Last Friday night I attended the WWE Live! event in Fort Lauderdale (technically Sunrise), FL with my daughter and girlfriend who have never been to a live wrestling show. I've been to several WWE events (and a few TNA shows) over the past fifteen years including four or five Monday Night RAW shows and Armageddon 2002, but this was the first "house show" I'd been to and wasn't sure what to expect. I was prepared for a toned down stage and theatrics, but didn't know how the show would work as a non-televised program.
I didn't bring my camera, opting to take pictures with my iPhone instead. As such a lot of the images turned out crappy. There was a crazy rainstorm as we arrived at the BB&T Center so we were a few minutes late entering the arena. Once inside we could here Brodus Clay's music blasting from the arena floor.
There was a small stage set-up at ground level with a large overlapping LED display from which the Superstars would emerge. Monitors were set-up on each side of the entrance screen and there was this weird (and distracting) lighted triangle over the entrance way in front. Sound and video tech booth was just off to the right of the entrance.
Old-school rails separated the crowd from the talent instead of the solid black barricades you see on TV. Since there weren't any commentators, there was no annoucer's table ringside. Justin Roberts handled introductions and sat next to the timekeeper near a corner.
1. Tons of Funk vs. Rhodes Scholars
The first match of the night was a comedy tag team match involving Brodus Clay & Sweet T (formerly Lord Tensai) against Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes. We made it to our seats just in time to watch Sandow come out and offend the crowd then introduce his best friend, Rhodes. Then Rhodes came out, took the mic and introduced his best friend Sandow.
There was a lot of posturing and stalling at the beginning, then they pretty much followed their usual TV routine, with Rhodes Scholars taking turns taunting the monster babyfaces and blind tagging each other. Of note the crowd at the opposite end of the stage seemed to be the "vocal males" section and started what I believe was a "Tensai" chant once Sweet T was in the ring.
ToF took the win with a double splash on Sandow. Afterwards, the Funkadactyls and some kids joined ToF in the ring to celebrate with some "funky" dancing. Kind of odd they opened with this match. I guess they wanted to get the large kid audience involved early on.
2. Bo Dallas vs Leo Kruger
Up next was a singles match for the NXT Championship. Bo Dallas came out first, then Leo Kruger (who I've never heard of) came out and cut a promo in a strange, slightly foreign voice. Nothing particularly interesting about this character. The match alright. Bo Dallas got a pop from the audience when he went on the offensive. He botched his finisher, mainly due to Kruger, but was able to recover quickly and hit it for the win.
Ryback appeared on the overhead screens to deliver a message to Cena and the crowd about their main event tonight. At one point Ryback recounted how grown men come up to him asking for autographs, claiming it's for their kids who are hugh Ryback fans. He said that wasn't true and the men just wanted him to sign for them. He then referred to these people as "feed me morons". Yeah.
3. Ted DiBiase vs. Curt Hawkins
Sweet Christmas! DiBiase is still employed by WWE?! Teddy came out first to a mixed reaction as I don't think many of the younger fans remembered him. The Hawkins came out to pretty much no reaction. The match was actually pretty good. In one spot, DiBiase was flipped over the top rope to the outside, but resembled a comet crashing into the earth! Later he began taking control of the match, but things started to slowdown and suddenly...
"Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta. SHIELD!"
... interrupted and heralded the arrival of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, who made their way throughthe crowd. It wasn't a pro-Shield crowd by any stretch, but everyone was on their feet when the music hit. The US & Tag Team champs made their way into the ring where they proceeded to beat DiBiase and deliver a "Justice Bomb" on him. Hawkins, who initially reentered the ring while DiBiase was getting his butt-kicked, also took the triple powerbomb for his trouble. Once there was no one left to save, the Miz's music played to bring him out to loud boos (from me) and a mild reaction from the kids. Then Daniel Bryan came out to strong reaction followed by Randy Orton's music which made everyone cheer loudly. The faces ran down to the ring causing the Shield to scatter while they posed for the audience inside the ring.
