By Jacob Scharff, Staff Writer
It’s hard to explain the primal thrill that comes from watching two grown men beat each other up for several minutes in a scripted match, but I’ll pay whatever’s necessary to watch those two grown men, provided they’re with World Wrestling Entertainment.
I have been a WWE fan since the summer of 2002. My fandom has only gone up in the 11 years since I really got into it, and in the past four years or so I have taken every opportunity possible to go to WWE house shows when they come to the James Brown Arena.
Sunday, Feb. 3, WWE came for what it dubbed “Pre-Game Pandemonium,” and instead of a night show, as is typical, the event started at 1 p.m. so everyone could get home in time for the Super Bowl.
Usually, I go alone because either no one else is willing to spend the money or they don’t have the money to spend, but I was fortunate this time because my friend Ashley, who loves WWE as much as I do, bought my ticket for me and went with me. I paid her back with interest as I got her an autographed poster of her favorite WWE superstar.
The afternoon kicked off with The Funkasaurus, Brodus Clay, going up against rising NXT star Corey Graves. I had never seen Graves before this show, and he didn’t get a chance to make much of an impression before Clay used a running splash to flatten him into the canvas and get the victory.
The second match was between two of WWE’s gorgeous divas, Layla and Aksana. Aksana is the bad girl, but if I had to pick between her and Layla, well, she edges Layla out by a bit. In the match, though, Layla edged out Aksana and picked up the victory with a springboard crossbody.
The third match pitted soon-to-debut superstar Fandango against longtime low-man-on-the-totem-pole, Yoshi Tatsu. I’ve always liked Tatsu because I’m a fan of most superstars from other countries, and he comes from Japan, which is one of my favorite places period.
Fandango came out and you could just feel his cocky bad-guy attitude oozing off of him, but he had every right to be cocky as he managed a quick victory with a modified reverse STO.
The fourth match, and the last before intermission, pitted Cody Rhodes, who hails from Marietta, Ga., against my friend Ashley’s favorite superstar: The Viper, Randy Orton.
Orton and Rhodes have a long history together, which makes matches like this just that much better because the two men know each other so well. It was a good match as each man hit his signature spots, including Orton with his rope-hung DDT and his double clothesline, powerslam combo, and Rhodes with his disaster kick. In the end, though, Orton sent everyone to break happy as he hit Rhodes with his finisher, the RKO, to get the victory.
At intermission, I got Ashley’s poster and picked up my own souvenir, a shirt showing my support of WWE superstar Ryback.
Back from the break, a team of Hispanic cousins, Epico and Primo, took on the team of The Punjabi Giant, The Great Khali and the masked luchador, Sin Cara. Khali is 7 feet tall and weighs 400 pounds. Together Epico and Primo only outweigh Khali by 38 pounds. Khali landed The Punjabi Plunge to win the match handily.
The penultimate matchup saw the Intercontinental Champion, Wade Barrett, go against one of my favorite superstars, The Great White, Sheamus. Honestly, if I were to become a wrestler, I could be a copy of Sheamus, save the Irish brogue.
Just like the Rhodes and Orton match this one was a good length and each man hit their signature spots, Sheamus with White Noise and Barrett with the Winds of Change. In the end, Sheamus’s earth-shattering Brogue Kick, my favorite move in WWE today, brought the match to a quick and brutal end, leaving Sheamus standing tall over the fallen Barrett.
The final match was for the World Heavyweight Championship and was a no-disqualification match. The contender was the former champion, the 7-foot-tall, 500-pound Big Show. The reigning champion was The Mexican Aristocrat, Alberto del Rio.
Show’s huge size advantage kept him in control early, but as del Rio started bringing weapons into play, like kendo sticks and tables, the tide began to turn. Things looked bleak for the champion, though, as Big Show connected with what is a usually deadly chokeslam. However, del Rio managed to kick out of the pinfall that followed the chokeslam. Del Rio slowly fought back into the match and managed to set up a table in one of the corners of the ring. He ascended to the top rope and grabbed Big Show’s head and used a move called the bulldog to drive Big Show’s face through the table and get the pinfall to send del Rio’s fans home happy.
I love house shows because if you’re up close you get to interact with the wrestlers in ways you really don’t on a TV taping. Plus, they’re a good way to see upcoming talent. There’s a good chance with it only being February that WWE could return to Augusta, Ga., before 2014.
I know I’ll be going.