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WWE LIVE EVENT REPORT
MAY 6, 2017
BELFAST, N. IRELAND AT SSE ARENA
REPORT BY JOHN SERVICE, PWTORCH CORRESPONDENT
(1) WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Dean Ambrose defeated The Miz (w/Maryse) via pinfall. A solid opening match. Lots of stalling by Miz during the opening minutes of this match, as the former Intercontinental Champion “heeled” it up to the crowd by taking ages to remove his sunglasses. Ambrose attempted to get a quick victory by attempting the “Dirty Deeds” early on in this match. Miz however was able to block the move, driving Ambrose into the corner. Momentum swung back and forth over the course of the remainder of this match, and Miz made very effective use of Maryse at ringside (including one spot where Dean scored a visible pinfall on the Miz but the ref was distracted by Maryse). In the end Dean Ambrose retained his championship, nailing Miz with the “Dirty Deeds” to get the pinfall victory.
Overall a decent way to kick off this house show. While Dean Ambrose got a good response from the crowd, Miz was unquestionably the star of this match. The crowd was very much into his act with Maryse, loudly booing them at various points throughout the match. It’s good to see, especially when you consider how little of a crowd reaction Miz was getting just 18 months ago.
(2) Bayley & Mickie James & Sasha Banks defeated Alexa Bliss & Emma & Nia Jax. After a solid opening match for the IC Title, fans were treated to a solid, albeit forgettable six-person tag team match by the stars of Raw’s Womens division. Mickie and Alexa started off this match, with the babyfaces getting the early advantage. The heel trio of Alexa, Emma and Nia Jax did eventually gain a foothold in the match, isolating Sasha Banks in their corner in what was a lengthy “heat” segment. In the end though it was the babyface team who picked up the victory when Bayley delivered a “Bayley-to-Belly” suplex to Emma for the three count.
As I said earlier this was a fairly basic six-person tag match. One thing worth noting was the complete lack of crowd reaction for most of women. Emma, Nia Jax and (surprisingly) even Mickie James all got zero response during their ring entrances for his match. And while the crowd did pop for Alexa and Bayley, their response to these top two stars of Raw’s womens division were still somewhat muted. Sasha Banks however got a huge response from the Belfast audience, and easily came across as the biggest star in this match. If Sasha is getting similar responses from other crowds, I think WWE would be best keeping her as a babyface for a while longer, as they try and build some other credible stars on Raw.
One final observation I noted was I happened to be looking at Bayley as Sasha made her way onto the entrance stage. Bayley gave a big wave over to Sasha. It was perhaps the most Bayley-esque think I could have imagined her doing, and itwas strangely adorable.
(3) WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Neville defeated Austin Aries via pinfall. Another good singles match here at this Belfast WWE house show, this bout saw Neville retain his WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Austin Aries. Disappointingly Aries entered the SSE Arena Belfast to virtually no response from the fans in attendance (which is somewhat disappointing considering he was one of the more popular wrestlers at last June’s NXT house show in the same building). Neville though got a huge number of boos from the Belfast fans, and used this crowd reaction to build sympathy for his opponent over the course of this match. Neville retained his WWE Cruiserweight Championship in a somewhat surprising manner countering Austin Aries running forearm into the turnbuckle, and dropping Aries crotch-first onto the top rope, This allowed Neville to then just cover Aries and get the three-count.
(4) Fatal-4-Way WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match: The Hardy Boyz (Jeff Hardy & Matt Hardy) defeated Enzo & Big Cass, Cesaro & Sheamus and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. The first standout match of the evening, this Fatal-4-Way match for the Raw Tag Team Titles was one fo the highlights of the evening. Enzo and Big Cass made their way to the ring before doing their usual mic schtick. The crowd were really into Enzo and Cass (much more so than I was expecting). The next two teams to come out were the heel teams of Cesaro/Sheamus and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. Finally the Hardy Boyz came out to what was unquestionably the “pop” of the night.
Once the match got underway, this quickly turned into a really enjoyable and fast-paced multi-team tag team match. Some of the interactions between the teams were pretty entertaining (including one where Luke Gallows picked up a wig Enzo was wearing, and began to mock Enzo). However, this match really belonged to Matt and Jeff Hardy. Throughout this match, pockets of fans would repeatedly start up chants of “Delete!” (although these chants didn’t get picked up by the crowd in the SSE Arena Belfast) for any prolonged period of time. The match came to an end when the Hardyz hit Karl Anderson with their “Twist of Fate/Swanton Bomb” finishing combo, allowing Matt to pin Karl Anderson and get the victory for the tag champs.
(5) Jordan Devlin wrestled Tucker went to a no contest. Originally scheduled to be a singles match between WWE UK Championship competitors Jordan Devlin and Belfast’s very own Tucker, this match ended after just a couple of minutes after Braun Strowman came out and took out both guys. Strowman then cut a promo about how he had destroyed Roman Reigns at Payback, and that the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion would not be appearing on the show. This inevitably led to Roman Reigns’ music hitting, setting up our next match…
(6) Roman Reigns defeated Braun Strowman. A relatively short street fight, this match lasted just a few minutes. Most of this match actually took place at the ringside area, with Braun repeatedly going after the ribs of Roman Reigns, hitting him with a steel chair as well as the ringside steps. After a few minutes Braun rolled Reigns into the ring and propped a folding table against the turnbuckle. This lack of killer instinct gave Roman Reigns enough time to recover to the point where he was able to drive Braun Strowman through the table with a Spear. As Braun lay in the ring, Roman’s music played to give us a feel-good moment as we headed into intermission.
