Fun fact: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s famous “Austin 3:16” catchphrase was born right here in Milwaukee at the 1996 King of the Ring tournament. This is but one of many tidbits of wrestling history threaded through the city. These days, Turner Hall is becoming a well-loved local venue for more than just bands—just ask the fans that made Mondo Lucha a thing, or folks and regulars at The Vanguard, which features wrestlers on its walls and in its eclectic video mix. Milwaukee loves wrestling, and much of the time, wrestling loves Milwaukee back.
This Thursday, history will be made again as WWE’s NXT makes a stop at Turner Hall Ballroom as part of the wrestling show’s first major tour of the country. NXT is normally only available on the WWE Network, which applies Netflix-style programming to pro wrestling. Seeing a live wrestling show is just as exciting as seeing a live performance of a favorite band, and it makes perfect sense that WWE would choose Milwaukee as one of the first cities on the tour. The tour is sold out here and in Chicago, though Green Bay’s event still has tickets available. If you happen to score a loose ticket or are on the fence about making a pilgrimage to Green Bay for something besides watching the Packers-Cardinals game in the homeland, here are some reasons to give NXT a chance.
NXT gets back to basics
Yes, it’s fake. Spoiler alert: the zombies in Walking Dead are also not real. Wrestling as a means of telling stories can get crazy with outside soap opera elements. NXT keeps the story all around the titles, the feuds, the personalities, and the matches. It started out as a AAA league for WWE’s programming, but many fans claim that some of today’s stars did their best work in NXT, and that they were already fans of them before moving up to Raw or Smackdown. NXT’s style of storytelling makes it accessible to newcomers who don’t have the time for big explanations in order to get caught up on storylines. Watch one show and it becomes clear who to cheer (a.k.a. the faces) and who to boo (a.k.a the heels). It also appeals to hardcore fans that just want to see some impressive feats of stage combat without Robocop showing up.
NXT built up women’s wrestling
For many years women’s matches were a sideshow attraction, or an excuse to get future Playboy models to flop around in catfights that made Jerry Springer look like Charles Dickens. Women wrestlers from NXT bring athleticism, storytelling, and emotion to their matches and the fans have responded. Current Women’s Champion Bayley has a strong connection with fans big and small. In a world on the lookout for strong female characters, you’d be hard pressed to find better examples.
It’s the future of WWE
Many of the main roster’s current champions are former NXT stars. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Bray Wyatt are all out of NXT, and nearly all the current main roster champions came out of the league. The Divas (ugh) division on the main roster recently called up most of The Four Horsewomen to take over their division. Many of the big names from the past few years like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Daniel Bryan are currently injured, so this might be the last chance to see a few of these NXT wrestlers before they get called up to the big time at the upcoming Royal Rumble.
Wrestling is (almost) cool to watch again
Max Landis’ “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling” video has over 2 million views. The Rock has finally made the transition to full-time acting but still takes time to visit the old hood when the mood strikes. Dave Bautista seems to be walking in The Rock’s footsteps with surprisingly good turns in Guardians Of The Galaxy and Spectre. Many sports teams get WWE championship belts to celebrate their big victories. Did you really think State Farm’s marketing department came up with the Discount Double Check?