The SmarK Rant for WWE Live in Saskatoon–02.09.18

WWE Live Event – Saskatoon 02.09.18

So once again WWE stopped by, as we’re apparently on an “every six months” rotation now due to big attendance numbers, and it’s doubly amazing because tonight was hellishly cold and yet WWE still came close to selling out the lower bowl of Sasktel Centre. Pretty darn impressive.

Merchandise-wise, it was mostly Reigns/Rollins/Ambrose stuff, with the usual Cena shirts and even a Ronda Rousey shirt available! But again, the place was packed with neckbeards wearing Bullet Club merchandise, which is pretty amazing considering how little exposure to ROH or New Japan there would be here in the cold bowels of Saskatchewan. Anyway, they were out of Finn Balor shirts at the table I ended up at, so I decided to be a conformist square and got a Shield shirt instead. Rosalie opted for a pair of Bayley wacky waving tube-man thundersticks, although her allegiances would change by the end of the night.

Matches were all middling stuff, so we’ll rate this on the point system, with one exception.

1. Finn Balor and Karl Anderson d. The Miztourage in 10:00 or so. Fun basic tag match. Now, I’m assuming that this was supposed to be a six-man with Miz involved, but he wasn’t at the show for whatever reason and they still wanted Balor on the show, so this is what we got. All the Bullet Club nerds in the audience went suitably nutso for the Club, and also my wife had never really seen Finn Balor before and he instantly became her favorite wrestler. They did a lot of comedy stuff to start with the Miztourage running away until Balor called them chickens and coaxed them back into the ring (apparently the Irish accent was also a deciding factor in his hotness) and then we got a lengthy heat segment on Finn after a cheapshot from Axel. Lots of heat for the Miztourage and Karl Anderson really seemed to love playing the straight babyface role, with Doc Gallows clapping on the outside and banging the mat and all that stuff. Finn of course finished off Axel with the sling blade and Coup de Grace. A fun start to the show. 1 for 1.

2. Hideo Itami d. TJP. Although I was jazzed to finally see KENTA live for the first time, he so does not look like he wants to be there any more. Standard watered-down 205 Live cruiserweight match with Itami getting fired up with backfists and such, before finishing TJ with the double knees. Just the usual pleasantly entertaining cruiserweight match. 1 for 2.

3. Slater and Rhyno d. The Revival, when Heath pinned Dawson with a small package reversal from a roll up. Fun comedy match, with people really into the Rhyno/Slater team and the Revival getting foiled while trying all their double-team stuff on Rhyno but unable to suplex a 350 pound man-beast and such. They actually reversed the usual formula and built to a hot tag to Slater, which worked surprisingly well. For people who claim to be “no flips just fists”, they were sure flipping all over the ring for Rhyno at a record pace. Anyway, Dawson tried a rollup on Slater with the referee distracted, but Slater escaped and rolled him into a small package for the pin. Big reaction for the babyfaces, crowd didn’t really know much about the Revival. A good match. 2 for 3.

4. Sasha Banks and Mickie James d. Absolution in a nothing tag match. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose are so lost now without Paige, and this was mostly Mickie and Sasha clowning around and having fun (Mickie doing the Sasha pose with her was pretty adorable) and Mandy getting the heat on Mickie by choking, choking and choking. Sasha tapped out Sonya with the Bank Statement after getting the hot tag, and the babyfaces had more fun. Perhaps Sonya should have put her hair up and squared up? Rosalie is all about the girls and she loved it, so I’ll be generous and give it a point on her behalf. 3 for 4.

