The SmarK Rant for WWE Live in Saskatoon–02.01.19

The SmarK Rant for WWE RAW Live in Saskatoon – 02.01.19

Well, WWE returned for another yearly house show, and for whatever reason they always seem to run them during the most miserably cold time of the year. And this year was definitely no exception. We’re currently in the midst of the dreaded Polar Vortex (which sounds like the finisher of some indy guy) and yet they still had a few thousand out for the show, which is pretty impressive. Of course, I wasn’t sitting there with a stopwatch and notebook, mostly just taking quick notes on my phone between matches, so this will be just kind of what I can remember.

Now, they don’t really advertise for these as such, basically just saying “It’s a RAW brand show” and maybe including a list of people who will be appearing. Specifically in this case it was advertised at the time the show was announced that it would be Seth Rollins defending the IC title against Dean Ambrose in some kind of street fight. Then it changed to Ambrose defending against Rollins after he won it at TLC. Then, after Lashley won it on RAW, they sent out a new mailing advertising Lashley defending against Rollins and then a list of everyone else appearing, with Sasha Banks prominently featured. She did not appear and no explanation was given, by the way.

Merch was an OK selection, although Rosalie was wanting a shirt for herself and was disappointed at the near-complete lack of merchandise featuring women. Last time they came through, you could get Ronda Rousey merch out the wazoo, for example, but this time there was nothing unless you count a pair of Sasha Banks glasses. There was of course the usual selection of black shirts with various logos, ranging from the montage of everyone on the Road to Wrestlemania (which is what she picked because there were a bunch of girls on it, none of whom showed up tonight) to Dean Ambrose to AJ Styles to Finn Balor. I opted for a colorful and visually interesting Elias shirt, which I liked better than the usual non-descript stuff. Like, really, who is going to understand the “S/F/N/R” shirt and what it’s supposed to stand for?

Turns out I could have got it for $10 less had I just ordered it online, but that’s the fun of going to shows, I guess.

Interchangeable Interview Girl does a “talent contest” with three kids from the stands where they do impressions of their favorite WWE superstars, which gives us pretty weak impressions of Randy Savage, Braun Strowman and Heath Slater. Anyway, they all get ringside tickets for playing, as apparently standards are pretty low for this sort of thing.

So first up, Bobby Lashley comes out for a promo, and informs us that Seth Rollins is in fact not here tonight after all and is “unable to compete”. Which comes after they spent most of the pre-show hype session with Interchangeable Interview Girl (Kayla? Dascha? I know who Charly is from Edge & Christian Show and it wasn’t her, at least) getting the crowd hyped for Rollins. So I don’t know if he’s injured or got stuck in a snow drift in Moose Jaw or what. Anyway, Bobby declares that he’s going to pose for us instead because no one has the guts to face him for the title, which brings out Dean Ambrose to a mammoth babyface reaction and he’s literally just a babyface tonight again. Admittedly I don’t watch RAW but I’m pretty sure he didn’t turn there, but regardless it’s nice to see him again before he leaves. And then Drew McIntyre interrupts with a funny bit about how Saskatoon is literally the coldest place in the world (we were indeed colder than Siberia by a few degrees last week!) and then when everyone cheers, he snaps “That’s not a compliment!” And finally Finn Balor comes out to stake his claim to the title, and Fit Finlay makes an appearance as tonight’s authority figure and books the obvious four-way main event for the title.

RAW World tag team titles: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable v. The Revival

This was an INCREDIBLE opener, as they got to do all the long and complex tag team wrestling that they never get to do in their 5:00 TV matches and the crowd was hot for all of it. Chad Gable is a really amazing talent, as even my wife was into him hurling the challengers all over the ring with suplexes and flying around with dives and moonsaults. So this went about 20-25 minutes and it was literally non-stop action the whole way, as Bobby Roode makes the hot tag guy I never knew he could be. It was pretty much a tribute to long-form Tully & Arn v. Rock N Roll Express as a house show opener, with the champs getting the shine for a lengthy period while Gable got to do all his athletic stuff, and then it was heat on Roode for a few minutes, and then they cut off Gable after a hot tag and got the heat on him for a long time and it was GREAT. Revival did all the classic and modern stuff with double-team tributes to Demolition with the elbowdrop, and then Power & Glory with the PowerPlex, plus an amazing standing Rockerplex on Gable as well. Plus the molten heat spots where Gable lunges for a tag and Wilder knocks Roode off the apron from behind to cut it off at the last second. There were little kids in the row behind us just SCREAMING at the referee for doing such a terrible job. Truly a glorious moment. Rosalie questioned whether you could just hit the referee and I let her know that yes, you could, but then you get sent to time-out and they stop the match. Plus referees are very fragile and crumble at the slightest touch, so she accepted that. Anyway, Gable was FEELING it and they exchanged some super-hot near-falls after the hot tag, with Gable hitting a dive onto the Revival and then more crazy double-team reversals to set up the neckbreaker/moonsault combo to retain. This was GREAT and more than justified the $25 for the tickets on its own, because you never see this stuff in WWE anymore and more’s the pity. ****1/4

