Just how much are WWE tickets? This question intrigues me, because I have never been to any WWE live events before, and going to a WWE event is definitely on my bucket list. If you US/Canadian fans like to complain about how far the shows are away from your hometown, let me put my WWE journey into proper perspective.
The sunny little island of Singapore where I reside is about 9511.35 miles (15307.03 KM) away from USA. If I buy a Singapore airline ticket (best airline in the whole wide world) to New York, that will cost me around US$1200. The hotel will probably empty me of another US$1000 for a couple of nights stay plus food. Getting my ass all across the oceans, I will surely get the front row Raw admission ticket, which will be around US$50, the cheapest item in the whole adventure. That’s an estimated total of US$2250! So, we, the international fans, are certainly short-changed by WWE.
--JWG, 2014, Googling Wrestling
It's been a long time, since I graced the CF with a column. I have been wanting to write, but my mind has moved on somewhat from the enthusiasm of discussing wrestling because my fandom has diminished to a state of comatose.
Why? When I was a kid, Kayfabe was alive and well. Not in the sense that the whole world still believes “wrestling is real”, but rather that I, the youth, was veiled from knowing the truth. Suspending my disbelief was a natural feat. I felt the emotions. I thought what I witnessed - the blood, the swear words, the bumps, the characters - were real.
Even after I wised up and knew wrestling was fake, the stunts themselves still held a power over me - the Last Ride, for example, was magnificent; the Pedigree, in my own words was “the most powerful finisher ever”. I had a child-like wonder - everyone of us did, right up to our teenage years.
Then, we grew old. Growing up was ok. But the spirit grew old. Cynical. Mature. And we lost the magic.
Being a seasoned fan means that we see many things through a lens of knowing. Like a prophetic Seer, we sense how matches will go, how this pin is going to be a kick-out, how that guy is going to do and then what comes next. And that’s… boring.
A simple concept, the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. I can only watch wrestling this much before I get sick of seeing the exact same replica of matches, promos, stories all rolled into one giant cliche, inviting me to suspend my disbelief.
Why did I get cynical? Because of tropes. I hate superhero movies, because of tropes. Watching Avengers AoU is like watching John Cena humbling himself, pretending to be the Underdog while the bad guy reign with full potential and yet threaten nothing at all. We all know Cena wins out in the end. And Avengers AoU just felt hollow by the end of it.
Tropes are what make things predictable and stagnant.
The wrestling universe is one whole giant circus of repeated tropes and cliches that feed on the industry’s self-awareness. It’s like wrestling never grew beyond the same hot tags, the same stories, the same finisher kick-outs and choreographed scenarios. That is why Brock Lesnar was so exciting when he burst into the scene at Extreme Rules 2011, took all the industry’s in-ring traditions and spit on its face with a contrary match against Cena (though the match similarly fell to the superhero fightback trope that we are accustomed to in John Cena’s repertoire.) 4 years later, even Brock Lesnar can’t muster enough excitement in me anymore.
Like, really, do I love pro-wrestling that much anymore?
The sad answer is no. But then there's the happy answer.
At the lowest of my expectations, WWE traveled 10000 miles to the sunny island of Singapore.
Yes, the adult in me has left the passion long before. But the child in me was bubbling with excitement. It is a contradictory feeling. I can’t explain it.
The Singapore indoor stadium - about the same size as the Sumo dome in Beast in the East
Pro-wrestling was a big part of my childhood.
Pro-wrestling, as much as I can try to ignore it, refuses to ignore me.
So this is JWG. No gimmicks, just a man living a dream that he had since he was 10.
My heart swelled,
my body tensed with excitement.
Feeling the raw (pun not intended) experience of being there live,
for the first time in my entire life.
Chanting and jumping and smiling and laughing and skipping - I couldn't control myself.
It's exhilarating to be.... alive again. To be trilled again.
Predicting the cliches on TV is nothing compared to witnessing the most beloved and time-tested tropes of wrestling over and over again, in the ultra-high definition environment of a live event. I thought being there at a live event can blunt my sight from experiencing the dreaded tropes we memorised from TV. I was wrong.
Kofi Kingston vs Neville, opening match.
