|Image Source: Mark Armstrong|
Written By: Mark Armstrong
Produced By: WWE
Format: House Show
Date: November 8 2015
Location: Echo Arena, Liverpool, Merseyside, England
This bonus WWE show review looks at a house show I attended on the latest WWE UK tour, in my hometown of Liverpool, England. Due to a lack of a suitable venue, WWE only made its Liverpool bow in April 2008, and from April 2009 onwards, WWE would always make an appearance in Liverpool during a large-scale tour. This led to Raw and SmackDown being recorded at the Echo Arena for the first time in November 2011. Strangely, it would then be three years before WWE returned to the city, doing so with further TV tapings one year ago, which was followed by this latest presentation. Okay, that’s the history lesson over now.
Going into the show, expectations weren’t sky-high, and not just because this was a house show in the post-Draft era where we still only see half of the roster at non-televised UK events. Right now, WWE has fewer genuine headline stars to mix and match with since, well, ever: John Cena is on a well-deserved break; Randy Orton recently got hurt; Brock Lesnar is, of course, a part-timer; The Undertaker was only scheduled to appear at the SmackDown TV taping (which was a surprise in itself); Chris Jericho’s house show run has ended for now; and, biggest of all, Seth Rollins, who had reigned as WWE World Heavyweight Champion since WrestleMania 31, was injured on the first night of the tour in Dublin, Ireland, meaning that the title is now vacant.
Therefore, to say that this tour was lacking in star power was an understatement. Fortunately, the entertainment and athleticism on display usually compensate for a lack of big names, at least when in attendance at a show, and it was the case again here. By no means were there any classic matches or unforgettable moments, but the card ended up being a worthwhile night of action from the depleted crew.
Opening up was Neville vs. Stardust. Their on-screen rivalry had passed the point of exhaustion weeks ago, so it wasn’t hard to predict the turn of events. That being said, it remained an entertaining sight, with Stardust’s deliberately ludicrous crowd-baiting attempts and Neville’s flashy high-flying offence during his comeback, the highlights being a moonsault to the floor and the match-winning Red Arrow. Oh, I should mention that WWE has slightly upgraded its live event presentation so that the aisle now has a proper jumbo screen and an LED-lit entrance way, which was an improvement when watching the stars make their entrances.
Match two pitted Heath Slater (who now has a humorous “One-Man” version of the 3MB music) against Damien Sandow. As the bell rang, I thought “Sandow is back in his original costume and presentation, circa 2012, which is more interesting I guess than him doing nothing. It’s a shame that WWE did nothing with him after the Mizdow storyline … oh, it’s over already!” Slater jumped Damien before the bell, only to be rolled-up within 30 seconds to lose an extremely quick match. Two bouts in, and the fact that my ticket had cost £60 was starting to make my purchase feel like a poor decision.
We then had a (thankfully) longer and more entertaining clash, a six-man pitting Ryback and the recently-returned Usos (well, Jey Uso returned anyway) against Wyatt Family members Braun Strowman, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. It was a simple yet well-executed and well-received clash, spotlighted by Ryback holding Harper and Rowan up for ridiculously long periods during suplexes, and what may have been a subtle inside joke by the Wyatts (and Bray Wyatt later on) when flexing their muscles, something they don’t normally do, but which they did do on a picture posted and quickly deleted from Chris Jericho’s Instagram page recently. Hmm … Anyway, after Ryback and The Usos made their comeback, Ryback looked to hit Braun with Shell Shocked but couldn’t pull it off, and moments later Braun beat Jey (I think) with his unnamed submission/chokehold finisher. The Wyatts were always going to win, given their recent hefty push, but this was still a fun match to watch. By the way, during the bout Ryback randomly shouted “I’m the Godd–n man!”, which wasn’t very PG, was it?
Following that was a fairly short match between King Barrett and Fandango. Fandango’s popularity has definitely dropped off since the 2013 period when he (or his music) had British fans cheering as loud as I have ever had a wrestling crowd. Barrett still gets a good reception in his home country though, and did here when he vanquished Fandango with a Bull Hammer after a decent yet forgettable bout.
