WWE SMACKDOWN ON-SITE REPORT
FEBRUARY 19, 2019
NEW ORLEANS, LA.
REPORT BY JOSH PARRY, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’d estimate 3,000-4,000. I’ve been to WrestleMania weekend events here before and I’m used to seeing this building full. The whole upper deck was tarped off and a quarter to maybe a third of the lower desk was taped off a section past where the hard camera was. You had the ring announcer facing a completely empty side of the arena. You had promos facing a completely empty side of the arena which was very strange from a live perspective. Even the floor section on that side probably had maybe 20-25 people in it. There were a smattering of empty seats in the portion of the lower deck that wasn’t tarped off.
They had strategically placed the spotlights on fuller parts of the crowd. It was probably the least attended TV taping I’ve been to. As the building fills up, they strategically move some of the ambient light to different spots to be sure the areas where there are empty seats aren’t shown and highlight people’s faces. It’s kind of cool how they do it, but it’s a shame that they have to.
(1) R-Truth & Rey Mysterio beat The Colons in about 10:00 when Rey hit his 619. It was strange to see someone of Rey’s stature on the pre-show. He seemed to motion afterward toward R-Truth wanting a championship match. They shook hands and then walked to the back.
-Biggest Pops: The top was Kofi Kingston. Even before the show as the arena was filling up there were chants of “We Want Kofi” and also “We Want Becky.” Shane McMahon and Asuka were next in terms of biggest pops.
-NXT Wrestlers: I feel like I embodies the cross between being invested in the NXT characters as a TV viewer and as a local in Orlando I go to the TV tapings. I do put myself in the camp that feels robbed that this was played out on a stage outside of NXT and I am anxious that the stories I’ve gotten invested in are going to get hijacked and all that investment is going to go to waste and not play out as I hoped. I feel protective and apprehensive to see how this is going to play out. At the same time, I feel guilty for feeling that way because it was exciting to see my favorites graduate to a big stage. I don’t know if it’s permanent. It’s also exciting to eat a gallon of ice cream, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
As far as the crowd, I was pleasantly surprised in that it was mostly families and most people seemed to know who the NXT wrestlers were. There were chants and reactions to the ring entrances. No one really got a standout star reaction like you’d expect in a bigger market in a day-after-WrestleMania type setting, but it was definitely better than the crowd at Raw. I’d say Ricochet got the best crowd reaction both coming out and in terms of growth as he wrestled given his performance.
-Ricochet Entrance: On his way to the ring, he was gesturing to the crowd and had a different spring in his step than I’m used to He bear-hugged a fan in the front row. It seems they’re portraying him as an enthusiastic every-man of the people.
-Ciampa Scare: There was a scary landing with Tomasso Ciampa where he leg buckled on a sunset flip on Sheamus and the fans gasped. The referee quickly ducked down to check on him and had his hand on his radio pack and might have communicated to the back. Ciampa rolled to the floor and when he came back, he seemed to be fine.
-Miz & Shane: Shane got a bigger pop for his ring entrance than Miz. I think they were equally popular with the crowd from then on, though. It seems pretty obvious something will happen between them at Fastlane. The Usos were in the natural heel role and Miz & Shane had the crowd sympathy, especially Miz after his story.
-Pace of Event: I was expecting this two hour experience to be a breeze compared to Elimination Chamber, which I attended on Sunday, and other longer PPV events I’ve been to. Instead, this felt just as exhausting despite being much shorter. I think that’s because they don’t carry through any momentum.There’s no chance to get lost in what’s going on. You don’t have a chance to get lost in what’s going on because they’ll do an entrance and then cut to a break, then there’s a video package, then another entrance, then a match but you can tell when they cut to a commercial, then it picks up for the finish, and then another commercial, rinse and repeat. I get that you have to get commercial breaks in somehow because it’s a live TV show, but for the price they charge for tickets and wanting to have a good in person experience, they have to have a more audience-friendly way to shoehorn in those breaks. It’s really frustrating to sit through that.
-Becky’s Absence: Since Becky was suspended, she has shown up at other shows, so fans might have expected her to make an appearance. I didn’t sense people were too upset. They did locally advertise Becky big and bold on the website and in email advertising the show.
-Referee Observation: There was a referee at the Elimination Chamber and tonight on Smackdown who were gesticulating dramatically behind Ciampa and Gargano indicating how they should be acting in celebrating their victory. They were already striking poses, but the referee was adamant from whoever was sending him messages that they needed to put both arms in the air slowly for five seconds. He counted them down and then let them lower them. It was kind of odd because they were already doing their thing. Someone really wanted them to raise their arms in the air.
-Asuka: Watching Asuka stand there like a dope with Mandy Rose lurking behind her, probably in her peripheral vision, and just stare at the stage at someone who isn’t dressed to wrestle and poses no threat really looks stupid. And it really makes her look stupid when it costs her the win. It was jarring to watch in person.
-After the main event ended, it was quite jarring. They very quickly faded to black and began changing the ring skirts and aired an intro video for 205 Live all within seconds after SD went off the air. My guess is it was done to keep as many people in their seats as possible.
-During one of the many, many commercial breaks, they advertised Charlotte vs. Asuka would take place after 205 Live. I had to leave before it happened.
-I attended Elimination Chamber on Sunday, too, and I was surprised to see that perhaps because of the Corey Graves family controversy, they lights went dark for about five or ten seconds and when they came back on, the announcers were magically at their desk. So Undertaker’s powers can be shared. It was definitely calculated. There was a “Corey Graves” chant aimed at Carmella, but it didn’t come across on the PPV. By Tuesday at Smackdown, Graves did get an entrance, and he did get lightly booed, but it didn’t seem like most people knew what was going on.