He listened for a bit and then relayed to me a story from his television journalism days, when he had covered a WWF event. As he told it, he arrived early and was setting up shop at a ringside media table, when a representative from the WWF sauntered over and said with voice lowered, “I’m not so sure I’d pick that particular spot”.
Da Guy took that advice at face value and moved to another table. Sure enough, early in the first match of the evening, one of the wrestlers was tossed entirely out of the ring and landed with a thud on the very table that Da Guy had initially occupied.
“That’s an amazing story!” I said. “What were the chances of that happening?”
Da Guy was quiet for a long moment, as if he were contemplating something. “Enjoy the show, Tim”, he finally said.
And what was not to enjoy? I’ve been to several events at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, but never before had I witnessed a complete and total sell-out, with virtually every seat filled. In fact, the place was sold out beyondcapacity, given the temporary seating that had been set up around the ring.
After an elaborate introduction, the program started off with a short “Bonus Match”. The first official contest on the card however, was a singles match for the WWE Divas Championship. The reigning champion was Alicia Fox, from Ponte Vedra Beach , Florida – the home of the PGA Tour.
I barely had time to ponder whether the folks over at Tour HQ had thought to approach Ms. Fox about a co-branding relationship, when the house came down for the introduction of the challenger. It was none other than Melina, a wrestler from right here in Los Angeles – and obviously a crowd favorite.
Right from the start, Melina looked like she was in for a long match against the clearly more experienced Fox. The champion started out toying with her opponent – much to the highly vocal chagrin of the crowd. It was bad enough that Fox was physically dominating Melina, but she began to add insult to injury by taunting her. To my mind this was clearly unprofessional, and my outrage grew as Fox began to inflict what must have been painful – and what appeared to me to be patently illegal blows.
Just when it looked like Melina was totally spent however, she somehow mustered the energy for a comeback, catching Fox completely off-guard. Displaying amazing grittiness and sheer determination, Melina was able to use Fox’s early overconfidence against her and eventually prevail. And when the referee completed the three count which signaled a pin and the end of the match, the crowd erupted in a frenzy. Imagine – a hometown girl,against all odds, knocking off the champ in a huge upset.
What a great way to start the evening!
Next up was the WWE Singles Championship Match, pitting defending champions Sheamus against Randy Orton, another huge crowd favorite. It was fascinating to me how unanimous the crowd was in support of Orton over Sheamus – until the latter grabbed the microphone and started mouthing off.
That was all the motivation that Orton needed, and a titanic struggle ensued, during which both wrestlers were somehow able to throw the other out of the ring – only to see their worthy adversary pick himself off the ground and climb back in to inflict and receive more punishment. It was amazing to behold, and I couldn’t figure out how both competitors managed to avoid serious injury.
Like a man possessed, Orton finally got the upper hand, depositing Sheamus over one of the ringside tables and into a semi-conscious state. It wasexactly like what Da Guy had seen when he covered pro wrestling. What are the odds?
As you can imagine, the place went bonkers. In the middle of the celebration though, the referee emerged from the ringside fray and signaled that Orton had been disqualified for a rules infraction – and Sheamus had retained his belt.
I’ve seen a lot of sporting events, but I have to admit – I never saw that coming.
The whole thing really underscored that the toughest job in sports has got to be that of the WWE referee. In each match I viewed, there were so many close calls! I lost track of how many times a ref would get to the very brink of counting to three before the wrestler about to be pinned was able to wriggle one shoulder free. Talk about having to have split second reaction time!
Not only that, but it appeared to me that the refs had to make a ton of impromptu rules interpretations. These are such superior athletes that you never knew what they were capable of, and…
Wait a second…is that the phone? Hold that thought, I’ll be right back.
“Hello?…This is he…Yes, I was there…uh-huh…umm-hmmm…yeah, but…so what you’re telling me is it’s not real? Wow…OK…well, thanks for the call.”
This is a little embarrassing. See, it has very recently come to my attention that pro wrestling isn’t necessarily…I don’t know exactly how to say this …on the up and up. Apparently some of the improbable outcomes that I witnessed were somewhat…prearranged, shall we say?
You know, now that you mention it, I thought I recognized a lot of the more subtle wrestling strategies from old Three Stooges movies. In fact, all that was missing at times was the split-fingered poke in the eye, the “whoop, whoop, whoop” and the “why, I oughtta…”.
I guess this means that I owe you one. For as much as I fervently believed that WWE Summer Slam would offer wrestling at its highest levels, I am now shocked – shocked – to find out that it was merely a theatrical production. I guess that explains the ringside casket that Kane threw Rey Mysterio into during their World Heavyweight Championship match.
So here’s what I’m going to do – at some point later on in the Tour, I promise to cover a real live wrestling match and tell you what I find. My readers deserve that much. Even Da Guy.