By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
WWE Live Event
September 19, 2022 in Oakland, California at Oakland Arena
Report by Dot Net staffer John Moore
Approximate attendance percentage: Upper deck closed, rest of the arena was filled at around 65-70% (I underestimate) and well spread out. One of the better house show crowds I’ve been a part of.
Demographics: Lots of families as expected, but also a combination of indie wrestling fans and local fans wanting a bit of a taste of wrestling (From what I can tell). Even the indie fans weren’t attending at the October 11 Live TV show.
Show length: 7:00pm – 9:45pm
Show Host: Sarah Schreiber. She was really good. I remember her being just as good back when she hosted the NXT TV tapings. She has good energy and stage presence. She’s not as good as Mike Rome, but Mike Rome is a really really talented MC who takes things up to another level by really having natural engagement with the fans. This is not to slight Schreiber, it’s just Mike Rome takes things up a notch from what I remember.
1. Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler vs. Shotzi Blackheart and Xia Li. Clunky at points, but solid overall. Interesting heel-face dynamic here. Rousey and Baszler worked babyface-ish in terms of setting up the hot tag. Rousey, as expected, was super over because even non-wrestling fans know her from her UFC days. The work tended to be better when Baszler and Shotzi were in the ring. Shotzi and Xia were also playing to the crowd, even though they had the “cut the ring in half” isolation stretch of match. I totally understand. Shotzi’s the hometown hero. It’s always cool to see her back in Oakland, where she spent her time going through promotions like Hoodslam or All Pro Wrestling (I’m surprised a lot of local fans don’t remember that Baszler was a product of All Pro Wrestling too?). There was one spot where Shotzi may have caught her feet on the ropes during a dive, so I hope she’s ok. Rousey wins with Piper’s Pit on (I think) Xia after the hot tag.
Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler defeated Shotzi Blackheart and Xia Li via pinfall in 9:27.
After the match, Ronda held Shotzi in place to eat a knee from Baszler, but Shotzi dodged and Baszler knee’d Ronda accidentally. Shotzi and Li cleared Baszler and Rousey from the ring, leaving Shotzi to stand tall and receive the hometown hero pop…
2. Gunther vs. Ricochet vs. Madcap Moss in a Triple Threat for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Great match and I was happy to see that these three men were allowed to wrestle in a Gunther-style match. Side note, Ludwig Kaiser might have been the standout here in terms of minute details in terms of the Gunther presentation. Ludwig was really engaged with drawing boos at ringside and just having that smug confidence about him and Imperium. He really kept the energy up with the crowd. As expected with a Gunther match, it was stiff with loud chops. Madcap looked good as a big man babyface against heel Gunther. Gunther won with a clothesline on Madcap.
Gunther defeated Madcap Moss and Ricochet in a Triple Threat via pinfall in about 15:00 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Bray Wyatt tease (?): The lights went dark and some somber music started to play. After looking online, it’s a licensed song called “White Rabbit”? The crowd picked up on the eerie atmosphere and started to flash their cell phone lights to create the “firefly” ambiance. My guess is this is intentional, so good on WWE in getting that pavlovian response from the crowd. Where I thought they laid it on really thick was they eventually changed the lighting to all red tinted. This was similar lighting to a few years ago when Bray Wyatt was no-selling everything in dark segments.
There’s word out there that “White Rabbit” might be Karrion Kross because Kross’s Lucha Underground persona was named “White Rabbit” Kevin Kross, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Why I don’t think that’s the case is what would be the point? Drew McIntyre joked that “hourglasses don’t tick or tock, clocks do”. The reason he goes Tick Tock is because he used to carry around a Flava Flav-like clock, but the rest of his character is the same as we see him now. It’s either definitely Bray, or someone not-Kross because I don’t think it would really help Kross. Speaking of which, whenever Bray comes back, I hope they keep him and Kross on separate brands due to both men having similar Nihilism inspiration in terms of their presentation and promos. Kross is more Nietzsche while Wyatt is more Lovecraft, but I’d think it’d be a bit redundant to have double the dark and somber on the same show. I also hope we get something new from Wyatt and not just The Fiend on Autopilot.
3. Liv Morgan vs. Natalya for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Definitely the weakest crowd reaction of the night. Basic formula match with the champ winning due to plot armor. Both women worked a decent enough match. Natalya did a good job with the cheap heat jabs. The main problem is people don’t know how to react to the Liv Morgan character. This is doubled up with fans who are invested in Liv’s story, being more invested Ronda Rousey as their accepted babyface. Liv won with ObLivion.
Liv Morgan defeated Natalya via pinfall in 9:59 to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
Sami Zayn came out to heel on the crowd, calling himself an honorary Uce and even threatening to punch a kid in the crowd for hating on him (again, expect this engagement at live events). Sami was great at drawing heat, which is made even more better when the crowd starts really sympathizing with him once he gets into it with Jey Uso…
4. Sami Zayn, Jimmy Uso, and Jey Uso vs. Drew McIntyre, Xavier Woods, and Kofi Kingston. The match didn’t actually get started until five minutes after the bell, due to house show crowd interaction. One thing that I wasn’t a big fan of is Kofi and Woods are starting to get a bit overbearing. Don’t get me wrong, I really like their wit and energy. Kofi twerking for a minute and Sami trying to twerk was hilarious. But I think they need to tone it down a bit, or else they’ll risk coming off as annoying heels like when they were first put together. The match was good, house show, fare. The best part was the Sami Zayn rollercoaster because Jey and Sami just kept hard tagging each other with Jimmy doing his usual peacemaker bit. The crowd was here for all of it. Drew won with a Claymore Kick on Sami.
