WWE Live Review : Raw in Belfast Nov 7th 2012
The WWE tour the UK/Ireland only a couple of times a year. As such as long as they can maintain a high TV profile and promote the events wisely, the company are pretty much assured a sell-out series of events. However in the past the organisation seemed to believe that sell-out crowds at house shows did not warrant the rosters big name players attending the shows. Thankfully times have changed and the WWE are now offering event the most remote house show a decent list of wrestling talent.
The sea of John Cena merchandise in Belfast's Odyssey proved the fact that even though smart fans hate him, Cena is the main merch mover in the WWE.
The fun opener saw the combo of Santino and Brodus Clay put away Primo and Epico with relative ease.
Next up Michael McGillicutty had the unenviable task of battling the huge Tensai. Tensai controling most of the bout, with his power moves. The Albert chants were more interesting than the match however. McGillucutty did scrape himself the win though.
Whilst not on par with their competitors (TNA's Knockouts) matches the WWE divas can pull off a fine match given the right talent. The triple threat match for the Divas Title was one such highlight in Belfast. Pitting (champion) Eve against challengers Layla and AJ the encounter balanced the right amount of titillation with wrestling action and comedy to please all in attendance. In a nice touch AJ seemed to win the gold for a title change on Irish soil, only for Vickie Guererro to interupt the celebrations and re-start the match. Eve swiftly took down AJ to retain her belt.
A lot earlier than expected John Cena hit the ring to take on Dolph Ziggler (with Guererro). The crowd were pumped for this one and the 'let's go Cena/Cena sucks' chants engulfed the arena throughout. Vickie proved to be a thorn in Cena's side until she raised the ire of the referee. With her ejected from the ringside area Cena/Ziggler continued to trade near falls and signature moves. But a convenient ref bump saw the sneaky Vickie return (Money in the Bank) steel case in hand, to assist her beau. Fortunately for Cena a revenge seeking AJ decided to help him out, the feisty young lady helping not only to distract Ziggler, but provide the funniest moment of the night. As Guerrero attempted to attack Cena she was struck by AJ with the case. Vickie then fell to her knees and landed in Cena's crotch (as fans beside me began to chant 'you suck' Vickie) to a he crowd pop. Cena pulled off the win to leave the Irish Cenation faithful happy.
One irritation on the night was the length of time devoted to the dull Zach Ryder and Antonio Cesaro battle for the United States championship. Cesaro was barely able to evoke a reaction throughout and Ryder had little chance to shine. Cesaro's win was painfully too long coming here.
Thankfully the following scrap made up for it. The inspired team of Kane and Daniel Bryan are one of the years most fulfilling combos in wrestling. Their opponents Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes (the Rhodes Scholars) were on fine form too.
This was what we wanted, in-fighting between teams. Rhodes and Sandow being afraid of Kane. Bryan attempting to out do his partner at every turn and Kane showing that he is by far the most proficient wrestler under a mask ever. Team Hell No prevailed and retained their Tag Team Belts with ease, the post match stare-down and hug between the pair was superbly timed too.
The main event between (Goldberg wannabe) Ryback and WWE Champion CM Punk was a it should rightly be the match of the night. Your reviewer was wonderfully surprised to see his hero Paul Heyman had made the trip to Ireland as well. Heyman is not only a legend in the business, but an old school manager who knows how to play a live crowd to perfection. Heyman's presence at ringside was a joy to behold and really kept things moving along. Maybe more such managers should be employed to do the same. Ryback's character is perfect for todays WWE and his appeal is well founded. Punk on the other hand is on the top of his game and can easily handle any opponent or crowd he is presented with with ease.
The match ended with a succession of run-ins, Tensai, Rhodes and the other event heels ran-in to save Punk. Then the faces Kane, Cena et al evened things up. The show ended with Ryback pummelling Punk and winning by DQ.
WWE Raw Live was one of the best shows Belfast has seen in years. We may be missing such big names as Triple H, Undertaker etc, but the roster on hand we were presented with did on whole give their all. The matches were well-paced and the live crowd lapped them up. The nice touch was that this house show veered more into less family friendly territory than the WWE TV product does. As was heavily promoted during the show the company will return to these shores in April 2013, we cannot wait to see what happens then.
By Phil Allely