By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Live Event
New York, New York at Madison Square Garden
Report by Dot Net reader Chris L
The arena was approximately 90 percent full, mainly packed, with random open seats in each section.
1. Finn defeated Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntrye. Well worked with some good spots.
Drew hit the inverted Alabama slam where he slammed Dolph onto Finn. Dolph almost scored a pin on Drew after a super kick, but Finn broke up the pin with a flying foot stomp onto both opponents. The finish came shortly after with Finn pinning Dolph after a shotgun kick and flying stomp.
After the match drew jumped both opponents. Grabbed a mic and cut a really nice heel promo. He said Finn is a marked man, and he will end Dolph’s career next Monday night (cage match?).
Dolph dropped Drew after the promo and Finn finished the segment with another flying stomp to Drew. Good crowd for this match. The casuals cheered Finn and booed Drew, diehards appreciated all three, but Drew still received good heat, and all the fans cheered for Finn in the right spots. Fans really wanted Finn to win, one of the few wrestlers that got any type of cheer tonight (“let’s go Balor”)
2. Apollo Crews won a “low on the card” battle royal. The match also included Zack Ryder, The Ascension, Heath Slater, Rhyno, No Way Jose, Jinder Mahal, Titus O’Neil, Curt Hawkins and maybe one or two others. Uneventful… no love for Ryder in NYC this time. Apollo won by dumping Jinder at the end. Crickets in the crowd
Elias came out with his guitar and played a tune. The crowd half cared, but played along with the “walk with Elias” spots. He cut his “heelish face promo”, where “Bobby lashley said…etc”
3. Elias beat Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush) in a guitar on a pole match. Slow and boring. Minimal signature moves /spots from each guy. Lio Rush got involved several times, ended with Elias hitting a flying elbow and the climbing to grab the guitar. Lashley accidentally planted Rush and then Elias finished the segment with a guitar shot to Lashley’s back. After Elias left, Lashley carried a Lio over his shoulder and to the back. Minimal crowd reaction during the match itself.
4. Natalya and Ember Moon beat Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan (w/Sarah Logan). Nattie actually received a decent pop from the casual crowd. Being on TV seems to be paying off. Normal Riott squad tag match. Nattie tried her hardest to get the fans involved while waiting on the apron for the hot tag. The finish came right after Ruby broke up Nattie’s pin of Liv after a discus clothesline. Ember came flying off the top with the Eclipse to take out Ruby, followed by Nattie getting Liv in the Sharpshooter for the tap out. Nattie posed for selfies with several kids as was heading to the back.
5. Ricochet, Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream, Pete Dunne, and Matt Riddle defeated Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, and Kyle O’Reilly (w/Bobby Fish). Every single wrestler in this match was super over with the die hard minority, getting the biggest reactions of the night from the “Smart fan” crowd, but was borderline crickets from the casual audience. You can tell that the majority of the arena had no idea who these guys were. It was kind of heartbreaking considering that this was the MSG debut for most if not all of the guys in the match. A good match that grabbed majority of the audience by the end. Most wished it lasted longer. It’s crazy to see in real life the difference in the pace and action of an NXT match and a main card “WWE style” match.
Good work by the heel team, with Gargano and Ciampa tentatively tagging and working together (one of their first times since the implosion of DIY). The ending sequence was by far the best action of the night. It started with an everyman hits his signature move on the next persons and ultimately gets to Black and Dunne both hitting triangle moonsaults (Kota Ibushi style) onto the heels on the outside at the same time. That was followed by Ricochet with a spaceman suicide dive and Dream coming off the top rope in stereo. Riddle held off one of the heels as Ricochet ended the match with a 630 on Cole. The babyfaces poseed in the ring to good pops. These guys might have made some new fans tonight. Short and sweet. NXT hants were one of the louder chants of the night.
6. Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins in a cage match to retain the Intercontinental Championship. Seth came out to a good pop. Everyone shouted “burn it down” to start his entrance. Dean came out to a decent reaction, but no true heat. Dean was reluctant to enter cage. Rollins chased him around ring and into cage. Rollins grabbed a Singapore cane from under the ring before he enters and the door closes. The first five-plus minutes of this match was Singapore cane spots. A very slow match in terms of pace. Seth got the crowd going with his usual offense (superplex into falcon arrow, bucklebomb, superkick to kneeling opponent, and curb stomp). The crowd was popping as Seth crawled towards the door. A hooded figure ran down the ramp and slammed the door into Seth’s head. The hood was removed and it was Baron Corbin to 50/50 good and go away already heat. Dean was able to crawl through door and retain before Seth fully recovers. Seth left to a decent pop and some “thank you, Seth” chants.