Nikki Cross v. Tamina

First time seeing Nikki live and there wasn’t much to it. Nikki was all crazy and did her Ultimate Warrior entrance and slammed the jacket into the mat a billion times, which had my wife commenting that she’d probably be exhausted after that alone. And indeed, maybe she was, because Tamina superkicked her before the bell and she was selling for a long time in the corner, but then the match started and Tamina went for a slam and Nikki pretty much got an immediate rollup and pinned her. I don’t know if she was legit hurt and they went home early or what. DUD

Elias v. Apollo (Crews)

Again, I don’t watch RAW, but wasn’t Elias just a babyface? He was 100% heel again here, although as usual his pre-match banter and song is hilarious and steals the show, as he complains that “I just sold out Madison Square Garden, do you think I want to be here? Hell no!” and then sings a song about how cold it is and how there’s a bunch of little kids in the audience and he wants to punch them all in the face. Actually I think he sang that exact song last time they came here, but it always gets over. And then they had a match, and it was indeed a match that happened. Now, again I thought that Apollo got his surname back again, but the graphic just said “Apollo” and there was no ring announcement anyway, so he might just be back in the land of one-named people like Elias. Anyway, Elias as usual has fuck all in the ring once the match starts, although Apollo did his usual nice stuff and then got a surprising upset win with a standing shooting star about 5:00 in. It was fine for what it was. *1/2

Baron Corbin v. Braun Strowman

Oh great, Seth Rollins no-shows but Baron Corbin makes sure to be there. Lucky me. Thankfully he doesn’t wear the stupid suit in the ring at house shows, as he basically gets down to t-shirt and pants so as not to look like a COMPLETE moron. Anyway, you can probably guess how this one went. Sell, sell, sell, Deep Six for the big two count, ROAR, get these hands, powerslam, time for intermission. Braun is over, but he’s clearly not the guy and I think we can all admit it now. ½*

Intermission time! I stop by the festering cesspool that is the nightly thread and go for a walk to stretch my legs, which draws more than a few compliments for my Macho Man ’85 shirt I got from I got the soft-style version and it’s amazing, legit my favorite wrestling shirt ever and one of the few I’m happy to wear in the real world without feeling like a complete dorkus.

The Ascension & Rezar v. Rhyno, Heath Slater & Titus O’Neil

Yeah. This is the kind of star power you get in Saskatoon when it’s -25C I guess. Drake Maverick goes for the cheap heat by saying Saskatchewan is his favorite part of the USA to visit, and then gets a truly laughable line when he declares that his team of jobbers is the most impressive six-man team in the world. So this was another complete nothing of a match, although as usual Rhyno was crazy over and the crowd was chanting for him the entire match. So they wisely got the heat on Slater most of the way and then built to the hot tag to Rhyno, who set up the Gore on Viktor while Titus took care of Maverick. I’m kind of astonished that Rezar is just doing random tag matches while his partner is out, but it’s still poor VIKTOR who had to do the job. **

Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan v. Natalya & Bayley

I’m assuming that it was supposed to be a six-man with Morgan and Sasha involved as it was original booked, but then got changed with Sasha missing the show. Anyway, Nattie was of course hugely over for obvious reasons, and again the quality of refereeing for the tag division is atrocious. The heels were just cheating on Bayley all over the place, with Liv interfering freely, but Natalya quickly got the hot tag and destroyed them, setting up the historic moment when she finally TAPPED SOMEONE OUT with the damn double Sharpshooter. I’m as shocked as you, mostly because it shouldn’t be legal, PLUS Bayley was busy putting Liv Morgan in a Sharpshooter at the same time and there probably should have been a DQ or at least a warning in there somewhere. This was fine. **

Intercontinental title: Bobby Lashley v. Dean Ambrose v. Drew McIntyre v. Finn Balor

One guess who was doing the job in this one. Anyway, short but entertaining, as they were gonna get out there by 10:00pm on the dot, so help them god. Dean and Finn did their big dives on the heels, and we got the spot with the heels arguing over who would get the pin before they broke up and battled for a bit. Lio Rush got involved freely, everyone hit their finishers in the chaos, and Lashley pinned Ambrose after a Claymore Kick from Drew. And then Finn Balor cleared the ring and delivered his double stomp so he could stand tall at the end of the night, because at least they know that YOU LET THE BABYFACE WIN at house shows. **1/2

Anyway, overall a fun night, although the painfully average matches really exposed the lack of star power and talent in the midcard right now. But I really hope they run that tag title match on RAW soon because it was amazing and everyone involved seemed jazzed to have that much time and leeway.