Belltime was listed as 7:30 p.m.; when we arrived at 7:20 p.m., I was surprised to see a line stretched around the building. Despite the massive number of people waiting, we all made it inside by 7:35 or 7:40.
While in line for the restroom and then food/refreshments, there was a big pop which I was told by somebody else who got in line afterwards was a pop for hometown boy Bob Holly. A similar loud pop was heard 10 minutes later, which I would assume meant that Bob won. (I didn’t see it myself, so if another attendee disputes my account, by all means take his/her word over mine). This would be the only dark match of the evening. Sorry, but I have no idea who the opponent was.
By 7:50 p.m., we filed in to see Lillian Garcia do an awe-inspiring version of the National Anthem (really, it was amazing), and then J.R. and Lawler made their entrances to rousing ovations. It sure seemed to me like everything was running late and cutting it pretty close to showtime. I don’t know if such a late start is the norm or a result of some backstage or arena snafu.
I’ve been to several WWF/WWE house shows over the years, one early-’90s WWF syndicated show taping, and a couple of live WCW Nitro tapings back in the NWO heyday, but never a live Raw taping. I must say even for a jaded old-timer like me, I was overwhelmed by the spectacle and pomp and circumstance of the whole affair. All the cliches one reads about in these live reports but can’t truly appreciate until they’ve been there came flooding over me: the pyro was really loud, the light rig was amazing, the jumbotron was impressive, etc. etc. Living down here somewhat in hicksville, I’ve grown accustomed to performers cutting some corners on an off night down here in the boonies, but this was a grade-A production and then some, all the way, I can’t compliment the production value of it enough, even from the cheap seats.
Jeff Hardy got the biggest pop of the night, in my opinion, from the get-go. If the WWE brass is hearing this night after night, they’ve got to be considering putting the belt on this guy for at least a short-term run.
JBL got the biggest heat of the night, and rightfully so as I really believe this was the best promo of his career. Looking into the camera and talking about Jericho’s children while Jericho wasn’t there to answer him was just an amazing heat-seeker.
Speaking of the pomp and circumstance, that JBL entrance had to be the icing on the cake. If you’re wondering how they got all those balloons out of there, as soon as they went to commercial it sounded like a microwave oven popping a bag of popcorn from the crew of people apparently armed with sharp objects to pop the balloons and sweep the remains away quickly before returning from commercial break. Not only was the entire ring like a floor of balloons, the entire ringside area was too. It took a lot of work to clear all of that crap out of there so quickly. Also, I’m not sure if this came across on tv, but an entire waterfall of glitter fell from the ceiling right behind JBL. I’m sure that section of the crowd will be picking glitter out of their hair and off their clothes for days to come. It was quite the spectacle, made all the more worth it by that promo.
Being a self-admitted internet smart-mark dork who long ago tired of Triple H and never warmed up to John Cena’s schtick, I must concede defeat and admit they both got big pops, Cena’s pop coming just from a few second cameo on a Tribute To The Troops montage during a commercial break. I personally don’t get it, and one could argue that if anyone is pushed that hard for that long people will eventually cheer for them, but I can’t deny that they are very over with the crowd.
HBK got quite the pop, too, but a clean loss to Kennedy last week and placement on a lower spot in the card this week seemed to illustrate to everyone not to give him that main event pop he must be accustomed to. Also, not sure if this made it to tv, but when Kennedy came on the screen, there was a VCR-display-type logo running across the bottom of the screen with a timestamp on it, making it kind of obvious that it was a pre-tape. I found that odd for such an otherwise top-notch production. Looked like somebody was asleep at the wheel for that one.
That midget battle royal is the kind of thing I’d normally groan at watching from my couch, but I really did enjoy it live; I’m not sure if it was because I got swept up in the live experience of if it or because I really was expecting Kennedy, Mankind, and Batista to come out and got a laugh when it was the midgets instead. My buddy told me he was bummed that the real three people didn’t make an appearance, so take that as you will. It seemed better than the usual Hornswaggle nonsense, especially that lame Road Runner running-through-the black-hole-painted-in-the-wall garbage from a few weeks back. I especially got a laugh from mini-Batista doing the Ultimate Warrior rope-shake on the second rope. Finlay got a pretty good pop coming out to beat up Khali.
Much like Bruce Mitchell in Greensboro, I mainly came out for this to get my last opportunity to see Ric Flair wrestle live. He got a great pop during his entrance and a pretty good pop after his win, but I was disappointed at how short and uneventful it turned out to be, and it seemed like the crowd wouldn’t get much more into it because they knew the storyline wasn’t going to end like this, not to mention Ric didn’t get to cut any promo, even of the lame 21st-century WWE scripted variety.
The crowd definitely woke up more for the main event. Hardy chants were going like crazy. That sick bump at the end looked off the charts from where I was. When he climbed up to that first level, I thought to myself, yeah this will look good. When he climbed up higher, I thought there’s no damn way he’s going to do it from there. But then he did, and the crowd went nuts. They did a good job selling a long stretcher job for both buys afterwards, I would imagine well after the live feed to USA cut off. Jeff raised his arm in victory from the stretcher for one last pop.
With that, Lillian Garcia wished us a good evening, with no dark main event or Heat matches, much to my surprise considering how late and close to the live airing that everything got started. Still, I got more than my money’s worth and am very glad I went to the effort of the long drive to attend before an early morning at work. I’ve long had an appreciation for what the wrestlers go through to put on a show like this, but I have a new appreciation for the production staff for a live tv event like this. Those guys really hustled to make their cues and cover the commercial breaks and make everything run seemlessly. True professionals, kudo’s to them!