WWE Live Event
Hartford, Connecticut at XL Center
Report by Dot Net reader John V. Ferrigno
This was my second time attending a Holiday show in Hartford, the first being an excellent show two years ago. This one wasn’t up to the level of that show, but it was still a fun time. The seats on the side of the arena where the entrances took place were not for sale. The rest of the arena was probably three quarters full, maybe a little more. The crowd was excited before the show, with lots of cheering and wooing during the usual Twitter messages that appear on the screen before the start of the show. The demographic was mostly families, lots of little kids who got tickets for Christmas, judging by the conversations. I was sitting on the floor, not far from the ring, so I had a good view of most of the action.
Byron Saxon came out to welcome us to the event, and asked us which Royal Rumble match we wanted to see the ending to: the first Rumble in 88, the 01 Rumble, or the 08 Rumble. The 08 Rumble won the poll, and we saw the final minutes of the match, which was Batista getting eliminated, then John Cena eliminating Triple H to win the Rumble.
1. Neville beat The Miz. The first match of the night was Neville taking on The Miz. The crowd popped big for Neville. I hadn’t seen him perform live since his appearance for ROH when he was still called Pac. He is way more muscular now, but it fits his frame and suits his character. The Miz came out to a round of boos. He cut a great promo before the match about how he can make somebody a star. He did it for Daniel Bryan, and he was considering doing it for Neville, but instead he was going to beat Neville worse than the Jets beat the Patriots. This got HUGE heat from the New England crowd. Miz also did a great Rick Rude homage, asking all of the fat, out of shape, Hartford sweathogs to keep the noise down while he took his sunglasses off. Miz made a huge spectacle of taking off his sunglasses, which drew a lot of heat. The match itself was pretty good. Neville was exciting, and the Miz is fantastic at turning a crowd against him. He is a really underrated talent. WWE is so hurting for quality heels right now, yet they have a great one they do nothing with. Neville eventually won with the Red Arrow, which was spectacular to see live. The crowd ate it up, and rightfully so.
2. Titus O’Neil pinned Stardust. Stardust got a decent enough reaction, and a “Cody” chant broke out a couple of times, which Stardust sold big time. Titus O’Neil is huge in person, but the crowd wasn’t that into him. He had his usual power offense, and mostly tossed Stardust around until he got the pin.
3. Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) defeated Paige and Becky Lynch in a Triple Threat to retain the Divas Championship. Paige got a nice reaction from the crowd, and came out wearing a Santa suit. She was very good at working the crowd and making them all pay attention to her. Becky Lynch was out next, also wearing a Santa hat, and did not get the reaction she deserves. She’s a good worker who hasn’t really had a chance to show it on Raw. Charlotte was next, wearing a kind of elf dress, who had a mixture of cheers and boos, which may have been because she is booked as a half face/half heel these days, depending on the segment. She was accompanied by her father, Ric Flair, who looks ancient. The match was solid, with Paige showing she is way ahead of the other two when it comes to working a crowd. She grew up in a wrestling family, and it shows. She is great at drawing the attention her way and engaging the audience. Ric distracted Paige and Charlotte pinned her to retain the title.
4. Ryback defeated Rusev (w/Lana). Rusev got lots of boos, because he is a foreigner, and WWE fans only cheer for Americans, and the occasional Canadian. It was your typical back and forth Hoss match, with Rusev at one point drawing the ire of the patriotic crowd when he spent time waiving a Bulgarian flag with his face on it. Rusev was in control for a lot of the match, but Ryback eventually hit Shellshocked for the pin.
5. Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens to retain the Intercontinental Title. Both guys were fairly over with the crowd. The match was way too short, with a lot of brawling around ringside to start. Also, Dean Ambrose has the worst offensive move set. He basically just has variations of throwing himself at his opponent:a bunch of suicide dives; that stupid rebound off the middle rope clothesline that takes forever to hit, yet his opponent never gets out of the way; the elbow drop on a standing opponent, which is also dumb; and then Dirty Deeds. He hit Dirty Deeds for the pin. Like I said, the match was too short, and Owens didn’t get to show nearly enough of his offense in the match.
Before intermission officially began, Byron Saxton and Jo Jo were in the ring, where they were ready to throw t-shirts into the crowd, but only if the audience made a lot of noise. Saxton did all kinds of dancing and contorting as he decided which section to shot put a shirt into. Needless to say, the crowd lost their mind. You would think they were throwing millions of dollars into the stand, and not just unsold Zack Ryder merch, size medium. People were begging, pleading, going insane at the prospect of a rolled up t-shirt being hurled in their general direction. There are a lot of people currently campaigning to get the nomination to run for President of the United States of America. If somebody is serious about winning the nomination, all they need to do is show up at the next campaign stop with a handful of wadded up John Cena shirts and ask people to vote for them, and they will be a lock to get the nod. It is a really frightening revelation about the nature of people, and so far, this ludicrous display has been the most entertaining segment of the night, as well as, by far, the biggest pop of the night.
