My First Show

To date, I had only been to a Ruthless Aggression Era house show in the mid to late-2000s, in Columbia, Missouri. I got hit with a bead of sweat from Batista. It was a time, I suppose. My second time being in person to see wrestling was a little indie integration to Planet Comicon in Kansas City. I met Sting that day, I even Too Sweeted him. 

However, I had not actually been to a live-on-TV wrestling show. Not an episode of Nitro, Thunder, Impact, Raw, Smackdown, Dynamite, or Rampage. Not even a pay-per-view. Nothing. Then, Christmas, 2021: My brother gifted me an Edge t-shirt (I was still buzzing on his return the year prior), and hidden in that shirt was a printed letter with printed tickets “inviting” me to the Royal Rumble. It was an emotional morning with my heart soaring. It was all I talked about for months to my friends and family.

The Royal Rumble is one of my favorite parts of WWE. It’s a place where many storylines intersect, these stories progress as the action rises and falls. Drama and humor abound. Chaos everywhere where anything can happen and anyone can win. What’s not to love?

January 29, it was ridiculously cold. The line was long. There was clamor among fans about their picks to win and wrestling talk from all over the industry. During this trial of anticipation and enduring the frosty air, everyone in line with me were in the midst of a bootlegger selling wrestling t-shirts with typos of names incorrectly attributed to other wrestlers. This bootlegger made the unfortunate and unnecessary decision to weight-shame someone and we berated him. Suck it, Rude Bootleg Guy. 

After an hour of waiting we were granted entrance into St. Louis’s The Dome, where my brother and I searched far and wide for our seats, believing them to be on the first floor. Turns out, we had floor seats, up close to the action!

I took the time to wander about, seeing various people I recognized from Twitter as well as Booker T and Jerry Lawler at the pre-show table. That was neat, and even better that I couldn’t hear the purveyor of ‘Shucky-Ducky Quack Quack’ having wrong opinions. 

The WrestleMania sign was above me, which I also found cool. I pointed at it, but didn’t get a title shot at WrestleMania 38. I heard Vince McMahon was worried I would overshadow Roman Reigns based on my charisma, workrate, promo skills, and incredibly handsome and sexy good looks. It happens. 

Credit: WWE

Speaking of The Tribal Chief, his match was first with Seth Rollins. Hearing Roman’s epic orchestral music in person was awesome, but nothing could have prepared me Rollins and his Shield entrance, complete with music, gear and slithering through the crowd. Wouldn’t you know it, he was seven steps away from my brother and I! I could hear his cackle up close! It was a fun match, but he lost.

Next up was the Women’s Royal Rumble match. Past divas, legends and current wrestlers gave way to a rush of hype, and the unpredictable nature added to the thrill. Seeing Lita kick ass, Melina make a return and Sasha Banks bounce around dressed as a Sailor Moon character (I don’t know much of Sailor Moon, for any Sailor Moon fans out there. I’ll stop saying Sailor Moon now.), but the entrance of Mickie James was possibly the pop of the night. 

Hearing her Impact theme “Hardcore Country” blast to a welcoming crowd as she carried the Knockouts Championship with her to the ring is an experience that still makes me smile. After her controversial ‘future endeavor’ exit and the way she received her gear, having a red carpet rolled out for her was amazing. I’m still happy they gave her as much time as they did. Speaking of released talent, Sarah Logan coming in to reunite with Liv Morgan was a touching moment. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), Ronda Rousey made her triumphant return and eliminated Charlotte Flair. She did get a loud reaction, the crowd liked it. I didn’t, but I still popped because that’s the power of professional wrestling sometimes. 

Here’s the fun part.

