TORONTO – As someone who writes about wrestling on the internet, it can be really easy at times to be negative.
Whether it’s knocking the creative direction of a storyline, nitpicking every little mistake in a match, or questioning who is or isn’t getting a push, sometimes the going-in position is to criticize, as opposed to highlighting the good points.
That very well may have been what my report of Sunday night’s WWE Road to WrestleMania house show at Toronto’s Coca-Cola Coliseum would have read like. Until the two people with the seats next to me joined me: a man and his 7-year old son, Owen, who was attending his first wrestling show in person.
Watching the show through Owen’s eyes – hearing him scream and shout and clap and stomp in his support of his heroes as they courageously battled the villains in the ultimate battle of good and evil – gave me a sense of wonder, excitement, and enthusiasm I hadn’t felt in a long time.
And when I turned off my “smart mark” brain, I noticed something else. The rest of the near- if not fully-sold out crowd in the building were just like him. Perhaps it was all the pent-up energy of a lockdown being collectively-released. But the crowd was as rowdy and raucous as ever – certainly louder (and obviously more authentic) than it sounds like on TV.
The energy was felt throughout the building all night.
From the long line-ups at the merch stands where you could get a custom Toronto 3:16 t-shirt (which apparently sold out by the end of the night) or an autographed 8X10 of Riddle, or a Becky Lynch plush doll.
To the singing along by the crowd of the wrestlers’ entrance music, including R-Truth’s ever-popular “What’s Up?” call and response.
To the cheers and chants that filled the building during every single match, including the appreciative “This is awesome!” one that broke out during the US Championship match that saw Finn Balor successfully defend his title in a Triple Threat match against Damian Priest and Austin Theory.
Right up until the very end of the show that saw WWE Hall of Famer – and Toronto’s own – Trish Stratus confront Becky Lynch, leading to a slap that staggered Becky and into the waiting arms of Rhea Ripley who planted Becky with the Riptide as payback for cheating to beat Ripley in the main event.
And sure, there are things that I could criticize. Like the fact that the opening segment seemed to blur the line between babyfaces and heels. Or the fact that the two teams that will be contending for the Tag Team Championship at next week’s WrestleMania lost to a duo that aren’t even a proper tag team anymore and neither have a scheduled match at Mania. Or that there was no point in putting on title matches when there was zero-point-zero chance of actually having a title change hands this close to Mania.
But what would be the point? Because it’s safe to say that 95% of the fans in the audience – and a great many number of them seemed to be kids like Owen – didn’t notice, or didn’t care. After all, they weren’t there to analyze the show with a jaundiced eye. They were there to have fun.
And, at the end of the night – because I took off my critic’s hat and replaced it with my fan’s hat – so did I.
So, thank you, Owen, for helping me feel the joy of a wrestling show as if I was a kid again.
WWE Road to WrestleMania – Coca-Cola Coliseum / Toronto ON / March 27, 2022
- Kevin Owens started off with the KO Show and introduced his guest Trish Stratus, who looked great decked out in a throwback outfit, complete with cowboy hat and skirt. They bonded over being fellow Canadians before Miz came out and interrupted them, saying that he should host a Miz TV segment instead. Miz danced to show Trish that he’s “got talent” and it was awful. Rey and Dominik Mysterio came to the ring, Miz got mouth, and in the end, he got Stunned and Double 619’d for his troubles.
- Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins won a Triple Threat match over the Alpha Academy and the Street Profits. The end came with a Buckle Bomb – Stunner – Stomp combination on Gable.
- R-Truth came to the ring and rapped. Veer came out and attacked Truth, leaving him laying.
- Finn Balor pinned Damian Priest after a Coup de Grace to retain his US Championship in a Triple Threat match that also featured Austin Theory.
- R-Truth joined Adam Pearce in the ring and said that he wanted a match tonight, and that it didn’t matter who his opponent was. Never wish what you ask for, because Pearce gave him a match against Omos. Truth tried to get out of the match, claiming to be Omos’ long-lost father. And then Omos committed attempted patricide, squashing Truth and pinning him after a quick and painful beatdown.
- Riddle beat Robert Roode with an RKO. The crowd went crazy for the final sequence of this match, and erupted when Riddle hit the finish.
- Becky Lynch cheated, putting her feet on the ropes to pin Rhea Ripley and successfully defend the RAW Women’s Championship. After the match, Trish Stratus returned to the ring and confronted Becky. After Rhea hit the Riptide, she and Trish celebrated, before Trish closed out the show to the Stratusfaction of the crowd.
Top Photo: Bob Kapur before the WWE Road to WrestleMania show at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, March 27, 2022.