I arrived in Richmond, VA with trepidation. This was Real America, off the tourist trail with smiley faces for a dollar tip. It was also humid. Chicago was also heat stroke inducing, but this was something else. The reason for my visit to this part of the world was to seeMonday Night Raw. It was slightly off the beaten track, but as I was over in the states anyway, a day or two out of my schedule for a trip to the famous Richmond Coliseum was essential. Growing up it was always such a famous name that stood out from the sponsored arenas, furthermore it was a famous venue for non-WWF wrestling in the 1970′s and 80′s, with Ric Flair being one of the leading names. I arrived midday Sunday and explored the town.
Unfortunately, Richmond isn’t really that much to shout about in terms of a town. It’s got a few museums dedicated to the Confederacy, but whilst I’m sure it’s a great place to live, it isn’t geared to tourists. Fantastic. With that said though I did find a bar owned by a Brit and a Liverpool fan. Inside this bar the roof was decorated with scarfs from obvious and less than obvious teams. Between the Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Barcelona and Lyon flags were Hartlepool United, Luton Town andof Manchester scarf. I explained the playoff finals to the bar owner, who seemed genuinely interested – when I explained exacltly what playoffs were.
But yes, Sky Sports, good ales from proper glasses, great food and football. If you’re missing home and find yourself in Richmond, head to the Penny Lane Bar. Say the crazyfan sent you. After a beer & brisket sandwich lunch I headed back to the hotel to make my signs for the evening’s entertainment. The first sign was aimed at Zack Ryder, who’s satirical shot at Jersey Shore culture, who despite losing almost every match he’s been in recently is stupidly popular. My second sign was aimed at Mason Ryan, a kid from Gwynedd who is fluent in Welsh, and who I last saw in ‘s Extravaganza beating the living hell out of my mate (in the ring). Finally the last sign was aimed at Helen, who is the subject to a jokey hashtag amongst my mates.
Unfortunately Helen had friends in high places and whilst a sign promoting one of the least promenant members of the roster and a borderline racist sign got through into the arena (I did have to explain what my Welsh sign said), my sign aimed at a friend wasn’t! Boo!
The show began with two matches taped for the international TV show WWE Superstars. The first match was between JTG and “The Masterpiece” Chris Masters. Interestingly both guys were considered “good guys”, which – if you read my previous post on TNA and how having good guys fighting good guys don’t work – you know I hate. However, JTG managed to get crowd to hate him, which worked well. Masters won with his Masterlock finishing move.
The second match featured Maryse and Melina against Kelly Kelly (one of the Maxim Top 100 women) and Gail Kim. Wrestling fans and Americans get bad rep for being rather stupid and low brow (a fact that me, a head of online marketing mate of mine, a doctor mate of mine and a lawyer mate of mine would strongly disagree with), but Gail Kim’s fans are not exactly numerous, but they make up for it with a combined high IQ with this wonderfully geeky sign.
Marvellous. Melina (who can do the splits), won with a split leg drop, which was a thing of beauty.
WWE Tough Enough
Onto WWE Tough Enough, which is WWE’s reality TV show where the winner wins a WWE contract. Unfortunately it’s not been on UK TV so had no idea what was going on. The two finalists – Andy (a straight edge boring individual, who’s big, and calls himself “The Silent Rage” like he’s a bloody ten year old), and Luke (a slightly obnoxious party boy), as well as the losing contestants were announced first, before the judges – Booker T (wrestling legend), Bill Demott (not quite as impressive but still good) and Trish Stratus (wrestling legend, and I would) we’re announced together. Leaving one judge left to announce, Stone Cold Steve Austin, probably one of my absolute favourites growing up, and I screamed like a schoolgirl at at Take That concert when the beer swilling redneck walked out on stage.
This was known, what wasn’t known was that there was also an appearance from the WWE Chairman, long time Austin rival and the most powerful man in wrestling – Vince McMahon. Marvellous!
After a brief back and forth action, and a few minutes of stalling about why each should win the contract (Andy stole one of The Rock’s lines, which Vince completely shot down) and Andy was eventually announced the winner, he was slapped in the face, and then dropped with the first Stone Cold Stunner of the night. With that, the show began.
