By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Live Event
Madison, Wisconsin at Alliant Energy Center
Report by Dot Net reader Robert Louis
This was a fun show and I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth (about $125 a ticket for third row a little behind the face corner). A lot of families in the crowd, people were engaged all the way through the night, which ran about three hours in total. Things kicked off right at 5 with the national anthem, a quick intro from the ring announcer, and a prerecorded intro by Paige on the big screen.
1. “The Bar” Sheamus and Cesaro defeated “New Day” Big E and Xavier Woods (w/Kofi Kingston) to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles. A big crowd response for New Day, really started on a strong note. New Day threw pancakes at Sheamus (who blocked a couple with a horn mug he was carrying) and Cesaro on their way to the ring, plenty of shenanigans throughout the match. The Bar got a little heat by teasing throwing shirts to the crowd and just dropping them by the ring post. Multiple twerking spots from New Day, Big E had a neat moment transitioning an exaggerated wobble from a clothesline into a limbo stance. The actual wrestling was fairly standard-issue, good power moves by Big E and some impressive athleticism by Cesaro in places. Cesaro pinned Big E via rollup.
2. Aiden English defeated Shelton Benjamin. Aiden had some quality heel work both before and during the match, lots of nice little touches throughout. The crowd seemed surprised to see Benjamin, but he got decent support thanks to English really pulling his weight as a heel (he’s much better in the ring than I expected considering how little TV time he gets). A quick match, pinfall win for English.
3. Shelton Benjamin defeated Aiden English. Aiden got on the mic after Benjamin had made it most of the way back to the stage, telling him to come back and give him a better match. Very quick pinfall win. The Colons came out for a beatdown, and the Good Brothers eventually made the save.
4. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Shelton Benjamin defeated Aiden English and the Colons. A solid six-man tag match. Gallows and Anderson did the bulk of the work and were impressive against the Colons by contrast. Gallows is very large in person. English was very effective heeling it up on the outside throughout the match. The Good Brothers hit their finisher on English for the win.
5. Lana and Nikki Cross defeated The Iiconics. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce came out first to a pretty flat crowd response. They heeled on the city a little, plenty of boos – that being said, the reaction reminded me a lot of how crowds seemed to appreciate and have fun with Elias doing the local cheap heat back when he was still a heel. They mentioned that they weren’t worried about Lana and her “mystery partner.” There were some cheers for their superhero pose thing. They may not be the best in the ring, but they have good general presence. Using the ring announcer as a coatrack for their T-shirts was a creative touch. A bigger pop than I expected for Lana, but it kicked into another gear when she told us Nikki Cross was going to be her tag partner. Multiple NXT chants over the course of the match. I have to say, Nikki really outshone the other three on both energy and ring work once the bell rang. Some good cowardly heel antics by the Iiconics, Cross eventually hit the Purge on Billie for the win.
6. Charlotte Flair defeated Asuka. A big pop for Charlotte. She cut a quick promo before Asuka came out, solid boos when she mentioned Ronda. Somewhat muted reaction for Asuka’s entrance but the crowd got behind her quickly once the match started. I’d say about a 70/30 split (although I did notice that every single kid I could hear was a Charlotte fan). This was by far the best match of the night to this point. A lot of variety of offense, several believable nearfalls. Charlotte showed some mild heel tendencies but didn’t really get booed at any point. No figure eight, basic pinfall win. Charlotte helped Asuka up and raised her hand after the win was announced. They put on a great show although the face vs face dynamic was limiting. For the record, Charlotte was in the face corner. She went out of her way to interact a lot with the fans before making her way back to the stage, good stuff. I was surprised to hear almost no Becky chants whatsoever at any point.
7. Randy Orton defeated Jeff Hardy. Lots of love for Jeff from the crowd. He was very engaged with the fans, and made a point of shaking the hand of a woman in front of me who had a nice sign supporting him. Lite version of his standard paint, white and black with covering about 50% of his face. Orton got some cheers on pure star power. He pivoted to heat pretty quickly by picking up a little kid’s sign, looked at it for a bit, handed it back to him, then teased a fist bump before shrugging him off and getting in the ring. Randy was dominant for pretty much the whole match, lots of long pauses to just soak in the heat. Jeff had very little offense but he sold like a champ and did get in all of his classic spots (minus the high-flying stuff, which probably isn’t worth the risk to be doing at house shows anyway at this point in his career). Orton eventually got the pin after an RKO. Jeff gave a ton of time to the fans afterwards (including giving one of his arm sleeves to the woman I mentioned with the Hardy sign, clearly made her night), a total class act.
8. Carmella and R-Truth defeated Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega. This was very much a light-hearted match to get the crowd back into things. People were super into the “what’s up” thing, with an irritated Vega yelling at them to shut up a couple of times. A neat moment where Almas made his own attempt and got immediate boos. A quality match once the bell rang, Almas and Truth were in the ring most of the time. Vega was highly energetic throughout, it added a lot to the match. We got the obligatory dance break, as well as a couple of good stereo spots (simultaneous splits, etc). Carmella submitted Vega with an interesting leg lock maneuver that I had never seen before – although I haven’t been watching the MMC so it may well be a familiar sight from there. After the heels left, Mella and Truth brought a girl of about six into the ring for another dance break – the kid actually had some moves, too. That was a real feel-good moment for the whole house.
8. Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe and Rusev in a Triple Threat to retain the U.S. Championship. A well-executed match, if a little paint-by-numbers. Rusev was an absolute workhorse in this one, he spent the most time in the ring by far and did a lot of selling for both Joe and Shinsuke. Both of the big guys looked impressive, their strikes looked genuinely impactful. Seeing Shinsuke in person was interesting, he moves and carries himself in a way that’s highly unique and the camera doesn’t quite do it justice. Nakamura pinned Joe after a knee strike for the win.
9. AJ Styles defeated The Miz. These guys worked a hell of a match. A huge pop for AJ and he had massive support throughout the match, loads of boos for Miz – truly top-tier heel work. He was on the mic for a while before the match got started. He did the usual house show thing taking forever to remove his robe, headband, and shades. The first third or so of the match was anything but serious, largely just working the crowd for boos and cheers without a ton of actual wrestling. Fun back-and-forth with AJ taking to the corner post for cheers and Miz doing the same for boos – the audience was very responsive to both. To his credit, Miz was able to win over pockets of the crowd seemingly at will on occasion. Eventually they brawled on the outside for a while, making it all the way around the ring a couple times. When they made it back in, it was good, tight, main event quality wrestling. We got all the classic spots, including the Pele kick, Calf Crusher, Skull Crushing Finale, “No” Kicks, several forearms. AJ finally hit the Phenomenal Forearm for the win.
After the match, Styles got on the mic and cut a promo on Daniel Bryan. Weak boos for Bryan but they were there. The usual honest face tone (he started off with “Madison, there’s something I’ve gotta get off my chest”) throughout. “I’ll tell you what I am that Daniel Bryan isn’t – I’m here!” hit home, big pop for that one. He went on for a bit longer, thanked the crowd, and stuck around for a while interacting with fans and signing autographs, ending the night on a high note.
Most signs: Randy Orton with the most by far (for whatever reason), Becky Lynch, New Day.
Most shirts: AJ was the only real standout, varied mix besides that.
Biggest pops: AJ Styles, Charlotte, Nikki Cross (I think Carmella and R-Truth would have been right up there, but I was still in line at the merch table when they were making their entrance).
Most heat: Miz, Randy Orton, Aiden English.
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