Just wanted to drop a report from Friday night's Smackdown house show in Fairbanks, AK:
Fairbanks weather as the kids and I entered the arena was -20*F. That's really not as bad as it sounds if you live here. If you're Layla and from Miami, it's probably a significant emotional event.
Tony Chimel opened up the evening's festivities at the Carlson Center at about 7:32pm with a welcome and the playing of the National Anthem. He then announced the text/Twitter voting for the stipulation of the main event: best 2 of 3 falls or no-DQ…You know which way the vote will go already. I voted for 2 of 3 falls.
I've seen more people in here for a UAF hockey game than there are for this Smackdown World Tour house show. The crowd is a mix of old school guys like me who have followed forever and kids in the know with their clueless parents. If there are over 2000 people here, I'd be amazed. Sad since I've been to regional promotion events in much smaller locales that had higher attendance.
Usos vs. Prime Time Players led off. Great back and forth action. Usos got a good pop from the crowd, which was surprising as they're really under-utilized on television. PTPers bring some real heel heat. They started off with some typical heel stalling and Titus running a barbershop in the corner taking care of Darren's hair…which was summarily messed up by the Usos. You really don't have an appreciation for how good all four of these guys are when you see them on TV. Titus is a monster and works great with D. Young. The Usos have some great athleticism. Usos got a clean pin fall victory.
Curt Hawkins vs. Justin Gabriel. Hawkins came out first. He got his hair cut pretty short. He brings real heat. He spent a good amount of time ripping on Alaska, the cold, and the hicks. I was surprised Justin Gabriel didn't get much of a pop. These are two very good workers who worked a really nice match. Crowd wasn't into it. Neither got much of a pop from the crowd. Gabriel won after a Lionsault from the ropes for a clean pin fall.
Aksana vs. Layla. Aksana pulled some good heel moves on the crowd, feinting high fives, hugs, and kisses and entered the ring. Layla's music hit, but the crowd had no idea who it was. Tony chimed in and announced Layla and then the crowd bit, Layla made up for Aksana's rudeness by slapping the high fives and giving the hug to a guy ringside. Layla looked great. Akasana definitely needs a lot of work in the ring, she did not look good at all. Layla carried this match and is a great worker. I think she's better than a lot of the guys on the rosters. Match went longer than I anticipated with Aksana using some cabernet-type shenanigans. Layla grew tired of it and got the clean pin.
3MB (Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal) vs. Kofi Kingston. I read the notes from the Anchorage show…Alaska is the USA, so Drew McIntyre not being here is not due to immigration or paperwork (unless they had some shows in Canada on the way up or his legal problems are so big he can't fly at all). 3MB(-) went back and forth with each other on which of their hit singles they would perform for the audience and finally decided upon Sweet Home West Virginia when Kofi's music hit (thank you Kofi). Kofi got a good pop from the small crowd. Slater worked the match. I don't think this was the best work from either guy. Lots of weak back and forth until finally Kofi hit a Trouble in Paradise for the win. I thought it was a lackluster match.
Team Hell No & Randy Orton vs. The Shield: Team Hell No entered first, then when Orton's music hit, the crowd exploded! Huge pop and I marked out a little bit. The Shield entered through the crowd as per their standing operating procedure. I don't think my friends here in Alaska are tracking on The Shield, because they got nothing in terms of a response. Orton started the match with Ambrose. Great action…this seems more like a main event match with the quality of the work. I am amazed how tiny Daniel Bryan is…even next to Randy Orton who is pretty normal size. Within the Shield, I think Ambrose is the best worker. He has good "insane" mannerisms when wrestling. The match didn't last too long, as just as in Anchorage, Reigns cames in with the chair on RKO causing the DQ. Melee ensued with a trifecta of finishers (dropkick, chokeslam, RKO). They did the same group hug as in previous house shows. Orton remained in the ring and ringside for a few minutes with the fans.
We went to a 15-minute intermission. Here, I think WWE made a mistake in making a thank you announcement about the National Guard (I know, they're in a marketing partnership)…meanwhile Fort Wainwright's main gate and 6000 active duty Soldiers are less than 2 miles from the Carlson Center (Eilson Air Force Base is about 15 miles away as well with active Air Force members). Terrible oversight in my opinion which drew an undesired reaction (boos). They should realize the crowd was predominately active duty Army Soldiers and their families…someone needs to do their homework.
David Otunga vs. Great Khali w/Hornswoggle. Khali gets a good pop, but this match was terrible. Neither Khali nor Otunga work well and certainly do not work well together. Khali was missing his moves pretty bad and Otunga can't sell to save his job. If he wasn't with Jennifer Hudson, he'd be practicing law, not on the card. Khali had a few good and loud slaps to Otunga's chest, to the delight of the crowd. Other than that, nothing special…Khali with the pin after Hornswoggle gave Otunga a stunner, and they danced. Observations: The top of Hornswoggle's head is at Khali's waistline. Khali hasn't had new ring attire made in about 10 years. His "Punjabi Playboy" pants look in bad shape. He needs something new.
Wade Barrett vs. Sheamus. Barrett came in and cut a promo about how he's a real man and if he wanted to could come out and take out every man in the crowd one-by-one. He drew some good heat, especially since the crowd is either (1) a Soldier or (2) an Alaskan pipeline worker – pick your poison. Great heel work. Sheamus got the biggest pop of the night. The crowd really went off when his music hit and he entered the ring. This was a really good match working back and forth with several near-falls. Kids everywhere were screaming for the Brouge Kick! Sheamus finally hit it for a win. Great match, I hope the rest of the talent on this trip was watching this match.
Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio w/Ricardo Rodriguez. Big Show came out to a very good response. Crowd doesn't care the Show is supposed to be the heel and ADR the face, especially since 10-15% of the crowd had left by this point. Once both men are in the ring, Tony announced this will be a no-DQ match (receiving 61% of the vote). Not a bad match, but both men looked tired working. ADR tried to put Show up on his shoulders, but collapsed under the weight which got a good cheer from the crowd. Show brought out a chair, which ADR quickly got rid of. ADR worked Big Show onto the floor and positioned a table into the corner, Show worked himself into the ring, but also worked himself through the table. Finally, Show brought his own table into the ring, set it up, placed ADR on it and went to the top rope. ADR moved out of the way, Show crashed through the table and Del Rio got the pin. Despite the roles of the men, ADR and RR quickly exited and Big Show got a big response from the crowd as he got up and exited the ring. Just as he was to go through the curtains backstage, he turned and gave the crowd a huge wave which garnered a nice response from the Fairbanks faithful.
Tony Chimel thanked the crowd and the lights came back up.
Overall this was a good show with some very high points but a couple of matches with wrestlers who need some work. The Carlson Center staff had zero crowd control which was annoying at times. There was no need to buy a floor seat ticket when you could just jump the rail with no consequence. My boys really had a great time, each leaving with a new t-shirt, a program, and one of the signed portraits being offered at the merchandise booth (they had Sheamus and Randy Orton signed photos). Good night of wrestling.