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‘I Was There’ Moments – WWE Summerslam Weekend 2015 by Steve Cobble

Ladies and Gentleman, my name is Steve Cobble, and at least half of you just read that in the voice of the one and only, Paul Heyman. After recently receiving a message from Mr. Canton asking whether I was still interested in writing for this website, I had two immediate thoughts; the first was one of excitement at writing for a website I have been reading for about ten years, but the second emotion was the dawning of anxiety – What on earth was I going to write about? (Side note – feel free to put suggestions in the comments below!)

Thanks to my Twitter feed exploding after the Conor McGregor comments last week, my first post content decided itself whilst I was travelling on the bus to work. Yes, it’s a long journey. With the Summerslam weekend visible on the horizon, I thought I would take a moment to recap last year’s Brooklyn weekend, at which I had the good fortune to be in attendance for both the NXT Brooklyn Takeover and Summerslam itself. Then I watched Cedric Alexander vs Kota Ibushi in the CWC and I realized how lucky those people must have felt to have been there for it. It was an ‘I was there moment’ – much like the one I have from Brooklyn NXT.

https://twitter.com/WorkawaySteve/status/763821044260012032

As a British citizen, it’s not easy to go and watch PPV’s live. There’s the blatant British invasion for WrestleMania weekend, but even that has been more of a recent phenomenon, more noticable within the last five years or so. For many, WrestleMania is a once in a lifetime event, unlike Rock vs Cena, and one I’m hoping to experience it next year. So it was that I found myself in Toronto on a Working Holiday Visa, and after extending my initial stay in the country I had the realization that Summerslam was now a realistic proposition. Sure, all the tickets had sold out, but there are always people re-selling tickets and the NXT Brooklyn tickets weren’t on sale for a couple of weeks. While walking past the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, I once heard a guy offering a ‘Buy One Get Six Free’ deal on tickets before a game, but I’m not sure he quite had the grasp of touting tickets.

While sat at my desk at work, I went on to Stubhub (other ticket resellers are available) and I purchased two tickets for Summerslam for my housemate and I. This was happening. I was going to my first ever PPV! I later realized that I had paid far more than I realized as I thought the price was showing in Canadian dollars, not American, so that was a shock. You guys really need different dollar signs. Nevertheless, it was on. I booked a bus to New York, a 12 hour ride that really sucks, and a room through Airbnb, and then I just had to wait for the NXT sale date, in which I managed to secure tickets at face value thankfully.

NXT Barclays

The night had finally arrived! Saturday 22nd August, 2015. I was more excited for the Takeover event than I was for Summerslam itself, and it did not fail me in anyway. It was here Triple H asked if there were any Brits in the crowd before the show – cue the rest of the crowd booing while I screamed like a madman – as he announced the upcoming NXT Takeover London, and then it was go. What a night. The sell-out crowd was absolutely electric, and it was noticeable before entering the building that the crowd was predominantly aged 18-30. The attitude era children had all grown up, and were absolutely lapping up everything on show. From the beautiful opening by an illuminated Paul Levesque, a thunderous Blue Pants reception and entertaining matches throughout, everything seemed to be building up for ‘that’ match.

SCBayley

I’ve never experienced anything quite like the crowd during this match: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for the NXT Women’s Title. The Boss was in fine form, and the story was woven throughout like a Neil Gaiman masterpiece. Everything that had occurred in the Women’s Division throughout the previous year had been leading up to this match, and good god almighty, what a match it was.

Earlier in the match up, there had been a collective gasp from the 15,000 in attendance as something appeared to go a bit awry in the corner, and Bayley landed on her neck. Thankfully, the girls managed to continue and put on an absolute clinic, and towards the end of the match the crowd could sense the end was nigh as the two female warriors were battling on the turnbuckle. As wrestling fans, we have to put up with a lot of sloppy and lazy creative decisions over the years, bad treatment of wrestlers and bad decisions by wrestlers themselves. There are times when even the most ardent of wrestling fans can struggle to defend the product that is put on TV. However, as has been said many times before, when wrestling is done right there is nothing better. We put up with everything I mentioned above for those moments that make us forget where we are, who we are, and whatever worries we have, because we are completely 100% immersed in the story that is being told in the ring

 

SCBayvBanks

 

This was one of those moments.

