SmackDown Live returned to the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham, Alabama on September 20th, and, up until Friday, I wasn’t planning on attending. After a quick examination of StubHub, though, I saw where a very desirable ticket could be obtained at a very desirable price.
That’s all I needed to seal the deal and catch the show live and in person.
I’m thoroughly glad that I did call the audible to attend. It was a very fun show to see in person, although I’m not sure how it translated on television. That’s what I really wanted to talk about with today’s “Wrestle Me This!” post. I wanted to give my thoughts and perspective on what it was like to be in the building for the show.
Doors opened right around 5:00 P.M. and, as I went to take my seat 6 rows from the ring on the floor and on the hard camera side, I immediately noticed the ring crew was still at work. They were placing and tightening the ropes, which is something the audience usually doesn’t see.
They then started to do something that raised my eyebrow and got the internet talking when I sent out a picture. Purple tape was applied to the ring ropes, and I immediately thought, “That’s the color of the Cruiserweight Division… we might be getting a couple of those wrestlers in a dark match”.
The whole “Cruiserweights are wrestling tonight” bit got strengthened later on when they did a test of the SmackDown Live! video screen with the purple color scheme of the division. An image of a masked luchador, one I thought was Gran Metalik but was actually Lince Dorado, also flashed on the screen for a few seconds.
I tweeted all this out and got a lot of interest from wrestling fans in Twitter land. Seeing my phone blow up was a nice way of passing the time before the show actually began.
The show for those in attendance started at 6:15 with a now dated Wrestlemania recap. An “enhancement talent” then came to the ring for the dark match. I couldn’t really catch his name, but it didn’t much matter because the poor soul was fed to Kane. This was actually a great way to begin the show. Kane killing an enhancement talent, along with his full pyro display, got the crowd alive and on their feet. It was much better than putting the segment on actual television.
The taping for Main Event then began, and that’s when the purple ropes came into play. The ring announcer informed us there would, indeed, be a cruiserweight match, and the participants were Lince Dorado and Rich Swann. Birmingham seemed to really be into Rich Swann. He’s got boatloads of charisma and could very well be a standout player in the cruiserweight division and beyond.
The match was back and forth, and it was given a decent amount of time for its position. There were a few rough spots, but Swann got the win over Dorado. The referee even did the post match arm raising with both wrestlers as they did in the Cruiserweight Classic.
The purple tape quickly came off the ropes as Main Event continued with the other match taped for the program, Breezango vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno, the SmackDown Live Tag-Team Champions. Breezango came out in pirate shirts, while Slater and Rhyno came out to the adulation of the crowd. Seriously, the crowd went NUTS for Slater and Rhyno. It was great to see Slater so over, especially after the years he spent trucking along the lower portion of the card.
It was a standard tag-team match between the two combinations, but it worked quite well for the live audience. Slater played Ricky Morton, and the crowd loved it when Rhyno eventually made the hot-tag. After some back and forth action, the tag-team champions took the win, much to the delight of the fans in Birmingham.
With those matches down, it was then time for SmackDown Live to begin. Since the show was on television, I’m just going to do a brief recap of each in-ring segment…
Becky Lynch/Alexis Bliss Contract Signing
Daniel Bryan was over as always, and he got a nice little improved bit in as well. When he talked about how contract signings usually don’t go as planned but this one would, the crowd booed. He then jokingly told us not to boo as it’d be a good thing. I did get a kick out of that.
Becky got a great champion’s reaction when she came to the ring, and Alexis got a better one than I expected. Both women did a good job in the ring going back and forth, and I was quite happy to see Alexis get the upper hand. She was always a favorite of mine in NXT, and I’m glad she’s translating well on the main roster.
The Usos vs. American Alpha
I was REALLY happy to see American Alpha was going to be wrestling on the show. I was lucky enough to see them on an NXT house show back in May, and I was blown away with their talent. This match was no different because it was another really good encounter that the live audience enjoyed.
What surprised me was how much the crowd was still into The Usos, even with their current heel personas. This might be due to the fact American Alpha is still a relatively new tag-team, but, regardless, The Usos still have their fans, at least in Birmingham.
The story told in the match with Chad Gable’s bad knee being a liability and Jason Jordan not wanting to tag him in to save him from further injury was great. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this feud progresses because both teams work well together.
Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin
This wasn’t much of anything, at least for those in the building. The crowd seemed to like the fact Jack Swagger was coming out, but that enthusiasm subsided when they realized he was only out to do commentary. Crews got a decent reaction as did Corbin, but neither were earth shattering by any stretch of the imagination. In relation to other segments on the show, this one was pretty quick as Corbin got the win and did a stare down with Swagger.
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
Without a doubt, this was the match of the night. Dolph Ziggler and The Miz tore the house down for the live audience, and everyone, at multiple points in the match, thought Ziggler was going to get the win. Even I thought they might do a title switch, especially when Maryse got sent to the back, but I kept telling myself that The Miz probably would retain.
Regardless the finish, both men worked their asses off and got the crowd hooked into the story of the match. It goes without saying, but The Miz is one of the best heels in wrestling at this point.
Randy Orton vs. Erick Rowan
This was quite a letdown after the match between Ziggler and The Miz. The crowd loved Orton, don’t get me wrong, but the match was a whole bunch of nothing, outside of Rowan eating a RKO. I’m not a Randy Orton fan by any stretch of the imagination so my interest waned during this one.
Natalya and Carmella vs. Nikki Bella and Naomi
The entrances were longer than the actual match. Things must have gotten cut for time because there really wasn’t another good reason as to why this one went as short as it did. That being said, Naomi’s entrance was great to see as was Carmella’s.
Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena
John Cena is still ridiculously over. Just ridiculously over. The crowd was also really into Ambrose so it made for a hot main event even though there were some signs of audience burnout. With time being an issue for this particular episode of SmackDown Live, this was more of a “big spot to big spot” type match before Ambrose took the win.
Personally, I was just waiting for AJ Styles to come out and do something. He eventually did but got paid back by Ambrose, and that’s how the broadcast ended. I was a bit miffed we didn’t get to hear Styles’ fantastic theme music, but that’s just a small nitpick.
When the cameras stopped rolling, The Wyatts came back out and did a 3 on 2 with Styles against Cena and Ambrose. Orton eventually came out to even the odds and feed a RKO to Wyatt so everyone could go home happy.
So that was SmackDown Live… what you saw on television and what you didn’t see or what you’ll eventually see if you watch Main Event. Again, I was really glad I made the call to attend the show because it was really entertaining for those in the building. There weren’t that many dead spots, and the in-ring action was pretty solid across the board.
Were you at the show? If you were, let me know and what you thought about things. I’d love to hear your comments!