A memorable evening watching WWE at Leeds Arena.
I’ve never liked John Cena. I’ll just get that out of the way. While I’ve always respected his above-average ring skills, I always found the whole Patriot thing a bit cheesy; reminiscent of Hogan circa ’91 when it was actually pretty inappropriate for these guys in the ring to be acting up to what’s actually a grave crisis. But last Thursday night as me and my lady left our seats at Leeds Arena following Cena’s World Heavyweight Title match against Alberto Del Rio, I actually had to give in and admit I’d just watched something pretty special. Jamie over at Ring The Damn Bell agrees there’s something mysterious about this whole thing.
So the WWE came to town last week at the newly-opened Leeds Arena; Bruce Springsteen played its first real concert, followed closely by…erm, Rod Stewart and Elton John among others. But this was the first chance I’d had to check out the new entertainment venue and I was very impressed with the whole experience. (Despite paying far, far too much money for a CM Punk t-shirt that is.) So we took our seats and got ready to see some wrestling action.
I don’t really keep up with the lower end of the card, so wasn’t really in on the joke when the Prime Time Players turned up to the ring to the chants of “millions of dollars” from a crowd which was only okay for the best part of the night; it only really got going for the afore-mentioned Punk as he teamed up with Daniel Bryan; the ‘yes!’ chants were in full effect as they wrestled my second-favourite match of the night against the Wyatt Family; some very impressive stuff from all these guys.
My favourite memory of the crowd that night was when the “Goldberg” chants began towards the third-rate Goldberg, Ryback; this was misheard and repeated by some fans as “Boring” which was again misheard and chanted louder by fans as “Yorkshire”.
There was some great action throughout the night, with appearances from AJ Lee as she teamed with Tamina Snuka to face the Bella Twins; AJ would tag in, do a twirl to cheers and then tag back out again. The 3MB were all in action – and all lost; Jinder Mahal in a singles loss to the Great Khali who is surely only playing up the Friendly Giant angle now because his knees are too knackered to be able to work heel, while Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater got an ass-kicking from the Usos.
By far my favourite angle of the night involved Paul Heyman on the mic, surrounded in the ring by his ‘guys’ – “ladies and gentlemen”, he began to absolutely massive boos, before continuing “you’re booing because I called you ladies and gentlemen??? Alright, fine! ‘Things that live in Leeds…’” CM Punk arrived with a big stick shortly after, letting his enemies know that “the plan is, in ten seconds I get into that ring and hit you with this big stick.” Ryback left the ring, disgruntled with Heyman’s comments earlier that week on Raw, while Axel fled like a coward, leaving Heyman at the mercy of Punk’s beatdown.
(Axel turned up later to defend – and retain – his Intercontinental title against R-Truth but having already cried off from a face-off with Punk, his return was somewhat muted.)
And so Cena ended the night with, shockingly, what was my favourite match of the night by a country mile. Apart from one idiot behind us who was just being contrary in cheering on Del Rio – and receiving laser beams from all the Cena-shirted kids in the vicinity – Cena got a mostly great response from the crowd as he and Del Rio worked a great, tight match focusing on Cena’s hurt arm, injured leg and eventual titanic comeback. Whenever I see this same formula unfold on TV I’m never impressed, but just being there in this crowd surrounded by people who were begging to see him turn the tide, Cena really fed off the buzz and delivered a fantastic match.
I’m as shocked as you are, guys; but John Cena made it an amazing night for me; not least when he got on the mic after the match to show his enthusiasm for the crowd who came to see them perform. I’ll definitely be back here to see the action next time – and won’t even be put off by him the next time he appears on TV. Which is probably right about now considering how over-programmed he is.