5. Elias sang us a song about how much he hates Saskatoon, and how it’s ridiculously cold and the fans are stupid, and how he wants to beat up all the little kids, at which point Braun Strowman came out and squashed him in about 3:00. Rosalie was confused because last time Strowman was here, he was the bad guy, but now people were cheering him. I explained to her that that’s how wrestling works most of the time. Good and evil are fluid and contextual. She booed Strowman anyway, because she’s 7 and she’s stubborn that way. If Elias had anything in the ring to back up the incredible heat he draws, like ANYTHING, he’d be a giant star, because he had the place in hysterics with his “song” and then chanting along with his “WWE stands for Walk With Elias” bit. This was textbook stuff, as they built up Elias as the giant jerk and then had him get his ass kicked. 4 for 5.

Intermission. The ring announcer did some trivia stuff with kids in the front row, and I took pictures. Good times.

 

6. Alexa Bliss retained the Women’s title over Bayley and Nia Jax. After getting all excited for Bayley earlier in the show and popping for the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Tube Men in his entrance, Rosalie revealed her true colors by cheering wildly for Alexa Bliss the entire match. “But she’s a mean girl!” I explained to her, but her argument was “She’s cute” and really I had no counter to that one. This was mostly good, especially when Nia Jax wasn’t involved, which was most of the time thankfully. She was mostly outside of the ring while Bayley and Bliss did their thing and Bayley got over as usual. She built to the big comeback with her usual stuff, but walked into a samoan drop from Nia, and Alexa stole the pin. I was hoping for Asuka, but the mask probably would have frozen to her face like the flagpole in A Christmas Story, so it’s probably for the best that she wasn’t there. This wasn’t my jam but Rosalie was losing her mind, so again it gets a point because I really love that she’s into the whole wrestling thing with me. Even if it’s the women and they’re terrible. 5 for 6.

7. Woken Matt Hardy beat Bray Wyatt with the Twist of Fate. I was shocked to see that one, because Matt has been so nothing on TV lately, but he beat Bray clean in the middle after a total comedy match. They actually “wrestled” with their gear on for the first few minutes, barely making contact and mostly exchanging wacky poses while the fans chanted “Delete”. Matched settled down into a standard TV match, with Bray doing a whole lot of nothing and Matt pulling out the old stuff and cackling a lot. Bray did his upside down corner pose a bunch of times and went for Sister Abigail, but Matt reversed him into a Side Effect and then put him away with the Twist. I still don’t think this Woken thing is translating but people seem to like it. 5 for 7.

8. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins beat the Bar by DQ in the main event. This was a HELL of a tag title match, like PPV quality. I know this is a hot take, but Roman Reigns comes across as the biggest star on the show and he gets giant reactions, which is why he’s pushed as the top guy. Also, if all he ever did was stand on the apron and build to the hot tag, fans would not be resentful at all, because he’s an amazing hot tag and his limited offense is suited perfectly to that role. Anyway, tons of near-falls and people went crazy for the Shield after a lengthy heat segment on Roman. Then we got a heat segment on Rollins and he’s born for that role, building to a wonderfully inventive spot where the Bar cut off the ring with a facelock, but then Rollins facelocked Cesaro right back and prevented HIM from tagging Sheamus. They did the old “argue with the ref and get into a shoving match” spot that always gets over huge, and then Roman got the hot tag and the place came unglued. Superman punch, etc, and you could actually buy him as a top star. They teased a title change on a couple of occasions and the match was so hot that I was half-expecting to actually get one, but the Bar ran away and they brawled outside to tease a double-countout. Then the Shield hauled them back in and went for the double-powerbomb before Cesaro grabbed a chair and swung away for the DQ, leading to our heroes beating the hell out of them afterwards to send the crowd home happy. Easy ****1/4 match that the crowd was nuts for by the end. 6 for 8.

At 2.5 hours, it was actually a bit longer than the last couple, but didn’t drag at all and felt like the perfect length. Lots of fun, with a hot crowd of about 6000-7000, and the stuff I didn’t necessarily enjoy was enjoyed by my daughter, so that was my biggest concern and I’m really glad she had so much fun. They really do strive to make it family-friendly and it’s working well. Hopefully the next time they come back, it’s not colder than Siberia here.