Goodness gracious, is it already time for another live WWE event at the Bradley Center? WWE’s “blue brand,” Smackdown Live, broadcasts from the soon-to-be-retired home of the Bucks this Tuesday. Why, it was just last March that the world’s top wrestling—er, “sports entertainment”—company descended on Milwaukee for the Fastlane pay-per-view.
Ah, I remember March 2017 like it was only last spring: Charo was revealed as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars; WWE Hall of Famer and national embarrassment Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, and WWE Monday Night Raw’s Top Guy, the Universal Champion, was a doughy Canadian with a beer gut named Kevin Owens who can go a half hour in a wrestling ring despite his appearance. Owens, who famously has referred to Turner Hall—just across the street!—as one of his favorite venues to crash through a table in, was scheduled to defend his Universal Title against Goldberg, a 50-year-old relic from the 1990s WCW/WWF Monday Night Wars who gets gassed after two minutes in a wrestling ring. See, the WWE likes to do this thing around WrestleMania season where, in order to draw in lapsed fans, they push old retreads over the young workhorses that represent the future of the company. I for one was dreading the Fastlane main event, worried that Milwaukee’s favorite bad guy was being served up on the altar of nostalgia by way of a 30-second squash after a Goldberg spear and jackhammer (note: these are names of wrestling maneuvers, not physical weapons).
The rest of the card was entertaining enough. Two other Turner Hall alums, snarling badass Samoa Joe and wholesome babyface (and ska enthusiast) Sami Zayn, clashed in a hard-hitting opener. Enzo Amore, a yipping Schnauzer with a leopard-print dye job, had the crowd chanting along with all his best catchphrases before assuming his usual position on his back, getting pinned by his opponents as his tag team partner, Big Cass, tried to bail him out. The Swiss Cyborg, Cesaro, cruised to an entertaining but easy win over perennial doormat Jinder Mahal, a classic Punjabi “evil foreigner” gimmick who plays on xenophobia and sings the praises of his native India—even though he’s actually from Calgary.
As the main event approached, my wife and I got more and more nervous with each minute of show that ticked by. WWE pay-per-views generally wrap up around 10 p.m., and as the production crew prepared for the final bout, the clock creeped up on 9:55. Oh, hell, they’re really gonna let the nostalgia act with the gray goatee beat the dude 20 years his junior in 30 seconds aren’t they? God dammit.
Give our boy credit—Owens did his best to stall the inevitable, ducking out of the ring, teasing heading back in to start the match, ducking out again. But finally, just as he yelled to the ref to ring the bell, it happened: KO’s mortal enemy, the getting-up-there-but-not-embarrasingly-old-yet-even-though-he-dresses-like-your-Bon-Jovi-loving-sad-uncle Chris Jericho (who happens to be one of my all-time favorite wrestlers—oh, the irony!), appeared on the entrance ramp to distract the champion, opening him up for the inevitable spear, jackhammer, and 1-2-3 pin. Boom. Your new Universal Champion (just in time for WrestleMania!): Goldberg! Well, at least it wasn’t a 30-second match. (It was 22 seconds.)
I’d had it. This predetermined, choreographed result was a catastrophic outrage! It was paramount that I make my displeasure known, so as Goldberg celebrated on the turnbuckle facing our direction, new title belt in hand, I did what any red-blooded American wrestling fan who went to college during the Attitude Era would do: I flipped him off. I flipped him off so hard. With both fingers. I just knew I’d bum him out if he saw me. (There is zero chance he saw me.)
The people who did see me, though, happened to be Bradley Center security, and since the WWE in 2017 is a TV-PG show, and the venue is ostensibly family-friendly, they were forced to take action against the pudgy 42-year-old adult man flipping the bird at the jacked 50-year-old standing 200 feet away in his underpants. That’s right—they issued me a sternly written warning on a postcard, which I noticed after a dude behind me tapped me on the shoulder to say, “Oh, hey, one of the ushers put this on your shoulder, but it fell off.” (That’s right: they either didn’t want to deliver it to my face, or they tried and I was way too into yelling “fuck you” at someone who is likely a very nice person in real life, even if he gave Bret Hart a concussion once and forced him to retire.)
You are being issued a warning that your comments, gestures, and/or behaviors constitute excessive verbal abuse and are in violation of the Fan Code of Conduct.
This is the first and only warning that you will receive. If, after receiving this warning, you verbally abuse any spectator, performer or member of staff, you will be immediately ejected from the arena without a refund.
While cheering is heartily encouraged, and appreciated, the use or display of profane, abusive, threatening, vulgar or discriminatory language, signs, acts or behavior is strictly prohibited, as is standing for extended periods of time or other distracting actions that obstruct view or significantly impact the enjoyment of other fans.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center is committed to providing an environment where all our fans can enjoy and celebrate in the excitement of this live entertainment experience!
Please respect your fellow fans, our staff, the performers and enjoy the event!
Chastened and disciplined, I now look forward to Tuesday’s Smackdown Live (followed by an episode of WWE’s cruiserweight division showcase, 205 Live) a changed man, determined to enjoy myself in a family-friendly, wholesome manner while Jinder Mahal accuses the audience of being racist.
And what else has changed since March? Not only has Mahal (a member of Fastlane’s Monday Night Raw roster in March) moved to Smackdown, but Kevin Owens has moved to the blue brand as well, and despite his embarrassing loss to the (once again retired) Goldberg, is still one of the main attractions of the show. Sami Zayn moved from Raw to Smackdown as well, but a recent shocking heel turn has him doing less skanking and more running with the devil—his old frenemy, Owens. Enzo Amore? He’s now a main attraction on 205 Live and may be a two-time Cruiserweight Champion by the time this piece runs—and fans are starting to hate his guts almost as much as the locker room is rumored to. And that perennial also-ran Mahal—a decent character, but never someone whose in-ring work has stood out as anything above average—is now WWE World Heavyweight Champion, because the company is trying to make pandering inroads into the Indian television market.
But I make this promise to the Bradley Center—even though, once again, a local WWE live event is going to be headlined by someone the smart mark in me doesn’t want to see as champion. I’ll hold my tongue, and I certainly won’t flip anyone the bird, because I’ll be damned if I miss Shinsuke Nakamura kicking some fool’s head off. I promise to respect my fellow fans, the staff, and especially the performers. Enjoy the event, Milwaukee!