I went to the WWE matches in Kansas City on Saturday night (11/28/15).
Growing up, attending wrestling matches was one of my favorite hobbies. Before I started going to concerts, it was the big thing to do for me. The energy of being at a live event is unlike anything you would ever imagine from watching wrestling on TV. It is a very unique, surreal experience.
My first match was the pay-per-view Over the Edge, in 1999. Tragically, wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death from the rafters of Kemper Arena after his harness malfunctioned. The crowds also used to be a lot rougher back in the day. There was almost more fighting in the stands than in the ring. Back in 1999, people behind me got arrested for fighting about Stone Cold versus the Undertaker. You went to jail for your love of the Undertaker? I wonder how they feel now? Most likely still proud and still in jail.
While crowds are calmer and more family friendly these days, the furious anger of the fans was still palpable. On Saturday, the most heat from the crowd was directed towards the heel Bo Dallas. His “motivational speaking” on the mic really got the crowd riled up. Bo skillfully antagonized the crowd, “If you’re in need of a hero, raise your hand in the air. If your hand isn’t in the air, you are a liar!” He even took time out during the match to take a victory lap around the ring even though he was being beaten. Bo’s unwavering positive attitude mixed with the crowd’s seething hate was a sight to behold.
In-person, the matches have a completely different feel than the over-the-top bombast you hear from the commentary on TV. The crowds never know what matches or wrestlers are coming up next, so the excitement is genuine and infectious. There is no commentary piped into the crowd during matches. A lot of the crowd stands up for the entrances and then sits down for the matches. The crowd intensely watches the matches, awaiting the next move. It makes for an oddly calming experience.
It’s the subtle things about live events that make the most impact sometimes. The most vocal man in the crowd was the older black man in his 70s, seated next to me. When a wrestler would hit a big move, he would yell, “Dummy! You should have expected that! You should have seen it coming!” When Alberto Del Rio slammed Neville into the steel stairs, the man exclaimed, “Those stairs don’t budge an inch!” I could also hear the ref talking to the wrestlers. When Bo Dallas dragged Zack Ryder out of the ring, the ref pleaded with Bo, “Bring it back inside the ring, Bo! Are you not hearing these things?”
I took a 15 year break from seeing matches live and then got back into it in November of last year. Attending wrestling matches is one of the ultimate nostalgia trips for me. If you were ever into it, you go to a match and you know what to look for and what you would like to see. Kane’s side slam and chokeslam Saturday night were so old school, they should have been sponsored by Surge, Gushers and LA Gear.
However, something isn’t purely nostalgic when it’s right there in front of you, live, laying the smackdown in front of your face. Pro wrestling is staged and fake, but it is all about real athleticism. If I tried any of those moves, I would surely bleed sadness and failure all over the sqaured circle. Wrestling matches can be a glorious trashy, joyous thing.
One thing I learned from watching so much wrestling back in the day is that it’s not so bad to outsize yourself. Why not bring some overblown energy and joy into someone’s day? As you plod through your boring modern hellscape of a day, why not amp it up a little bit? Beast it hardcore! Like the Macho Man once said, “I’m 1000 percent, that’s way better than 100 percent.”