MANCHESTER — RAW was something of an unique experience last night. It was a textbook example of how you can turn a crowd that popped for anything (including a frigging promo for a video game) to not giving two craps about anything.
And it’s all because of one “Dusty Finish.”
About 18,000 fans jammed the Manchester Evening News Arena last night, ahead of the first WWE TV taping ever held in the UK. What happened over the course of the next three and a bit hours had to be seen to be believed.
The show started well, with the crowd popping for anything and everything that was thrown in our direction. Just ask Maven, who got the “hey, he’s the first guy we recognize” pop of the night, as he beat Liverpool-born Robbie Brookside in the opening dark match.
For the Heat watcher reading this, I won’t give the results out – but the Manchester crowd generally liked the women’s tag match between Molly Holly (woo-hoo) & Gail Kim and Victoria and Nidia. You’ll probably like Victoria’s and Nidia’s entrance as well. Next were two matches totally devoid of heat (no pun intended), in Shelton Benjamin vs Stevie Richards, and Tajiri vs Chuck Palumbo.
There’s the garbage out of the way. Now for the main course, which was opened beautifully by Lillian Garcia singing God Save The Queen – something which was “saved” for WWE.com.
The opening contest was a women’s title match, with Stacy Keibler getting her title shot against Trish Stratus. Well, she did beat Molly last week – but the female Kevin Nash made the biggest boob of the night (well, in the ring, anyway), by coming out in a Manchester United soccer shirt. Yes, the show was in Manchester, but not everyone in Manchester liked Man United, never mind the fans who came in from all around Britain. So live, in the arena, Stacy became an instant heel. Note to the WWE – next time, don’t use soccer shirts to get cheap heat.
A diva-run in (to build up to the pervert’s fantasy battle royal; I’m voting for the nurse outfits) sorted that match out. The comical Simon Dean advert was shown in its entirety (Sky has edited the vignettes on the UK versions of Raw in the past few weeks) before the WWE served us a real crowd killer.
Any moron could have told you that, in the WWE’s first big show in England (not counting the UK-only PPVs), William Regal needed to go over. So when we saw that he was to challenge for the tag titles, with Eugene, we all guessed what was going to happen. And we were right. Sort of.
Inside five minutes, Regal clocked Sylvain Grenier with the brass knuckles. Three seconds later, and the MEN Arena lost its roof. Every single person inside the arena, whether they were English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Martian – it didn’t matter – exploded as their Blackpool-born hero won the tag team titles in his own backyard. It wasn’t quite the British Bulldog winning the IC belt at Wembley, but it was momentous nevertheless.
Regal and Eugene stayed in the ring to celebrate as everyone in the arena went nuts. Then, the party was ruined. Cue Eric Bischoff on the Titantron (and now on WWE.com), who restarted the match because of Regal using the brass knux. Cutting the story short, the match was restarted, the crowd churned out the BS chant, and one cheap finish later, and La Resistance retained the titles. Worst. Booking. Decision. Ever.
Given the magnitude of the show, William Regal HAD to go over. If they didn’t want him to win a tag title, then why book him in a tag title match in the first place? The result only served to anger the fans in the arena, and as a result, the remainder show felt somewhat flat.
Dusty Rhodes – you have a lot to answer for.
After a BS finish like that, you need some good matches to get the crowd going. So what did we get? A Gene Snitsky promo followed by an aborted (pun not intended) tag match when Kane ran in and smacked everyone with a steel chair.
The “payback” match from last week’s main event resulted in an impromptu tag match, which few people cared about. It’s blatantly obvious that WWE want us to vote for Christian vs. Chris Jericho at the PPV, but they need to push extra guys into the equation (like Rhyno, Tomko and Batista) to force us to second guess ourselves.
Finally – the main event. The old six-man tag got the fans going, even if it was for the triumvirate of figure four leglocks on Evolution. A fan hopped the barrier and got into the ring, before being beaten up by Shawn Michaels and Edge (only for the moron to gloat about his beating outside the arena, after the show had ended). What a shame he went in at a neutral corner – if he’d gone in the ring through Evolution’s corner, he’d probably be in intensive care now.
After Edge got the win (which didn’t please the pro-Michaels-and-Benoit crowd), Edge continue his push for the fans’ vote at Taboo Tuesday. At this rate, people will probably vote for George Bush or Tony Blair ahead of Edge.
Once Edge had dispatched his rivals, Evolution came out for a beat down, prompting The Stone Cold Rock Randy Orton to make the save, laying out all of Evolution with RKOs. As the fans filed out of the arena, the trio posed to the crowd while their music played in turn.
All-in-all, it wasn’t a bad show – but it was yet another example of how one decision can kill a crowd. Tuesday night’s SmackDown taping is nowhere near sold out – which should serve as a warning to the WWE to reduce ticket prices: ringside tickets for last night were on a par with WrestleMania (and of course, a TV taping is hardly “the granddaddy of them all”, is it?)
The last song played last night was Randy Orton’s theme. Somehow, that seems quite apt: “Nothing you can say, nothing’s gonna change what you’ve done to me.”
Ian Hamilton is from Sunderland, England, and has been watching WWE for over 12 years. Yet, despite growing up watching the likes of Repo Man, Nailz, TL Hopper and Mantaur, he’s been able to turn down the temptation of going to see JBL vs Hardcore Holly live. We wonder why. Visit his website at onesunderland.com.