As Bayley maneuvered around Sasha Banks on the turnbuckle and hit that inverted Frankensteiner, the whole arena was completely invested and the electricity pulsing through the crowd could have powered the building itself. While Bayley pulled her hair bobble out, threw it on the floor and stalked her prey, there was a wave of pure emotion swelling that encapsulated everyone. That wave only kept growing louder as Bayley hit the Bayley to Belly suplex and the crescendo of noise reached a visceral climax as the referee’s hand hit the mat for the third time. This is why I watch wrestling. I took in the view around me, as men, women and children of all ages were standing up for a standing ovation paired with tears, among the beaming smiles and pure emotion from everyone who was present.

Everyone knew what this match meant. With Dusty Rhodes having recently passed, it wasn’t just about the victory for Bayley; it was the culmination of the Women’s Revolution within NXT that completely eviscerated the perception that many had of the ‘Divas’ in WWE. The Four Horsewomen would lose three of its members to the main roster, leaving Bayley to lead the charge of the Light Brigade into the relative unknown.

After the momentous battle of the women, the remaining match was the Demon vs Owens in a ladder match.

SCBalor

Ordinarily, this would be a main event pairing worthy of any PPV, and I include WrestleMania in that statement. However, on this occasion the crowd were so exhausted from the previous match that it didn’t quite have the big fight feel that it normally would. I imagine they felt like Austin and Kane did after watching the Undertaker vs Mankind HIAC match back in 1998. Nonetheless, they put on a very solid bout, which on any other day and following any other match, would have had the crowd completely in the palm of two of the most talented men in wrestling.

The following night was Summerslam, and the difference in the crowd was evident with far more children about, accompanied by the dueling Cena chants while queuing just to get in. After a brief panic about whether my internet purchased tickets would work, I got through and took my seat, which was in the rafters but I did not care one iota.

Another celebrity made an appearance when Stephen Amell joined and shocked the whole crowd by not sucking in the ring. I agree with some of the criticism about how celebrities shouldn’t be booked so strongly against seasoned pros, but on the other hand, Amell is in fantastic shape and more importantly – He’s the freaking Green Arrow! Kudos for taking the risk that he really didn’t need to when diving off the top rope to the outside.

SCAmell

This was also the night in which we saw a momentous bout between Rollins and Cena, in which Rollins wore that stupendous white ring gear, and pulled out all the baby-face moves having received an incredible pop from the moment his music hit right up until he finished celebrating. I remember when we could see someone running to the ring but couldn’t tell who it was, then trying to work out what the hell Jon Stewart was doing interfering, and then not caring at all and popping huge when he hit Cena with the chair. It was a great match and although I’m not usually overly keen on outside interference at the best of times, let alone when it’s by a guest on the show, this seemed to work well and I enjoyed Stewart’s explanation the next night on Raw.

SCRollins

Finally, it was the time of the Deadman. Knowing that each appearance could be Taker’s last, I was delighted to finally be able to witness the Phenom at work live and in person. The fight with Brock was just that, a pure fight, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable bout until the weird low blow, hidden tap out finish – the energy was immediately sucked from the building as we had no replay or commentary to try and explain what had just happened. A bit of a misstep. It was all worth it just to see this though;

SCTaker

There have been a few ‘I was there’ moments throughout wrestling history and I feel that the women’s match up at NXT Takeover Brooklyn was one of them. The Takeover event was the first real test for the brand in a large arena and it did not disappoint in the slightest, paving the way for NXT to continue leaving an indelible impression on the wrestling landscape.

Although a long post, I thank you if you’ve stuck with it so far. I enjoyed writing this and had goosebumps just recalling the atmosphere that night during the match between Bayley and Sasha Banks. I was there – And You Can’t Teach That.

Have you witnessed any of wrestling’s ‘I was there’ moments? Maybe it was just an indie match that no one else will ever see? Let me know in the comments below and follow me on Twitter @workawaysteve