6 Things We Learned During WWE Smackdown at US Airways Center in Phoenix
Pyro goes off during the opening of WWE Smackdown at US Airways Center.
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
The superstars of the WWE invaded US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, August 19, and not only kicked ass and took names, but also entertained a helluva lot of local wrestling fans.
The action-packed event was actually a twofer sort of deal, as the WWE taped a pair of its television shows -- The Main Event and Smackdown -- at the arena over the course of the evening, giving the near-sellout crowd twice their money's worth and plenty of chances to see their favorite superstars up close.
See also: WWE's Jimmy Uso on His Family's Wrestling Legacy and Having His Private Life Aired on Total Divas
We're just as much into the WWE as the tens of thousands that flocked to downtown Phoenix and were in attendance at the tapings. And besides having a blast watching more than three hours of spandex-clad theatrics, we also learned a few things about the WWE, its current storylines, and its biggest characters, as well as the state of wrestling fandom in Phoenix.
The WWE's famed scratch logo has been scratched.
The new WWE logo is boss
Last week, the WWE sort of rebranded itself and kicked off a whole new era when Vince McMahon unveiled an updated version of the company's iconic symbol. It's a bit sleeker and streamlined than the previous "scratch" logo, which has been around since the heyday of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the vaunted "Attitude Era" of the late 1990s, and it ultimately looks very boss. As with any change, however, it's going to a little while for us to get used to it. That's not a slight by any means, since the scratch logo was really starting to look dated, it's just that we're old school wrestling fans who are sometimes set in our ways.
Kofi Kingston hits Cesaro with an aerial move at US Airways Center.
Some of the better matches aren't televised
Not every match that takes place at a WWE televised event will make it's way to the airwaves as a handful of battles happen both before and after cameras are rolling. In wrestling parlance, these are referred to as "dark matches" and often can be even more entertaining than what you see on TV.
To wit: There was an awesome contest between high-flyer Kofi Kingston and ring technician Cesaro at US Airways Center on Tuesday night during the gap between the taping of the WWE's hour-long show The Main Event, which airs on the Ion Television channel every Wednesday, and Smackdown, which is shown Fridays on SyFy.
If featured about 10 minutes of fast-paced back-and-forth activity, breathtaking aerial moves from Kingston, a number of false finishes, and captivating action before Cesaro walked away with the win. In short, it was arguably the best match of the night, and only those who were at the arena got to witness it.
Phoenix artist J. Scooter Harris and a friend show off their support for the WWE.
You never know who's a WWE fan these days
While we can be pretty outspoken about our unabashed fandom of the WWE and the sheer fun it offers, we're well aware that some consider it to be, at best, geared towards children or, at worst, a lowbrow pursuit that's nowhere near as hip as other forms of entertainment. Hence the number of fans who keep their love of the WWE and pro wrestling in general on the down-low these days. As a result, we're constantly encountering local folks who we never would have suspected were huge geeks for grapplers, such as Trunk Space co-owner JRC or Chop and Wok booker Will Tynor.
And at Tuesday's Smackdown taping, we ran into another -- local artist J. Scooter Harris. The painter and illustrator, whose work has been featured at such galleries as Alwun House and the old Paper Heart, attended the event with his paramour and a handmade sign in tow. He's been a fan since the mid-1990s and told us about how much he enjoys the WWE. "It's like a live action superhero battle," Harris says. "And these days it appeals to my inner 13-year-old." Word.
The Wyatt Family's Luke Harper (left) and Eric Rowan walk to the ring.
The Wyatt Family needs to start kicking ass again
Some of the more fascinating and unique villains that have starred in the WWE over the past year have been the mysterious Wyatt Family. Led by the enigmatic and charismatic preacher-esque character Bray Wyatt, the sinister faction's gimmick is part Jim Jones cult and part Swamp People-style hillbilly creepiness mixed in with a little bit of Max Cady from Cape Fear. In short, the group is unlike anything the WWE has ever featured before and have both captivated fans and dominated opponents.
Well, until the past few months, that is, as the Wyatt Family has been on a bit of a losing streak since the spring. Bray Wyatt, for instance, has had pretty middling feuds with John Cena (including losing to Mr. "Hustle Loyalty Respect" at WrestleMania) and Chris Jericho.
The Wyatt Family surrounds the ring and stares down John Cena and Roman Reigns.
And at US Airways Center on Tuesday, the entire Wyatt family got their asses handed to them. Eric Rowan was beaten by The Big Show during The Main Event before he and Luke Harper were later defeated by the Dust Brothers during the Smackdown taping. And then all three Wyatt family members were on the receiving end of an impromptu beatdown by Cena and Roman Reigns at the end of the night after cameras stopped rolling.
Perception goes a long way in wrestling. And there's a big chance that the WWE could be wasting one of its most interesting characters and frittering away the Wyatt Family's heat by having them lose all the time. Here's hoping that Bray and company get back to kicking ass and starring in more compelling feuds in the near future.
Roman Reigns poses for the crowd.
Roman Reigns is the next big thing
If you've been watching the WWE during 2014, it's readily apparent that Roman Reigns has become the chosen one. He tossed out a record-setting number of other wrestlers during the Royal Rumble in January and has been getting some decisive wins in the ensuing eight months, including beating Randy Orton at SummerSlam this past weekend.
During Tuesday's Smackdown taping, the tattooed 6-foot-3 powerhouse, who's all flowing locks and muscle, was one of the main focuses of the show, including beating The Miz in the ring, battling Orton outside the ring, and (as we mentioned) duking it out with the Wyatt Family alongside Cena. And when the Samoan wrestler wasn't in the ring, the fans in attendance were either chanting his name or holding up their handmade signs and posters with his name. Needless to say, Roman most definitely Reigns.
Two local Roman Reigns fans at US Airways Center.
WWE fans watch on as Randy Orton battles Roman Reigns at US Airways Center.
Phoenix is, and always will be, a WWE town
There's a simple reason that the Valley hosts an average of two or more WWE events each and every year: Phoenix loves it some pro wrestling. It's why there was a WrestleMania here in 2010, and at least five other pay-per-views that have taken place at US Airways Center, each of which were sold out. Even a non-televised WWE live event this past February at the arena boasted more than 12,000 in attendance.
And if online rumors are to believed, the WWE is reportedly planning a possible return to Phoenix in mid-March. Tickets and details haven't officialy been announced yet, probably because it's more than six months away, but you can bet that local WWE fans will scoop 'em up quickly.
A family of local WWE fans after the Smackdown taping.
WWE Smackdown and The Main Event at US Airways Center:
Dark match: Adam Rose defeated Fandango
Main Event Taping:
- Sheamus pinned Curtis Axel
- Nikki Bella defeated Emma
- Heath Slater and Titus O'Neil beat Los Matadores
- The Big Show pinned Eric Rowan
Dark match: Cesaro beat Kofi Kingston
- Seth Rollins beat Jack Swagger
- Rusev defeated Sin Cara
- Randy Orton battled Rob Van Dam to a no-contest
- Natalya pinned Divas champ Paige in a non-title bout
- Goldust and Stardust beat Eric Rowan and Luke Harper
- Roman Reigns defeated Intercontinental champion The Miz in a non-title match
Biggest pops: Roman Reigns (duh), John Cena, Jack Swagger and RVD
Biggest heat: Rusev and Randy Orton
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.