London SmackDown LIVE experience

By Member
Conor Bailey
Taking in the sights and sounds from WWE's recent UK tour

Published 23rd May 2017

By , Member

Whilst fellow Newplexers attended the rather excellent Attack! Pro Wrestling show last Saturday, I ventured towards the O2 in London to watch the tapings of WWE SmackDown Live and 205 Live.

Filled with pyro, persistent chants, and a spot of Fandango-ing, the SmackDown Live tapings were a very interesting event to experience live. WWE UK events are always awesome, it’s why they’ve giving the us the United Kingdom Championship after all, so I knew going into the event that at the very least the crowd interactions were going to be fun.

The last time I went to a WWE event was many moons ago. It was live event featuring the likes of John Cena, Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan. Looking back at it, it’s crazy to think that Superstars like AJ Styles would ever even make an appearance, or how such a large portion of the roster would be NXT call ups. But then again, we are living in the new age of WWE.

As you soon got on the tube for the O2, the wrestling shirts were abundant, mixing in with the smartly-dressed suits of central London. As we came closer and closer to the venue, it started to feel like a true wrestling event.

The first thing you immediately notice when going into the O2 is how much they love to push merchandise. Obviously, it’s one of the biggest ways the WWE make their sweet, sweet dolla – but honestly, you couldn’t walk thirty paces without bumping into a shirt or programme stand.

Corporate shilling aside, the always electric UK fans were in full swing. Even when we were just waiting to get into the stands, the sounds of “woooo” and the occasional bellowing of “GLORIOUS!” could be heard echoing across the arena.

Though it didn’t stop there, one highlight even before the show began saw a lowly popcorn attendant, unsuccessfully trying to sell some of his wares, standing alone in the crowd. Noticing his predicament, a group of lads suddenly sprang into action, chanting “buy his popcorn!” With that, the attendant was suddenly very busy. Kind of heart-warming to see, really.

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Taking our seats, way above the lights, we had a grand view of the ring and entrance ramp. We were treated to a dark match between Aiden English and Tye Dillinger before the main show. In case you weren’t aware, Tye Dillinger is super over. Chants of “ten” rumbled through the O2 and continued to do so for the entire night, and it was rather fun to join in with.

Sadly, the biggest reaction of the night wasn’t a positive one – as when the commentators came out and the theme song of JBL rang through the speakers, the boos intensified and “fire Bradshaw!” was chanted through the arena. This not only happened at the beginning, but also through the televised portions of the show. No matter where you stand in the controversy, these chants appear not be going away anytime soon.

The crowd at the O2 was, as always, loud and vocal – as it should be. However, this came with the downfall of some annoying chants, normally initiated and perpetuated by the same few people. These included an extra irritating chant alluding to Jinder Mahal’s physique… from only two people… who carried it on for a good five minutes. Other highlights were a Byron Saxton chant during the women’s tag match, a CM Punk chant during an interval break, and a dispute between two separate groups of fans on whether Arsene Wenger should stay or leave as the Arsenal manager.

It’s these kinds of chants (apart from the Wenger one, which I found mildly amusing) that risk souring the experience. More often than not, they detract the action happening in the ring, and are normally instigated by people who want to get a quick fifteen minutes of fame (beachball, anyone?).

But Fandango-ing made a very popular return appearance, which was nice.

Speaking of popular, AJ Styles was the clear star of the show. Whatever he said was golden, and he was ultimately the universal fan favourite. It’s very safe to say he is the face of SmackDown Live, and is the centrepiece of the brand.

Styles’ popularity was closely followed by Nakamura who, despite not having a live televised match, remains insanely popular and his promo skills are getting better and better with every passing day.

Sami Zayn, Breezango, Becky Lynch, Luke Harper and Randy Orton also got favourable reactions from the London crowd. The award for best live entrance went to Naomi, hands down – the neon, rave dancing is truly something to behold.

205 Live

After SmackDown concluded, it was time for the highly-anticipated 205 Live. Honestly, I thought that the arena would empty when 205 came on, but it remained largely full. The UK only gets WWE twice a year, and we damn sure make the most of our ticket money.

205 Live is a very underrated programme, and watching it live really highlighted how good it actually is. From the high-flying abilities of Mustafa Ali to the dirty antics of The Brian Kendrick, when you give 205 Live a chance, it proves to be very entertaining. Watching it alongside a live crowd made it even more enjoyable.

At the end of the night, I had watched over three hours of wrestling, and walked back to the tube station with a legion of fellow wrestling fans – who started shouting “DELETE” when we learned there was going to be a delay getting back home.

Watching SmackDown Live back at home, I noticed two things. One, my beautiful face hadn’t made it on the television, which is a tad disappointing. Two, it was a somewhat below-average episode of SmackDown at best. But that’s the thing when you’re watching it live, it seemed a lot more intense and fun, which is the effect when you watch wrestling live.

With that I look forward to November, when it happens all again.

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