4. The Shield vs. The Miz, Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton
This was a solid 6-man Tag Team match as is to be expected when the Shield is involved. Very loud pops for Daniel Bryan and Orton during their respective turns in the ring. I was surprised to see Roman Reigns' interaction with the crowd. He was very involved while on the apron, reacting to the in-ring action and the crowds boos. A lot different than how he is on TV.
The finish came when Reigns introduced a chair to the match. He saved Ambrose from an RKO by hitting Orton in the gut with the chair. The referee called for the bell giving Orton, Miz & Bryan the win via DQ. After the match ended Orton hit the RKO on Ambrose, then the faces celebrated in the ring. They also went around high-fiving fans in the front rows, Orton lingered around the longest. The crowd was really into him.
- Intermission -
5. Bray Wyatt vs. R-Truth
Back in the arena the Wyatt Family made their way to the ring. Most in the crowd had no idea who they were. I only know of them because of those creepy vignettes. R-Truth came out rapping. The match served to showcase how unusual the Wyatts are. The bald dude wore the sheep mask from the vignettes the whole time while the other dude wore his rape face. Bray dominated the match thanks to the other dudes distracting R-Truth. Wyatt got the win when he hit his swinging reverse STO finisher. These guys should call themselves "Moonshine & Manrape", or just "M&M" for short.
6. Zack Ryder vs. Antonio Cesaro
Ryder came out to a great reaction, which was good to hear. Cesaro received lots of boos so at least the fans react to him. I'm glad he dumped the yodeling gimmick, but I wish he'd kept his red tights and Rugby thigh wraps, he looks way to plain now with solid blue trunks and black boots. This match was good, but too many sleeper holds by Cesaro. Shockingly, Ryder picked up the W with the Ruff Ryder.
As he celebrated his victory, "Excuse me!" cut into his music. An unlit figure appeared on stage, "excuse me...", then the sound of throat clearing, lights came on and it was Brad Maddox imitating Vickie Guerrero. He apologized for Vickie not being here tonight, talked about how he made a Fatal 4-way Divas match, but decided to cancel it. He strolled down to the ring as he continued to troll the crowd, then once inside the ring, sucker punched Ryder and told the referree that he was having a match with Ryder right now!
7. Zack Ryder vs. Brad Maddox
Maddox, very cocky after attacking Ryder, turned towards the timekeeper and told him to ring the bell before placing the mic down on the mat. The bell sounded and Maddox turned around just in time to catch a flying Ruff Ryder from Zack. 1, 2, 3 and that's two wins for Ryder!
8. Ryback vs. John Cena
The main event was a Tables Match for the WWE Championship. Ryback was out first. He was booed, but not to the point you'd expect for a main event heel. Then Cena came out and the freaking place exploded! I fully expected the reaction from all the kids in attendance, but a lot of the adults (including grown men) were excited to see Cena. He did his usual run to the ring, hat throw and salute, but was attacked by Ryback. The match officially started and Ryback pounded on Cena.
Cena rallied back long enough to get his t-shirt off and throw it into the crowd. This match was about 15 minutes long and mostly dominated by Ryback. At the end Cena sprung up and performed the Attitude Adjustment on Ryback through a table Ryback set-up inside the ring. After that Ryback rolled out of the ring and disappeared. Cena went around the ring to celebrate with the fans a bit, then exited the arena via the stage after "reeling" his title which the referree was carrying behind him.
Fandango's theme played afterwards once the arena lights were on.
In all, a fun little show. It was a lot more kid and casual fan-friendly compared to a RAW show with long promos and commercial breaks between matches. There was no pyro, but a couple of entrances featured "air" effects blasting smoke up from the entrance. The video and music helped keep things consistant with the TV product, but the sound system was way too loud. This was a half empty arena so there was no need for the high volume. The music was deafening and whenever the talent spoke into the mic it was very difficult to understand what they were saying. The other issue was the bell. It sounded totally fake like a sound effect instead of an actual ringbell being hit.
I believe WWE will be back in South Florida in the Fall. The "Hell in a Cell" PPV if I'm not mistaken. That event will be held at the AAA in Miami. I would like to go, but no firm plans, yet.