WWE Monday Night Raw
The show began with Austin and Vince still in the ring, and were joined in the ring by the top bad guy at the moment, R-Truth. An amazing transformation from a rather dull good guy to a an interesting and rather shocking bad guy (he broke UK law by smoking openly on camera, for example), R-Truth has been a breath of fresh air. He wanted a title shot (and got it) which brought out another bad guy – The Miz. They argued back and forth until Alex Riley took exception to something The Miz said. Alex Riley has gone the other way, former Miz protege and bad guy, he has actually been getting some popularity. After aboout three words, John Cena – the guy in the WWE – came out to a rapturous reception. It’s easy to see why he’s popular, typical American GI Joe esque character. Doesn’t mean I like him.
Anyway, after a few minutes of back-and-forth talking, the main event was announced: R-Truth & The Miz vs John Cena & Alex Riley, with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee.
Following the first two opening matches – Santino Marella beating Michael McGillicutty and Kelly Kelly & Beth Phoenix beating the Bella Twins, we were treated to the target of one of my signs – Mason Ryan, as he shadowed CM Punk in his match against Rey Mysterio.
Barri Griffiths, to give Mason Ryan his real name, is the first Welsh wrestler to be employed by the WWE. From a village in Gwynedd, I last saw him wrestle at Llandudno Extravaganza. After getting to know a few local wrestlers in the UK scene, I found out that the guy was cherry picked from a crowed, help trained by a couple of good friends of mine, and then picked up by the WWE.
Anyway, he then spoke to the crowd in Welsh, which was “translated” by CM Punk. Unfrotunately, Big Bad Barri was hoping that nobody in the 18,500 fans in attendance were Welsh speakers. This was bullshit, as what was said and what was translated were two different things. Unfortunately Mason didn’t resort to swearing heavily (which was the hallmark of WCW wrestler Berlym, who’s interviews in German were boredering on the obscene), but still it was noticeable by me.
The match was probably the best of the night, with CM Punk and Rey Mysterio having a great feud and complimenting each other well. Rey Mysterio won with a splash from the top turnbuckle.
Next followed a throwaway segment featuring Alberto Del Rio who proceded to call The Big Show fat over and over again. The next moment made up for it – the first appearance on Monday Night Raw in 2011 for Zack Ryder.
Zack Ryder has been a long time wrestler for the WWE with an abysmal win/loss record (more losses than wins). His career was floundering and nobody cared. However, he since started a show on Youtube called Z! True Long Island Story, which has become a cult sensation. In it he whinges how bad his wrestling career’s going, mentioning how his dad prefers fellow wrestler John Morrison over him, and a shed loads of inside wrestling jokes. As such he has become rather popular, with more and more Zack Ryder signs at the arena. Richmond was no exception, as well as mine, there were at least 30 or 40 signs dedicated to him, more than his opponent, United States Heavyweight Champion Kofi Kingston.
Unfortunately, Ryder lost in under 3 minutes, but it’s a step in the right direction for Long Island’s favourite son, and his ever growing number of fans. Furthermore, on his Web Show, episode 17, 1:05 minutes in, I was featured. Woo woo woo etc.
Following that match, we got the returning Booker T in his first match since the WWE Royal Rumble in January. His opponent was Jack Swagger, and after a minute or two of action Booker T won by count out. Considering it was a match with a returning legend, it was short and not very well promoted. Still, seeing Booker T in action was a nice surprise.
The final match was the match made earlier in the evening – John Cena & Alex Riley vs The Miz & R-Truth. There was a lot of stalling before actually fighting, often this is due to ad breaks in the US. It was then I realised just how good The Miz was. That boy had the crowd eating out of his hand. In the end after a short match, The Miz & R-Truth won be disqualification after Steve Austin got physically involved. A classic way to end the show, the fans watching on TV were disappointed that the good guys lost but the fans in the arena were sent home happy, after another round of stunners, beer drinking and the good guys saluting the crowd.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first live Raw. It dragged in places when there were breaks, but was glad to attend. I also got a great show, with Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, Booker T, Trish Stratus and – best of all – Zack Freaking Ryder making an appearance, I left the arena a happy bunny. Looking forward to doing it again in Liverpool with a couple of mates. I should be able to drink more then!