We don't know how up y'all are on lowbrow culture, but professional wrestling sort of a big deal in Phoenix. Locals can't seem to get enough of this rope opera, which explains why there are at least three different indie federations operating in town and the glitzy grapplers of World Wrestling Entertainment keep coming back to our area.
The WWE has held six of its pay-per-view spectaculars at local sporting facilities in the last decade, including 2010's WrestleMania XXVI inside University of Phoenix Stadium and the Royal Rumble at US Airways Center earlier this year. The arena has also hosted more than a dozen sold-out episodes of its weekly Raw slam-fests. You can add one more instance to that list later this month as the program will once again emanate from the Valley on Monday, August 26.
And being die-hard devotees to rasslin' ourselves, we've got a couple educated guesses about what sort of melodramatic men-in-tights situations and scenarios will unfold during the two-hour show. Granted, there's another episode of Raw that will air before the show comes to Phoenix, but here's our predictions of what local fans will see (either in the ring or in the stands) when the WWE's one-ring circus rolls into town next week.
5. Alberto Del Rio Pandering to Latinos During both Summerslam and last week's episode of Raw, Mexican-born World Heavyweight champ Alberto Del Rio got on the microphone and let it be known that he's eager to be a legendary role model to the Latino community and an icon they can truly rally behind. It should be noted that in the bizarro world of the WWE, when superstars make statements and declarations annointing themsevles as such a hero (see Angle, Kurt), the intent is to make their character anything but beloved, especially with someone as villainous as Del Rio.
Hence the decidedly mixed reaction -- including more than a few jeers -- that he got at both events which took place in two Southern California cities where Hispanics heavily turn out to WWE shows. Given the Phoenix area's similar demographics amongst both its general population and wrestling crowds (lucha libre has a noted following in Arizona), it's likely you'll see Del Rio once again making his feelings heard and soaking up some boos in front our hometown crowd. Expect statements concerning his machismo, accomplishments, and wealth that allows him to tower over all the peasants.
4. CM Punk Out For Revenge Look, we're admittedly some of the biggest CM Punk fans around. He's truly the "Best in the World" in our books. We even had a memorable chat him back in 2010 about his love of straight edge culture. All that said, however, the dude was on the receiving end of a major beatdown at the hands of Brock Lesnar at Summerslam. Seriously, it was brutal to watch, even with the knowledge that wrestling is (largely) choreographed. But, being the scrappy superstar that he is, Punk took a licking and came back ticking.
He's on the warpath and out for revenge against Lesnar and his manager Paul Heyman, who also used to also manage Punk before double-crossing him (a common practice in the WWE). On last week's episode of Raw, Punk swore utter vengeance and got a bit of violent satisfaction when he kicked the crap out of Curtis Axel -- another Heyman client -- in an impromptu exchange. Expect an actual match between the two at US Airways Center that should be entertaining and may or may not include a few MMA-style moves.
3. A Darren Young Storyline Curtain-jerking tag team performer Darren Young made headlines in both the wrestling world and mainstream press last week when he startlingly decided to come out after he was accosted by a TMZ cameraman. It was monster news and earned the 29-year-old more attention than he's ever gotten in the ring, as well as the distinction of being the first WWE superstar to publicly admit he's gay while performing for the company. Since then, he's even appeared on the Today Show.
Although Young's appearance on last week's Raw only amounted to quick win with his tag team partner Titus O'Neil, we're certain the company's behind-the-scenes staff is brewing some sort of storyline to capitalize on his revelation in the very near future. WWE boss Vince McMahon has never been a paragon of good taste (two words: Katie Vick), and he's never one to miss out on a chance to use real-life drama as grist for his sports entertainment mill. We're genuinely curious how they'll handle such a mature issue in the family-friendly PG era, especially given wrestling's sordid history of portraying homosexuals as villains.
2. Daniel Bryan, World's Biggest Underdog Professional wrestling boils down to one thing: good versus evil. Yes, there have always been characters who fall under the whole "shades of gray" category to keep things interesting, but some of the best matches, storylines, and angles essentially embody the ages-old yarn of plucky underdog attempting to triumph against formidable odds over some vile foe. All these archetypes can currently be seen writ large in the storyline involving Daniel Bryan.
At the Summerslam pay-per-view this past weekend, the ultra-talented and overly-bearded grappler overcame John Cena to win the WWE title, only to be robbed of the belt a few minutes later in an impromptu match with villain (or "heel" in wrestling slang) Randy Orton. It was essentially a surprise shakedown that came about via a complicated storyline twist that would take a few hours to explain. Regardless, Bryan was mugged of his hard-fought victory because the WWE's Powers that Be (including the McMahons and Triple-H) didn't think he deserved it and preferred Orton as champion. So when next week's episode of Raw begins at US Airways Center, expect to see Bryan -- currently a huge fan favorite -- continuing his current role as a never-say-die challenger chasing the gold, eager for retribution, and ready to fight despite whatever overwhelming odds, obstacles, and beatdowns are thrown his way. Is it gonna be fun to watch? As Bryan himself would say, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. Crazy Fans Like we said, people here in Phoenix go a little nuts for wrestling. Usually when all the massive pyrotechnics go off at the beginning of a typical WWE televised event or when the theme songs of their favorite superstars (good and bad alike) blast out over the arena's sound system. And sometimes, like many of the pro wrestlers themselves, they can be found wearing nutty costumes.
They're usually pretty harmless, however, and usually stick with mainly hooting and hollering. Although you might want to steer clear of anyone wielding a steel chair (like the dudes in the above GIF) just in case.
WWE Raw takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, August 26, at US Airways Center on Tickets are $20 to $95.