of grey? and how I agreed with him. But sitting in the arena this night I was more than willing to boo the babyface and boo him loudly.
All in all I enjoyed my night at Monday Night Raw and I left the experience trying not to feel too cynical and jaded. Most of the time I spend talking about wrestling nowadays is about how it could be better or which storylines should be changed or which gimmick doesn?t work. I spend every Tuesday solving all the WWE’s problems with my buddy Matt. If only they had us on the payroll. But there was one thing about RAW that put it all into perspective for me. Sat directly behind me were two young boys and their mother. They must have been around 9 or 10 and couldn?t wait to wave their John Cena sign when the champ entered the arena. I could feel the anticipation pouring out of them just before his music began to play. Their hero was coming to the ring and was about to make a mark on their lives. As the boos filled the arena the two boys took to their feet and tried in vain to start a chant of ?Let’s go Cena?. These two boys made me realize why I was there, why I pay for Sky sports each month and why I am writing this column for this website today. To be in awe of a superstar and let them transport you to a world where it’s okay to have a hero and to believe. It was a truly wonderful moment and one that I will never forget…. but I still booed Cena!