Boots On The Ground: Friday Night Smackdown

Beerguyrob

Despite my recent absence from the site, life goes on.

And one of the things that was on my agenda despite all the horribleness was having tickets to the Valentine’s Day taping of “Friday Night Smackdown”. The date itself wasn’t a problem for WineWife. She hates Valentine’s Day, and any attempt by me to romance the event up is met with a combination of derision and suspicion. So, I was free (and relieved) to be able to do anything else than uncomfortably spend the evening at home.

Obviously, I couldn’t go with the friend who passed away, so I went with a mutual good friend, so we could enjoy ourselves at a thing that he would have enjoyed. I only paid $20 per ticket; well, $30 if you add in the Ticketnazi & “facility” fees. But what I paid had us relatively close to the ring, especially since right in front of us cost $30 more per seat, and ringside started at $125.

So, since Smackdown is live every Friday (including tonight!), I figured I’d pull back the curtain a bit & tell you what goes on at such an event.


The first aspect of attending a “Live TV taping” of a Vince McMahon wrestling show is that what matters most importantly is that the TV product is paramount, and the in-person audience product is secondary.

Thirdly, there are no good guys.

This causes certain issues with timing and lighting. Since everything is about the broadcast, if you are sitting on either side of the ring you are away from the “hard camera”, meaning that the lighting and forced perspective is off from your viewing direction. Our seats were to the right of the ring, and about 100 feet back, so what looks bright on TV,

didn’t look as perfect from our angle.

Smackdown airs live on FOX at 8:00PM ET. What I’ve come to understand about the WWE taping schedule is that, prior to taping on the East Coast or the Central Time Zone, there is a “205 Live” taping that runs about 45 minutes, followed by a “dark match” that isn’t televised on Smackdown but is taped for other WWE Network shows like “Superstars” or “Main Event”. Then the main show starts at 8:00PM and runs through the broadcast’s conclusion at 10:00PM. Sometimes there is a second “dark match” which features a major star who wasn’t on the broadcast & is given a “squash” victory over a name opponent to send people home happy; the match is kept dark to avoid the “heel” losing their push on TV due to the loss.

But the show started at 4:45PM Best Coast Time. That threw off the normal taping schedule, and caused some attitude differences in the live crowd for the whole event. The show started with the dark match, a ‘warm the crowd up’ affair between the Lucha House Party (the “faces”) and a team of Drake Maverick & Drew Gulak (the “heels”). The Luchas won the match in their high-flying style to get the crowd ready for the start of the live broadcast.

Just before 5:00, they introduced the broadcast team of Michael Cole & Corey Graves. Both are terrible, and were greeted with a chorus of boos. The “smarks” in the crowd were yelling extra stuff at Graves because he took a run at fellow broadcaster & Vancouverite Mauro Ranallo a few weeks back, which triggered a bout of Mauro’s bipolar disorder. Also, his girlfriend is apparently Carmella, who was wrestling in the first match of the night against Women’s champion Bayley. So, much shit was verbally thrown, and they had extra security nearby in case people crossed a line.

This is one thing that people forget: Vancouver has a terrible reputation as a live wrestling crowd. If people aren’t sitting on their hands, there are either drunken yahoos throwing things at fans or the wrestlers or drunken brawls between groups of idiots. It’s not like Toronto or Montreal, where the live crowd tries to change the narrative of the broadcast. Vancouver fans are, just, well, idiots sometimes. Last time WWE was in Vancouver with a televised broadcast, the show had to go dark while they dealt with an upper deck brawl involving about 20 people. As they boasted off the top, this was the “first time back in Vancouver in over two decades”, since the “Rock Bottom: In Your House” pay-per-view on December 13, 1998. So it was a big deal that they brought a live broadcast show back to Vancouver, especially since Seattle is getting the 2021 Royal Rumble.

At 5:00, the broadcast promo started, which we could see & hear live, and then came the explosions fore the live crowd. The photo doesn’t really do it justice.

As usual, before anything really starts, there has to be a promo parade. Because they were starting the show with the ladies, it was “A Moment of Bliss”, starring Seamus’ beloved Alexa Bliss alongside her “BFF” and tag-team partner she’s totally not going to turn on, Nikki Cross.

  

After a brief bit of banter between those two, next came five minutes of back & forth between the match participants, Bayley & Carmella, which led to having the match START RIGHT NOW!