Overall a short, but efficient use of Raw’s two top singles wrestlers. The boos when Roman Reigns were fairly loud when Reigns came down to the ring (although these seemed to quickly subside as the match progressed).
(7) Goldust & Heath Slater & R-Truth & Rhyno defeated Bo Dallas & Curt Hawkins & Curtis Axel & Titus O’Neill. Kicking off the second half of this WWE house show was this short eight-man tag match involving the lower card singles wrestlers from Raw. Prior to the start of this match, The Golden Truth (R-Truth and Goldust) got a surprisingly strong response from the fans in the SSE Arena, who seemed into singing along to R-Truth’s entrance music.
(8) Seth Rollins defeated Samoa Joe via pinfall. My personal favourite match of the evening, this bout started at a breakneck pace with Samoa Joe and Seth Rolling brawling back-and-forth in the ring. After a while, the match spilled out to the ringside are for a brief spell before returning to the ring. Once the action returned to the ring, Samoa Joe quickly began targeting the previously injured knee of Seth Rollins, working over the limb with a series of moves including his modified inverted atomic drop, and a kneebar. Despite going after the knees of Seth Rollins, Seth was able to mount a comeback against Joe. This led to the finish of the match that saw Seth defeat Samoa Joe with his Rainmaker-style knee strike finisher.
Overall an excellent match that showcased both competitors in-ring credentials. I was also really pleased to see that Seth got a strong babyface response from the Belfast fans, showing that maybe WWE haven’t mismanaged his babayface turn from late last year. If I had to make one minor criticism of this match, I thought Seth could have sold his knee injury better during his comeback. During this portion of the match, Seth was able to flip out of an attempted move by Samoa Joe and landed on his feet. Considering Joe had spent maybe the previous 5-10 minutes working over the left knee of Seth Rollins, I would have like Seth to have maybe sold tweaking his knee upon landing on his feet, rather than no-selling the knee and nailing Joe with a step-up enziguiri. It’s a minor criticism, but one that I felt could have benefitted the story being told in the ring.
(9) Finn Bálor defeated Bray Wyatt via pinfall. A solid main event singles match, I thought this bout between Finn Bálor and Bray Wyatt was good although not on the same level as the Samoa Joe/Seth Rollins match. Bray Wyatt made his entrance down to the ring to the usual procession of cellphones lighting up the arena. Finn Bálor meanwhile had one of the most “over” ring entrances of the entire show.
The match itself was very enjoyable. Over the course of this main event matchup, Finn Bálor repeatedly went for his “Coup de Grace” double footstomp finishing move. Wyatt however was able to counter these attempts, using a variety of tactics (including crotching Bálor on the top rope multiple times). One of these attempts at the “Coup de Grace” actually lead to the most memorable moment in the match as Bálor prepared himself to come off the top rope, only to be stalled by the sight of Bray doing his crab walk. At one point in the match, Bray Wyatt nailed Finn with “Sister Abigail” for an incredibly close two-count. In the end though, it was Finn Bálor who left the SSE Arena Belfast victorious, putting Wyatt away with a sequence of moves that included a Slingblade, a shotgun-style dropkick on Wyatt into the turnbuckle, and of course culminating in the “Coup de Grace”.
Overall a very good match that sent the crowd home happy. Going into this show I was curious to see what sort of in-ring chemistry Finn Bálor and Bray Wyatt would have together, but it looks like they’re feud could be promising (providing WWE creative don’t overbook things). With Bálor being the smaller wrestler he created the bulk of the movement in this match, allowing Bray to look more physically dominant. This was certainly a much better match than any of the matches Wyatt had with Randy Orton during the course of their near year-long feud.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall this was a solid house from WWE. Most of the matches were very enjoyable with the Fatal Four-Way match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles and the Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe matches being my two personal highlights of the evening. If there was one thing that disappointed me, it as that from where I was seated on the arena floor, the crowd sounded really dead. Throughout the show, pockets of wrestling fans tried to get multiple chants going for the various different wrestlers. Unfortunately, the crowd would only briefly pick these chants up for a few seconds before they would seemingly just die. It wasn’t a major issue, but it did give the show a somewhat sterile atmosphere at points
In terms of the demographics of the fans in attendance, this show skewed towards a much younger audience than I have previously seen at WWE house shows here in Belfast. This likely is due to WWE deciding to hold the show on a Saturday night, leading parents with young children to decide to make this a family event. The remainder of the crowd was predominantly made up of die-hard wrestling fans in their mid-late 20s. In terms of an overall attendance figure, the SSE Arena Belfast holds approximately 7,000 fans, and this show looked like it was sold out (the queue outside the arena was actually the longest I have seen for any event at the SSE Arena).
Looking around the crowd, the fans were wearing a varied assortment of WWE branded T-Shirts. Unsurprisingly there were lots of Bálor Club T-shirts being worn, as well as T-shirts for Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and even Enzo and Big Cass. One thing worth noting was there were significantly less John Cena shirts being worn by young children at this house show. These younger fans seem to have instead opted for Roman Reigns shirts and also those Roman Reigns gloves that WWE sells at house shows. There was no return date announced by WWE, but hopefully they will bring a SmackDown Live or NXT house show to Belfast when WWE holds their annual autumn tour of the UK in the build-up towards Survivor Series.
BIGGEST POPS OF THE NIGHT
- The Hardy Boyz
- Finn Bálor
- Seth Rollins
- Sasha Banks
WORST REACTIONS OF THE NIGHT
- Nia Jax
- Mickie James