It’s a popular saying that bears repeating: there is nothing like seeing the WWE live. To this I add that the experience is heightened and more exhilarating when shared with family.
On July 17, the WWE made a stop at Madison Square Garden on their Summerslam Heatwave tour. I had the pleasure of attending, which was the first live wrestling event I’d been to since 2003.
There were eight of us in total, there to celebrate one birthday and a good time. Part of the fun was in dressing up, which everyone got into to one extent or another. Some wore a shirt of their favorite character. Two wore masks and T-shirts of the Lucha Dragons. The birthday girl dressed as one of her favorites, Bayley. My six-year-old nephew is head-over-heels mad over John Cena, so he dressed in full costume. My brother James tapped into the 1980s, dressed as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, while I chose from the modern roster, garbed as Bray Wyatt.
I managed to avoid any information about the card. I had no idea what matches were going to take place, and was only aware of a few of the superstars who were going to be there.
The seats were great: two levels up, with a perfect view. No obstructions. The sound bellowed off the walls and all around the arena.
Before the show started, the emcee — whose name I still don’t know — went around the arena and talked to some fans, peddled some merchandise and promoted the next MSG show which will take place in December.
Fans at the arena got to vote on a match to be played on the screen: Undertaker vs Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels vs Triple H or John Cena vs Brock Lesnar. All three took place at Summer Slam, from different years. Undertaker vs Austin won out. The match played, but it was only five minutes’ worth of highlights.
A video featuring AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows aired. They talked about ways to occupy their time while in New York: they could get a meal, or see a show. While those sound like fun, they said, there is only one thing they wanted to do, and that’s Beat Up John Cena (#BeatUpJohnCena).
The ring announcer, JoJo, got everyone ready for the matches that were about to come. In the first match, The Usos faced members of The Club Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. As usual, I got hyped with the entrance of members of The Club. My nephew, who sat to my left for most of the show, asked who I wanted to win. “The Club, of course,” I said. My nephew did not approve.
The match was fast-paced, not dominated by either team. Ultimately, Anderson was pinned after a combo kick to the head and top rope splash.
Next, Apollo Crews took on Sheamus. My nephew was pulling for Sheamus, so I chose Crews as my pick for the victor. Fans really got behind Crews. Both men’s theme songs sounded intense in the arena. Crews got the victory with a roll-up.
Next, Alberto del Rio took on Zack Ryder. Both men received loud cheers with their entrances. Fans cheered both men pretty equally for the entire match. Del Rio got the victory.
A backstage promo for one of my favorites, Kevin Owens, aired. He said that, being the best, he intended to walk out of MSG as the world champion at the end of the triple threat match later.
Social Outcasts, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, took on Mark Henry and Jack Swagger. My nephew got super excited for Mark Henry, chanting his name for the entire match. My brother pointed out that we were watching the sons of IRS and Mr. Perfect. The match itself was completely one-sided. Dallas and Axel ran a victory lap around the outside of the ring early on. Henry and Swagger got the expected victory.
“The Walls of Jericho” hit the speakers, bringing my first feeling of exhilaration for the night. Chris Jericho walked to the ring and cut an amazing promo. He told the crowd to “Quiet” more than 10 times, then said how much New York stinks. Finally, he called the crowd “stupid idiots” and promised to beat his upcoming opponent, Neville.
This promo was so good, you have to see it for yourself:
The match itself was action-packed, with both men hitting some impressive spots, Ultimately, Jericho hit the code breaker for the win. (Much to my nephew’s chagrin, who couldn’t understand why I wanted Jericho to win.)
Just when I thought I was sufficiently hyped, AJ Styles’ theme song hit the speakers. ARGH YEA! Styles emerged, along with his Club brethren. They entered, too sweeted each other. Equal parts cheers and boos were showered upon them. They were the heels, after all, albeit the cool heels.
Then the theme song for Styles’ opponent played. John Cena emerged. My nephew freaked out and cheered and screamed, as did the other kids in our party. The crowd was clearly behind Cena, very few chanting “John Cena Sucks.”
“Who are you cheering for?” my nephew asked. “AJ Styles, of course,” I replied. “I thought you like John Cena,”my nephew replied, his arms crossed. “Nope,” I said.
“Who is your favorite of all time?” my nephew pressed. “Ultimate Warrior,” I replied. His answer was John Cena. “What about favorite of now?” “AJ Styles is my favorite of today’s roster.” My nephew gave the honest frown of a six-year-old and shook his head disapprovingly.
The match lasted roughly 35 minutes. Around 10 minutes in, the referee threw Anderson and Gallows out for their attempt at interference. The match became a clear one-on-one, which featured Styles outwrestling Cena numerous times. Both kicked out of each others’ finishers.
Around a half hour in, the referee took a bump, which allowed Anderson and Gallows to run in and attack Cena. Despite the beatdown, Cena kicked out anyway. The referee bumped a second time, which allowed for The Club to beat up Cena some more. This time, The Usos ran in to back up Cena. The referee recovered, Cena hit his finisher and got the clean pin. Is a clean Styles loss to be expected at Summer Slam?
Intermission time! Stand up, stretch your legs, and questions to my brother and I from the kids in our party. “If you were a ninja, what would you do?”
The kids gave detailed, off-the-cuff answers about using ninja powers to sneak around the arena and to help John Cena. My brother and I literally gave answers about sneaking outside to get some air. Adult, uninspired answers. Boo us.
The first post-intermission match was Natalya taking on Becky Lynch. Natalya actively blocked Lynch from entering the ring for around a minute. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t interested in the match, despite the women’s athleticism. Natalya tried the sharpshooter, which was reversed into Lynch’s finisher. Lynch won by submission.
A backstage promo by Seth Rollins played on the screen. He referred to the New York crowd as “schmucks” and declared that he would be victorious and the world champion at the end of the triple threat match.
AAAAAAAWWWWWW YEAH! Big E’s voice came over the loudspeaker, starting off an entrance by The New Day. They danced. They gyrated. They were interrupted by the entrance of their opponents, The Wyatt Family.
I already adore Bray Wyatt’s theme song, but hearing it over the loudspeaker was magnificent. And not just because I was there dressed as Bray Wyatt. Non-stop action by all six men. Wyatt himself seems to have recovered well from his injuries. The New Day got the victory. Big E and Kofi Kingston slapped hands and took pictures with fans while they walked back to dressing room. Xavier Woods noticeably did not. Is this foreshadowing for TV?
Main Event: A Triple Threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Kevin Owen. Seth Rollins. And champion, Dean Ambrose. Non-stop action among the three superstars, coupled with some comedy bits.
As the match started, Kevin Owens pulled up a chair outside of the ring and just sat there, watching. He ran in to break up a pin, tossing one of the opponents out of the ring. Fans chanted “We Want Tables” about halfway through the match, to which Ambrose obliged. At one point, Rollins imitated the pose and scream that Roman Reigns does before he does his spear. Rollins ended up putting Ambrose through the table that fans chanted for. Ultimately, Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds on Owens and got the pinfall win.
Overall, a great show full of action, promos and fun moments. The superstars seemed to be less restricted than when on a televised show, with more fan interaction and looking they were letting loose. My brother and I noted that in the video promos, superstars were looking directly at the camera, unlike what you see on television.
Everyone in our family left happy and satisfied. The children were all exhausted and fell asleep on the train ride home. My thanks to the WWE for the magic and unifying power of their product.