Review: WWE Smackdown @ Manchester Arena

WWE Smackdown stormed into Manchester Arena on the coattails of big brother Raw. And it was… okay.

Let me give you some context. MM was invited to both events and we decided to introduce a couple of novices to the wrestling world in the second most glorious way the WWE has to offer.

My friends and colleagues have raved about the WWE in ways that have piqued my interest so I decided to dive head first into the realm of oiled up Adonis’ and scantily clad Minervas.

Was it a mistake? I certainly believe so after the introductory tag team match.

The Fashion Police faced up to the Colons and before I’d even got to grips with the ‘fighting’ styles it was over.

Perhaps that one was on me. I’m a newbie so getting used to the WWE’s style probably takes a couple of matches, so I just let it go.

Sitting through countless video clip interludes during the show it became obvious that the on-going storylines are a crucial component in the WWE enjoyment factor and any investment in the characters raises the bar of enthusiasm.

The crowd definitely agreed as the loudest whoops and cheers came from the wrestlers’ introductions rather than the actual results of the matches.

I’ll admit the continuous promos got me hyped for two of the night’s biggest match ups: ‘The Battle of the Sexes’ and AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal.

In that sense WWE grabbed my attention and got me involved, a big tick in my book.

However before the big guns hit the stage the undercard matches had to be showcased.

One of Smackdown’s golden boys Kofi Kingston, of The New Day, faced a challenge from Sami Zayn, which predictably ended in a victory for the former.

Randy Orton then squared off with Bulgarian Rusev in what was sold as a hugely important qualifying match for the Eastern European to join the brand’s team at Survivor Series.

BATTLE: Becky Lynch faced off against James Ellsworth

To be honest, Orton was the only wrestler I had actually heard of beforehand so the fight was at first enticing but quickly descended into parody.

Rusev ‘dominated’ the contest, tossing his opponent around the ring like a ragdoll before Randy Orton RKO’d him outta nowhere – as the saying goes.

I was familiar with the finishing move, not through any deep understanding of wrestling knowledge but due to countless internet memes that take over social media.

Regardless, Orton won the fight having used just one move. One move! What’s that all about?

What followed was a promo clip of James Ellsworth bad-mouthing his Battle of the Sexes opponent Becky Lynch, which would have sent the PC brigade into overdrive as he proclaimed women were inferior and they’d be fighting in Manchester.

It was played for laughs but the small ripple that echoed around the arena did little to hide the expected result.

By the time the supporting contingent of the gorgeous ladies of Smackdown strolled onto the stage it was obvious that Lynch would emerge victorious.

And emerge she did! In a rather lacklustre fight, the most surprising thing was the roar of the crowd, the sound of which would have you thinking that the suffragette movement had been reborn and that female inequality had been put to bed once and for all.

My colleague said it was the most farcical thing he’d ever seen.

Yet the show must go on and the tag team championship match provided either the most realistic result of the night or the finest acting this side of the Oscars.

RKO: Randy Orton won with his famous finishing move

Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable battled The Usos and the video replay showed one of the twin brothers land awkwardly on his leg, which gave Gable and Benjamin the victory by count out.

The match lasted five minutes at most and I was left with the uncomfortable impression that The Usos were physically hurt. 

If it turns out that the injury was all part of the act then someone needs to get that man a BAFTA because he had me completely fooled.

Finally the title match arrived and, having had no preconceptions of the fighters, I was routing for the reigning champ Jinder Mahal. He’d come across as the most charismatic in the promos and the rest of the audience seemed to hate him.

Things started well for the self-proclaimed ‘Modern Day Maharaja’ with his six fans, myself included, belting out the lyrics “Jinder’s on fire, AJ Styles is terrified!” and thrice he should have claimed the victory.

Sadly it was not to be as Styles overcame the odds to set up what should be a spectacular fight against Raw’s Brock Lesner at Survivor Series in two weeks’ time.

After the fight I asked an Styles super-fan why Mahal had to lose and he told me that AJ Styles vs Brock Lesner would sell more on pay-per-view, an interesting insight into the world of predetermined outcomes.

Fans of the WWE clearly loved the show. The arena was full and after a slow start the atmosphere reached its crescendo in the title match.

However, the mistimed sound effects, over-the-top showmanship and clearly fake punches did little to convince me that wrestling deserves the devotion it gets.

While I enjoyed losing my wrestling virginity to WWE Smackdown, it was rather like a terrible one-night stand, in which the experience is regrettably one to forget.

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