The pre-intermission showdown was a three-way tag bout involving The Ascension (who weren’t over at all), Los Matadores (Ole!) and The Lucha Dragons (Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!). Each team got a chance to show their stuff, if such a phrase applies to Konor and Viktor. In the end, Diego and Fernando were about to win, only to be bizarrely interrupted by the song Bad To The Bone and interference from their apparently-former manager El Torito (I haven’t watched Superstars or Main Event for a long time; in the case of Main Event, I actually don’t think I ever have) caused them to lose the advantage, and then Kalisto finished off Viktor for the victory.
Lilian Garcia (who had sang God Save The Queen to start the show) then got one of the night’s biggest reactions by … throwing free T-shirts into the crowd, which led us into the break. During this, fans could buy merchandise if they wish, although I did notice that the event programme for this non-televised show cost a whopping £20. That’s the same price as the WWE Network for two months. And the absent John Cena was on the front (which says a lot about where WWE internally ranks Seth Rollins). No, I didn’t buy it.
After the break, it was time for the Divas, as Team B.A.D. (with Tamina stationed at ringside) battling Bayley (who had her awesome NXT theme, which she apparently didn’t earlier on the tour for some reason) and Natalya. It was a pretty good tag bout; nothing special, but definitely watchable. A headband thrown into the ring at Sasha by a fan ended up playing a role in the match as Bayley took this and Sasha’s shades, to which Banks responded with primal screams not seen since Melina was managing MNM. In the end, Natalya won by making Naomi submit to the Sharpshooter. Bayley actually got a really good crowd reaction when you consider that NXT is only available on (yes!) the WWE Network, so many probably didn’t know who she was.
The penultimate match saw Alberto Del Rio defend the United States Title against Jack Swagger. I had seen this match live back at WrestleMania 29; it’s safe to say that I wasn’t expecting to see it in person again, especially a few months ago when it seemed like Del Rio would never return to WWE. But he did at Hell In A Cell, and was on hand here (minus Zeb Colter) to defend the U.S. gold. It was a good wrestling match, with the reversals and kick-outs heightening drama towards the end. I was surprised that Swagger survived the low superkick which cleanly beat Cena at HIAC. But ADR eventually regrouped and hit his upside-down turnbuckle stomp for the three-count. It looks like ADR is a heel (he spent several minutes during the match chastising the crowd, which included an insult at the expense of Liverpool Football Club; had it taken place beforehand, it would have been more effective, since the lengthy promo threatened to ruin the match as it lasted so long), which makes the nature of his win over Cena even stranger. This was a good effort though.
The main event saw Roman Reigns take on Bray Wyatt in a No Holds Barred match. This was the biggest and best match of the night, with both men hitting big moves, pulling off quick-fire reversals and absorbing some painful-looking weapon shots with a kendo stick, a stee chair and steel stairs. Two tables were broken via Bray’s Rock Bottom-like slam and a Reigns powerbomb from the top rope. Bray hit a Sister Abigail which was so quick that I virtually missed it; Reigns connected with a Superman Punch. But no moves could end the battle, until Reigns followed a Sister Abigail counter with a Spear to take the three-count. I was expecting the other Wyatts to interfere at the finish or shortly afterwards, but they surprisingly didn’t. Instead, Reigns celebrated his victory to a strong cheer from the audience, and he had earned it with this performance. If anything, this and previous supercard showings this year should be enough for fans to now accept Reigns as a future WWE Champion; he has definitely done enough this year to “prove” himself, in my opinion.
So, it was a fun night of action. To be fair, Cena aside, none of the absent names would have appeared here anyway (Rollins was with the other crew who were in Birmingham at the time; and Orton might have been pitted against Seth on that show), so it was as good a show, in terms of the line-up, as one could have realistically expected. The top two matches were fun, and a couple of others had some notable spots. It was close to a sell-out crowd, and they made a lot of noise and enjoyed the show rather than trying to take over the card with too-annoying-to-be-funny chants (well, the people sat behind me were of that ilk, but nobody else was). Granted, the price was steep for a house show which only had a sample of the main roster, but overall I had a good time, and would recommend fans attending a show on the April 2016 UK tour. Just ensure that the ticket prices are within your budget, and unless you’re a die-hard fan, I would suggest that you swerve the £20 event programme.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Okay