World Wrestling Entertainment brought its WWE Live show to the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night for an evening of grown men — and four women — pretending to fight each other in a ring in front of thousands of fans. The three-hour event was just about everything that you would expect from a live, non-televised WWE show.
We sent three writers in different states of inebriation to the BJC to check out the “professional” wrestling. These are their stories.
If there’s one thing that I know about WWE, it’s that fake wrestling is best enjoyed while thoroughly under the influence of your alcohol of choice. I’ve learned this by watching a whole lot of WWE in my life, something that I am in fact very proud of despite how fans of the “sport” might get lumped in with fans of similar “sports” like NASCAR and SlamBall.
So like I was saying, just as it takes a lot of alcohol to really reach the maximum enjoyment of watching a bunch of cars making repeated left turns, it takes an equal amount to fully appreciate a bunch of half-naked grown men pretending to fight each other in the most predictable wrestling bouts of all time.
I was in the perfect mindset when I entered the Bryce Jordan Center about an hour late, skipping the fluff matches that typically start these non-televised WWE events. While it kind of feels like a dream, partially because of my inebriation and partially because I was watching my childhood hero in person, I recall having a minor meltdown when I saw that a three-on-three tag team match would include Rey Mysterio. I also recall having a fit of laughter when I saw that Goldust would be a part of that same fight, mostly because he’s old, fat, out of shape, and still wears a skin-tight gold and black body suit.
There’s no need to beat around the bush, though. Seeing Mysterio may have been the highlight of my night (and by that I mean my life), but I was at the BJC on Friday night to watch John Cena fight Randy Orton.
I’m not your typical wrestling fan. I’m an Orton fan. I think that Cena is boring and played out and it’s time for WWE to find a new golden boy for the organization. Orton is a great bad guy and he played his part perfectly on Friday, taking advantage of the ref being down by smacking Cena in the head with his belt and later getting disqualified for a low blow. It was awesome.
As for the crowd, I wasn’t drunk enough to escape being endlessly annoyed by the flock of bros behind me that decided to be obnoxiously inappropriate all night despite a number of families with little kids in our section. Oh, and I vaguely remember someone getting kicked out for blowing up one of these (WARNING: NSFW) in the middle of the event.
I have been watching professional wrestling since my formative years. Yes, I know it’s fake. Yes, I know that liking it stereotypically makes me the kind of backwoods hillbilly that listens to songs about tractors and beer and what not, but for me, it has always been a form of entertainment the same way that, say, people find The Walking Dead entertaining.
So when I heard WWE live was coming to Penn State, I immediately cleared my schedule of drinking and FIFA so I could go.
A WWE Live event is exactly what you expect. The “sport” has always looked to target a niche audience instead of a widespread audience. This, in turn, has made pro wrestling fans some of the most loyal and dedicated fans on the planet. Everyone who wants to be there who isn’t a douchy college kid is decked out in the gear of their favorite superstars. The crowd is always on fire. It’s like a Penn State football game in a way, only fake and not football and hilarious.
The BJC was only about half full. As for the way it was set up, it’s nothing like the gigantic, gaudy set up that you see on Monday nights from 8 to 11 p.m. on USA. A meager stage, no ramp, and unpadded rails led to a ring in the center of the BJC. There were no pyrotechnics. For an industry that prides itself on being bold and over the top, Friday night was remarkably simple.
As for the names on the card, it was a mix of names that are familiar to everyone – such as WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton and walking cereal box John Cena – along several lesser-known wrasslers. It also featured promos, video packages, and shameless plugs to buy merchandise. So, basically, it was like everything else the WWE has ever done, only much more simple.
The matches themselves were…well…meh. One of the company’s premier pay-per-view events of the year, the Royal Rumble, was two days later in Pittsburgh. Twelve of the night’s contestants were either in a singles, tag, or the Royal Rumble match on Sunday, so this night was essentially a tune up for that. Really, only two matches stood out: Cena defeating Orton via disqualification, and a three man tag team match where Cody Rhodes – who was actually a Penn State westling commit – Goldust, and Rey Mysterio defeated Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, and Antonio Cesaro.
Other than that, and the drunken bros screaming obscenities behind us who pissed off the families sitting in front of us, it was a pretty mellow event. However, any chance you get to see a WWE Live event, I highly recommend it. Like Broadway actors, professional wrestlers are the best at their craft, and any chance you get to see them is a chance to see some of the finest pieces of performance art that you’ll ever see. While it may be fake, it’s still real to me.
I spent the entire night attempting to determine whether I should call it a “fight” or a “show” and ultimately concluded that it was neither. It was chaos.
I sank into my seat for two and a half hours at the BJC and gazed upon the obscure display of powerful creatures seeking to destroy each other as a means of entertainment. Everywhere I looked, there were faces all around staring intently at the ring and screaming obscenities at the fighters. My mantra throughout the entire night was “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The dichotomy between reality and fantasy collapsed right in front of me and nobody tried to stop it. I was in some hole of the universe that made no sense to me, yet everyone else understood.
In retrospect, I wish I was drunk instead of high. Marijuana and WWE go together like fruit punch and cyanide. If I was drunk, I might have been a little more enthusiastic about the night, but instead I was caught up in a lapse of consciousness where I felt like a poser, an outcast, and Franz Kafka all at once.
Ultimately, I was more entertained by the crowd’s reaction to the fights than the fights themselves. I’m convinced there is some sort of mysterious meaning behind what I witnessed on Friday night, but I believe it’s a meaning that is impossible for me to fathom.