This past Friday, November 4th, I attended the WWE Live show (Raw brand) at the SSE Arena in London, UK. World Wrestling Entertainment – living up to the World part of their name – are currently on a tour of Europe, taking in Germany, Austria, France, Spain and the United Kingdom (including Glasgow, Scotland for the coming week’s TV tapings).
The four of us – my better half and two of our friends, who are our regular WrestleMania viewing buddies – had seats in the arena’s lower tier (so not on the floor, but not up high). Obviously if you’re reading this and attending one of the later shows on the Raw roster’s tour, everything from the What Went Down section onwards will pretty much give away what you’ll see; as usual with tours, each night is generally the same sort of card with some variations. Just worth mentioning in case you wanted to remain unspoiled.
Quick context-setting on the venue: The SSE Arena – historically more familiar to everybody in London and the south-east of England by the name Wembley Arena – was the location for NXT TakeOver: London last year, and is located just across a plaza from Wembley Stadium which famously hosted SummerSlam in 1992. In the last few years when WWE have taped main roster TV out of London, they’ve tended to shack up at the much larger O2 Arena on the other side of town. Wembley is very much the ‘B’ arena for WWE in London.
Anyway, I digress. Let’s get on with the show.
As always there are two rules for house shows: Rule One, all champions retain. Rule Two, all faces win (subject to accordance with Rule One). But even with those limitations, it’s refreshing how the absence of TV cameras gives the talent a little more freedom – to face individual members of the audience on promos rather than being tethered to the hard camera, to not compromise on a heel’s comeuppance in order to protect their seriousness; Rusev pulled out one of the most drawn-out, exaggerated Flair Flops I’ve ever seen here, and the crowd loved it. As such, while the matches won’t always be all-time classics, the occasional frustrations you get from the foibles of the weekly TV shows are absent. The talent, the matches and the crowd pretty much never get short-changed.
Attendees: Lots of kids with parents, as you’d expect for a house show. Pro wrestling in the UK also has a notable crossover audience with soccer fans – you can identify them by the way they put together chants and songs. The relentless “Hey Bayley/I wanna know if you’ll be my girl” song (in evidence again at this show) which NXT viewers first encountered at TakeOver: London was honed by exactly that demographic during that UK tour. Quite a few of them in too, but a well-balanced crowd; not rabidly hardcore, but not there for a pantomime either.
I would estimate somewhere around 10,000 in terms of numbers, so pretty packed.
Big mix of merch being worn by people – still plenty of kids going Full Cena, but Reigns popular among the youth too. Not so much Bayley to be seen. Adults very eclectic; a few Seth Freakin’ Rollins, Certified Gs, The Kevin Owens Show and red Cesaro shirts. There were even a couple of #DIY shirts I spotted down on the floor.
What Went Down
Raw Tag Team Championships: The New Day def. Enzo & Cass, The Club and Sheamus & Cesaro
For those wondering, The New Day entered first, with Enzo and Cass second. Both teams did their usual intros, both with full crowd backing, but neither cut a longer promo. This was a good opener that got a decent amount of time, with a few pretty funny Sheamus and Cesaro disagreement spots, lots of punishment from The Club to Enzo, a hot tag to Big Cass and Kingston and Woods ultimately double-teaming Karl Anderson for the opportunist New Day win.
Sin Cara def. Curtis Axel
These two worked well together, with Axel doing a great job of heeling it up to the crowd and Sin Cara bringing the Springboard Everythings. Solid choice for an undercard match that went a few minutes but never outstayed its welcome. Senton bomb from Sin Cara was enough for the win.
Darren Young & The Golden Truth def. Titus O’Neil & The Shining Stars
God bless them, this was the most forgettable part of the show. It’s about all I can do to remember who won. Honourable mention for R-Truth, who still connects well with a live crowd and had the decency to actually read some of Epico and Primo’s brochures before declining their timeshares.
Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair def. Sasha Banks
Still not getting used to writing “Flair”. After their recent exploits, it was a bit weird to see these two early on the card and wrestling only ten minutes or so. It was a slightly safer, shorter-form version of their previous encounters, with no moonsaults from Charlotte or head-landings from Sasha. Their chemistry still came across though, and the crowd lapped it up – great reactions for both women. Charlotte retained by pinfall, with her feet on the ropes.
United States Championship: Roman Reigns def. Rusev (w/ Lana)
Lana, out first to introduce Rusev, was popular with the guys in the crowd. Roman Reigns got possibly the loudest reaction of the night, thanks to the combination of vociferous cheering and vociferous booing. There were more cheers for Reigns than I was expecting, if I’m honest. The soccer fans behind us were solidly pro-Reigns – though I guess that could’ve been because The Sun told them they wouldn’t see any more Bulgarians in London if they voted for Brexit. Little local political joke for you there.