A spirited, almost 20 minute affair resulted in a cheap victory for Bayley, followed by a post-match beatdown of Carmella, which then led to Bayley’s eventual Wrestlemania opponent Naomi (unless Sasha Banks gets healthy soon) coming down to make the save for Carmella.

What happened next was where the live experience diverted from the in-person experience. While the TV broadcast went to a series of video packages, for upcoming matches and “Mandy & Otis’ Valentine’s Date”,

A totally real thing they expected us to believe would happen.

in the arena we got video of what was going on, but no sound. [It seemed like a glitch, because we later got sound for everything.] A lesser man might have started booing to complain; a prepared man saw it as a “here’s something from the new album” moment and alighted to the concourse for a piss and a refill. And since I was already up getting $10 beers, a look at the merch table seemed in order.

Honestly, there was not a lot worth buying. They had shirts for people who weren’t on Smackdown, like Edge & Becky Lynch, and for people on Smackdown who weren’t in Vancouver, like the New Day. I could have bought the $35 “concert tour dates” shirt, but – no. Surprisingly, there a significant number of people dropping $450 on replica championship belts.

The next “match” was a handicap, squash match between a giant Irishman with a misspelled name, Sheamus, and two smaller wrestlers named “Apollo Crews” and “Shorty G”. It lased three minutes, and was barely worth the TV time it took up.

  

Seriously, the intros were longer than the match.

Following that, there were forty minutes of not-wrestling, from a Hulk Hogan “satellite interview” which bled into a Bray Wyatt “Firefly Funhouse” video package

promoting Wyatt’s Saudi match against Goldberg in two weeks,

and then a comedy bit between four wrestlers who are much better than this. Sami Zayn & Cesaro came out to mock Elias,

only to have Elias & Braun Strowman come out & demolish them and “ringside security”.

From there, the TV show moved on to Otis & Mandy’s date. Clearly filmed earlier in the day at the restaurant inside Rogers Arena, heartbreak came to our fair oversized oaf as he had his date scooped by none other than “Jobber to the stars” Dolph Ziggler.

With a fat man angered,

  

it was on to the “Main Event of the Evening”.

Now, this is the point where it becomes apparent that immigration rules have forced the WWE’s hand. This was originally supposed to be a six-man tag match between Roman & The Usos and the Miz, Morrison & Baron Corbin heel squad. However, the Usos are prohibited entry into Canada because the real-life Fatu brothers have picked up some DUI & other charges over their years, making them inadmissible to Canada for work. (Jeff Hardy, for example, has the same problems.) It’s what also kept them out of SummerSlam in Toronto.  So unless their employer wants to go through the expense of obtaining a waiver for them, they simply change the booking. So, who would be Roman’s mystery partner?

The planet’s champion, Daniel Bryan.

  

This shot’s for Buddy.

It makes sense – he has history with The Miz, and is from across the border in Aberdeen, WA. As such, he was guaranteed a hero’s welcome. (Sidenote: I once saw Bryan Danielson wrestle a 20-minute match in front of 50 people at the Russian Community Centre prior to his joining WWE. He treated that match like it was Wrestlemania, giving us everything in his arsenal, and showing what a pro he truly is.) So immigration laws resulted in a match more people likely approved of than what was originally scheduled.

As the go-home match for the show, it was what you’d expect from four athletes at the top of their game.

It started with the faces getting the upper hand,

followed by some crazy stunts,

and the usual back and forth, near-pinfall action.

Ending, as all main events usually do,

with Roman Reigns victorious. Following a cheap shot by the ringside viewing / barrier jumping Baron Corbin, Smackdown went off the air.


After a brief five-minute ring apron change, we got to the “205 Live” taping.

   

There were a lot of people who thought the evening was over at this point, because they began leaving the arena, so the WWE quickly brought out the first competitors.

The first match was a sop to the locals, having the former ECCW “Bollywood Boys” The Singh Brothers come out to give a promo before their match.

   

Of course, they play to the crowd before turning on them, revealing Kings & Leafs jerseys underneath their Canucks attire, and that they “want to get the hell out of Canada as quickly as possible!” after the match.

Having turned heel, they are swiftly dispatched by the team of Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. After the match, there’s more shenanigans as Lorcan & Burch are taken out by Ariya Daivari and The Brian Kendrick, while the Singhs sneak out of the ring & escape up the ramp.

