BUFFALO, NY – The WWE continued its Road to Wrestlemania tour with a stop in Buffalo at the First Niagara Center last night. To put it mildly, the crowd was hot for all things WWE. The event was what wrestling should be like. Families were able to enjoy the sport, kids and teenage girls wore their Roman Reigns t-shirts, and the crowd booed the bad guys and cheered the good guys. Professional wrestling is back and so are the fans.
Chris Jericho proved that you can age well. He used all of his tricks on the microphone to make the fans hate him. His vulgar free chastisement of all things Buffalo riled the crowd up to a fever pitch. The young men sitting beside me decided to yell back at Jericho by calling him “Canadian bacon,” and asking him to “Go back to Canada!” In a comical moment one of the guys said to his pals “Canadian women are really good looking.” With all in agreement and me as well, (I am Canadian) they continued to scream at the former world champion. Jericho’s opponent, Jack Swagger, came to the ring with one of the biggest reactions of the night. The crowd was fiercely behind Swagger and chants of “U.S.A.” rang throughout the arena whenever the Oklahoman needed a hand. In the end Jericho pinned Swagger. To show how bad he is, Jericho then put Swagger in the Walls of Jericho and A.J. Styles came down for the save. Styles and Swagger stood beside each other to the delight of the crowd while Jericho skulked off to the dressing room.
This match is a strong indication of the crowd response towards the wrestlers at this event. Nowhere could the “cool” or “smart” fans of the Attitude Era be found. The fans didn’t hijack the show by cheering bad guys and demeaning the good guys. I must admit this was a truly enjoyable wrestling experience that I have rarely seen from the WWE over the past decade.
Last year, I covered a WWE show where I watched Charlotte perform live and was not impressed. She reminded me of wrestling’s version of paint by numbers. Almost a year later that has changed. Charlotte, the Divas champion, squared off against Natalya. From the very beginning the crowd loved the challenger and raged against the champ. I was surprised by how fluid Charlotte’s technique and movements have become. She took the time to let each move settle in with the crowd. She took her time working over the legs of Natalya and was clearly listening to the crowd to take their in-ring story further. I was impressed. In the end Charlotte pinned Natalie with her feet on the rope. A little boy sitting behind me exclaimed “She cheated! Why did she cheat to win?!” That, my friends, is the emotional magic of a match that makes the fans invest in it.
I was surprised by the reaction of the crowd to the handicap match between The Ascension and former world champion Mark Henry. The crowd loved everything Henry did in the ring. They especially rallied behind him as he sold a double team attack. I think everyone in my section knew all the words to Henry’s theme song. I have never split a wig. One move that cooled off the crowd was the Ascension’s double team move where they ran at Henry and hit him with their rear ends. The collective words from the crowd were “What was that?” In the end Henry got the win.
The main event featured Sheamus and Wade Barrett against Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. I don’t understand why I read so much negative stuff about Reigns. If I was running the WWE, all I would need to do is listen to the crowd and see all of the Reigns merchandise sold. Whole families were wearing his shirts! This guy is over with the crowd. While Reigns didn’t do much in the ring, he was relaxed and interacted with the fans. The match was fun that seemed to centre on Ambrose and Reigns messing up Sheamus’ hair to the delight of the crowd. Sheamus’ reactions to the follicle assault wear comical and crowd pleasing. Reigns sealed the win for his team with a spear.
For a long-time fan such as me, I truly enjoyed the work of referee Charles Robinson. His facial expressions and pantomimes added an extra layer to the matches. When Bubba Ray Dudley tried to intimidate the diminutive referee Robinson backed the behemoth down. The crowd loved that the referee put the bad guy in his place. Even the ring announcer and time keeper reacted as fans on the outside of the ring.
In other matches Tyler Breeze was pinned by A.J. Styles. Heath Slater, Adam Rose and Stardust lost to the team of Fandango, Darren Young and Damien Sandow. Zack Ryder put on a great effort in a loss to a fired up Luke Harper. The New Day retained the tag team titles over the Dudley Boyz and the Usos.
The show was a quality affair and bodes well for the WWE product. I was sitting with other long-time and new fans of the WWE and I can say that everyone left the arena happy. Keep up the good work WWE I am sure the road to Wrestlemania will end up with a heck of a big show!
Caleb Smith enjoyed his time at the WWE show last night with his buddies Tim and Kerry. Kofi Kingston kept us very entertained. Check out Niagara Flag Rugby at www.niagaraflagrugby.com. It is a flag rugby league for kids.