God, I make everything too wordy so I’m dreading discovering the length I could make this.
Went to see NXT in Philadelphia with Adriana and her brother through no effort of my own. Adriana’s brother managed to snag tickets despite them apparently selling out in minutes and then drove to Philly. Yeah.
Our journey began as all journeys should begin, with a Chipotle brunch. Then a lot of pop punk on the stereo, a lot of indistinguishable high way, and then Upper Darby, PA. Much like our Joppa experience, Upper Darby just happened. I have no recollection of exiting a high way, we just drove in a straight line until 4 lanes of traffic faded into rows upon rows of row houses, and we were all like “oh this is cute, I guess we’re heading towards the downtown core,” and then it just didn’t end. I have no idea where Upper Darby ranks in terms of Philadelphia/Greater Philadelphia Area. The event was labeled NXT: Philly, but maybe it’s a marketing/convenience thing.
We found parking by the Tower Theater in the weirdest parking lot of all time, which was like a miniature-scale parking garage in someone’s backyard.
We wandered around looking for… I don’t know. I don’t even know what we were trying to do, but we passed Baron Corbin then debated whether it was Baron Corbin or not for a few minutes before someone pulled out a cell phone and Googled Baron Corbin. It was Baron Corbin. I found Baron Corbin to be more attractive in real life, I think Adriana mildly disagreed and I don’t think her brother was polled.
Used the bathroom in a Burlington Coat Factory. Actually we ended up using their bathrooms twice so thanks Burlington Coat Factory, for not locking your doors or asking questions.
We had a lot of time to kill. So I thought we should basically loiter in a Subway, because I thought the house of Jared might be a decent place to passively stalk professional wrestlers. It was not. In fact, it was fucking empty. It was a good place to watch other marks try and park in the liquor store parking lot across the street, and then judge them on their t-shirt choices.
Car. Cell phone recharging. Stand up comedy satellite radio.
H&M, because there was nothing else to do. This H&M seemed wildly out of place, but had large windows to stare at the line forming in front of the theater, and have a few dozen conversations that went like,
Should we line up yet?
I don’t know…this shirt is weird…
Eventually we ran out of floors of H&M to explore and went to stand in line. I knew Philly was a smark crowd, but I had never considered what those smarks looked like, as I had only heard them through their voices, united, in anti-Roman Reigns chants.
The overall vibe was rotund. Actually the overall vibe was so stereotypical-to-the-t that it bordered on surreal. If The Simpsons made a Comic Book Guy for professional wrestling, he would have looked like the summation of the NXT Philly crowd.
Which brings me to the group of guys in front of us. This cluster of dudes (one in a XFL jersey, naturally) in front of us were having a conversation about participating in backyard feds and the conversation turned to hardcore/body vs. sense of judgement type shit, two of them brought up that they had once fashioned a kendo stick out of bamboo mats from one of their places of work. What the fuck?!?! I cannot go to Pier 1 and look at a bamboo mat again.
I couldn’t avoid hearing these things, true to form, they were very loud.
Some WWE guy kept coming around shooting b-roll. Some people seemed to know who he was. I am blessedly not at that level of dedication yet.
We were let in, and there was surprisingly no security. There was however a highly curt usher who made up for the lack of scrutiny by attempting to scan Ticketmaster barcodes with her laser eyes and burning contempt. She could not read fast, that seems like a disadvantage.
Going to insert my rant here, not where it chronologically belongs, wedged in after the lights went out and tightly in between the Tower Theater’s seats. Hefty white family walked in a half hour late and sat in front of us. Wider than they were tall, what I thought was the “Dad” turned out to be the young booty-shorts-clad girl’s boyfriend when they started spooning and taking selfies mid-match. Loudly argued the whole time, except when Sasha Banks came out and booty shorts started screaming for someone in the other section to stop distracting her with their chant. Giving white people a bad name, I tell you. ContemptContemptContempt.
There was a little light show before the show started, which I thought was kind of cool. I took it that they were trying to create a bit of a Raw/Smackdown atmosphere without the Raw/Smackdown resources. JoJo sang the national anthem, which I don’t think they do at Raw (at least not when I’ve gone.) She has a beautiful voice, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the Total Divas story line where she is hustling to get that gig.
Points of interest:
- William Regal was there, for a hot second. Am genuinely excited I can say I was in the presence of him and his Prince Charming hair.
- Blake & Murphy chants transformed into “Blake Sucks Murphy” chants which were met with a chorus of “That’s OK!”
- Finn Balor moves like a serpent child.
- Bayley is adorable and I would like to apply for her to be my big sister, she is like a lost member of The Babysitter’s Club.
- Kevin Owens is a fucking genius. At one point he ducked out of the ring, sat down on a folding chair, put his feet up, and everyone was transfixed on him even though Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor were wrestling (cue Sit Owens Sit! chants.)
- Bull Dempsey seemed genuinely amused by the anti-Bull Dempsey chants, which for some reason made me enjoy him more (?) It’s Cena logic. Absorb hate, transmute into begrudging respect.
- Solomon Crowe was the match I was most excited for, and then the most confused by. I thought a Philly crowd that at least attempted to get a CZW chant going every five minutes for two hours would give him a little more love. It kind of demonstrated a sad, too-nervous-to-be-the-first-one-to-raise-your-hand-in-class-aspect of wrestling spectating to me. I wanted to cheer for the motherfucker, I like him, but I also didn’t want to yell into a quiet theater either.
- Drake Younger was there, he ref’d Crowe’s match and my heart went pitter patter for a duo that once had a captor/captive relationship.
- The reception for the other Philly-staple, Rhyno, was equally weird. Initial huge positive reaction, then everyone turned on him. He garnered “Same Old Bullshit” chants, but it’s Rhyno, you just want to see him gore people anyway.
- Surprise appearance by Mick Foley, which obviously went over hugely well. He was warm, he was gracious, he inspired awe in both the fearsome and gentler sense of the word, he was Mick Foley.
- Triple H’s ability to trick me into being excited about him is impressive. Even in this post-Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling world, I do not care for Triple H. I don’t want to watch him wrestle, I don’t want to watch him patronize his semi-faux employees, I don’t buy him as the fake-real life boss in the way I would Vince McMahon. In the line, there were murmurs he would be attending, and when he appeared, I was thrilled. When I got home, I realize, what the fuck? I’ve seen him twice before. Well played Trips, you suit-wearing, Periscope-obsessed bastard.
- Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks was fucking awesome. There was some #GiveDivasAChance bandwagoning by Triple H beforehand (You wanted it! You got it!) that I felt was completely transparent. By drawing so much attention to the fact the main event was women, it only served to underscore the line drawn between the men’s and women’s divisions. But it’s hard to complain after how good they were. I thought the nuances were what really distinguished them from what’s going on on the main roster especially. The hair pulling, the shaking your opponent like a wild dog that’s just caught its prey between its jaws, fighting pins in a way that actually resembled human motion. At one point Sasha just let out a scream in frustration after Charlotte kicked out of roughly 2,328 pins and the whole theater audibly gasped. It wasn’t a demure-cupcake-tied-to-the-tracks whimper, this bitch sounded like she was dying. It was incredible.