I recently attended a WWE house show in Philadelphia for the first-time in about 20 years. Rather than run down the same report you have seen elsewhere, I thought it may be more interesting to blog about the evolution I witnessed of the WWE house show.
[adinserter block=”1″]I attended my first WWE house show on March 19, 1983. I attended dozens of WWE house shows from 83 until probably 1998 and to say that they were a mixed bag would be an understatement. Generally house shows evolved into this depressing event featuring guys going at half-speed (if you were lucky), a mundane crowd, and just a sad statement into what WWE live events descended to. Those days are over!
My nieces are big WWE fans so I decided to bite the bullet and take them to the recent July 10 Philadelphia WWE event. Needless to say I was expecting the same dull, half-assed event I saw through the mid 1990s. I couldn’t be more wrong and while I never thought I’d say this, I can’t recommend a WWE house show enough to casual or even hardcore fans.
Rather than break down the card, here are several key takeaways that have stuck with me from the event.
Everyone had their working shoes on – I don’t think I have ever seen a WWE house show, even going back to the early 1980s when the company was red hot during the Hulkamania era where everybody on the show worked as hard and maybe even harder than they would at TV. The talent seemed to relish working an environment with less restrictions and more time. John Cena and Kevin Owens put on a match similar to their classic PPV series and Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins did things during their match I would have never expected from two top guys. I am only showcasing these two but everyone from Roman Reigns to Bray Wyatt to Neville worked real hard and it was appreciated. Not only that, the talent all looked like they were (gulp)…having fun!
There is a huge difference between house show crowds and television crowds – I would venture to say that the majority of the crowd were kids and families, most wearing John Cena t-shirts. It was also very enlightening in regards to recent ratings woes. The WWE fans want John Cena in the main-events, they love him. Sure you had plenty of guys with big mouths ripping on Cena but he was far and away the most over star on the show. If you think the fans are going to accept a transition from Cena to someone else you are mistaken. He is still drawing the houses and I can’t even imagine what the crowd would have looked like without him.
There is a bit of a disconnect between the talent and security – There is a woman who appeared to run the security for the WWE. I was fortunate to sit ringside and got a glimpse of this odd situation first-hand. The woman explicitly told Wells Fargo Center security to make sure that fans stay seated during the matches. Even the local security seemed confused. So fans would get excited during the first couple of matches, get up, and start yelling and were told begrudgingly to sit down. I started to see problems early in the card when Chris Jericho kept telling the fans to stand up, yet security was telling them to sit down. This continued throughout the card and I kind of felt for the talent who saw a lot of excited fans in the audience, yet none were standing when prompted during the matches. It may be nitpicky but it just seemed kind of odd. Let the people have fun and let the talent get some heat, it’s a house show for goodness sakes.
WWE stars are the best in the business – Now I am not talking about WWE stars being the best at this or that, but what I saw were the most polished professional wrestlers I have ever seen from top to bottom all night long. Again sitting ringside, I was up close enough to watch facial expressions and see subtle nuances coming from the talent throughout the night. Every piece of talent had the entire package and it was crystal clear why many don’t make it to the big show.
Neville is going to be a star – This kid has “it”, just like everyone else for that matter. I am highlighting him since he was the new kid on the block so to speak on the card. He has the look, the psychology, and may be the best athlete next to Brock Lesnar on the roster. I don’t know if he has the potential to be “the guy” but he has a lot of potential to be a big time player for years to come. Everything he did looked so fluid and the fans absolutely loved him.
[adinserter block=”2″]Dean Ambrose gets it – Ambrose did something following his match to close out the night that I have never seen before. Again keep in mind that I don’t regularly attend house shows so maybe this isn’t big news. Ambrose walked around ringside and took selfies with anyone that had their phone ready. How cool was that experience for a kid attending a WWE house show? Giving fans something a little extra like that goes a long way and says a lot about the character of the talent in the company these days. 19 years ago the guys were just hoping to put their 10 minutes in and get to the bar. Ambrose was actually yelled at by the WWE security guard to wrap it up because not only would he stop, he’d wait until fans got their phones ready. A class act!
House shows are truly live “events” – Finally what impressed me more than just about anything else was how much of an event that the WWE gives to the house show experience. The WWE played promos hyping a lot of the big matches throughout the night and most talent got big entrances. I saw nothing like this as a kid, even when Hulk Hogan came to town at his peak. It gave the event something extra and left most fans ready to pay for a ticket the next time the WWE comes to town whether it is a house show or a SmackDown taping.