The second match on the 205 Live card then becomes The Brian Kendrick & Ariya Daivari versus Tony Nese & Mike Kanellis. It was a solid match, more hard-hitting than the previous one, and a good look at some wrest– err, “entertainers” I don’t get to see because I refuse to subscribe to the WWE Network. I mean – look at this shit:

   

How can you not enjoy watching people defy gravity like that? Nese & Kanellis won, but that was secondary to Burch & Lorcan coming out afterwards and using chairs on Davari & The Kendrick,

ultimately setting up a match on last night’s NXT.  It’s a shame the taping order played out the way it did, because a lot more people would have been into the match had it been taped before the Smackdown taping and not caught up in the subsequent exodus of fans. They put out a lot of effort for a half-empty crowd, and I feel they got cheated of the ovations they deserved.

This desire to get the fuck out of Dodge was evident in the final dark match of the night, a Universal Title match between Baron Corbin and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. It had all the energy of a contractual obligation. It took each of them three minutes to get to the ring, during which time the crowd determined Bray was the face, and the match itself took five minutes total. In keeping with the current run of Wyatt’s, the arena was bathed in red light for both his entrance and the entire match.

   

A couple of minutes of back & forth led to the eventual no-sell that has become part of the finishing set for Wyatt, followed by a Mandible Claw into a Sister Abigail and a three count for Wyatt. (What I just said makes sense if you watch wrestling.)


All told, for me & my friend, it was a solid evening. Despite all the aggros in attendance, I didn’t end up in a fight. The whole thing was over by 8:15PM, so I could still hit up Granville Street for a beverage or two. The best part of the evening was the little kids beside us, clutching their action figures & intently watching the matches. I didn’t need to watch my language, as the father who brought them either clearly taught them the words they were using, or didn’t care that the kids were using those words. It would have been nice to watch that show through a ten year-old’s eyes instead of a jaded 50 year-old’s.

Here’s a link to the WWE YouTube of the “Top 10 Moments from the show. A $20 ticket got us three hours of entertainment, and at $10/beer it wasn’t that expensive a drinking endeavour either. But maybe go to a house show or a PPV on the West Coast, because the necessity of working to an Eastern Time broadcast TV schedule does take away from the West Coast in-person experience. Having seen a house show at MSG last Christmas, I can say from experience that I got way more matches there, but also had to pay $15/beer in USD so it almost washed out.

In any event, I highly recommend going to a WWE show if it comes to your town.

(Where available, I either linked to photo origins or left copyright info visible.)

Beerguyrob
Beerguyrob
A Canadian man-child of indeterminate age, he stays young by selling alcohol at sporting events and yelling at the patrons he serves. Their rage nourishes his soul, and their tips pay for his numerous trips to various sporting events.
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Gratliff

I didn’t realize Morrison was any more than a one-off return. Here he is in Lucha Underground, lobbying for DFO’s pants policy.
https://streamable.com/txsna

SonOfSpam

At one point you talked about the “promo parade” and my lizard brain saw “porno parade” and well I guess my lizard brain loses this round.

Also, how sad is it that you mentioned $10 beers and we all thought “Not bad”?

Gratliff

It saddens me to know Crews has been demoted to squash match fodder for Sheamus. When they first signed him, the smark types thought he was going to rocket up the promotion into the main roster title scene. Haven’t watched any WWE product since May, but it sounds like Ricochet and Keith Lee are the ones who ended up becoming the beloved indie demigods, which is fantastic, as they’re both amazing.
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I hope Lee ends up at the top of the company relatively soon. He’s already 35 and likely won’t be able to perform at the rate he does for as long as the smaller types do.

Gratliff

Also, hope Matt Riddle is the guy they ultimately have succeed Brock. Saw him at an Evolve 111a few years ago where he had a crazy match with JD Drake. After the show ended, he was walking through the mingling fans greeting everyone he met with a friendly “Bro”. Easily, the coolest wrestler I’ve met in person, and he looks like an absolute monster in the ring, even if his real knees aren’t always as effective.
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ballsofsteelandfury

It is definitely interesting to see how the sausage is made.

Please tell me you took the Aquabus from Rogers to Granville Island for the post-show beer.

LemonJello
LemonJello

“Aquabus” !?! You have Chad Johnson’s attention now.

theeWeeBabySeamus

The very definition of “Mixed Emotions”.
(yes, already knew I was going to hell but thanks for the update)
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LemonJello
LemonJello

Did someone put the “Darren Sharper” on her?

litre_cola

We also would have accepted “Was she Cosby’d”

theeWeeBabySeamus

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