For those who’ve yet to experience WWE Live, it can described in few words – an absolutely smashing time, in more ways than one. Having attended past events, I knew what I was in for when the lovely folks at 2K Games invited me along to enjoy the show in Sydney this past Friday, but that absolutely didn’t stop me from enjoying the spectacle wholeheartedly. In fact, I would posit that this year’s experience was far superior to the last, despite what I perceived to be a lesser card. Gone were the over-the-top slapstick antics of 2016, replaced by solid, fun wrestling matches that had the crowd cheering, screaming and booing all throughout the night.
WWE legend and current RAW general manager Kurt Angle kicked off the show and hyped up the crowd for the opening bout – a Battle Royale for the chance to face The Miz for his Intercontinental title later on in the show. The bout featured a variety of stars from the veteran Goldust to fan-favourite Dean Ambrose, as well as Jason Jordan, Elias, Heath Slater, Rhyno, R-Truth, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil.
The action came thick and fast, with Goldust disappointingly becoming one of the first casualties of the action. He was soon followed by R-Truth in a strong display from Elias, a relatively new addition to Raw’s current roster. Eventual winner, Jason Jordan, who’s currently enjoying a push playing the role of Kurt Angle’s son, went on to face The Miz in a later bout.
This was followed by the Cruiserweight Title match, which saw current champion Neville fend off attacks from both Akira Tozawa and Enzo Amore in brilliant fashion. While we didn’t get to see Neville’s spectacular Red Arrow finishing move, we did get to see him tossing the grating Amore out of the ring on multiple occasions, which more than made up for it. While the Cruiserweight match wasn’t as quick as I expected, it was still great to watch thanks, in part, to Neville’s spectacular character work as he growled and grimaced his way through the match.
While I’m still debating match of the night, the next bout came very close – a tag team match between Cesaro and Sheamus (who I had the opportunity to meet earlier in the evening) and my childhood favourites, The Hardy Boyz. The match featured several heart-stopping kick-outs, an impromptu shout-out to fellow Attitude Era stars, The Dudley Boyz, and a crowd-pleasing ending when Jeff Hardy hit the Swanton Bomb for the win.
It’s been several years since the Hardy Boyz toured Australia, having only returned to WWE earlier this year, and after lengthy stints in WWE competitor, Impact (then known as TNA). If the crowd was anything to go by, it was a welcome return, as their introduction and later win garnered the biggest pops of the night. I, for one, am very glad to see them back, having grown up watching their high-flying antics.
The last match before intermission was between Finn Bálor and Bray Wyatt, whose entrances were both spectacular in their own ways. Wyatt’s entrance, backed by his spooky entrance theme was in a darkness lit only by the light of swaying, lit-up phones, and looking around the arena, it looked a lot like fireflies, and was just as spectacular. It was a genuinely beautiful sight, and one I’m glad I got to experience in person. Bálor’s own theme has a bombastic riff that saw the entire arena on their feet and flinging their arms into the air to the time of the beat. As Finn later proclaimed, the Bálor Club was out in full force in Sydney.
The match itself was a well-balanced and hard-hitting affair that saw Bálor pick up the win with a brutal-looking Coup de Grâce. Bálor’s high flying arsenal played well of Wyatt’s grounded offense, and made for a great, vicious looking match between the pair that I felt was far superior to any bout the pair had had on television.
Another challenger for match of the night emerged after the intermission as Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss defended the title against Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Nia Jax and Emma in a Fatal Five Way match. In 2016, the women’s title match was a thoroughly disappointing affair between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair that eventually dissolved into a one sided slapping match. This year, the women were granted a hefty amount of time, and the chance to show off their individual strengths in a stellar, fast-paced bout that never lost its flow.
Watching the women team up to take down the powerhouse Nia Jax was an absolute delight, and Australian star Emma had significant chances to shine. In the end, Alexa Bliss retained her title in cunning fashion, taking advantage with a quick roll-up. It was great to see the women given a good chunk of time to perform, and judging by crowd reactions, they were just as excited as I was. Women’s wrestling in the WWE has changed rapidly in the last few years, and it was great to see the support of the audience, and the respect with which they were treated.
Following on from some stellar action, the next match turned the action down a touch, with a forgettable match for the Intercontinental title featured Battle Royale winner Jason Jordan against current champion, the loudmouthed Miz, accompanied by his followers, The Miztourage. A solid, if boring wrestling match ensued, but the competition ended in a disqualification loss for The Miz. It was here that Dean Ambrose and R-Truth emerged to help the beleaguered Jordan, and Kurt Angle himself came out to restart the match as a 6-man tag. This match, which was nothing more than padding for the main event, was predictably won by the team of Dean Ambrose, R-Truth and Jason Jordan.
The main event, and another strong contender for match of the night, was between the often-maligned Roman Reigns, and the ‘monster among men’ Braun Strowman, who lives up to his moniker at an impressive near-7ft. Billed as a street fight, the match saw both men pull out all the stops, and featured several spectacular moments, including Strowman crashing through two different tables.
While I’ve always enjoyed a solid technique bout of wrestling, there’s something to be said for the sheer enjoyment of watching two gigantic men completely destroy each other in the ring. The night ended with an impressive spear from Roman Reigns that sent Braun Strowman straight through a well-placed table, and sent the crowd home happy. It was the perfect way to end what turned out to be a brilliant evening.
A huge thank you to the wonderful team at 2K Games for the invitation, and their hospitality! For those looking for their next WWE fix, WWE 2K18 launches on October 13th. Look out for our review early next month!
Photo Credits: WWE