Welcome to the greatest show on Earth.
Oh, it’s easy to turn your nose up at the WWE. It’s easy to say “but it’s for kids/it’s not real/they learn how to fall”, but unless you’ve put the time in watching sports entertainment, your opinion is about as valuable as a degree in media studies… from the internet. And furthermore, as much of a fan as you might be, until you’ve been to a live show, absolutely nothing can prepare you for the pure intensity of what you’re about to experience.
Who cares if everything is planned in advance? So is the new Indiana Jones movie, but you’re still going to go and watch it. Plus, Harrison Ford isn’t there in front of you, sweating, bleeding and risking serious injury with the sole intention of entertaining you.
And hell, the WWE knows exactly how to entertain you. No one works a crowd better. Current Raw general manager William Regal is one of only a few Brits in the WWE, so it’s only natural that he should form a large part of this evening’s proceedings. His appearance on the enormous Titantron (a fantastically huge TV screen) elicits a ridiculous cheer from the crowd, matched only by his ring entrance later on in the evening when he takes on champion Randy Orton.
No matter who is wrestling, the atmosphere crackles with energy. When Shawn Michaels makes an unscheduled appearance, it feels like the O2 dome is hovering in mid-air, powered by the buzz of invisible energy coming off the thousands of screaming HBK fans. When HHH stalks his way to the ring, not a single person is left sitting down – if there were walls, we’d be bouncing off them.
But it’s not a solely male-orientated event. Although outweighed in terms of exposure, the WWE has a roster of female stars (Divas) who are just as entertaining as their male counterparts. When fan-favourite the insanely perky Mickie James snatches the women’s belt from Glamazon Beth Phoenix, the amount of goodwill in the air is enough to put a smile on the face of a man with no head.
Live, WWE Raw (and I daresay it’s rival franchise Smackdown) is the friendliest group-experience you’ll encounter all year. Forget football matches or music festivals, here everyone is on the same side. No one has set out to cause trouble. No one is drinking themselves into oblivion or trying to buy dodgy substances from even dodgier people. We know who the good guys are, and we’re on their side. Hell, even if you find yourself next to someone chanting for the heel, it’s all good natured. This is entertainment, pure and simple, and you won’t find anything else like it in the world. Groups of 20 and 30-somethings cheer alongside kids who haven’t even hit double-figures yet; their parents, suckered into paying out for tickets, have found themselves having a better time than their progeny. Girlfriends, only there in an effort to spend time with their boyfriends, go mental when HHH makes his entrance. It’s hard not to. Every single match is like a rock-concert in miniature – the combatants greeted like Elvis fronting The Beatles on a tour of Japan.
Stand in the crowd as Shawn Michaels walks down the aisle, and I guarantee you’ll get chills. Try not to join the cacophony of boos when head-bastard JBL rolls into town. Feel the crackle of electricity in the air when the ring announcer tells you that you are being broadcast live around the world. Get swept away in the moment as the Raw theme bursts out from speakers around the auditorium and is almost drowned out by the thousands of people singing along even though they don’t know the words but know the right noises to make. I dare you not to join in. I dare you not to shout and cheer and high-five your buddies when the pyro goes off and flames and sparks explode above your head.
If the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand up as 20,000 people go batshit crazy around you, get yourself to the morgue – you’re clinically dead.
Next time someone pulls a face and asks you why you like wrestling, point them in the direction of a live WWE event. You wanna know why we like it? Because it’s a stupendously loud, fast, frenzied, violent pantomime. With fireworks.
The WWE is back in the UK later this year. Click here to find out when and where.