A couple of weeks ago, Ross and Grace attended the WWE Live Tour in Cardiff. Here is Ross’ review of the evening…
The WWE returned to the Cardiff Motorpoint arena in November 2016 for another exciting night of action with their Smackdown Live superstars, highlighted by a fantastic match between Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler and movie-star wannabe The Miz – a match that featured an incredibly popular appearance by massive crowd-favourite Daniel Bryan.
The Motorpoint arena, easily accessible by road and train, is a great venue for wrestling shows – not big enough to be overwhelming but certainly sizable enough to hold a lively, enthusiastic crowd and create a great atmosphere for the event. Much like in 2015, it was sold out again this year and packed to the proverbial rafters.
The show opened up with a three way tag team title match, won by Heath Slater and political candidate Rhyno (presumably he goes by his given name of Terry Gerin on the ballots though…) and a singles match which saw Apollo Crews beat the largely irrelevant Curt Hawkins.
The action picked up with Baron Corbin tangling with patriotic American character Jack Swagger. Perhaps it was in reaction to the election of Donald Trump or maybe it was that Corbin’s lone wolf attitude was more appealing but Swagger was not at all popular in Wales on this given night. Neither was he successful – he went down for the three count after taking the Baron’s spectacular End of Days finishing move. This was one of only two ‘bad guy’ wins on the show, although you wouldn’t know Corbin was supposed to be the villain in the piece, given the crowd’s enthusiastic response to his victory.
A women’s tag team match followed as Natalya Neidhart teamed with the “Staten Island Princess” Carmella to face off with Nikki Bella and Naomi – the last of whom must be complimented for an awesome dance routine on her way to the ring, complete with a neon outfit highlighted in black lighting that looked absolutely spectacular. She was certainly the favourite in the bout and the crowd was largely enthusiastic through the match, cheering loudly when Naomi’s partner Nikki picked up the win by pinning Carmella.
The best match of the night followed, as Dolph Ziggler beat The Miz to retain his title. Whilst the action, especially in the final five minutes, was exciting, the highlight of the night came after The Miz’s valet (and real life wife) Maryse sprayed hairspray in Ziggler’s eyes – behind the back of the referee, of course, like all good wrestling valets! Objecting to the flagrant cheating, Smackdown Live general manager Daniel Bryan emerged from the back – complete with his Ride of the Valkyries influenced theme music – to an enormous reaction, easily the biggest of the night. Bryan prevented Maryse’s nefarious methods turning the match in favour of her husband and Ziggler quickly picked up a very popular win to close the first half of the show.
The second half opened with the Hype Bros team of Zack Ryder and unintentionally (or intentionally… I couldn’t figure it out…!) annoying Mojo Rawley against olde timey carny act The Vaudevillains. The match was fine but the crowd didn’t seem particularly interested. The Hype Bros won and were then promptly challenged to another match by another team called The Ascension. There wasn’t enough time to really understand what they were all about since the ensuing match lasted less than a minute and finished with the Hype Bros winning their second match of the night. Maybe the Ascension’s deal is that they’re losers?!
A women’s title match followed as Ireland’s Becky Lynch beat fun sized Alexa Bliss in a match that we found the least entertaining of the evening. The crowd were split, despite bad girl Bliss cheating regularly.
A complete 180 in terms of entertainment value was the penultimate bout. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Randy Orton – who was cheered wildly despite being on the ‘bad guy’ team – fought a six-man tag team match against American Alpha – who the audience did not seem familiar with – and everybody’s favourite towering pyromaniac, Kane. The match felt different to the others, with some welcome comedy moments provided by Luke Harper (a highly underrated performer and the man of the match here) and tremendous character work by Orton who embraced his crowd-baiting persona by tagging into the match, whipping the crowd into a frenzy by indicating he was going to perform his finishing move… and then tagging right back out again before even touching his opponent. The match finished with Kane pinning Harper.
The main event saw AJ Styles defend his WWE Championship against Dean Ambrose. The special guest timekeeper was WWE’s flavour of the month James Ellsworth, a joke gone right which will, unfortunately, go wrong quickly unless the promotion learns that less is often more. Ambrose was popular but, surprisingly considering he’s been with the promotion for less than a year, Styles was equally as well received. Of course, maybe it isn’t such a surprise since Styles has generally been regarded as one of the top ten wrestlers in the world for most of the past decade but seeing him embraced – even in a bad guy role – by the WWE audience so soon into his time with the company was very encouraging and suggested the Cardiff audience knew their wrestling. The match was good, with a crowd solidly split 50/50, ending when Styles attempted to flee to the back in order to get away from Ambrose’s onslaught. As Ambrose caught him and threw him back into the ring, Styles rammed Dean into the exposed steel corner turnbuckle and rolled him up for a cheap victory. Still, Ambrose had the last laugh – as AJ menaced the runty Ellsworth after the match, Dean saved the day, allowing weedy James to connect with a kick known as the “No Chin Music” (due to Ellsworth’s spectacularly weak chin) before sending the crowd home happy by planting Styles with his own “Dirty Deeds” finishing move.
Overall, a highly enjoyable evening with several good matches – as ever at these events, the lighting and sound experience is top-notch, sometimes feeling more like West End theatre than a sporting event. If you’ve never been to a wrestling show before, next time the WWE is in Cardiff, consider checking it out – it’s three hours of good spirited entertainment, a great chance to cheer or boo to your heart’s desire, and be part of a very enthusiastic (and vocal) audience in a great facility.
Disclosure: Thank you to the organisers of WWE for providing us with tickets in return for this review. Please note that all words, images and opinions have been formed by the owner of this blog and have not been influenced in any way. Please do not reproduce any of the content or images on this post without prior agreement from Verily Victoria Vocalises.