The last time I had attended a taping of Monday Night Raw was way back in 2001. I use to attend shows frequently at Madison Square Garden and always enjoyed them. There was, and is, nothing quite like attending a WWE event live. This month I happened to find myself in Southern California with tickets to attend last nights Raw at the Pond in Anaheim. I was very excited to be back there, and to be tweeting directly from the live event on my twitter like I do EVERY Monday night, so if you have a twitter check me out there (@onecountkickout). At my time of arrival the crowd was wrapped around the building waiting to get in and there was a local rap radio station there handing out candy and talking about the WWE. The crowd seemed pretty diverse, and there was a large number of families with small children. There was a nice energy in the building.
I knew that Raw was going to give us a surprise in announcing the special guest host for Wrestlemania 27. The rumors had been flying for a week and I’d heard every name possible and even some that were just totally improbable. I put the Rock’s name into the unlikely list. The Rock is always rumored to be doing something with WWE, even going back to this past year where it was rumored he’d be the guest host of Raw for the entire summer. After years of hoping and years of being let down I decided not to allow myself to believe he’d return. I decided to kick back, enjoy the show and just wait to be surprised.
The show began with tapings for Superstars, and though I’ll say the matches, I won’t spoil the outcome for those of you who watch. The first match I saw taped was Yoshi Tatsu and DH Smith against the Usos. Entertaining match, back and forth pace, some nice spots involved. A good way to introduce the crowd to a WWE event. The second match was Vladimir Kozlov and Santino against Zak Ryder and Primo. Typical comedy spots from Santino, they got the crowd laughing. That was it for Superstars, however. Now we were on to Raw. A lot of ads on the big screen for Wrestlemania, and for Summerslam which they announced for August 14th from the Staples center in Los Angeles. Oddly, not much of a crowd reaction at all for the 2-21 promos.
Announcers were introduced, Michael Cole got a lot of heat and walked to the ring with his Slammy in hand, waving to the crowd who were booing him pretty hard. No Jerry Lawler, however, with his mother passing away Sunday and I would like to add my name to the list of those who have offered their condolences for this. For most of the show the crowd was into the matches, although I have to admit that there was some dead crowd reaction during the Miz vs Daniel Bryan match. The crowd seemed fairly split down the middle on this match, with the younger side of the audience cheering for Bryan and the older part cheering for the Miz. A few “Miz is awesome” chants broke out. The divas match got little crowd reaction, although Natalya is very over.
John Cena’s entrance got a loud pop and the crowd seemed into him, around 75% of the audience seemed to be cheering for Cena while a smaller portion of the older males yelled a lot of “Cena sucks” but for the most part you didn’t hear anything negative. Orton also received a loud pop, and I didn’t hear a single person yell anything negative about him. Punk got a mixed reaction also, mostly heat but there were some chanting for him. I’d put his crowd reaction into a similar category as the Miz. Orton seemed to interact with the crowd more. Both after his match and after the dark match main event (Miz and Punk vs Cena and Orton.) Orton high fived, shook hands, patted kids on the head, signed autographs and posed a lot for the crowd. Cena signed one or two autographs but didn’t seem to interact with the crowd as much as I’d expected. Although it did seem as though his wife was in attendance as after the dark match main event he kissed a woman at ringside for a prolonged period of time.
Now for the moment we’d all been waiting for. The limo arrives and we see a woman’s legs exiting it. Many in the crowd began saying “Stephanie” thinking it was Stephanie McMahon. This seemed possible, although the legs getting out of the limo had on the exact same high heels as Maryse wore earlier in the night so I’m guessing she filled that teasing spot. They announced the special guest host would be coming out and the lights went out, the crowd got quieter as the graphic of electricity was showing on the titantron. However, as soon as the words “If you smell..” hit the arena air that crowd absolutely exploded. This was by far the loudest pop I’ve ever been a part of, or heard. It was pure insanity and the energy level increased by 100%. Rock’s arrival stunned a lot of the audience and everyone was on their feet for it.
When the Rock began talking and doing his iconic sayings, the crowd mostly went along with it although it did seem as though many of the younger audience members had no idea what was going on. As we yelled along with “Finally the Rock has come back to Anaheim” the little girl in front of me turned to her father and asked “How do they know what he’s going to say?” and then it occurred to me that if Rock really had been gone for 7 years, this girl was probably not alive the last time he stood in a WWE ring.
The crowd went absolutely nuts when Rock began berating Michael Cole, including myself. It was an awesome moment, as was basically every moment the Rock stood in the ring. Surprisingly as soon as the Rock mentioned someone talking smack about it, and then said “John Cena” people booed the hell out of that name. The Rock had immediately turned the crowd on Cena so this should lead to an interesting moment between the two of them at Wrestlemania. Rock walked off, and after the show, played to the crowd for a minute or two. However, after the Rock walked off and the show went off the air, Cena came out for the dark match main event and the crowd popped for him just as loud as before.
After the show everyone around the arena was buzzing about the Rock. I didn’t hear any conversation taking place that wasn’t about him, all the way out into the parking lot. All in all that was absolutely the best WWE show I have ever attended and the return of the Rock will forever remain etched in my brain as unforgettable. We hit the road to Wrestlemania last month, but this has been the biggest announcement thus far. Rock is guaranteed to be entertaining at Wrestlemania and I, for one, can’t wait to see it. Though I admit, I do wonder what the Rock meant when he said he’d never leave us again. Time will tell. All I know is that last night was one hell of a moment to be a part of.