Hello With Leatherers, long-time reader and commenter, first time contributor here. With the relatively good product WWE has been putting out lately, rather than grapple with a mediocre stream that I totally paid for, I proudly put down $85 for my lady friend, Jess, and I to go to Buffalo’s First Niagara Center to see Daniel Bryan, The Rhodeses, CM Punk, Antonio Cesaro, and all the rest (R-Truth) put on Battleground a.k.a the inexplicable FIRST October pay-per-view a.k.a. the one you would skip to save money for Survivor Series.
Before the show, I noticed a Bray Wyatt hat and sheep mask at the mobile WWE shop (next to a $30 mini WWE Championship). And Bray Wyatt was featured prominently in the advertising for the WWE’s next appearance in Buffalo. He is treated like a big, important guy, but is not written like one.
Walking into the arena, the theme on the video screens was apparently “right before a nuclear attack”.
This was Jess’ first exposure to wrestling at all. I think she agreed to go with me because she likes me or something. Her grasp of wrestling was limited to a quick tutoring session from one of her friends, during which she became familiar with, as she called them, The Little Guy, The Walrus, The Mean Men in Black, The Blonde Guy who Dances a Lot, The Big Guy, and The Gorilla. Here’s a couple of tips for people bringing newbies to the show: 1. Always hold their purse when they go the bathroom. 2. Do not tell them about the fireworks. The joy I got from watching her get shocked by the fireworks (and then not get fazed at all by RVD’s pyro), probably thinking someone had been shot, was greater than the joy I got from 95% of the card.
Now, maybe it’s because I was in the cheap seats, but I did not feel like I was surrounded by like-minded wrestling fans. After almost 2 years in our wonderful little bubble, it was startling to see people point at themselves when RVD did, and boo Alberto Del Rio because…he’s Mexican and is proud of his rich heritage? I don’t know. At the same time, it was kind of fun to just let go and let myself be puppeted by WWE Creative.
Maybe it was because it was the first match of the night (oh yah, The Blonde Guy who Dances a Lot and Damien Sandow admirably jerked the curtain), but the crowd was solidly behind RVD, from what I could tell. Now as I said, this was Jess’ first exposure to wrestling (I wouldn’t find out how green she was until later) and she could have either been disgusted and left me for, I don’t know, some hockey fan, or she could have been a totally game wrestling fan who made me ashamed of my cynical, withered wrestling soul, making me long for the days when I flipped my shit at Jeff Hardy beating Triple H and played hookey at boy scouts to play hours of WWF No Mercy. Luckily for me, it was the latter. She was genuinely moved and excited by the match (an RVD/Del Rio match, no less) and genuinely concerned for the safety of all involved. Watching her, every near fall could have really ended the match and everyone was really getting hurt!
Next up was The Real Americans vs. Santino and The Great Khali. I don’t know if this was played on TV, but Zeb Colter did a very Buffalo-centric promo before the match that completely slammed the great, struggling city of Buffalo and predictably ended with the entire arena, full of Buffalonians who had just been shit on, passionately preaching “We the People”. Ordinarily, I would have rolled my eyes. But, you know what, sometimes it’s fun to say things with a lot of people.
Jess again expressed concern for the safety of the wrestlers (“Is the midget going to wrestle?”). Antonio Cesaro put on an absolutely amazing show of strength. When he tossed his shirt into the audience, it went over the whole ring and completely over the floor seating area. Unless his shirt was made of lead (a poor choice during Breast Cancer Awareness Month), that was pretty impressive. And oh yah, then there was THE BIG SWING. Even in Buffalo, which isn’t exactly a post-Wrestlemania crowd if you know what I mean, this move is very over. It was the first time (and almost only time) people got to their feet all night.
Next up was Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth. People were actually excited to see and rap with R-Truth. Another experience outside the bubble. Jess, the first time she had ever seen or heard of Curtis Axel or R-Truth, said “I am not concerned for their safety”. She was excited to point out The Walrus, though.
AJ vs. Brie Bella was fine, really. The crowd was so confused as to who to cheer for, though. Maybe it’s a failure of the creative team or the Bella Twins as human beings, but people naturally seem to boo them.
Then, there was The Rhodeses vs. The Mean Men in Black, by far the high point of the night. Jess’ enjoyment peaked here and she was on the edge of her seat. I was on the edge of my seat. And when The Rhodeses won, we celebrated and almost cried. Truly, The Rhodeses celebrating with the babyface roster is the high-point of friendship-based wrestling. Everyone involved was amazing and the story was executed perfectly. Jess had high praise for Dusty Rhodes (“That old guy is awesome”).
While we were talking about the match, I realized that…Jess was unaware this was all scripted. Seriously, she thought all of the action was real and The Rhodeses had just got their jobs back. Having to break the news to her restored my wrestling heart to its normal, cynical, withered state. This new-found information seriously affected her enjoyment of the Bray Wyatt/Kofi Kingston match. Though, to be fair, that might have been a case of bad timing. Yeeeeeesh. No Jess, neither of these people are Randy Savage.
The crowd was pumped for CM Punk and he got a huge reaction. Interestingly, only D-Bry and CM Punk got the “long pause before music and thunderous applause” treatment. I guess they are at the top! The lack of stakes in this match between Punk and The Big Guy (representative of the whole PPV, Rhodeses excluded) did not restore Jess’ feelings and my wrestling heart remained in something of a power outage.
Luckily, The Little Guy was able to work his magic and get Jess believing again, despite knowing that everything was scripted. Orton and D-Bry put on a really enjoyable match. Now, I knew full well that there would be shenanigans that would probably result in D-Bry being screwed. So, here comes The Gorilla to deliver my shenanigans and make me feel smart. He punches D-Bry and I think “Oh no, he’s a bad guy!” Then, he costs Orton the title and I think “Yay he’s on our side and D-Bry is going to win the title and probably lose it again tomorrow night, but at least tonight we’ll be happy”. Then…Big Show just stomps around the ring like a Gorilla and…is he the WWE Champion? No, everything is just kind of over and I look as perplexed as Brad Maddox. Jess too.
You could feel the nothingness that ended the show in the crowd. There was an audible sense of nothingness. I expected shenanigans and I understood the necessity of this part of the story to the arc of this big storyline. but I also expected a definitive ending, not a RAW ending. After the show ended, D-Bry hit a running knee on Orton to send the fans home happy, Justin Roberts reminding us to return to First Niagara for a house show in January. That ending was not the greatest advertisement, Justin Roberts.
But, overall, I left pretty satisfied. The show was overall entertaining, filled with fun moments (THE BIG SWING) and moments I’ll never forget (tearing up at The Rhodeses). I would have been bored out of my mind if I had watched this on a mediocre stream I totally paid for, but I guess you just had to be there. I’m Downbound92 (points at self). WE THE PEOPLE
I want more like this!
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