Card subject to change. The four words that can strike fear into the hearts of any wrestling fan.
The Raw House Show in Liverpool would have been decimated if the WWE had stuck to the on-screen “Superstar Shakeup”, but then you can’t sell tickets for a show that is headlined by Roman Reigns to not deliver him. Despite what the “IWC” might tell you about his drawing power…
So Roman and Finn Balor were here, despite moving to Smackdown. Bayley wasn’t, as per her erstwhile team-mate Sasha Banks although each for different reasons. And although they were originally named for the show when tickets went on sale they were pulled from the line-up weeks ago.
But I have to get one thing out of the way from the start; when right up to the day of the show, when she’d already been conspicuous by her absence from the previous European Tour dates, if you’re promised Alexa Bliss and don’t get her, Tamina Snuka is not an adequate “replacement”. It’s enough to make a man take to the interweb and threaten to cancel his network subscription. Of course if the app really is being removed from all the products that WWE claim it is next week, I might have to give it up anyway. But that’s a rant for another time.
With the Premier League season coming to a climactic end there was certainly a buzz around Liverpool, even if none of it was to do with the WWE. Even approaching the arena the atmosphere was a little muted; perhaps parents had been unable to disappoint their kids by staying at home to watch the football. Or perhaps as it became clear Liverpool weren’t going to win the league for the first time since Hulk Hogan’s glory days in the WWF the prospect of matches involving the likes of Titus O’Neill or Mojo Rawley weren’t enough to bring the mood up.
The show started in good fashion anyway as Ricochet and Aleister Black, erm, revived their short lived team to take on the Revival. A mix of old school tag team wrestling and the occasional 21st Century high-spot, this was an opener that got the crowd going and showcased a popular win for Ricochet and Black. Having sat in the Liverpool Arena last year as a non-plussed audience didn’t know who then NXT-star Black was, it was cool to see him back and get a good reception.
Titus O’Neill and EC3 couldn’t really follow that; no-one really cared either. But then a WWE House show crowd in the UK is very different from those that would watch TNA, or even NXT, so it was no surprise that EC3 wasn’t exactly generating nuclear heat. Rudimentary, at best.
Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix made an appearance next, tagging with Natalya to take on the Riott Squad duo of Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan. As someone who thinks Natalya is one of the most over-rated women on the WWE roster and who thinks that the only reasons Phoenix is remembered with such fondness by the WWE is because she was a decent worker in a very mediocre era for the Women – and that she’s married to genuine WWE royalty – this was not a match I was particularly enamoured for. Beth and Nattie went through the motions in a match that was more interested in playing to the crowd for cheers and claps than it was about delivering any action that would get the fans to cheer for anything wrestling related.
Things picked up with an NXT UK Title match between Walter and Pete Dunne. I am no fan of Walter (which again, is a rant for another time) but fans were into this one and even if it was inevitable that the champion would retain the two kept you guessing for long enough.
The first half closed with Becky Lynch defending her Raw Women’s Title against Lacey Evans and, yes, Tamina Snuka. It was OK, and Becky is over enough to carry the match in these circumstances and give the fans what they want but all it really served to prove was that Lacey isn’t ready for her push in title matches (as much as I love her character) and that Tamina simply isn’t getting any better at all. Post-match, the Riott Squad ran in only to be seen off by Beth and Nattie before the three babyfaces teased tension.
The second half kicked off with Mojo Rawley against Apollo Crews; because of his days in PCW as Uhaa Nation I have a soft spot for Crews. I was one of the few. At least Crews won, which was at least something. Mojo was livid though and wanted more competition, issuing an open challenge to anyone. For once it was quite a good surprise as Rey Misterio answered the call, although what followed was more an angle than an form of impromptu match. Rey teased the 619 only for EC3 to return to stop him but this inevitably led to a double 619, which did get a huge pop. Easy money for Rey at this late stage of his career.
Elias then became my hero with his pre-match sing-a-long. The Beatles references were obviously coming, as was his donning of a Manchester City shirt to serenade the Liverpool faithful with his own version of “Yesterday”. Of course he really cemented his hero status with me when he not only trolled the LFC fans with the League title references, but finished with saying that they were going to get beat by Spurs in the Champions League final too. Slightly odd that noted Spurs fan Finn Balor would take this time to interrupt proceedings, but the Intercontinental title match that followed was one of the most fun of the night.
And then it was time for the main event, as Braun Strowman became an “honorary” member of the Shield for the night by teaming with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to take on the dastardly trio of Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Baron Corbin. This was a LOT of fun with the inevitable “send the fans home happy” ending.
Taken as above you might think that I didn’t enjoy the show. But whilst it was low on “star-power” at times (and partly that is a personal preference because a lot of my favourites were elsewhere on the Smackdown portion of the tour) it was a joy to be in a crowd of people largely looking to enjoy their entertainment and just have a good time. It wasn’t PPV quality, of course, but that’s not the point of house shows. All in all an entertaining afternoon out.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @IWFICON. Thanks for reading!