The New Days, being a team of three villains, contributed greatly to the advancement of the show that night. Whenever there’s 3, it means the referee will pretend to be distracted over and over again over the course of a match. As obvious as the noonday sun, Neville got screwed big time by Big E and Xavier Woods. And as obvious as stars on a clear night sky, Neville the high flyer had a big spot where he jumped (and man, gravity did forget him) on all three members of New Days, taking them out before doing his spinning circus move to win the match.
There was the infamous spot - “heroes feeding on claps”. The villains (Kofi, Barrett, Kevin) will always try to stop the hero (Neville, Balor, Cena) with a sleeper hold or any hold that stalls the match to a grinding halt. And low and behold, like trained animals, the fans started clapping, first in a slow, loud momentum, then rapidly into a scattering of claps which always, without fail, fed the hero with a mysterious energy right on cue. Works like a charm every time. And I wonder why the villains even bothered with the hold in the first place.
Hey, I may seem cynical here, but to be honest I was jumping and cheering and chanting along...
New, Day Suck! New, Day Sucks!
Let’s go Neville - clap clap, clap clap clap!
Maybe the tropes aren’t disgusting after all - the familiarity is almost endearing. Hey, it’s all fucking obvious, but we all know that because we are a family since I was 10 years old.
Los Matados vs Lucha Dragons - battle of the chants. Los Matados are much bigger sized than I expected.
There was a debate, raging in my mind, about whether chants are important in propelling wrestlers to super-stardom. The live event put the debate to rest. Chants are paramount for a live experience to create fun interactions with the audience. Los Matados was out with Lucha. Both teams were faces by default, and both teams were using the “face-posturing” tropes to full advantage - The Matados repeatedly flicking their hands up in the air like bullfighters to elicit loud “Ole!” chants, while the Lucha dragon just swing their hips side to side, pointing their fingers towards heaven in sync with the “Lu--cha! Lu--cha!” chants.
To be clear, the Matados wanted to establish a heel persona over the course of the match - what better way than to expel their cute harmless mascot, Torito, and to repeatedly cheat in the match? The hot tags can be spotted from a 100 miles away, the action was very fast paced but predictable, and Torito turning face on his stable was a touch of basic wrestling psychology 101.
And boy, did I lap it up like a puppy licking fresh milk.
By this time, the common pro-wrestling tropes was becoming so rampant on display. However, instead of boring me, they excite me. It’s like meeting a long lost relative whose annoying habits are surfacing again, but all so heart-warming.
Wade Barrett vs Finn Balor
Wade Barrett’s persona was the zen of the typical foreign heel act. He insulted Singapore, called us all peasants, and proceeded to crown himself as the King of Singapore. What utter annoying tripe which most big bad foreign heels use to get heat. Well, Barrett using the foreign bastard trope earned himself the chant of the night…
PRINCESS BARRETT! Clap clap, clap clap clap!
Who cares if the promo style was dated? The crowd can’t wait for Finn Balor, an underdog half of Barrett’s size, to kick his butt. The whole “feeding on claps” thing was on display here, as Barrett placed Finn in numerous holds. Of course, that’s the mandatory spot where Barrett got kicked out of the ring, and inexplicably stood at the exact spot to receive Balor who leap-frogged over the top rope, right at the perfect timing. The hero won after a lot of selling, some last minute offenses and a coup de grace. Very typical, so ordinary - but I was screaming and jumping out of my seat.
This is awesome! This is awesome!
Kane vs Dolph Ziggler in an audience choice match
The half-time main event was a joyful one. Kane came out to MASSIVE response from the audience, as Singaporeans fed on the Attitude Era while growing up. The silly announcer was asking the audience for a choice between 2 type of matches - A normal one on one match, or a SINGAPORE STREET FIGHT! Urgh, the audacity of WWE to name their street fights after Chicago, Kuala Lumpur, Canada, Tokyo or whichever city they are pandering to! Another common theme of wrestling's quirks. I have never heard of a Singapore Softball match or a Indian Ping Pong challenge, so why a Singapore street fight? Not as if the competitors were out in Singapore’s famous Orchard Road knocking each other out.
