CALGARY – House shows have long been a favourite event for me to attend, tying back to days as a kid watching Hulk Hogan against Randy Savage or Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. Even as a young adult I would get so excited to see the likes of Eddie Guerrero, The Rock, and D-X. While I attend TV tapings I find spending more of my time watching promos and ads on screens then in-ring matches isn’t as appealing. Call me a purist but to me wrestling is still about the matches. So it was with a great deal of excitement that I headed to Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome for my first house show in nearly a decade.
Running on a Sunday afternoon — and Super Bowl Sunday no less — proved to be a challenge for the company. The floor was mostly sold out as was a good chunk of the lower bowl. The upper deck was empty. The crowd made up for its size with enthusiasm, loudly chanting “what’s up” with R-Truth as he headed to the ring for the opening bout. Hometown boy Tyson Kidd got a loud ovation as he headed down the ramp in a Calgary Flames hoodie, and then the cheers quickly changing when he pulled it off to reveal an Edmonton Oilers jersey. A good back and forth match saw the crowd still split, although they were less happy when a group started chanting “we want Nattie” and Kidd replied “there’s a reason why I left this place.” Hometown support wasn’t enough for Kidd, who was pinned by Truth.
With TV no longer featuring squash matches it is rare for local talent to get an opportunity to appear as extras for WWE. Several local talents joined Adam Rose as Rosebuds for his match with Darren Young. They truly played it up as well shaking maracas and responding to what was happening in the ring with great enthusiasm and exaggeration. The match itself had a lot of stalling — a theme that would continue throughout the afternoon — and Young surprised Rose with a sunset flip and the pin, much to the Rosebuds’ dismay. Rose took out his frustration by attacking the male ‘Buds and heading to the back alone.
The crowd came alive when Ryback made his entrance, loudly chanting “feed me more” throughout his match with Kane. The two thudded into each other with shoulderblocks and clotheslines, and Ryback used the turnbuckles to launch himself at the corporate monster. Ryback connected with the shellshock to score the win.
From the audience’s perspective the tag title match featuring The Usos defending against former champions The Miz and Damien Mizdow was one of the most entertaining bouts on the show. Reading house show reports attendees always mention that Mizdow’s antics are hilarious. They included Jey Uso holding Miz’s legs up to stomp him and spinning him around while Mizdow did the same on the apron and Mizdow stopping the match to climb to the top rope and mimic Miz falling onto the turnbuckle. The schtick certainly gets a reaction. Things picked up later in the match with some fast-paced action before the Miz fell to a double-superkick.
Chris Jericho received a loud ovation as he returned to Calgary for a Highlight Reel. He reflected on his time here and that he loved Calgary, who very much loved him back. The mutual admiration ended when Cesaro interrupted and pushed Jericho, challenging him to a match. The match summed up the general review of the event — it was solid but unspectacular. For me, who has been a fan of both wrestlers for years, and seen them each have incredible matches, this was the one I personally was most excited for. It was disappointing. One of the side effects of house shows sometimes expectations aren’t met. I hope someday to see them really tear the house down. The match had many of the trademark spots — Jericho’s springboard dropkick and the Walls of Jericho, Cesaro’s suplexes and giant swing. Jericho got the win after about 10 minutes with the codebreaker.
After an intermission the results of a fan Twitter vote revealed a six-Diva tag match, destroying a one-on-one bout option. Cameron, Summer Rae and NXT’s Sasha Banks squared off against Naomi, Emma, and NXT champ Charlotte, who was greeted by a chorus of whoos. Charlotte and Banks kicked things off with some fast-paced back and forth before Emma, a Storm Academy grad, was worked over by the bad girls. A really solid and entertaining Diva’s bout was won by Naomi hitting former Funkadactyl partner Cameron with the rear-view jumping hip attack.
At this point in both card and results the show was a carbon copy of the previous night’s Edmonton event. The card changed for Calgary, with The Big Show taking on Eric Rowan. Show went on a diatribe insulting Calgary and claiming to be the best giant wrestler of all time, especially Andre The Giant. On a show with three big man matches it was the slowest match of the night and ended rather abruptly with a knockout punch from Show.
In Edmonton, Show had faced Roman Reigns in a no-DQ bout while Rowan challenged Rusev for the U.S. title. Reigns was tasked with challenging for the belt in Calgary, which instantly made the finish predictable. Rusev was not losing the belt or his undefeated streak and the Wrestlemania headliner was not losing either. Although there was a smattering of boos, Reigns was loudly cheered, as if a week ago’s Rumble hadn’t happened. The match was slow to start but built momentum into a solid main event. Just as it seemed Reigns would pick up the victory, Big Show returned to the ring and brawled with Reigns in the aisle, sparking a disqualification. Show and Rusev double-teamed Reigns, who rebounded with a double-spear to end the night on a high note.
Prior to the show a few people mentioned that they were not going because it was a “B show.” It unfortunately speaks to the way some talents are perceived but at the same time the most over talent on the roster — John Cena, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, etc. — were all on the other loop in the U.S. Natalya being on the other tour and not in her hometown was also an odd decision. Without the biggest names in the company, a world champion to defend the belt, and some slow matches the house show was just kind of there. Not terrible, not great. Just a run of the mill show. History has shown WWE can do better, and the talent is there to do so. Hopefully next time Calgary hosts WWE it can be special.