Following her victory to the tune of “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Ronda followed tradition by pointing to the WrestleMania sign. I was underneath the WrestleMania sign and seeing the fireworks above it shoot out was an awesome visual. Tragically, Ronda’s ability to cast Firaga like in Final Fantasy set the logo ablaze and we had to move. I was almost killed by the WrestleMania sign, so I have bragging rights, but fortunately the team on the ground floor corralled us fans away from harm as they put it out. I didn’t even notice Becky Lynch and Doudrop were fighting, because a bigger match was going on: WrestleMania sign vs Fire. The crowd noticed and they chanted “IT’S ON FIRE!” repeatedly. I’m not sure if that’s on the WWE Network, but it was clear that it caught everyone’s attention. Even Becky Lynch noticed and alluded to it. She won, by the way. 

In what was some cool luck, being seatless gave me the opportunity to stand up close to the barricade to see a dream match unfold between Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley, my match of the night. Seeing two behemoths born of MMA and muscle and Ruthless Aggression was incredible. After ten minutes, the victory went to Bobby following interference from Roman Reigns. It wasn’t enough that he defeated Seth Rollins earlier, but he had to butt into this match. Even worse, it was time to return to my designated seat.

Edge and Beth Phoenix would face off against the goat, The Miz and Maryse. In my Edge shirt, I was ecstatic to see him take the ring. This match really halted the energy of the night in a match that probably didn’t need to happen given the awkward chemistry, despite everyone doing their best to put on a great match. Fans chanted there boredom and the old faithful chants for CM Punk. To paraphrase Bianca Belair, he doesn’t even go there!

Finally, it was time for the main event, the men’s Royal Rumble. Running back AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura to kick things off was a nice touch, until Shinsuke was eliminated over five minutes in. Not long thereafter, Sami Zayn dived in and Johnny Knoxville followed suit – their exchange was hilarious. Not much of note happened for a while, despite Drew McIntyre and Kevin Owens joining the fray, and they made it seem as though they were going to make it, they could be the ones!

Credit: WWE

In what was perhaps the most depressing moment of the night, Kofi Kingston set himself up to make his patented escape from elimination just like Naomi had attempted, but through a mis-landing, Kofi’s feet touched the floor. The look on his face was soul-crushing. That kind of moment where you wonder if that wrestler you spent years watching still has “it” anymore. I hold out hope that he does, because he’s still an incredible athlete at his age. 

Nevertheless, all was not lost – for Bad Bunny made his return with his impressive display of offense for a rookie. Next was Shane McMahon, which was apparently an appearance that caused a lot of backstage controversy – it was bizarre. Randy Orton slid in next for a fantastic moment with his RK-Bro teammate, but the inevitable and predictable happened. Brock Lesnar.

Let’s cut to the chase, he won. He tore through everyone in his path. Fearing the MMA fighter’s propensity to summon fire, the crew once again led us out of our seats so Lesnar could point to the WrestleMania sign.

I enjoyed the experience. The highs and lows. The wall of sound as everyone came together for professional wrestling in St. Louis and feeling the chants and cheers, the slams and music reverberating throughout my body. I was in a different place. I was that teenager at that house show again, that boy that would play with the action figures or the Super Nintendo and PlayStation games.

Seeing the online reaction, fans were not happy. They were ranting and raving, some had even sent DM’s professing sympathy and sorrow that I “had to sit through that”, asking why anyone would watch WWE. It was kind of deflating. The experience of professional wrestling and the love for it should be universal for the love that the wrestlers put into it, regardless of brand loyalty. While I still cherish that moment, it reminded me of why I didn’t want to join the fandom, instead enjoy quietly and stay away from the fanbase. Am I really going to feel silenced in helping garner enough attention to a trending hashtag because of some tribalistic dunderheadedness?

But, something more important than wrestling popped up; it was time for pizza. Imo’s Pizza, notorious for having the best raviolis in St. Louis. I was salivating. I was hungry. And I was disappointed because it was thirty minutes to midnight during a time of heavy traffic that would not see my brother and I get there on time. 

Pizza, for the first time ever, had betrayed me. But not wrestling. Wrestling is forever.

I love professional wrestling, and I hope it loves me back.