My Live WWE SmackDown Experience

 

 

Wrestling fans have a lot of things they enjoy.   You’ve got matches, match types, merchandise, PPV, television shows, feuds, stables, characters, so on and so forth.  But, if there’s one thing that encompasses all of this in one glorious way, it’s experiencing it live and in-person.  My first live wrestling experience came in 2004 when I attended WrestleMania XX.  I was in the upper section with my two best friends, Dion and Jon.  The experience was phenomenal.  No matter if the event was good or bad after the fact; the experience was worth every penny.  I didn’t get into attending wrestling events live until 2008 with my first ROH show.  Since then, I had to attend live wrestling shows if it was in my area and if it was affordable.  Now, for as many live events I’ve been to, I have rarely gone to that of the WWE variety.  I have been to a live PPV, and even some regular live events, but I’ve never been to a television taping, until now.  As the title states, here’s my experience at a SmackDown television taping.

 

To start, I had a chance to get the tickets in advance, thanks to a co-worker that sent me an email about it.  She happily took me to a SmackDown show on a Friday a few years ago.  We had great seats and great food.  The event itself was decent; after all, it was a house show.  Since then, I had gone to about one more house show on the Saturday in MSG before the Fatal 4-Way PPV in 2010.  The seats were a bit further back, and the show was practically identical to the PPV.  What would make this show different?  It was a taping of an episode of Friday Night Smackdown.  I got to be part of television history.  What was it like?  I’m glad you asked….or noticed…or something.

 

I went to Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn to wait for my fiancé and my best man to travel there together.  See, Smackdown was in what is  known as the “Tri-State Trio” of arenas.  Every live event report for the affiliated area had their standard places.  For me, it was the Meadowlands Arena (now known as the Continental Airlines Arena), the Nassau Coliseum, and the big one, Madison Square Garden.  I’ve been to MSG for the RAW show and for WrestleMania.  I’ve been at the Nassau Coliseum for the Smackdown house show.  For this occasion, I would be returning to Long Island and the Nassau Coliseum for the taping.  We met up around 5:30 and went on our way to the event.  The show started at 7pm, even though the taping doesn’t start until 8.  We would be treated to one hour of tapings for other shows like WWE Superstars and WWE Main Event.  When we got there, we had to make the choice between cheap or expensive parking.  The difference: about a 10 minute walk to the arena.  As we got to the arena, we showed our tickets to the usher and we were on our way in.  And that’s when the madness began.

 

We were greeted to two throngs of people going in two directions, as long as we kept to the right of each other.  That didn’t stop the endless hustle and bustle.  There was a cavalcade of fans here, with all types of shirts and such.  We saw older fans with much older t-shirts, younger fans with newer shirts, and all types of groups in between.  There was no shortage of fans with championship belts, as well.  Sorry, but if I have to spend that much on a replica instead of the actual thing, I’ll pass.  But, they did look nice.  Vendors were selling all types of food and merchandise, all ranging from standard arena fare to just a bit too expensive.  That didn’t stop us from buying chicken fingers, nachos with cheese, and the complimentary WWE cup with various WWE stars on it.  My best man went to his seat early so we could track him down later after getting concessions.  Much to our chagrin, the seats were very far up, about 4 rows from the back.  Thankfully, our noses didn’t bleed.

 

When it was time to get settled, we saw the ring clear as day.  Sadly, pictures were not going to happen because of our distance.  That, and Kodak doesn’t make the best digital cameras.  The fans were very vocal and very loud.  They definitely were having a great time.  The loudest pops of the night went to the likes of Sheamus, Zack Ryder, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, and even the Shield, as well as Fandango.  If there’s one thing New Yorkers have in common, it’s that we know who we like and we aren’t ashamed to say it.  We also aren’t ashamed to be a bit obnoxious.  But, I digress.   The action for the night was very solid from top to bottom.  Some of the segments dragged on, but as expected, it was standard WWE fare.  Overall, the show was pretty good.  As for the pyrotechnics, cover your ears when possible.  Also, it will get hot when Kane sets off his fire.

