WWE “Backlash” is in the books, and the co-branded May pay-per-view event set the table for an interesting “Raw” tonight and “SmackDown Live” on Tuesday. But before millions watch this week’s flagship shows on USA Network, TheWrap‘s got 7 things that no WWE Network subscriber caught at Sunday’s show.
We attended the Newark, N.J., pay-per-view event courtesy of some pretty killer tickets that didn’t come without controversy — more on that later, though. Before this writer admits to his role in a phony ticket scandal, we’ve got half-a-dozen other things one had to be in the house and (possibly) on the floor to see.
Find out how Bobby Roode got under the ring, which Superstars interacted the most with the Prudential Center crowd, and what lines were the roughest to navigate at The Rock. (No, not that The Rock — we’re referring to the Pru Center’s nickname.)
1. That Concerned Ref Was All for the Cameras
You know that very concerned ref who consoles the beaten-up loser after each match? Yeah, he’s not all that worried — until cued to be.
Savvy wrestling fans know that the earpiece-wearing ref distributes key information — like timing — to the wrestlers throughout the match, but the man in stripes isn’t done after the “1, 2, 3” count. The referee also must be in position to check on the “injured” wrestler when the director wants to switch shots from the victor celebrating to his or her victim suffering.
After all, it’s really just a (very good) TV show.
2. Bobby Roode Is the Man in Black
WWE Superstar Bobby Roode’s ring entrance Sunday was a little less “Glorious” than his usual strut down the ramp.
As Elias was hastily escorted to the ring in the dark arena for his comedy-relief skit on Sunday night, security surrounded another man dressed in all black with a hood pulled low over his head. That fella turned out to be Roode, who popped out from under the ring to deliver a Glorious DDT, seemingly out of nowhere.
And then the weird conga line thing happened.
3. But Do You Really “Want Enzo”?
OK, so you probably heard some of these on TV, but there was a weird number of chants for ex-WWE Superstar Enzo Amore — mostly during former tag team partner Big Cass’ match against Daniel Bryan.
It’s not unusual for a live crowd to troll Vince McMahon & Co. with calls for former stars (yes, there were also “CM Punk” chants Sunday night in Newark), but considering that Enzo (né Eric Arndt) was fired earlier this year after being accused of rape, those calling for Amore were making gigantic asses of themselves. (Arndt has denied the accusations.)
The man who was canned while Cruiserweight Champion is from New Jersey, which means geography explains some of the noise — but not the ignorance.
4. Snaking Merch Lines
At most sporting events, the lines for an arena’s entrances, its bathrooms and beers are the most egregious — but that wasn’t the case in Newark.
The WWE’s “PG Era” attracts families, and kids prefer merchandise over booze. The line to buy (overpriced) t-shirts, championship belts and “Money in the Bank” briefcases resembled the U.S. Customs line at JFK.
Last night, we traded in the Dos Equis for good old-fashioned American Bud Light. At least there was no wait for the cold ones — or for the urinals after drinking a (responsible) number of those cold ones.
5. Roman Is for the Kids!
The WWE Universe has a strange relationship with Roman Reigns. The adults boo the hell out of him for a few reasons: 1) He’s been pushed relentlessly to replace John Cena as the face of the company, 2) Your girlfriend finds him very attractive, 3) Reigns kept the SHIELD attire, crowd entrance and song after the fan-favorite faction disbanded, and 4) He’s not the best technical wrestler.
None of that bothers the kids (or secure adults who understand where they are). After Reigns dropped Samoa Joe in last night’s main event and the cameras cut off, the polarizing Superstar took photos with a number of children at ringside — more than anyone else was willing or able to.
Save your booing for someone else, guys.
6. Jeff Hardy’s Art Includes Autographs
Seated on the entrance ramp, one is up close and personal to the comings and goings of each Superstar. The only high-five we personally got was from Jeff Hardy, who also stopped on the way back to sign a young girl’s poster board by us. It was the lone autograph we witnessed.
To be fair to the whole locker room, a live televised show is not really the time or place for autographs. On the way to the ring, it’s pure business. On their way back up, the losing wrestler has to hold what hurts and limp backstage, while the winner poses for the WWE Network cameras before hitting the showers. And if it’s a “heel” (the wrestling term for a baddie) who wins, he or she can’t break character to interact with the fans.
Plus, the WWE producers do a nice job keeping these long shows moving between the action, so it’s not quite a meet-and-greet opportunity.
7. Fake Tix — Hey, It’s Still Newark
Here’s some free advice: Never buy tickets from a scalper on the streets of Newark, New Jersey.
While the Prudential Center is a fine venue and the area around the home to the NHL’s New Jersey Devils is developing nicely, the city of Newark itself can still be a dicey place. Plus, the business of live sporting events extends well beyond the official box office.
We experienced that firsthand, missing the very beginning to The Miz and Seth Rollins’ excellent opening match to sort out a fake ticket problem. Long story short, our stubs were the legit ones, and the (ejected) squatters in our rightful seats learned an expensive and unfortunate lesson that likely made them Ticketmaster customers for life. Shoutout to the professional Prudential Center security team who worked it all out quickly, correctly and kindly.