Intermission. At this point, a so-so event. The casual crowd was into Finn and Seth, while diehards were into those two as well as the NXT guys.
7. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode defeated The Revival and AOP for the Raw Tag Titles. Quiet crowd. Diehards dug Roode and Gable’s entrance. There was a cool spot near the end where Gable assisted the revival with a huge Shatter Machine on one of the AOP guys. The ending came when Roode and Gable hit their neckbreaker/moonsault combo on one of the Revival guys. Weirdly, the AOP were getting cheered by a decent size of the young audience at points of the match.
8. Sasha and Bayley defeated Alicia Fox and Mickie James (w/Dana Brooke). It was scary to see how much bad booking can hurt someone. Bayley and Sasha were treated like goddesses several years ago in Brooklyn, and yet they came out to minimal pops tonight (I would argue their match did for women’s wrestling what Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonner did for MMA/UFC).
Even the die hards wished they cared more. An OK match with Sasha and Mickie especially working hard. Sasha got over with some really nice offense. The finish came with backstabber/Bayley to Belly combo. Thank God for the women’s tag titles, because Sasha and Bayley deserve so much more than how they’re currently booked.
9. Baron Corbin beat Braun Strowman by forfeit. Baron Corbin comes out for a match with Braun (so stupid, everyone knew he wasn’t gonna show). Corbin wanted the ref to count Braun out and award him the match. “No Chance in Hell” hit to a monster pop. Everyone went crazy for Vince McMahon, who was a nice, unexpected surprise. Vince wished everyone a Merry Christmas. And he had the ref count to 10 and award the “match” to Corbin. Boos. Vince then cut a promo that was hard to hear. More or less, it’s a special time of year and it’s a very special place etc. fans start a “we want Cena chant” as Vince announces that Corbin will have an actual match tonight against… John Cena. Big pop for Cena. Casuals love him, and even the die hards are happy to see him. Hate to say it but this card was screaming for star power. Even as a “Cena Hater” myself, it was great to see him back.
10. John Cena defeated Baron Corbin. An OK match with Corbin getting a ton of offense in, Cena selling a lot. Cena eventually hit an AA and the worst looking punch of the night (which is saying a good amount considering Dean Ambrose already “wrestled” tonight) to win the match. Cena won by his Sixth Move of Doom. Cena got on the mic said he couldn’t miss tonight and gets to spend Xmas with his family, the WWE Universe (sorry Nikki?).
11. Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax (w/Tamina) to retain the Raw Women’s Championship. Ronda came out to a good pop. Nia had heat from the diehards (basically because she took Becky and Ronda away from people). An OK-ish match, it actually seemed like Ronda was carrying Nia. Ronda sold well, great facial expressions. Ronda eventually hit a sick looking setup flying knee. Shortly afterwards, Ronda was sitting on the top turnbuckle while gripping Nia’s arm. Ronda kissed Nia’s fist and rolled through several times before she locked in her “WWE armbar” to a quick tap.
After the match, Ronda was quickly jumped by the Riott Squad. Nia and Tamina joined in. Nattie’s music hit as she and Ember Moon charge the ring to help Ronda. Mickie James’s music hit and then she, Dana, and Alicia hit the ring. The heels greatly out number the faces. Sasha’s music hit to a bigger pop than she got earlier in the night. Sasha and Bayley charged to the ring to “even the odds” the faces eventually start clearing the ring. The segment ended with Ronda hitting a really impressive looking crossbody from to top turnbuckle to all the ladies grouped up outside. The night ended with Ronda, Nattie, Ember, Bayley, and Sasha standing tall.
In closing, A so-so event. It was the quietest crowd I ever heard in the Garden. Most of the matches were slow. The top two matches by far were the opening triple threat and the NXT match with the closing five minutes of the NXT match being the best action of the night. Good work also from Nattie, Sasha, Ronda, Seth, and a nice heel promo from Drew. It was nice seeing Cena and Vince.
The crowd was very family/casual fan oriented. Honestly, it was the most subdued I’ve seen the Garden. I would say it was a 85% casual to 15% diehard fan split.
1. John Cena
2. Vince McMahon (surprise appearance)
3. Ronda Rousey
4. Seth Rollins
5. Finn Balor
1. Baron Corbin
2. Drew McIntyre
3. Dean Ambrose
4. Nia Jax
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