Editorials WWE

From A Casual Fan’s Perspective: SmackDown House Show

AJ Styles won over Ethan's casual fan friends (and then some)

What’s up guys?! Some of you know me, some of you don’t. But my name is Ethan and I’ve been wandering around the online wrestling community for several years now. Working on various projects, writing for several different sites including PWMania, and starting up my own blog/review archive as well as a PWG fansite.

In the past year, I’ve fallen off from my pro-wres reviewing pedestal due to vastly pursuing other interests in the form of music. It’s a bittersweet feeling because I’ve reached great lengths with my music, but my former passion has fallen to the waste side. In that time, I’ve had spurts of being into it again as I have indeed been keeping up as much as I can and watching all the big matches, however, I still was unable to make time to write about these things or even find the drive to do so. Until now, that is.

I’ve worked with some of the guys here at Wrestling With Words a bit in the past and even had a few spouts with them back in the day, but it’s all water under the bridge. As I’ve been away from this part of my life, I’ve seen them take amazing strides in making arguably the best site for pro-wres coverage and fandom on the internet. They’ve developed one hell of a community so when Trask approached me with the opportunity of being a part of it, I jumped at the chance. Although, I did still have trouble deciding whether I should even waste his time or not. My interest in wrestling has wavered a lot in 2016, but a few weeks ago, that changed and fate gave me the perfect topic for my first piece here on WWW.

On Monday, November 28, while most people were watching Raw live on the USA Network, I was attending a SmackDown house show with five friends, four of which were casual/non fans. This was the Florence, SC show. I am pretty open about my wrestling fandom although I don’t talk about it in stride because I’m not gonna be that guy. None the less, I didn’t know what the response from my friends/band mates would be despite us watching some clips and footage together prior. I knew they wouldn’t make fun of me for being a fan however they are, of course, going to be honest about what they’re seeing and with this being WWE, I felt like I was giving the company a good chance to make me look like an idiot for being into this sort of thing.

My estimate for what was to take place was honestly a mixed reaction and a few sly remarks or jokes however what happened totally blew my mind.

We missed the first part of the show due to arriving late, but we came in just in time to catch a match between Baron Corbin and Jack Swagger. The first big pop of the night from my friends came with Corbin disparaging the crowd and issuing another challenge which was answered by Kalisto. Their eyes got wide and they got to the edge of their seats as the always exciting luchador rolls in and pins Corbin in a matter of seconds. The amount of hype and drama which developed in that short amount of time taught me a new appreciation for things like that. In a world of smart marks, we tend to snuff at short matches and things like that sometimes, and I’m not saying I won’t ever do that again when we see something similar on Raw when I’m longing for a competitive contest, but on this night, I loved every second.

Following this was another instance, a spectacle of the highest caliber in Kane against Bray Wyatt. From a seasoned fan’s perspective, this is boring. On paper, this did nothing for me because their first meeting back in 2013 was lackluster and both men have been at dead ends for awhile. But here, I saw their appeal with literally everyone around me, not just my friends, being completely fascinated by the two weirdest characters in WWE. All the cell phone lights in the air when Bray Wyatt made his entrance created a super cool atmosphere. Plus, even though, I already know the ins and outs of both guys, seeing them live was a totally different experience and they undoubtedly did their job on this show.

Next up was Heath Slater & Rhyno against The Hype Bros which made for a few laughs due to the number of characters that were involved. Then came the women’s match which did feature a slip up or two, but it didn’t throw anything off and they all seemed super interested in seeing what the female side of things could do. Everything until this point was solid enough, but the entire night built to the main event and in this instance, it completely lived up to its billing.

AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose squared off in a street fight for the WWE Championship to close out the night in a match that on it’s own was worth the price of admission.

Prior to the show, I built up AJ Styles to my friends. He’s literally the only person on this show that I discussed prior and boy, did he ever make me look like I knew what I was talking about because he and Ambrose reeled my friends into a story that they knew nothing about heading into this night.

As Styles and Ambrose went back and forth, my friends began chanting for Styles and legitimately got into what was unfolding in front of them. And rightfully so, because the two had a hell of match. It felt like a high end TV contest with a lot of drama and near falls, a la lots of finisher counters and gasp worthy moments. Styles worked as the ultimate villain from the pre-match, where he cut off the ring announcer, to the post match where he laid another flew sly words on the crowd. Needless to say, my friends left the show talking about Styles, wanting to buy his merch, and singing his praises. It was so cool to see and the perfect way to cap off an unexpected very enjoyable night.

This response and this entire night as a whole told me two things.

The first being that wrestling is still magic. In a world where kayfabe is out in the open and wrestling is made fun of on the regular, it’s hard to have someone come into it with an open mind, much less be actually affected by the performance. So, to see this unfold before my eyes with some people close to me was super fucking cool and the fact that AJ Styles was able to solicit that response did a lot for him on my favorite wrestlers of all time list. At this stage in the game, he may be on his way to the top slot. One thing is for sure, though, there’s no one better than him going today which leads me to my next point.

This response reiterated my belief that AJ Styles is indeed the best in the world. The smarks love him, that’s obvious. But the true test of a performer is the variety of people he can touch. And on this night, he reeled in a group of casual/non fans and brought them to the edge of their set with his performance. That’s as rare as it gets in today’s world of pro wrestling and I think AJ deserves a round of applause for being the best wrestler in the world today.

The entire night was one which I will never forget and is definitely one of my favorite live wrestling experiences. Wrestling is truly a special thing and my faith in it as such was restored with this house show that barely even lasted 2 hours. Who woulda thunk it?

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