Monday night I attended a dress rehearsal all in all I thought it went very well. It was not the best night to be out on the town of course, the snow was coming down heavy when we left and the traffic was light until a few blocks from the venue where is was damn near gridlocked. I was not the only one to attend this rehearsal you see, I figure about 4000 others showed up. Sorry, I may have neglected to specify, the dress rehearsal was for Tuesday night’s Smackdown in Seattle. Before any of you dislocate your eyes rolling them allow me to explain.
WWE does not often hit our area and it has been well over a decade since they brought their TV cameras, we get what used to be called ‘house shows’ meaning they were only for those ‘in the house’, I have stopped calling them that, I refer to them as ‘rehearsal shows’. It used to be that TV was the promotional tool to sell tickets to the house shows. Interviews were based on “We’re coming to your town and I’m going to win the match!” template. TV expanded and ways to make more money using televised content out did the gates at live events that were not televised. Had to happen right? Naturally. I used to LOVE house shows, not just because it was a chance to see the big names in action against each other rather than the weekly squash match compilation the Saturday TV programs produced they seemed to flow better and the few interviews done came across as looser and less scrutinized. If I were to sum up the difference quickly I would say that for a stretch of years the atmosphere was more playful at a show with no broadcast. The talent seemed to get away with pushing the boundaries a bit and enjoy their work a bit more. Oh and the top names showed up but I digress.
In 2004, almost 12 years to the day really, I was at a show and saw Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero, in a few days Eddie would win the WWE title from Brock on Pay Per View. The catch was the matches had a lot of the same sequences, not in the same order because Eddie was an artist and could make a new and enthralling match every night. It wasn’t new to see the same sequences repeated but in many cases over the following years it became more than a trademark sequence or spot. I got a text Tuesday night from the friend I went with “Smackdown is a glorified show from last night.” It didn’t surprise me, in fact I told him and his girlfriend that it would basically be a dress rehearsal for the live feed the next night, that disappointed me in a way. That was the first WWE show they had attended and to me it was like watching your team scrimmage, to them it may have stole a bit of the magic.
The bottom line here is that to me it does not matter because a live match is a wonderful treat for me, you never really know what you are going to see and for myself I have been watching so long there are very few talents I have not seen perform live at this point, every show I get to see a few more, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin, Apollo Cruz, Dolph Ziggler and most special to me American Alpha (my current favourite tag team) were new to my live experience list this time. I was amazed at how smooth AJ Styles was in the ring, how quick Dolph Ziggler was, the way The Miz riled up the crowd and the entrancement of the masses as Bray Wyatt strolled to the ring. There are no real tricks when you are sitting in the building just reaction to music and performance. Sure it is a bit of a drag to see the same match verbatim but that is a danger with wrestling period.
While I would like to see a return to a more loose structure the reality is two fold 1) camera phones have made it impossible to really have a non-broadcast event. Footage of house shows constantly ends up on line and in some cases goes viral with potent mixed results. Which means the risk of being subject to discipline are just as great as getting credit for boosting interest 2) there is really nothing wrong with seeing a dress rehearsal in this case because it gives fans a chance to see something live they may not be able to when the world watches and the performers a chance to really work out the kinks before a big match. I have seen matches live that were better than their broadcast, if you attended you saw two better than anything televised thus far, Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Cruz and Baron Corbin vs Kalisto. There is your magic in rehearsal and better yet it was magic we all made it there in that snow.