 

Afterward, we slowly made our way out, although many left way before us to beat the traffic.  Various people were waiting on line for tickets to the next time the WWE returned to the arena.  That date would be late November for a live taping of Monday Night RAW.  How awesome is that?  It would be just as awesome if I could manage to go.  I couldn’t.  Regardless, my experience was a great one.  I suggest that you do it sometime if you haven’t already.

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Experiencing The Greatest Stage of Them All: Wrestlemania!

It was Sunday April 7th, 2013 at Metlife Stadium and we were in the audience before the Greatest Stage of Them All—Wrestlemania. I, your colluding Corporate Executive Officer, Brandon Melendez, along with co-founders Shawn Abraham and Matt Thomas has been plotting this trip for some time. Finally….finally….FINALLY the day had come after many a pay-per-view, Monday Night Raw, Smackdown!, and video game melee I had found myself at my very first live WWE event and it was a doozy. I could certainly sit here and offer you a bit-by-bit review of the event…but instead I will give you more of a reflection on the experience.

Firstly, there are people who don’t, and probably never will, understand the phenomenon of professional wrestling…and especially so for adults. These are the people who complain of choreography, scripting, and acting (oddly enough these people don’t often complain about the same elements in films, television, or theater). Then, there are the polar opposite…grown people far too invested in professional wrestling to the extent that they can spoil the experience for the wide-eyed children in the crowd who have yet to discover the fiction, or fail to understand the complicated backstage politics that truly make a champion. Both ends of this spectrum are integral parts of the success of wrestling, and the WWE in general. The nay-sayers are the ones who act as the truest marks for crossover potential, and the die-hards sustain the profession through occasional dry spells. In my time, as a late-age fan (discovering pro-wrestling as a highly entertaining product in my late teens) I have been both which is why I had never been to a live WWE show until now.

I am fond of saying the Wrestlemania, Ghostbusters, and me are inexorably linked because we are all the same age so I was pleased that at Wrestlemania 29, which I attended, there was a giant Statue of Liberty present for me to offer references to Ghostbusters II (along with Planet of the Apes, and Judge Dredd, #nerdlife). All that said, I was curious to see what the live event side of things was like—without the transitions, the color commentary, and the wipe away from the ring. I wanted to see the stage hands, I wanted to see under the ring skirt…I wanted to see the nuts and bolts of the show. In that, I only received some of my wish. The WWE is very good at dimming the house lights, setting things up during a match, and using video to distract you from their set-up. But there was a magic to the show that is not present…does not translate…to television. To hear a man, even in a crowd of over 80,000 people receive a Ric Flair chop from the hand of the Big Show, or feel a 50 foot pillar of fire from the Undertaker’s entrance from clear across a football stadium is a testament to the work, preparation, and dedication of the wrestlers and production crews as well as the larger than life reality of the whole affair.

Sitting in a crowd that large…a large town of people…all assembled and to be told that the house record for attendance has been broken by people who all share a common appreciation for this athletic fiction is also quieting; though quiet is by no means an apt descriptor for an assembly of even two wrestling fans let alone thousands (or MILLIONS and MILLIONS). There were moments—especially in the main event of John Cena vs. The Rock—that some of the crowd’s more Steve-wiser fuelled fans had forgotten, or not cared, that part of the spectacle of the affair is to instill awe in the children; so while conflicted parents gave helpless stares to fans shouting…less than proven disputes as to whom Cena and the Rock prefer to share their beds with…the children managed to roll off chants for their champions in tiny, convicted voices. For me, this was the most powerful part of sitting in the arena while these physical geniuses improvised and tangoed their ways across the canvas of the squared circle—the power of the jaded fan focused by the doe eyed fan…and myself in between, enjoying the show.

Though it was fun to shout all you flakes out, and try and get you to search the crowd for our Eat Your Serial box (it was there, there’s pics so we can prove it), it was more important for me to scratch this experience off of my bucketlist—for me it was like going to the Super Bowl. It was a way for me to connect with my fellow fans and place it in contrast. The fact that the Rock was in the main event, that I got to witness the Undertaker’s streak continue, and the Living Colour performed CM Punk’s entrance music live was all just icing on the cake…and P. Diddy’s performance? Well. That did happen, but not every magic trick is a winner.

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Written by Brandon Melendez