If you need me to tell you what happened in this match, you haven’t been watching any of Raw’s programming for the last three months. These guys are great at leaning into everything though, so it still went down well live.
There was a brief intermission after this match, before the second half of the show got underway.
Bayley & Alicia Fox def. Dana Brooke & Nia Jax
Emma, in her badass aviators and half-gloves (no hint of the imminent new gimmick), made an appearance as the special guest referee. Bayley and Fox were accompanied by Jade Jones, British double Olympic taekwondo champion. There was a cute moment before the match where Bayley gave Jones one of her headbands to wear, and Jones in return let Bayley and Fox wear each of her two gold medals. Who needs Kurt Angle anyway?
The match saw Fox and Bayley work together to neutralise Nia Jax, before Dana Brooke ate a Bayley-to-belly for the popular win. Jones didn’t get involved in the match. Afterwards, Dana mouthed off to Emma for counting the pin and Emma hit her with a double underhook suplex to a big pop.
Good moment to share a bit of trivia: My other half has a nickname for Dana Brooke (we have nicknames for most of the WWE roster, in fact). In our house, Dana is known as “Mordor Barbie”. If somebody in Glasgow can get that on a sign before Monday night, we’ll be very touched.
Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho
Jericho got a huge reaction and was in vintage heel mode here, getting on the microphone before Zayn came out to run down London as “the anus of England”, tell us we didn’t deserve to go on The List and jaw at a load of kids in the front row. Crowd were eating out of his hand. Once Zayn came out there was a lengthy comedy sequence where Jericho wouldn’t take off his scarf, before Zayn grabbed the scarf from him and taunted him with it like a bullfighter. Match itself was good as you’d expect from these two, with an exploder suplex and Helluva Kick ending it, again as you’d expect.
Neville def. Bo Dallas
Ouick squash win for England’s Neville, with a Red Arrow inside two or three minutes.
One thing I’ve got to make a point of here: This is the first time I’d seen Neville live, and the Red Arrow is far more impressive when you see it in person. I’ve seen other people write this in the past and thought yeah, sure, I’ve seen it on the telly, I can see how good it is. But trust me, they’re right. The height he gets and the crispness – it’s the furthest thing from sloppy you can imagine – is somehow a lot more striking in the flesh.
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins (Street Fight)
Unlike some tours, the ‘street fight’ stipulation was not announced as being named after the town the tour was in. I was fine with this, as we all know a ‘London Street Fight’ is pretty much no different in practice to any other street fight. It’s not like Owens and Rollins were throwing black taxicabs, homeless people and rain at each other.
As we all saw at Hell In A Cell, these two are pretty great with each other, especially when weapons are involved. Both men got a lot of love from the crowd and made swift and regular use of chairs, tables and innovative bits of broken tables. Owens got the pinfall win thanks to a run-in distraction by Jericho and a kendo stick shot to Seth’s plums.
After Owens had got on the mic to run London down a little more, Rollins hit Jericho with a Pedigree and sent KO through a table with a running powerbomb to send the crowd home happy. I remember going to a live event at the O2 in 2011 when the “send the crowd home happy” spot was virtually every face on the roster – including Eve Torres – spamming finishers on a heel Dolph Ziggler, who sold them all like he was being hit by a convoy of invisible trucks. I went home happy that night, no question. I’m still happy about it now. WWE didn’t piss around on that tour.
Top of the Pops:
- Seth Rollins
- Chris Jericho – up until the point he got on the microphone.
- Tied between The New Day and Enzo/Cass – going on first didn’t hurt, but they’d probably have got the same reaction wherever they were on the card.
- Chris Jericho – after he got on the microphone.
- Charlotte Flair
- Curtis Axel – although personally I was doing something other than booing.
Consensus between the four of us afterwards was that our favourite match was probably the tag team opener (with some love for the women’s title match too), but that the whole card was good and the standard of entertainment was consistently high the whole night. The six-man tag, as mentioned above, was unanimously our least favourite; could’ve been given a lift by the presence of one of the teams from that opening match. That was the one part of the card that felt a bit unbalanced.
In all the previous occasions I’ve been to WWE shows, I’ve always sat up in the arena’s tiered seats. At some point I definitely want to sit ringside (if I can save up my pennies), and I’d like to see the SmackDown tour when WWE next come our way.
If you haven’t been to a WWE Live event, you should. No, it’s not particularly cheap – my ticket was £50 including booking fee and as you can see, we weren’t exactly ringside. But hardly any live entertainment is cheap nowadays; theatre, sports, music gigs all cost a packet. As a once-a-year thing though, when WWE are in your neighbourhood, it’s worth it. A good time was had by all.