When Vicky mentioned to me that she’d been in touch with the PR company representing WWE for their November tour of the UK and they had enquired as to whether she’d be interested in covering their London event, my reaction was pretty much what she expected – I about leapt out of my chair and said “me, me, me!” This was one that we both knew would probably be best for me to handle, given I’ve been a wrestling fan since 1989, co-wrote the autobiography of WWE legend Bob ‘Hardcore’ Holly (reviewed here by Vicky herself!) and actually spent a few years as a wrestler myself – but that’s a story for another time…
The story here is the WWE November 2014 UK Tour, which touched down at London’s Wembley SSE Arena on the 5th November. Going to the show might have meant missing bonfire night but there were plenty of fireworks in the ring that were more spectacular than any catherine wheel or bottle rocket.
For those who aren’t familiar with the WWE product, a good way to describe it would be athletic theatre. It is, in essence, a physical variety show with bouts that range from comedic to intense and hard hitting. The colourful and talented roster of WWE superstars offer something for everyone, and audience participation is key to the presentation. Whether it be raucous cheering or a cacophony of booing, these outstanding athletes put their bodies on the line to entertain and engage.
And make no mistake about it, they are incredible athletes – gone are the days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks lumbering around and slapping bellies before crumbling to the mat in an exhausted heap. WWE shows are high-energy and action packed with jaw dropping moves by guys and gals who clearly put in the hours in the gym to look the part.
In the VIP area before the show began, we were able to see some of the WWE products aimed at their younger fans, from the micro Slam City toys to superstar masks and assorted apparel. We also saw a demonstration of the impending PS4/XBoxOne release WWE2k14 which, it has to be said, looks absolutely fantastic and made me quite annoyed that I haven’t got a 4th gen console yet! We also met the Bella Twins, Nikki and Brie, partners of top wrestling superstars John Cena and Daniel Bryan respectively. Despite having only flown in from New York that day, the ladies were chatty and personable – and also fierce competitors in the ring – later that evening, Nikki teamed up with Norwich’s own Paige to battle AJ Lee in a handicap match.
Other action from the first half saw the Celtic Warrior Sheamus defeat self-styled Hollywood megastar The Miz (accompanied by his highly entertaining ‘stunt double’, Damien Mizdow), the world’s strongest man Mark Henry taking the PhD educated Xavier Woods to wrestling school, an amusing six-man tag match featuring midget wrestlers (yep, they prefer the term ‘midget wrestling’ – ask Hornswoggle!) mixing it up with their full-sized counterparts as Los Matadores and Torito beat Slater Gator and Hornswoggle (dressed improbably as a crocodile). Russian super-athlete and United States champion Rusev retained his title despite losing by disqualification to the colossal 7 foot tall Big Show to take us into the interval.
The second half saw NCAA amateur wrestling champion Jack Swagger locking up with Damien Mizdow, who fared little better than his leading man – Swagger forced a submission from his adversary with his ankle lock hold. High flying daredevil Kofi Kingston and powerhouse Big E joined forces to beat the Deliverance themed combination of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and, wrapping up the event, the world’s biggest wrestling star of the last decade, John Cena, sent his legion of young fans home happy (and his substantial following of adult male haters home grinding their teeth, no doubt!) after besting the sneaky Seth Rollins in a streetfight that saw Cena dispatch his opponent after an Attitude Adjustment from the top ropes (for those who don’t know what that is, imagine being thrown off a six foot plus guy’s shoulders when that guy is already standing on the ropes, several feet above the canvass – it’s a big drop and bloody painful, trust me…!)
All in all, WWE put on a great show that was received loudly and enthusiastically by the many thousands in attendance and they will, no doubt, go on over the next week or so to entertain tens of thousands more in the UK during the remainder of their tour, which runs as follows:
6th – Dublin
6th – Cardiff
7th – Belfast
7th – Birmingham
8th – Minehead
8th – Manchester
9th – Nottingham
9th – Leeds
10th – Liverpool (TV tapings)
10th – Bournmouth
11th – Liverpool (TV tapings)
11th – Brighton
12th – Newcastle
13th – Glasgow
NB – yes, they run two different cities on the same day – they have enough talent to split their roster into two touring crews.
If you’ve never been to a WWE show, check it out next time they’re over here (which will almost certainly be next April, as they generally tour the UK twice each year, in April and November). From the in ring action to the cutting edge production values with rock concert quality lighting and huge video wall entranceway, it’s a spectacle for sure and something that everybody should experience at least once (although this was probably my twentieth go round…). Whether you’re a grandchild or a grandparent, there’s something to entertain and it’s suitable for all the family – you can catch either Raw or Smackdown on Sky Sports each week but, for my taste, there’s nothing like being there live and feeling the roar of the crowd…