Drew McIntyre and New Day defeated “The Bloodline” Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, and Sami Zayn via pinfall in 16:41.
5. “Damage CTRL” Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai vs. Bianca Belair, Alexa Bliss, and Asuka. This was one of the more interesting fan interaction moments. Bayley was in complete heel mode. She’s from the area (San Jose to be exact) and fans wanted to cheer her, but she kept shutting them off. Good for her. It also technically isn’t her home city because her home city is 40 miles south. This was a contrast to The Usos and Shotzi, who received monster cheers, but they were also playing into the cheers too. The match, solid. The best in-ring stuff came when you had Iyo, Dakota, and Asuka in the ring in any combination. Bianca also looked great too. Bianca won with the KOD, I forget on who though.
Bianca Belair, Alexa Bliss, and Asuka defeated Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai via pinfall in about 12:00.
6. Bobby Lashley vs. Austin Theory for the U.S. Championship. What you would expect from both of these guys with Lashley selling for a stretch only to dominate most of the match. Theory got a lot of boos as a pest. The only downside with that is that character has a ceiling and won’t make it to the main event without adding more layers to it. Lashley won with a spear.
Bobby Lashley defeated Austin Theory via pinfall in 7:22 to retain the U.S. Title.
After the match, Theory went for cheap heat on the Oakland crowd. I forget whether he made a joke about the Raiders leaving or if Sami went there earlier for cheap heat. Kevin Owens walked out and does a comedy bit where he talked about if you mention his name on a mic, magically his entrance theme starts playing. He did this so he could hand the mic to fans in the crowd for some crowd reaction. Kevin Owens beat up Theory to leave the crowd happy after Theory refused to put his Money in the Bank contract on the line.
7. Seth Rollins vs. Matt Riddle in an “Oakland Street Fight.” The crowd really into this. Riddle was a bit less serious than he’s been on TV, but he’s also really good at house shows in playing to the crowd in this happy-go-lucky character. He wasn’t full doofus mode though. He was still a MMA badass between the bell. One personal note, After some of the crowd cleared, Riddle and Rollins actually brawled to the seat two seats to the left and in front of me. It was actually cool seeing Riddle deliver those Muay Thai Roundhouses up close because those things really connect. What wasn’t too great was when Rollins sells those roundhouse kicks to the chest, he’s flailing his hair all over the place, and thus I was in the splash zone of Seth’s hair water. I probably should have opened up my umbrella that I had in hand due to the rain outside to protect me from getting drenched in Seth’s hair water. As a person with fuzzy hair, I do sympathize with Seth in terms of the importance of putting water in your hair before going to public. Anyways, the match was good. Easy “we want tables” pop with Seth doing the usual house show heel thing of keeping that away from the crowd. Riddle wins by putting Seth through a table and then giving him an RKO.
Matt Riddle defeated Seth Rollins via pinfall in about 16:15.
Riddle gave out autographs and selfies with the fans to close the show.
This was one of the best WWE live event experiences that I’ve been to in a long while. It was a combination of the usual WWE main roster house show experiences where the wrestlers have the freedom to go off the cuff a little bit. Combine that with the energy, wrestling, and environment similar to the NXT live events I attended before the pandemic. I’m making a concerted effort to not come into these shows with rose-tinted glasses due to the wrestling landscape change after Vince McMahon’s retirement. The last WWE live event I went to may have been one of the most “depressing” WWE events that I ever attended.
It was that October 11, 2021 show at Chase Center. At that show, it was filled with just families. No real hardcore fans, or even casual fans (the type of fans that would like to hang out with at the club or concert). That October 11 show felt like a crowd who would attend the Barnum and Bailey Circus, there to take their kids to the traveling show. What really hurt was people had no investment in the characters at the time. The good wrestlers, were either being produced badly or given cheesy material to deliver. The fans weren’t able to invest in any of the characters and out of confusion. On top of that, Becky Lynch was trying to play heel, but people didn’t want to boo her. What salvaged the night, and kudos to whoever decided to do this, was to have Jimmy and Jay Uso ported over from Smackdown (they were not tag champs and couldn’t cross brands yet). Jimmy and Jey were super over with the crowd and were getting monster reactions. They even went hammy with the 49er references, even though they didn’t have to and being from SF was enough.
Fast forward to this event and it was night and day. There was a different energy in the air. Key point though, people actually got invested in the characters this time. What makes the characters easy to invest into is how interesting they are and how easy to pick up their stories are. It also helps that WWE does a good job with video packages. The kids, who may have been confused at that October 11 show, really were invested in characters and stories here. It’s very easy to accept Bobby Lashley, for example, as a mighty superhero and his resonation with the younger fans really showed. For the older fans, they see Lashley as a jacked badass. To contrast, the most “Vince McMahon WWE” style of match, where it was formula and moving through the motions, was Natalya vs. Liv Morgan. That got the expected reaction of fans scratching their heads and heading to concessions because the match was fairly formula, and the crowd doesn’t know how to take Morgan’s current presentation.
The matches, by contract to the formula Liv vs. Nattie match, all told good stories. You can sell me on admission price for myself if you tell me Gunther is wrestling in a non-tag match on the card. Gunther got to wrestle a Gunther Match. I was so happy to see the fans in attendance really get into Gunther and the story he tells during his match. It’s also easy to do when those chops sound like a shotgun. But this is with the other matches too. Even though you get your extended house show “cheap heat” and “cheap pop” segments during matches to engage the local crowd, the crowd was also invested and keeping their eyes glued to the bell-to-bell action because they were given a reason to care about what is happening at any given moment.