6. R-Truth beat Adam Rose. As Truth came to ring, I realized I must have heard his entrance song a thousand times, yet I can’t tell you a single word he says other than “What’s Up?” It is a sad state of affairs when the wrestler who has a rapper gimmick is a worse rapper than John Cena, who is completely understandable in his entrance song. R-Truth needs to enunciate or I will just continue to believe his song has lines like “Now you can zip a bat and you can fi a whak, but slizzle ibadiddle and a rusty putty tat.” If he is fine with that, so am I. The match itself is actually atrocious. I don’t know what happened here, because I feel both guys are solid enough workers. Rose has potential and Truth is a guy who has been around forever. They should have been able to put on a decent enough match, but this was terrible. The match mostly consisted of Truth yelling What’s Up, and Rose getting booed. There were also a few “Whoop, there it is!” mentions by R-Truth, which the crowd loved. Apparently, we all took a trip to the early ’90s. The rest of the match was just R-Truth on the outside trying to get into the ring, and Rose punching him back outside. Eventually, Truth hit a sunset flip for the pin. Horrible, horrible match. I wished Byron Saxton was still dancing around with old Papa Shango t-shirts they found in storage and using it as bait to make the audience tear each other limb from limb.
We all figured things had to go up from there, but we were sadly mistaken. Big Show came out next, and at first he got a really nice pop. Then he was booed. Then he was cheered again. Then he was booed again. Then there was just confused mumbling as fans in attendance tried to remember if Big Show was a face or a heel this week. Nobody could remember. Then Mark Henry came out, and the same group of people tried to recall the last time Mark Henry won a match. Nobody could remember, so we all just stared in horror as Big Show and Mark Henry put on one of the most boring matches of all time.
7. Big Show pinned Mark Henry. Nothing happened. People were pleading with management to bring back Adam Rose and R-Truth, who in comparison looked like Tiger Mask and the Dynamite Kid. This match was so bad that I was wondering if it was being done on purpose. Maybe it was some kind of performance art. Maybe it was done so the main event would seem like the greatest thing ever in comparison. After several minutes of absolutely nothing happening, and several people planning their escape from the arena lest they die of boredom, Big Show hit the slowest punch ever thrown, ever, and pinned Henry.
The last match before the main event was a six man tag which saw the Wyatt Family (without Bray Wyatt), taking on the Dudley Boys and Tommy Dreamer. Wyatt Family got a really nice pop, with a ton of people whipping out their cell phones for the firefly entrance. It was really cool to see live. The Dudleys and Dreamer also got a nice pop, and a very brief ECW chant broke out. The chant quickly petered out when the people in attendance realized that either (a) they actually weren’t even born yet when ECW was around, or (b) ECW wasn’t nearly as good as history wants you to believe. Sure, there were some great moments like Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn, or Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero, but there was also a ton of garbage, like guys getting hit in the balls with cheese graters, The Sandman proving you don’t need a single ounce of talent if you have an entrance people like, Sabu botching every spot he ever tried to do, ever, like he was basically Sin Cara with a dented chair, and Rhyno World Title reigns. ECW was a long time ago, people. Let it go….
7. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman beat The Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer. The match should have been good, but it was actually kind of a mess. Nobody seemed sure of what they were doing. Also, I was horribly distracted by Braun Strowman’s beard. It doesn’t look like a beard, it looks like his hair is just wrapped round his entire head, like a lion’s mane. I was so transfixed by his bizarre head, I felt I was slowly descending into madness. There was one point where Devon was laying on the ground and the Wyatt’s seemed to be discussing what to do next. I don’t try to pretend I have some secret knowledge of how matches are worked out, but I would hazard a guess stuff is normally worked out backstage in advance. The match went back and forth, with the Dudley’s hitting their WASSUP!?!?! spot, because that is a current cultural reference we can all get behind. The Dudley’s also don’t appear to want to win this match. First of all, they want to get tables, which are not legal, so they will be disqualified if they succeed. Also, when choosing a partner, they decide to go with a guy who’s claim to fame is never winning matches. Not smart. Eventually, Luke Harper hit a clothesline on Bubba and pinned him. The Wyatt’s left and the Dudley’s and Dreamer took a moment to show their appreciation to the crowd. It is conceivable this is the last time the three of them will wrestle in this arena, and all kidding aside, it was a nice moment between them and the fans. It’s a shame it didn’t follow a better match, because that one was kind of a mess.
8. John Cena beat Alberto Del Rio by DQ in a U.S. Title match. Del Rio came out to pretty strong boos and showed off his title. Cena came out to, by far, the loudest ovation I have ever heard. The match was good, with some nice false finishes the crowd seemed to buy into. Toward the end of the match, the wrestlers barely grazed the referee and he sold it like he died. I guess he went to the Dolph Ziggler School of Overselling So Bad It Becomes Comical. Rusev took the opportunity to run down to the ring and interfere, but it wasn’t enough to keep Cena down. Del Rio had several other near falls, but Cena kept kicking out. Eventually, Del Rio grabbed a chair, but the referee stole it from him. Cena went for the AA, Del Rio slipped behind him, and the main event ended the way every single WWE house show main event with a heel champion defending against Cena ends: with a heel low blow and a Cena DQ win, followed by Cena cleaning house after the announcement to send the kids home happy.
All in all, it was a decent enough show. Everybody seemed to have a good time, except during the epically horrible Rose vs. Truth and Show vs. Henry matches. The first half of the show was much better than the second, but Cena and Del Rio had a good match to at least go out on a high note.
Most Heel Heat
Alberto Del Rio