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Buffalo fans left satisfied, wanting more
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling


Hometown girl Beth Phoenix soaks in the applause. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea



A golden rule of entertainment is to always leave ‘em wanting more. If that’s what the WWE was shooting for, then they delivered in Buffalo for Night of Champions. It was a night that gave the fans less than the majority seemed to hope for in terms of who won and who lost, but the show had a strong grip on the crowd before and after the broadcast.

Attendance is solid, with the upper level of the arena open halfway around the building. You had your young men and your families, so the WWE is attracting the market they want right now -- but where are the angry grandmas yelling at the ref to turn around? When did they drop out of the fanbase?

The clear crowd favourites are CM Punk, with far more of his shirts sported around the stands than any other wrestler, and the hometown girl Beth Phoenix. Before the PPV-feed begins, the crowd launches an unprompted chant for Punk, getting a laugh from ring announcer Justin Roberts. Phoenix has to wait for her entrance before Buffalo gives her the love, but she gets it in spades as she makes her way to the ring. After her loss, she gets another huge, sympathetic ovation which she gracefully acknowledges. Punk would receive similar treatment later on, but we’ll get to that.

Another golden rule of entertainment: clap if you believe in fairies. This was the power that would free Tinkerbell from captivity, or perhaps poison, depending on the interpretation of Peter Pan. Presumably J.M. Barrie wasn’t envisioning the same logic working for getting a wrestler out of a headlock, but it almost always does the trick.

Something new for fans at the show, though it made its debut at SummerSlam, are purchasable FM headsets that can be tuned in to the live commentary. While this completes the viewing experience, giving people the chatter they get at home combined with the live show, it does seem to create a solitary and sedentary fan -- one who sits back and listens rather than standing up and yelling. There seems to be only a small scattering of fans who purchased this item.

Christian is still in favour in Buffalo, and he gets a welcome response until he assures his place in villainy by reminding the fans of their Super Bowl futility. There’s no greater (nor cheaper) heat than that obtained by attacking the Buffalo Bills. Nor is being a babyface a ticket to the fans’ hearts, however: Air Boom gets some negative heat for taking advantage of the shoddy refereeing in their match. Randy Orton seems to be in everyone’s good books, but when his music fades out there are a healthy amount of boos -- from maybe one-third of the crowd. Mark Henry, on the other hand, wins fans over throughout his match just as he did earlier in the week on Smackdown. Then, there’s John Cena.

Mr. H put it perfectly on Raw, when the COO explained that, love him or hate him, John Cena is the number one guy in the business. Yes, people boo and chant “Cena Sucks”, and yes, the pitch of the “Let’s Go Cena” response is higher due to the age of the cheering section, but make no mistake: the arena pops right open when he makes his entrance. The reaction is incomparable to what anyone else gets, from bell to bell.

The main event slows down a little too early for the fans’ liking, but they buy into all of the run-ins and interference. Although Triple H got a respectable response for his win, CM Punk remains in the ring past the end of the broadcast to have his music replayed and get serenaded to the back by an appreciative and loving crowd. To the fans in attendance, it was clearly CM Punk’s victory in the long run, despite the loss in this particular battle.

This evening's "Sign of the Night" moment is a peculiar one. For the bulk of the show, the most notable effort was a multiple sign combination of "Kick His Skinny Fat ...", but towards the end of the night a sign popped up near ringside saying "Wish Benoit Was Here". It's unclear whether it would have been seen by the PPV audience, because it was confiscated only moments after it appeared.

For several minutes after Punk exited, more than half of the fans remained by their seats, anticipating that the evening was not over. Maybe it was because Kevin Nash took so long to make his way out of sight behind a curtain, but there was a feeling of anticipation that the night wasn’t finished yet. Only as some of the house lights flickered off and an announcement thanking the fans came through the speakers did the truth settle in: this was what was to be had tonight. So the fans left wanting more, but that’s really just indicative of a show that gave them lots to be happy for. As the announcement speaks of the WWE returning to Buffalo in the near future, the fans start shifting their focus to the future, already eagerly awaiting the next event.

RELATED LINKS

  • WWE Night of Champions Photo Gallery
  • Triple H, Henry, Cena victorious at Night of Champions
  • Countdown to WWE Night of the Champions

    Dave Hillhouse is a teacher and screenwriter, and applauds Mark Henry’s clean, decisive win.