Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WWE Live in Des Moines

This house show showed another side of Bray Wyatt
Photo Credit:
The last time I went to a house show, it was 2009. Randy Orton and Triple H were the main event. Sheamus hadn't even been on television yet. Matt Hardy was still kicking around, far from becoming broken. A weird guy behind me was way too into Kofi Kingston. We were so young and innocent back then. Little did we know that WWE would start signing brilliant indie guys and gals, becoming a product that gets even jaded smarks like myself to come out to a live show.

I went with my friend Michael, who got us free tickets through the beverage company for which he does photography. Our baller-status seats were fairly close, but we were immediately surrounded by people, so we moved a few rows up where no one was sitting.

And that's the first thing that weirded me out about the house show experience: not that many people were there. I'm used to RAW or Smackdown tapings where the place is packed. I get very anxious and sympathetic for the wrestlers when there is even a small amount of empty seats. Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines hosts huge acts like Drake or Taylor Swift. It is not conducive to the more intimate nature of a house show. I always wonder: when someone like AJ Styles comes out and sees entire empty rows of seats, does he think to himself, "Ughhh, this sucks."

Or are they used to it? With this being a Smackdown-only house show, the gossip has it that these shows are not drawing as well as RAW's shows. The headlining match was Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles. We did not see John Cena, Randy Orton, or even Dolph Ziggler. It's unclear how many people knew this in advance of buying tickets, but it's almost a guarantee that if the average fan in Des Moines knew they wouldn't be seeing those guys, would they care enough to show up?


I had heard that the general vibe a house show is more loose and carefree, as wrestlers' every movement isn't done under the watchful eye of Vince McMahon. When Maryse continuously got involved in The Miz's match with Apollo Crews, the referee had enough. Instead of the slightly exaggerated "You're outta here" we usually get, this referee ran from one side of the ring to the other, ending with the biggest "YOU'RE OUTTA HERE" I've ever seen.

Later in the show, Luke Harper accompanied Bray Wyatt to the ring for his Wyatt's match with Kane (which Wyatt lost. YEP.). Instead of being his usual menacing self, Harper paraded around the outside, flexing his biceps at fans and being a goofball. And when Wyatt and Harper were leaving, Wyatt collapsed on the entrance ramp and laid there for a few seconds. Harper stood over him with his arms crossed, then started dragging him up the ramp. Then Wyatt just popped back up, and they walked to the back. It was barely a joke, and it was done for the amusement of probably 30 people in the crowd, as most everyone was still focused on Kane celebrating his huge win back in the ring.

We always defend wrestling as being just like everyone's favorite shows like The Walking Dead. But unlike the actors on those shows, pro wrestlers exude much more humanity and therefore engender much more sympathy within me. I want them to have fun and not feel like this is a job. So even though Bray Wyatt has to go out there and get pinned by goddamn Kane, he and his friend are still out there goofing around and at least amusing themselves. Good for them.


I would be remiss not to mention a certain incident that occurred during the Kalisto/Tyler Breeze match. A group of 30 to 40-something-year old guys a couple rows behind us were yukking it up. I leaned over to listen, and it turned out they were laughing because one of their friends was yelling "f****t" at Tyler Breeze (because he's a male model, so he's probably gay!). I pointed this out to Mike, and without even pausing to think about it, Mike stood up and yelled at the guy, "SHUT THE FUCK UP. DON'T SAY THAT WORD." The guy meekly tried to offer up the "I bought my ticket" defense, but Mike shouted him down, and that was the end of it.

Now, should Mike have taken that extra second to pause and realize that an innocent little girl was sitting with her parents RIGHT BETWEEN us and the hillbillies? Perhaps, yes. Mike felt bad about that. But I told him that even though he made that girl hear a loud swear, the context was as good as could be hoped for at a pro wrestling show. Let's say on the drive home, she asks her parents why that tattooed and bearded man was so angry. And if her parents are somewhat competent people, they could explain to her that the dumb man behind them was using a word that hurts feelings.  And that might inform the way she sees the world for the rest of her life, ensuring that we've created another decent person in the world.

Or, they'll tell her that the bearded man is just one of those whining liberals standing in the way of making America great again. This is Des Moines we're talking about here.