Dolph Ziggler was selling most of time (as all smaller sized heroes do) and Kane was surprisingly agile for his size. The man’s incredibly fit for his age and to witness his longevity was a sight to behold. Here we have the usual stuff that all street fights will have in wrestling - Kane was wielding the Kendo stick, aptly nicknamed the Singapore Cane. Yes, we whip our hardcore prisoners in jail, up to 20 strokes. It was said that the asses will bleed and the scars will form permanently. Grown men passed out to the “caning”, as we call it.
Tables, steel steps, chairs - all of these were used, but none on the heads of the 2 competitors. Dolph even took a chokeslam through a table:
Only to kick out at 2! There was another table spot, where Dolph toss Kane through a table in the ring corner, and right on cue, Kane stumbled back to exactly where Dolph had enough space to jump and hit the Zig Zag for the win. Of course, the whole proceeding was choreographed to a perfect shine - I can almost swear that I called the match move for move - but man was it the most entertaining bout of the night.
Toilet break and I took off to the merchandise stands, only to find ALL of Kevin Owen’s KO shirts sold out. I took a piss, came back and lo and behold, Tamina and Nikki Bella were fighting it out. The Diva’s match is wrestling’s favourite segment… for toilet breaks. Indeed, I was so captivated, I even forgot to take a photo of the match. Typical match with… you guessed it, a very strong looking Tamina losing by the Roll of Doom. All the stereotypes of a woman's wrestling? Checked.
Big E vs Cesaro
Cesaro is a monster. Yes, Big E looked like he’s a bear, but Cesaro could easily catch the bear in mid-air like a paper doll and slammed him to the mat with ease. The New Day’s entertaining heel persona continued to be thorns in the referee’s and Cesaro’s sides. I must question the referee, Mike Chioda, who was either half blind or half deaf, or both. He was so inept in his ability to keep order, that the Singaporean fans went full berserk and chanted:
Referee kayu! Referee kayu!
Which being translated means:
Referee play cheat! Referee play cheat!
It was a such a fun night so far. Mike Chioda wised up after a long duration of the match and threw New Day’s Kofi and Xavier out of the arena (another pattern in the tropes of the night). Also, the "You fucked Up" chants made an appearance when Big E ran into Cesaro head on instead of jumping over the top rope as Cesaro was pulling down the rope inviting him to jump over and fall to the outside (yeah, think about it, some wrestling moves just don't make sense.) Cesaro’s swing into the sharpshooter ended the match, and it was great to watch.
Then it was main event time.
The main event
Cena vs Owens
I wrote about how jaded I am with wrestling’s recurring themes, and that the magic of wrestling has lost its power over me. John Cena’s presence as the ultimate face of WWE makes the theme of his feuds and matches one big repeated cycle of his victories. Lose a bit, fight back, win conclusively, repeat.
That’s the John Cena matra; that’s his feud pattern. So this last match, being connected to the previous bouts of kick-out fests against Kevin, is going down the same route of rinse and repeat. I knew which moves he’s going to kick out from; I knew the feigns, the counters, the actions, the finish. I knew that John Cena wasn’t allowed to lose, but in order to keep heat on Kevin, the match got to go DQ, and it did. Kevin low-blowed Cena, and Cena AAed him to send the crowd home happy.
Despite the “seen that, done that” mentality I had, the match really took wrestling to another level for me - the tropes of big moves and big kick outs were quite exciting to watch live. We stood up when Cena slammed down the near falls - we jumped up and down when Kevin nailed all the same counters we have seen before. When John locked in the STF, the stadium went nuts; the men shouting no, the children screaming yes! Mayhem and delirious laughter rang through the entire indoor stadium.
I felt electricity down my spine, just right there, watching the apex of wrestling, John Cena, took on the brightest star of the future, Kevin Owens. Right there and then, my heart leaped in joy.
This is pro-wrestling.
This is magic.
The live event in Singapore - the only one after 8 LONG YEARS of waiting - was just a blip in pro-wrestling history. But for me, this memory will last a lifetime. As John Cena spoke to us, thanking the fans of Singapore for waiting 8 long years, I almost felt a tiny tear in my eyes.
I was a child again.