BUFFALO, NY – The WWE rolled into Buffalo on Sunday night and it put on a great show. Over the last five years, I have found that Buffalo is a great barometer of how WWE is connecting with the fans and, from what I can tell, they are attracting the young fans.
The Key Bank Center was only about three quarters full Sunday, perhaps because the NFL’s Buffalo Bills played earlier in the day. The crowd was loud and, quite frankly, they were the perfect wrestling fans. The crowd booed the bad guys and cheered for the faces without prompting. The crowd was heavily filled with children and they were excited. The WWE crew played to those young fans, staying in character, and the Revival made those kids the maddest.
Of the eight matches put on by the Raw side of the roster, seven were red hot with the crowd and were filled with quality. The WWE wrestlers appeared to be working very hard to top the previous match. The match of the night was the three-team tag team championship match, where Bobby Roode and Chad Gable defended their championship against the Authors of Pain and The Revival.
I attended the matches with Sam Cino, a referee on the Ontario Independent wrestling scene, and he provided some great insight as the matches played out. One point that I hadn’t considered was that the referee had to keep track of the legal men in the three-team match. He stressed that it was important for the fans to feel that the correct person had been pinned and not just a random player. With that in mind I watched the match.
I closely studied the skilled WWE referee as he keenly kept order in a match that could have been disorganized. Cino also pointed out the clever interference of Drake Maverick, manager of the Authors of Pain. Maverick never inserted himself in the match where the referee could see him and also it was always a quick insertion and he didn’t make himself the focal point of the action. Cino rightly pointed out that the quick, behind the referee’s back actions of Maverick didn’t make the referee lose face as the actions were done surreptitiously.
One of the fans, who also happened to be the Canadian Haggis Throwing champion, Derek Gallacher, said that the tag match was easily his favourite match of the year. What made the match so good was Chad Gable’s ability to take a beating and sell. Gable never died in his selling, he kept fighting back and finding plucky ways to get so tantalizingly close to the tag that the fans were invested in his struggle.
All three teams played to their strengths and didn’t try to become copies of the other teams. The Authors of Pain exuded anger and frustration but they respected Bobby Roode. The slight backing off from Roode was a great nod towards his ring experience. The Revival were the classic villains. They flicked sweat at the fans, backed off of the good guys when needed and flipped even though they don’t like to. I loved the match and so did the crowd.
The show started with what could and should have been the main event as Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. The fans were very excited to see Balor and I think it would be safe to say they loved him. Apollo Crews won a 13-man battle royal. Nia Jax defeated Ember Moon, Bobby Lashley beat Elias with the help of the charismatic Lio Rush. Bray Wyatt stopped Baron Corbin.
Sasha Banks, Bayley and Natalya defeated The Riot Squad. Five out of the six participants looked like solid professional wrestlers, but Liv Morgan was in over her head. Morgan couldn’t connect with a punch or a kick and was well on her way to ruining the match. Thankfully Natalya was tagged in and worked her very solid, snug style that seemed to send a message to Morgan. Punch and kick is good if it connects Morgan.
The main event was loved by the fans but I found it lacking. Seth Rollins fought the Intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose in a steel cage match. The crowd was so excited by the over the top theatrics of Ambrose. I felt that the match was non-stop non-psychology. The fans love those two wrestlers but I felt that they should have opened the card of a local indy and not the main event of a WWE show. A story can be told in a cage. Please watch some old tapes and figure it out.
The night was fun and action packed. My friends and I were surrounded by kids and their parents and they loved the evening a matches. It looks like the WWE is making the right moves.