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Mat Matters: Outgrowing the live show
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling


Rey Mysterio salutes the crowd at a WWE house show in Winnipeg. Photo by Jon Waldman.

WINNIPEG - Last month, I ventured out to my first WWE house show in nearly a decade, and even this long departed from the event, Iím still undecided on whether I truly enjoyed myself or not.

Sure, having floor shows to the event felt a bit like being thiiiis close to your favourite rock star; but at the same time, I didnít feel like I got the full WWE experience, or at least to the point I had that many years ago.

For those who havenít been to a house show, the event presentation is more geared towards matches than storylines. For the most part, the bouts you see will fall in line with whatís currently going on during the WWE broadcasts, but they tend to be longer (big positive for workrate fans like myself) and there are also fewer promos.

So for me, the experience in that respect was good. As I alluded to in my preview of Bragging Rights, the Daniel Bryan/Dolph Ziggler match in particular met my workrate craving, and the main event of Randy Orton vs. Sheamus definitely lived up to its billing.

But there was still something that didnít sit right to me. It wasnít that we had the old-school guard rails instead of hockey board-style barriers or that the entrance way was more akin to an indie show setup than the spectacular WWE staging. Even the aspects that bothered me when I was at live shows, be they house shows or tapings, like being able to see clearly how pulled punches are or how kicks donít often connect seemed less of a factor.

Then, sadly, it hit me. I had out-grown the thrill of "seeing it live."

Going as a journalist to the show wasnít any different than it had been in 2001, when I saw Chris Jericho battle Steve Austin in the main event at the Winnipeg Arena. In the same manner that I saw half the show through the viewfinder of my camera (though this was a DLSR rather than a point-and-shoot), I also spent half the time watching the action unfold in front of my eyes -- but perhaps more importantly this time around, I was watching it unfold through the eyes of those around me.

It goes without saying that, thanks to WWEís new kid-targeted direction, there were more pre-pubescent voices in the crowd than when I was there as an early 20s guy. Heck, even when I went as a teenager to a couple shows there was a more adult population there, or so it seemed. The excitement I saw from kids as they rushed the barricade to slap hands with the likes of Rey Mysterio was interesting to watch, because it brought me back to the days of being 10 years old and rushing to the aisle to, perhaps, get Bret Hartís sunglasses or slap hands with Randy Savage.

To me, therefore, it was more of playing Malcolm Gladwell than being a WWE fan that night. I was more interested in who got the pops than, say, chanting along with Miz on his signature catchphrase. I was no longer a participant in the show; I was an observer.

Iíve found a lot of the same going into other aspects of my wrestling reporting. As youíll see in my upcoming review of the new John Cena DVD, I still canít get the fascination with some of the new heroes. The ones that I watch more closely are those that either I watched in some of my formative modern viewing years like Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho, or the ones that connect me to the past either in lineage (Ted DiBiase Jr.) or in their style (Daniel Bryan being similar to Chris Benoit in the ring -- and donít say he isnít).

This became even more apparent to me by how much I marked out during WWE Old School (as you saw in my Raw report). Everything about that show outside of one or two scenes was executed perfectly and drew me in as a guy who vividly remembered the old WWF opening, the Gene Okerlund interviews and even the Lord Alfred Hayes "promotional consideration" spots. That brought me back to the time when I was a kid, while the WWE house show experience reminded me that Iím not a kid anymore.

Does this mean that if/when the time comes that my future children beg me to take them to a WWE show that Iíll either say Ďnoí or sit there like a grump, whacking my cane around? No, but I can also readily admit that by that time, I will be ready to say, "Okay kid, this oneís for you."

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  • Previous Mat Matters Editorial columns

    Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! Wrestling since 2000.